Vet’s angry open letter to Republicans: ‘I am on food stamps because I enjoy not starving’


 
This “open letter” to “caring conservatives” is a must-read for all Americans, but especially for the Fox News-watching ignoramuses who seem to believe, in the words of Paul Krugman, that “freedom’s just another word for not enough to eat.”

If a large percentage of the population constantly experiencing food insecurity is the new normal in America, ask yourself how much longer this can possibly continue?!?! It’s a simple fact that hungry people are not going to just roll over and die the way the Republican Party seems to hope they will. What a surprise it will be to them when hungry mobs show up at their houses looking for something to eat!

My name is Jason.  I turned 35 less than a week ago.  My first job was maintenance work at a public pool when I was 17.  I worked 40-hours a week while I was in college.  I’ve never gone longer than six months without employment in my life and I just spent the last three years in the military, one of which consisted of a combat tour of Afghanistan.

Oh, and I’m now on food stamps.  Since June, as a matter of fact.

Why am I on food stamps?

The same reason everyone on food stamps is on food stamps: because I would very much enjoy not starving.

I mean, if that’s okay with you:

…Mr. or Mrs. Republican congressman.

…Mr. or Mrs. Conservative commentator.

…Mr. or Mrs. “welfare queen” letter-to-the-editor author.

…Mr. or Mrs. “fiscal conservative, reason-based” libertarian.
 

Saving $40 billion dollars by starving 3.8 million Americans will cut a whopping .25% from the deficit!

I do apologize for burdening you on the checkout line with real-life images of American-style poverty.  I know you probably believe the only true starving people in the world have flies buzzing around their eyes while they wallow away, near-lifeless in gutters.

Hate to burst the bubble, but those people don’t live in this country.

I do.  And millions like me.  Millions of people in poverty who fall into three categories.

Let’s call them the “lucky” category, since conservatives seem to think people on welfare have hit some sort of jackpot:

Those living paycheck to paycheck?  They’re a little lucky.

Those living unemployment check to unemployment check?  They’re a little luckier.

Those living 2nd of the month to 2nd of the month?  *ding* We’ve hit the jackpot!

The 2nd of the month being the time when funds gets electronically deposited onto the EBT card, [at least in NY] for those who’ve never been fortunate enough to hit that $175/month Powerball.

I fall into the latter two categories.  But I’ve known people recently - soldiers in the Army – who were in the first and third.  They were off fighting in Afghanistan while their wives were at home, buying food at the on-post commissary with food stamps.

And nobody bats an eye there, because it’s not uncommon in the military.

It’s not uncommon – nor is it shameful.  It might be shameful how little service-members are paid, but that’s a separate issue.

The fact remains anyone at a certain income level can find it difficult from time to time to pay for everything.  And when you’re poor you learn to make sacrifices.  Food shouldn’t be one of them.

The whole concept is un-American.  People living here, in the greatest country on Earth, with the most abundant resources,  should be forced to go hungry because of the intellectual notion of fiscal conservatism and the ideological notion of self-reliance.
 

 
Are you fucking kidding me?

I didn’t risk my life in Afghanistan so I could come back and watch people go hungry in America.  I certainly didn’t risk it so *I* could come back and go hungry.

Anyone who genuinely supports cutting food stamps is not an intellectual or an ideologue – they’re a bully.

And nobody likes a bully.  Except other bullies.

It’s time for regular Americans to stand up to these bullies.  Not cower in the corner, ashamed of needing help.  Because if there’s one thing life has taught me, it’s that you never know when you’ll be the one in need.
 

 
Via Class Warfare Exists

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Do the Mussolini: Il Duce’s son was a damn good jazz pianist!
09.17.2013
07:45 am

Topics:
Music
The wrong side of history

Tags:
Romano Mussolini


 
Many fathers cast a long shadow, but surely Romano Mussolini had it especially bad. It would be hard to make your way as a German novelist named Hitler in 1956, but that is roughly the burden that Romano had to deal with, being one of Benito Mussolini’s sons and yet desirous of becoming—which he did—a successful jazz pianist. Romano does not appear to have been an especially great jazz pianist, exactly, but he was certainly good enough to impress a lot of the right people, including Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Lionel Hampton, all of whom he toured with. His skills were very respected.

Romano was born in November 1927, making him twelve in 1940 and seventeen when his father and his father’s mistress, Claretta Petacci, were executed in northern Italy in the final days of World War II. In Mussolini’s Italy, jazz music, associated with the American “Negro,” was banned as “degenerate music,” but apparently Il Duce had a weakness for the music, which his son also loved from an early age. According to Romano’s memoir According to My Father, Il Duce: A Memoir by Mussolini’s Son, “Some will be surprised to learn that my father was also a fan of jazz. I was only four years old when I heard the music for the first time. It was in 1931, at Villa Carpena, when my brother Vittorio brought the first 78 rpm records to our house and later introduced me to the majestic interpretations of Duke Ellington and other jazz greats.”

After World War II, Romano Mussolini played under a stage name for a while (“Romano Full”) before reverting back to his original name. He toured up and down Italy for years with his band, the Romano Mussolini All Stars. His closest associate among the American jazz greats was with Chet Baker, who fretted over how to handle his first meeting with the dictator’s son—much to his chagrin, Baker reportedly ended up sticking out his hand and blurting out, “Sorry to hear about your Dad!”
 
At the Santa Tecla
 
On the 1963 album At the Santa Tecla by Romano Mussolini and his Orchestra, the band essays the Mussolini original “Blues at Santa Tecla” as well as Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” Dizzy Gillespie’s “Ow,” and Miles Davis’s “Lover Man.”

In a decision apparently undertaken in order to someday make him a more attractive subject for Dangerous Minds, he co-scored the 1968 horror noir Satanik, which if the poster art is any indication is almost certainly amazing.
 

 
Skimming his memoir suggests that Romano clearly respected and admired his father, all while staying staunchly apolitical and condemning “his father’s anti-Semitic policies and much of the Fascist platform,” as Todd S. Jenkins put it. Romano’s love of African-American musical rhythms demonstrate his egalitarian bona fides, but still, there are signs, in what eventually became Berlusconi’s Italy, that the repudiation of Mussolini’s policies is still, well, far from complete. In The English is Coming!: How One Language is Sweeping the World, Leslie Dunton-Downer reports that “jazz and fascism were intertwined at Romano Mussolini’s funeral in 2006. The event reportedly opened with George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime,’ and following ‘fascist slogans and salutes,’ concluded with the American gospel ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’” Hmmm.

He also painted clowns.

In 1974 the Romano Mussolini Trio released Mirage, which remains much admired to this day. The full album can be heard below; the opening title track features Romano killing it on a Fender Rhodes electric piano.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
‘Commie!’: Racist Tea party goon squad menace Arizona activist at anti-immigration rally


 
Here’s how the cameraman, Dennis GIlman, an AZ pro-immigrant rights activist described what happened:

“This was filmed on the public lawn of the Arizona State Capitol on September 7, 2013 where the “We Are America Tour” added Arizona racist, former State Senate President President Russell Pearce. Pearce is famous for SB1070 and his association and endorsement of neo-Nazi JT Ready, who killed an entire family before killing himself in 2012. The local racists have worked closely with FAIR for years. I was there to film the speakers.

It’s a safe guess that if Minute Man founder Chris Simcox wasn’t sitting in jail for multiple counts of child molestation that he would’ve been a speaker at this event also. Is it any wonder why they didn’t want the “liberal Media” filming them? For my own safety, I refused to leave without a police escort. It took over 7 minutes for any law enforcement to arrive. The video is edited only for length.”

The speaker is Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, a failed former Republican candidate for the Arizona Senate who said such outrageously racist shit that even Jan Brewer had to distance herself from her last year. She tells the (obviously) low IQ crowd that she’s against amnesty and that immigrants should do things the legal way when they want to come to America, just like she did (Apparently what Mrs. Mercer means by that is that—hey, hey—they should all marry wealthy men!). These fucking brain-damaged numbnuts cheer her on.

Although the video pretty much tells the whole story here, as there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of nuance to what transpired, here’s some additional information via The Phoenix New Times:

All of it was unprovoked. It’s almost funny when, after they surround Gilman like a pack of wild dogs, they tell Gilman to “stop pushing.”

Fortunately, playwright James Garcia was on hand, taking pictures of what was going on. He recently posted some of these to Facebook, with an eyewitness account of what transpired. Garcia writes:

“He was exercising his First Amendment right as an independent journalist to document a news event when he was literally surrounded by several people who alternately tried obstructing his view to keep him from videotaping, while a few of them began pushing and shoving him around—apparently intent on trying to provoke him….

“At one point, some of protesters who had surrounded Dennis began to yell out that he was assaulting them. These were blatant lies. The most aggressive thing Dennis did was turn his camera on his aggressors in hopes of documenting their abuse, while he pointedly insisted that they not touch his camera equipment. “

To be fair, assuming the group had a permit for the rally on the state Senate lawn, they could ask Gilman to leave. And if he chooses not to, they could wait for the police to show up to ask him to leave.

Having a permit does not give you license to harass and assault someone. Gilman says that when the authorities showed up, he agreed to leave if they would escort him all the way to his car. Smart move, considering the nature of the crowd, and the fact many of them were packing.

The best thing the nativists could have done is ignore Gilman’s presence. By singling him out and acting like a bunch of schoolyard bullies, they not only revealed their true colors, they ruined a chance to convey their intended message. Now they have to defend themselves by blaming the victim, which makes them look even worse.

Here’s a little free PR advice for them that they won’t take: Apologize to Gilman and promise to ensure his safety at the next demonstration they hold, whatever that is. This would be the smart thing to do, a way of mitigating the damage. But they won’t, largely because they are filled with rage and must attack anyone who disagrees with them.

And also because they are really, really dumb.

For some time, members of the neo-Nazis affiliated “Remember 1986” group (co-sponsors of the event) have been known to show up and harass Mexican day laborers at a spot in Phoenix where they congregate.
 

 
Via reddit/r/politics

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Hatebakers blame gays for loss of their business, but comically believe God still watches over them


 
Lord forgive them for they know not what they do…

There’s an amusing—and not at all subtle—lesson to be learned from the travails of the “Christian” bakers in Oregon who claim that they’ve been the victims of harassment from gay activists—who they compared to the Mafia—but don’t expect the target of these efforts to understand what that (you’d think) hard-fought wisdom might entail…

As reported by the Christian Broadcasting Network and all across the rightwing blogsphere, Aaron and Melissa Klein closed the doors of their “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” bakery this past weekend and moved their wedding cake business into their own home. The Kleins, who earlier this year declined to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because they view gay marriage as “wrong,” seem to think that God supports their idiocy on all levels, even on the most mundane level, as stupid business owners.

So far though, looking at the matter objectively, God doesn’t really seem to have their backs…

“My attorney likens this — he calls it economic terrorism,” Aaron Klein told The Blaze. “These people, they have literally tried to cut any business ties off through harassment.”

If God did support the Kleins, you know, personally, I mean, wouldn’t he have just done some kind of supernatural shit to make all the straight couples buy wedding cakes from them? Maybe he could have made it so the gay mafioso army wouldn’t have been able to get phone reception to ask local wedding planners not to do business with bigots? Something like that? He’s God and all, that should be a total cinch! Snap your fingers kinda stuff for an all powerful deity who intervenes in human affairs ALL THE TIME.

Well… the Kleins didn’t just lose their gay clientele, clearly they lost most of their customer base across the board. If God supports the Kleins, then why did God let this happen to them???

This must prove very confusing for the Kleins. No wait! Maybe not: Aaron Klein’s statement goes to show just how deluded this dude truly is:

“It’s a sad day for Christian business owners and it’s a sad day for the First Amendment. The LGBT attacks are the reason we are shutting down the shop. They have killed our business through mob tactics.”

Well, that’s one way to look at it. Not a very intelligent point of view, mind you, but it’s all Aaron’s got and he’s the one who just saw his business go belly up, so he’s stickin’ with it!

I’d wager that God had nothing to do with any of this low IQ kerfuffle. Or maybe, just MAYBE, Aaron and Melissa, GOD IS TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING?

YOU! Yes, YOU!

Is it even possible that Aaron and Melissa are on the wrong team and that God’s not even rooting for them?

Nah…

When news of the LGBT activists’ actions became public, many local Christians decided to support the Klein’s bakery, giving them, briefly a sort of Chick-fil-A-ish windfall. They were unable to keep up with the demand… for a few days.

This message was posted on the “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” Facebook page in February, but was hurriedly removed. THIS is who the local Christians were supporting:
 

 
Glenn Beck, CBN, Fox News, all of them, are supporting the guy who sat down, typed THAT up and posted it for all the world to see!

The beauty of it is, this is exactly what the First Amendment and the free market are all about. This exemplifies what conservatives are always blathering on about: The Kleins exercised their First Amendment right to be morons, the word got out and now nobody wants their baked goods anymore because they don’t want to do business with assholes. It’s our God-given right as American consumers to vote with our money.

Besides, it’s not like it’s their “right” to discriminate. In some states, maybe, but not in the one where they live. Last month, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries announced it has launched a formal discrimination investigation against the Kleins. Oregon’s Bureau of Labor commissioner, Brad Avakian told The Oregonian that he was committed to a fair investigation to determine whether the Kleins’ bakery violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 by discriminating against the lesbian couple.

“Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that folks have the right to discriminate. The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon.”

It’s predictable, but still so ridiculous, that the rightwing blogs and freepers tore into this statement like red meat. In some quarters, Avakian’s remarks have been “augmented,” shall we say, by a certain kind of paranoia to imply that “re-education” gulags are the next stop on the train for Christians who refuse to toe the “militant” LGBT line.

It’s always the Christians who are the victims, but would anyone feel sorry for the Kleins if this was over them refusing to serve Jews?

Oh, right, there’s no comparison because Jews are born Jews and gays are born… straight?

“Better is a poor man who walks in integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways,” from Proverbs, was posted on the “Sweet Cakes” bakery’s Facebook page.

Well, welcome to being poor, Aaron and Melissa. You’ve definitely earned it.

PS Good luck passing that home health inspection, it looks like you’ll need it. With your luck, God will send a member of the velvet mafia over to review your kitchen.
 

 
Below, a CBN report supportive of Aaron and Melissa Klein:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Hilarious: Sign petition to name hurricanes after global warming deniers!


 
Every time I check to see how many YouTube views this clever video has gotten, it goes up by tens of thousands of views. The first time I looked, it had 150,000 views, the next day it was double that and just now, it’s at an impressive 876,672.

It’s only been up for two days. Must’ve touched a nerve!

Via AlterNet:

The environmental group petition 350 Action is urging the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to name hurricanes after policy makers who deny climate change.

The campaign entitled, “Climate Name Change”, released an accompanying video, which features prominent politicians who are skeptical of climate change such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Washington Post reported.

The video includes satirical news bulletins that could result from the proposed naming system, such as:  “If you value your life, please seek shelter from Michelle Bachmann” or “thousands of animals have been displaced or killed by Governor Rick Perry.”

Wunderbar! You can sign the petition here. The video is a must-see piece of well-made political messaging. Whoever came up with this concept, bravo!
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
(Real) Terrorism trading cards (for kids)

trading card
Is he smiling? Did they depict him smiling? Are they trying to teach children or haunt their dreams?
 
Millions of children all over the world are forced to learn about terrorism through first-hand experience, often before they’re old enough to grasp the geopolitical context of the violence. But what about those poor kids who grow up without that kind of hands-on education? What’s the best way to fill young minds with the horrors of war, colonialism, and oppression? Why, trading cards, of course! And that’s exactly what the Piedmont Candy Company did in 1987, with… somewhat problematic results.
 
trading card
 
Mussolini was a fascist dictator, and while he used terror tactics during his reign, “fascist dictator” is a higher, more historically relevant ranking. Plus, by 1987, he had been dead for over 40 years. He looks good on a card, but this is clearly phoned it. Try harder, Piedmont Candy Company.
 
trading card
 
“The Irish have been waging war against England for hundreds of years.” Really, Piedmont Candy Company? Really?!? That’s your read on anti-English sentiment among the Irish?
 
trading card
 
I feel like the fact that they mention the “safety” of bombs twice before telling kids how dangerous they are is a bit counterintuitive. (Really kids! Don’t make bombs yourself, but they’re super-safe, so if you happen to come across one, go to town!)
 
trading card
 
To answer your speculative question, no. No, they were not going to bomb the Statue of Liberty. You’re welcome.
 
trading card
 
Call me a snob, but I find it difficult to take your assessment of Iranian politics seriously when you can’t spell “Shiite” correctly.
 
trading cards
 
Jesus fucking Christ!
Lacing children’s candy with ahistoric, fear-mongering propaganda isn’t enough? You have to make them bloodthirsty, too? If you’re trying to turn them into little killing machines, why not just put angel dust, steroids, and bath salts in the chewing gum?
 
trading card
 
Wait, weren’t you just advocating for the liberal use of nuclear weapons?!? “No one is overly anxious to use them!” First of all, I’m quite sure you mean “overly eager,” not “overly anxious.” Second of all, you are overly eager to use them, Piedmont Candy Company! You are the terrifying example of nuke-happy psychos!

The insidious nature of sneaking ignorant, paranoid, violent nationalism into trading cards is baffling, and yet somehow simultaneously totally unsurprising. I wonder if the economic realities of 1987 Detroit didn’t add fuel to the panicked, reactionary fire—international politics have always been a convenient distraction from extreme poverty and wealth inequality. Regardless, I’m somewhat comforted that we’re not seeing anything quite this indoctrinating being lobbed at kids nowadays.

And if there is, please don’t tell me! Let me live in a world where candy is still sweet! 

Via Organic Mechanic

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Melting, melting: The Republican base continues to shrink, but no one wonders why except for them


 
Although they’re not quite yet on the endangered species list, the dwindling number of Americans who self-identify as “Republican” must have the GOP’s top political strategists laying awake at night. They’re the smart guys and gals who are really the ones in charge of “the stupid party.”

Talk about a fuckin’ thankless task! Can you imagine?

According to Think Progress, the rolling average of GOP party identification prepared by The Pollster.com shows Republicans at 22% of the American public, a percentage that has been declining steadily for several years as the party caters more and more to its fringiest members, who are increasingly looking like its only members! Their problem with broadening the party’s appeal goes far beyond a “Catch 22%” as an apparent civil war among the GOP’s constituent parts is coming to a nasty boil. Damned if they do, damned it they don’t, should the GOP decide to join this century, they’d lose the remainder of their old guard voters.

Pew Research Center has it looking even worse for the GOP, down to only 19% of Americans! If this is accurate, then what percentage of these folks would live north of the Mason-Dixon line? It can’t be that many anymore. And Republican voters aren’t merely primarily located in southern states, they’d also, in the main, be some pretty long in the tooth southerners.

Senior fellow at both the Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress, Think Progress blogger Ruy Teixeira writes that the Republicans’ lockstep intransigence to the Affordable Healthcare Act, while offering nothing better—nothing at all—to replace it, is being seen as just a big “fuck you” to the folks that will be covered now.

Maybe they’re placing their bets on the wrong horse, especially when it comes to Obamacare. Start with the fact that roughly a third of the opposition to Obamacare stems from the view that the program isn’t liberal enough rather than too liberal. That doesn’t fit with the GOP’s blow-it-up paradigm. Nor do recent polls that show an average of only 35 percent saying they want to repeal Obamacare as opposed to keeping it as is or with changes.

That’s not an insignificant point: I have had pollsters call me on three separate occasions over the past four years to ask about my attitude towards the healthcare law and I was not once given the option of saying “I’m not much of a supporter of the ACA because it’s not liberal enough” or to in any way indicate that I thought the expansion of Medicare for all would be a better way to go. I was only offered a “yay or nay,” vote it up or down choice. From the tone of the questioning, I’m pretty darned sure that each of these polls were paid for by conservative groups. It seemed odd that they were conducting polls, not to find out scientifically what the public really thinks, but to instead get them to confirm or imply agreement—even if nothing of the sort was intended—by deliberately proscribing the parameters of the debate to twist statistical arms.

The point being that MY opinion—I’m a staunch socialist—was being tallied as an “I’m agin’ it!” vote and used to confirm some delusional Republican bias. That’s simply ridiculous.

Apparently equating better access to healthcare with Hitler has been a bit of a bust for the GOP. A recent Hart Research/SEIU poll on voter attitudes toward Obamacare vis a vis the 2014 races found that:

Voters feel intensely negative toward Republican candidates who have worked to repeal or undermine the law, especially those who are unwilling to help their constituents take advantage of the benefits and protections available to them under the ACA….Seventy-one percent of voters express unfavorable feelings toward “a Republican who, as an elected official, refuses to help individuals and small businesses understand how best to deal with Obamacare and take advantage of its benefits.”….Two-thirds of all voters (including 60% of undecided voters) have an unfavorable impression of “a Republican who repeatedly voted to cut the funding needed to effectively implement the law, and refuses to provide information to employers and individuals about it.”

“Intensely negative” doesn’t really beat around the bush, but you know, they’re assholes, pure and simple! It’s always been a puzzle to me why it practically takes an electric cattle prod to get most Democrats and non-Republican leaning independents to actually vote, despite the clear-cut shit sandwich alternative if they fail to make that tiny, tiny civic effort. I’m looking at YOU lazy-ass North Carolinians who didn’t even bother to vote last year. Look what it got you, especially those of you who just got your jobless benefits cut.

If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently?

More from the Hart survey summation:

Our generic congressional trial heat shows a relatively narrow, three-point advantage for Democratic candidates (44%) over Republicans (41%) nationwide. However, when the choice in the 2014 election is presented as “a Democrat who favors fixing and improving Obamacare rather than repealing it altogether” versus “a Republican who wants to totally repeal Obamacare,” voters favor the Democratic candidate (51%) over the Republican candidate (36%) by 15 percentage points.

The biggest problem the Republicans have is… themselves. Almost everyone hates ‘em, so why not double down on everything they hate the most?

And if you happened to catch any of the news coverage of this weekend’s anniversary of the March on Washington, exactly what sort of snake the GOP has stepped on by trying to curb voter rights for African-Americans is becoming pretty apparent, isn’t it?

Don’t ever change GOP!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
‘They’ll Be Laughing in Moscow and Beijing’ over Scotland Yard’s idiotic Snowden blunder


 
British Labour MP Tom Watson wrote a scathing must-read essay for nsfwcorp.com on L’affaire Miranda and the news that some boneheads from Scotland Yard thought getting all heavy at The Guardian offices was, like, a good idea:

We still don’t know the full circumstances surrounding David Miranda’s detention at Heathrow airport but I think we probably know enough to conclude that: a) he is not a terrorist and b) it is not a coincidence that he is Glenn Greenwald’s partner.

I think that we can also usefully assume that the spooks did not find enough to detain David Miranda under any UK law and that Greenwald and The Guardian are not dumb enough to forget to make copies of the files that prove illegal state surveillance.

The spooks are not going to get the NSA files back; that genie is well and truly out of the bottle. So why do it? The conclusion must be, as Greenwald speculates, that we were just roughing up his boyfriend in order to psyche him out. I am no Carrie Mathieson but I think the wrong case officer is in charge of this investigation if they think this will shut Greenwald up. He thrives on this stuff. The UK intelligence services have created a global audience for the spectacle of him beating them with a big stick of indignant rebuke.

And they have horrified people across Westminster who know the “inside.” As a former defence minister I have authorised special forces to conduct hostage rescues, covert military entry to foil terrorist plots, as well as approved nuclear submarines to travel to places you do not want to know. So I think I can assess an ill-conceived plan when I see one. And this was a howler.

LOL! Real Tom Watson’s full editorial at nsfwcorp.com
 

 
Thank you Michael Backes of Los Angeles, California!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
On the first anniversary of the Pussy Riot conviction, August 17


 
This is a guest editorial by Hunter Heaney, executive director of The Voice Project, a US-based NGO that has raised over $100,000 for support and safety monitoring efforts for the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot.

They were tired of their rights being stripped away. Tired of their government not representing them any more. Tired of ultra right-wing policies that seemed to be driven by oligarchs and secret concentrations of wealth divorced from the needs of everyday citizens and oppressive to those with less political power in the current plutocracy that seems and acts more and more intimidatingly, more authoritarian every day.

So they sing. In public. They raise their voices as a way to express the basic human right to be heard by those would purport to govern them. And for that they are arrested. Sounds familiar.

It’s not Pussy Riot.

It’s not Russia.

It’s America.

The Solidarity Singers and the Raging Grannies gather every weekday at the Wisconsin state house to sing. They are trying to express their feelings about Governor Scott Walker and the run amok right-wing policies their state seems to be implementing at ALEC’s behest. And the powers that be are having none of it. Not only are the singers being arrested, but so are the spectators, just for attending, just for watching, just for reporting on it. And remember this is all happening in the public space of the state capitol building, the people’s building, the people’s property.

Free speech? Free press? The right to peaceably assemble? Not so much in Russia, not so much in Wisconsin, not so much in a lot of places these days.

Welcome to the modern world, welcome to modern America. Bit by bit we’ve lost the things we held dear. We’ve slowly let the freedoms we were so proud of, that were associated with our dream of this country, be disappeared like an extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo.  No trial, no explanation, just a black bag over the head. Habeas corpus is just a thing we once had, or we thought we had. An effective free press, well, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert remind us every weeknight where that’s gone (and they help us laugh to keep us from sinking into a national depression).

We’re surveilled like something out of the pages of Orwell, propagandized like scenes from V for Vendetta with fear campaigns like The War on Terror, beaten and pepper sprayed for peaceful protests, resigned to our running jokes about how Congress seems to have now abandoned even the facade of representing the people in favor of the supranational corporations and the 1% who finance their campaigns and their lives.

And the poor, well, forget about them. At least that seems to be the hope anyway. How much have you personally heard about one in four kids in this country being on food stamps now? Pensions being stripped away from those who worked and saved for them, just like George Carlin predicted they would be? It happens now through “strategic municipal bankruptcies” and other financial and legal maneuvers. It starts with carefully planned campaigns hatched by conservative think-tanks that talk endlessly about “entitlements.” Isn’t that clever?

We are now a shadow of our former selves. The “Greatest Generation” are dying. My dad was one. There are a few left, but they must not be impressed by what they see, what we are doing with what they fought for. Some of them certainly know that in no universe of realistic thought does Scott Walker’s Wisconsin or our modern America respect the sentiments they held dear enough to defend. They’re codified in Wisconsin’s State Constitution as:

“Every person may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right, and no laws shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”

and

“The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.”

No wonder the dystopian-future fantasies are so popular at the box office, they must ring true, or maybe they let us think it’s not quite so bad right now in comparison. But make no mistake, we’re there, welcome to Dystopia. You’re soaking in it. Sometimes I think we’ll wake up from it all—take the red pill.  It does seem to be happening in other places around the world, like Gezi Park and the streets of São Paulo, even if the dissent suppression machines seem stronger than ever.
 

 
Here in America though, I often think we’re just like slow boiling frogs, nodding off to sleep while the heat is steadily turned up, too late realizing what happened as things fade to black. Hopeless and specious tropes about how protest songs don’t matter anymore appear to have even some musicians convinced, and seem to signal our giving up. And that’s when I give thanks for Pussy Riot, for the Solidarity Singers, for the Raging Grannies. Let the armchair quarterbacks debate their musical quality or performance characteristics or predict the demise of protest singing. While they’re at it perhaps spoken and written words, literature, ideas and the rest of the humanities should be thrown in there too.

Of course there are ideas and words and performances that matter, like “I Have a Dream” or “We Shall Overcome” or “Redemption Song” or yes, “Punk Prayer” that will speak truth to power, that will inspire, that provide aid and succor to those who will resist. The Solidarity Sing-Alongs are to me without a doubt among the most important performances taking place today. Same with the 40-second performance that landed Pussy Riot in labor camps for two years.

Content matters. Ideas matter. So Pussy Riot is my band. The Raging Grannies are my band and the Solidarity Singers, too. They’ve inspired me to write this, and I’m going to go check and see if some friends want to join me in supporting these singers and what’s going on in Wisconsin.

When members of Pussy Riot were here in New York this past spring, they stayed over and we had some long talks. “Shaiba” said, “It feels like we’re building this great mafia around the world, friends everywhere.” I hope so. I think this is the way it’s going to need to work if we’re ever going to stage a comeback here. We’re going to need to look out for each other, work with each other in the face of great concentrations of power. Some say the key will be localism, a renewed reliance on our geographically proximate communities, but I sometimes worry an overzealous application of these ideas as a solution may lead to isolationism. I believe we’ll need to help each other, even across great distances and divides.

Helotism” is a word I learned from Pussy Riot. Worth checking out the etymology on that one. One of the many things I learned from the girls. These are the kinds of things I’m remembering today, that I’m thinking about on this anniversary. That we can learn from each other, help each other, that we can stick together, we can make songs matter and turn ideas into action, that we can inspire each other, and we can decide to lay down and take it… or not.

Hunter Heaney is executive director of The Voice Project, a US based NGO that has raised over $100,000 for support and safety monitoring efforts for the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot.

 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Meet Anton Kraskovsky, the brave Russian newscaster who came out on live television


 
Back in May, a Russian newscaster, Anton Kraskovsky, was fired from his job at KontrTV for coming out on live TV, on a government-backed cable network that Mr. Kraskovsky had in fact helped to launch himself. Video of his statement “I’m gay, and I’m just the same person as you, my dear audience, as President Putin, as Prime Minister Medvedev and the deputies of our Duma,” was posted and then immediately pulled down from both YouTube and KontrTV’s website. Then later they returned, apparently, with no explanation.

Kraskovsky told CNN that he knew he would lose his job for coming out. Via The Advocate:

“Somebody should do it,” he said. “I decided it’s time to be open for me. That’s it.”

He told Snob.ru that he felt like a hypocrite after covering the so-called gay propaganda law on a show.

“The meaning of this whole story we are discussing now is that throughout my whole life, I’ve been struggling with myself,” Kraskovsky said. “And this — as you call it — coming out is just another battle with myself, with my own hypocrisy, my own lies, and my own cowardice.”

He said after making the announcement at the end of the show, Angry Guyzzz, the audience and the crew applauded. He said he then went into his dressing rom and cried for 20 minutes before being fired a few hours later.

“They immediately blocked all my corporative accounts, my email. Literally immediately, overnight,” Kraskovsky said.

“They deleted not only my face from the website, but also all of my TV shows, as if I’d never really existed. The next day I wrote to [network head Sergey] Minaev that I was totally shocked. Because it takes them half a day to put up a banner when I ask them to, and here we had such efficiency. One could say they can when they want to. Now they’ve put everything back, but you couldn’t say why, really.”

Good on Anton Kraskovsky, he’s a very brave man. You can read an in-depth interview with him, here.

Personally I’m not one to make a lot of Hitler comparisons—I’ll leave that to the Tea partiers—but if there is anyone who doesn’t think that the Russian crackdown on LGBT people has ominous parallels to Germany back in the day, you need to have your head examined.

(Surely I can’t be the only one watching this clip who wishes the CNN newscaster would just spontaneously combust, am I?)
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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