Category Archives: Politics

The Daisy Bates College of Arts and Sciences and the Fulbright-Faubus Center for Global Arkansas Studies

What to do about J. William Fulbright’s long history of active acquiescence* to white rule in the South?

Of course his name should come off UA-Fayetteville’s College of Arts and Sciences. He’s the wrong symbol, a warning sign about using intellectual ends to justify political means. And the proper replacement is also clear. I give you:

The Daisy Lee Gatson Bates College of Arts and Sciences

In 2000, the Arkansas Historical Association polled its members as to the most influential figures in Arkansas history. The first was Bill Clinton, as you would expect. Next were Orval Faubus and J. William Fulbright, and fourth was Daisy Bates.

It’s hard to argue with Bill Clinton in first place! But Daisy Bates is the logical choice for second.

Daisy Bates and those who fought with her prevailed over Fulbright and Faubus, the two faces of Arkansas segregation, the good cop with the fancy degree and the the bad cop with a year at a small, unaccredited school.

That’s second place by any accounting!

The change she and those who fought with her brought was far-reaching and touched every citizen of Arkansas, mostly for the better–and frankly, those who were made less well off by it, they mostly deserved worse.

Faubus and Fulbright both had their virtues. If you took a paring knife and cut out the racism out of both men, you could Frankenstein them into a fairly decent human being. Fulbright was a generally positive figure in foreign policy and education, and he didn’t much go out of his way to advance segregation. Faubus made significant advances for Arkansans generally. He wasn’t even-handed, but he didn’t go out of his way to keep some of the benefits he brought from falling into black peoples’ hands. Mild praise. It’s what they deserve.

Since Daisy Bates won her fight against Fulbright and Faubus, the fruits of the good things those men did can be better distributed. If she’d lost–but she didn’t, and we need to act like it.  We need to put her forward as our exemplar and claim the spoils of her victory.

She didn’t have a degree because there aren’t degrees in what she did, which is changing the world for the better. If we respect the power of ideas to turn the world around, then we pay tribute to those who wielded those ideas, with or without degrees.

That said, Faubus and Fulbright deserve study. They were polar opposites yoked by location, acquiescence to racism**, and not much else. Faubus was a deeply local politician; Fulbright was a national and global figure. And they grew from the same dirt.

It’s not that different from a Sam Walton or a Don Tyson, a Jerry Jones or a John Johnson, and it’s worth studying. Thus I also give you, as a subsidiary of the Daisy Bates College (the DBC at the UAF should be a useful catch-phrase), a whole new thing:

The Fulbright-Faubus Center for Global Arkansas Studies

Every year, they flip a coin to see whose name goes first. The domain name abbreviates them to ff or f-f so it doesn’t change. And the focus of the instituted changes for the year to local or global issues, all related to Arkansas.

Let’s see if Faubus and Fulbright can actually do right by race for once.***

*I’m being nice for once.
**Okay, twice.
***Third time’s a charm! And by “a charm” I mean “the fire next time”.

No One Trusts A Flincher To Hold Steady

The slogan people fought for in the streets is DEFUND THE POLICE whether you like it or not.

If your first act on hearing that is to flinch, your question should be, “Who taught me to flinch, and why?”

Your hands should hold steady when you are slapped, or who would trust your judgement in a fight?

History’s a slap on the side of the road as people pick and choose monuments to topple to the valley below.

If you say “My goodness!” before the trouble starts, you water down what people die for in their hearts.

If you can’t stand by the slogan DEFUND THE POLICE, don’t stand so, don’t stand so close to me.

Defund The Police, Gwen Stacy!

O sweet Gwen! Save yourself while there's still time!

Defund The Police! Does that slogan scare you? Maybe it should.

As Bob Dylan sings, “You’d better start swimming or get thrown like a stone.”

Maybe that’s a judgement on you.

A huge grassroots movement has put forward the demand Defund The Police. It’s put that slogan on the lips of every American.

If the leadership of the right had been given a gift like that, they’d hammer you every day with Defund The Police! Defund the Police! Why? Because they want to win. They know better than to stand in the way of, oh, the Tea Party. They co-opted them instead. They took the forms of their demands, their slogans, and used them to get some–not all–of what they all wanted. And they won.

So just this once, can we try not backing down in advance because the mean people will say the mean things? Can we defend our leaders who are in the streets fighting for us, instead of worrying about whether Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) can beg enough McNuggets of funding from fat rich fucks?

Because let me tell you: Those of you quibbling about the slogan are not leading. Neither are those quibbling at the top. Not any more.

If you’d been paying attention, you’d know Defund The Police is the compromise. The true demands of the heart? More like Fuck The Police! and Chinga La Migra! I don’t know how anyone who noticed that four policemen slowly murdered a man in a public display of terror can ever have hummed along with “I Shot The Sheriff” or “Murder In My Heart For The Judge” and not feel that too.

As Mary Jane Watson told Peter Parker, “Face it, tiger–you’ve hit the jackpot!” And we have. Just look at Generation Lockdown out in the streets. They’ve been told in every possible way their lives are disposable commodities. We can’t be bothered to keep them from being mass murdered other than by traumatizing them with fake mass murder drills. We can’t worry about them getting bullied in school or ending up on the street because their parents don’t care. We sign them up for a life of debt to get a degree that has become more a job license than an education, and tell them with a straight face that debt is for their own good. We watch as those younger than ourselves fail to thrive in the environment we created for them, and blame them for it.

Now they are doing something about it. They are doing something you didn’t. Whether you couldn’t or wouldn’t or whatever doesn’t really matter now. It’s being done.

The thing is, Mary Jane Watson has done shown up, and she is rocking our world. She’s a red-headed girl who burned a police car in New York City who’ll end up in prison for it.

And right now, as you stand by and dither as she sits in jail, wondering what you are going to do about what she fights for, you have chosen to be Gwen Stacy. Your father, the kind police commissioner, is already dead, and you are the sweet, doomed past.

It’s not a perfect metaphor. It’s not a perfect world, either, so that seems fitting.

Which one matters more? Which one will you do something about?

I Support Bernie Sanders Because I’m A Leftist, Not A Greendividualist

I’m a leftist in the United States, where parties can’t build national power by getting five percent or so of the vote. Under parliamentary systems, that works. It worked for the Greens in West Germany. It works all over Europe. It doesn’t work here.

In the United States, two parties contend in the general election. If you can’t influence a party’s policies before an election, you are shit out of luck and have constrained choices. Being an individualist that can’t work within an organization means you aren’t really a leftist.

Bernie Sanders gets that. He caucuses with the Democrats and helps them build the party organizationally. He runs independent but functions as a Democrat, having learned early on that even local third party scenarios don’t play out well for his policies.

The Greens have had over thirty years to build power. They haven’t because they can’t. They fail to build local power, even in favorable circumstances. Look at Arkansas history, especially in very progressive Fayetteville and Eureka Springs. I was there for those failures. I failed along with them. It don’t work.

Green Individualism is the opposite of leftism. It’s Greendividualism and I say the hell with it.

Wishing away structural barriers that keep leftists out of power is pissing into the wind. It sucks worse for those who stand around you than it does for you. Bernie Sanders is smart. He’s building power outside the party and inside. You don’t need a raincoat to stand with him.

That said, the “Lefties for Trump” slur is also bullshit. It smacks of the Old Left style of analysis: “You are objectively racist in your anti-racist activities.” That’s useless overstatement performed to make the person who says it feel superior. It usually, though not always, comes out of the mouth of someone with class privilege.

People make their choices on both pragmatic and principled grounds. Telling people “you’re really for Trump if you vote Green/Libertarian/independent/not at all” is just mind reading. People hear it, know subjectively it’s false, and correctly reject it.

If you want to influence people away from counterproductive forms of leftism, don’t tell them false things about their state of mind. Say true things about the effects their actions have. Don’t tell people to your left they are really on your right. It’s not true and we all know it.

Sermon or Song? Kesha’s “Here Comes The Change”

In a sexist world, a woman who attempts an equal partnership with a man is likely to be shortchanged. Even a strong woman. Even a feminist woman. It can be done, but the odds are against her.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, like Nancy Pelosi, like Liz Warren, chose to partner with good men who put her career first. They were lucky to make a good choice young.

Kesha, like Tammy Wynette, like Tina Turner, chained young to shitty men who put her career last, chose to break those chains at great personal and artistic cost, for greater personal and artistic freedom.

So ends the lesson of today’s Sermon or Song?

Donald Trump Understands The Constitution. The 9/11 Killers Understood Airport Security.

It’s really this simple:

Building on fire

If you have a can of gasoline, you understand architecture just fine.

If you have an atomic bomb and the plane to carry it in, you understand Hiroshima well enough.

If you can aim a gun, you understand human anatomy splendidly. And if you aren’t any good with a pistol, there’s always a shotgun.

Complaining about Donald Trump being stupid and ignorant while he’s kicking your ass shows he understands playground rules better than you do. Who do you think is going to save you from the bully if there is no teacher on the scene?

I don’t care for horror movies. I don’t watch them. But I read about everything, and I know they teach this lesson:

When the call is coming from inside the house, no one can save you but yourself.

Don’t take that too literally. Horror movies set it up so that the heroine–that’s you, in the current horror show–are stripped of your friends, your family, all the cloud of support around you. That’s how moral fiction works, stripped to the essentials to teach a lesson.

In This Real Life? You have friends. You have family. You have the kindness of strangers. You have human solidarity, one of the three foundations of my own spirituality.  Thanks to all that, you have agency and power. You’d best use them.

Or lose them. It’s up to you. It’s always been you, my love.

Keep On Moving Forward

There are two separate steps in what we call “impeachment”.

The first is impeachment. It’s carried out by the House. That’s the investigation, the preparation of a case. It’s like a grand jury, where evidence is presented and an indictment can be issued. It doesn’t have to rise to the standards of a criminal trial. Since the last House abandoned its oversight duties, the onslaught of oversight requests are the beginnings of that process. Whether there’s a formal impeachment at the end of it, we’re having that now.

Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and Andrew Johnson were all impeached, and rightfully so. Nixon committed actual crimes; Clinton creepily perjured himself; Johnson helped the South regain what it had rightfully lost. All of them committed grave irresponsibilities while in office. There’s no doubt in my mind Donald Trump’s misdeeds rise to that standard. His venality combines the criminality of Nixon, the faithlessness of Clinton, and the disloyalty of of Johnson.

I expect Trump will be impeached, just as those three were.

The impeachment itself is a significant punishment. It has stained all three men’s reputations, not from the vote to impeach, but from the public exposure of their unfitness to hold office. It ended Nixon’s political career. It should have ended Clinton’s–the party should have demanded his resignation once the process was over, so Al Gore could have run as an incumbent, unchained from a shitty man–and it did damage him. Johnson was already weakened.

The second step is trial. It’s carried out by the Senate. No president has ever been convicted by the Senate. Neither will Trump be, barring some smoking gun we don’t know about. He’s obscured the record by obstructing justice.

Nixon deserved conviction. He only avoided it by resignation. Clinton didn’t. His shittiness was revealed to be ugly but truly small, like him. Johnson…I have no strong opinion about what fate he deserved. His misdeeds were purely political.

But that process of trial in the Senate, that is important, not least because it focuses national attention on a process more easily understood than investigation. It allows the facts to be laid out, much like a trial, for judgement.

I’ll follow Pelosi’s lead on whether to impeach. She’s a fighter who’s been Trump’s most effective political opponent.

Till then, keep on moving forward. Forward with investigation. Forward with the next election. Forward with building a fighting Party that doesn’t roll over and pee itself when threatened. Forward with popular mobilization to ensure that.

Keep on moving forward.

From a Detail in “Warrior”, by Gordon R. Dickson

That man sounds like some cheap gangster

Faking up the public anger

Necessary when a coward

Has a killing to move forward

But can’t find the guts within him

In cold blood to kill his victim

So his fear of looking foolish

After threats both wild and stupid

Gives the shove he needs to do what

Worse men do more easily.

So there’s that

For consolation, once destruction

Runs its course:

It could have been worse.

Why Bernie Sanders Has To Run Even If He Can’t Win

"Bernie

So I’m to the left of most of the folks here, which gives me a different point of view on a lot of things. Today I read a story in Slate (which is liberalish but more contrarian than any other one thing) which triggered my memory of a piece from The Jacobin (which is honest-to-god leftist). I read them in the opposite order than I’m going to put them in for you.

From Slate: America’s Brush With Fascism: The second KKK shared a disquieting kinship with European fascist movements. Why did it fail to take over American politics?

From The Jacobin: Bernie Sanders Wants You to Fight: When Bernie Sanders says “It’s not about me, it’s about us,” he’s not just pandering. He’s trying to create a mass movement — because he knows that without one, his agenda doesn’t stand a chance.

The first piece is long, the second is short. If you want the tl;dr of it, here is the end of the first followed by another bit from the second. I’ll put a bit of my own analysis after them:

Continue reading Why Bernie Sanders Has To Run Even If He Can’t Win