It’s happy hour during hard times

Thanks are due to Larry Coryell, Phillip Catherine and their friends

Oh my God‼‼


The War on Crime/Drugs/Poverty

Writing for The Nation, Bruce Western, a sociologist and the author of Punishment and Inequality in America, recently addressed the class component present in America's drug policy. He began by pointing out that:

America's drug policy aims to reduce illicit drug use by arresting and incarcerating dealers and, to a lesser extent, users. Whatever its merits (and there are some), the policy is deeply flawed because it is unjust. It applies only to the disadvantaged. As such, it reflects massive deficits in the areas of treatment, education and employment.

Western makes three clear and defensible claims in the quoted passage here: First, America's drug policy is punitive. It seeks neither to rehabilitate nor reintegrate a prisoner; it seeks instead to identify, isolate and punish some participants in America's underground drug economy.

Second, America's drug policy is and has long been unfair. It is unfair because, as Western puts it, "Drugs are intensively criminalized among the poor but largely unregulated among the rich." Drug sales and use allegedly is a poor black thing. Americans commonly believe that blacks use them, sell them and steal for them. The black pusher and user is a common racial stereotype. But the facts now refute this belief (.pdf). Still, if race is not the decisive factor in the criminalization of the drug economy, class is. Thus, for the poor individual who goes to court seeking a just resolution of his or her case, who believes he or she has been wrongly accused or is a victim of adverse conditions, what that person soon discovers (if, that is, he or she actually needed to discover this fact) is that it is "just us," as Richard Pryor quipped with respect to black folk, in the queue which supplies the defendant's chair. The rich and well-connected, on the other hand, can indulge their 'illicit' appetites without also immediately fearing the legal consequences of their actions. The upshot: America's drug policy is class and race biased if not also age and gender based.

Third, "In the absence of any serious effort to improve economic opportunity, particularly among young men with little schooling, drug control has become our surrogate social policy "[my emphasis]. It is unfortunate that, for the poor, drug control has meant being the object of aggressive policing and imprisonment. This is the kind of social policy one can expect to have when a society refuses to commit itself to providing equal opportunity to everyone. It is a kind of policy that produces low social mobility, which is to say, rigid class boundaries.

Drug policy in America has acquired social policy goals because punitive drug control directly and adversely impinges upon the already fragile and undernourished social subsystem in which the poor live and attempt to survive (Western, 2007, p. 11). Punitive drug control produces its destructive effects by removing potential and actual income earners from families; by normalizing criminal behavior, direct crime prevention and high rates of incarceration within the everyday life of the poor; and by disrupting familial and communal networks within impoverished neighborhoods. When one couples punitive drug enforcement to the pervasive and multigenerational poverty commonly found within poor areas, to the lack of opportunity available to the poor, to the inferiority of their educational, medical and service systems, it becomes clear that both the prison and the neighborhoods of the poor are little more than warehouses for America's outcasts. It is ironic that the prison today is a symbol of social order, for, with respect to the poor and their immediate environment, the criminal justice system is a producer of social disintegration. America, having rejected the public commitment to personal rehabilitation, has dedicated itself instead to the severe management of the poor (Wacquant, 2009, pp. 2-3). America has paired the poor and their habitats to its prison system.

Simply put, America's drug policy is a class thing. Unsurprisingly, it has "made an enemy of the poor," as Western declared. Because of America's drug policy, the poor embody and thereby express the stigmata (Goffman, 1963) applicable to some of the individuals America wants to hold at arm's length. These are their marks of shame. As stigmatized, the impoverished are not considered "real Americans." Rather, they sit on the far side of the boundary which separates the normal from the abnormal life in America. They are thus not like "real Americans," they are different, and are dangerous and pathogenic because of their peculiar identity (Douglas, 1966). The stigmatized represent the existence of a collective other. Their criminality reflects their impoverished lives and their intractable poverty points to the crimes they have and are likely to commit in the future. Considered differently, the categories "crime" and "poverty," "criminal" and "poor" are stigma signals (Goffman, 1963, pp.43-44). They mark an individual as a bearer of a "damaged identity." Considered together, these stigma signals are also class markers. They identify the poor as members of America's underclass. Members of the underclass are Americans that America excludes from normal social life, excluded because they typically lack work, are considered unemployable and, as a consequence, have no economic role to play. America today considers them undeserving of help and compassion.

The existence of an underground economy driven by illegal drug distribution and use does not reflect a culture of poverty among the poor or an unfortunate genetic endowment that fatefully governs their lives; rather, the underground drug economy reflects badly on America's larger, more inclusive economic system that has long been incapable of providing a good job to everyone who wants one. By a "good job" I refer to a job that employs someone and pays them a living wage for their work. By "living wage" I refer to a wage rate that realizes this norm: "[T]hat people who work for a living should not have to raise a family in poverty" (Pollin, 2003, p. 8). The underground drug economy reflects badly on America's macroeconomy because this illicit economy is just an externality produced by a macroeconomy that inexorably fails to incorporate the jobless and working poor as fully qualified members of society, that is, as citizens in the fullest sense of that word (Marshall and Bottomore, 1992, p. 18 and Marshall's argument in general). The underground drug economy has, as it were, an economic rationale for many of those who participate within it. It generates work and income to places in which both are scarce. It sates the "animal spirits" of the would-be entrepreneurs willing to risk their lives plying this trade. It even generates utilities for those who take drugs. Nevertheless, Western reverses the terms found in the normal causal claim made about America's drug epidemic when he asserts that "America doesn't have a drug problem. It has a poverty problem."

What, in sum, does it mean to claim that America's drug problem is a poverty problem? It means:

1. That much of the unemployment found in America can be considered involuntary in nature (it is unemployment due to the structural features of the American economy).

2. Unemployment, underemployment and employment at a sub-living wage cause most of the poverty found in the United States.

3. For the poor, poverty persists across the generations. The poverty which affects one generation provides a decisive condition for the children of that cohort.

4. Poverty and joblessness facilitate participation in the drug economy.

5. The United States addresses drug economy participants with a punitive drug policy that feeds the incarceration system in the United States.

It is significant that America's drug problem is a poverty problem. For one thing, the truth of this claim speaks poorly indeed of those members of America's political elite who have turned drugs and crimes into casus belli. Their blunder can be found, as one would expect, in the general commitment to a zero-tolerance and broken windows policy (see also the source document by Wilson and Kelling, pdf), an approach that refuses to address the decisive causes of the underground drug economy and focuses instead on hiding the most obvious symptoms of the problem in prisons and jails. For another, America's punitive drug policy not only fails to provide a remedy for America's drug and crime problems, the implementation of this policy actually exacerbates the problems it is meant to address, thus make drug use among the poor and the underground drug economy inevitable. History concurs, for it has plainly demonstrated that America's punitive drug policy has only made "mass imprisonment…a fact of American life" (Western, 2007, p. 189). Today, the United States is the most dedicated jailer in the world, a fact that is wholly consistent with the astonishing inequality found in the country and with the qualitative decay of a form of life that was once the envy of the world.


Western believes that meaningful reform may become possible soon. He may be right about this. Driven by the costs of incarceration and declining state revenues, various states are seeking to reduce their prison populations. "Hard times," Western rightly asserts, "are forcing reform on a profligate policy."

Yet, he may be wrong, too. In order to assess this possibility, we ought to begin with the fact that America now confronts a divisive, critical and systemic problem, one that could undermine any drug policy reform effort: The recession. After all, the newly free will not remerge as fully qualified and working members of a well-integrated, fair and productive society. These days every boat does not rise with the tide. Some sink, drowning all aboard. An capitalist economy in its decline phase will see to that. Thus the lately-released prisoner is likely to be unemployed and to remain unemployable indefinitely. This outcome is ironic since it is the recession which now drives the various states to reduce their prison populations just as it is the recession that will severely inhibit the adoption of the social programs needed to manage the transition into society for the prisoners the cash-strapped states set free. This irony issues from the condition of the economy: America today has an aggregate real unemployment rate that exceeds 20 percent, according to Shadow Government Stats. This historically rare and high rate tells us that work is both scarce and an asset which work-blessed individuals and groups would likely defend against encroachments by putative outsiders. Given this labor market competition, which increases in intensity when the economy sheds jobs and when prisoners enter the labor market, we should not expect solidarity among the poor and insecure to spontaneously and efficiently emerge. Solidarity in this instance would be a historically significant political achievement. Nor should we expect America's capitalists and its upper-middle class to freely cover the costs for a full employment economy and a capable and humane system of social services. We know this because their political representatives in Washington are now fighting to increase their share of America's wealth. Employment policy, like drug policy, is a class thing.

What would the current and future jobless Americans provide to 'their' society? What will be their contribution to the integrity of the social whole? Their contribution will be to stand apart from the fully qualified Americans, to be a sign which points to the fate of those who cannot fit in. That fate: To be members of a "surplus population," to live "wasted lives" (Bauman, 2004).

As long as the United States as a whole, and as a self-aware and minimally free society, can tolerate a stable high-employment economy and inasmuch as the political elite continually refuses to generate a credible full-employment project, then some Americans will have their lives wasted by circumstances they cannot master. This fate now threatens more than the prisoner, the undereducated, the African, Latino and impoverished. It also threatens those who believed they had earned some respect with their lives.


On the abyss awaiting Uncle Sam

Writing for TomDispatch, historian Alfred McCoy offers a disturbing prognosis of America's near-term future:

A soft landing for America 40 years from now? Don't bet on it. The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.

Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.

Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration's rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America's downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.

But have no doubt: when Washington's global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools, political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.

McCoy's essay is a long one, and the whole of it is worth reading if for no other reason than for the interested reader to experience the clarity, realism and good sense present within his analysis, an experience which contrasts nicely with the shock commonly produced by the talk and deeds performed by the arrogant madmen and women who make up America's 'natural aristocracy'. Empires, to be sure, are seldom happy, and not one has proven to be eternal. They tend to end unhappily, usually as a result of a war. The City on the Hill — God's Country — will share in that common fate, and McCoy's essay only depicts a feasible future that would render that fate actual.

As for myself, I only wonder about (fear!) the kind of political system our natural aristocrats, conceited as we know them to be, will produce once they realize they are global anachronisms and worthless in their homeland. I bet the next polity will not be a democracy!

Originally published at FireDogLake.


Robert Kuttner on the recent Cat Food Commission proposal

Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, appeared on Democracy Now to discuss the Co-Chairs Proposal produced by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The two co-chairmen are former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) and Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff and current President of the University of North Carolina Erskine Bowles.

The Proposal includes massive cuts to government spending, especially to America's weak and porous social safety net.


GlaxoSmithKline — Guilty as charged

The Justice Department announced today that:

SB Pharmco Puerto Rico Inc., a subsidiary of GlaxoSmithKline, PLC (GSK), has agreed to plead guilty to charges relating to the manufacture and distribution of certain adulterated drugs made at GSK's now-closed Cidra, Puerto Rico, manufacturing facility, the Justice Department announced today. The resolution includes a criminal fine and forfeiture totaling $150 million and a civil settlement under the False Claims Act and related state claims for $600 million.

The False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. § 3729–3733), on which see this, enables whistleblowers to sue in the name of the government and to receive damages when the suite proves successful. In the present case, a GlaxoSmithKline employee, Cheryl Eckard, asserted "…in her whistle-blower suit that she warned Glaxo of the problems [with the production of the affected medications] but the company fired her instead of addressing the issues," according to the New York Times report. The problem was the manufacture at a specific plant altered the nature of the drugs, as the Justice Department statement explains:

The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) prohibits the introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of any drug that is adulterated. Under the FDCA, a drug is deemed adulterated if the methods used in, or the facilities or controls used for, its manufacturing, processing, packing or holding did not conform to or were not operated or administered in conformity with current good manufacturing practice to assure that such drug met the requirements as to safety and had the identity and strength, and met the quality and purity characteristics, which it purported or was represented to possess.

The drugs addressed by the suit:


Strong democracy and its base

In his most recent truthdig article, "Do Not Pity the Democrats," Chris Hedges speaks the truth about power in the United States today:

There are no longer any major institutions in American society, including the press, the educational system, the financial sector, labor unions, the arts, religious institutions and our dysfunctional political parties, which can be considered democratic. The intent, design and function of these institutions, controlled by corporate money, are to bolster the hierarchical and anti-democratic power of the corporate state. These institutions, often mouthing liberal values, abet and perpetuate mounting inequality. They operate increasingly in secrecy. They ignore suffering or sacrifice human lives for profit. They control and manipulate all levers of power and mass communication. They have muzzled the voices and concerns of citizens. They use entertainment, celebrity gossip and emotionally laden public-relations lies to seduce us into believing in a Disneyworld fantasy of democracy.

Who, according to Hedges, should we not fear and who actually threatens us?

The menace we face does not come from the insane wing of the Republican Party, which may make huge inroads in the coming elections, but the institutions tasked with protecting democratic participation. Do not fear Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. Do not fear the tea party movement, the birthers, the legions of conspiracy theorists or the militias. Fear the underlying corporate power structure, which no one, from Barack Obama to the right-wing nut cases who pollute the airwaves, can alter. If the hegemony of the corporate state is not soon broken we will descend into a technologically enhanced age of barbarism.

We should fear, Hedges claims, the American system itself, as it now exists and as it likely will exist tomorrow and the day after. Fear, that is, America's version of Democratic Capitalism. We should fear it because the American system includes as a necessary component a compromised democratic political system. By compromised democracy I mean to refer to the institutions and mechanisms which make the holders of political and socio-economic power unaccountable to the citizens who suffer elite decisions and which insulates the elite from democratic control from below. This is system with a diminished civil society and public sphere. It is a system with a phantom citizenry. And it is a system in which the elite need not perform to the satisfaction of its citizens or, perhaps, subjects. This makes it an unresponsive system, for "A government is 'responsive' if it adopts policies that are signaled as preferred by citizens" (Manin, Przeworski, Stokes, p. 9). It is natural to believe an unresponsive and irresponsible government would be voted out of office by those citizens whom it betrayed. But in America's compromised system, voting out one unresponsive and irresponsible party entails opting for another unresponsive and irresponsible party. This "damned if you do, damned if you don't" electoral mechanism makes immediate and long-term systemic reform an unfeasible goal.

Hedges's solution to America's democracy deficit: Viable political work can occur only when it rejects America's compromised democracy:

Hope is a word that is applicable only to those who grasp reality, however bleak, and do something meaningful to fight back—which does not include the farce of elections and involvement in mainstream political parties. Hope is about fighting against the real forces of destruction, not chanting "Yes We Can!" in rallies orchestrated by marketing experts, television crews, pollsters and propagandists or begging Obama to be Obama. Hope, in the hands of realists, spreads fear into the black heart of the corporate elite. But hope, real hope, remains thwarted by our collective self-delusion.


A few caveats to consider before November

An earlier version of this article appeared on Firedoglake.

Might Barack Obama and the Democratic Party he leads feel more comfortable working with the Republican politicians who regularly and savagely oppose his programs? Do powerful Democrats and Republicans have common interests which draw them together? Might they have a common enemy? If the work of Walter Karp has any value today, if it provides the framework within which we may productively assess the politics of the moment, then we may wish to answer yes to each of these questions. They work together, have common interests and have a common enemy.

The common enemy of the two major parties: It is the citizens of the United States.

Years ago Walter Karp wrote:

Both the apologist and the Marxist agree in this, that the parties are political servants; of the people in the view of the former, of "economic power" in the view of the latter.

Such, in brief, is the prevailing doctrine about the political parties, minus the many qualifications called in to keep it plausible — the effects of "public apathy," of "straight-ticket voting" and the like. That doctrine whose essential principle is that parties are powerless rests entirely on the axiom that parties have but one principle of action: to win election victories at all costs. That has always been assumed in advance. What happens, however, if we do not assume it in advance, if we simply look at what political parties actually do? We will discover, quickly enough, that the realities of party politics and the prevailing doctrine about parties bear no resemblance whatever, that the reality and the doctrine are exactly opposite (p. 9).

Karp augmented his critique by asserting that:

The desire to win elections is not the basic purpose of the political parties, it is not their overriding motive and interest. For the leaders of political parties, trying to win and trying to lose elections are equally useful means to a quite different political end (p. 18).

He elaborates this point thusly:

Mutual noninterference in their respective party bastions is the reason both parties retain bastions at all. It is not electoral competition which characterizes the relation between two state party organizations, but strict and pervasive collusion. That collusion does not necessarily require conspiratorial plotting in smoke-filled back rooms. It springs up automatically between two state party organizations by virtue of powerful bonds of common interest. Neither party organization could retain control of its party unless the two party organizations were in collusion. As Senator Robert La Follette rightly remarked in 1912: "Machine politics is always bipartisan." It is because it has to be (p. 31).

Finally, most importantly and obviously, Karp pointed out that: "…the two party organizations actually form a single ruling oligarchy" (p. 33). If he is right about this, overt competition masks covert oligarchic cooperation, what, then, would the political end pursued by this oligarchical contraption be? One plausible answer: Together the Democrat and Republican Parties seek to remain the coherent and nearly unique source of electable political power in the United States today and, of course, tomorrow as well. Thus considered, they are the evil to which reformers want to provide an alternative.

What conclusions might we draw from this analysis given the oligarchical, collusive and exclusive nature of America's party system, the system's deep roots in the federal and state governments along with the counter-majoritarian features of America's political institutions? On the one hand, for instance, it follows that some electoral victories will be not at all wanted by the supposed winners of these elections (p. 41). On the other hand, it is clear that some electoral results will never be taken at face value by those who hold political power. Some elections are unwanted and denied by the powerful because they threaten entrenched political power, the two-party oligarchy. To my mind, Obama's 2008 triumph, an outcome that has already generated so much noise on the right, appears to be a victory of the latter kind.

We may consider it to be such because, as we know, Barack Obama appeared to the electorate as an agent of hope and change during his run for office. He not only ran as such, but he was elected by a comfortable margin to provide what amounts to a Thermidorian Reaction to the radical excesses of the Bush administration. He would govern the country as a mature adult and rational political agent of the people who elected him, not as a longtime bumbler and a political anomaly with a messianic complex and a taste for fame and money. Barack Obama — the humane technocrat who would provide Americans with the good government they crave. Yet, have the hopes Candidate Obama elicited in the electorate been met by his Presidency? No. Has he sought to realize goals that would affirm these hopes? Once again, no. As a matter of fact, President Obama has governed so far as an agent of the political system which nurtured him and which made him what he is today. Far from providing an antidote to Bush's extremist policies, Obama has worked hard to secure some of the Bush Era 'reforms' to America's institutions, to prosecute the irrational wars the Bush administration started and to implement the gist of Bush's reactionary economic agenda. And he gained his Bush-lite 'achievements' while his party controlled both Houses of Congress! He seemingly has led an administration that controlled its destiny. Nevertheless, by taking path he did, President Obama effectively threw away Candidate Obama's electoral victory. He has not used the power he acquired then to pursue a progressive reform agenda; he instead used this power to impose on the country a center-right political solution to its problems, a solution which will master no threat but those which entrenched economic and political power will confront in the near future.

Assuming my Karp-inspired analysis abstractly accurately depicts the electoral and political situation today, we may ask whether there was any reason to think long and hard about Obama's support for Blanche Lincoln and Arlen Specter in the recent primary elections?, the soft touch he has used when dealing with Joe Liebermann and Alan Simpson?, the concern he showed for the interests of the drug and insurance companies? and his fealty to the surveillance-security apparatus? I do not think so. Continuing to pose questions of this kind: Why, in general, has the Obama administration seemed unconcerned with the fate of the Democratic Party in November's elections? Walter Karp would have no trouble at all when evaluating the actions of Obama and the other leaders of his party with respect to these elections, especially their indifference to the composition of the Congress. He knew that each party considers the electorate at large to be the mortal enemy of the enduring Washington system. It will be this system which will be the true winner this November. And the two parties would not have it any other way.

The unavoidable conclusion to be drawn from this analysis: Barack Obama was and remains hope's enemy insofar as this hope is felt by the common man and woman in the United States today.


The Obama recovery and the crisis of crisis management

The permanent crisis?

Mike Whitney observes:

Policymakers at the Fed, the Treasury, the White House and the Congress now look on as the foundations of the so-called recovery crack before their very eyes. Many of their careers will undoubtedly follow the economy down the drain. As the stimulus runs out, unemployment will rise, deleveraging and debt liquidation will gain momentum, and the economy will succumb to a second vicious contraction. Digging out will not be easy.

Obama and his people cannot say they had not been warned about the likely effects of their stimulus. Forewarned or not, will the return of the Great Recession trigger the end of DLC-style foolishness? Let us hope so.


Quote of the day

This one issued from the keyboard of David Frum:

More proof of my longtime thesis, Repub pols fear the GOP base; Dem pols hate the Dem base.

Frum's judgment was a response to Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' recent hissy fit. A few quotes that represent Gibb's perfervid mind:

"I hear these people saying he's like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested," Gibbs said. "I mean, it's crazy."


"They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we've eliminated the Pentagon. That's not reality."

"They wouldn't be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president."

It is so sad that Obama's magnanimity and courage have yet to be recognized by the Democratic Party left. How crude of these unrealistic leftists to demand effective action from a President they helped put into power. The partisan left, according to crackpot realist Gibbs, is ungrateful and unappreciative. It dreams impossible dreams; it refuse to accept the world for what it is. Look at what these wretches have done to poor Blanche Lincoln, who is so devoted to progressive ends that she chose to fall on her sword for her Party, the party devoted to progress and justice. So sad to be compelled to manage these ungrateful leftist bastards…

Glenn Greenwald's take on Gibb's fit:

The Democrats have been concerned about a lack of enthusiasm on the part of their base headed into the midterm elections. These sorts of rabid, caricatured, Fox-News-copying attacks on the Left will undoubtedly help generate more enthusiasm — more loud clapping — for the Democrats. I know I'm eager to go canvass and clap for Democrats after reading Gibbs' noble, inspiring vision. If it were Gibbs' goal to be as petulant and self-pitying as possible, what could he have done differently?

Crackpot Realist Gibbs works to control the damage he caused here. Why would he humble himself like this? As it turns out, his President needs the work and enthusiasm of the Democratic Party base and, alas, that base sits a bit to the left of Obama's failed administration.


On this day

In 1794, President George Washington invoked the Militia Acts of 1792 to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania. The Whiskey Rebellion sprung from local resistance to the Hamiltonian Whiskey Tax.

In 1941, the Bengali writer, activist and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore died in Kolkata or Calcutta, West Bengal, India.

In 1960, the Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast achieved independence from France.

In 1964, the United States Congress passed the so-called Gulf of Tonkin Resolution or the Southeast Asia Resolution (P.L. 88-408).

In 1988, members of the New York City Police Department rioted in Manhattan's Tompkins Square Park. The Riot pitted the local NYPD against the "street people" who gathered or lived in the Park.


Colbert v. Frank

Consumer Protection Agency - Barney Frank
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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On this day

In 1693, the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon was said to have invented champagne.

In 1792, Percy Bysshe Shelly, one of the world's great poets, was born in Field Place, Horsham, England.

In 1789, members of revolutionary France's Constituent Assembly took an oath pledging them to abolish Feudalism.

In 1901, jazz trumpeter and singer Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

In 1914, Germany invaded Belgium, which provoked Great Britain into declaring war on Germany and the United States into declaring its neutrality in the conflict.

In 1916, Liberia, once the destination of freed American slaves, declared war on Germany.

In 1920, the American journalist Helen Thomas was born in Winchester, Kentucky. A strong-willed questioner, Thomas made a path for other women to follow in her chosen profession.

In 1961, American President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In 1964, three civil rights workers and voter registration activists were found dead in Mississippi. They had disappeared on June 21, 1964, abducted by a local police officer and subsequently murdered by a Ku Klux Klan death squad. Outrage over these murders contributed into the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964).

In 1964, North Vietnamese gunboats allegedly fired on an American destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. Another incident in the Tonkin Gulf was supposed to have occurred on August 2, 1964. Together, these 'attacks" motivated the United States Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Southeast Asia Resolution, P.L. 88-408). The Resolution was an enabling act which authorized President Lyndon Johnson to use American troops to contest Communist aggression in Southeast Asia. This troop usage did not require Congress to pass a Declaration of War. The American government's abuse of this delegated authority under Presidents Johnson and Nixon led to the passage of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (50 U.S.C. 1541–1548).

In 1969, Henry Kissinger of the United States and Xuân Thuỷ of North Vietnam began their secret negotiations over the Vietnam War in Paris, France.

In 1987, the Federal Communications Commission rescinded the Fairness Doctrine that required radio and television stations to present controversial issues to the public and to make the presentation in a judicious manner. The doctrine was introduced in 1949.

In 2007, Raul Hilberg, the Austrian-born American political scientist and historian of the Holocaust, died in Williston, Vermont.


I wish I was in the land of cotton…

The Hill reports that sentiment has grown among Republican Party hacks in support of defanging or eliminating altogether the Fourteenth Amendment:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told The Hill on Monday that Congress "ought to take a look at" changing the 14th Amendment, which gives the children of illegal immigrants a right to U.S. citizenship.

McConnell's statement signals growing support within the GOP for the controversial idea, which has also recently been touted by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Should the Senators succeed, their effort would reverse the Amendment's constitutional resolution of Dred Scott v. Sanford, as Big Tent Democrat points out. It would do so in order to deny citizenship rights to the sons and daughters of America's illegal immigrants.

This kind of 'thinking' leads to an obvious question: Might the liberty loving Republicans eventually move to revoke the Thirteenth Amendment too? This move is not at all far-fetched since America's massive private and personal debt along with the perverse distribution of wealth in the country and its secular economic decline will leave so many so many without work or savings.

This is one time when the onerous procedural steps set down in Article V of the Constitution work to safeguard social freedom from the dirty hands of party demagogues.

On this day

In 1913, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) allegedly fomented a riot in Wheatland, California. The rioters comprised local farm workers whose labor-burden was great, who were underpaid and living in inadequate conditions. The riot motivated California law-makers to pass legislation meant to regulate agricultural labor conditions. The incident is remembered as the Wheatland Hop Riot.

In 1914, Germany declared war against France.

In 1924, the Polish novelist Joseph Conrad died in Bishopsbourne, England.

In 1929, the sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen died in Palo Alto, California.

In 1936, the African-American track star Jesse Owens won the 100-meter dash at the Berlin Olympics.

In 1948, Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss of being a Communist agent.

In 1960, Niger became independent of France.

In 1977, the United States Senate began its hearings on the illegal Central Intelligence Agency program MKULTRA.


On this day

In 1869, Meiji Restoration reforms abolished the Japan's class system.

In 1922, the inventor of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell died in Beinn Bhreagh, Nova Scotia.

In 1923, a Prime Minister and President of Israel Shimon Peres was born in Viszniewo, Poland.

In 1924, the American author and civil rights activist James Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York, New York.

In 1934, the German general and President Paul von Hindenburg died in Neudeck, East Prussia, Germany. Hindenburg's death provided Hitler and the Nazi Party with an occasion to consolidate their power.

In 1934, upon the death of President Paul von Hindenburg, Adolph Hitler became Germany's Führer or leader of the Nazi Party and, more importantly, of Germany. The Nazis had thus combined Hitler's Party and governmental functions into one superordinate group of individuals: Führer und Reichskanzler. Of course, Hitler was the only member of this group in Germany. And, the combination was a sign pointing to the fusion of the Nazi party with the German state.

In 1943, prisoners in Treblinka II rebelled, setting the camp ablaze. Some prisoners escaped while others perished. The upshot: The Germans closed Treblinka I (the Arbeitslager or labor camp) and II.

In 1945, the Potsdam Conference concluded.

In 1964, North Vietnamese gunboats were alleged to have fired on an American destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. Another incident in the Tonkin Gulf was supposed to have occurred on August 4, 1964. Together, these 'attacks" motivated the United States Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Southeast Asia Resolution, P.L. 88-408). The Resolution was an enabling act which authorized President Lyndon Johnson to use American troops to contest Communist aggression in Southeast Asia. This troop usage did not require Congress to pass a Declaration of War. The American government's abuse of this delegated authority under Presidents Johnson and Nixon led to the passage of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (50 U.S.C. 1541–1548).

In 1976, the Austrian film director Fritz Lang died in Beverly Hills, California. Metropolis is often considered Lang's greatest film.

In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The invasion led to the Persian Gulf War between the UN forces (led by the United States and Great Britain) and Iraq.

In 1997, the writer and spoken word performer William S. Burroughs died in Lawrence, Kansas. Burroughs is best remembered for his novel Naked Lunch.


On this day

In 1805, the French political theorist and politician Alexis de Tocqueville was born in Paris, France. Tocqueville is best remembered for his two-volume work, Democracy in America, and his study of the French Revolution, The Old Regime and the Revolution.

In 1848, police put down a nationalist revolt in Ireland. Known as the Tipperary Revolt, Young Irelander Rebellion and Famine Rebellion, the Young Irish Movement led the action.

In 1883, the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was born in Predappio, Forli, Italy.

In 1890, the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh died by his own hand in Auvers-sur-Oise,

France. Van Gogh painted in the post-impressionist style.

In 1899, the First
Hague Convention was signed.

In 1901, the Socialist Party of America was founded at the Socialist Unity Convention held in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In 1916, jazz guitarist Charlie Christian was born in Bonham, Texas. Christian mostly played in the Swing style.

In 1921, Adolf Hitler became the leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or Nazi Party).

In 1932, Federal troops, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur and as authorized by President Herbert Hoover, dispersed the Bonus Army encamped in a Hooverville shanty town near to Washington, DC.

In 1957, the International Atomic Energy Agency was established with the completion of the IAEA Statute. The IAEA is an agency related to the United Nations.

In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act
(Pub.L. 85-568), legislation which brought the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) into being. The act originated as a response to the launch of Sputnik I in October, 1957 by the Soviet Union.

In 1979, the German-American philosopher Herbert Marcuse died in Starnberg, West Germany. Marcuse is best remembered for his books, Eros and Civilization and One-Dimensional Man, as well as for the role he played as mentor to the New Left in the United States and Europe.

In 1983, the Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel died in Mexico City, Mexico.


On this day

In 1750, the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach died in Leipzig, Germany.

In 1794, revolutionary France's National Convention had Maximilien Robespierre executed by guillotine, an event which concluded the Reign of Terror and signaled the onset of what became known as the Thermidorian Reaction.

In 1804, the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach was born in Landshut, Germany. Feuerbach is remembered today mainly for his work "The Essence of Christianity."

In 1821, Peru declared its independence from Spain.

In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the American Constitution was passed.

In 1874, the German and Jewish neo-Kantian philosopher Ernst Cassirer was born in Breslau, Germany.

In 1887, the French artist Marcel Duchamp was born in Blainville-Crevon, France. Duchamp's work mostly belongs to the Dadaist and Surrealist movements.

In 1902, the Austrian philosopher Karl Popper was born in Vienna, Austria. Popper's work mostly fell within the philosophy of science and political theory.

In 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in response to the Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.

In 1932, President Herbert Hoover ordered the United States Army under the command of General Douglas MacArthur to evict the Bonus Army from Washington, DC. Major Dwight David Eisenhower and General George Patton also participated in the action which produced an unknown number of civilian casualties, including women and children.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a 50,000 man troop increase in South Vietnam.

In 2005, the Provisional Irish Republican Army concluded its thirty-year armed campaign in Northern Ireland.


Quote of the Day

This one comes from Sam Smith's keyboard who, when discussing the strategy the Left might use in its effort to combat the Right, observed:

The right knows how to scare the shit out of liberals and politicians like Obama, whereas the right doesn't even get scared at the thought of destroying the planet.

Yes, it is difficult to intimidate those who embrace death and wish to spread this goodness to every living entity on the planet!

On this day

In 1755, the British governor, General Charles Lawrence, and the Governing Council of Nova Scotia deported the Acadians living in the British Maritime Provinces. Known as the Great Expulsion and Le Grand Dérangement, this act of ethnic cleansing occurred during and was prompted by the French and Indian or Seven Years War. The cleansing killed some, destroyed families and moved the deportees to ports in Britain, France and Britain's American colonies.

In 1834, the English romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge died I Highgate, England.

In 1894, Gavrilo Princip was born in Obljaj, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria-Hungary. Princip was a Yugoslavian nationalist and the Archduke Ferdinand's assassin. The assassination triggered the First World War.

In 1905, the writer and Nobel Lauriat Elias Canetti was born in Rustschuk, Bulgaria.

In 1943, the Fascist Grand Council forced Benito Mussolini out of office. The soldier and fascist politician Pietro Badoglio replaced Il Duce.

In 1946, the United States detonated an atomic bomb under water at the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The explosion was part of a series of tests known as Operation Crossroads. The United States cleansed the relevant test areas of their aboriginal population.

In 1952, the American colony of Puerto Rico adopted a local constitution. The United States had approved of the constitution and retained Puerto Rico as a colony.

In 1957, Tunisia became a republic.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy gave his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in a divided Berlin.

In 1969, President Richard Nixon pronounced his Nixon Doctrine on the American colony of Guam. The Doctrine was intended to be a general position of the United States, but it also put into effect the "Vietnamization" of the Viet Nam War.


On this day

In 1783, the anti-imperialist politician and military leader Simón Bolívar was born in Caracas, Venezuela.

In 1929, the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War (the Kellogg-Briand Pact or the Pact of Paris) went into effect. The Treaty was signed on August 27, 1928 and barred the use of aggressive war as an instrument of international politics.

In 1959 and in Moscow, Soviet Union, Vice-President Richard Nixon and Premier Nikita Khrushchev had their famous kitchen debate.

In 1974, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled [in the United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974)] that President Richard Nixon lacked the authority to withhold subpoenaed White House tapes from the Watergate Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski.

In 1980, the actor and comedian Peter Sellers died in London, England.

In 1991, the Yiddish novelist and Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer died in
Surfside, Florida, the United States.

In 1998, the Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan died in Washington, DC.


On this day

In 1877, striking railroad workers rioted in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The riot occurred early on during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, a protracted strike wave that began on July 14, 1877 at Martinsburg, West Virginia in response to a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad wage cut. The strike eventually spread westward while the strikers often confronted armed vigilantes, local police, state militia and federal troops in addition to the legal and political opposition of the federal and local governments directly touched by the strikers.

In 1899, the novelist Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois.

In 1925, a jury in Dayton, Tennessee found John T. Scopes, a biology teacher, guilty of the crime of teaching evolutionary biology to his students. The presiding judge fined Scopes $100 for his crime. The trial was famous at the time and remains so today. The trial is often called the Scopes Monkey Trial and stands as a significant cultural and political defeat for America's Christian fundamentalists.

In 1949, the United States Senate ratified the North Atlantic Treaty, a pact that would soon bring the NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) into being.

In 1954, the Geneva Conference (1954) partitioned Vietnam into two separate states, a cleavage which set the stage for the catastrophic Vietnam War of the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1972, the Provisional Irish Republican Army executed the Bloody Friday bombing action in Belfast, killing nine and injuring 103.


On this day

In 1536, the philosopher and Catholic theologian Erasmus (Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus) died in Basel, Switzerland.

In 1804, Alexander Hamilton died from the wounds he suffered during his famous duel of honor with Aaron Burr, which had occurred the previous day.

In 1812, the United States invaded Windsor, Ontario, Canada during the War of 1812.

In 1817, the transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau is remembered best for his book Walden; Or, Life in the Woods and, of course, for his experiment in simple living the book documented.

In 1917, local officials, officials of the Phelps Dodge Corporation and of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers collaborated to expel striking mine workers living in the town of Brisbee, Arizona. The Industrial Workers of the World organized the striking miners. The strikers were mostly Mexican and were sent to Hermanas, New Mexico in what is known today as the Brisbee Deportation.

In 1935, the French artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus died in Paris, France. Dreyfus gained his notoriety from being the object of a false prosecution during the famous political scandal, the Dreyfus Affair. It was an important feature of this scandal that Dreyfus was a Jew.

In 1967, the Newark Riots began in Newark, New Jersey.


On this day

In 1789, King Louis XVI removed from office his finance minister, Jacques Necker, a reformist politician of the Ancien Régime. Necker's dismissal ignited the storming of the Bastille.

In 1804, Aaron Burr, the sitting Vice President of the United States, mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton during their famous duel of honor.

In 1888, the German Catholic jurist and philosopher Carl Schmitt was born in Plettenberg, Westphalia, Germany. A brilliant authoritarian as well as an anti-modern reactionary by temperament, Schmitt quickly abandoned the Weimar Republic and modern constitutionalism in general when he chose to support the Nazis when they came to power. Because of this, he is remembered as the "Kronjurist des Dritten Reiches" ("Crown jurist of the Third Reich") and as the author of numerous astute but flawed critiques of modern political theory and practice, a tainted legacy equaled only by his contemporary, the philosopher Martin Heidegger.

In 1937, the composer George Gershwin died in Hollywood, California. Gershwin died from a brain tumor; he was thirty-eight years old at the time of his death.

In 1940, Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain became head of state of the collaborationist and authoritarian Vichy government in France.

In 1947, the SS Exodus began its journey from France to Mandate Palestine. The ship carried Jewish Holocaust survivors and other Jewish refugees.

In 1960, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger gained their independence.

In 1971, the government of Chile, led by the socialist Salvador Allende, nationalized its copper mines.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter posthumously awarded Martin Luther King the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 1989, the actor and director Lawrence Olivier died in Steyning, West Sussex, England.

In 1995, the United States and Vietnam established full diplomatic relations.


On this day

In 1509, the religious reformer John Calvin was born in Noyon, Picardy, France.

In 1645, Royalists and Parliamentarians clashed at Langport, England. The battle produced a major Parliamentarian victory in the English Civil War.

In 1723, the English jurist and historian William Blackstone was born in London, England.

In 1806, the Mutiny of Vellore, the first Sepoy Mutiny in South India.

In 1821, the United States took possession of the Florida territory it had purchased from Spain.

In 1832, President Andrew Jackson refused to re-charter the Second Bank of the United States.

In 1871, the novelist Marcel Proust was born Auteuil, France.

In 1921, rioting and gun battles destroyed lives and property in Belfast, Ireland in what became known as Belfast's Bloody Sunday.

In 1925, the Scopes "Monkey" Trial began in Dayton, Tennessee.

In 1940, the Vichy Government was established in France.

In 1941, the Creole jazz pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton died in Los Angeles, California.

In 1966, the Chicago Freedom Movement held a rally at Soldiers Field in Chicago, Illinois.

In 1973, Pakistan's National Assembly resolved to recognize Bangladesh as an independent state.

In 1978, the philanthropist John D. Rockefeller III died from an automobile accident in Mount Pleasant, New York.

In 1985, the French DSGE
bombed and sank Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior in Auckland, New Zealand, murdering one activist during the event.

In 1991, Boris Yeltsin began his five-year term as Russia's first elected president.