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This Day in History
Today is both a day to celebrate the legacy of Cesar Chavez, and International Transgender Day of Visibility; at Medina, thirteen hundred and eighty-nine years ago, a siege began against the forces of the prophet Muhammad; five hundred and nineteen years hence, more or less exactly, in 1146, Bernard of Clairvaux preached a renowned sermon that called for a new Crusade against Islam’s expansive power;three hundred forty-six years further along, meanwhile, in 1492, the same year that Columbus set sail for America, Spain issued its Alhambra decree that required Muslim and Jewish citizens to convert or face expulsion for the crime of having a different religion; a century and four years later, in 1596, a baby boy came screaming into the world on his way to a life as philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes; a quarter century onward in time, in 1621, a male infant entered the world who would grow up as poet and spiritual thinker Andrew Marvel; a decade beyond that pass, in 1631, the beloved English poet John Donne breathed no more;four years less than a century after that, also in England, in 1717, the Bangorian controversy unfolded as prominent English theologians began to defend the idea that neither church, nor Church, authority ought to hold sway in earthly matters, inasmuch as Jesus preached a separation of those realms; two hundred and forty-two years prior to the present pass, English authorities closed the port of Boston and sealed the fate of its loss of its colonial holdings in the Americas; thirty-five years thereafter, in 1809, a Ukrainian family brought a boy into the world who would grow up as the masterful Russian short story writer, Nikolai Gogol; thirteen years past that point, in 1822, Southwest in Europe’s Ottoman domain, imperial troops massacred residents of the Greek
island, Chilos, for their temerity in rising up against Turkish rule; three hundred sixty-five days yet later on, in 1823, five thousand miles away in South Carolina, a baby girl first breathed for herself en route to a life as writer and critic of slavery, Mary Boykin Chestnut; an additional fourteen years onward and upward, in 1837, English painter William Constable died; three years subsequently, in 1840, President Martin Van Buren mandated that all Federal employees who engaged in manual labor should work no more than ten hours a day;one hundred sixty-two years back, Matthew Perry signed the agreement that forced Japan to open itself to Western and especially American commerce; just a year after, in 1855, British novelist Charlotte Bronte breathed her last; eleven years subsequently, in 1866, across the Atlantic and the South American continent, Spanish Naval ships bombarded the Chilean port of Valparaiso in the opening stages of the Pacific War; eleven years after that instant, in 1877, the mathematical genius and still influential economic and philosophical theorist Antoine Augustin Cournot lived our his final day; six years henceforth, in 1883, five thousand miles West in Texas, cowboys at five huge ranches, denied access to property and the chance to accumulate their own cattle, went on strike as the wage-earners that their bosses insisted that they were; seven hundred thirty-one days afterward, in 1885, in the opening stages of the Scramble for Africa, England imposed a protectorate on Bechuanaland; four years exactly following that, in 1889, the Eiffel Tower officially opened; a decade more proximate to the present, in 1899, the United States continued its conquest of the Philippines by occupying the independence movement’s capital; seven years subsequently, in 1906, a precursor to the National Collegiate Athletic Association first began to orchestrate the business of ‘amateur’ university sporting events; three additional years in the direction of today, in 1909, in a precursor of the struggles that would be the proximate cause of World War One, Serbia acceded to Austrian power over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the unsinkable Titanic readied for its tragic maiden voyage; four years thereafter, in 1913, an audience that preferred melodic music rioted in Vienna at the performance of concerts by Schoenberg and other modernist composers; another year closer to today, in 1914, a Mexican boy entered the world in the usual way, on his path to life as the poet, Nobel Laureate, and humanist, Octavio Paz; three years still further on, in 1917, the United States expanded its imperial footprint with the purchase of Danish ‘properties’ in the Caribbean that became the U.S. Virgin Islands; three hundred sixty-five days in the future from that conjunction, in 1918, over ten thousand Muslim Azerbaijanis died in a massacre by Armenian and Bolshevik forces in the Russian Revolution; a farther half dozen years along time’s path, in 1924, a baby boy was born who would grow up to become the spiritual thinker and writer and teacher, Leo Buscaglia; two years hence across the Atlantic, in Britain in 1926, a male child took his first breath on the path to life as novelist and critic, John Fowles; three hundred sixty-five days subsequently, in 1927, a baby boy was the
issue of campesino parents who raised him to be the great labor leader Cesar Chavez; three more years in the direction of now, in 1930, the Motion Picture Production Code became the law of the land in relation to the depictions of sexuality, political criticism, religion, and other ‘sensitive’ issues in films, and a West Virginia mountains tunnel project at Hawk’s Nest began which would sicken and kill thousands and hundreds of workers, respectively, with silicosis and otherwise; one year later on, in 1931, a boy child was born who would mature as prolific writer John Jakes; two years after that precise conjunction, in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps began its operations in the U.S., partially to relieve the ravages of unemployment, and a little girl opened her eyes who would rise to become the beloved singer and lyricist of people’s music, Anita Carter; two years still closer to the current context, in 1935, another female infant entered our midst who would mature as popular writer, Judith Rossner; yet another year hence, in 1936,a girl child became a part of the human clan who would come to write as popular and socially democratic storyteller, Marge Piercy; half a decade more proximate to the present point, in 1941, police attempts to cross Allis-Chalmer picket lines with strike breakers failed; seven years hence, in 1948, a baby boy blinked his eyes en route to a life as the politician and thinker Al Gore; three years yet nearer to now, in 1951, the Remington Rand Corporation installed its first UNIVAC-I computer for the Census Bureau; eight years further down the pike, in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet to asylum in India; half a decade beyond that moment, in 1964, a coup in Brazil, supported by the U.S., established a fascist state that brutalized its citizens for many years; seven hundred thirty days beyond that, in 1966, the Soviet’s Luna 10 became the first craft to enter a lunar orbit; twenty years henceforth, in 1986, the crooner and songwriter, O’Kelly Isley sang his swansong; a thousand four hundred sixty-one additional days on the road to today, in 1990, more or less 200,000 Londoners went into the street to protest a newly instituted poll tax; four years after that, in 1994, Nature published findings from Ethiopia of the discovery of the first entire skull of the human ancestor Australopithecus aferensis; one year after to the day, in 1995, the U.S. withdrew from its bloody campaign in Somalia, and the wildly popular Mexican-American folksinger, Selena, died from a shooting by an employee whom she had caught embezzling money; a thousand ninety-six days along the path to now, in 1998, the Netscape Corporation made its Mozilla code available to the public as open source software; six years later and six thousand miles East in Iraq, in 2004, four mercenaries of the Blackwater Corporation died at the hands of Iraqi rebels near Baghdad.
A Thought for the Day
Looking backward with even the merest modicum of awareness, not to say with the diligence and aplomb with which we should consider the past that has ushered us into the realm of the living, one instantly becomes aware of two things, if one can open one’s eyes to the logic that defines reality as a fundamental aspect of nature and its laws: first that each living woman and man among us owes a profound debt not only to parents, but also to grandparents and uncles and aunts and strangers with whom these nearer kin interacted, stretching back well beyond that point at which such clever artifices as documentation can assign a name or other designation to a particular face and place from all the long ago yesteryears that our forebears have transited en route to this exact instant in time and space; and second that every living representative of this human lineage is a cousin to every other resident on the planet now, unless of course a closer kinship is evident.
Alcoholism is an infraction of social rules. Everyone tolerates it because the violation confirms the rules. This case is analogous to prostitution: neither the drunk nor the prostitute and her clientele call into doubt the rules they break. Their acts are a disturbance of order, not a criticism of it. The use of hallucinogens, on the other hand, implies a negation of prevailing social values. … We can now understand the true reason for their condemnation and its severity. The authorities aren’t suppressing a reprehensible practice or a crime. They are suppressing dissidence. … Prohibition is a battle against a contagion of the spirit — against an opinion. The authorities reveal, in their ideological zeal, that they are pursuing a heresy, not a crime.
The world stretches out before me, the vast world of the big, the little, and the medium. Universe of kings and presidents and jailors, of mandarins and pariahs and liberators and liberated, of judges and witnesses and the condemned: stars of the first, second, third and nth magnitudes, planets, comets, bodies errant and eccentric or routine and domesticated by the laws of gravity, the subtle laws of falling, all keeping step, all turning slowly or rapidly around a void.
Where they claim the central sun lies, the solar being, the hot beam made out of every human gaze, there is nothing but a hole and less than a hole: the eye of a dead fish, the giddy cavity of the eye that falls into itself and looks at itself without seeing. There is nothing with which to fill the hollow center of the whirlwind. The springs are smashed, the foundations collapsed, the visible or invisible bonds that joined one star to another, one body to another, one man to another, are nothing but a tangle of wires and thorns, a jungle of claws and teeth that twist us and chew us and spit us out and chew us again. No one hangs himself by the rope of a physical law. The equations fall tirelessly into themselves.
Languages are vast realities that transcend those political and historical entities we call nations. The European languages we speak in the Americas illustrate this. The special position of our literatures when compared to those of England, Spain, Portugal and France depends precisely on this fundamental fact: they are literatures written in transplanted tongues. Languages are born and grow from the native soil, nourished by a common history. The European languages were rooted out from their native soil and their own tradition, and then planted in an unknown and unnamed world: they took root in the new lands and, as they grew within the societies of America, they were transformed. They are the same plant yet also a different plant. Our literatures did not passively accept the changing fortunes of the transplanted languages: they participated in the process and even accelerated it. They very soon ceased to be mere transatlantic reflections: at times they have been the negation of the literatures of Europe; more often, they have been a reply.
The first basic difference between Latin-American and Anglo-American literature lies in the diversity of their origins. Both begin as projections of Europe. The projection of an island in the case of North America; that of a peninsula in our case. Two regions that are geographically, historically and culturally eccentric. The origins of North America are in England and the Reformation; ours are in Spain, Portugal and the Counter-Reformation. For the case of Spanish America I should briefly mention what distinguishes Spain from other European countries, giving it a particularly original historical identity. Spain is no less eccentric than England but its eccentricity is of a different kind. The eccentricity of the English is insular and is characterized by isolation: an eccentricity that excludes. Hispanic eccentricity is peninsular and consists of the coexistence of different civilizations and different pasts: an inclusive eccentricity. In what would later be Catholic Spain, the Visigoths professed the heresy of Arianism, and we could also speak about the centuries of domination by Arabic civilization, the influence of Jewish thought, the Reconquest, and other characteristic features.
Hispanic eccentricity is reproduced and multiplied in America, especially in those countries such as Mexico and Peru, where ancient and splendid civilizations had existed. In Mexico, the Spaniards encountered history as well as geography. That history is still alive: it is a present rather than a past. The temples and gods of pre-Columbian Mexico are a pile of ruins, but the spirit that breathed life into that world has not disappeared; it speaks to us in the hermetic language of myth, legend, forms of social coexistence, popular art, customs. Being a Mexican writer means listening to the voice of that present, that presence. Listening to it, speaking with it, deciphering it: expressing it … After this brief digression we may be able to perceive the peculiar relation that simultaneously binds us to and separates us from the European tradition.” Octavio Paz—various works and his Nobel Lecture
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Top of the Fold
(A quarter century old ‘Odebrecht List’ names names of corrupt officials, about which reactionary media there and here are salivating in anticipation of a feeding frenzy against the Workers Party. As the lead investigator in regard to the list notes, however), the merit of the list is to show how the corruption network involving construction companies and politicians has been a fixture all these years. She added, ‘the way out is a reform, not the demonization of the Workers’ Party.’
Tell that to Brazilian prosecutors. They are more obsessed with being served Lula’s head on a plate as part of a deal with Odebrecht than in eliminating corruption. Those politicians that appear in a previous 300-name Odebrecht list, which include a who’s who of right-wing opposition and old elites, may even dream of getting away scot free. The father of entrepreneur Marcelo Odebrecht — who’s been languishing in jail under a ‘preventive’ provision since June 2015 — was offered a similar deal by theGlobo empire itself; his son will ‘get some help’ if he rats on Lula. And that brings us closer to the heart of the matter of the much publicized, two-year-old Car Wash investigation machine. There is absolutely nothing against Lula, from incriminating documents to illegal offshore accounts. But to ‘get’ him the politicized prosecutors think nothing of destroying, along the way, one of the few Brazilian companies that are competitive on a global scale.
(The so-called case against President Dilma Rousseff is equally fatuous). The whole sorry spectacle in Brazil is essentially about lobbying and campaign financing. This is normal practice in the U.S. Lobbies may be eventually punished in an American investigation, but try to find zealous prosecutors bent on destroying a major American company in the process. They’d be reduced to Beltway road kill. The young — and vibrant — Brazilian democracy has not been swift enough in legalizing lobbyists. So what’s left, predictably, is the Wild West of political corruption. And that led to a ratting-out machine run amok — everything fully politicized, of course.
(In relation to the T.S. Eliot verse with which the essay began), (w)hat we have now is Hollow Man-in-Charge, Vice President Temer, as coup leader, and most of Congress as Hollow Men vassals. These crooks now truly believe that Rousseff can be easily sidelined, probably by April 19or 20; the Senate will conduct a lot of dodgy bargaining; a neoliberal economic program will be put in place; the Goddess of the Market will rejoice; and Car Wash will die a slow, not painful death because after all the main ‘tumor,’ the Workers’ Party, will have been extracted. Vulture funds will love it. Brazil will be ‘investor-friendly’ again. Who cares about a provisional, illegitimate, regime change ‘government’ that may be even liable to serious ‘crimes of responsibility?’ The judicial/media/old comprador elite combo will be dancing in the dark, recession will refuse to recede; corruption will persist unabated; and the noxious legacy of the Hollow Men will permeate all their actions while the world watches the further putrefaction of an already rotten corpse.”—OpEdNews
“(In the context of a nearly free-fall economic and social crisis that has spilled over to a universally corrupt political sphere), the current version of Brazilian democracy is very young. In 1964, the country’s democratically elected left-wing government was overthrown by a military coup. Both publicly and before Congress, U.S. officials vehemently denied any role, but — needless to say —documents and recordings subsequently emerged proving the U.S. directly supported and helped plot critical aspects of that coup. The 21-year, right-wing, pro-U.S. military dictatorship that ensued was brutal and tyrannical, specializing in torture techniques used against dissidents that were taught to the dictatorship by the U.S. and U.K. A comprehensive 2014 Truth Commission report (that) documented that both countries ‘trained Brazilian interrogators in torture techniques.’ Among their victims was Rousseff, who was an anti-regime, left-wing guerilla imprisoned and tortured by the military dictators in the 1970s.
The coup itself and the dictatorship that followed were supported by Brazil’s oligarchs and their large media outlets, led by Globo, which — notably — depicted the 1964 coup as a noble defeat of a corrupt left-wing government (sound familiar?). The 1964 coup and dictatorship were also supported by the nation’s extravagantly rich (and overwhelmingly white) upper class and its small middle class. As democracy opponents often do, Brazil’s wealthy factions regarded dictatorship as protection against the impoverished masses comprised largely of non-whites. As The Guardian put it upon release of the Truth Commission report: ‘As was the case elsewhere in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, the elite and middle class aligned themselves with the military to stave off what they saw as a communist threat.’
(At the heart of the overall situation is the grotesque inequality that characterizes Brazil, on the one hand, and the now quite moderatepresence of Patido dos Trabalhadores (PT), of which Rousseff is the leader and Lula remains a potent force, which has, despite its less than radical program extensively benefited working and poor people). PT has held the presidency for 14 years: since 2002. Its popularity has been the byproduct of Dilma’s wildly charismatic predecessor, Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva (universally referred to as Lula). Lula’s ascendency was a potent symbol of the empowerment of Brazil’s poor under democracy: a laborer and union leader from a very poor family who dropped out of school in the second grade, did not read until the age of 10, and was imprisoned by the dictatorship for union activities. He has long been mocked by Brazilian elites in starkly classist tones for his working-class accent and manner of speaking.
Though the nation’s oligarchical class has successfully used the center-right PSDB as a counterweight, it has been largely impotent in defeating PT in four consecutive presidential elections. Voting is compulsory, and the nation’s poor citizens have ensured PT’s victories. Corruption among Brazil’s political class — including the top levels of the PT — is real and substantial. But Brazil’s plutocrats, their media, and the upper and middle classes are glaringly exploiting this corruption scandal to achieve what they have failed for years to accomplish democratically: the removal of PT from power.
(Any notion that the protests against the government are ‘grassroots’ is at best false, more likely hypocritical and ridiculous). Brazil’s corporate media outlets are acting as de facto protest organizers and PR arms of opposition parties. The Twitter feeds of some of Globo’s most influential (and very rich) on-air reporters contain non-stop anti-PT agitation. When a recording of a telephone conversation between Dilma and Lula was leaked this week, Globo’s highly influential nightly news program, Jornal Nacional, had its anchors flamboyantly re-enact the dialogue in such a melodramatic and provocatively gossipy fashion that it literally resembled a soap opera far more than a news report, prompting widespread ridicule. For months, Brazil’s top four newsmagazines have devoted cover after cover to inflammatory attacks on Dilma and Lula, usually featuring ominous photos of one or the other and always with a strikingly unified narrative.”—The Intercept
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