Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Freedom Road" is back, after 34 years!

I missed the Made-for-TV movie Freedom Road, based on Howard Fast's powerful novel by the same name and starring Muhammad Ali and Kris Kristofferson, when it aired on HBO in 1979, and I've been looking for it ever since. Now, finally, after 34 years, it's been resurrected and posted to YouTube at:

To my knowledge this is the only serious fictional movie ever made about the vast, rich, complex, inspiring and ultimately tragic revolution and counter-revolution that enveloped the entire South during and after the Civil War, events that profoundly shaped modern America, though most of us know little about them. 

Ali's wooden performance does not justify the obscurity to which this otherwise well-cast, well-acted, well-filmed and gripping movie was consigned, nor justify the silencing of a great story that needs to be told. Perhaps the story lay so far outside the standard narrative about Emancipation and Reconstruction that critics and movie distributors didn't know what to make of it, or even felt repulsed?

Two generations of Americans have grown up without this movie. It tells a story that has much to say to us about our own way forward. 
Let's take it viral, now, while the window of a free Internet is still open to us.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Grace Ross: Should Lauren Be Homeless?

Grace Ross: Should Lauren Be Homeless?
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
She came over to us during our protest demanding an end to the shutdown of the Federal Government.
What had grabbed Lauren’s attention were the words “shelter” and “homeless”. She had very meekly asked me if she could pick up a sign and then stood with me through the rest of the protest - occasionally tapping my hand to get my attention so that she could talk with me a little bit.
Lauren was brave and was willing to share with me (with tears in her eyes) what is a very painful and difficult situation.
Clothed from head to toe in a purple outfit and so thrilled to stand with us at our protest, Lauren is 3 years and some months old.
How she understood the words “shelter” and “homeless”, how she understood the injustice of a family not being able to have a place of their own at the age of 3.5 is stunning.

Worcester: take a stand on Foreclosure Mediation!

Comment posted to
Worcester manager asks for delay on foreclosure measure until Springfield settles suit



Some here are arguing from one side or the other of the Liberal-Conservative split: individual vs. social responsibility. 

It's like asking "Are you on the side of hot or cold?" Which looks better depends on where you'e standing, but the issue can never be resolved. It's just endless distraction and entertainment. 

Yes some people abuse the law. Yes people should take contracts seriously. Yes some people bought houses they couldn't handle. We go to every door listed for foreclosure in Worcester. We see it all, and we judge no one. We invite all to join us in fighting for their homes. 

We choose a side, not because we're against individual responsibility or want a "nanny state", but because homeowners and communities face a huge imbalance of power, power that is being abused wholesale, and it's only through mutual support, building commitment to each other and engaging the whole community that we can win. 

The giant "too big to fail" banks, their "too big to jail" owners and officers, the corporations they control and the Congress and politicians they own are running rough-shod over us in so many ways. The homeowners they're dispossessing are facing the brunt of the attacks. 

Deserving or undeserving, the banks make no distinction, and neither should we. We ask only "will you stand and fight with us?" - and let them sort themselves out. 

We still have the power to beat the "banksters" in state and local courts, city councils and state legislatures. Step by step, homeowners and community defenders have been beating them back. Our City Councilors stand with the homeowners, ready to pass a well-crafted Mediation Ordinance that will help restore the balance. 

The City Manager is again telling them not to pass it, not to challenge the power of the banks until other cities can prove it's safe. Let Springfield, Lynn and Brockton fight our battles for us! 

In the meantime, hundreds of Worcester homes are being lost, and new storm clouds are gathering. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Homeowner's fight for right to buy home back from Freddie Mac

My comment on article in T&G:
   Freddie Mac stalls on family re-purchase of home in foreclosure

       By Paula J. Owen, TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

Juan Alvares is a great speaker and sharp as a tack in his native Spanish, but has had a hard time due to his very limited skill with English. Translators have sometimes failed to communicate the meaning of what bank lawyers, judges and even his own lawyers said to him. He's been an inspiration to all of us with his willingness to bounce back from every setback and keep on fighting, and his standing up for other homeowners and tenants fighting to stay in their homes after foreclosure. 

In the original move against him, three different entities filed competing foreclosures at the same time. A good legal defense coupled with a media strategy could have made a laughing-stock of them and forced a fair loan modification settlement, but this is not the kind of standard move that charity lawyers are generally willing or able to make. 

Those standard moves, designed for a time when mortgage and foreclosure law was well established and the motives of the parties involved were reasonably transparent, now generally only get the homeowner a delay and a better "cash for keys" deal. Every law on the books is being flouted by these vast entities masquerading as banks, and nothing is what it seems. Juan's story shows the need for creative and aggressive strategies, and for lawyers seeing themselves as partners in a movement alongside their clients. 

The fact that Juan is now dealing with Freddie Mac is a case in point. The original confusion may have been caused by Freddie already being involved as the real owner behind the scenes. And Freddie, like the big private banks, has not been honestly negotiating loan modifications. We can only guess at their real motives. 

Jon Marien is right in calling the unlawful refusal of Freddie Mac to sell to BCC or anyone else who might sell back to the borrower an effort to punish them. I'd use the word "terrorize". 

Fannie and Freddie are owned by us, the American people. We have a right to demand and expect better! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Clueless winner of phony Nobel Prize pins tail on donkey

A comment on:

   Nobel-winning economist warns: Rising inequality a problem

         By John Christoffersen, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Alfred Nobel specified that no new categories of prizes would be added to the ones he established. One field set up a prize named after Nobel anyway, Economics. After firing large numbers of economics professors in the '50's, just about everyone that made any sense, the survivors and their patrons urgently needed to do something to make themselves and their profession look smart and important.

This article about Robert Shiller caught my attention with its headlining of Schiller's claim that rising inequality is a problem. Does he mean that it's not just a moral or political problem but an economic one? Reading this article I see no indication that he has a clue as to why that would be so or how he came to that conclusion.

Worse, it appears that Shiller is clueless about pretty much everything - except maybe "empirical analysis of asset prices" - and honestly, I'd take a good look under the hood before I bought even that from him. Perhaps this article misrepresents him, but from it he seems blissfully unaware that our financial system and the dollar itself are teetering at the edge of the abyss, discounting the danger posed by the US flirting with a default on the debt.  He suggests the stock market (being kept alive by the Fed openly pumping a trillion dollars a year of funny money into it) is "moderately overpriced" but "no big deal".

And he can say - apparently with a straight face - that "regulated properly, finance is 'at the core of our civilization'."

But now he can make inane and ignorant pronouncements like this and get taken seriously - because he is a Nobel Laureate, just like President Obama! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Letter to a Patriot: New World Order

I found this - a real turning point:

China's NOT TALKING ABOUT THE NEW WORLD ORDER YOU FEAR - THE NEW WORLD ORDER OF NSA SPYING, DETENTION CAMPS, BLACK HELICOPTERS AND BIG BROTHER.  That one is already here, organized and ready.  It's centered in Washington, New York, London and Zurich and has its tentacles all over the world.  It's in the process of shedding its disguises.  

The '"New World Order" China's calling for is a currency and economy that's beyond the control of the giant US, British and Swiss banks.  Calling on the rest of the world to escape of the rule of the Rockefellers and Mellons, Rothschilds and Morgans.  

It's really a call for an "Anti-New World Order"'  

China's calling for this now because a collapse of the dollar is inevitable - and close. Actually, it's already happening. 

It's been coming on for a long time, driven by the logic of greed that's built into the very heart and guts of our system. 

And it leaves us behind in "the belly of the beast", to survive, to break free from its power, to save ourselves, and perhaps to save the world from its death throes.

My prediction:  The False Patriots will try to conflate China's call for a New World Order with Big Brother, and will try to lead us back into line, unite against the foreign "threat" of China, Russia, Iran and Brazil - and against the internal "threats" of undocumented immigrants and unions.  

Maybe they'll have their pet terrorists fly some airplanes into skyscrapers to scare us back into line, or worse.

The True Patriots will be the ones who remember where our real enemy lies.  Here.  In America.  Not in the cities, the immigrant ghettos, the union halls and community groups, but at the top, in the Boardrooms of the Great Banks and Corporations.  

They understand in their guts that the true face of our enemy is not Republican or Democrat, black or immigrant, but Plutocrat - the rule of the rich and powerful. The billionaires that have no loyalty to any nation or people, who have far more in common with Saudi princes and Swiss bankers than with us. Who "play with us ... like we're their little toys." 

The True Patriots will be the ones who are organizing the people for survival and defense - all the regular people.  Know them by their instinct for unity and solidarity.  

The greatest fear of the False Patriots is that we won't believe their lies anymore. Know them by who they call traitors.  

A good touchstone: where do they stand on Edward Snowden?  If they call him a traitor, or even suggest he might be, get away from them!

The greatest weapon of the False Patriots is to get us fighting and hating each other.  Know them by who they call enemies.

A good touchstone: they may come from an anti-immigrant, anti-union tradition, but are they offering to lead us in battle against the immigrants and unions now? 

We see a lot of organized groups, good people pledging to stand together.  But the sad fact is that most of our people are not organized, and many of our groups are fighting each other.  

This is no time for spectators, no time for fighting over who will get which piece of the carcass.

Our real power lies in the unity and solidarity of all the regular people.  

We have a lot of work to do, a lot of learning and a lot of teaching.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rally in Daily Worcesteria

Activists rally to end government shutdown

by Walter Bird Jr., Daily Worcesteria Blog  ·  10/10/2013

"[This rally and march has] quite a list of demands," Horton acknowledges, "and we could go on. But it's no longer working to pick one issue, like job creation or food stamps, and just fight for that. With everything, everyone's needs and issues on the block at once, the only thing that makes sense is for all the groups and people fighting on each of these issues separately to come together to demand a complete change in government priorities."

Rally today: End the Shutdown, No Cutbacks, End the Wars, Jobs for All!

The dollar is in real trouble, not just because of the games in Washington. It's been coming on for a long time. But in the political circus in Washington, everything of real value - including Social Security - is on the block. 

The people most at risk, the regular people of America, don't really have a seat at the table. Our brave Congressman Jim McGovern is a voice in the wilderness there. 

So what's their game? In 2009 Newt Gingrich declared a goal of destroying the Obama Presidency, and they've done a pretty good job. Now they're playing chicken with the whole world economy, demanding the dismantling of Obama's only real win, the misbegotten Republican-designed healthcare law dubbed Obamacare, which is a done deal, all the contracts signed - an absurd, unworkable demand. Why? 

The Obama Administration, whatever its other failings, has single-mindedly pursued wars and preparations for wars and the building of a huge Security State, as revealed by whisleblowers like Snowden who he has hounded and pursued around the globe. And they've made advanced preparations for dealing with an emergency by imposing martial law. 

Now the Tea Party seems to be deliberately driving the economy to the brink of the next disaster, one which could cause suffering, even starvation, on a global scale, and the militias are preparing for war and "revolution". 

Is this some kind of terrible high-stakes game? Are they trying to provoke disorder and riots, as an excuse to mobilize their militias? Are they trying to push Obama to declare martial law? 

Or to give him the excuse he needs? 

What part are we supposed to play? Designated victim? Wait until we're desperate, then give them the riots they expect? 

We need instead to present non-violent united mass protest movement, so large and broad they can't ignore us, demanding solutions that work for us all. 

We're calling for everyone who wants this swindle stopped - no more cuts and no more wars - to meet on the Worcester Commons at Noon today. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Is our foreign policy problem due to Obama's weakness?

Comment on
Crisis makes US reliability questioned overseas

What? No mention in this article about Snowden and the NSA leaks, which are still coming in? Or the world's reaction when US allies blocked the Ecuadorian presidential airplane from landing to refuel (which it turns out nearly killed him), and the growing consensus in the world that this kind of kow-towing to the American bullies has to stop? 

Or the refusal of the President of Brazil to meet with Obama over NSA espionage? 

Or the fact that it was the British Parliament and the US Congress that stopped Obama's war on Syria, driven by popular demand? 

Or the fact that the dollar is a corpse on steroids and the BLS statistics have been exposed as lies covering up a collapsing economy? 

Or the fact that the Fed can't stop buying US bonds without setting off a panic? Or that they had to publicly admit in January or February that they couldn't deliver to Germany the gold they were supposedly holding for it - presumably because they don't really have it? 

Or that countries are already abandoning the dollar and starting to trade their own currencies for oil? That it isn't just our supposed enemies that are dumping the dollar as fast as they can? 

The article's message seems to be that the problem is US lack of will and resolve, that if only Obama would be stronger and more ruthless the US could regain its world leadership. In one way the reality is much more grim. The US economic and banking system and their attempt to rule the world has reached a natural limit and is collapsing from within. All these external events are a reflection of the countries of the world starting to react to that collapse. 

The bright side is that we have been given a precious moment when the people of our land could step in and take it back and reclaim our democracy, if we can stop fighting each other over phony manufactured issues and ideologies and start talking to each other more plainly about the real problems and needs that we are actually experiencing and dealing with. 

I've been wondering for going on six years now if the point of the world bankers (led by Goldman Sachs, his biggest early sponsor) in putting Obama in the Presidency was to put a "Democratic" label on the systemic collapse they knew was coming - a compliant "patsy" to take the blame when the music stops.  In Obama they have a polished pseudo-liberal with a deep family history of loyalty to the Security State, who talks like a socialist, confuses and divides the people of color who usually form the base of resistance movements, and who makes a good foil and hate object for the right-wing populist movement they are promoting.

Now that the collapse is starting to unfold, we may be seeing a lot more on this theme that Obama's weakness is the cause of it.

They have long memories, family memories, these rulers of ours.  They've never forgotten how the whole nation blamed and hated their man Herbert Hoover for the collapse of 1929 and the Great Depression, when the truth is that he neither caused nor could have stopped it.  If he had major blind spots they were those of everyone in his circles, including early on Franklin Roosevelt.  

Like them I have come to see the President as a leader with limited power.  I've seen the power-brokers trigger a collapse to get rid of a troublesome President (Carter.)  I don't believe they could cause or cure this "general crisis of capitalism" that we're facing.  But I've watched them do all they can - since my days as an economics student in the early '60's - to avert or postpone the next depression, and now to deny that it's happening.  

And now they've laid their plans and preparations for the unthinkable but inevitable as best they can, I find myself wondering if they've also picked the time for the meltdown and are deliberately trying to trigger it.

Friday, October 4, 2013

What do people do when there's no democracy?

The Senate Democrats' continuing resolution bill that would keep the Federal Government open already includes the next round of the Sequester, another outrageous 10% cut to practically anything in the Federal budget that's important or useful to regular people except for Social Security and Medicare. 

They did this without a fight. We let them do it with no resistance. Everyone's eyes were on Syria and the possibility of a major Middle East war, which suddenly went away. (Was it real? Did that really almost happen?)

The Republicans should have been have been crowing about their win on the Sequester - that's what they wanted, right? - but because they didn't have to fight for it, they just put it in their pockets and went on to the next thing. Now they're supposedly trying to repeal Obamacare, which they can't, and turning this into a national and world economic crisis. Why? 

Our great Democratic President now is calling for a new Grand Bargain negotiation, code for going after Social Security and Medicare, both of which the insurance companies are lusting over. 

We're told there's nothing we can do here in Massachusetts; this issue will be decided by 50 non-Tea-Party Republican Congressmen in places like Georgia, Tennessee and Idaho, by what will it take to split them from the Tea Partiers and give the Senate bill an up or down vote. 

That's 50 Congressmen we don't get to vote for and who don't give a hoot what we think or say. 

So that makes us spectators. Helpless victims. Again. This is democracy? 

Are we going to leave it at this? Are we just going to take it? What do people do when there's no democracy? 

Hadn't we better do something to send a warning to Barack's golfing buddies that the peasants are getting restless out here? 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Budget showdown disaster

The ACA will prove a disaster, maybe better than nothing, maybe worse, but nowhere near as bad as this shutdown, which is about to get folded into the debt ceiling showdown.

The Republicans only had to put up a token resistance to Obamacare, and wait for the horror stories of people losing their company-paid care, losing their hours, and dying because they can't afford to use the care they get to start rolling in.  The Dems would have had some defenses but the stories about what didn't happen wouldn't have been so dramatic.  The Dems would have paid dearly for giving in to corporate pressure and turning their backs on the real solution, backed by a majority of the public: Single Payer, enhanced Medicare for All.

As for Obama, he would have been happily retired by then and reaping his reward as a favorite of the billionaire bankers, paying half a million per speech and slapping him on the back, saying "job well done!"

The way this is working out is much worse for the people.  Maybe by design.

As we roll into this crisis, Obama has already called for a resumption of negotiations on a "grand bargain", which is code for cutting Social Security, Medicaire, Medicaid, SSI and SSDI, SNAP and School Lunches, education aid, and just about everything else that's actually necessary or useful.  The leaders in Congress of both parties are showing support for the idea.

Short of this Obama has apparently let himself be put in a lose/lose situation.  No matter what he does he will be impeached by the House for violating the Constitution - although the Senate will surely acquit him.  His responsibility under the Constitution to honor the US debts and spend the money Congress has appropriated, and his responsibility not to tank the world's economy, could impel him to defy the House if they won't meet him in making a deal on the backs of the American people.

The House leaders no doubt think he won't stand up to them, but events and pressures could push him into it.