Log in

No account? Create an account

More than a week ago now I got a form letter from the DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles), telling me that in order to renew my driver's licence this time, I must go down to an office of theirs and have myself photographed. As I have renewed my driver's licence twice since I took the present photo on it, it is long out of date.  Maybe by as much as 20 years.

Face recognition technology at the DMV today was the same in Alexandria, Va

But there was something else, and it was phrased ambiguously. If I wanted to turn my driver's licence into also a "real ID," and also wanted to fly domestically, I would have to produce 4 documents on the day I came in. These were evidence of my residential address, a birth certificate or passport, my social security card, and evidence of change of name. I have changed my name twice: first there was my maiden or birth name, then my first husband's name, mine for about 6-7 years, and then my late husband's name, which I've been using for some 50 years. For evidence of residential address I was at first stumped; then I thought of utility bills and brought in two; I brought in my last bank statement, then ferreted out my marriage certificate from Leeds (my second marriage), a frail document, which I proceeded to scan into my computer, lest it be taken away. I puzzled if I should bring my first marriage certicate and divorce papers, but felt surely that's too much. I did find an old social security card with my birth name on it (gotten at age 15). I couldn't find my birth certificate, and brought just my passport.

I asked Izzy, my younger daughter, if Trump had signed some kind of executive order trying to control people flying within the US; she went to her computer and said, no this comes from TSA (those harassment officials at the airports) in conjunction with the DMV, and ultimately from Home Security. Once you enter "their" (TSA) space at an airport, you lose many of your civil rights. And now the FBI and CIA are not enough outside airports.

I wonder if all this seems innocuous to others reading this. I asked a few friends had they gotten something like this, and learned this new requirement, with this implied risk of not being able to move around the US freely by airplane, has been set up by other states than Virginia. It's in Ohio. And I got stories of "heavy lifting" to renew a license in Virginia; a friend told me she had to bring her grand-daughter back three times before they could change the girl's driver's licence into a "real ID."  The girl's father lives in Les Vegas and she might want to take planes to travel.

The DMV looked like its ordinary self; long lines, all the people coming for documentation or out of need, very polite to the officials, clerks. Nothing new going on. Well what do I mean by nothing new ? for a long time the DMV has been an utterly autocratic place, inclined to suspend driver's licenses at will, almost. Public transportation (need I say) is poor in most of Virginia; without the "privilege" of driving, you cannot easily get to your job. Driving is not defined by law as a right. My license was suspended for some 5 months after I had a period of unconsiciousness, only a few seconds, but enough to get into an accident - I hurt no one but myself and my car. I was making slow left at a green light. The DMV would not believe the doctors (or seemed unwilling) that this was a temporary incident due to exhaustion and grief (after my husband's death). I had to pay a lawyer $395 per billable hour and she earned it by getting back my license; towards the end she was threatening to go to court and they unsuspended my license just before the date she proposed. Nowadays police have computer abilities to flash over a license plate and learn if the person driving has no license or a suspended one.  An invisible prison.

Some people came and went quickly; but others had more difficult business (buying a car, changing information about ownership). I did see four people while I was there turned away for lack of documentation for this real ID; all were told they can come back today with the requisite documents -- if they have them.

In the event, I did have no trouble. Indeed the bottleneck man (I have dubbed him), who mans the desk at the entrance, and everyone must pass by to get into the central room with chairs and a number (I waited about 45 minutes on a long meandering line), smiled at my number of documents, asking me if I had brought coffee too. (As a bribe?)

Though I got there an hour after the place opening in an attempt not to wait outside ... the experience is set up to make you wait outside. Beneath this particular photo you are told you have to pay $94 for the right to wait online; this reminds me of how when you buy tickets online or by phone today you are charged for buying of the ticket first wherever you are doing it, then the ticket price ....

My wait in the room was an hour and a half and I was worried about the form I was asked to fill out. Among the questions, was one about having a driver's license from another state or country. I was asked for the number of that driver's license, and the year I got it and the expiration date.  I have no copy that I know of of that old driver's license; all I remember is I got it in 1976 in New York State (after passing a driver's test driving and filling out a test form), and switched to Virginia in 1980 where I had the easiest of tests on a computer and voila a new license. I wrote the general years. I was also asked about the suspension of my license; a tiny box was provided for me to explain. I tried to in two sentences.

This scene from Santa Monica could have be Alexandria today

My number was called and I went to the counter and clerk.  The young woman looked at me, and when I said I was there because I had this form (I produced) asking me to have my photo done to renew license; and, if I wanted to fly domestically too, bring these four sets of documents. She never answered the implied question about flying domestically: instead it was, "Did I want a "real ID."  I said yes. She then swiftly went through my documents, picked out all she needed, handed the rest back. The truly important one was my passport. With that and my social security card, I didn't need the driver's license. My utility bills were enough for proof of residence. She looked at the form and where it said 1976 muttered something about too many years ago and hardly read the suspension section.

But then I was asked to answer a set of questions on a computer; three sets rapidly, click yes or no. There were two that bothered me, and I didn't have time to think about. They asked me did I give permission for voter registration to compare my name (it was a phrase which meant that) on this ID with the name they had in their files. I didn't like saying yes. There was a second question tending the same way. If I had clicked no, I would not have been able to get this wonderful "real ID:" there was no lawyer to consult. The young woman would not have answered such a question.  After this set of questions, she took my photograph (using facial recognition tech), using the computer again, I passed a very easy eye test, and then paid $42.00

My new combined "real ID" and driver's license will be mailed to me in 8-10 business days. "Give it two weeks at least" she said. Meanwhile my present license is fine -- it's not expired until my birthday this November.

Gentle reader if you live inside the US, what I have written here should worry you. There are several places where I could have been denied a driver's license or at least "real ID." I know for decades through the passport mechanism, many people have been stopped from mobility: Paul Robeson is a famous case where he was refused a passport, and inside the US he could not get a job. But notice how much more general the refusal is. This driver's license ID is narrow, specific, confers a specific ability to drive and/or to travel by airplane, and therefore is potentially limit on our liberty to move about within the US. When I signed these things I am implicitly agreeing to this limitation. I know from NYC lawyers over tenants' rights, that the contract landlords sometimes insist one sign don't hold up in court, because you are in a coercive situation. Still.

I am bothered because each time I have asked someone, they have told me yes they are aware of this, and yet they never spoke of it before. I am bothered because no where in our newspapers is this tightening noose described. Everyone should know about it in a state affected and I suppose they do when their license comes up for renewal.  This is stealth dictatorship. Our right to assembly (people gathered up and imprisoned because they don't have a permit), to a free press, to free speech (one can be accused of terrorism) are all being corroded away. We know about what happens at airports, and many may think about international flight first.  We know what is happening at the invented borders; the ignoring of laws allowing people to seek asylum, the obstacles now put in the way of green cards, VISAs, the imprisoning without trial of refugees, immigrants, the depraved Us gov't behavior towards their children, the imprisoning and accusing of treason of anyone attempting to help these people in any way..

So now our liberty of movement outside that airport is at risk.

Miss Drake

Another time away: this time, Calais

The World at Evening -- Summer

As this suburban summer wanders toward dark
cats watch from their driveways --

The color of the sky makes brilliant reflection
in the water

There is a time, seconds between the last light
and the dark stretch ahead ...

-- Rachel Sherwood

A little more than a year ago, I made a summer interlude for this blog; now I'm content with a few words. Then I was gone for 16 days, now it'll be 10.  Then I went with a Road Scholar group to the lake district and borders of Scotland and England in the UK; now we go (me, my two daughters) to Calais, northern France.Why? well I said I wanted to go to the beach, Laura said she wanted to go to France, and Izzy was not going to be left behind.

This sculpture commemorates an eleven month seige on Calais by the British during the hundred years war ...

The town or small city has a long history, it's one of the channel ports between England and France and was owned by England for a very long time. Lots to see beyond the beaches. Castles, prisons, towers, a cathedrale, museum. I looked it up on Amazon and bookfinder and found many books: on the recent history of immigration to the place and the development of what was known as The Jungle; as a place of war, from 14th century to WW2; where peace treaties and the like were signed; fishing and trading, commerce; a place to set mysteries. Today there are beaches, hotels, shopping, roads to drive, walks to do, markets to buy food and all sorts of goods.  There are even ferries.

Laura rented a bnb for us that looks lovely in the picture: it has air-conditioning and wifi.  We've bought to go to London at least once (see Kensington Garden exhibit), to Paris more than that (we signed up for a food fest). So we'll use cabs and trains -- spend money. The hard question for me is which books to take -- to guess which ones will hold you when traveling and away is not easy, but I know Trollope may be relied upon, and so one will be Phineas Finn (as I will teach it this coming fall). I should probably take a good book on or by Austen too. They usually "work." A small French dictionary -- though for a long time it was an English city in France.

Google produces many pictures. Painters like to paint fantasies and semi-realistic images. From among these, this by Eduard Vuillard:

Dinner with two lamps: rue de Calais

Many years ago I saw a gigantic exhibit of Vuillard's paintings drawings murals (rooms upon rooms tracing his career) at the National Gallery with a friend. I've loved his work ever since.

Chez nous, here in Alexandria, Laura's friend, Marni, will come every day and has promised to stay 45 minutes with the two pussycats, provide food, water &c. Clarycat already made friends with her, and I hope before the end of the time, Ian will come out of hiding and join them in play.

An archetypal harbour scene by Nell Blaine (1986)

From Three Poems at the End of Summer by Jane Kenyon

I stood by the side of the road,
It was the only life I had.

Miss Drake
It seems to me what is reported here is of vital importance for anyone who laws and customs in your gov't can easily render powerless, imprison (for minor infractions), deprive of mobility, the right to get a job ...

The preparation of living corpses by David Herd, from Times Literary Supplement, July 30, 2019

Core paragraphs:

"In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2012, Theresa May announced the intention to use the Immigration Act of 2014 to create a “really hostile environment for illegal migration”. The 2016 Immigration Act further intensified that hostility, with its root-and-branch foreclosure on anything like a livable life. At the same time, however, as official hostility to those seeking asylum has intensified, so also the Home Office’s practices have become much more widely known and discussed in the media, though this can hardly yet be said to have altered Home Office behaviour. And seven years on from Theresa May’s announcement of the government’s intention we are still coming to terms with what the hostile environment has brought into effect.

The hostile environment, as the 2016 Immigration Act confirmed, is a sustained, systematic and brutal assault on every aspect of the life of the geopolitically vulnerable person. Denied the right to work for as long as their case is unresolved, which will frequently be for years and can easily be for well over a decade, a person seeking asylum finds their every movement compromised and controlled. As has been observed by Refugee Tales before, but which needs constant reiteration, such support as is afforded a person in that circumstance (at the subsistence level of £5.39 per day) is paid not in cash or into a bank account (which since the 2016 Immigration Act it has been illegal for a person seeking asylum to hold), but as a voucher in the form of a top-up card that can only be spent on designated products at designated shops. This renders even the act of securing basic provisions a hostile process since the voucher – like a badge – has to be displayed at the point of transaction. It also subjects human movement itself to the process of hostility, since public transport is not listed as an item on which the voucher might be spent. One effect of this is that a person will spend endless hours walking, either to secure basic provisions, or to sign at a Home Office Reporting Centre, or because in the absence of work there is precious little else to do.

Larger perspective:

What has become apparent, however, in the past five years, as right-wing narratives of nation have gained sway in parts of Europe and America, is that we have to heed Arendt’s warnings more closely and more urgently than we would have wanted to think. Thus, one thing Arendt was very careful to observe was how administrative hostility could give way to, or could prepare the ground for, further large-scale assaults on personhood. As she put it, “the methods by which individuals are adapted to these conditions, are transparent and logical”. Thus the insanity of the historical developments she was seeking to understand in Origins of Totalitarianism had its root, as she understood it, in administrative hostility, in the “historically and politically intelligible preparation of living corpses”.

Arendt’s history of totalitarianism was written in the form of a warning. Her aim was not to argue that one historical development follows straightforwardly or in any simple fashion from another, but that there are tendencies in politics by which we have to be alarmed. When recently, under the Salvini Decree, the Italian government bulldozed the Castelnuovo di Porto refugee reception centre just outside Rome, evicting hundreds of refugees, the authorities were acting on grounds Hannah Arendt would recognize. The people concerned had been rendered so politically vulnerable as to make them subject, eventually, to state-orchestrated violence. Understood historically, it is just such ground that UK policy-makers began to prepare when they instigated the hostile environment. The intention was to produce the conditions through which personhood itself could barely be sustained. The longer that environment exists the more we understand its implications. To detain a person indefinitely is to so fundamentally breach their human rights as to render them outside the provision of any ethical framework. In order to detain indefinitely, in other words, the state must already have taken the decision that this is a person to whom rights don’t apply. From which it follows that their personhood does not require respect. From which it follows that one can develop a comprehensively hostile space.

It is the prospect of such arbitrary detention that instils the fear that shapes a person’s relation to their everyday life. ..."

Miss Drake

I've returned to finding (a friend found this) important articles for my reader to read: after this weekend, you must read White Genocide Conspiracy Theory

Crazy? fantastic? as unbelievable as the US gov't opening private prisons and treating the people in them as if they were in concentration camps, letting young children sleep on cement floors, feeding them junk food and kool-aid, punishing them if they protest and letting these people die for lack of any decent accommodation, housing and medicine?  hundreds and thousands of people.

Let's step back a bit to see the whole picture which this weekend's two massacres were epitomizing and telling moments. What we need to do is connect up ordinary daily pictures and events with these massacres and the actual legislation passed by the Republican or refused to allow to come to the floor of the senate, or vetoed by Trump or after struggles where the decent socially good legislation is passed it's nullilfied by decisions of the courts and the inactivity of agencies supposed to implement them.

We are talking of daily, weekly monthly, yearly massacres: a continual and tremendous threat to us all, about which nothing is done. What is cried out for is gun and bullet control.

A white nationalist rally -- all male


For quite some time now I have felt that far from being indifferent to the loss of life, maiming and wretched misery inflicted on the now thousands of victims slaughtered, crippled, bereft of crucial people in their life, the new Republican party and Trump cooperate with them. Most of the time, their rhetoric disguises their complicity and support. Trump is rare for saying the murderers are "fine people" - and even he only looks openly with favor on male white supremacists when they form open hate groups. It seems in public one needs an explicit set of words beyond the obvious lack of action and pretense of caring. One cannot get any gun control legislation passed because no or few Repubilcans will vote with the majority of democrats to pass it. This despite something like 87% of all Americans wanting this.

Once in a while the hostility to those murdered emerges: when the private high school in Florida was attacked and the high school students not used to being targets, in their horror and astonishment, protested vehemently and actually went about to urge gun control legislation, went to the congress to demand minimal safety (say gun control background checks), they were sneered at and vilified. This was possible because the new Republican party and Trump recognized that these kids could be identified as part of the white elite. The Republicans were not a  bit upset by what happened. They greww angry when these survivors complained and demanded gun control  because they are the children of respected segmants of society who expect the police and their gov't agencies to protect them.

Here the function of these massacres was seen. They are forms of domestic terrorism which serve the purposes of the Republican party to terrorize the ordinary citizen or person living in the US. Only once in a while (and this weekend was such an occasion) do the gov't authorities call what happened domestic terrorism. A white man known on line as a white supremacist, part of online rhetoric and groups who spew out hatred of non-white people traveled hundreds of miles to El Paso where he knew large numbers of hispanic people. He brought war weaponry able to kill hundreds quickly. Two incidents occurred together so that within 24 hours white males were seen to have deliberately gone where they could kill as many African-Americans and hispanic people in a short time as possible.

And finally the New York Times wrote openly about what this is about:  The Right way to understand White Nationalist Terrorism.

Like a number of recent mass shootings, the one in El Paso on Saturday came with a manifesto. While authorities are still working to verify that this document explicitly was indeed written by the attacker, the evidence seems clear: It was posted to 8Chan minutes before the attack, by someone with the same name.

By manifesto, I mean a document laying out political and ideological reasons for the violence and connecting it to other acts of violence. We’re familiar with those. We can recite them. And yet our society still lacks a fundamental understanding of the nature of this violence and what it means.

Too many people still think of these attacks as single events, rather than interconnected actions carried out by domestic terrorists. We spend too much ink dividing them into anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic attacks. True, they are these things. But they are also connected with one another through a broader white power ideology.

The El Paso manifesto, if it is verified, ties the attacker into the mainstream of the white power movement, which came together after the Vietnam War and united Klan, neo-Nazi, skinhead and other activists. That movement, comparable in size to the much better known John Birch Society, never faced a major prosecution or crackdown that hobbled its activity. As a result, it was able to sink deep roots into society, largely under the radar of most Americans

What you need to know to back this up is the reality that for decades while the FBI and CIA have done everything in their power to harass, hound, suppress and imprison and (at times) downright kill organizations of left parties (socialists, there are no open communists left in the US), black organizations especially, they hav left alone to grow white nationalist parties and armed groups and do nothing whatsoever to stop the proliferation of these groups on the Internet. Again a NYT editorial talked about how the FBI has been doing  nothing to infiltrate or stop these groups-- and contrasted that to the great effort to infiltrate, re-educate (I suppose that means torture), and wipe out Islamic extremist cells in this country. I think it also said that Congress refuses to fund studying the problem of white surpemacist domestic terrorismOnly recently have those who control the cyberware that hosts such sites started to take them down. As you can see from the New York Times language, the Times reporters have known about this for a long time. This is so well-known that there are wikipedia articles explaining a conspiracy Replacement Theory. 

It states that with the complicity of "replacement" elites, the white French and European and American populartions are being replaces -- deliberately -- by non-European (non-white) peoples through mass migration, demographic growth and a drop in European birth rate. It's a conspiracy: you, I and others are planning, vote and work towards the puropose replacing white hegemony with non-white power whose purpose of course will be to destroy white culture and wealth. The wikipedia article cites Renaud Camus as a central political figure and "thinker."

What we have to connect up with this is larger ordinary daily political context: for example, the refusal of the Republicans and Trump to protect our elections, the extreme gerrymandering of elections so that a minority of white Republicans can win a state and take power when the majority of people voted democratic. One "weapon" democracies are supposed to have are the right to assemble, to demonstrate and to have a free press. Everything is done that can be to stop demonstrations, to demonize those demonstrating, and to punish those who show up not only by painful spraying, barely non-lethal guns but also imprisonment, charges of felony whose purpose is deny the people liberty, right to work, to vote, to live.

The crowding of reactionary judges in our courts is done so that there is no longer a separation of powers and the courts are allowing Trump and his allies to do what they please -- for example, after Trump lost an election, was unable to fund his wall even when Trump closed down the govt', he is now taking money from the military budget and a court said that was just fine. The purpose here is to stop any social legislation on behalf of the middle class and working class and poor to say fund public schools, pass a universal health care plan which enables all of us to access health, programs to rebuild our infrastructure and fund public transportation. This white conspiracy theory, its advocates and its gun-toting activists are useful in sustaining a far right-wing gov't. Trump's mythic history this past 4th of July is their narrative: militarist de-contextualized asocial history.

From Orange is the New Black: women prisoners, women workers -- based on a memoir of a woman about her time in prison

If we can find explanations on wikipedia, there are also TV programs, serial dramas that bring out into the discussably open or should what is happening: the latest is Orange is the new black. Again a friend wrote me about this set of films:

"the government has created a class of “Jews” in the undocumented immigrants—they are simply stripped of any rights a citizen in this country would have under the theory that since they are not legal citizens, they have have no rights. One might argue they do have basic human rights under international law—or should be granted the same rights as  American citizens if they are on American soil—but that is not being done. It’s really very scary when you put all the pieces together—not only does being an undocumented alien mean you are stripped of rights, felons are more and more stripped of rights—as soon as you create a class that can be treated as non-citizen, non-volk, you are, as Arendt points out, in the heart of the Nazi beast. It is worrisome: I can imagine as they already do (!) they will start arresting more and more people they don’t like on felony charges, face them with such horribly long sentences that they plea bargain into pleading guilty to lesser felonies and then are essentially stripped of citizen rights as felons. This could happen to any of us. And I have been reading again, as I have before, that the assault on women is a part of all this—the replacement theory conspiracists want to outlaw abortion (as is very close to happening) and then strip us of rights so that we are forced into endless childbearing (white women that is) so as to produce more whites."


Fantastic, you say? Crazy ....

No, it's happening right in front of us. Congressional and state legislation is in line with all this. Now we can turn to the criminalization of pregnant women, the assumption they want to kill a coming baby; the closing down and defunding of women's health care institutions like Planned Parenthood.

There's an agenda, it's being implement step-by-step. Another function of the massacres is to allow a race war to emerge: you do nothing to control guns, you set and step up attacks on immigrants, you snatch them from their communities (all non-white people are in danger, whether citizens or not from ICE). Trump's slogan meant make America white again.

Dylan Roof: again wikipedia

Do consider that instead of being regarded as a madman, Dylan Roof was allowed to conduct his own defense as if what he did was the act of a sane man. This tells us how far our society has come in accepting what is happening.

Try to persuade the next open Republican you see to the democratic point of view, show the parallels with the rise of Hitler and you find you are with someone strangely inoculated againsts information, common sense, reality. I've another friend whose son is a superintendent of schools and moves from one pro-Trump Republican Christian district to another ...  It's called "transactional" voting: they vote for this man because he will pass some specific law or enforce some custom their sense of their threatened identity craves.

Miss Drake

Small or individual stories tell us what life is becoming like for people living inside the boundaries of the US where there are no sanctuary cities or states. So for this week's blog I send along variations on the theme of kidnapping, snatching up people, dividing them from their children, and then treating them in prison abominably. Back to the 1950s when ruthless people outside gov't began to prey on the vulnerable too.

The important thing to keep one's eye on is how abused people become targets for predators, and that if all of this is engendered by Trump: his adminstration, his vicious tweets, it is permitted and thus endorsed by Republicans, what's called his "base" (some tens of millions of people who voted for him) and the very wealthy plus those now complacent and complicit.

This story tells of how ICE operates to discover hispanic or muslim people, get warrants or not to search their houses, arrest or kidnap them, and then haul them away to privately-owned prisons (concentration camps is the accurate term) anywhere in the US.

ICE steps up ruses and surveillance

In this reports the police and ICE and drug enforcement work to find where ethnic groups are living, any houses changing hands, send out notices that they are coming not to take away non-native white Americans, but to clear the neighbor hood of drugs:


Then the police and alll other enforcement officals call "come out with your hands up!" (they say this) and arrest and take people away. I wonder if blackmailing goes on, where people threaten one another by demanding a bribe. Houses are emptied out and squatters and drug addicts and sellers do then come in sometimes.

The New York Times suggests there is much bluster and "little" people removal. But the spreading of fear and anxiety turning people into submissive guilty people when they have done no crime -- the law used to allow genuine refuges from brutality the right to enter.

Last an individual family's story: one family's painful and ongoing experience:

This is the back-drop to Trump's campaign of open  racist vilification of the four Congresswomen of color and now Elijah Cummings, a long time black congressmen and his Baltimore District.  And the democratic congress does nothing to impeach this man.

Among the more demoralizing moments for me this week: twice a woman I was with expressed a back-wards justification, even approval of what Trump is doing Both white women in their 70s. One said "I am so conflicted" over immigrants coming in -- there are no jobs for them, said she. She refused to answer my query on how she felt about separating families, children in prisons. The other waxed far more indignant over the thought she had that democrats want "open borders!'  and how insane and extremist that is.Not how insane and ruthless is ICE: I said months ago I agreed with democrats who anted to close down ICE (attracts thug types) a few months ago, and she was horrified by this demand. No we must have them.

This morning I read of two other communities where this is happening.

Personal story from 1950s:  My father took my mother on a lovely honeymoon to a camp in Connecticut. Years later --1950s-- she "discovers" it was run by communists. As in Italy, they used to do community stuff to be part of their society. My mother knew; of course she did So people in his office going after one another to try to take their jobs -- or if they didn't like them. My father cited. He changes all his subscriptions. Lives in fear, has himself transferred to terrible temporary job on New jersey - -had to get up very early. And what does she do. Berates him ferociously for taking her to communist camp. I used to have those photos. They looked happy. he said to her: "you have now ruined one of the rare good times we ever had."  My first husband destroyed that photo album, which I forgot to take with me when I fled. Yes she was afraid -- but she showed that she would not be loyal to him at all. Darkness at noon in banal worlds.

 France in the later 1940s and '50 was a veritable culture of predatory betrayals ....

Fast forward 20 years:  Jim and I living a married couple in NYC: Some decision in 1978 worried my husband, a British citizen with a green card so he became a US citizen. He would read whole supreme court decisions and the way the justices then were thinking troubled him.  He didn't go into what it was that so worried him. He was not a native citizen and even if white, vulnerable ... as in these people preying on these people: when the Japanese were taken to Internment camps their property was stolen from them;

Miss Drake

Social mobility promotes inequality


I've not been posting on this blog with any regularity because my plan after Trump won the presidency in order for my political blog to be at useful was to try to offer articles or essays or stories whose content had been overlooked or whose arguments were particularly perceptive to help fight the spread of corporate fascism, militarism, racism, misogyny. Lately I've realized nothing short of impeachment of Trump can control or stop him from any abuse of law, custom, decency. Voting might not help change the composition of the majority in the US senate, much less around the egregiously gerrymandered states all over the US.

Perhaps then when I see an article that shows how the norms that feed into the above order are lousy, hurt the average person I'll share that in the hope that might eventually lead people to think and feel differently in basic ways that now serve to support the Republican party.

Carl Larsson, Autumn flowers (early 20th century book illustration)

One is this idea that moving about, social mobility is the way to achieve prosperity and security and happiness too for individuals.

Far from this, social mobility undermines stable social life, your belonging to a community whom you understand; by Hadas Weiss, We have never been Middle Class; how social mobility misleads us

Weiss begins:

"Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement last month that a Labour government would replace social mobility with social justice as a policy benchmark raised more than a few eyebrows. It goes against received wisdom and bipartisan consensus that social mobility is a good thing. But Corbyn is right to insist that singling out the lucky few leaves the structures of inequality intact, and he is right to place the emphasis on further-reaching motions, such as revamping the education system, to achieve social justice. However, the real problem with social mobility is not that it doesn’t go far enough in making society more just for everyone. It has, in fact, the very opposite effect – deepening and perpetuating social injustice ...

Most of us have to work for a living: we need full-time jobs to make ends meet and support our families. In the work that we spend most of our waking hours doing, others pocket part of the value that we produce. In this sense, we are both dominated and exploited by our work. This predicament intensifies the more devalued and precarious our work is. But the idea of social mobility encourages us to forget about this exploitation and focus, instead, on what each of us has in terms of property and human capital.

Notice the difference. However diverse our jobs and different our salaries, we have common cause to rally around should our exploitation as workers prove unbearable. No such commonality inheres in our possessions, which cast us as competitors. Downplaying the conditions of our work in favour of our pursuit of ownership means substituting what unites us with what divides us.

With only so many gainful employment opportunities, valuable property, public resources and revenue-generating securities to go around – per market forces of supply and demand – their value is higher, the scarcer they are (or in the case of securities, their underlying assets). Credentials have less pull in the job market once too many people possess them, neighborhoods become less lucrative when anyone can afford to move into them, safety nets grow threadbare when more people fall back on them. And so we have a powerful structural incentive to limit popular access to the things we own.

Our possessions are also stepping-stones to positions whose advantages rely on others being disadvantaged. For example, they help some of us charge the rents that others have to pay. In a competitive environment where risks abound and rewards are hard to come by, we see these possessions as necessary (and sometimes as necessary evils) for getting ahead in life rather than falling behind.

The mad rush for relative advantages compels us to work harder, invest more, and take on greater debt – more than would be required to meet our present needs. This holds true even when we have little notion of the future value of our investments. The all-too-familiar reality of bubbles bursting and property values collapsing alert us to the fact that we invest for uncertain and sporadic returns.

And still, we keep investing and taking on debt for the sake of ownership. We do so out of fear that we will be less protected or have fewer chances of advancing if we don’t. We convince ourselves that if we have more stuff, skills or connections than our peers, we will fare better than they will. We further imagine that in dire straights, those with fewer possessions will probably fall first, cushioning us if we follow them.

Social mobility limits our perspective, in this way, to our peers and their fortunes or misfortunes. So transfixed are we by the image of everyone accruing or losing wealth and status, that we fail to question the social, economic and political forces that determine their value in the first place ....

See also my review of a good book about the Acadian Diaspora out of Canada from the later 18th through the 20th century:

  Hodson demonstrates that for individuals and family groups with only small or no property, no connections they can call on to enable them to overcome local exclusionary customs, and no military to support them, the ability to control their circumstances and future is extremely limited (169-71). He shows that “ordinary people's safeguards” are long-standing and recognized commercial and familial relationships and also known and understood local economic environments that cannot be misrepresented to them (129-30, 152-61, 176-81).


I've finally decided this is the story to keep our eyes on this week - as it will be ongoing next week:


Just listen and read.

We were not originally planning to go to the Clint border facility outside of El Paso, Texas, because it’s an adult facility, and the facility historically has had a relatively small occupancy, maximum of 104. However, we received reports last week that children appeared to be moving to this facility. And so what we did was we added it to our list of visits. And when we got there on Monday morning, we were immediately given a roster showing that there were over 350 children at this facility. And then, when we scanned the roster, we were taken aback by the number of very young children at this facility. There were over a hundred young children who were being kept there. And so, we immediately asked the guards to start to bring us the youngest children and also the children who had been there the longest. We also saw that there were about a half a dozen child mothers and their infants. And so we asked the guards to also bring us those children.

When the children walked into the conference room, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. They were sick. They were coughing. They had runny noses. They were filthy dirty. And they immediately started to describe the level of hunger that they were experiencing. They told us that they were being fed nothing but the same meals three times a day, and they weren’t really meals. These are Frankenfood; these are highly processed chemical foods. In the morning, they are given instant oatmeal, a packet of Kool-Aid and a cookie. For lunch, they are given instant soup, a cookie and another packet of Kool-Aid. And then, for dinner, they’re given a frozen burrito in a plastic wrapper, similar to what you would see at a gas station. And some of the children complained that the burritos were often not thoroughly cooked. And then they also, at that point, are given another cookie and a Kool-Aid. Young children are being given this meal. Child mothers are being given this meal. And so, the children, on a routine basis, said that they were hungry.

On top of that, the children started to describe rooms in which there were 25, 50, a hundred children. One boy said that when he first arrived there, there were over 300 children in a room. When we talked to the Border Patrol officers who are running this facility, they reported to us that the facility had recently undergone an expansion, but we couldn’t figure out where that expansion was. So, after that first day of interviewing, we drove around the facility, and we saw a metal warehouse with no walls. And we couldn’t believe that that possibly could be the expansion. But when we talked to the Border Patrol officers the next day and started to talk to the children about where they were being kept, we found out that, in fact, that one warehouse was allegedly what had given them an additional capacity of 500 additional children.

So, then what happened was, is we started to talk about the children, and we asked them, “Who is taking care of you?” And we found out that, in fact, nobody is—virtually no one is taking care of these children directly, that they are locked up in these cells 24 hours a day. There are open toilets in many of these cells. There’s no soap, no way to wash their hands. They’re being fed in these cells the processed instant foods that I described for you earlier. And many of them are being forced to sleep on concrete because of a shortage of beds and mats and sleeping space. Children described sleeping on concrete floors. They described sleeping on cement blocks—not just the older children, but we heard of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, school-age children who are having to sleep on the floor.

To make things worse, as we were trying to call in the youngest children, because we were especially concerned about the vulnerabilities of certain elements of this population, we found out that there were a number of children that they could not bring to us because they were so sick. And so we started to count the number of children who apparently were sick at this facility and had been quarantined, and we estimated that at least 15 children that we knew about were in quarantine during the time that we were there. And when we finally got access to these children by telephone, we learned about the conditions in these quarantine facilities, which were just horrendous. These very sick children, with high fevers, are being put on the floor, on mats, largely unsupervised, locked up together for days at a time. They’re being brought the same foods that are being fed to everybody else at the facility, despite the fact that they’re very sick.

They also have someone who is coming there twice a day to check their fever and to give them any medications that are needed, but there’s nobody really caring for these children in the quarantine areas, despite their severe illness. Now, keep in mind that many of the children who have died in these Border Patrol facilities in recent months died from influenza, which is very, very rare in a developed country like the United States. But as you can see, these are not conditions that you would expect to see in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: So, do you believe some children can die there?

WARREN BINFORD: Absolutely. And that’s why, after the second day of interviewing these children, we called up—we had a high-level, very urgent meeting in my hotel room and said, “What are we going to do about this? Because somebody is going to die.” And so, we called up the attorneys who are in charge of this case, described what we were seeing, and then asked them what they wanted us to do about it. And for the first time in over 20 years of doing these visits, they told us to go ahead and go to the media, so that we could get these children out of this facility as quickly as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the lice and the lice combs?

WARREN BINFORD: Yes. Yes, yes. So, let me tell you about this incident, because this was especially concerning. This visit was really originally scheduled for just three days. And what ended up happening was, when I was there on Wednesday, we started to hear from several children that there was an incident that had happened in one of the cells. And what the story was, was that there was a lice outbreak in one of the cells. Six of the children were found to have lice. Those six children were given lice shampoo, and then the other children were given two lice combs and told to pass those around and brush their hair with the lice combs in order to make sure that they, too, didn’t have lice or, if they did, that the lice were being pulled out by the lice combs. Now, sharing lice combs, we all know, is something you never do with a lice infestation. But this is, in fact, what happened.

But then the story gets worse, because one of the little kids lost the comb, and the guards hit the roof. They yelled at the children and berated the children. They scared the children. They made the children cry. And then they took out all of the children’s bedding. They took out the mats. They took out the blankets and told them that as punishment for losing that comb, that they were going to have to sleep on the concrete that night. We could not believe that the guards really were going to do what they had threatened to the children that they would do. And so, we arranged to come back the next day, specifically to interview those children and find out if they had been made to sleep on the floor last night or if it was just an empty threat meant to scare the children. And, in fact, we heard from multiple children that they in fact were forced to sleep on the floor that night in this cold cell, you know, on the cold concrete.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the AP is reporting 1-year-old, 2-year-olds, 3-year-old, dozens more under 12.


Miss Drake

My husband, Jim, used to say one cannot tell what is the important story for this week or month or even this year until after much more time has gone by.  Someone, I believe in the early 20th century, said we cannot opine on the significance or results of the French revolution as yet. But human life is short and 4/5s of mine is over.

So I must choose and write again (three weeks after the WW1 espionage act is about to be used to imprison and silence Assange for the rest of his life) to say that it appears that the US (gov't under Trump, which means Bolton, Pompeo, Richardson and all those who will obey them) may be seeking to create an excuse to go to war with Iran. If this does not happen, it's because no one but the US wants a war with Iran -- no one in the region (excluding maybe Saudi Arabia and Netanyahu's Israeli gov't).

Trump and Co have thus far failed to effect a coup in Venezuela, but this is a greater danger as Iran is an old, powerful real nation (not the result of lines drawn by the colonialist winner of WW1) with strong natural resources and a trading marketplace others want to engage with (though at the cost of US sanctions they hesitate ... )

The only news outlet to explain precisely what is said to have happened in the Gulf of Hormuz, and how this probably excludes Iran as an actor in the attack on Japanese and Norwegian tankers is DemocracyNow.org.   Judy Woodruff and the PBS team accepted the idea that it was probably Iran -- without any evidence. The evidence suggests the hit came from the air, and that Iran's involvement was as a group of people trying to rescue those in danger of losing their lives.

Do read the transcript: some excerpts: Vijah Prasad:

"People who look closely at the oil business understand that 50% of the world’s oil goes through the Gulf of Hormuz. They understand that, you know, carrying oil is a dangerous activity. All kinds of things happen. There are accidents. There’s piracy. There are a series of quite common risks faced by oil tankers. Iran is not one of those high on the list as far as risk assessors are concerned. And yet, of course, this is the first thing the United States government has said, as you said, without any evidence. So, within a few hours and without any evidence, the United States government once more provoking some sort of response from Iran, perhaps, or at least to try to galvanize public opinion to believe that Iran is a threat to the world.

What’s really important here is, yes, the fact that Shinzo Abe, the first Japanese prime minister to visit Iran in 41 years, he goes to Iran shortly after the Iranian foreign minister visited him in Japan. In fact, Mr. Zarif visited Shinzo Abe in his home. They had a very important conversation, where Shinzo Abe said that the Iranian nuclear deal is a factor of stability for West Asia. You know, this goes directly opposed to the Trump administration’s view. And what’s very important here is we’re not talking about a country that’s far from the American orbit. This is Japan, a reliable ally of the United States, which is not only reliant upon Iranian oil but understands that the warmongering in West Asia is going to be very bad, not only for Eurasia, but for the world. And I think we need to understand that as Shinzo Abe is in Japan [sic], this attack or this, you know, sabotage, or whatever it is—

It’s not only Japan saying this, Amy; it’s also the Europeans. The Europeans are very keen that the U.S. not break fully from this Iran deal. The Germans, in fact, have been looking for an alternative mechanism for payments. You know, India, which was one of the largest purchasers of Iranian oil, had to back off because of these new, very tight sanctions put in place by the U.S. government. But the Indians are also not that interested in this new approach by the Trump administration. They would like to continue to buy oil.

In fact, it’s a kind of isolation that the United States is facing ... "


There is a second story I want to call attention to, also reported by DemocracyNow.org and (this time) other outlets and media: it seems that "shortly before the Ecuadorean government handed over Julian Assange to the British police, the International Monetary Fund provided Ecuador with a loan of $4.2 billion, and there was also a commercial package of about $6 billion, so a total of $10 billion was transferred to the Ecuadorean government by the auspices of the IMF." So Lenin Moreno took a bribe?

I focused on Assange three weeks ago; tonight I focus on Ola Bini, jailed without bail and without charges on the same day (April 11th) that Assange was taken from the embassy and put in a British prison.

Again Vijah Prasad:

"Ola Bini is a programmer who spent most of his life trying to create tools to help human rights activists create a shield against surveillance by governments. People who are in the tech world might know the programs called the Tor Browser or Enigmail. These things were developed by Ola. He moved to Ecuador partly because he felt that with the government of Rafael Correa, it would be a good place to do the kind of work he was doing—precisely the opposite of what people are alleging of him, that he broke into this, that and the other government materials. In fact, the opposite: He would create shields to prevent governments from breaking into the kind of databases held by human rights defenders. You’ve got to remember that in the Snowden—Edward Snowden’s revelations, he said that the NSA had been routinely attacking the servers of human rights and other civil society organizations. It was precisely Ola’s mission in life to protect those organizations.

He was picked up on April 11th at Quito airport, while he was on his way to an advertised martial arts training course in Japan. He’s been held in prison for two months. There have been two hearings. No bail has been allowed. And no charge has been put forward. The prosecution in Ecuador has made it seem like a sinister thing that Ola has many computers and Zip drives and so on. You know, when I travel to places, I carry about 10 to 12 Zip drives. That’s because I keep a Zip drive for each story. It’s got nothing in it to seem to be something, you know, sinister or bizarre. These are things that software developers have. They tried to make him seem like a sinister character.

I was even told by another reporter that people were asking if Ola was the code cracker for Julian Assange, which he of course was not, and could not have been the code cracker at all when the materials passed on by Chelsea Manning came to the WikiLeaks organization. You know, that was one of the allegations that was floating around, not put on paper. Ola only met Julian when he was already in the Ecuadorean Embassy, long after the revelations of—very important, crucial revelations that came from Chelsea Manning, also now in prison ... ".

I hope no one needs to have explained to him or her why it is crucial for the safety of everyone of us indivdually that gov'ts be required to produce charges, cause (habeas corpus) for someone to be imprisoned, that the charges be spelled out at a minimum.

Miss Sylvia Drake

On the Espionage Act

This was an act passed in 1916 to stifle dissent against World War One. It was first used most famously against Eugene V Debs; it was under this act the Rosenbergs were killed. Wikipedia explains the act's original context, purpose and history very well: note that it was this act under which Daniel Ellsberg was accused:


Obama revived the act and used it against John Kiriakou for exposing the US gov't torture program:


James Risen in the New York Times gave the recent history:


And now it is being used to indict Julian Assange, says Martha Gessen in the New Yorker:


The Guardian explains that the Trump administration has crossed another line in indicting a journalist:


And finally for those who like a YouTube here is Scahill from the Intercept:

Miss Drake
To those who read this blog by coming here, or because I link it to face-book, twitter, or listserv communities I'm on: I'm off on another time away; a second time to Cornwall. I still have not given up on writing a book on Winston Graham and his Poldark novels, and even have a title: A Matter of Genre. I liked Cornwall the last time I went (later one summer two years after Jim died) and Road Scholar goes to very different places there and I know from previous experience, I'll learn a lot. Thus far they have been pleasant, safe experiences, and this time a friend I made last time will be taking the same journey with me.

So what shall I say here for the last time for at least three weeks -- by the time I settle back in and am at peace again, it'll be three weeks. I find it important that the other night Judy Woodruff actually looked distressed. I cannot know why and it might be that she had just heard upsetting news about a friend or member of her family she cares about, but I felt it was the result of the news show she had just curated (in effect). She is usually so controlled, I asked myself was this the cumulative effect of just weeks of this regime or that night. I cannot say.

This is labeled TV in American: an Autobiography - -she has been on TV as a reporter since the 1970s

Perhaps the cumulative effect: Trump is now trying to run the US federal gov't and through his powers across it as a dictatorship. He has decided with the present attorney general, Barr, and other corrupt flunkies and murderous monsters (Elliot Abrams [particularly evil man, involved in death squads in the 1980s], Pompeo, Bolton] and the courts now loaded with partisan reactionaries, he can get away with this. He will just ignore congress. He will obey no subpeonas and has ordered his subordinates to ignore these (especially McGrath), give no information whatever is asked. When he lost the budget fight, and congress refused to give him billions for a counterproductive symbolic wall, he went to the defense agency, and ordered them to give him the money. He is having this attorney general go to court to declare ACA unconstitutional and thus throw 33 million people at least off medical insurance. It's not enough that he has gutted the funding of ACA and the courts and his phony EPA are allowing drug companies to charge unpayable horrifying amounts for desperately needed medicine (epclusa which I used to get rid of hepatitis C cost the taxpayer a cool $38,000 for 3 bottles) and companies like Monsanto to pour carcinogens across the countryside.

A typical story of working conditions and pay today: Uber and Lyft.

He is lawless, attempting a lawless dictatorship. That night she had had Jerry Nadler on the PBS reports saying he had no choice but to hold Barr in contempt of court, and yes he had faith that finally in the courts, the judges would have the conscience to back him and compell Barr to come to the congress. She got beyond the punishment of a big fine, and they did touch on two different branches of gov't sending two different marshalls with guns, one to put someone in prison and the other to stop this.  Note some of the corporate supports the idea this is a political game (e.., The Wall Street Journal is one). In the case of the symbolism of these sports teams, now many of the white people in the Red Sox are going shamelessly to the white house, while the blacks stay away. I say that anyone who turns up to that place in such circumstances allows him or herself to be counted as a racist, and utterly indifferent to humanity, but there they are, going there, photographed as if this is honorable. Mrs Trump has told her by her jacket that she doesn't care and no one cares -- it seems not enough do who have the power to do something.

The human effect of this man is devastating millions of people. Right now his seething bigotry has destroyed thousands of lives literally (death) and by slow time in Puerto Rico and he is determined to and succeeding in making the island a wasteland.  His greed and love of violence is now starving out and turning the lights over millions in Venezuela; he has tried coups but his group of thugs is apparently too incompetent and unpopular there. He is bullying every country in the world by his stranglehold on banks to stop having any trade or reciprocal agreements with Iran, with threats of retaliation. Of course he vetoed congress's passed demand the war we are enabling Yemen (carried on by the Saudis) to stop.

Stacey Abrams

We will elect him out, you say? that gets me to my most important story this week: voter suppression, gerrymandering, and cheating with no courts to stop this is working. In Georgia Stacey Abrams lost by a sliver of people according the public formula produced by these methods. Who doubts that she really won? Well the false governor and the women-haters have now passed a bill whereby the minute a highly sophisicated machine can detect a sound that is declared a heartbeat, any abortion is illegal. This happens well before a woman might know she is pregnant. If she crosses state lines to have an abortion, she is declared a criminal and will be subject to exradiction back and a 10 year prison sentence. The analogy with the Dred Scott decision that an enslaved person must be dragged back into enslavement once he or she has escaped by anyone who knows this is clear.

If he loses the 2020 election, will he get out? He will have done much of the damage he set out to do: gov't agencies are emptied of employees. But now he is at risk himself of going to jail as his own fraudulent behavior over several decades has been made more or less public.

So this is where we are as of the week of May 12, 2019.

People want hope: why you should back Sanders' and AOC's Loan Shark Prevention Act: cap interest rates, and re-launch the Postal Savings Bank

Capping credit card interest rates at 15%, which the Fed may increase if needed for a period of 18 months to preserve the safety and soundness of banks

Relaunching the Post Office Bank, which would offer basic services, such as checking and savings accounts as well as loans

The title of the bill is a well-deserved poke in the eye to the financial services industry. While a Post Office Bank has been presented as a solution both to payday lenders as well as the high level of “unbanked” individuals, it can also be taken as a criticism of the credit card industry.

And it’s hardly radical to propose a credit card interest rate cap. None other than that great American socialist, Republican senator Al D’Amato, did so in 1990

People need joy: On PBS, William Branham had a comforting and desolating visit with film series on Antartica and the state of penguins -- two species going extinct and one surviving:https://www.pbs.org/newshour/press-releases/four-part-pbs-newshour-series-warnings-from-antarctica-to-debut-in-april-2019

I watched it and it's very good, touching.

If you are a member of PBS (I'm a member of WETA) you can probably watch the series on one of their websites.

Miss Drake

Latest Month

September 2019



RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow