In the last weeks of the millennium, December of 1999, Joseph Edward Billings III, named in a popular financial magazine as number 423 in their annual listing of the 500 richest men in the world, has been diagnosed with fourth stage cancer… incurable and advanced. A Korean War veteran who served as a sniper on the front lines, Joe returned to the States and stumbled into the opportunity of a lifetime. Serving first as a well-paid mercenary, employed by American corporations, oil companies and financial institutions, protecting their investments in Central and South America against insurgents, he wound up working as a contractor for the fledgling CIA and through his work, developed connections with influential people in every seat of power from the legitimate corporate world to the criminal underworld.
Joe has a terrible secret and the terminal diagnosis triggers in him the desire to bring it to light. He decides to tell the story of his life as context to reveal that which he’d kept hidden for more than 36 years, a secret that will finally end the relentless speculation concerning the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Joe writes…
Pictures of the earth from space make it seem so utterly beautiful, quite serene with its rich, diverse colors… blues and greens and sands and browns… all layered over with the wisps and marbling smoke of clouds, such that you could never imagine without knowing its past that such a place has been the scene of wars and genocide, a planet with a long sad history of horrific violence and unutterable brutality.
Similarly, there’s no law of nature I am aware of to suggest that a killer’s appearance reflects his violent nature. In fact, a pleasant appearance and appealing physical symmetry are the hallmarks of many predators in the animal world. The tiger, the hawk, the eagle, the lion, and the wolf are all beautiful creatures. Even sharks have a certain elegance in their physical makeup, graceful, smooth lines throughout their length, soft features in terms of color and aspect, however deadly are the hidden rows of teeth they use to shred and flay the flesh of their victims. A perceived threat from the sighting of predators in the animal kingdom comes only with the foreknowledge of their predilection for the hunt and their talent for killing.
With humans, it’s ever so much harder to see. A pleasant smile and a civilized tone can hide from you a multitude of sins. What’s more, they can be an advantage for people like me, a natural camouflage for malicious intent. The facts of my life are the true measure thereof, not my good looks.
One fact above all…
Though there have been many otherwise theories and speculations, an intense government investigation and a book length report signed by men whose famous names gave weight to its conclusion, the Warren Report declared with finality that Lee Harvey Oswald, firing from a window in the Texas School Book Depository, killed John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. While that report concluded that he acted alone, people have always harbored significant doubts about what happened that day.
Who did what… and why?
If you took an honest poll today, in the wake of so many subsequent theories in a plenitude of books that raised doubt about the Commission’s finding, books that suggest conspiracies and alternate theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination, you might find that the sum of the common wisdom is this, “No one really knows who it was who fired the fatal shot, the one that actually killed the President.”
Not knowing who… how could anyone ever know why?
Me? I can tell you everything because I was there and I was involved.
“Who did it?” is the easier question for me to answer.
Just a few words do the job quite nicely.
It was me. I did it.
I killed John F. Kennedy. Though I was not a “lone gunman” but one of several, I fired the one and final shot that took off the top of JFK’s head and killed him. The harder question to answer, even for me, is the one that asks, “Why?”
The Magic Bullet is the strange story of an extraordinary man, a fictional assassin who knows who he is, what he’s done, and why he did it. He tells his story without reservations, without the saving graces of vanity and self-image. As Joe explains it… “Any little side trip into self-serving rhetoric will only pollute the truth and I want this to be truthful above all. Truth at all cost, even at the expense of my own vanity.” In giving you the context of his life’s story as a way of revealing a lifetime of secrets and subterfuge, he is trying to answer that one unanswered question… “Why?”
Coming soon. Watch this space for announcements concerning how to purchase this riveting thriller that brings new perspectives to old mysteries with a cast of characters you will never forget… a story you won’t want to miss.
Working on recording a reading of one of the short stories in my anthology, Shrapnel, as a nod to the kind of PR one usually does for a book, travelling here and there, doing readings in book stores and such. Because of he pandemic, that kind of marketing isn’t really viable, so one has to be creative. I will choose one of several stories in the collection that lends itself to reading aloud and I’ll practice until I can do it properly, record it, and post it here with enough fanfar, I hope, to attract listeners who can listen when they have the time… which is probably a better way than scheduled stops in various bookstores, certainly a greater possible audience.
Today, however, I want to give you a little sample, a scene from one of the stories in the anthology, a story titled The Zen Society of Cleveland. The premise for the scene? A young Vietnam Veteran living in Cleveland during the mid-1970s has reached a point of desperation. The war, a failed marriage, growing debt and alimony, coupled with a dead-end job represent a string of events that have left him flat broke at the end of every day and hungry. With a few dollars in his pocket, he is looking in the phone book for the number of a pizza parlor and instead stumbles upon a listing there for the Zen Society of Cleveland. He sees it as some kind of sign, a serendipitous possibility in the midst of his despair and wonders whether he should call them and ask them what the hell it’s all about… why is he even here?
Book signings are a wonderful way to reach the people for whom the author writes, an excellent promotional tool, but one that is essentially unavailable during a pandemic, so… it’s time to make exception work. The question is… what is the viable alternative and how do you make it happen?
Improvise, adapt, and overcome…
If it’s good enough for the Marine Corps, how much better for the indie author (slowly getting used to the title, but it still feels strange). Nobody’s going to do it for us… well, let me take that back. There are people who can and will do it for you, but they want a piece of the pie…. “In advance, please.” For those of us with limited funds, the job inevitably falls on us, so what’s the answer?
How about a virtual book signing?
And well you may ask, because I don’t know yet, but we’ll figure this out.
It’s the American way, but… while you are here, check this out:
With KDP Amazon, my anthology, Shrapnel: Short Stories, is getting world-wide distribution. Today, it’s available to English speakers in every nation across the globe where people are able to order books through Amazon’s web site.
I was pleased to see that my first review (five stars) came today from Canada. Hello, Canada, and thank you.
My book is available everywhere in the Kindle Version and a quality paperback book is also now available for delivery in the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, and of course, in Canada. Amazon usually ships within three days. In the near future, and for those who are unable to order a paperback copy from Amazon in their country, but would prefer a book to the various e-reader devices, I will offer it for sale (autographed, if so desired) right here on my website and for the same price as Amazon, with the addition, of course, of a relevant charge for shipping and handling (cost will vary according to the destination). Watch this space for announcements.
If you live in the USA, your link to order Shrapnel: Short Stories in Kindle or paperback is here: Amazon.com
Links to purchase Shrapnel outside of the USA are listed as follows:
United Kingdom: Amazon.co.uk
If you purchase Shrapnel: Short Stories, I do hope you will take the time to leave a review on Amazon. This is the first of what I hope will be many books to come in the near future. An honest appraisal of this book and its content will help me to learn what you think about my work and what, if anything, I can do to make it better for you. There is a novel in the works right now that should be ready for publication before the end of 2020.
Watch this space
For more information about the anthology and what it contains, visit the book’s web page here at: Shrapnel: Short Stories
Quo vadis, America? To where are we headed? by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Considering that the launch came sooner than I thought and on a weekend and quite caught me off guard, it went well enough, I think. I am new to KDP Amazon and to independent publishing, so there is quite a learning curve. I hope that when you order my book, if you experience any issues with shipping or quality of the product, you will let me know and I will do everything I can to resolve the issue,,. but Amazon is very good at permitting a refund.
As soon as I can align the logistics involved and for those who might be interested, I will be selling autographed paperback copies of Shrapnel online right here my website, so watch this space. Heck, I understand that my autograph and $4.15 will get you a Venti Caffe Latte at any Starbucks in the US.
Seriously though, feel free to contact me if you have any issues with either the Kindle or paperback copies of the book. Of course, if you don’t like my writing, that’s quite another story. Taste in literature is diverse and some people may not like what I write, even though others might love it. An eclectic choice of styles and lengths like the short stories which comprise Shrapnel’s collection should offer something to everybody, but if you prefer bodice-ripping romance, dystopian science fiction, westerns, vampires, or shape shifting, shamanistic teenage mutants, or Christian-themed literature with pristine language, I’m probably not going to be your favorite author.
If you do have an issue or if you want to tell me what you think about my book, good or bad, please feel free to email me at:
I would love to hear from you. And if you haven’t ordered my book… what in the world are you waiting for? Christ on a cupcake… what ever will you tell your friends when they ask you if you’ve read it?!?!
Here’s the link again for those who missed it:
Shrapnel is available now on Amazon.
I do hope you will check it out and try it on. Amazon provides a preview. in their online catalog. Go over and check it out. Use the link at the bottom of this page.
Stories should always entertain and seduce us, else what’s the point? Whatever genre to which they are assigned, whatever the style in which they are written, a collection of short stories should always and primarily hold our interest. At surface, Shrapnel is an eclectic selection of literary short stories. More to the point, they are fragments of ongoing human narratives, boiled down to their essence…life-altering, snapshot moments in the lives of the people that live within them. Priests and prizefighters, soldiers and poets, con men and killers, wives, husbands, sons and daughters, people we pass on the street every day and never imagine for a moment the tragedy, the sorrow, the conflict, or the pain that lives within them… the drama that awaits them just around the corner… wars, rumors of wars, storms, a car wreck or the chance encounter with a violent crime… any manner of events that can change someone’s life in a sparrow’s heartbeat.
Truth is never elusive
It sits pretty on the table
Like a hand grenade
Pull the pin
To order, click on the link below:
Finished the full review of the proof copy for Shrapnel this evening and made the necessary alterations and corrections to the basic revised file for the printers. I will upload the changes tomorrow and, essentially, the print edition should be ready for release after a couple of days. I still have to make the final review of the file for the Kindle edition, which has a different format and that should be ready to upload sometime on Thursday. Shrapnel: Short Stories is an eclectic collection of my literary short fiction and the release for both print and Kindle versions will be on the same day next week. I’ll announce the firm release date when it’s known. This anthology was my first venture into publishing, but it will not be the last. Frankly? I love it.
This process has been an education and a grand preparation for publishing one of my novels in the near future.
The novel I plan to work on next was completed last year and it will now be reworked, edited, and refined. It’s a thriller with a twist and it represents an opportunity for me to appeal to a much wider audience than that which appreciates a literary anthology, so it will also be a grand experiment in marketing… now that I have learned the basic “mechanical” aspects of the process. With that first novel, I will likely consider expanded distribution and some of the more sophisticated methods for cover design and interior layout. At this point there is absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Watch this space.
On the path to publishing my book, I’ve had to stop, step back, and start over more than once, but with increased effort, I still managed to stay fairly close to my original schedule. Very close now, in fact, to the announcement of a firm release date.
My anthology of short fiction was more or less complete about a month ago, but there is more to publishing a book than most writers generally imagine. It’s been a series of discoveries for me, not unpleasant, but a lot more work than I imagined when first I thought of taking this route. There is so much to learn when you are publishing your own work and it is one reason, I suppose, that many writers don’t even try.
There was, in times past, a particular and forbidding stigma attached to “self-publishing” which was generally then referred to as “vanity publishing.” Perhaps that attitude still exists, prevalent, I am sure, among those who are fortunate enough to have successfully bypassed the formidable corps of gatekeepers who surround the modern publishing industry like a moat defending the castle keep, which may sound like hyperbole in metaphor, but not when you’ve tried to approach the industry without a bankable name or a record of previous success.
The decision, finally, to self publish was difficult for me because I am of an age that I felt a strong and personal disinclination to do so, specifically because of that stigma, the belief among writers from my generation that, if a writer was worth reading, he or she could certainly get published… that and the prevailing notion that all self-published books tended to be amateurish and generally bad… that all “vanity publishers” were scammers and thieves. (Not an unfounded notion back then)
However, many publishers in the industry today drastically limit the number of new writers on whom they are willing to take a chance because of strict business guidelines and the corporate need for consistently high investor return. While I have enjoyed success in publishing shorter fiction in literary journals, the task of getting a book considered by a publisher becomes more difficult every year. The competition is more than fierce… it’s forbidding. I know from experience how long and hard that process can be…. and it can take a year or more for a completed manuscript to finally get to print.
Even if a new writer manages to find a publisher willing to take a chance on them, they are expected to put in a great deal of effort into the marketing of the book themselves and for less return on the sale of it than they would get if they published the work themselves. If you are going to have to market the book anyway, why bother giving a publisher the lion’s share of the profits. It’s more work, I would say, than is warranted for the return.
In light of these facts, self-publishing makes more sense than ever before. Whether the stigma exists today or not, the process of self publishing through an entity like Amazon is relatively easy to learn and many writers already possess the skills necessary to do it. But make no mistake, there is a lot to learn and it is very hard work if you want to provide the reader with the quality they expect when they purchase a book. It’s not for the hobbyist, but requires a serious commitment.
After catching up with editing and formatting corrections, I am ready to finalize work on the cover design this week and to do some research into the necessary metadata required for marketing the book. Hopefully, I will be able to order and survey a proof copy of the printed book and be ready to set a date for release in September, 2 to 3 weeks from today. It’s hard to keep from accelerating the process. The temptation to get ahead of myself is great, but there is something to be said for putting out the very best quality in a book that you can muster.
I’ve already started working on formatting a novel I’d already written and finished last year. I would like very much to have that one ready for release before the holidays. Taking the experience I’ve gained in publishing Shrapnel will make the process more fluid in future projects. It will not be less work in the long run, but that work will be more efficient with every book I produce.
There will be many, I can promise you that.
Watch this space.
Two things we need in America, three actually.
First on my agenda would be a national compulsory voting law. The second and third would involve compulsory course requirements in K-12 public education, being compulsory and neutral civics lessons beginning around the sixth grade and continuing annually. In grades 8 through 12, I would want to see classes that teach critical thinking. The details are always debatable and mutable according to need and to design, but the essence is there.
Governments that are structured as representative democracies rise and fall according to the quality of their electorate. While democracies may be more inclined to thrive in terms of equality, human rights, and liberty… they are also the most vulnerable… and, as we have seen in recent years, susceptible to a profane level of inequity through corruption and control by an organized oligarchic entity.
This is by no means a quick fix, but is a long term and necessary solution to much of what is wrong about our political structure in America today, something in which we need to invest as soon as practicable.
I don’t hear anyone talking about this in political leadership and the only way they ever will would be if the American people demand it. It would be cynical to suggest that the leadership in both parties would not be willing to champion the idea of this particular threefold approach to reform, but I think there’s an element of truth in that kind of cynicism today.
I’m not an academic, nor am I a political leader by any stretch of the imagination, but if someone with a validating resume were to put this forward, give it a name, and make of it a movement and an issue, they would likely be remembered kindly in the history books henceforth and in a gradually more progressive America.
If you are that person… this is your cause and maybe your destiny. Seize it.
Publication for my anthology of short fiction, Shrapnel: Short Stories, may be only 2 – 3 weeks away.
The anthology will feature both new fiction and previously published work, such as the award winning short story, Knitting the Unraveled Sleeves, which appeared previously in the Eric Hoffer Award Anthology, Best New Writing, 2013, where it was featured as one of two short stories to receive the Editor’s Choice Award. Other stories include those published previously in literary magazines around the world, along with many new and unpublished pieces as well, all selected from a huge body of work that spans nearly fifty years of writing.
Yesterday, a simultaneous edit of both the Kindle and print versions of Shrapnel was completed and the design for the cover will be finalized next week.
We are getting very close to a publication date for Shrapnel. In the meantime, I’m getting a completed novel ready for publication some time before the holidays. It will be the first of many. More about that later.
Watch this space !!
I have been working on this anthology over the past several months, revisiting all my short fiction, a huge body of work fifty years in the making… both published and unpublished work… selecting those stories that I consider to be my very best and combining them in some kind of logical order… a difficult task, since this is an extremely eclectic collection of fiction.
Following months of work in compiling, editing, and formatting, the book, properly an anthology, is essentially complete and it has been put into the proper file configurations required to produce both print and e-book versions. I will, hopefully, publish both versions simultaneously through Amazon in the very near future… perhaps sometime in early autumn… as my sainted grandmother might say, “…if the Good Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise….” which is a more colorful way of saying, “…barring any unforeseen impediments, difficulties, or calamitous events.” We’ve seen a few of those in recent months, calamitous events.
The print version of book will be soft cover, 6″ x 9″ in size and approximately 170 pages in length. Both print and Kindle versions include stories ranging in length from a very short 150-word experimental fragment in the style of magical realism… to an award-winning and more traditional short story of over 4,700 words. Both published and unpublished work is included in the anthology, all newly edited, but representing my work from as early as 1973 through more recent times, the latest being a short story published in March of 2020. The theme and the title of the book are derived from a poem I wrote a while back, and it is included in the front of the book as a kind of prologue:
Shrapnel: A modern American koan
Truth is never elusive.
It sits pretty on the table
like a hand grenade.
Pull the pin.
A good story does more than entertain. It reaches out for the truth we need to hear… picks it up and pulls the pin. Hopefully, one or several of the stories in my anthology will do just that for my readers, pull the pin on some truth we need to hear and consider. Good fiction will rock your world. Beyond mere entertainment, such is my intent.
It’s always been my belief that fiction is a more perfect way of telling the truth unimpeded by personal inhibitions and fear. When the story is divorced from the reality of a personal connection on the part of an author, we can express those hidden things we never otherwise would even so much as whisper to ourselves in the dark night of our dreams. If the writer dares and succeeds in the risk, the reader will be changed accordingly. As Norman Mailer suggested, writing is the “spooky art” and I maintain that it can be entirely subversive when properly applied. Even dangerous.
Once this preliminary project is completed and out there, I have about a dozen novels in various stages of preparedness for publication that could follow in its wake at the rate of about two or three per year. More about that later.
Watch this space for further announcements as the publication date draws near.
“Shrapnel: Short Stories…. Coming soon. An eclectic collection of short fiction selected by the author.” by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Exception to the CC License as follows: The poem, Shrapnel: A modern American koan (© 2020 James Lloyd Davis) and the book cover rendered above and for the book, Shrapnel: Short Stories are covered by applicable US copyright law and may not be reproduced without permission by the author.
As you go through life and learn things, you begin to recognize that there are fables and mythologies that we use in substitution for the realities we’d rather not enshrine with acceptance.
War, for instance, is always the result of an imposition of one or more nations upon another, institutional armed robbery and murder on a massive scale disguised by some sanctifying metaphor, such as the bombing of Iraq into the Stone Age by way of a magnificent display of “shock and awe” we label as necessary in “…the defense of freedom.” Or, the enthusiastic religious conversion of entire indigenous nations in the Americas by hordes of passionate armed and armored “missionaries” by way of the sword and the cannon “…in the name of the Prince of Peace” and to save them all from their pagan depravity. And then to bring the civilizing influences of compulsory, uncompensated labor and perpetual subjugation to those few who managed to survive their conversion.
Hypocrisy permits more crime and hides more violence than ever did honest, if criminal intent, but we manage to enshrine the most militant and murderous among us for the sheer chutzpah they display in their zeal for oppression.
Is it any mystery that when the tyranny of these cruel, avaricious and self-serving men is recognized for what it was that people are ready to tear down their iconic images enshrined in bronze?
“But it’s George… and everyone knows that George was an honorable man, the father of our nation.”
Nations have many fathers… and mothers.
Judge a man by his actions, not his aspirations or his words. Whatever high minded principle those men we call our Founding Fathers chose for their particular camouflaging mythology… in their case the divine imperatives in a statement that “…all men are created equal…” which did not include the black men they owned as a farmer owns cattle or sheep. Nor did it include women of any color. Washington owned people. More specifically, he owned black people… men, women, and children who made him rich with the unpaid and harshly compelled labor of their hands. And while he owned them, they could never enjoy the liberties, rights, and privileges for which he fought. Make no mistake, our nation was not birthed by men who took any of their mythologies to be inclusive, but fought for the sovereignty of their own and personal wealth in order that they could be richer by half and not taxed into want and commonality by a king who gave them no respect.
Hypocrisy is the father of all nations. Hypocrisy has killed more people than we can possibly count. Hypocrisy enables oppression, genocide, and tyranny. It’s time we stopped sanctifying and sheltering the icons of false idols.
It’s time to wake the hell up.
False Idols and Other Affectations by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
It’s now been ten days since the launch of the Peoples’ Daily Brief and though participation was encouraging, it’s dropped off considerably, so the work I’m putting into it is difficult to justify.
Although I sometimes use the pronoun “we” while writing these reports, it’s just me, myself and I behind the curtain, so there is that…. and while there are ways to expand readership, they generally require either money, enormous time expenditure, or famous friends. Having none of the above, I’m going to have to stick with slow, steady growth.
In the meantime… and without any help, a daily report is proving too ambitious, considering the time required, both for research and for production… writing, editing, etc… so I’m going to reconsider, rethink, reschedule, repurpose, and possibly even rename the project and will, in a few days, announce the results.
We’re not giving up. So… watch this space.
For those of you who’ve been reading the PBD, thanks. We love you… all of us… me, my head, and all the many alter egos that therein dwell.
Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
21 June, 2020
We don’t even have to enumerate or declare the problems. We live with them daily and even when we isolated ourselves in our homes at the height of the pandemic, the media surged its insistent edge of disease and Trump, Trump and disease… day after day through our phones, our iPads and our cable. Unemployment, pestilence, strife and oppression daily, symptomatic expressions of something inherently wrong at the core of our lives. What makes it worse is that we don’t get solutions, just problems.
We don’t have a government any more. We don’t have that structure that offers us solutions. The government we had? Even if it was nothing more than lip service, they offered us solutions. As near as I can tell, our government was taken over by hedge fund managers, a hostile takeover, a downright purchase of something that wasn’t supposed to be for sale… and in the manner of all corporate pirates, they’ve dismantled it top to bottom, selling off the assets as they do and leaving all the liabilities to its shareholders, the working men and women of America. It’s not enough that they’ve screwed us in the workplace, broken the backs of our unions, now they’ve taken our government and put it up for auction, for sale to the highest bidder.
If anyone’s going to fix it, it will have to be us to do the work… so let’s talk solutions. Just you and me. For the moment let’s pretend we have the power to fix it.
Solutions are the elusive side of the equation, but sometimes? Even the questions are tricky. Personally, I’ve often used a simple declarative statement as a kind of colloquial expression to put a cap on a discussion that’s devolved into a standoff, something to the effect that, intellectually speaking, “…perspective is everything.” And I seldom have to go beyond that simple premise, since we… or most of us anyway… can generally agree to accept our differences with the dispassionate understanding that we will not always agree. As pithy sayings go, “perspective is everything” speaks clearly, seems simple enough, a rather basic and, perhaps, fundamental expression of the underlying imperative behind intellectual things in general. Finding solutions for seemingly insoluble problems is an intellectual exercise after all.
Perspective is everything.
However… and for the purposes of this essay, let me specify that what I am saying in essence is this… “Every aspect of our culture, including at the very least, our social tendencies, our morals, our philosophy, our social constructs… including the bases for government and law, our biases, et cetera, et alia, are founded and ultimately dependent upon our collective acceptance of a common world view, or… the accepted perception of that view, our own and humanity’s place in the world or the universe at large, and in context and concert with one another.”
Having so specified that, let me now hit you with a corollary statement.
“When our institutions fail us and the need arises for either reform or deconstruction that must precede the building of new institutions, the first duty of those who would be the agents of change is to question the most fundamental perceptions on which that failed endeavor was constructed and, if necessary, construct a new foundation on which any new institution will be built.”
Fairly simple, right? Well, not really.
People get upset when you challenge their notions and the people who establish the validity of a nation’s notions, at least here in America, although you could probably suggest it works that way elsewhere… the people in charge tend to be the people who are quite pleased with the way things are because… they hold the authority… the power, if you will. They also tend to use that power to their advantage.
Revolutionary ideas are the hope of the dispossessed. Their oppressors? Not so much. So, if the majority of people represent the dispossessed and the wanting… while a shrinking minority has all the money and all the power, who do you think will finally decide whether the foundations of that nation in which there is a large and growing disparity have failed? The answer is obvious when the minority rules, so where’s the relief for the rest of us? It will take a revolutionary idea to solve these insurmountable problems. Do we need a revolution? Must revolutionary ideas always be the source of revolution? Good question, but for now, let’s leave it unanswered and try to determine how a neutral observer would see our situation.
In the academic arena, though one could hardly name Academe as neutral in these issues, since their existence seems to depend on the charity of wealthy individuals. Spare us the objections otherwise, since the very premise of capitalism is the pursuit of money as the prime motivator of all human interaction. Capitalism is not and never will be the engine of intellectual inspiration. Value for value is the rule. There will be exceptions, of course, but not enough to drive an idea that is inimical to the status quo and the power structure it supports. It would be ideal, though, if the product of academic inquiry was valued according to the neutrality that guides it, but it does not.
Who influences research?
The people who pay for it.
Who pays for the research?
The government and corporations.
But if the corporations influence the government, which they do, and inordinately so, the answer to the question, “Who pays for research…” is then reduced by half. Once again you could plead the integrity and subsequent neutrality of scientific research. And once again, I will tell you that the prime rule of capitalism, which is the language and the religion of corporations, is… value for value.
“You give me what it is that I want and I will give you cash.”
And if I am perfectly happy with the way things are, will I give you money for research that I know will provide a conclusion that calls for a change? Will I pay you to tell me that in order to solve the problems, I must surrender my privilege? If I was St. Francis, perhaps, but I very much doubt that St. Francis would be working today as vice president in charge of research grants for a major corporation. I really do.
Forget, for the moment that we will argue incessantly over what the solution may be, let’s just imagine that we have narrowed it down to a solution that brings equality and justive into our lives as realities, not merely the mumbled aspirations that have passed for a reality since the nation was born by a C-section from mother England. The question is, “How do we get from what we have to what we want without the bother of a revolution?”
If we, the people, are ever to decide our fate by choosing to work inside the system to champion revolutionary ideas that would ultimately level the field in both social and economic influences, would we need an academic study that we can present to our government representatives… stating our case in order that they might fix the problem through legislation? Do they even do things like that anymore? I say… “What a waste of time that would be, since for every study that proves our premise, the statist elite could produce ten… and likely one of them would derive from the same university that gave us ours, but reach an opposite conclusion.” Such is the power of wealth.
It’s a very old game, this oligarchy maneuver… and it works just as well within the democratic illusion as in the supreme authority once claimed for itself the divine right of kings. Even Senators, Congressmen, and Presidents, when all else fails, still fall back on the old God Gambit with some measure of success because many among us still fall for the oldest trick in the authoritarian playbook. It’s a shame, really, because we could trust an academic approach when it is honest, and who better to do the necessary groundwork than those who specialize in the study of change as intellectual historians, philosophers, ethicists… people like Quentin Skinner who wrote:
“The history of philosophy, and perhaps especially of moral, social and political philosophy, is there to prevent us from becoming too readily bewitched. The intellectual historian can help us to appreciate how far the values embodied in our present way of life, and our present ways of thinking about those values, reflect a series of choices made at different times between different possible worlds. This awareness can help to liberate us from the grip of any one hegemonal account of those values and how they should be interpreted and understood. Equipped with a broader sense of possibility, we can stand back from the intellectual commitments we have inherited and ask ourselves in a new spirit of enquiry what we should think of them.”
So… if we know that the system is corrupted… and many more do than will say so aloud… what is the remedy? Maybe the complexities that we see in the systems we have inherited are confounding our perceptions… a purposeful and camouflaged field of smoke and of mirrors. Perhaps the solutions are so damnably simple, so maddeningly obvious that a child, lacking the sophistication of indoctrination through education, could show us how it’s done. The task then is not one of academic research, but of surrender. The surrender of a nation’s notions when they fail to give us what we need. It should be easy.
It’s not, though… is it? Ask yourself, “Why?”
You know and I know the answer to that one.
Because it’s hard. Damned hard. You will have to work for it and you will have to fight for it and you will have to lay everything on the line for it… your time, your substance… maybe even your life. That may well be the price of what you want for yourselves and your children. That’s a risky proposition, no? If you have the least amount of privilege working for you, you have something to lose, don’t you?
In that case, you might think it not worth the cost. Many do.
The justifications for standing in the gap for the rich and the powerful are manifold, convincing, and rewarding enough to ease the pull of a “woke” conscience.
It costs most people nothing to go back to sleep.
Ultimately, only you can decide if it’s worth it.
So… is it?
It would be and it is to the many black men and women who have been demeaned, humiliated, harassed, beaten, jailed, falsely accused and even murdered at the hands of law enforcement for so long that no one can remember a time when justice stood for anything but a lie. We could start by fixing what is the greatest and most pressing of all, since the oppression of any among us diminishes all of us.
Let’s fix the worst parts first and as we gather strength in solidarity, the rest of it becomes just that much easier. So… where do we begin?
Defunding the police is only the beginning.
It’s time change the laws that criminalize poverty and create a conveyor belt from the schoolyard to the prison yard with such predictable ease and unquestioning justification that the least study could shock people who seem to never notice what is right there in their face… or is really ignorance… and not selective blindness?
I get tired of quoting facts that never seem to break through, but if you believe the Black Lives Matter movement is unjustified in its depth and span nationwide, then you are the problem and I’m wasting my time with you… and you with me, so walk away and have a nice life. The truth will reach you soon enough. I just hope that it comes from revelation and not from the trouble and the strife your apathy has purchased.
If you’re interested, watch this video from The Real News Network in Baltimore, titled, Why do police shoot people in the back?
Or listen to this interview from Reveal, titled, Uprising
If you want to take the time, go to this site for the numbers. The Prison Policy initiative
It’s not just a policing problem. Our entire criminal justice system needs an overhaul and since 911 and the development of massive data collection by our government and the known abuses thereof, an intelligent observer might deduce that we are becoming, if not already, a police state that could rival that of the old Soviet Union.
Do some research. It’s depressing.
But wait !! There’s more !!
If you are really curious, you might want to read a few good books on the subject. Over the next week I’ll compile a list and on Sunday, a week from today, I will publish a reading list. Who knows? Maybe this could be the cause you have been looking for. We have a lot of problems, but if we tackle them one at a time, we don’t have to start a revolution… we will be the revolution.
Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
We’re closed on Saturdays… one day a week. We do it because we believe in a day of rest, not as a religious imperative, but as a simple human need. We chose Saturday because we know everybody else usually chooses Sunday and we wanted to offer them a more in-depth analysis of the previous week, or editorial perspectives, on their day of rest… a day when they have the time in which to read it.
On Saturday, however, we will give you something to consider, a link to an article or an op-ed that we read during the week and thought was important enough to pass on.
We chose this one today – On Juneteenth, Let’s Commit to Learning How to Abolish Oppressive Institutions/TRUTHOUT
Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
“Something wicked this way comes…” Shakespeare, Macbeth (Act 4, Scene 1)
Once upon a time in America, a man or a woman who wished to be their own boss had options and a reasonably high expectation of success… assuming they worked hard and were able to avoid criminal influences, natural and financial disasters, et al. Shopkeepers, grocers, craftsmen of all sorts, even small farmers, of whom there were many… they were all involved in what they perceived as an upward personal trajectory, a cut above working for wages. Even if they did aught else but maintain a reasonable living, they could count on a better life for themselves and their families.
Perhaps it was the Civil War that changed all that, by way of massive, sudden demands for war materiel to equip enormous conscripted battalions that sprang up as if overnight. The call went out for the production of weapons, uniforms, ships, cannons, tents, wagons, ammunition… all on a massive scale… enormous contractual demands that benefited… not the small businesses, but the larger ones who had access to capital and could always outbid them. And so they did, by the forces of economic advantage, political connections and the benefit of the modern methods of mass production, the factories and machinery that only a larger business could afford.
The smaller enterprises, small businesses and family farms, in their day and even in the shadow of the new industrial powerhouses, did well enough with local markets, but after the War, the bigger businesses, with the loss of their lucrative military contracts, took their advantages into those markets as well. Some of these industrial giants colluded one with the other to join forces in competition, driving smaller companies out of even those smaller local markets altogether. And when laws were enacted to outlaw the unfair advantages they held, they colluded again to influence legislation in their favor. Today? We have Wal-Mart and Amazon. Can you imagine how many small businesses were destroyed nationwide in the building of those corporate behemoths and others like them? Even the small family farm is an anomoly today, shut out by the competition of powerful agri-business entities in the corporate world.
Times change. Technology advances.
Moral imperatives can transform overnight accordingly.
All material things can be swiftly revised to fill new demands.
Perceptions and even principles can change.
People, however, do not.
My father was raised on a farm in Georgia. His father was a sharecropper and when the family, by circumstances that poor folk cannot control was forced to move to Alabama, they did so in a wagon. They grew their own food, slaughtered their own meat, baked their own bread and lived much as people had lived for hundreds of years before them.
My father was ambitious young man, left home, took advantage of military service in the heart of the Depression to educate himself and became an expert in what was then the latest technology, radar. After World War II, he left the Navy as a Warrant Officer and, as a civilian, took what he’d learned and made a decent career for himself in technology. Over the years, he continued to learn new things, ending his professional career as an engineer for NASA, building small computers for satellites. He was involved in the cutting edge micro-electronic technology that eventually served as the basis for personal computers, the device that changed life as we know it and launched what some people call, the Information Age.
In his lifetime, he went from that poor farm boy riding about on horseback through an agrarian subsistence to the launching pads of advanced technology. He saw elemental transformations in every aspect of life, cultural evolution that we can only imagine and he was part of the technical revolution that has placed humanity today on the edge of yet another new epoch, one that has yet to be defined, much less judged as beneficial progress.
But I can tell you this, that in his heart of hearts, he was no different in the way of his humanity than he was as a young man n that farm, retaining the rich values that formed his decent perspectives, unwilling and unequipped to be altered by the cynical and self-serving ways of modernity.
Times are changing once more and the people who drive our economy seem determined to render humanity obsolescent and superfluous in a strange new and sterile world. Science fiction in mid-century America was prophetic when it scanned future possibilities and found them frightening and the most frightening of all was the sterility and cold demands of robotic automation, labor-saving technology that today seems to threaten the labor itself and the laborer who supplies it.
Once upon a time the purpose of all labor in the earth was the benefit of all mankind, each man and women in their way taking part. What part will they serve, what role can they play in a world that no longer needs them, in a world that seems to place priorities and progress in the service of profits instead. Maybe it’s time for humanity to stop and take a deep breath, to step back and take a critical look at what we’ve wrought and where we are going… or more accurately… what it is that’s coming our way.
Make no mistake, something is coming our way and we’re not quite sure what it is and how it will affect us. Maybe it’s time for us to decide if we really want what it is that’s coming down that road. Maybe it’s time for us to pay some attention. More than ever before in the history of humankind, we need to be aware and informed.
Here is a good place to start, with an essay by William I. Robinson that paints a depressing picture in a graphic and realistic analysis of troubling social and economic trends. You can read the essay and judge for yourself by way of this link to the article on TRUTHOUT
Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
(( The featured image above, a photo map of the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, and other photos suppied below were copied from the Black Rose Anarchistic Federation Twitter Account. The link to the group’s web site is: https://blackrosefed.org/ ))
It’s not easy to get any credible news from corporate media about the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle, but it’s out there in the ether of the internet if you look for it. On Monday, I found a decent article from Jane C. Hu that debunks much of the mythology and hype that’s provided by cable new and the bigger newspapers concerning events there. The article gives you a true sense of what’s happening in an eyewitness account and you can read it here at SLATE
The pictures posted here are from the 8th and 9th of June, but the article was written on the 16th. As you can see and read in the referenced article, the Autonomous Zone is not yet in flames or the scene of crime, chaos and hunger as has been suggested elsewhere and, as far as I can tell, Trump’s military intervention hasn’t shown up as yet. Maybe he’s waiting to announce that the tanks are rolling into Seattle at his rally in Nuremberg Tulsa this weekend, raw meat for his fans. Or, he may do nothing at all because he is an impotent gas bag. It’s a toss-up. No one can confidently predict what he will do or what he will say. In order to distract attention away from the release of John Bolton’s book, Trump is liable to do anything… and in his mind, the more outrageous, the better.
If I lived in Seattle, I would think it wise to stay away from the Autonomous Zone on Saturday when the Oklahoma rally is in full swing. God knows what Trump will do to get a rousing ovation from his mob of vengeful minions.
Speaking of which, I saw pictures of Trump enthusiasts who’ve already already begun waiting for Trump since Monday… lined up with camping gear, sleeping bags, barbecues and lawn chairs outside the BOK Center in Tulsa. They looked like Dead Heads lined up outside Fillmore West back in the old days, only better-fed and considerably less hirsute.
Anarchism in the United States has a surprising depth and length to its history, dating back to the nineteenth century with adherents and spokesmen who were recognized as seminal thinkers in their movement worldwide. Regardless, the average American, the product of its public schools and even its universities, is generally unaware of it. Socialism, anarchism, and other populist movements are, after all, inimical to the American institutions that have been so carefully constructed to contain and control any equalizing factors, socially and economically. Notions we hold iconic and dear, such as “democracy” and “liberty” and “freedom” hardly describe the realities our institutions have produced. In the nation that most of us recognize today we see injustice and inequality at the very core of American life.
Our nation’s notions, taken as a theme, paint a lovely picture of “equal opportunity” and “liberty and justice for all” while the reality of our lives is better expressed by the institutional murder and mass incarceration of the poor… and of them, primarily of our people of color. We live a lie in the light of these faux notions, though our institutions maintain them with a brutal and, for them, necessary containment through suppression of ideas. Socialism and anarchism are considered “dangerous” concepts because they offer viable alternatives to the injustice that affords both privilege and profit to the “exceptional” few while the rest of us compete for the scraps that fall from the tables of these “movers and shakers and job-creators” who are the only true benefactors of our institutions.
It’s not an anomaly or difficult to perceive that socialism and anarchism, which concepts are anathema to the present institutional product of injustice and exceptionalism, are considered taboo and labeled unAmerican… even in our highest academic institutions, where intellectual freedom is also and subtly constrained, regulated by the dictates of funding. (A thesis for another day. Soon?)
If Americans were to understand the way in which their lives and even their thoughts are manipulated to the benefit of a privileged minority, they might decide to make use of the real power that is forever in their hands through organization, solidarity, and the recognition of a common interest in opposing that which does not serve their common welfare.
Consider the words of Voltairine de Cleyre, the world-famous feminist and anarchist of her time, whose name most Americans would not recognize today.
“The most that a working-class party could do, even if its politicians remained honest, would be to form a strong faction in the legislatures which might, by combining its vote with one side or another, win certain political or economic palliatives.
“But what the working-class can do, when once they grow into a solidified organization, is to show the possessing class, through a sudden cessation of all work, that the whole social structure rests on them; that the possessions of the others are absolutely worthless to them without the workers’ activity; that such protests, such strikes, are inherent in the system of property and will continually recur until the whole thing is abolished — and having shown that effectively, proceed to expropriate.”
What is happening in Seattle today and what happened during the Occupy Wall Street movement, indeed what is happening whenever Black Lives Matter events and demonstrations around the country disrupt the hypnotic deceptions of our everyday life, is the expression of a hunger for the two very basic things our society and our institutions cannot, have not, and will never provide, universal justice and true equality.
Something to consider. Maybe it will spread.
Peoples’ Daily Breif by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Taking a break from the news today. No analysis today.
Just this… a kind of message. A message I’d just as soon not deliver.
This message is for white people in America… from an old white man in America who has seen too much of nothing being done… who has reached the limits of his silence… and decided to take a leap and say some things he’s wanted to say for well over fifty years. And these things I have to say? It likely seems presumptuous for me to be the one who says them, audacious, even… as though I am some icon of rectitude, a sanctified prophet, a voice crying in the wilderness… but I’m not. I’m just an old white guy… nobody, really, but I know things.
I know, for instance, that change has got to come. Not little changes, but big ones, change so elemental and profound that it may frighten us to imagine how our lives will be affected. But change needs to come. We just can’t let things go on as they are.
I know that it will take more than just black Americans standing up and calling BS on everything that’s been going down in this country since the first slavers brought black Africans in chains to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 to be sold like cattle and to serve like beasts in the fields. They served as the base of a slave economy, a labor force that grew exponentially as slave ships brought more black Africans to live as slaves, the people who actually built the Southland of America and brought enormous wealth to the white Americans who owned them.
Our glorious and Great American Experiment was a lie from day one.
Sanctimonious men declared themselves free of their king, based upon the vaulting and bravely progressive premise that “…all men are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…” They signed a letter to their king declaring themselves free, even those among these men who held the deeds to the life and labor of other human beings and denied them those considerations they demanded of their king for themselves. They were hypocrites and despots no less cruel than their king, these men who owned slaves and gave them no credit as their equal… indeed, denied them their humanity… yet they dared to esteem themselves righteous… as we continue to do to this day, in spite of what we know of their hypocrisy and their petty tyranny.
These days, even white people applaud the pulling down of statues honoring Confederate generals, but statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson abound… and few of us, if anyone at all, would suggest that they deserve similar treatment. These icons of the revolution and of American independence were both slave owners, but they seem to have been given an exemption from the condemnation given Confederates. Do we discriminate now and in the near future between the statues of “bad” slave owners and “good” slave owners? How do you make that distinction? How much of our perspective of the American story is based upon exception derived from the hypocrisy of our perceptions? We judge Robert E. Lee for his sins, but give Jefferson a pass? On what grounds?
Slavery was a system of stolen labor and heartless, brutal oppression that did not end when these white men declared themselves free. It continued through the violent, racist Southland rebellion that was our nation’s Civil War. Yet even then… following that terrible War… even after slavery was abolished, a new and subtle form of slavery emerged, a system of economic slavery that was forced on those people whose rights were supposedly gained through the fiat of Emancipation, rights that were practically rescinded, rights that utterly vaporized when the Federal occupation forces who ensured and enforced them marched away from the Southland, leaving black men, black women, and black children at the mercy of their former owners. Former slaves were dominated once again in bondage, mercilessly exploited and oppressed in spite of their freedom and through violence, intimidation, and murder. That brutal injustice was reinforced in perpetuity by way of a system of laws that further stripped them of any rights they’d been given.
Think about this.
If you’re white like me?
What’s happening today?
It’s not about us… not about you or me.
Maybe it’s just time for white people like us to get over ourselves and stop believing that our “liberalism” or our “empathy” or any other “charitable” and condescending attitude we adopt and wear like a comfortable pair of jeans somehow exempts us from the guilt our nation bears toward the descendants of slaves. A guilt… and a debt… and it’s a debt that has never been paid. It’s long past due and if it isn’t your debt to pay, not mine, then whose debt is it?
You and me? We’re the ones who possess a privilege we’ve had since birth, an unearned advantage based upon nothing more than the color of our skin… and as long as we deny that advantage, this problem will continue to fester and boil and that very real debt will never be paid, but it will continue to accrue interest over time, an interest that will be paid in the currency of trouble and of strife. No. We don’t get a pass. We don’t even get an exemption for caring… for giving a damn.
It’s our debt to pay and we don’t get to feel like it belongs to some unknown others. We don’t get to be the collector. We owe a debt and it’s long past time for white people like you and me to pay what we owe… to do more than hold a candle on a street corner surrounded by the safety and security of our privilege, feeling all warm and fuzzy in our weepy, self-righteous skin, singing “We shall overcome.”
We don’t need to overcome. We need to surrender.
We need to surrender and accept our culpability.
We need to surrender our privilege.
We need to stop believing that even a truckload of our precious empathy is worth a mumbling dime or that it has any meaning or brings any value to anyone or anything but our own self-esteem.
We need to give up the notion that people of color need our help.
We need to understand that we need their help to get past this subtle self-deception.
For over 400 years, the message of America has been White Lives Matter. So… when someone tells us Black Lives Matter? If we say anything at all, let it be nothing more than “Amen !!” We need to sit down and shut up because it’s time now for us just to listen. We may think we’ve already heard this tune before, that with our “wokeness” we’ve earned ourselves the right to join the chorus. But I’m here to tell you we haven’t heard anything yet. We need to listen, not preach.
We don’t have the right. We haven’t earned the right to do otherwise.
When we hear the words, “Black Lives Matter”? We need to stand up and salute.
When we hear the words, “I can’t breathe”? We need to get involved, seriously involved and not after the fact. It’s not enough to stand on the sidelines and record the crimes of racist policemen. We need to put down that damned cell phone… and get in there and fight for the life that’s at stake. We need to intervene… to put ourselves on the line… at the risk of our freedom if that’s what it takes. Your outrage is otherwise worthless.
When we hear the words, “Defund the police”? We need to stop talking and listen.
When we hear the word, “Reparations”? We need to shut up and listen.
Everything else is hypocrisy because… we’re not the solution.
We’ve never been the solution.
We’re the problem.
But don’t just listen to me.
I’m white like you, after all.
Chances are I’ll never be able to say it in the way it needs to be expressed. And you don’t owe me anything. This debt that is owed is as much mine as it is yours. Just like you, I need to pay my debt and writing these words is not a part of that repayment. It is, however, acknowledgement that I owe it… putting my signature in the box of an IOU.
Listen to your neighbors who are black and who know this already. They live with this thing every day. Listen to people of color because they are the ones who have something to say and a righteous reason to say it. This race thing is not going to go away until we face those things we avoid. We need to stop pretending that we are any better than the racists we decry if, for one moment, we are content with what we have when what we have, we have not earned.
This message is for white people in America… from an old white man in America who has seen too much of nothing being done… who has reached the limits of his silence… and decided to take a leap and say some things he’s wanted to say for well over fifty years… and didn’t. Which omission… on his part… is unforgivable and renders him every bit as culpable as every one of us is culpable and will be until this damnable stain is removed from us by our efforts to make things right. Efforts… not words. Having said these things I’ve neglected to say for so long, there’s nothing more that I can add.
The time for words… for us… is over.
This business of change?
It’s not something you watch.
It’s something you do.
According to data made available by Reuters, new cases of Coronavirus infection are increasing cumulatively nationwide in the US and in some states the rate of increase is dramatic, even alarming. We are aware that our Federal governmnt is acting as though the pandemic is essentially over, so I can imagine some of you may have doubts, but you can review the specifics as they affect the nation and your home state, with all the latest available data here at… Reuters – Coronavirus/Trends USA
You will note that the data is over a week old. Nonetheless, the graphs reflect the latest figures available. It is difficult, and in some cases, nearly impossible to locate timely data as those Federal government agencies devoted to science and the provision of data seem to have lost their former ability to provide accurate, timely data and we checked and found that even the CDC’s figures have the same time delay as we found in most reporting agencies one can find in the media at large.
Not one to speculate, we won’t suggest that there seems to be a reluctance… or a lack of motivation, perhaps… on the part of governors in some states, notably those where the GOP holds sway, to provide timely data on the pandemic. Not one to speculate, and though we might be inclined to assume that these governors find the numbers embarassing, given that those states could probably benefit from more responsible methods of containing the pandemic… methods that have proven successful in other states and in nations worldwide, but we won’t make that assumption. Not one to speculate, we will refrain from suggesting that some of these governors, notably those in states controlled by the Republican Party, in an effort to restore profitability to American corporations are endangering the health of their constituencies by ignoring experts who warn of a resurgence of Coronavirus infections. No, in the name of journalistic integrity, we won’t make such accusations and will exercise editorial restraint accordingly.
In the meantime, the Trump administration is full speed ahead with his first big political rally in months, which is to be held at
Nuremberg… or, rather… Tulsa, Oklahoma, where, Trump claims in a Tweet, “Almost…” a million people… willing to sign a pledge not to sue Trump or his campaign for a Coronavirus infection as a result of the crush from the crowd… have tried to register for attendance at the campaign event.
“Come on now. He didn’t really say that, did he?”
Well, we went on Twitter to check and we copied this Trump Tweet, pasted it below so you could judge for yourself…
“Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
Almost One Million people request tickets for the Saturday Night Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma!
9:28 AM · Jun 15, 2020”
Of course, we have no idea how Trump’s concept of “Almost…” applies to “…One Million” in specific mathematical terms and, given his history with numbers… well, you know. Perhaps we could have surveyed the over 227,000 Twitter followers who “liked” the above Tweet to get a sense of their desire to attend, but we are told by our PDB tech staff that they do not believe, “…the algorithm driving these bots does not afford them the capability to respond to a specific request.” Something about parameters…
We’ll just have to take Trump at his word on this one. ( ∉ truth, but hey…)
Trump and his “team” have pretty much decided to pretend that the pandemic does not exist, despite the recent spikes in activity following relaxation of stay-at-home directives in many states nationwide. I wondered about his justification for the accelerated risk involved in commencing his practice of mass rallies in a raging pandemic, but read yesterday in the Washington Post what I believe to be the most incredible pronouncement Trump has made in the past three and a half years he’s been in office, perhaps the most puzzling and outrageous statement to come from any American Prsident in history… ever. He actually told reporters during a photo-op at a Cabinet meeting when about the risk of Coronavirus that, “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.”
Yes, America, he said that.
Breathtaking, innit? We spent a good ten minutes trying to grasp the significance… the enormous implications surrounding that simple declaration from the Leader of the Free World in order to be able to provide you with some sort of intelligent analysis in response, but failed. In fact, words fail us altogether on this and… perhaps there are no words to add here and the only intelligent and appropriate response is a long and stunned silence.
In other news, and for some insight, we took a brief and magical mystery tour of the Trump/Pence campaign web site, careful not to push any buttons or links thereon for fear that the contents of our computer’s hard drive could be exposed to corrupting influences in the form of “cookies” that will eventually and perpetually thereafter load up our digital mail box with God-only-knows-what in the way of right-wing campaign literature and assorted commercial offers for hair restoration and “male enhancement” products, but we did notice that they have a page devoted to recruitment in various coalitions of voters for Trump and we thought to make a list and pass it on to you, our readers, though without the links that might pull the content of your computer’s hard drive into the Trumpian ether, nevermore to return.
If you want to find his web site yourself, you don’t need our help and you won’t have any trouble at all. Just follow the yellow brick road….
But the list… Trump’s campaign web site offers Trump supporters the opportunity to join several coalitions, each of which has an invitation to text a specific and, apparently, well-considered tag to a common number.
They are as follows…
Women for Trump (Text EMPOWER to _____)
Latinos for Trump (Text VAMOS to_____)
Black Voices for Trump (Text WOKE to_____)
Veterans for Trump (Text FIGHT to_____)
Evangelicals for Trump (Text STAND to_____)
Cops for Trump (Text COPS to_____)
Democrats for Trump (Text DEMOCRAT to_____)
Pro-Life Voices for Trump (Text LIFE to_____)
Workers for Trump (Text WORKERS to_____)
Irish Americans for Trump (Text SHAMROCK to_____)
Greek Voices for Trump (Text GREEK to_____)
America’s Sheriffs for Trump (Text SHERIFFS to_____)
Catholics for Trump (Text CATHOLICS to_____)
Military Families for Trump (Text FAMILY to_____)
Moms for Trump (Text MAMA to_____)
Asian Pacific Americans for Trump (Text ARISE to_____)
Now, to be sure, while there is nothing wrong with soliciting groups and voting blocs in pursuit of a vote, the trouble with listing them altogether on a single web page like that? Well, it tends to bring attention to other and specific political, social, ethnic and religious groups that are not included for solicitation of support.
Noticeably absent from the list, for instance, are these groups…
Muslims for Trump
Mexican Americans for Trump
LGBTQ Voices for Trump
Tenors for Trump
Baritones for Trump
QAnon for Trump
KKK for Trump
Very Fine People for Trump
Russians for Trump
Despots, Oligarchs & Tyrants for Trump
…and so on.
Not that we want to suggest that Trump’s campaign is not soliciting the support of those groups that were omitted from his list, or that he does or does not intend to represent their interests in the White House if he is elected for another four years. After all, he has been undeniably and extraordinarily helpful to both tyrants and Russians during his Presidency… more than any other American President in the history of the universe… more than Obama… more than anyone… ever.
Once again, let us say that, in the interest of safety, we are not supplying links to the Trump Campaign web site nor to the various coalitions of voters for Trump that we’ve copied and listed above for your edification. We do that so that you can avoid the risk of visiting the site yourself. In that respect and not unlike war correspondents, we are citizen journalists here at PDB who are more than willing to take the risks required in order to bring you accurate and timely reporting from the oft-hazardous battlespaces of the internet. However, since we are not accommodating the Trump campaign by providing links… and in the interest of fairness, we won’t provide any links to the Biden web site either.
We do so in an entirely unnecessary, somewhat cynical, but quaint acknowledgement of the old Fairness Doctrine which, though nobody pays attention to it anymore, was a good idea. Of course, if we were really serious about following the equal time mandate, which was the central theme of the Fairness Doctrine, we would be providing similar coverage of the Biden campaign. But in all fairness to them, the less said the better.
That’s it for today…
Be careful, America.
Pay attention and remember…
“A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.”
We begin to take for granted that which has always been the cornerstone of our lives, and in America, we always assume access and protection under the universal and all-inclusive privilege of what we consider to be the most basic human rights while… in this present moment in America… those same rights are daily challenged by powerful forces at work to undermine them. Not all at once, but just a little bite here, a little bite there. Not in a comprehensive, all-out assault on our freedoms, a thing you can grab hold of and fight, but in the small, unnoticeable steps that mark the progress of the inevitable, movement so slight we hardly notice… until one day we wake up, notice the lack of something that was always there for us before and wonder, “What the hell happened?”
Fascism will not overtake us when we are aware of its presence, but when it works behind the scenes we hardly even notice its advance. It’s a deadly game of Simon Says, creeping up behind us by degree. Freedom of speech, as it is exercised in the freedoms of the press that we take for granted, is one of those metaphorical, but no less substantial cornerstones on which all other liberty depends. Knowledge is power and when the people are uninformed, they are doomed to be exploited.
Americans tend to disregard events overseas… as though, somehow, events in other nations do not concern us. We are, after all, “America!!” and we often assume that we set the course for all the world. Nonetheless, events in other nations have… historically and significantly… affected Americans in ways that have forever altered our trajectory as a people.
“Surely,” you may think, “the troubles of one unfortunate journalist in the Philippines, a tiny, insignificant nation… all the way on the other side of the planet from Pittsburgh… cannot possibly affect me.”
You would be wrong.
We have a President who is acutely aware of the power and methods used to advantage by the leader of that tiny, insignificant nation, methods that propelled him to a position of virtually unchallenged authority, methods that align him with historical tyrants of mythical proportions. Donald Trump has even expressed a profound and public admiration for the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, just as he has expressed admiration for and affinity with the likes of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.
Journalists in America and worldwide should view the successful prosecution of a journalist for doing her job in the Philippines with the utmost alarm. More specifically and especially here in America, where our President, the one man holding the highest position of authority, has proven himself to be a profoundly antagonistic critic of journalists, going so far as to call them collectively, “the enemy of the people” jounalists should decry this abuse of human rights in the Philippines and its assault on the freedom of the press… not only journalists, but all Americans as well. We claim that our nation is served by a government of, for, and by the people and any nation that even pretends to be governed by democratic processes cannot possibly survive an assault on the free press that informs it.
Pay attention. Read this article from James Risen at the Intercept… Maria Ressa’s Libel Conviction Is a Blow to Press Freedom
The Weekend Edition – “Defund the police”
Law and order.
Crime and punishment.
What do these phrases really mean?
Without sinking to the over-simplified and nouveau cynical sophistry of a second year Philosophy Major at the University, how do we go about deconstructing the bases of our failing system of justice and the institutions of law enforcement that have purported to serve us in that regard for so long that we can scarcely manage to consider an alternative without some sort of populist panic attack at the mere suggestion thereof…
“Defund the police ?!?!”
“Are you insane ?!?!”
Well, no, actually… and even the staid and somewhat conservative corporate media in America have begun to take a second look at what might have been considered the pipe dream of anarchists only two weeks past. For instance… in an article from Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) which organization is dedicated to serving as a watchdog for the media and calling out its pretentious bias, I read about a Washington Post editorial that surprised me, because the Post seldom embraces even normative progressive notions much less so radical a concept as “defund the police”…
From the FAIR article…
“The Washington Post editorial board (6/9/20)—not known for its friendliness to revolutionary ideas—called the “provocative slogan…a welcome call to reimagine public safety in the United States.” The editorial asked whether police really ought to be responding to mental health emergencies, dealing with homelessness, and funding local governments by “extracting fees from citizens,” and opined that “onlookers are rightfully alarmed at plans to slash social services while sparing police budgets.”
Even though the conversation in the media at large is not being ridiculed as a rule, the “defund the police” concept is more often “described” in ways that tend to remove its more startling implications and the coverage often downplays its radical intent. Here is the link to the full article from the website at FAIR.ORG
It always makes me nervous when people begin to talk about the times we live in as one of those mist-inducing “historical moments”… an evocative phrase that often serves to presage decades of disinterest… or, at the very least, an accelerated blowback of regret following what I like to call “conceptual sticker-shock.” Cultural paralysis sometimes accompanies radical movements like a shadow. It’s brought on by the eventual recognition of the cost, the enormity of the tasks involved. It’s a process. First, there’s a brief period of euphoric dialogue replete with bright, new, shiny buzz words. “Experts” start to emerge from the wainscoting like Carolina cockroaches in a house afire and they are everywhere, writing books, showing up on MSNBC. There is a fervor that lasts for a while, but the harsh reality of the hard work that’s needed eventually triggers mind-numbing public apathy. Yes, every good and worthy idea has its moment, but it needs more than champions or enthusiasm. These days, new ideas need a think tank and think tanks are funded by people who piffle and tosh at the mere mention of those pulse-quickening, often revolutionary phrases and slogans that clash with their privilege.
“Defund the police ?!?!”
“What… are you some kind of anarchist ?!?!”
The concept is not new by any means, but it’s not a subject that has reached the public discourse until recently and, as often happens when the public is made suddenly aware of a new and radical concept, especially as it pertains to extreme alteration of existing institutions, the public is more immediately exposed to explanations about what it means by the people who are opposed to those ideas at the outset because they are unsettling to people whose lives derive purpose and a sense of security within existing circumstance. They enjoy enormous benefit and privilege from the status quo. Because they oppose it, their interpretation is distorted to fit the negative frame through which they would like us to view it.
So… back to the question. What is actually meant by the words, “defund the police” when they are used by protesters against police aggression and the seemingly constant threat and growing incidence of violence from law enforcement officers, more specifically to black men almost everywhere in America? More importantly, when you hear those words… defund the police… what do you think it means? Sometimes the answer is obvious, self-evident, but not in this case… or rather, it’s meaning may be obvious but it is also an incomplete statement. The people who advocate the concept within the larger context of its origin in the prison abolition movement… what do they say it means?
“Say what ?!?! Prison abolition? Now you want to shut down all the prisons ?!?! What? You wanna put Charlie Manson back on the street? What’s with you people?”
Let’s take a look at the movement and what it is trying to accomplish.
Angela Davis, a longtime advocate for both the abolition of prisons and radical alteration of our policing institutions, speaking with Amy Goodman during an interview on DemocracyNow! said this about defunding the police and what is meant in terms of the abolitionist movement…
“Well, the call to defund the police is, I think, an abolitionist demand, but it reflects only one aspect of the process represented by the demand. Defunding the police is not simply about withdrawing funding for law enforcement and doing nothing else. And it appears as if this is the rather superficial understanding that has caused (Former Vice President and Democratic Presidential candidate) Biden to move in the direction he’s moving in.
“It’s about shifting public funds to new services and new institutions — mental health counselors, who can respond to people who are in crisis without arms. It’s about shifting funding to education, to housing, to recreation. All of these things help to create security and safety. It’s about learning that safety, safeguarded by violence, is not really safety.” (Italics used for emphasis here are mine.) Here is a link to the full interview with Angela Davis at DEMOCRACY NOW! It’s an excellent discussion. Worth the time it takes to listen.
Meanwhile… let’s get down to simple things… facts unimpeded by rhetoric. An honest assessment informs us that we employ the police to do our dirty work. We expect them to handle the people who embarrass our sense of civility and order.
What is the nexus of the circumstance, though? Where do we derive our justification for the punishment of crime as opposed to the social failures that create behavior and circumstances, conditions we define as “criminal”? Is our perception of the problems even based on truth… on the substance of facts? For instance… is there a drug problem? Or is there a hole in peoples’ lives they seek to fill with narcotics of every description… with or without a prescription? Is there a homeless problem with people sleeping in doorways, parking lots, abandoned homes and alleyways? Or is there a growing number of people living on an economic edge… such that every economic crisis bumps more of them out of their jobs and out of their homes, renders them desperate, friendless, and out on the street in far less time than it takes most people to recover?
Isn’t it simpler to skip the research, grab a handy answer and ignore the real cause of any embarrassing segment of the population than to solve the problems that create their loathsome situation? It’s definitely more profitable for some people when we look the other way and let someone else do all the work. And considering the optimistic projections of growth in the for-profit prison industry, the business of crime and punishment is indeed a lucrative investment.
We’ve made the victim of our social failures a criminal by way of laws invented for that purpose. We put him in prison and… voila! A ready-made profitable source of cheap captive labor. Never mind that with our lack of interest, we’ve enabled an institution that could be called a twenty-first century brand of slavery, but hey… talk like that would be too honest. Nobody wants to imagine they bear any responsibility for something like that. However, in a government that purports to be of, for, and by the people, we are very much responsible for the perverse actions of our institutions.
Don’t l;ook to Congress to do anything about this. They are… and they have been the enablers. The prison-industrial complex has lobbies that are financially outgunned by no one else on the Hill… other than those who work in the military-industrial complex, but that’s a whole ‘nuther smoke. To be sure, for-profit prisons have many friends in Washington… and in both major Parties.
So… this is the endgame. If you outlaw poverty… outlaw drug dependency… you can build an entire and uniquely profitable industry. It’s the American way. Capitalism in its highest form.
But times and perceptions are changing.
Perhaps the most obvious sign of that change that I’ve seen is a trend that popped up in the last few days… that of cable networks cancelling the cop shows, those real-life, light-em-up, chase-em-down cop shows, you know. You’ve seen them yourself, the ones where a cast of somewhat photogenic, but genuine cops are shown forever tagging people for suspicious behavior. They tag people driving, tag people walking, tag people standing on corners… forever tagging people with conditions that more often than not include being poor… or a POC… or both. These cops are lighting them up, pulling them over, checking them for wants and warrants, “smelling” marijuana in their cars, calling in Officer Bruno with the biceps and his drug-sniffing pup… dismantling the people’s cars on the side of the road while the people sit handcuffed, perplexed on the curb. Entertainment. It’s been going on for years… cops arresting people, driving them off in the cubicle cage on seats without cushions in the back of their squad cars. Driving them off to the labyrinth of plea-bargaining, intimidation, exploitation, and endless incarcerations that we have the stones to call our criminal “justice” system.
Non-violent crime mostly.
“Bad boy. Bad boy.” Really?
Petty crime. Pay the fine or do the time.
But if you don’t have any money, you’re screwed.
People have problems, but instead of helping them deal with their circumstances, we hold them to standards that require them to have some measure of personal wealth. Poverty is a crime. Homelessness is a crime. Dependency and just plain bad damn luck… all crimes. We criminalize their conditions, circumstances that are a reflection of our own disinterest… the result of society’s failure. We can no longer deny the violence and the racism that exists as a serious and dangerous problem in many police departments and in many law enforcement agencies, some of which have an institutional flair for bigotry.
It’s out there and it is self-evident… an uncomfortable and nagging presence in our public discourse. It’s in your face, America, now that cameras are everywhere and it can no longer be hidden by lies. Though some may be willing to condone the oppression, the violence… the greater majority of Americans, the people who either understand their own culpability or, by virtue of the color of their skin, they see their own present danger in that very real threat and are no longer willing to tolerate the injustice. Their voice is loud and their demands will be heard.
“Defund the police.” What does it mean?
Only this… and it’s not a mystery… deconstruct the failing institution and replace it with other and better and more focused institutions(plural) that serve humanity, not the sacred pillars of American exceptionalism, profit, and privilege. Address the problems not the symptoms. Help the people who are presently oppressed by our laws and the enforcement thereof instead of criminalizing their existence and their needs.
It’s really that simple.
And for those of you who think the Founding Fathers were using their Bibles as a foundation for our Constitution, you’ll be pleased to know that this kind of a fix is right in line and in perfect agreement with the ideas and precepts that are outlined in your leather-bound King James Edition… especially the parts that are printed in red.
It’s really rather simple. Well, maybe not so simple to get it done, considering how much work is involved and how difficult it is to gt people to act… but it’s easy enough to understand. The hard part is overcoming the fearful reactions of people who are not now affected by the injustice inherent in the system, the ones who want to know if their property will be safe without an army of men suited up, locked and loaded, ready at the drop of a dime to kill or be killed in order to protect what they have. Safety… as though what we have at the present time comes anywhere near to a condition that could be described as “safe.”
“Okay, enough. I get it… so how do we fix it?”
That’s not something we can cover without some background in depth. A sound byte won’t do the job. We’ll talk about that some more next week on the Weekend Edition of The Peoples’ Daily Brief, but for now, let me leave you a link to a recent op-ed that explains the thinking of activists who are involved with fixing the problem today… right now… in Minneapolis.
Here is a relevant extract from an op-ed describing their work, from Jae Hyun Shim, as it appeared in Truthout…
“No sweeping, structural change can happen overnight. And the transition to a police-free Minneapolis will be intentional, measured and collaborative. Right now, it is important to understand that Minneapolis residents have already been taking care of each other, and we will continue to. It’s also worth recognizing that prison abolition is not a reaction to a moment, but a long-time movement backed by decades of Black radical thinking and experience.
“In the past two weeks since Mr. Floyd’s brutal murder at the hands of the MPD, Minneapolis has seen community members step up to fill the gaps where our city, state and county systems have failed us. We’ve created community fire brigades, a people’s ambulance, a transit support system, food banks and hot meal bars, and community safety and defense teams. There have been informal teach-ins, and petitions to cut MPD contracts from museums, business events and schools. Neighbors are talking to each other and actually getting to know who lives on their street.”
Want to know more? Here is a link to the full article on-line at TRUTHOUT
In Baltimore, similar movements are underway as expressed in an article by Jaisal Noor in the REAL news network online.
“…activists argue grassroots-led efforts that operate on a shoe-string budget have far better results in reducing violence than Baltimore’s scandal-ridden police department.
“’We know for a fact that programs like Safe Streets, community mediations…work, and need to be brought to scale,’ said Hayes.
“Studies have found the Baltimore Ceasefire movement, which fights violence through outreach, connecting vulnerable populations with resources and by building community, reduced shootings by 52 percent. Meanwhile Safe Streets has been credited with reducing shootings by over 50%.
“Hayes says opposition to defunding the police is rooted in racist views that Black communities need policing instead of the investment in education and other social services given to affluent, white communities.
“’It shows that they are not ready to redefine what public safety looks like,’ says Hayes. ‘I challenge them to follow Black leadership, and trust we have thought about this for a while and that we’re ready to create a pathway to make that happen.’”
Here is a link to the full article at The Real News
People are dying. Too often, black men are being murdered by the very people we have ordained to “serve and protect” them. The old message of reform has proven to be little more than lip service that results in more funding, more police, more weapons, more oppression, less safety, less service, less protection, less justice and, now… murder.
That’s enough of that. Get radical. Get real.
Defund the police. It’s time.
Is the Seattle protest becoming the modern-day equivalent of the Paris Commune? President Trump seems to think so. While the protests there are turning peaceful after the police decided to tone down their aggressive tactics against protestors, Trump appears to be threatening a military invasion to stem the “anarchists” who dare to declare their Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, a two city-block area in Seattle a “No Cop Co-op.”
Oh, anarchy !! However, according to an Associated Press news release, the most dangerous activity these anarchistic terrorists are engaged in presently is a “…street fair with political discussions and a drum circle.” Oh, yes, and a few vendors. What is a street fair without a few vendors supplying the utter essentials, eh?
They are, however, setting up street barricades, à la manière de Les Miserables, the Victor Hugo classic novel that finds its climax in the revolutionary Paris Commune that ruled large portions of the city of Paris for a few months in the spring of 1871. Alarmez!
Although I am reasonably certain Donald Trump is not aware of historical references, he is, apparently, alarmed that the sane, though to him seemingly cavalier response by local leadership is not “dominating the battlespace” of those two city blocks. He is distressed to the point that he issued a Tweet, threatening… or so it sounds to me… to send troops, saying, “Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will.”
He said that, really. Here is his full Tweet… verbatim:
“Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before. Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stopped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST! 2:08 PM · Jun 11, 2020”
Is that even a thing?
Read the full story here at the Associated Press
Donald Trump’s dangerous stance on the use of the military for the enforcement of “law and order” within our boundaries is a clear indication of more than misunderstanding their role in line with the Constitutional provisions for the nation’s defense. It’s not a matter of ignorance. Simply put, and like all tyrants, he simply does not care.
So… given the President’s predilection for pomp, hyperbole and theater, is it real? Should we be alarmed or merely shake-of-the-head and cluck-of-the-tongue bemused, saying, “Christ on a cupcake, Donald, go play with your toys and leave us alone.”
That tendency on our part has given him infinite license over the past three and a half years and he has taken use of our bemusement and distraction in the interim to dismantle our government and even to deconstruct the norms under which our government has operated forever. Maybe it’s time to take this man at his word. Maybe it’s time to start worrying. Better yet, maybe it’s time to get serious enough to impeach him and…. No, wait…!!
Marjorie Cohn has written an excellent analysis of the current situation.
Read it here in Truthout
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
We sometimes forget this essential truth, but… in a nation whose government purports… or at least aspires to be, as stated by Abraham Lincoln in his brief, but continuously relevant Gettysburg Address, a “…government of the people, by the people, for the people…” the American electorate is infinitely more important than the people they choose to represent them. Even more important than the one they choose for the White House. Those Presidents we elect are afforded the very best relevant and timely information gleaned from sources around the world, summarized and provided daily with analysis in a concise but comprehensive report from professionals in the Central Intelligence Agency. That report is known as “The President’s Daily Brief” or the PBD.
Should not “We, the people…” also be as well-informed and as often, in similar depth and by analysts of our own, people who are willing to cull the infinite sources of news and provide a concise report on the issues that affect us… especially when it is “We, the people…” who will judge this President according to what we know about him at the ballot box every four years? We used to have such a report and it was called the “daily local paper”, available in just about every town and city in America. These newspapers have declined in number and significance and are disappearing at an alarming rate, creating “news deserts” and forcing many Americans to rely on media increasingly controlled and dominated by people who use them to propagate an agenda. Be it political, social, or financial, the motivations of these journalistic conglomerates do more to contribute to disinformation than small independent dailies could have ever accomplished, which generally they did not because their integrity was a huge part in the sum of their value to their readership. For those of you who weren’t there when daily papers were the main source of the news in this country, the words “journalism” and “integrity” were once synonymous, a thing we quite took for granted, if not true universally in fact, at the very least in universal aspirations.
Today? I mean today, this day… as opposed to yesterday. So many “things” are going on and grabbing the attention of the corporate media which is available and on line 24/7/365… a flood of troubles and strife… such that so many other “things” are slipping under the radar. In order to remain intelligently informed, the average American would have to have an analyst on staff in the kitchen just to keep up with how their government is slowly slip-sliding away into oligarchy.
Consider me your own personal Kitchen Cabinet CIA analyst. And when I say CIA, I am saying that I will be an analyst of events from your very own Citizens’ Intelligence Agency and I will cull multiple news outlets and give you considered analysis of what the media seems to be missing. I’ll do it as often as I can and if it catches on, I will do it on a daily basis
These reports will be posted here my web site and it will be known as the CIA/PBD… or more specifically, the Citizens’ Intelligence Agency’s report, the People’s Daily Brief… your very own CIA/PBD, not unlike the President would get if our President bothered to read anything at all beyond a Tweet or a headline. It will be comprehensive, complete with links and references to relevant and timely articles from multiple news sources at home and abroad… and not merely links to those sources but a perspective and thoughtful analysis of the events as I perceive them.
Follow my reports and I will keep you informed.
Watch this space.
The Citizens’ Intelligence Agency’s Report and The People’s Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Presently working on an anthology of published and unpublished short fiction, a personal selection of my best work, going back as far as 1973… including a new short story that has never before seen the light of day.
My wife, MaryAnne Kolton and I have both been widely published in literary magazines, in the USA and abroad. I know the market, follow the vicissitudes of the industry, so of course I know that short story anthologies these days are just about as hot as a minor iceberg… and as welcome in the slush piles of book publishers as Covid-19. Agents? Forget about it.
Accordingly, I’ve done some research on the available alternatives and will likely self-publish one anthology of my work and one of hers as well sometime this year. KDP Amazon seems, for us anyway, the best venue, since there is no real investment involved, no cost to us other than our time, though a lot of time is required. I have plenty of that and I want to get a collection out there for the least reason that everyone who knows my work is hounding me to do something.
This seemed like the answer to that small demand… plus, I am fascinated by the possibilities here. Were I a young man, I would probably start a publishing company:
1: Because I’m crazy.
2: Because writing is my passion.
3: The industry is fundamentally changing, quite ready for a tectonic shift… and now is the time to leap into it, when everybody is moaning about the demise thereof and one can define the way forward, for better or worse.
4: The available technology is incredible and anyone who possesses the least technical capability can literally launch an empire with little or no capital or resources other than a decent desktop and a willingness to learn new ways of doing things. Add some creativity and an artistic predilection and you too can be a media magnate.
Or something like that.
Been a nostalgic week for some reason. Who knows where these recollections come from, how they are triggered, but there it is… the Sixties.
Although I faked it whenever it suited my purpose, I never was a flower child… you know? 1968… I’d already been to Vietnam and back, tried acting like I’d never been there, since nobody really cared… just wanted to blend in and start all over from scratch. Did I ever tell you what I wanted to do when I got back from the war? Don’t laugh, but I was hot to be and really tried to become a photo-journalist… tried going back over there to Vietnam because life back home… life Stateside… was like a vacuum, a round hole and I was utterly square-shaped with very hard edges that simply seemed never to quite fit into place, though God knows I tried.
No… I guess I never told you about that, since I never had the chance. I left Norfolk shortly after I heard you got married. Nothing to keep me there, so I left. Moved across the river to Newport News. I know you knew I’d been back, but… who knows?
Me? James the Recently Returned? He wanted something exciting, something dangerous, something different in his life… but all he got was the sporting goods department at Sears & Roebuck and they fired him… long story. Not worth telling.
I bought cameras, took pictures… got pretty good at it. Sent letters to newspapers all over the country, told them I’d be willing to work for them as a photojournalist overseas… in Vietnam or Israel, wherever there was a war because… I don’t know… adrenaline? Told them I’d work cheap, but nobody offered me a job and after Sears fired me, I pawned all my cameras and guns… and my television set, my stereo. Took a four-month sabbatical and tried to write a novel.
When the money ran out, I got hungry… so I went to work for the shipyard.
Was living in a tenement then, three-story brick buildings… right across the street from the yard. While I was living there, I went through about three lifetimes in a year… a crazy year… long story, but it was during one of those lifetimes that I tried becoming a flower child, hanging with a group of people who lived in my building, in a huge basement apartment where other people, kids mostly, down from Richmond and DC would party every weekend. The group was led by a guy from California, a guy whose name I can’t remember… some rich guy who’d been to Vietnam and was knocking around the country with another guy… from Minnesota, I think.
They were trying to start an urban commune… called themselves “the Real People.”
Long story. But I didn’t fit in there either.
Two years in Newport News… then Ohio and three or four more lifetimes in a couple of crazy years before I finally caught my breath… Readers Digest condensed versions of a life each… little novellas just waiting for an ending that never quite arrives. Lifetimes that felt a little like Purgatory, or like waiting for a bus in a Greyhound station that never, ever comes. Purgatory… Greyhound waiting rooms… they are interchangeable, I think. You meet interesting people, but you’re forever in transit, like those little eddies of current in a river, that circle and circle and circle for hours before they ever slip back into the mainstream again and get on their way downriver.
Don’t know where you went after you and what’s-his-name got married. I know you guys didn’t stay together. I don’t know why. God knows… he was a pretty good guy. I knew him pretty well, but your life was a total mystery to me, a book I’ve always looked for, but could never find.
The Sixties. I’d always imagined you’d get caught up in the whole flower-child thing… but in a good way. Not the whole drugs and sex and the Green Tambourine thing, the me-me-me culture, but something like that quintessential catcher-in-the-rye rejection of self-aggrandizement, that higher place… a role you seemed born to assume and I know you were looking, always looking… so many did. Somebody had to find it. Not many would, but I always thought that if anyone could, you’d be the one. I hope you did.
Best always… your old friend,
Letters to Virginia by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Haven’t written in a while, but I thought about you today.
I’m reading again that novel we both read in high school, though I can’t remember whether I bought it first and you wanted it because I had it… or whether I saw you reading it and went out that weekend and bought it myself, so I could flash it at study hall and you’d notice… and we could talk about it together in a corner because… I looked for excuses back then, reasons for us to talk about things for which you had such a passionate interest… just for the pleasure of hearing the fire in your voice.
It was an old book then, old and somewhat obscure. I remember the jacket said it was a very big deal in Russia, in Europe… everywhere. Millions and millions and millions of copies sold.
The Gadfly… remember? A novel first published in the late 1890s by Ethel Voynich, not well known any more, but for some reason it experienced a brief resurgence in the early 1960s, so that anyone with half a brain for books… anyone with a capacity for intense intellectual notions had to read it… tried to read it, tried to understand why people said it was important, meaningful, even timely, though it wasn’t really timely… not yet, though it would be soon enough… in the latter years of that decade, in fact.
It was about revolution, a thing we did not yet ever think about, except for the thrill of the concepts surrounding rebellion… like the Victor Hugo book… the Paris Commune, the barricades, the red flags, the romance and the fire of a time we could only imagine… as it was historic, a prop, alien then, at least to us.
Eight years later, you must have felt it as I did, the possibility, the passion in the air, the word itself tossed around like so much excess… excess of guile… an excess of promise unfulfilled… revolution this and revolution that, until the word itself lost all meaning, ended up cynical and droll.
The revolution that was televised, commercialized, marketized, costumed and produced, packaged and seduced, but… before we knew it? They won. The revolution? Our revolution? It went right into reruns.
So… The Gadfly… I’m reading it now… again… because I need to remember what it was like to be hopeful and passionate… and I’ll admit it… I remember so little about it now, and I wonder if I ever really finished reading it. My head was already full of notions then. I’d read so much… more than I had the capacity to grasp, but tried anyway… Dostoevski, Tolstoi, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Voltaire, and I’d just started Don Quixote when I saw you carrying The Gadfly and knew I had to be reading it as well.
So there… I remember now… you had it first, didn’t you?
You had it, so I had to have it as well
God, but we were young.
We went off in totally different directions, didn’t we?
Really lost track.
I hope you’re well.
So damn many times over the past decades… years in which I’ve not seen or heard from you… or even known where you’ve gone, I think about you often, unable to imagine how life might have received you… rewarded you for the visions you had so long ago. I’ve wondered how you fared, if you were happy, if you found the things you wanted, the things you wished for…
Most of all, I miss the things we shared.
So maybe that’s why I’m reading that book again
And thinking about you.
Your old friend,
James the Least
Letters to Virginia by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
The purpose and the spark of a humane and civilizing influence is some ineffable quality for which we strive… and its existence serves as foundation for all of our religions, our liberating philosophies, our governing documents, our laws, our visions and our dreams. We labor above all to attain first, but thereafter to retain that quality in our culture, in our lives, if not for ourselves, then for our children. Call it innocence… call it grace… call it joy… it springs from a desire for peace and safety. It thrives in love and it is the goal of every good gesture, every act of courage and every evolving, intelligent impulse within our social constructs, a product we will call… for the sake of definition, an observable innocence of mind.
Innocence is a delicate and a finite resource, however, difficult and… at times… impossible to regenerate once it has been destroyed. It can be mimicked, but only at the cost of what is true, since every time we produce some false sense of security in safety, it requires the dismantling of innocence in proportions dictated by some unwritten metaphysical law.
The “right to bear arms” in the twenty-first century is the perfect example.
One of many justifications used to oppose the regulation of firearms in America is the manufactured illusion that an armed citizenry creates a safe and secure society, requires the same sort of delusion, though on a global scale, that drove the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the decades following World War II, each nation arming itself to the degree that each could destroy its rival and the entire population of the world many times over and in so brief a period of time, the very notion of this competition was called a “balance of power” through the capability of “mutual destruction.” The cost of this tenuous purchase of national security was a generational nihilism that essentially destroyed the innocence of its participant nations and robbed all neutral parties of their own safety and security and the incessant ignition of small proxy wars in the Third World.
Let’s put that horrendous example into the perspectives that have evolved through the auspices of the National Rifle Association and their benefactor, the gun manufacturers of America. Based upon a premise within the vague wording of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and fueled by money supplied to them by gun manufacturers, the NRA has become one of the most powerful propaganda agencies, marketing influences, and political lobbies in the entire free world, convincing a huge swath of the American population that they need to live like their pioneer forebearers, who, at least in popular fiction, were surrounded by hostile populations of men and beasts… a dark force in a lawless frontier that perpetually threatened not only their fortune, but their lives.
In the name of this… heritage… they have convinced Americans and bribed their politicians to vindicate the notion that our freedom, our “heritage” and our personal safety demands that every American has the right to bear arms without regulation, license, or constraint. The result? One hundred Americans die on any given day by way of gun violence. Think about that… one hundred people… human beings, men, women, children.
What does that look like? One hundred people.
X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Every one of the Xs above represents a human being murdered by a gun… one hundred Xs, a fair representation of the sum of any one day’s average slaughter by guns in America. However, it is not a fair representation of the victims themselves, nor the broad expanse of grief, hardship and loss that each death implies. These Xs stand for people… individuals with lives that affect others. They represent mothers fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters all… baby girls, baby boys, sweethearts, friends, lovers, the innocent and the not so innocent, but each one of the was a living human being one moment and a nameless cipher in the news a day later.
X = Charlie
He died, according to a police report, on 06/25/1991. His death caused by ”… a single gunshot wound to his head while sleeping.” Charlie was the youngest of four siblings. He was my brother. He was 35 years old and apparently on the upswing after hard times. Hopeful. His parents, my mother and father, were forced to do that which any parent shudders to imagine… to bury one of their children. He was loved by many people, and by everyone in his family, each one devastated and unalterably affected by his sudden and violent death. But it’s one thing to bury your brother after the devastating effects of some disease… quite another in the wake of a senseless murder by person or persons unknown, a random crime with no apparent motive, no witnesses, no suspects.
One hundred violent deaths every day of every week of every month of every year in America causes a rippling effect touches the lives of others, such that each single death must surely effect at least a hundred others, friends, families… a hundred times one hundred lives affected in the wake of a death by gunshot.
What does that look like?
I won’t waste the space just to give you a visual representation of 10,000 Xs, but I think you can imagine page after page after page… and I’m willing to wager that most people in America have lost someone to gun violence in their lifetime, but how many more who are wounded, physically and mentally traumatized. The numbers reach incomprehensible proportions.
Today? Mass shootings are becoming more frequent and occur in places where none would expect… classrooms, movie theaters, concerts, festivals, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples… anywhere people collect and expect to be safe from harm.
America is a war zone.
How did that happen?
It would take volumes to describe the perfect storm that has culminated in this age of violence and insecurity, where no parent can be certain that their child will not be killed on any given day in a classroom… where no one can be certain that their prayers in any church, any synagogue, any mosque, any temple, any sacred place of worship will not be suddenly and violently interrupted by the sound of gunfire.
When do we say, “Enough.”
Not this time… apparently. Here it is, but mere days following the murder of 22 people and the injury of 24 more in a Wal-Mart in El Paso by a lone gunman armed with a military assault rifle and, the news cycle changes, the outrage takes a back seat to the suicide of a storied, sex trafficking billionaire, whose life has launched a hundred rumors… and whose death has launched a hundred more.
And so it goes.
No one will long remember El Paso. Who’s fault is that… if not yours and mine?
Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
I hope you will become a regular reader and I heartily invite you to comment below. I love your feedback, even when it’s criticism. It makes all the trouble worthwhile and it keeps me honest.
It is bad enough when bigotry and ignorance prevails in the nation of your birth… worse yet when the institutions that serve it are corrupted… when they become the authors of deception. Last night on Fox, Tucker Carlson stated that white supremacy is a hoax perpetuated by Democrats. He said, “They’re making this up. It’s a talking point, which they are using to help them in this election cycle.”
Fox News dominates cable and the networks. Consistently, more Americans watch Fox News than any one of the other cable or broadcast networks. Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have a bully pulpit for their corrosive, dangerous lies. Theirs is a huge audience and this is the kind of propaganda they feed them on a nightly basis. Is it any wonder that so many Americans have no concept of what is happening around them? This is the very reason that an amoral, bigoted, utterly incompetent, and dangerous criminal sits in the White House today.
Someone asked me today… “What do you do to stop it?”
This is what I do: wherever I can, whenever I can find the time… I seek out the truth, write what I find, and I put it out there on the internet, the only place where ordinary Americans can possibly be heard beyond the confines of their social influence.
And so can you.
The power of disinformation, the strength of a lie resides in constant repetition within an unchallenged venue. The greatest weapon against it is truth. Just as it is in violent warfare, the battle for dominance between truth and a lie depends upon the power and the strategic application of the armament involved. If the lie enjoys a position of power, then truth is an insurgent… and it must be everywhere at once and unrelenting.
“If the truth shall kill them, let them die.”
Every writer knows the truth about words… that of themselves and in their studied form… they are limiting, vague… that they can be chains that hold you back. A writer like Toni Morrison is able break the binds and strictures of language in such a way that the words become a liberating force within the reader… permitting a depth in simplicity that could never be otherwise achieved except within her flawless style. Such a writer is rendered thus immortal.
“No one ever talks about the moment you found that you were white. Or the moment you found out you were black. That’s a profound revelation. The minute you find that out, something happens. You have to renegotiate everything.”
From the Merriam Webster Dictionary online…
night letter (n): a telegram sent at night at a reduced rate for delivery the following morning.
Presidential Grandiloquence – Part One
When I think of the American presidency, I think of slogans and of epochs. The duration of each administration’s sway upon the nation could be termed as an epoch, historically… a period of time that is often defined by the character and stated ideals of each individual President inevitably framed by slogans. More often, however, the slogans are lost and their idealistic definitions are tempered in remembrance by the realities surrounding each administration, by facts rather than by the carefully chosen words they use to define themselves.
For instance, the administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson attempted to characterize itself with florid descriptions of his signature achievements in civil rights and social justice legislation, an idealistic political agenda branded with vaunting, and not necessarily inaccurate labels. We cannot fault such ambitious programs as the War on Poverty and The Great Society, but all pretense comes to a crashing end and his happy place in history took a back seat to the stain of his one and horrific misadventure, the war in Vietnam, a can that had been kicked down the road by two previous administrations, but an issue he chose to tackle in the worst manner possible, with a war that was never actually declared, but was viciously and violently waged for a decade, killing over 55,000 Americans and untold hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese.
His successor? Recent revelations disclose the fact that Richard Nixon sabotaged Johnson’s peace initiatives by brokering a secret deal with North Vietnam before he was President as he rode to victory on the phrase, “Peace with honor” which was, in retrospect, a monument to cynical mendacity. But then, Nixon was no stranger to the perversion of truth. In fact, he earned a second term on a symphony of “law and order” with horns and percussion, played with verve and passion to his beloved audience, “the silent majority” of Americans who were dismayed by political and social upheaval over the war that Nixon had prolonged with his deception. But no one quite imagined how cynical it might be for Nixon to run on a platform that invoked law and order until they learned that the thrust of his entire administration was marked with such incredible violations of law and disruption of order that his corruption and crimes eventually forced him to resign in disgrace. Only a pardon by the next and quickly forgotten President Ford kept him from serving a justified term in a Federal prison.
Jimmy Carter’s presidency is difficult to characterize, since an honest man is not generally as glib in the realm of self-aggrandizement as the average politician, so he was more often defined by his critics and particularly by his successor in rather vilifying and dismissive words. Nonetheless, Carter was possibly the most forward thinking President in terms of a national energy policy, a political agenda that recognized the growing dangers of indiscriminate and poorly regulated use of fossil fuels and the very real cost of dependence on foreign oil. But like Obama in his second term, however, Carter suffered from an animated opposition by a Republican-controlled Congress during his first term, a fact that essentially crippled many of his initiatives. The death blow to his administration was certainly not of his making… a hostage crisis in Iran following a popular Islamist revolt. The uprising was the result of an American led coup and regime change in the mid-1950s and the hatred of the revolution for the USA was fueled by subsequent, generous American support of an oppressive regime. The hostage crisis was such an embarrassment to the nation that someone had to take the blame. Carter became the perfect scapegoat. His campaign for a second term quite collapsed when our military attempted to rescue the hostages and failed, the result of a peculiar regional weather event and an unfortunate accident in the wake of it. Carter’s Republican opponent in the election, Ronald Reagan, took advantage of both the incident and the ongoing, ever-present embarrassment, the loss of national pride… and won handily.
Ronald Reagan? Where can I start? The apostle of “trickle down economics” who invoked an image of an old, disproved, and rationally absurd economic theory that favors corporations and the wealthy as “engines of the economy” declaring corporate success as “a rising tide that lifts all boats…” Riding this absurd metaphor like a boogey board, Reagan proceeded to dismantle America’s post-WWII prosperity by shifting the burden of all taxation to middle and lower class Americans… by destroying the influence of labor unions… by giving tax breaks to the wealthy… by reducing “unnecessary” programs of social welfare… and by de-regulating commerce… thus creating a new American aristocracy and initiating economic trends that have given us the greatest disparity in wealth and income since the Gilded Age. Yet, even today, both Democrats and Republicans invoke his style with reverence as some sort of political benchmark for the ages. Unfortunately, that benchmark proved to be built upon such unstable foundations that it became a formula for failure. It has been the cause of unprecedented economic disparity and its philosophy can do naught but foment social inequity, based as it is on a lie… but let’s move on.
The first President Bush, the product of a more florid era of political rhetoric, had a particular gift for the iconic phrase… with such poetic entries as “a thousand points of light” which program was, essentially, another way to give awards to rich people who have so much money they can spend a little bit of it on poor people. The theory is that philanthropy, the largesse of wealthy people can ultimately supplant the need for social welfare. But the phrase that actually got him elected “Read my lips…” when he declared “…no new taxes…” is the phrase that eventually brought him down in his attempt for a second term because reality forced his administration to reconsider and he… you guessed it… raised the tax rate.
Bill Clinton came in behind Bush on the merits of such sentiments as “It’s the economy, stupid.” Clinton “…didn’t inhale.” And, he “…never had sex with that woman.” In fact he was, as my sainted grandmother would put it, “…so full of it…” one has to wonder how he ever got away with as much as he did. I don’t know what to say about Clinton, since this Democratic president, though adorned with the mantle of a liberal freely given him by his peers in spite of his apparent and obvious predilections to conservatism, managed to move the Party of FDR and the New Deal into territory once held by Republican elites. How did he do it? Charm and charisma? The ability to smile and to tell us an absolute lie while doing the exact opposite of what he said? Perhaps, but his legacy is written in the growth of policies that imprisoned more non-violent offenders and for such interminable periods of time that their lives were essentially destroyed. Prison populations soared. The war on poverty was lost in the Clinton administration through “workfare” programs and tough, even brutal attitudes toward crime and punishment. And though his administration did more to oppress black people in America than was ever publicly acknowledged, his ability to play the saxophone and the audacity to wear sunglasses while doing so on television, earned him the erstwhile label, “America’s first black president.” Charming.
The second Bush, pictured here in proximity to the toxic Mr. Cheney, was chosen by the American Supreme Court rather than by the electorate… the result of difficult and obscene mismanagement of the election in the crucial State of Florida where Bush brother Jed was Governor. Little Georgie Bush had run on the notion of his Christianity against Gore, the Vice-President under Clinton. The sitting President’s support of Gore was more or less withheld, since Clinton’s sexual indiscretions had finally caught up with him and made him politically toxic. Bush was hardly charismatic, even a bit “unclever” when speaking in public and, for the life of me, I cannot remember much about his rhetoric on the run up to the election… though there was some talk about “compassionate conservatism” supposedly based upon the fact that Bush was a “born again” Christian. However… in America and, to my recollection and personal experience, compassionate Christian evangelicals tend to be a rather judgmental group, given more to compassion within their own ranks than toward the public at large… but that’s not relevant here, is it? Either way, following the 911 attacks, George H. W. Bush’s little boy, George was given unprecedented license by a too-generous and overly patriotic Congress and he used it to take America to war in Afghanistan to go after the Taliban, which harbored Al Qaeda, which was the group that planned the attack. Then, for reasons known only to God, the Holy Spirit and Dick Cheney, Bush decided we had to go to war with Iraq, which had no connection whatsoever to Al Qaeda or the attacks on 911. Following a subsequently relentless attack on Iraq, punctuated and propagandized with televised displays of “shock and awe” scorched earth military attacks… when Bush had utterly broken the governments and infrastructure of both Iraq and Afghanistan, such as it existed, he led America into a huge debt spiral from the cost of both wars and subsequent unaudited defense contracts which attempted to put the countries we had destroyed back together again. When he saw what he had done… and in spite of the huge national debt… Bush decided to give enormous tax breaks to America’s rich people because… well who the hell knows why… but his Presidency very nearly caused a second Great Depression… which it was, although nobody was willing to admit it, so we’ll pretend it was not a Great Depression, but a really bad recession… even though most Americans who weren’t rich have yet to recover what they lost, but the rich people got richer, and they own all the media, so… Anyway, we can’t really blame Little Boy Bush for the problem since, from what I hear, Dick Cheney was in charge, but hey…
Then came Obama… But let’s save that for next week when we will continue to deconstruct everyone’s favorite president.
Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
I hope you will become a regular reader and I heartily invite you to comment below. I love your feedback, even when it’s criticism. It makes all the trouble worthwhile and it keeps me honest.
Short answer? Absolutely.
Although it’s just an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while and never really considered it a personal priority, I’m actually getting serious and presently researching the possibilities… even looking into the actual costs involved in establishing a writers collective that would be centered around the production and publishing of a regional quarterly literary review and… possibly… an annual foray into book publishing… anthologies, perhaps, or even novels.
Logistical support for this venture would be limited, physically, to Northeast Ohio, specifically to the area in and around Cleveland and Akron, however, technology enables participation from virtually any location these days. Accordingly, if those who wish to be involved in the collective possess the necessary skill set and the equipment required, their location doesn’t really matter.
In a month or so, I will have the draft of a business plan that would summarize the scope of the project and provide an outline of the specific literary perspective for the quarterly journal.
If anyone is interested in getting involved, send me an email and I will put your name on a list to receive the prospectus when it’s ready. You need only give me your name and what manner and level of involvement you would consider (i.e. editor, columnist, essayist, writer, fiction or non-fiction, graphic arts, etc.)
I’m not looking for investors, but if you have a few million laying around and you don’t know what to do with it, you could consider underwriting the project and earn yourself the gratitude of the writers and artists who may decide to get involved and maybe even a full page dedication in the first issue, but hey… your name on page one and artistic gratitude, along with $5 might get you a fair cup of coffee and a donut… or maybe even an eclair, but not much more than that.
Anyway if you think you might be interested in getting involved with this project in any way at all… send your email to me at:
There’s no guarantee this thing will ever get off the ground, but if there is enough interest, it might be worth the effort. Of course, even if it did get underway, projects like this are a dime a dozen and they tend to fall flat more often than not, so there is that. But hey… if you believe in writing and the arts, what’s to lose?
From the Merriam Webster Dictionary online…
night letter (n): a telegram sent at night at a reduced rate for delivery the following morning
Back in the days when Western Union telegrams were a common method of communication across great distances, much of what needed to be said took more than the few words condensed and clipped into phrases that were applied to the text in order to save the sender money. The sender paid for the service at a rate of so many cents per word with a minimum, usually of nine to twelve words. These telegrams would be sent immediately and delivered by phone or by hand. When a customer wanted to send more than just a line or two, they could pay a cheaper rate per word, with a minimum of about 25 words. These longer, less expensive telegram were called Night Letters. They would be held overnight to be sent the following morning in the early hours when traffic on the wire was light and were delivered the following day.
Before I began writing full time and while I was working in the daytime, I wrote whenever I could, usually when my wife and children were sleeping, sometimes long into the night. It was difficult to write something like a novel and sometimes, when I was forced to work long hours in harsh physical conditions, I was too tired to take on a large project and wrote what could be called vignettes, short pieces that were complete and not reliant on sequential, periodic progression, not unlike the pieces we call flash or micro fiction today… vignettes that I sometimes referred to as night letters.
They kept me going, progressing as a writer, developing perspectives and a style that I would have lost had I entirely abandoned the idea of writing… the hope of becoming a writer… which is itself, these days, an abstract notion in terms of a profession. More of a calling now, than a career, since few can make a living at it, commercial success being no great measure of quality in literature, but of value beyond its artistic appeal. The art has taken a back seat to the value of writing as either a tool of influence in the marketing or political arena… or as one of many inputs to a cinematic product. Even literature for the sake of literature as art is ordered and licensed in a rigid, somewhat cloistered academic construct.
To be sure, I am glad that I kept the practice going throughout my life and, eventually, I enjoyed some small success in publishing shorter works in literary magazines worldwide and, today, in addition to ongoing efforts to succeed as a novelist, I have written many essays, composed in those hours while others are sleeping… night letters.
Beginning next week, I will attempt to produce one serious essay per week and post them on my web page. I’m calling them, Night Letters to America and invite you to read them and comment, as your feedback is helpful to me always. I will announce on both Facebook and Twitter when the series begins and whenever there is a new posting.
Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
If you’ve been reading here, you know that I have been writing a series of essays, titled Socialism, American Style, essays that are more of a voyage of discovery for me,,, an attempt to find a uniquely American approach to the concept of socialism. Although I’ve put the essays temporarily on hold, I have continued to work on the concept. last week, while doing some research and writing down my thoughts, I had an idea, something a little different, which may or may not be one of those big ideas you just happen to stumble upon like someone groping their way through the dark… a flash of light, maybe, a serendipitous thought that starts with a question…
In the United States, certain trends in the political realm have resulted in what can only be called a conservative bias in both political parties, marked by corporatism and autocratic tendencies, the result of influences that are subtle, even invisible to the electorate, but which lead to an untenable condition of economic and social inequality that feels as though we are going backwards, not forward into any recognizable semblance of a better world.
For instance, a firm cultural bias toward specialists, so-called “experts” has become increasingly evident in government. Technocrats, we call them, or we did at one time. Today? Their role is less visible, but their influence? More profound.
Both parties love them and employ them regularly in roles that often usurp those which our Constitution reserves to our elected representatives. They save legislators time and effort by providing their “expertise” in writing legislation, so our Senators and Representatives don’t have to do the work of research and needn’t try to understand the complexities involved. Unfortunately, these technocrats also bring their predilection for satisfying their industry’s own special interests and their corresponding professional biases to the task as well. The common welfare of the American people will always and thus be of little… if any… consideration for cause in the drafting of legislation or the writing of policies affecting the corresponding commercial interests of their unelected authors.
“What’s good for Goldman Sachs is good for America.”
Accordingly, we have people from the insurance industry composing legislation like the Affordable Care Act… lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry composing the language and provisions for Medicare Part D… or “experts” from the alumni of Goldman Sachs and other financial organization recruited by the Executive branch to write the policies by which the same institutions will be regulated.
Fox in the henhouse metaphors, if you will, are entirely relevant here.
So… if both political parties are thus corrupted, determined to serve the interests of commerce and corporations over the common welfare of the average American… and we, the people, are limited by tradition to only two relevant political parties… both of which are dominated by wealthy families, corporate donors, lobbyists and special interests, what is the answer to our dilemma?
Third parties have seldom been successful in modern times and efforts to reform both parties from within only seem to further advance the creep of autocracy in the inevitable reactionary blow-back. And the public is further frustrated in attempts at reform by very subtle campaigns of genetically modified “populist” movements influenced from abroad and from within… and, again, by profoundly powerful special interest groups with buckets of cash and opportunistic, amoral leadership. Witness the Tea Party.
So… here is the question I posed to myself last week:
If not a Third Party… what’s the answer?
Now? I think I have it… the answer. A new idea. A way forward where there seems… at least to me… to be none. A totally different approach and maybe even a unique solution. Now all I have to do is find a way to adequately communicate its construct. So… for now? I’m suspending the essays and working on what will probably be a project the size of a book that will attempt to offer a solution to our very present and frustrating political impasse.
Watch this space.
I watched and listened. This is both a report and an opinion…
It was enlightening to finally watch and listen to him today after two years of silence and to observe that Robert Mueller walks and speaks with an unexpected air of humility. For some reason, I expected more gravitas and the baritone certitude that some men in high office seem to exude… accordingly, his demeanor makes him more believable, the voice of an intelligent, reticent, and capable observer.
Three things he seemed especially focused upon that I could discern as important matters to relate were these:
1. Indictment of a sitting President was and is NOT allowed under DOJ guidelines and thus no indictment… nor even an accusation against the President was ever going to be part of the process or the report, but Mueller re-iterated that if the President could have been exonerated of wrongdoing through obstruction, the report would thus state, however it did state that he could NOT be thus exonerated.
2. “…the work (the Mueller Report) speaks for itself.”
3. “…there were multiple systematic efforts to interfere with our election.”
God only knows what the pundits will make of Mueller’s statements… I’ve more or less stopped listening, but the greatest take away can be summed up in the following three statements:
Read the Mueller Report.
Read the Mueller Report.
Read the Mueller Report.
When you do… and if you read it with an open mind and an understanding of the law, our Constitution, and the moral imperatives of governance… you will come to the logical conclusion that immediate impeachment of President Trump and all of those in government who have enabled him in his wrongdoing is not only justified, but essential to the preservation of our Republic.
I suppose the greater tragedy in events surrounding the Mueller report and the incredible maelstrom of misinformation that surrounds what may or may not be contained therein is that not only the American people, but such a large number of their representatives in Congress have not read it and spend more time demanding to know what is not included in the report than in actually discovering what is.
Read it for yourself and see if you do not agree with me when I say that “Even the redacted version presents as clear a case of obstruction of justice as any sentient human being needs to impeach the President. It only needs to be read.”
Read it and then contact your representatives and tell them that Trump must be impeached now… today.
Read it here: DOJ Mueller Report in .pdf file
You can view the press conference here: Mueller Press Conference 5/29/2019
For the purpose of clarity and for my own use in comprehending the content, I copied and pasted the text of the legislation for the Green New Deal (House Resolution 109) into an MSWord .doc file and reformatted the language in less daunting form so it can be read more easily (hopefully). It contains the same language, but in a smoother context, one that I find renders it less intimidating so I could actually make sense of it.
I thought I would pass it on to you, so hopefully you’ll take the time to read it. Granted, it’s not much in the headlines these days, given the feud and fuss over the de-fanged and blacked-out Mueller Report, which, it turns out, is quite an indictment of Trump as it is… but rest assured, the people who rolled out the Green New Deal are not about to give up and neither should you. The problems it points out are not going to vanish and the solutions it presents are bold, viable, and absolutely necessary for the future of us all.
I’ve included links to both the original text and my own format below:
If you like to read legislative text in the raw, (some people are like that) go here:
But if you are legislatively challenged and want to read the MSWord outline I created for easier reading, go here:
Click here to read the Green New Deal in plain English format
Feel free to copy it and pass it on to anyone who might benefit. The more people who are aware of what it actually says, the less chance there is that Koch and Exxon funded think-tanks can fool us by trying to put out disinformation.
I’ll be writing more about it in the future, but I thought that this profoundly interesting and even engaging introduction to the content of the program might be worth a look:
Senator Elizabeth Warren is calling aloud for impeachment and a Republican group is buying advertisements on Fox that call for accountability. The media, of course, is aflame with indignation… somewhat slow to arise, but welcome nonetheless. How sad that it took so long for the “I” word to surface with any substance behind it, if indeed, the mob sounds and pitchforks can be considered substance, Yet, even now, before any of these leaders have surely had sufficient time to read, much less digest the entire Mueller report… and before they have seen the likely most damaging information that the frog-faced Trump-friendly philistine Barr has seen fit to withhold from intelligent eyes, they are ready now, after more than two years of obvious and in-your-face criminality and corruption, to finally call up the posse, to saddle up and ride. Sad that it took so long for our Congress to finally grow a spine.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy they’re so motivated now, dismayed perhaps… knowing that such lynch mobs sometimes lose their steam… knowing that the courts could now become the new and crippling blockades to action… knowing that the candidates and the righteously indignant whoevers will then point to and blame the judiciary as the new stumbling block to justice… knowing that this is but the beginning, so far from the end of it… assuming that Trump is no Nixon, having neither the wit nor the will to resign, but will fight this to the bitter end.
In the meantime, he will continue to fragment and dismantle what remains of our Federal government, a task that pleases many of those who now decry and defame him with newfound zeal for integrity, born-again passion for justice. And by the time the mob starts to gather, it’s not really about integrity or courage… is it? Life goes on and Pence is waiting in the wings. The cure could be worse than the cancer.
Me? I wanted the man impeached from day one, but I’m still reading the Mueller report and I don’t have a staff to do all the reading and write me a summary… and I never really trusted the media, so I’ll get back to you later with the substantive stuff.
For now? Save me at least one very big stone that I may guiltless in good conscience cast with all righteous indignation and wrath.
In a 60 Minute interview that aired on Sunday last, CNBC reports that Nancy Pelosi said, “I do reject socialism. If people have that view, that’s their view. That is not the view of the Democratic Party.” All due respect to Nancy Pelosi, de facto leader of the party in minority that ascended once again to control at least the House, sailing into control on the winds that filled their sails… winds of change that emanated from progressive Democrats and other activists within her party determined to reverse the trends of economic inequality, corporate control of politics, and right wing hegemony, including candidates who were willing to openly identify themselves as democratic socialists… but, perhaps she’s not listening, or even knows the electorate as well as she believes.
It’s obvious, however, that the Democratic Party, the same Party that gave America its longest running, wildly popular President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, is no longer the party of the New Deal, nor the kind of party that could so embrace the common good of all its members, giving Americans a legislative agenda that offered us Social Security, the WPA, the FDIC, the National Labor Relations Board, the Glass–Steagall Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Tennessee Valley Authority and countless other bold social programs designed to lift our nation up from the economic collapse in 1929 that was caused by the unparalleled greed of irresponsible bankers, financiers, and monopolistic industrialists. These programs were vilified by conservatives in their day as a dangerously anti-American socialist agenda which, even in the current conservative climate, are today accepted as inevitable, necessary, beneficial programs that are every bit as American as Mom, the flag, and butter crusted, cinnamon infused, and sugar topped, sweet apple pie.
Nonetheless, and for years now, particularly during the past four decades… since conservatives in both parties canonized Ronald Reagan and began to sing his profane little tune of corporate welfare and the mythology of trickle down economics, Democrats have moved increasingly to the right with their economic policies, suffering a major tectonic shift, claiming territory once held entirely by Republicans, during the Clinton administration.
To be sure, these neo-liberal Democrats retained those “radical” ideas that were inviolable in the minds of most Democrats, like equal “opportunity”, abortion rights, women’s rights, and other fashionable causes célèbres that identified them with a liberal brand, but only in so far as they did not compete with a conservative economic agenda that favored the heavy corporate donors who were so enamored of Clintonian Democracy. These neo-liberal disciples of the apostle Billary now control the DNC and operate the strings of the corporate media like puppet masters in a Punch and Judy drama in which they assume the role of “Not Trump” as opposed to, say, the Party of Economic and Social Reform. So… where does that leave the progressives in the Party?
What does that bode for the future, when the leadership of the Democratic Party has no desire to aid or entertain the “green dream” of so many of its younger membership, now clearly the more active, not really interested in neo-liberal politicians who pat them on the head and tell them to get in line and accept the same sort of incrementalism and corporatist theories that have made paupers of the majority of working Americans. Big labor pays Nancy’s freight while corporations spend millions in an effort to make unions illegal. And our college-educated minority? They are, too many of them, in debt and in servitude to their student loans for life… like most Americans who try to get ahead… saddled with crippling debt and no clear path to the elusive, if not mythic, American Dream. Our aged are in danger of being priced out of medical care, in spite of Medicare… and they will be for the unforeseeable, and for some, very short future… for as long as pharmaceutical companies act like mafiosi with medications that should be as inexpensive as clean water, which is less expensive and much less clean than it was forty years ago… and in some areas? Toxic. Does any of this sound familiar?
But why talk about distressed populations? They were abandoned long ago for lack of political clout, worthy now of little more than lip service. Nancy Pelosi says in effect, if not with the words, “Let them eat cake.” Does she imagine herself so correct that she no longer listens? It’s time for the Party of FDR to go back to its roots. Let’s hope that it’s not too late. If the Democratic Party of today seems impotent now in relation to Trump? Where will they stand next year when they demand more loyalty of the electorate than they’ve ever given us in return.
“As an American citizen of German birth I finally testify that I am painfully familiar with certain political trends. Spiritual intolerance, political inquisitions, and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged ‘state of emergency.’ … That is how it started in Germany.” Thomas Mann in response to accusations by the House Un-American Activities Committee that he was a communist.
The novelist who gave us a classic novel, The Magic Mountain, was an early and fierce critic of Adolf Hitler and the poisonous culture of the Nazis. Because of his public, even fearless words against them, he was forced to flee his native Germany in 1933, eventually finding refuge in the United States where he became a citizen in 1944. Yet, even in America, he found himself similarly threatened and hounded by the forces of McCarthyism as he publicly protested and wrote against the oppression of American writers and intellectuals during the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee hearings that amounted to nothing less than fear mongering persecution, eventually leading to blacklisting and even to prison sentences as in the case of the Hollywood Ten. As a result of his public criticism of yet another fascist movement, he was finally forced to leave the U.S. and return to Europe.
The McCarthy era was a low point in American history, proving beyond doubt that the fears of those Americans like Sinclair Lewis, who in 1935 imagined the seed of fascism could find fertile soil in the American psyche, were more than prophetic, The House Un-American Activities Committee and the later McCarthy hearings in the Senate demonstrated that “it can happen here” and it did to the extent that the foundations of intellectual oppression and propagation of fear was laid. All that was lacking was the proper demagogue, a role that McCarthy tried desperately to fill. Thankfully he was thwarted. The saving graces of our nation at the time were the decency and strength of its leadership, as exemplified in people like attorney Joseph Welch who challenged McCarthy at the Army hearings, and the power of the free press, the courage of journalists like Edward R. Murrow. The eventual shaming of the demagogues who very nearly destroyed the character and intent of our Constitution was inevitable, but not before they exacted a terrible price on their victims, literally destroying the reputations and careers of thousands of people on the basis of lies and baseless accusation, creating an environment of fear and mistrust.
All of that seems now to have returned and we are once again faced with the ugly specter of fascist intent and unprecedented demagoguery in the person of Donald Trump. Time and again, this amoral, despotic individual has proven himself invulnerable to every criticism, moving by incremental steps toward autocracy by pushing against the moral and institutional constraints that we always believed were inviolable. He toys with Congress, attacks our courts, vilifies his critics, challenges and ruthlessly mocks the authority of anyone in our government who tries to oppose him.
On any given day, one could point to any one of a dozen of his actions as a dangerous precedent, the sort of behavior that would eventually bring down any previous politician… and yet, it almost appears as if he draws strength from every cry of “foul” that comes his way. What is it that makes this man invulnerable?
Has he so wearied his critics with his lack of shame that they simply give up in frustration? We know well enough that for all his faults, his enablers are willing to forego any appearance of personal integrity for the rewards they receive when he satisfies their corrupt intent, giving them the license they’ve always craved in pursuit of autocracy. But now, even his greatest critics within the government seem impotent, utterly restrained from meaningful action against him.
Is it possible that they too see opportunity in the phenomena he’s unleashed? Are they afraid of him? Or merely and similarly as jaded as his enablers. The answers may not come from a normal perspective. Perhaps they will come from a parallax view, an unpopular and skewed perspective from the fringes of our society, from a perspective that may no longer exist in our contemporary culture. Perhaps it will come from the distance, from the past, from the echoes of what we once held dear but seem, somehow, to have lost.
Where is our Sinclair Lewis?
Where is our Thomas Mann?
Where is our Joseph Welch?
Where is our Edward R. Murrow?
Or have we become the very force that feeds the beast we fear, if not through outright support, then with silent acquiescence? Is this present circumstance the sum of our failures, the substance of our corruption as a nation? If we hope to survive, we’d better find out just what it is we have lost and regain it. And soon.
Time is not our friend.