Friday, September 28, 2018

If You're Going to Santa Cruz

I left my home and family two days ago in Portland, Oregon to go on tour for six weeks around the US and Europe. The first gig on the tour after leaving home was in Santa Cruz, California.

In Portland, there is a constant, simmering feeling of tension in the city that I think is mostly due to the increasing divide between rich and poor, all the luxury apartments being built all over the city, all the working class people being evicted from their homes and pitched out into the streets, or more often into their cars. To live, in their cars, or in shelters. Or tents.

But if the tension is simmering in Portland, in much of California it's more of a rolling boil. I don't know if it's a coincidence, but Santa Cruz was the epicenter of the earthquake in 1994, and it appears to me that it may be the epicenter of the class war that is raging in the state of California. If you can call a one-sided war upon the poor a war, anyway.

Before I had been in Santa Cruz for an hour, I had seen five different cases of police harassing people, most of whom appeared to be homeless people of all ages. The downtown was even more unrecognizable than it became after being rebuilt following the earthquake – I had spent lots of time in Santa Cruz both before and after that. The shops were even gaudier than they had been, more expensive and inaccessible to normal people than ever.

I saw the statue of Utah Phillips' old friend, Tom Scribner, playing his musical saw. Tom would never be able to afford to live in Santa Cruz today, and if he played his saw on the streets these days he'd surely be arrested, like so many other people have been.

The organizer of my gig last night, Food Not Bombs co-founder, Keith McHenry, has been arrested in Santa Cruz many times for crimes related to feeding hungry people. He's been arrested on similar charges all over the US – especially in California.

Last night I thought I'd go to the place where the gig was going to be happening, the Louden Nelson Community Center, and answer some emails and such for an hour before it was time to start setting up for the show. The community center is run by the local Parks and Rec. It was open, staffed, and mostly empty. There's an area across from the front desk with tables and chairs that were completely unoccupied. I sat down, opened my laptop and got to work.

What happened next was a nice, apologetic woman approached me after I had been working for 15 minutes, and informed me that no one is allowed to be in the community center for more than 15 minutes unless they're there for an event. I asked if I could go into the room where the show would be happening and work there, since it was empty. No, she said, I had to leave the building.

Yesterday, at the age of 51, having done over 3,000 gigs in 25 countries over the course of 21 years of touring, I was kicked out of a building for the first time in my life. This happened in Santa Cruz, California, and I doubt I'll ever forget the experience as long as I live. I have already written the musician's union to recommend the venue be blacklisted until they reopen their bathrooms to the public and reopen their public spaces to the public as well. Whether that public has been priced out of the housing market or not.

As I was in the middle of starting to record this podcast I got a message from Keith McHenry. Apparently the staff at the Louden Nelson Community Center have now told him that Food Not Bombs will have to pay twice the rental fee that had previously been understood, on the basis that their investigation of Food Not Bombs shows that the organization is registered in New Mexico – despite the fact that Keith lives in Santa Cruz and Food Not Bombs cooks food in a commercial kitchen and feeds people in Santa Cruz every day.

If You're Going to Santa Cruz

If you're going to Santa Cruz, you can put flowers in your hair
But don't sit down on a bench for 16 minutes while you're there
Don't try to use the toilet at the public library
Or at the so-called community center, or you will quickly see
That the laid-back surfer vibe is just a very thin veneer
To hide a playground for the rich, where the poor all live in fear
Fear of the next eviction – between the things that they must choose
Between eating or feeding the landlord in the town of Santa Cruz

If you're going to Santa Cruz, don't play music in the street
By the statue of Tom Scribner, where the anarchists used to meet
Back in the days when anarchists could afford to exist
Anywhere near the coastline that the red sun kissed
The city is a police state – complete with microbreweries
But you better leave by nightfall if you're not a Google employee
If you like to travel here's some advice you can use
Beware the bourgeois town they call Santa Cruz

If you're going to Santa Cruz, you'd best have lots of green
And I'm not talking about cannabis, you know what I mean
I'm talking about money – the city reeks of dollar bills
You can see it on the lawn signs beneath the window sills
Vote no on Measure M, all the developers say
Because a rent control board would just get in the way
Of profits – because that's all there is to lose
If the rich don't get their way in the town of Santa Cruz

This has been another episode of This Week with David Rovics, which is available wherever you get your podcasts.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Death in Hambach Forest

Last Wednesday a young journalist named Steffen Meyn fell through a little bridge connecting the canopies of two trees, and he died of his injuries. Most people will probably never know the name Steffen Meyn, or Hambach Forest, and if they do, it will be from a some 30-second news story on TV that will provide no useful context.

A collection of people have been trying for the past six years to prevent the last remaining trees of the Hambach Forest from being logged. I've been there many times, to entertain the troops. The forest has been steadily reduced year after year since 1978 in order for a giant energy company to mine the lignite coal underneath it. For six years now, local people and others from around Germany and elsewhere in the world have been forming encampments within remaining areas of forestland. The treesits made of recycled materials, climbing ropes, and zip lines are familiar sights for anyone who has been involved with forest defense in North America and many other parts of the world.

And every year, the police raid the encampments to clear them of people and destroy everyone's belongings – also something very familiar to people conducting such actions in other parts of the world. What has happened thus far every time the police destroy a camp is people set up another one -- in the next area of the forest that's going to be cleared for the next round of logging and mining to take place, in what is Europe's single biggest coal mine.

The protectors of the Hambach Forest released a short statement after Steffen Meyn fell to his death. In it, they immediately put his death into a global context, stating that Steffen was the 67th person in the world to die in 2018 in defense of the environment. They linked to a piece in the Guardian about the first 66 who died.

Many of those 66 deaths involved people the media might dub “environmental activists” who were very directly killed by police or by armed thugs employed by an energy company.

While Steffen Meyn's death may not have been as direct as that, he absolutely belongs in this list of the slain. For anyone who has been involved on the ground in a campaign like the defense of Hambach Forest, this is obvious. But for those who haven't seen up close what goes in, here's the thing:

There is a sort of escalation of tactics that takes place during a police raid. At each point along the way, both sides have decisions to make. Those trying to protect the trees have to constantly re-evaluate their current predicament and decide what risks they're now willing to take to save the trees they're occupying. At each point, the police, or at least their commanding officer, has to constantly re-evaluate the situation in terms of how much they're willing to risk the lives of the forest protectors in order to accomplish their goal of getting the people out of the trees.

This is not a game, and anyone engaging in civil disobedience of this kind knows that, especially if they've ever done it before. It's often referred to by advocates as “nonviolent civil disobedience,” but the police around the world are generally unaware of the first word in that phrase, and people committing nonviolent civil disobedience actions around the world are routinely beaten or otherwise physically mistreated by police. This is true throughout the western world, without exception – including in Scandinavia, in case you're wondering.

When people lock themselves onto trees, they know the police will try to remove them. When the police try to remove them, they know they are risking the lives and physical safety of the people in the trees. When the police take away ropes and other climbing gear, they know they are escalating the situation by doing so. When folks in the trees refuse to comply with the police despite the fact that their climbing gear has been confiscated, they know they're now taking an increased risk.

In one of Steffen's final tweets, he mentioned that there is no police tape in the canopies. He couldn't be on the ground doing his job as a journalist to document what was happening at the forest with police tape everywhere saying it was a closed area that no one could enter unless they were a cop. He chose, under the circumstances, to do his job from twenty meters up.

Steffen Meyn was not shot. He fell from a tree and died. For the people who loved him, this distinction is probably unimportant.

Hambach Forest

Between Aachen and Cologne you will not see a sign
To indicate you're passing Europe's biggest lignite mine
But if you get off the Autobahn, walk across the forest floor
You'll come upon a moonscape where there are no trees anymore
There were hardwoods here for miles all around
For a thousand years it was common ground
But what was once the Burgerwald is now a massive hole
With giant diggers digging up the coal

In the Hambach Forest

What was once held in common in the 1970's
Was given away to the energy company
Where once upon a time they gathered nuts and firewood
Now 10% remains of the trees that once stood
You can meet the neighbors who recall the days
When they played among the trees before they were taken away
Finally some of them began to organize
They couldn't just watch as the last tree dies 

In the Hambach Forest 

People came from all over to shut down the machines
They built barricades and treesits and tried many different means
To resist the corporation, to resist the riot cops
To try to do the things they could to make it stop
With each passing year, with each new camp people made
More treehouses destroyed, another flood-lit, night-time raid
More confiscated climbing gear – in conditions such as these
It was just a matter of time before someone fell from the trees

In the Hambach Forest 

Refugees In The Family

I heard the historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz say recently that nationalism in the US is rooted in militarism, and always has been. In fact I had just heard her say that on a podcast I was listening to, just before I pulled off the highway and read a text from my daughter. She was at a street fair in the allegedly progressive city of Portland, where we live. The text contained a picture, the back of a muscular white man with a t-shirt that featured a huge US flag along with the words, “if you don't like this flag then I'll help you pack.”

I don't believe in freedom of hate speech, or in the idea that such nationalist thugs should be allowed to terrorize our communities unchallenged. There are many neighborhoods I'm familiar with where someone sporting a shirt like that would not make it very far without facing consequences from the locals. The neighborhood this man was walking through, in fact, used to be one of them. But gentrification has changed that. The autonomous sorts who used to populate the neighborhood and set a solidly antifascist tone have mostly been priced out. The hipsters apparently have more of a “live and let live” attitude. They're very tolerant.

I'm not, but as I slowly regained my senses, about 24 hours after seeing that picture, I started giving a little more thought to what might have made this man the idiot he obviously is today. What if, instead of spending his youth getting indoctrinated by the Oregon public school system's spewage about the brave pioneers who settled and tamed this wild land, and then instead of spending his adulthood consuming lies from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, he had learned about his own family's actual history.

What if he knew that he, like most white people in the US, is most likely descended from European refugees. What if he knew that most of the Europeans who came to the US came during periods of war and hunger, or because they were fleeing persecution from dictators or colonial masters. Or because they were fleeing genocide.

As with I would guess most of the people listening to my voice right now, if this man isn't descended from blueblooded religious zealots from England who came over during the 17th century, he's probably descended from people who came later than that. Maybe he's descended from someone among the one-half of Norwegians who fled Norway during the 19th century, or the one-half of Ireland who emptied out of the country during the famine, or the millions of Germans, French, Italians, or Hungarians who came during the period before, during and after the massive, bloody, Europe-wide worker and peasant uprisings of the 1840's.

What if he had some kind of ancestral memory of, who knows, a British officer with a Union Jack telling his great grandfather to love it or leave Ireland? Or perhaps it was the distant relative who had to choose between paying rent to the landlord on his failing farm in Norway, or feeding his family. And then the landlord came and said, “you can always go to America.” If he knew his family history was more likely something along those lines than anything else, what would he think then of the immigrants in his midst, such as my wife standing behind him with my daughter, taking that picture.

My Great Grandparents
My great grandparents were refugees
That should be a normal thing to say
I was born in New York City
My people came from far away
They fled the generals and dictators
The warlords of Moscow and Budapest
You could be conscripted for the rest of your life
Or you could head west

My great great grandparents were refugees, too
Just north and west of Brittany
Farmers in the hills somewhere 
On the starving side of the Irish Sea
They fled their colonial torturers 
They fled starvation, slavery
They fled across the Atlantic 
Along with millions of other refugees

My great grandparents were refugees 
But getting to the other side
Took such a toll it seems 
That my great grandfather died
So when his son was a little kid 
He grew up without a dad
And that's typical of the hard life 
So many other refugees had

My great grandparents were refugees 
Let me tell you what that means
They were escaping war-torn lands 
Ruled by tyrants, kings and queens
They did not come seeking fortune 
They were not pioneers
Leaving home, their hearts were broken
And all their cries fell on deaf ears

My great grandparents were refugees 
No one taught me that in school
It's dangerous information 
In the old game of divide and rule
My name is David Rovics 
And I know who my people are
They're on that raft upon the ocean 
They're in the trunk of that car

My great grandparents were refugees
That should be a normal thing to say
I was born in New York City
My people came from far away 

Remembering Occupy Wall Street

On September 17th, 2011, I was in New York City, in Zuccotti Park. I had heard about the protests earlier, when they were in their planning stages. I don't have the resources to just stop everything and go join a protest that crops up somewhere, like, say, in Tunisia or Wisconsin – I couldn't afford to make it to either of those. But Occupy Wall Street was, conveniently enough, planned months in advance by friends of mine who alerted me to their plans. So I made sure to book a gig in New York City for the night before, also months in advance, so I could be sure to make it to the protest.

I had been to protests on Wall Street before. As I headed from Brooklyn to Manhattan that morning, I thought about one I remembered from May 1st, 2000. On that day, thousands of folks, mostly from Mexico and Central America, marched through Manhattan, along with an approximately equal number of riot police, who lined the route of the march on motorcycles, looking very menacing the whole time, towering a full head above most of the relatively short people marching.

It was only months after the Seattle police had been taken by surprise at the WTO protests there, and police departments throughout the US at the time were taking no chances. The NYPD was out in force, not only “escorting” the marchers at a ratio of about 1-to-1, but they also had riot cops deployed at every Starbucks and McDonald's throughout lower Manhattan, as well as in front of the World Trade Center, which seemed especially preposterous in retrospect.

The May Day march ended around Wall Street. An anarchist group had put up a website saying that they were going to shut down Wall Street at the end of the May Day march. That appeared to be the extent of the organizing involved with the effort, and the 5,000 riot cops did not have much problem keeping Wall Street safe from the 200 or so anarchists who showed up for the ostensible shutting down of Wall Street. Bizarrely, in anticipation of our little protest, the NYPD had already shut down Wall Street for the afternoon – not just Wall Street, but a huge number of city blocks in every direction surrounding it, creating even more traffic chaos than usual in lower Manhattan. The riot police were quite literally tripping over themselves and their motorcycles, often filling streets in such numbers that they were boxing themselves in.

These were the memories I was having as I arrived at Zuccotti Park in 2011. The scene was not dissimilar from what I remembered. A couple hundred mostly white young people, similar to the couple hundred folks who were prepared to commit civil disobedience on the evening of May 1st, 2000. Like the ones in 2000, the folks in the park in 2011 were far too few to even attempt any kind of shutdown of Wall Street. And as in 2000, the NYPD soon began to brutalize people, which is what they do, in order to keep what they consider to be “law and order.”

The difference this time was that people came back the next day. And the next. And the next. And soon the protest camps starting cropping up all over the country and the world. And, unlike during the anti-capitalist movement 11 years earlier, this time the media was covering it.

As the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City morphed unexpectedly into a national and then an international movement, during the first couple weeks of a concert tour of the US and Canada I had booked months earlier that just happened to coincide perfectly with it, I wrote this song, which I had the distinct pleasure of singing at impromptu concerts in thirty different encampments in different states and provinces, before I lost count.

Occupy Wall Street
Because this is where they buy the politicians
Because this is where power has its seat
Because ninety-nine percent of us are suffering
At the mercy of the madmen on this street
Because all of us are victims of class warfare
Being waged on us by the one percent
Because these greedy banksters rob the country
Leaving us without the means to pay the rent

Because both my parents lost their savings
Because I have never opened an account
Because the interest on my credit card just doubled
And now I can't pay the minimum amount
Because these budget cuts are just immoral
With our schools as overcrowded as they are
Because there are no buses where I live
But I can't afford to drive a car

We're gonna stay right here 

Because it has been demonstrated amply
That the winners are the ones who stick around
Because this world should belong to everyone
Not just the banksters who would smash it to the ground
Because we've noticed voting doesn't change things
When the politicians are mostly millionaires
Because we're learning how to stand up like Tunisians
Like they did in Tahrir Square

We're gonna stay right here 

Because corporations are not people
And we can't just let them choose
Because if we leave our fate to them
Then all of us will surely lose
Because the climate clock is ticking
And we can't just leave our world behind
Because corporate rule isn't working
And it's time for humans' hearts and minds

We're gonna stay right here 

Santiago, Scotland

I'm pretty sure I don't need to inform any regular listeners of this show that a fascist military general named Augusto Pinochet launched a coup against the popular socialist government of Salvador Allende on September 11th, 1973. I probably don't need to remind you that many of the soldiers who took part in the coup were trained in torture techniques by the US military, or that the coup involved active CIA participation and had the support of the US government at the very highest level.

Many people may be aware of some of the things that happened next – the thousands killed, the many more thousands tortured and imprisoned, the hundreds of thousands of refugees who got asylum in Sweden, Germany, Mexico and elsewhere, the Allende official assassinated in Washington, DC, the close relationship between General Pinochet, Ronald Reagan, and The Other Leader of the Free World, Margaret Thatcher.

Among the people of the world, there was widespread opposition to the coup in Chile and its CIA sponsors. Opposition to the generals and support for the Chilean people took many forms in different places. One of the lesser-known forms that solidarity took occurred in the town of East Kilbride in Scotland.

East Kilbride

Jet fighters bombed the palace, we all watched it on TV
The 11th of September, 1973
All across the world people cried in vain
As we heard stories of the people being tortured and slain
Stories of the workers, shop stewards and the rest
Being slaughtered at the new dictator's behest
Labor groups condemned it, said we were on the workers' side
Including all the engineers of East Kilbride

People organized a boycott of General Pinochet
Who had overthrown Allende with a Hawker Hunter jet
Then a few months later, March of '74
Bob Fulton came to work at the Rolls Royce factory floor
He looked at the orders that had come in that day
And found crates with jet engines from Chile
Jet engines from the Air Force across the ocean wide
Sent to be repaired in East Kilbride

It didn't take a minute for Fulton and his mates
To come to the decision that they would not touch these crates
Soon four thousand Rolls Royce workers voted they agreed
To stand with the Chileans in their hour of need
Management decried them, the Tories screamed and cussed
But the Hawker Hunter engines were left to sit and rust
Nowhere else on Earth were workers qualified
To repair the engines sitting there in East Kilbride

It's often hard to know if you've changed anything a whit
But decades later a Chilean general would admit
For a time in Santiago there were no fighters in the sky
Because the whole Chilean Air Force had not one jet that could fly
They may not have changed the world, this group of union engineers
But these crates of metal sat corroding for four years
So here's to British labor, how for four years it tried
To do what could be done from East Kilbride

Childhood Separations

AP is reporting that several of the children who were separated from their parents by immigration authorities on the US-Mexico border have since been sexually abused by their captors.

Since before its inception as a nation, going back to the days when it was a colony of settler-subjects rather than a nation of “revolutionary” settlers, the US was a very welcoming place for all White Anglo Saxon Protestants of the correct denomination of protestantism. The best thing that can be said about US immigration policy is that after centuries of discrimination against anyone who wasn't a WASP, by 1944 it truly became a place welcoming of all immigrants, as long as they were from Europe.

The idea that the US is a rainbow nation of immigrants and freed slaves and all kinds of other people who now are “Americans” and feel “American” and have equal opportunity is one that largely originates from propaganda written by fine upstanding communists and other folks working for the US State Department during the Second World War. It was useful at the time for defeating fascism and facilitating a sense of togetherness, but it had no basis in historical reality and many of the people writing this stuff were well aware of that fact.

But the World War II propaganda was powerful stuff and it made its way into all of our history books, and in our wild fantasies, in the crumbling schools with their simplistic, patriotic textbooks we are a post-racial, post-xenophobia, post-class melting pot nation full of aspiring Pilgrims and Pioneers.

Not a country like Australia or South Africa -- a land of settler-colonialism with varying degrees of institutionalized racism against anyone with the wrong background, where a tiny elite of real estate speculators that included every one of the so-called “Founding Fathers” have practiced divide and conquer politics on their largely impoverished subjects since the first moment half-dead English servants set their diseased feet upon the ground in what eventually became known as the state of Virginia.

And as Barack Obama and George W Bush lament the passing of Senator John McCain and Bush makes inferences about his and McCain's comparatively less sadistic immigration policies, let's remember that the United States has never been the “asylum for liberty for all mankind” that the English writer, Thomas Paine, dreamed about.

If we ever hope the US might become an actual asylum for liberty for all people, we can start by recognizing our history, up to and including the present moment. The Indian schools only began to close their doors in the 1970's. Many of the people who kidnapped and tortured Indian children at these so-called schools are still alive today, living in a suburb near you. Ask them if the US is a place that kidnaps and sexually abuses children. Ask any Indian, especially my age or older.

And as for immigrants, if you, like me, are descended from those immigrants who were allowed to become citizens of this country, then you are likely descended from the types of Europeans who were considered to be racially inferior and were treated as such. My immigrant ancestors were from the places in Europe where when they got here, the work available to them involved both children and women working in the textile, breathing dust all day, and dying of blacklung sometime in their twenties, typically.

That's the United States that I come from. If you want to attempt to develop a solid grip on the United States that John McCain, George W Bush and Barack Obama come from, go visit Disneyland, watch some good World War II propaganda reels. In the meantime, here's a song about reality.

She left late at night out of sight of the gangs
The most violent place in the West
Just the clothes on her back to escape the attack
With one child held to her breast
For weeks they would go through Mexico
Where Rosita and so many others
Would learn too late that the United States
Takes babies away from their mothers

When Rosita was younger the future looked brighter
But then came 2009
A junta, a coup, and prospects were few
As the bodies were stacked up in lines
She tried to stay but there was no way
When they kidnapped and tortured her brother
So she got to the border where they're following orders
To take babies away from their mothers

She thought she might stay in Monterrey
But the gunmen were always so near
She knew she had to push on, make it to Houston
Where she might live a life without fear
Their journey was done – Rosita, her son
At the border they held one another
Oh, how he wailed as they took her to jail
And tore him from the arms of his mother

She left late at night out of sight of the gangs
The most violent place in the West
Just the clothes on her back to escape the attack
With one child held to her breast 

Remembering Hamlet

The Reagan-Bush years of budget-cutting and government deregulation in the 1980's in the US effectively meant that if there were to be serious workplace safety standards upheld in any particular US state, enforcement of such standards would not be coming from the federal authorities. Unfortunately, they would not be coming from the regulatory authorities in North Carolina, either, whose budget was sufficient to inspect a workplace in the state about once every couple of decades.

Added to the problem of no regulatory oversight, North Carolina had become a so-called “right to work” state – a state with laws designed to make union organizing extremely difficult if not impossible. The 25 workers who died in the fire at the Tyson Chicken plant in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 3rd, 1991 were mostly Black women. They had no union representation, and neither state nor federal authorities had ever exhibited the slightest concern for their well-being. Thus, it was left to the factory manager and his employer, the uber-capitalist Tyson Corporation, to care about their employees.

They didn't. When the badly-maintained equipment malfunctioned and a ruptured hose resulted in burning, high-speed oil being fired into the air around the workers, they were unable to escape the building because the manager had locked the emergency exit doors out of concern for employee theft. The workers were paid so badly, you see, that stealing chickens to feed their hungry families might not seem like such an outrageous idea.

This manager and his negligent, cost-cutting, profit-obsessed mega-corporation employer condemned these people to death that day. He ultimately did some time in prison. The corporation made billions.

For those many people among the leadership of both the Democratic and Republican parties today who have a sort of religious adherence to the principle that cutting regulation will “improve the economy,” remember what that means. It means corporations like Tyson make billions, and poor, underpaid, non-unionized workers burn.

Sometimes I Walk the Aisles
Sometimes I walk the aisles of the grocery store
And I think about a day some 20 years before
Where this chicken came from, south of the Mason Dixon Line
The Imperial Foods factory in Hamlet, Caroline
The third day of September, 1991
Where for so many good people was the day their race was run

Sometimes I walk the aisles and I can hear the screams
Of those blasted by hot oil when old hose ruptured at the seams
Of those blasted by hot oil when the fireball arose
While more oil fueled the fire being blasted from the hose
More oil fueled the fire, the room filled up with black smoke
When those who weren't already dead then began to choke

Sometimes I walk the aisles, I think about the padlocks
On the fire doors, barred and blocked
The owner didn't want his workers stealing chickens out the back
It's a “right to work” state – they complain, they get the sack
So Tyson saved some money and workers lost their lives
Once the fire was put out the number dead was 25

Sometimes I walk the aisles and somehow feel ashamed
11 years of operation, inspectors never came
Inspectors never came, never came to look
To see if they did anything according to the book
Sometimes I walk the aisles and I wonder to myself
How many people died to put these nuggets on the shelf 

Sometimes I walk the aisles

John McCain

Senator John McCain is dead. The outpouring of warm sentiments for this man coming from across the political spectrum has been of the gushing variety – at least in terms of the very narrow band of political thought represented by electoral politics in the US and some other countries. The focus is on his years of captivity in Vietnam, his support for campaign finance reform, his many visits to US troops overseas, and the very occasional moments where he disagreed in a serious way with his party's leadership, which, in his own mind at least, earned him his beloved title of “maverick.”

Far less attention is paid to the fact that prior to his years of captivity, he had been dropping bombs on innocent civilians from tens of thousands of feet in the air. Before he became an advocate for campaign finance reform he was caught up in a corruption scandal that would at the very least have ruined the careers of less well-connected politicians. When he visited US troops overseas, the reason they were there in the first place, killing people and being killed themselves, was because of Senator McCain's enthusiastic support for every US imperialist venture that was launched by a US president – of either party. So as a war-monger he was very bipartisan, as is most of the Congress throughout the vast majority of US history, very much including recent history.

The idea that this man should be celebrated for his refusal to join the rest of his party in completely killing off the Affordable Care Act only makes sense in some kind of Disnified version of reality. Because the widespread poverty and lack of affordable healthcare that still defines much of the United States in 2018 is a very direct consequence of the economic policies and military spending that John McCain voted for unwaveringly, which have brought out country to the teetering edge it's on today.

I have written a musical appreciation of the Senator which I'll share with you now.

Ballad of John McCain
John McCain, John McCain
Your grandfather was an admiral
And your father was one too
When you turned 17 
You knew what to do
You signed up for the Navy 
So you could make it rain
Kill innocent civilians 
Dropping bombs from planes 
John McCain, John McCain, John McCain

John McCain, John McCain
On your military service 
You then made a run
You got into the Congress 
In 1981
In the halls of the Senate 
You had only just arrived
When you were caught up in corruption 
One of the Keating 5
What should have been a loss 
You turned into a gain
Not quite sure how you did it 
The innocence you feigned 
John McCain, John McCain, John McCain

John McCain, John McCain
You were the hero in the Senate 
Who had survived the war
The one who would explain to them 
What we were fighting for
For each act of aggression 
You would cheer along
You'd go visit the troops 
And sing your military songs
You'd thank them for their service 
And then you'd watch them die
As they fought for corporations 
Launching missiles from the sky
To the streets below 
Which would be covered with the stains
The blood of the innocent 
Running down the drains 
John McCain, John McCain, John McCain

John McCain, John McCain
You voted for austerity 
And every free trade deal
You never met an oil well 
You didn't think that you should steal
About the poverty around you 
You never did a thing
Except more military spending 
And less of everything
That matters to the people 
Who want a peaceful place to be
Without some war-crazed Senator 
Calling them his enemy
You called yourself a maverick 
Whatever the heck that meant
You had lofty aspirations 
To be the US president
Now your dead, it's over 
Your terroristic reign
The liberals, they loved you 
I loved the cancer in your brain 
John McCain, John McCain, John McCain

Today in Yemen

The US is an active participant in a campaign of aerial carnage being carried out by the Saudi Air Force. The laser-guided, 500-pound bomb that killed 94 people in and around a packed bus parked at a busy outdoor market earlier this month was supplied by the United States. Most of the planes dropping the bombs are made in the US, and they're being refueled in mid-air by the US military.

When that bomb fell on August 9th, there were also developments in the FBI's investigation of the Trump administration, Oprah released a new line of refrigerated food, and Elon Musk broke up with his girlfriend. These were some of the important stories of the day reported by major news media. Local and state media where I live, in Portland, Oregon, were giving blanket coverage to the aftermath of a gathering of a dozen rightwingers who were defended with predictable brutality by the riot squad a few days earlier.

Meanwhile in Yemen, the daily, US-sponsored war crimes continue. One more country lies in rubble. Millions are on the verge of famine. And one more market is covered in blood, body parts, and shrapnel -- assorted pieces of which are adorned with US flags.

If the size of a human catastrophe or the degree of human suffering had anything to do with what qualified a story as newsworthy, Yemen would be a leading headline every day. But in the real world, Yemeni life is far less important than Saudi money or Saudi oil -- and this reality is reflected well in corporate media coverage as well as by US policies under both of our ruling parties.

Many of the people killed on the bus that day were children on a school outing.

Today in Yemen

There's a heat wave in Portland, the sun shines down
Sprinklers are running all over town
It's hot, too, in Yemen, but lucky for us
Nobody here was on that bus

Where 44 children died today

Here the buses pass by and they pass by again
In Saada the bus left, came back, and then

44 children died today
A school trip, a picnic as the bombings go on
I guess they should have stayed home, now they're all gone 

44 children died today

Fragments of bodies and fragments of bombs litter the market square
On most of the fragments if you wash off the blood you'll see “USA” written there

44 children died today 

Linda Wiener's Echo

When people die, they leave behind many different kinds of echoes. There were a lot of people back in the 1960's like Ken Kesey who, for...