Monthly Archives: April 2016

Abortion provider and “exchange of ideas”

OK to have the Planned Parenthood lady speak at Georgetown last week , said university President John DeGioia, pleading the familiar cause of “the free exchange of ideas”; but

There was no free exchange, only her arguments (presented, according to reports, as if, of course, the audience agreed with her, which it largely did).

Four questions were allowed from the floor. Four. Only one of which challenged her to explain why 94 percent of PP’s pregnancy-related services lead to abortion, only 1 percent to adoption.

This perfectly reasonable question earned the questioner a laugh and dismissal by [the speaker] Richards, and ridicule from the crowd. So much for the free exchange of ideas.

It is indeed to laugh at this tired defense. A real university schedules debates, not disquisitions by hot-wire advocates. You get those for religious retreats or missions. Or used to. This lady is a Billy Sunday for our day.

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Hot tip on cool book

Get a job and define it so it’s a lifetime gig

Which is what this Loyola U.-Chicago assoc. prof did when named diversity advisor to  the university’s president.

The first thing an institution—or even a person—needs to do is recognize that notions of inclusivity and diversity are not static. They are constantly changing.

That’s why we want to make sure the diversity statement we’re working on has the idea of change embedded in it, that it doesn’t just speak to respecting a list of diverse populations.

That holds us accountable as a community to constant growth and lets us work toward change, rather than setting a numerical goal and just stopping when we reach it.

There will be no stopping this fellow.

More of this socialism going around . . .

. . . . so (this time) I ambled over to the Loyola campus for a talk on “Women and Socialism” March 31. It was a gathering of neighborhood socialists, the Rogers Park Chapter of the Chicago Socialists, who meet Thursdays, 6:30 pm, at Willye B White Park, 1610 W. Howard Street. (There is also a Loyola branch of the International Socialists, FYI.)

Several references were made to this group being “revolutionary” socialists, which caught my attention as something I remembered from my reporting days in the early ’70s, when demonstrations had not yet petered out, as at the old McCormick Seminary across from the Seminary Restaurant in Lincoln Park, and at Northwestern in Evanston.

Speaker for this meeting, Sharon Smith, wrote the book, Women and Socialism Class, Race, and Capital, which had been praised by a U. of Texas-Austin professor as offering a “valuable and uncommon perspective on the oppression and liberation of women.”

On this night Smith presented the 1917 Bolshevik victory in Russia and other Marxist solutions as the model of how to release women from the bondage of monogamy-throttled capitalism.

Keenly disposed to be educated in these matters, I made my way over to Loyola, a mile or so from our apartment in Andersonville. It was the eve of the Chicago teachers union’s one-day wildcat strike. I wanted to hear about socialism. There’s a lot of that going around these days, as I have said; so what the hey? I decided I’d like to know more.

The 90-minute session was in a classroom, I assumed rented for the occasion, or made available as a good will gesture to the ‘hood. I got there just before the 6:30 start time, sat in the back, followed by a young guy in a ball cap, late 20s, I’d say, who took a chair to my right and chatted me up.

The author had an earlier book, about “working-class radicalism,” he told me. I nodded “Oh” in appreciation. Then the speaker lady was introduced by a very pleasant young woman in her 20s, who called the speaker’s book “amazing.”

Smith began. All here are for Planned Parenthood, she assumed, laying the groundwork,  and “fed up with fucking contempt for women,” which she called “a disease.”

Her attention was to women in general, yes. Hillary Clinton, for instance, has been “oppressed,” yes, “but nothing like the poor and women of color.” Supplying particulars, she concluded with “and the list goes on. It makes your head spin.”

In general, women have been “glorified” as homemakers, she said. This ideal has been “imposed on girls.” Opposing this “nuclear family” ideal is “the Marxist viewpoint,” rebutting as it does “the Christian-based matrimony until death do us part” ideal.

Not so the prehistoric “hunters and gatherers,” for whom men and women shared each other without marital bonds, she said. (Try this for a more complete discussion of this matter.) But then came the first “class society” — ancient Greece and Rome, where “the patriarchal family” became the norm. It was also “a slave society,” Smith added. And with this society came the “rise of prostitution.” She added, “Monogamy and prostitution go together.”

She cited Marx’s collaborator, philosopher Friedrich Engels, on condemning the right of the husband “to kill his wife” as had been upheld as far back as the ancient Greek and Roman patriarchal family. In this she traced the evolution of man-woman relationships from cavemen for whom the nuclear family had no meaning to the “class society” of those Greeks and Romans.

At issue was the ideal imposed by society in which women are “glorified as homemakers” and cheerful cleaner of toilets as in TV commercials — “and yes, I’m bitter” about that, she said. “The nuclear family ideal continues today,” canonizing “a life devoted to homemaking,” though the nuclear family “never was [the ideal] for black families in slavery.” (More later on this.)

Having children is “reproducing labor power” for capitalism. For women it means “second-class status,” signified by fact that “we abandon our last name” in marriage.

The cause of black women was set back by the 1965 Moynihan Report, in its arguing against women working “outside the home,” as “emasculating men.” Since the ’60s, she said, there has been “an increase of [anti-women] bigotry along with class inequality.”

But “the traditional family will disapear as a vehicle of capitalism,” she promised, citing the aftermath of the “Russian revolution” of 1917, before it was “crushed by an embargo that starved the population.” (More also on this later.)

From 1920, nevertheless, the new Russia declared abortion legal, repealing “all laws regarding sexual behavior.”

Smith spoke of raising a son, now age 20, “motivated a lot by guilt and shame.” She took a shot at Donald Trump for saying days earlier that a woman having an abortion should be punished as a law breaker.

She also criticized the mainstream women’s movement in which household names were Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem when such headliners should include black lesbian and socialist feminist Barbara Smith.

In question time, a man bemoaned Obama as reformer. Under Obama, he said, there have been “more restrictions” in women’s issues than before. Why not “free abortion on demand,” he asked, as the 1920 Bolsheviks offered?

Smith nodded approval at these and other comments, which were followed by murmured agreement among the audience.

“Bombs fall . . . destroying the lives of women around the world,” another man said, growing increasingly engaged and excited as he spoke.

Later, Sharon Smith picked up on this, noting that former National Organization for Women president and publisher of Ms. Magazine Eleanor Smeal and other feminist leaders favored the war in Afghanistan, so as “to help women by dropping bombs on them.”

A pregnant woman quietly but severely criticized Hillary Clinton as one who “acts to make capitalism better,” aiding and abetting “the ruling class.”

The man next to me (who commented to me earlier) spoke up for family life. “Many of us rely on our families,” he said, but the state is trying to tear families apart. Families are a support thing. We rely on them,” he repeated. “People should be able to choose,” but family life “is regulated by the state, which hits our collective sense.” (Interferes with families’ ability to help its members.)

A man spoke up as the meeting drew to a close, telling of a demonstration in Austin TX at the state capitol when legislators were to vote on closing abortion clinics. The protesters made so much noise, the building “rumbled” and “politicians couldn’t hear themselves,” he said with a chuckle.

They “shut down the government process,” he said. It was “a people’s filibuster. A sense of power was felt by everyone there. It stopped people ruining everybody’s lives.” (Actually delayed it to the wee hours of the next calendar day, when legislators approved the shutdown of abortion clinics.)

Speaking very rapidly, he said, “This is what we mean by power. We shut it down.” He said he is glad when “a mass movement gets into the streets.”

A woman spoke of a “huge rally” she had attended which she found “super-exciting.”

Another reminded the group of a Black Lives Matter rally coming a few days later at the Cultural Center.

The meeting drew to an end. Sharon Smith asked how many would be voting for Hillary Clinton. No one raised his or her hand.

 

Trump succeeds by catching the tide and swimming with it

Like Shakespeare’s Brutus taking the tide “at the flood” and “the current when it serves,” Trump has captured the spirit of the age and is making the most of it.

If the leaders of the Right are scared of Trump because he will say anything; the Left is scared of Trump precisely because he will say anything. He does not play by the rules, and that makes him less predictable and more dangerous. What Ronald Reagan and Trump have in common is obvious: an incredible capacity to use the media to captivate the American people. One learned this in Hollywood, the other in reality TV, but both deployed this skill to great effect.

There is, of course, a big difference, as well: everyone knows Reagan cast himself as a sunny, heroic figure. Trump, on the other hand, is taking his cues from his time as a pro-wrestling heel personality, i.e., a comically larger-than-life villain. But there’s a neat thing about villains, or at least well-done ones: they get to show where people’s ideas of good and evil fall flat. Trump does this brilliantly to the Left. He has taken the humiliating mockery that the media has trained so effectively on “hicks,” Christians, and Republicans, and turned it round to expose the smug, mostly leftist Babbits and young fogies of the Acela Corridor as no less ridiculous.

That’s a good start for someone who wants to make America great again, rather than letting America succumb to its eventual, leftist-driven death by a thousand clicks.

— From a long, erudite and eerily perceptive essay by Federalist contributor Mytheos Holt

Age before beauty this election time around

Look, the older you are, the smarter, right?

The New York Times notes that a lot of really old guys are getting back into the political arena because of the dearth of operatives who have experience working a contested convention.
“The last time Stuart Spencer courted delegates at a Republican National Convention, in 1976, he kept a roll of quarters in his pocket for when he had to run to the pay phones and call in reports to President Gerald R. Ford’s campaign headquarters,” Jeremy Peters writes.
“This year there will be no running. Two hip replacements later, the closest Mr. Spencer plans to get to the convention floor in Cleveland is the deck of his Palm Desert, Calif., home, where he calls in advice to Gov. John Kasich’s campaign almost every day.
‘I’m 89, man. I’m lucky to be here,’ said Mr. Spencer, who last worked in politics 25 years ago.”
[Paul] Manafort [new de facto
Trump campaign manager] is 67. Charlie Black, helping Kasich, is 68.

Used to think smarter, when I was 50 or so. At 84 I don’t think so. Not the point here, which is EXPERIENCE.

Wuxtry, wuxtry, Archbishop endorses Pope’s exhortation

If that’s not news, I’ll eat my chapeau.

The archbishop welcomed it, saying it “might surprise some for its insistence on the need for mercy and compassion and its emphasis on the role of conscience.”

Oh? Who who are those surprised by mercy and compassion in an exhortation issued by the pope in a year of mercy which he himself proclaimed?

I do believe the archbishop is saying something without saying it, namely that the pope’s loosening restrictions that no other pope ever loosened was a surprise to people who thought he might do it but hoped he wouldn’t and are stunned that he did and are making clearly heard growling noises.

This in response to the supreme spokesman, who has people guessing.

===================

Later: On other hand, archbishop’s “might surprise some” can be read as “some shouldn’t have been surprised,” as in what did they expect? But that is to put too much of the ironic or even sarcastic into an archbishop’s statement, and we don’t expect that.

About her?

Slight size-wise, not thought-wise.

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“About her? I remember
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Lot of this socialism going around, so . . .

. . . this pursuer of truth decided to make some rounds. First in order of reporting, last night, 4/9/16, at College of Complexes, meeting these days at Dapper’s East, 2901 W. Addison, in the Addison Mall, where I heard a few things.

Speaker Charley Earp, executive committee chair of the Chicago Socialist Party, was winding up a short opening statement for the 35 or so on hand in a back room of a restaurant.

I heard something about Ronald Reagan being a benchmark for suspicion of socialists, which had begun to boom in the ’50s, and something else about U.S. being a tabula rasa compared to Europe, where traditions militated far less against socialism.

Oh. Yes, we are different. Nice to see that recognized, even if as a drawback.

Then the conversation began. It’s important to “transcend the wage system,” Earp said in answer to the first question — replacing it with a system that would not “cramp creativity.”

He works in the travel industry himself, but lives in a commune, though he’s not a member of the commune. This he said in answer to a question about starting socialism one group, or “colony,” at a time, which he called building communism “from below.” He rejected this strategy because all is interconnected and you can’t do it piecemeal.

Nor would he attempt socialism through partisan politics, which he said “only keeps the rich in power.” Hence his declining to support Bernie Sanders. “The rich will still run the government even if Bernie is elected,” he said. He does not feel the Bern.

What’s more, socialism is international or it’s not socialism at all. So the Soviet Union has not been a socialist country since Stalin chose a path of national socialism — one country at a time. But the term, which he did not use (it was Hitler’s), is provocative, is it not? Neither was China ever socialist, because it too was a national venture. World socialism is the true Marxist goal.

“Where does socialism work?” asked an old fellow. We were mostly old fellows, let me tell you, in stark contrast with my first socialism-learning venture a week or so earlier, where in a book talk the median was closer to 25, among a similar size group, 30 or 35 people. More later on that session.

Another asked whether Norman Thomas was a CIA agent. Earp did not dismiss the idea, but noted that suspicions lurked about Thomas, who headed U.S. socialists for decades between wars and into the post-war years. Hmm.

“Seems like we need a revolution,” muttered a woman at my table, one of a dozen or so tables he in this back room, where the working-class waitress bustled about efficiently in pursuit of her wage through friendly service. (Three-dollar cover charge, she told me when I declined a menu. I forked it over next time she flew by. It was College of C. “tuition,” which I already knew.)

A questioner used the term “democracy and freedom,” meaning the two together as peas in a pod. Earp asked, “Do you feel free?” but smiling as he said it and was in no way dismissive. Throughout, he was the pleasantest, most reasonable-sounding Marxist I ever listened to. Not sold on himself or on his cause, for that matter. It made easy listening.

He is “not a Trotskyist,” he said, in one of several byroads into theory cum autobiography,. Theory actually came through as his chief interest, and that contributed to the easy listening part. Nor did he espouse Lenin’s “left communism,” by which the founder meant “too left,” somehow overdoing it.

Talk like this, with perfectionism built into it, led to questions about what he had in mind. He admitted he’s been called “defeatist” in his letting the perfect be enemy of the good (my phrase here).

His personal goal? By now, at age 53, not knowing “all the answers” and no longer wanting to change the world, he wishes only to add to the membership of the Socialist Party of Chicago — whose Rogers Park branch, by the way, had hosted the Loyola-campus book talk, about which more later, as I said.

Asked if stock ownership can be socialistic, in that it means ownership of the means of production, Earp said not if it’s for profit. So the motive is the thing, said the questioner. Yes, motivation, Earp replied.

But more than that, of course, is ownership by whom? Not by some goldarned Wall Street investor, that’s for sure.

End of partial coverage of:
Bernie Sanders and Democratic Socialism: 
Beyond the 2016 Election
Meeting # 3,369 – Charley Earp of the Chicago Socialist Party who says:  “It’s debatable whether Bernie Sanders is an actual socialist, but those of us who advocate democratic socialism can’t afford to focus on merely getting Bernie elected. A real socialist movement isn’t reducible to one candidate or even a presidency, the working people of the world have to fight capitalist exploitation on many levels and fronts.”
Coming up, coverage of the book talk by Sharon Smith, discussing her latest book, Women and Socialism: Class, Race, and Capital at Room 217 of Cuneo Hall, Loyola U. Lake Shore Campus, 3/31/16.

Chi Trib: Illinois school funding raises its (troublesome) head again

 

A Dem wants a redo on school aid (state to local districts), but Gov. Rauner has already scotched the idea.

Democrats are “screaming ‘Crisis! Crisis!'” when “they created it,” he said.

It’s a long-standing issue, of course. A Democratic position in the matter is laid out by a high-ranking Illinois senator in this excerpt from my Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters, :

Another CLAIM [parent] questioner [in a 2013 meeting at Oak Park’s Percy Julian middle school] raised the long-standing hot-button issue of state funding of public schools . . . setting up a haves-vs.-have-nots give and take.

[Sen. Karen] Lightford complained that the formula for allocating school funding — $4 billion in 2013 — was based on forty-to-fifty-year-old poverty figures. She was to co-sponsor a bill two years later that sought to alter that formula, taking from the wealthier districts and giving to the poorer ones. . . . .

“Is it fair?” she asked, that Oak Park gets as much as it does, “considering its lower-than-average poverty rate?” State aid (to Oak Park schools) “may be” less, she said. Which was sufficiently ambiguous for the occasion. Then she launched into numbing detail about the process of deciding how funds are apportioned.

[Oak Park’s Sen. Don] Harmon ignored her allegation of unfairness — no need to ruffle feathers — but agreed that the formula is “complicated.” He took note also of the long-standing teacher pension subsidy for non-Chicago school districts — featuring highly publicized retirement bonanzas for suburban administrators — as further complicating the matter.

Yes.

Illinois Blues is available at Lulu.com as paperback and ebook.

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