Saturday, June 02, 2018

THE RANDOM GUIDE TO THE CALIFORNIA PRIMARY

RANDOM JACK




THE RANDOM GUIDE TO THE CALIFORNIA PRIMARY

The Great Pretender

By Jack Random


As a voter compelled to register as a Democrat for fear that my vote for Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, you can be sure that I fall far to the left of the Democratic Party.  In fact, I have only a little more faith in the Democrats than I do in the Republicans despite their official policies.  Both parties are corporate and ultimately serve corporate interests.  I hold on to the hope that someday, despite all the barriers, an independent or third party movement will break the stranglehold of the major parties on our electoral process.  Meantime, a combination of pragmatism (least harm) and idealism (independent) will guide my vote.  What follows are my recommendations in the 2018 California primary. 

GOVERNOR:  JOHN CHIANG, DEMOCRAT, STATE TREASURER. 

I have never perceived the presumptive favorite Gavin Newsom as anything but what he is:  an opportunist who plays the cards he’s dealt with a deft hand.  He is the Great Pretender, a definitive Democrat in the Clintonian mode.  Contrary to his television ads it requires no courage to come out in favor of gay rights when you’re mayor of San Francisco.  It takes no courage to stand for universal healthcare when you’re seeking higher office in California.  Where was Newsom’s courage when it came to supporting Sanders over Clinton? 

Newsom was the first to attack a fellow Democrat:  John Chiang.  It was puzzling but the polls must have said Chiang was taking votes from him.  Chiang did not respond in kind initially but former mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa did, asserting quite justly that Newsom was taking credit for accomplishments that did not belong to him.  In California the Lieutenant Governor is pretty much a symbolic office that politicians use to gain name recognition and test the waters for a statewide run. 

Villaraigosa’s ad campaign is sponsored by California Charter Schools Association Advocates to the tune of $17.3 million dollars.  If you love charter schools – taking money from public schools and channeling it to profit motivated private charters – then Villaraigosa is your candidate.  Otherwise palatable – he’s pro union – he lost my vote when he took that money. 

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR:  TIM FERREIRA, LIBERTARIAN. 

I won’t pretend to know much about this candidate except that he carries the Libertarian banner.  As noted above, the Lieutenant Governor doesn’t have really have any authority.  Presumably, he or she gets free office space, benefits and a nice salary.  Democratic Senator and superstar Kamala Harris gives her blessing to Eleni Kounalakis and that will probably be sufficient to win the election but she will not protect our coastline or anything else.  She’s a figurehead.  I say:  Use this office to vote independent.  There are no Greens, no Peace & Freedom and no other official third party candidates.  There are a few Decline-to-States.  Vote independent. 

SECRETARY OF STATE:  MICHAEL FEINSTEIN, GREEN, ELECTORAL CONSULTANT. 

The Secretary of State runs our elections.  That is important.  In other states it can be argued persuasively that Secretaries of State decided presidential elections but not here.  Fundamentally, California doesn’t count in presidential elections.  Still, it is important – important enough that two Greens, a Libertarian and a Peace & Freedom candidate secured their place on the ballot. 

I can go two ways here:  Support a Democrat to ensure that a Republican does not secure the office or go independent.  I don’t believe a Republican has a chance in a California statewide election so I’ll go Green:  Michael Feinstein appears to be the more serious candidate.  He supports multi-party democracy, ranked choice voting, proportional representation, limiting money in politics, transparency and voter integrity.  He has my vote. 

CONTROLLER:  BETTY YEE, DEMOCRATIC INCUMBENT. 

The controller is the state’s bookkeeper.  It requires competence and integrity.  I see no reason to change horses so I’ll vote for the incumbent even if she is a Democrat. 

TREASURER:  FIONA MA, DEMOCRATIC INCUMBENT. 

The treasurer is the state’s banker with authority to manage investments and assets.  Once again, competence and integrity are required.  The Peace and Freedom candidate Kevin Akin has some interesting ideas, including a publicly owned bank.  Democrat and CPA Fiona Ma is certainly qualified, competent and supported by California Nurses, Teachers and the Council of Laborers.  She also has the coolest name on the ballot. 

ATTORNEY GENERAL:  XAVIER BECERRA, DEMOCRATIC INCUMBENT.

The office that launched the formidable career of Senator and future presidential candidate Kamala Harris, this year’s contest features two Republicans and two Democrats.  That narrows the field.  Dave Jones is the current Insurance Commissioner and seems to be supported by a variety of employee associations.  Xavier Becerra was appointed to the position when it was vacated by Harris.  Becerra has the money and his contributions include California Nurses. 

Becerra has shown a willingness to stand up against the presidency of Donald Trump on issues ranging from immigration policy to the legalization of marijuana.  He’s also a Clintonian with high stake political ambitions. 

Jones brings the reputation of fighting for consumers against predatory insurance companies.  In its endorsement of Jones, the San Jose Mercury News qualified that reputation with “while being fair to the industry.”  That sends up a warning signal.  His credits include working as a special assistant to former Attorney General Janet Reno who oversaw the Elian Gonzalez fiasco, Ruby Ridge and the Branch-Davidian tragedy in Waco, Texas.  That’s not much of an endorsement. 

As sometimes happens, the Mercury-News endorsement brought me to the opposite conclusion.  Stick with Becerra and hope for the best. 

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER:  NATHALIE HRIZI, PEACE & FREEDOM. 

The commissioner is in charge of enforcing insurance laws – a critical function in today’s society.  The candidates include Democrats Ricardo Lara and Asif Mahmood, former Republican Steve Poizner and Peace & Freedom’s Nathalie Hrizi, a public school teacher. 

The fact that Poizner was once appointed to this position by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminates him. Mahmood is a medical doctor who supports universal healthcare.  Lara is a state senator who also supports medical care for all, including the undocumented.  He sponsored a bill to that effect.  It seems there is little to distinguish between Mahmood and Lara and that begs the question:  Why are they both running? 

That leaves the Feminist Socialist Peace & Freedom candidate Nathalie Hrizi.  She stands for three principles:  1.  Healthcare is a universal right.  2.  Private health insurance companies should be abolished.  3.  California should create its own single-payer, non-profit system. 

I’ll vote enthusiastically for Hrizi. 

BOARD OF EQUALIZATION:  TOM HALLINAN, DEMOCRAT. 

This one is too easy:  Three Republicans and one Democrat. 

UNITED STATES SENATOR:  PAT HARRIS, DEMOCRAT. 

Never have so many considered his or her self qualified to become United States Senator from the great state of California.  I count eleven Republicans, ten Democrats, eight decline-to-states, one Libertarian and one Peace & Freedom.  Sadly, the only political organization left out of the party is Green. 

We all know Dianne Feinstein.  The new model is the progressive model.  Suddenly she believes in Medicare for all.  Suddenly she believes in the rights of undocumented immigrants.  Suddenly she believes in limiting the power of the president to wage war.  I like the new model but like an old car I don’t trust it.  Feinstein has let the progressive community down far too many times. 

If we eliminate the Republicans – and we do – we can move on to the progressive challengers.  On the Democratic side there is Pat Harris, a civil rights attorney who believes in legalization of marijuana/cannabis nationwide, universal healthcare and getting corporate money out of politics.  I like this guy.  Then there’s state senator Kevin De Leon who is committed to immigration reform, Medicare for All and a national clean energy plan.  What’s not to like?  Democrat David Hildebrand wants to end Citizens United and favors a minimum wage of $15 per hour.  Democrat Alison Hartson, a national political director, adds the right to a college education to the progressive agenda. 

Jason Hanania is a “technodemocrat” who believes in voting with the majority of Californians using an Evoting system.  Interesting.  I’ve proposed a similar a system myself.  Peace & Freedom’s John Thompson Parker wants to declare a state of emergency to address police misconduct in minority neighborhoods.  Libertarian Derrick Michael Reed wants to address the incarceration crisis. 

It goes on and on without end.  My only conclusion is that it is time for Feinstein to go.  We need new blood in Washington and any US Senator who has waffled over the justification for the Iraq War needs to write her memoirs.  I might even buy the book.  Meantime, I’ll vote for the civil rights attorney in the primary and hold my nose if I have to vote for Feinstein in the general election. 

US REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 10:  MIKE BARKLEY, DEMOCRAT.  

Folks around here know the incumbent congressman from the 10th district in the great central valley likes to play both sides of the coin.  Lately he’s charading as the congressman who’s trying to save the dreamers and the children being separated from their parents.  That is not the congressman we know and despise.  It’s one thing to be conservative and another to play like a progressive whenever your electability depends on it.  Denham has always pretended to be a family farmer but the way I hear it he’s a corporate farmer and a very wealthy man. 

Let’s be frank:  It doesn’t really matter which Democrat runs against him.  Denham is the enemy.  Every Republican member of the House of Representatives is the enemy.  If we want to put the check on Trump we have to take congress away from the president’s party.  We need to take both houses of congress.  The Democratic money is going to Josh Harder but all the Democrats – Sue Zwahlen, Michael Eggman, Mike Barkley and Virginia Madueno – support progressive policies on healthcare and immigration.  All are running against the man in the White House. 

I’m put off by the big money going to Harder so I’ll vote for Mike Barkley for his pro-union, anti Free Trade stand, his opposition to the Trump tax cut and his concern for California’s water problems.  Those who are rightly concerned that two Republicans (Denham and Howze) might meet in the finals should probably vote for Harder. 

STATE SENATOR, DISTRICT 8:  TOM PRATT, DEMOCRAT. 

I’m sorry.  Spelling errors in a candidate statement (Voter’s Edge) put me off – especially one as egregious as this:  “Education is a basic tool for any human been.”  That propels businessman Tom Pratt to the top of the ticket despite a bizarre first priority:  Restore funding to all county fairs.  Really?  Oh well, he favors universal healthcare and wants to expand broadband coverage.  He’s supported by Progressive Democrats of America. 

STATE ASSEMBLY, DISTRICT 12:  ROBERT CHASE, DEMOCRAT.

The worst-case scenario:  One Democrat against one Republican. 

SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE:  CRYSTAL SWANSON, TRIAL ATTORNEY. 

This contest is between a trial attorney in Crystal Swanson and a military judge in Carrie Stephens.  In a nation that incarcerates more people proportionately than any nation on earth – thanks to prison for profit – we elect our judges with precious little information.  From what I could gather from her Facebook page, Swanson is qualified and competent.  Carrie Stephens also seems qualified and competent but she leans too much on her military experience for my taste.  I’ll vote for Swanson. 

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION:  TONY THURMOND. 

Kamala Harris and the Democratic heavyweights have thrown their support to Tony Thurmond, an African American educator and state legislator.  Thurmond promises to stand up to Betsy DeVos’ anti public schools agenda.  He’ll fight vouchers and profit motivated charter schools.  He believes in teacher flexibility, teaching creativity and critical thinking.  He believes in the arts and music education.  He had me at standing up to DeVos. 

Lily Ploski, Marshall Tuck and Steve Ireland all sound like good candidates with excellent ideas but this time I’ll go with the favorite. 

STANISLAUS COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS:  SHANNON SANFORD. 

Shannon Sanford is proud of her test scores and wants to eliminate administrative red tape.  Don Davis has the endorsement of the Modesto Bee with his 36 years of experience.  Scott Kuykendall values hard work, honesty and responsibility.  I find none of their arguments compelling but I’ll vote for Sanford on the grounds that she has relatively specific ideas. 

STANISLAUS COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  STEVEN O’CONNOR. 

If you’ve followed the trial of attorney Frank Carson, you have probably come to the same conclusion I have:  Birgit Fladager should not have the power of her office.  She is being challenged by her employee and fellow prosecutor John Mayne and defense attorneys Steven O’Connor and Patrick Kolasinski. 

O’Connor forcefully attacks the incumbents excesses and misconduct.  He stands for fair trials and wants to protect attorneys under the DA from Fladager’s revenge.  Kolasinski reportedly runs the largest law firm in the county.  Other than that I’m not sure why he’s running.  Mayne has experience in the DA’s office.  He laments the high turnover rate in the office. 

For me it comes down to John Mayne and Steven O’Connor.  I like O’Connor’s style and passion. 

STANISLAUS COUNTY SHERIFF:  JUAN ALANIS. 

This contest is between the Sheriff’s Lieutenant Jeff Dirkse and Sergeant Juan Alanis.  After finding trusted friends and family members endorsing Alanis, I was stunned to learn that he is a fierce gun rights supporter.  I cannot in good conscience support him.  Dirkse has the endorsement of former sheriff Adam Christianson.  Not impressed.  He opposes citizen review boards and marijuana legalization.  He will cooperate with ICE.  That’s enough.  I don’t like either of these candidates but I will vote for Alanis as the least bad candidate. 

PROPOSITION 68:  BOND FOR PARKS, WATER QUALITY & FLOOD PROTECTION. 

We need to support this.  Too much of our infrastructure has been allowed to crumble and has not been repaired.  This will help in bringing us back to the modern age and the standards California deserves.  YES. 

PROPOSITION 69:  TRANSPORTATION FUNDS. 

Requires money raised from a 2017 law for transportation be used only for transportation.  Our roads are in terrible shape.  YES. 

PROPOSITION 70:  SUPERMAJORITY FOR CAP & TRADE FUNDS. 

I don’t like Supermajority laws.  The infamous Prop 13 that crippled California for years was a Supermajority law.  It’s undemocratic.  NO. 

PROPOSITION 71:  EFFECTIVE DATE FOR BALLOT MEASURES.

Requires that propositions passed by the voters go into effect within five days.  YES. 

PROPOSITION 72:  ALLOWS EXEMPTION OF RAIN CAPTURE SYSTEMS FROM PROPERTY TAX REASSESSMENT. 

Water is the new gold.  YES. 


SOURCES:  Voter’s Edge California, San Jose Mercury News, Fresno Bee, Modesto Bee Editorial Board and the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

JEROME CORSI: A HACKNEYED RIGHTWING PROPAGANDIST

 


SELLING BOOKS BY REINVENTING REALITY

A JACK RANDOM REVIEW OF
KILLING THE DEEP STATE: 
THE FIGHT TO SAVE PRESIDENT TRUMP
By Jerome Corsi

A Novel Charading as History


Jerome Corsi, renowned conspiracy theorist and Washington D.C. “bureau chief” for the rightwing website Info Wars, has published a new book plucked from the annals of contemporary Republican Talking Points: Killing the Deep State – The Fight to Save President Trump.  The work is sure to be a bestseller and one of the least read bestsellers in modern history. 

This is how they perpetuate Alternative Facts and call them the Truth.  This is how they manufacture a reality that conforms to their warped vision of a return to a white dominated, Christian society free of restless minorities and vanity driven liberals.  This is how they get back at the establishment father figures that rejected their thoughts and ideas and forced them to toil in relative obscurity. 

As a writer of political fiction featuring grand conspiracies (Ghost Dance Insurrection, A Patriot Dirge, Pawns to Players: The Stairway Scandal, A Match for the White House, The Putin Gambit), I can admire the impudent boldness and mendacity of a writer claiming to chronicle history when clearly his vision is the product of pure imagination. 

Corsi is a fully indoctrinated rightwing propagandist, plain and simple.  He is likely a failed fiction writer who – like Bill O’Reilly – has discovered that if you write for an entrenched political faction, they will buy your books – or at least pretend to buy them in order to place them on the bestsellers list. 

Jerome Corsi has written a book that is proudly fact free.  If you state a premise rejecting all legitimate sources of information, including the New York Times and the Mainstream Media, then you can be sure that what follows has little resemblance to fact or truth in the real world. 

Corsi asserts with feigned astonishment:  “Just 24 hours after losing the election, Hillary was already touting the Russian collusion theme.”  The fact is:  Russian interference in our election on behalf of Donald Trump was established long before the election.  Trump’s collusion was already under investigation. 

Corsi asserts that the FBI as an institution was backing Hillary and attempting to sabotage the Trump campaign.  It is almost amusing how the rightwing conspiracy theorists attempt to deal with the stone cold fact that then FBI Director James Comey turned the election to Trump in the eleventh hour by announcing that the bureau had reopened the Hillary Clinton email investigation.  Other than Vladimir Putin, no one on the planet had a more prominent roll in placing Trump in the White House than Comey. 

Corsi asserts that the Obama-Clinton administration gave Russia military technology and “20% of all US uranium production.”  The fact is the Obama administration attempted to secure Russian nuclear weapons and materials in an attempt to block their deliverance to rogue nations or terrorists.  The rest is pure fiction. 

Corsi asserts that the “Deep State” forced mainstream media to fire Glenn Beck, Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs.  Let me get this straight:  Fox fired Glenn Beck and hired Lou Dobbs as a part of a mind control conspiracy?  The fact:  Beck was coming unhinged on the air.  Buchanan and Dobbs are old and withered.  Their place on the airwaves had run its course. 

Corsi asserts that former president Obama is actively pushing black America against Trump.  The truth:  Black America needs no help from Obama to turn against a man who declined to criticize the KKK on the eve of the Alabama primary and pretended he didn’t know former Grand Wizard David Duke. 

Corsi asserts that an FBI agent softened the wording of James Comey’s speech decrying Hillary’s handling of her emails from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless”.  Really?  If that’s the best the Deep State could do we have absolutely nothing to worry about. 

Corsi asserts that the government covered up the fact that the Christopher Steele dossier was a fake.  It was and is not a fake and renaming it the Fusion GPS dossier does not change that fact.  Republicans sponsored it in the primaries and Democrats took over after Trump won the nomination.  Who cares?  The dirty dossier remains compelling and its contents have largely been validated. 

Corsi asserts that Trump has a plan.  He will manufacture or otherwise use a “game-changing national security crisis” to decimate the Deep State.  This is hardly news.  All presidents use the inevitable national security crisis to their political advantage.  Given the president’s record for competence, however, good luck with that. 

The fact is:  There may well be a Deep State in some sense of the term but my suspicion is those who belong to it are extremely wealthy individuals who control the global flow of money.  (The Donald only wishes he could join them but he’s neither rich enough nor powerful enough.  He’s only a temporary chief executive.)  They meet in places like Davos and they manipulate governments and markets to facilitate their profits.  They are not spies who have infiltrated the institutions of government.  That sort of thing happens but the Deep State wouldn’t bother. 

A question for you:  If I’m right and the Deep State is a secret cabal of money-motivated elites who gather power through wealth, why wouldn’t they fall in line behind Donald Trump?  The Donald poses no threat as president or businessman and has already delivered a historic tax cut to the richest of the rich. 

If you conspiracy theorists want some real fiction try Pawns to Players – The Chess Trilogy.  I assure you these three works will get you a lot closer to the truth than the hackneyed work of some Harvard educated propagandist. 

A final note:  Corsi advertises his book as a New York Times bestseller but I can find no evidence of that endorsement.  (Source:  Paid Advertisement, Modesto Bee 5/16/18.)


Jack Random, Author of the Jazzman Chronicles

Monday, May 14, 2018

SAVING FAIR TRADE: A JAZZMAN CHRONICLE

RADICAL SOLUTIONS FOR RADICAL TIMES.





THE MEANING OF FAIR TRADE

By Jack Random



Much has been said on trade policy since Donald Trump became leader of the free world.  Trump boldly pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership – which of course never was ratified and never took effect.  He announced that NAFTA and CAFTA were dead and promptly pulled back from that position by suggesting that everything was open to negotiations. 

It is surprising how similar Trump is to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama on trade issues.  When the rhetoric is swept away and the election promises are buried and forgotten, Fair Trade becomes a concept that no one seems able to define – no less advocate. 

Now Trump has opened negotiations with the beast of Free Trade:  China.  His demands are all about the numbers.  We demand that the imbalance be rectified to the tune of $200 billion per year.  We demand that government subsidies be reduced if not eliminated.  We demand that the Chinese stop stealing technology developed by American corporations.  We demand that China stop manipulating currency to effect trade imbalance. 

The one thing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his circle of Trump negotiators never mention are the rights of labor– including the right to a living wage.  It has become clear that what the rest of us mean by Fair Trade and what Trump means are separate and distinct concepts.  It is therefore necessary to establish the meaning of Fair Trade.  To Trump it is simple mathematics.  If the trade deficit of all nations engaged is at or near zero then the policies governing trade are fair.  If the deficit tips to one side or another then the policies are unfair. 

To Fair Trade advocates like Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown this is not what we had in mind.  Maybe it’s not clear what we had in mind.  Maybe the concept is deliberately cloudy so that Democratic candidates can claim to be pro Fair Trade when in fact they fall in line with the Free Trade mandate enacted by Republican Democrat Bill Clinton back in the nineties.  It has taken us decades to challenge that mandate and now we find it is being usurped by a pretender:  a president so clueless he will surely destroy the concept for another quarter century. 

For the record here’s what Fair Trade means to me: 

First, we need to scrap the entire framework of international trade as it exists today.  We need to dismiss the idea that NAFTA, CAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership only require minor revisions to meet the goals of Fair Trade.  A few concessions to labor and a provision for the environment will bring things into balance.  No, they will not.  What we need is wholesale and systemic change. 

We must understand that the world has accepted the tenets of Free Trade and will not agree to any systemic change without a fight.  This includes all of Europe and Great Britain as well as China, Russia and less developed nations. 

In this sense, America must lead.  There was once hope that the European Union could lead the march to Fair Trade but that hope has faded like a photograph left too long in the sun.  European leaders from the socialists of Spain to the progressives of Greece and Italy will tell you that the train has left the station.  Globalization is an indelible fact and its rules are set in concrete.  The World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund are the arbiters of trade and cannot be challenged. 

It is unthinkable that the very institutions that enforced austerity across the continent are now considered untouchable.  Let us abandon that thinking and demand a new system. 

We must establish new criteria for trade by creating and enforcing new tiers of trade status, ranging from preferred to prohibited. 

TIER ONE:  PREFERRED TRADE STATUS.  Preferred trading partners would be held to the highest standards of living wages, the right to establish unions, the right to binding arbitration, the right to safe working conditions, as well as retirement and health benefits.  Preferred status would be reserved for nations whose governments do not provide subsidies to affect a competitive advantage.  We would also expect exemplary records for human rights, civil rights and environmental protection.  Preferred trading partners would also be expected to enforce the same standards on its trading partners.  Failure to do so would automatically drop a nation from preferred status. 

Those nations that are granted Preferred Trade status would be rewarded with unencumbered trade free of tariffs or regulatory barriers. 

Clearly, if we are to hold others to a high standard we should be expected to hold ourselves to an equivalent standard.  That is not the case today.  We do not uphold a living wage.  We deny the right to unionize in those states that uphold “Right to Work” laws.  We fail to provide universal healthcare.  We are compromised on human rights (capitol punishment and mass imprisonment) and civil rights (our justice system discriminates on the basis of race and religion; our economic system on the basis of race, religion and gender).  And we do not uphold the highest standards of environmental protection (under Donald Trump it’s not even close).  We have also subsidized industries (auto, steel and banking) in times of economic stress. 

But let that go for now.  Let us assume that we are working to improve our own status and stipulate that we cannot hold others to a higher standard than we are able to achieve. 

Without detailed analysis the nations that would qualify for preferred trade status under a Fair Trade system would include western European nations, Canada, Japan, Australia, South Korea and perhaps some African and Latin American nations.  It would include none of the Middle Eastern nations and would decidedly exclude China, India, Pakistan and Russia. 

TIER TWO:  CONDITIONAL TRADE STATUS.  Conditional trading partners would be subject to penalties and limitations proportionate to their failures in upholding the standards of Tier One partners.  For example, a nation that upholds standards in all respects except for a temporary subsidy to its auto industry might be subject to a one-time fine or granted an exemption based on exceptional circumstances.  A nation that blocks unionization and fails to provide health and retirement benefits would be subject to more severe penalties.  The guiding principle is that it should be to a nation’s advantage to uphold all standards to the highest possible extent.  It would require periodic review and adjustment and that would require a new international institution to adjudicate.  I suggest the International Fair Trade Commission under the auspices of the United Nations.  It is essential that any such body be independent of political influence to the greatest possible degree. 

The vast majority of the world’s nations would be placed in the second tier.  If we were honest and objective, it would include the United States as well. 

TIER THREE:  PROHIBITED TRADE STATUS.  Prohibited trading partners would include any nations with gross violations of labor rights, human rights, civil rights and/or environmental protection.  For example, any nation whose government engages in ethnic cleansing or genocide would be prohibited from trading with the United States or its preferred trading partners. 

Prohibited trading partners would likely include such human rights violators as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, the Philippines, Congo, Myanmar, Turkey and North Korea.


Preferred trading status is not new.  There are a variety of preferential trading zones currently in operation for any number of reasons.  None of these trade agreements, however, are established with Fair Trade standards as the unifying principle.  Consequently, while Fair Trade principles are frequently discussed at trade negotiations, they lack leverage.  Labor representatives are rarely invited to participate and when they are they serve primarily as symbols. 

The key difference between Free Trade and Fair Trade is the absence of labor in the former and the prominence of labor in the latter.  That is the imbalance that must be rectified if the divergence of wealth between the haves and the have-nots is to be reduced by any significant margin. 

Liberals, neo-liberals, conservative and neoconservatives alike have argued that using trade policy to guide social development would only punish the people who already suffer under oppressive governments.  Such arguments are self-serving and short sighted.  America’s middle class did not spring from the air.  It required that the people extract a price from their elected leaders for their defiance of human rights.  It required resistance and establishing institutions like labor unions that stood up for workers against all odds.  Those who fought for unions and labor rights in this country paid a price in blood and sacrifice.  They persisted until political institutions and leaders finally stood up for them. 

We are losing our middle class because those institutions that stood with the working people have crumbled.  Unions are in steep decline.  Right to Work laws block union organizers.  Democrats only pretend to be the worker’s party at election time while they collect their share from the corporate coffers and govern very much like the corporate Republicans. 

Systemic change never comes easy but it comes.  It comes after years and decades of pushing and refusing to settle for the lesser of evils.  Donald Trump, for all his inadequacies, has tapped the anger of the people and proven that what was once considered extreme is now completely acceptable.  That goes for radical visions for positive change as well as delusional visions of self-aggrandizement. 

If we do nothing, Donald Trump will destroy any chance of Fair Trade for the foreseeable future.  He will turn it into something that upends economic gains and turns the stock market downward.  He will turn it into nationalism and patriotism, us against them, in a battle of numbers until we no longer care how it affects the poor and the working poor.  Donald Trump doesn’t care about the workers.  He will bring industrial jobs back only if they operate on cheap labor or automation. 

The coming world must be planned and plotted to provide for working people.  We all have a right to live in dignity and good health.  We have a right to pursue happiness even if we do not have wealth.  Fair Trade is one important step in getting there. 

Automation is coming.  The robot labor force is coming.  There is no job on the open market that robots cannot do faster and more efficiently than humans.  The transition will be stunning for industrial labor but it is coming for us all.  Unfortunately, we cannot all serve as maintenance workers for a robotic labor force.  We will have to be creative in finding new lines of work and new endeavors for human kind.  In this future world, a world that has already arrived at our door, it will be more important than ever that all of us – not just the CEO’s – are represented. 

The pundits and political class will line up against us.  They will bring warnings of global economic collapse.  They will predict a market crash.  They will tell us that Free Trade brings cheap products to our local Walmart.  They will tell us there is no turning back. 

To some degree they are correct.  A transition to Fair Trade will not be easy.  It will mean higher prices for consumer goods.  But it will also bring better paying jobs not only to our nation but to other nations as well.  It will ultimately yield benefits to all people.  It will serve as a warning to the corporate powers that workers will be represented at the global economic bargaining table.  It will serve notice that you cannot build a sustainable economy on the exploitation of the labor force. 

Donald Trump had the corporate elites running scared for a while.  The markets reacted like a junkie on his last hit when he threatened to make good on his promise to pull out of NAFTA.  The monetary pundits cried out in horror when he announced in a twit of impulse that he was slapping a tariff on steel and aluminum.  But it turned out he was just another politician who speaks with a forked tongue.  Like so many before him, he talks Fair Trade but when it all comes down he doesn’t mean a word of it. 

Jazz. 

Jack Random is the author of the Jazzman Chronicles, Hard Times: The Wrath of an Angry God and the Chess Trilogy. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A REFLECTION ON JAKE'S ROOMS

Note:  Those who have followed my work at all know that I am a great fan of the Alabama artist Jake Berry.  In my seminal work Wasichu: The Killing Spirit, I named the lead male Jake partially in tribute to Jake Berry.  He is a man for all seasons in the world of art and his latest works add immeasurably to his legacy.  What follows is a reflection as well as a review of ROOMS IN WHICH WE EXISTED by Jake Berry and Peter Ganick.  Readers are encouraged to look it up online and purchase a copy.  While art should be free, artists need to survive. 

ROOMS IN WHICH WE EXISTED
By Jake Berry and Peter Ganick
Argotist Books

A REFLECTION BY JACK RANDOM

To believe that abstract drawings can speak in words is a form of madness that goes to the heart of artistic expression.  Of course drawings speak.  Of course there are words to be heard.  It requires a willingness to listen and interpret and a defiance of normative values that disallow such a process. 

Jake Berry is uniquely qualified to the task of interpreting abstract images.  He creates in both forms – verbal and visual.  In fact, he creates in all sensual forms.  If it were possible to create in other forms – smell and taste and touch and forms beyond the senses – he would do that as well. 

From the chaotic dream imagery of scribbled lines over lines he finds mystery and pulls at themes that touch the soul.  The artist struggles to express essential truths.  Sounds emerge from the cacophony.  Images find meaning.  Madness finds a home in the quietude of daily life.  Everything has meaning and everything lies.  Everything changes from form to form, from substance to substance, and finds itself reborn. 

A strip of light suddenly rips across the eye, revealing far too much of who we are in what we see.  The brazen light of twisted figures we’d rather not welcome into our field of play.  We drown in the sea of infinite change.  We have always drowned.  We are drowning still and falling through time as if we had weight and exist in the finitude of space. 

Dead limbs rise toward … the gloaming…

Forces greater than our imaginations can behold propel us forward, tearing us apart before allowing us to be whole and rest once again.  We dream.  The beauty pulls at our senses.  We stumble and fall without resistance.  The rapture awaits.  We seek pleasure in the simplest notions. 

Hear the music and see the order in delightful colors.  Let it beckon us into the raging winds of fire and fury.  There can be no relief.  Memories exist in layers and layers over the symphony of thought and feeling, pain and sorrow, joy and forgiving. 

Drink long and deep.  The geography is bleeding. 

The unending search for order and harmony.  The chorus is missing.  The dream emerges and plants itself just beyond our world of structure.  A ballerina descends a winding staircase, nude and unashamed.  The joy she brings is beyond word and imagery.  The sorrow must follow.  It is the way.  Like life follows death.

The promise of a life to come. 

We know by raw intuition it can never make sense.  It can only offer a vision to ease our walk along the path.  It is the way. 

The heart has a manner of cognition the mind can never anticipate. 

The explosion of the senses is inevitable.  We cannot endure.  There are far too much and too many stimuli.  We cannot assimilate.  We sleep.  We dream and often we wish never to awaken.  But we do awake and endure for the beauty and the wonder pull us to consciousness. 

coffee is all that matters…

We have secrets.  Secret lives and secret histories.  Buried children and stolen dreams.  We own nothing and claim everything.  We speak loudly to protect the silence.  We are lost once again in the implosion of stimuli. 

There is order here.  There is an algorithm that describes it precisely.  If we are to find our way home it is the key.  But do we want to go home?  Or do we want to fly in random order like a murder of crows? 

Are we done with reckless supposition? 

No.  We are never done.  Not while we still breathe the shifting winds and curse the closing darkness.  Let’s get drunk and do it again! 

Sleep has become a construction from which the debris of such violence hangs in a tattering wind.  Who would ever want to sleep again? 

We awaken and find comfort in the arms of a lover, in the smile of a child, in the warmth of a rising sun.  Sing me a song, old woman.  Make me alive again. 

There is something greater than ourselves.  There is a reason to rise and reach and journey to the sea.  There is hope.  There is love.  There is hardship.  There is trouble.  There is always trouble.  Death shadows behind the rocks and screeching harlots of horror.  Can we escape?  No but we can survive.  Drink the water.  We have almost reached our destiny.  There is hope. 

Decipher it and lose all traces of destiny. 

We must suffer and we must endure. 

Why are there barricades in the desert where there is nothing to protect? 

It goes beyond the reach of my madness.  And yet I have been here before.  I have drunk from the well.  I have tasted the seed.  I have reached for promises that were never there.  I will reach again if I am able.  This much I know. 

a horse designed by Dali… 

We are humans.  We strive to make sense of it all.  It is our nature.  We take scattered events in the vacuum of time and create patterns.  And from those patterns we create history and logic and structure.  In the end it all makes sense. 

But what is rational is convex and playful. 

The child is born in writhing pain that becomes penultimate joy.  The propagation of life is a tragic comedy.  The dissolution of life is a comic tragedy.  Time unfolds to push and pull at our cords.  The books are empty, devoid of wisdom, and the worms inhabit our bloodlines.  Pour me a drink and buy me some time. 

You will know that compassion has found your veins. 

We approach the answer though the question evades.  It is there in the darkness.  It is there in chorus of cicada.  It is there beyond the bushes where the wild things lie. 

Where the crows take them to see and be seen. 

There is wisdom there but it has no words, no sight nor sound.  There is truth but it has no name.  If you see the Buddha kill him for she is not the Buddha. 

But it was nothing a good fire couldn’t fix. 

I don’t know what this is but this is important.  It is the birth of religion.  It is the ancient and singular truth.  It is the Eye and the Bee and the Know and the Say.  It is the all that is nothing.  It is. 

With every bright new species religion is born and the na├»ve eye explodes against itself. 

We are rising and we have risen.  We are falling and we have crashed into the depths of a dark an unknown sea.  We have seen all there is to see and we have learned to crave more.  It is the way. 

The archaeologists will never understand the smell of gunpowder year after year and the deep carnality of an uncertain god. 

The play’s the thing and only the children understand.  We grow old and we lose our sense of play.  We mold our worries and fears onto objects as if to give them meaning.  The only meaning they have is the meaning we give to them.  God bless the children.  Never sacrifice your youth. 

Let him sleep.  Leave the poison by his bed.  It is no longer necessary. 

Jake Berry and Peter Ganick have given us an opus, the death and birth of a new religion as old as the barren sea.  This is the ultimate message of a master who has visited many dreams and dove into infinite mysteries with the will to be lost.  I don’t know about Peter but as for Jake:  It is a wonder and a miracle that he has survived these great adventures to the deepest depths of knowledge and mystery to climb out of the void and bestow upon us, his readers and consumers, the meaning and the message. 

This is yet another work of great genius.  May he live forever. 

Jack Random – Author of the Chess Series.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Valentine's Day Massacre at Stoneman Douglas High

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES:  MARCH 2018. 




VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE:  A FAILURE OF DEMOCRACY

By Jack Random


To most of us the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in affluent Parkland, Florida was an unconscionable tragedy.  To some it was a call to protest.  To others it was a call to arms – literally.  To the National Rifle Association it was an opportunity for a dramatic explosion in sales of firearms and they wasted little time exploiting it. 

According to the NRA the solution to mass shootings by mad killers with high volume killing machines is more killing machines in the hands of more people vetted for mental illness or not.  It is not a coincidence that such an approach would require a massive expenditure for guns, gun training and ammunition.  Forget the idea that we need more mental health services.  No gun-toting, gun-pimping politician has ever gone to bat for increased mental health services.  They just use it as a talking point every time one of these tragedies occurs.  Indeed, most gun advocates – being good Republicans – have consistently voted against increased mental health services. 

The new approach is one the NRA crowd can really get behind:  Guns in churches, guns in schools, guns in concerts, guns in bars.  Guns everywhere!  The more the better.  As long as it pads the bottom line let the killing go on.  It doesn’t really matter how many die as long as we protect the most extreme and absurd interpretation of the second amendment. 

It’s time gun advocates accepted the second amendment for what it is and what it was when it was drafted:  A protection against a hostile takeover of the federal government.  The right to bear arms in a “well-regulated militia” is the right to rebel against an authoritarian dictatorship. 

Only in this light does it make sense to defend an individual’s right to weapons of war.  The intended war is against our own government:  The people against our leaders. 

Is that what the second amendment defenders want?  Do they really believe that it is or will be necessary to defend our democracy against tyranny?  How do they suppose that battle will end? 

I believe democracy will survive despite the constant attempts of some to subvert it.  It has survived since the constitution was adopted.  We have had many horrible presidents and numerous members of congress that were and are an affront to human dignity and still our democracy endures. 

We do not need some federation of private militias turning our fields of plenty into killing fields in the name of freedom.  Rather we need to educate our citizenry so that inept individuals like Donald Trump have no chance of being elected to high office.  We need to defend our democratic institutions so that when mistakes like the Trump presidency happen they can be corrected in four years or less.  Disasters can be corrected by the ballot box – not by the bullet.  In some cases they can be corrected by legislative or judicial means. 

Virtually all our democratic institutions are badly in need of repair.  The most obvious flaw in our system is the Electoral College.  That we are still employing a system designed to subvert democracy is absurd to the point of unforgivable.  Needless to say, two of the worst presidents in modern history could have been avoided if the election was determined by a popular vote.  Other desperately needed reforms include:  Outlawing partisan gerrymandering, universal suffrage through automatic registration, strict laws and penalties against deliberate efforts to discourage voting or attempts to disenfranchise voters, week-long elections and easy access to voting polls. 

Critically, we need to break our dependence on a two-party system that has lost the support of the majority of our people.  As it stands a candidate for public office must conform to one of two sets of policies and ideas that have moved closer over time.  It stunts creative thinking and compels anyone who seeks a leadership position to accept the money of major corporate contributors and all that goes with that attachment.  We desperately need to get the money out of politics so that decent, intelligent people can go to Washington and solve problems like the proliferation of weaponry. 

Beyond the election process itself, we need to reform the media and education.  There was a time when the mainstream media was sufficiently trusted by the people that we could all agree on a foundation of facts.  Now we invent our own facts.  There was a time when our public schools delivered essentially the same narrative – albeit a biased narrative – of history and civics so that Americans shared a sense of identity and values. 

We cannot and should not go back to simpler times but we can do better.  Journalism needs to observe a standard of objectivity.  The institutions of record – the Times, the Post, the major networks and cable news sources – have lost all credibility.  They cannot be regarded as consistently objective news sources when they have a financial incentive to distort the news whenever corporate interests are involved.  The recent convergence of opinion that Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum are disastrous is a case on point.  There is a debate to be had on the use of tariffs to enforce fair trade policies.  It is by no means an accepted truth that tariffs are bad and free trade is good but that is how the media has generally delivered the story. 

Journalism must understand that one bad story is worth a hundred or a thousand well-sourced and unbiased stories.  When the war in Iraq was being debated, the revelation that Judy Miller served as a fence for White House propaganda set the Times back years.  The accepted practice of imbedded journalism set all of mainstream media back. 

The only reform that goes to the heart of the matter would be to separate journalism from corporate interests.  That is not going to happen any time soon.  It will therefore fall to self-governance to restore media credibility so that unscrupulous politicians like Trump can no longer get away with the standard denial of “fake news” or alternative facts. 

Education must also share responsibility for the loss an informed electorate that is able to separate fact from fiction and employ objective analysis to arrive at logical conclusions.  More and more our schools are themselves becoming propaganda machines.  That is one reason so many Republicans defend local control of the curriculum.  If they can control what kids are taught there is an excellent chance they can control the vote for years to come. 

In the end the only way to stop violence in the schools and on the streets of our cities is to throw all the bums out who allowed this to happen.  The kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are absolutely right.  Failure to address this distinctly American problem is bullshit.  

Jazz. 

Jack Random is a novelist and freelance writer now retired and living in Northern California.  He can be reached at jackrandom@earthlink.net.