To mark July 4th and to continue marking the 30th anniversary of the Culture of Protest we'll re-broadcast tonight the 2nd show I did back in 1982. It features a conversation with Earl Robinson, the composer of a number of important musical contributions to American patriotic song, including the House I Live In, and the Ballad for Americans. We talked about this work and Earl performed live in the studio. And we took note of a number of other examples of the fact that a great deal of the culture of patriotism in the US was created by people labelled as 'subversive', or 'deviant'. It's a broadcast I;m particularly proud of so give it a listen!
The Ballad of Americans was performed on national network radio by Paul Robeson (seen in the photo with Earl Robinson). The public response was enormous, and the work became an instant classic. Tune in to hear it!
Years after this broadcast I co-authored a piece with Peter Dreier that provided much more detail on how American radicals have provided much of the content of American patriotic culture (contrary to all conventional wisdom). That piece can be found on the Nation website: http://www.thenation.com/article/patriotisms-secret-history. Tune in tonight:
On Tuesday, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve a so-called “Hotel Incentive Program”. The program involves the offer of long term rebates of the ‘Transient Occupancy Tax” (bed –tax) to developers of luxury hotels if the county can find ‘public benefit’ from such a subsidy. The program is explicitly described by county leaders as a public=private partnership to promote economic vitality. The TOT in Santa Barbara county is a 10% surcharge tacked on to tourists’ bills and collected by the hoteliers. The rebate program would return 70% of the collected tax for up to 15 years. Hotels in the program would in other words c=get annual cash subsidies.
The program was initiated to enable billionaire LA developer Rick Caruso to construct a luxury hotel on the site of the long defunct and venerable Miramar Hotel in Montecito (a satellite community of Santa Barbara city with the highest per capita stockholdings in the world). Mr. Caruso has straightforwardly declared that such a hotel project, in today’s economy, cannot be financed by relying on the private sector. Creative financing that includes public subsidy is ‘required’, according to him. A billionaire (who tried to buy the LA Dodgers, and has constructed huge and glitzy entertainment and shopping malls in LA) requires a subsidy (which if he gets the rebate will amount to over $20 million) to build a resort for the very rich (room rates in the new Miramar will likely be in the $750-$1000 range).
Since the TOT was enacted in SB county by popular vote and is a primary revenue source for the county budget the idea of handing a significant chunk of it for this purpose seems, at first glance, to be, shall we say, questionable. Indeed, one might respond to this story simply by seeing it as another in the 1001 tales of how the 1% are robbing the 99%. But watching the proceedings of the county board yesterday as they and the public deliberated on the matter, I was struck by the realization that I was witnessing the triumph of what is now called “European Socialism” in our county.
County administrators argued for the rebate because the net revenues from a completed Miramar will help grow the county budget over the next 20 years. One Republican supervisor eloquently argued for the proposal because of the fact that hundreds of construction workers have been unemployed in his district for a long time and the program could generate hundreds and maybe thousands of jobs for them. Apparently, it is exciting and commendable for public money to be used for job creation to enable a development that the private ‘free’ market can’t or won’t. The leading rightwing business lobbyist in the county celebrated the idea of a business-government partnership and excoriated the county board for failing to do this sort of thing years before.
The hoped-for public benefits of the program and for the Miramar project included not only jobs—but jobs pegged at prevailing wages and hiring policies preferencing local workers. Such pro-labor features can be built into the specific agreement the county will strike with the developer. The hotel workers union (UNITE-HERE) which represented workers at the original Miramar Hotel but no longer has a foothold in this county, announced its intention to press for progressive labor policies for the new hotel, including living wage scale, job training, health benefits and, importantly, union-neutrality., These pro-worker demands were supported by the organization I spoke for at the hearing—the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN). In addition, SBCAN intends to demand that Mr. Caruso agree to make significant contributions to the supply of workforce housing in the community.
I’m being more than slightly ironic when I describe this as the arrival of socialism in one county. Irony one of course is that the program is designed to enable super-rich developers and conspicuously consuming leisure class folks to live off our land. Irony two is this:
If we really want to develop public-private partnership for economic development it would need to be done far more carefully and planfully . So far, county staff seems to have relied a great deal on Mr. Caruso’s claims and promises rather than on independent expert assessment of costs and benefits. Maybe this will be remedied as negotiations with him unfold. There has been no effort to weigh this particular use of public money against other possible ways for the county to invest and partner to create jobs and revenues. To promote high end tourism as a economic vitality tool means to promote low wage jobs (and therefore the hope that the union can organize the future hotel staff is crucial)—while neglecting possible opportunities to advance the green economy and other innovative avenues for development. And the measure approved this week was made public only 3 days before the vote, providing virtually no chance for community effort to evaluate its full impacts.
Still, it’s kind of marvelous to see Republicans and Democrats uniting around the principle that a little socialism is required to deal with fiscal crisis and unemployment.
Tags: TOT, Miramar Hotel, Caruso, European socialism, santa barbara
This week--another in the series of programs I'm doing to mark the 30 years we've been on the air (and the 50 years KCSB has been operating). This week we'll do the first of several programs hearing the voices of the many musickers I've had some personal connection to. these are folks I conversed with on the radio, or helped present to audiences in Santa Barbara, or otherwise got to know. Some of them are widely celebrated, like Ani Di Franco, Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, some have had long careers as movement performers, like Charlie King, David Rovics, Dave Lippman, Sabia and Rebel Voices. And quite a few are musickers with local roots in the community or campus--like Glenn Phillips, Chic Streetman, Rob Rosenthal, Steve Aoki, Alex Pasternak and Los Guys. I've been pulling out recorded stuff from as many of these guests and friends as I can find. Listening to all this work provides us with a panoramic view of events and movements of the last several decades and honors the still vibrant tradition of playing for change. I hope you'll have a chance to tun in.
Last Sunday I had the honor being invited to give the commencement address to the social science graduation exercise at UCSB. It seemed to have been well received., I'll share the text here for foks who may want to take a look.
chutzpah can make history
This very weekend 50 years ago, I was one of about 60 people in their teens and early 20s who stood, early in the morning, on the shore of Lake Huron in Michigan. We were ending a 5 day gathering at a labor camp in Port Huron Michigan—a gathering which launched a new student organization called Students for a Democratic society—and most of the time during that week, we had spent arguing and discussing and writing what became a manifesto for the Sixties generation, which came to be called the Port Huron Statement. It was a small group of people, who, despite their youth, had already had some experience with history—some came directly from scenes of struggle against segregation in the American south in which several had gone to jail because they had engaged in civil disobedience defying legalized segregation. Some had been rallying and marching to oppose the testing of atomic and hydrogen bombs and demanding an end to the nuclear arms race. Some of those who came were leaders on the campuses—student body presidents and campus newspaper editors. We shared a strong feeling that the politics and policies then governing –the politics of racism and cold war, of corporate bureaucracy and the warfare state, were providing our futures with little room for honorable service and honest expression. But we were enormously excited and compelled by another feeling: that young people, not burdened by the mindsets of the past, were taking and could take creative action that could change history. That feeling was inspired by the sit ins and freedom rights and mass marches of black youth, who were crumbling the walls of segregation-- doing with their bodies and with their songs what Joshua had done with trumpets at Jericho.
We have a word in Yiddish: chutzpah. Let’s hear you say it:
It’s sort of untranslatable but it conveys something like “audacious presumption” or ‘presumptuous audacity”! The students who occupied the lunch counters, and people like Rosa Parks who broke a law requiring to give up her seat to a white man on the bus—showed chutzpah. So did the young people gathered at Port Huron 50 years ago—because we, a small band of young people, presumed to make a detailed statement of how the world should be that intentionally challenged the conventional wisdom of their elders—asserted that somehow, despite our youth, we might know better than those in charge how the th world ought to work:
racial segregation had to go—now.
The nuclear arms race must stop,
Colleges and universities ought to be doing more to connect students’ lives to the conditions and movements of society.
And above all—we declared our commitment to what we called participatory democracy—a vision of society organized so that people could have a say in the decisions that affected them--not just vote for leaders but be able actively to share in governance in their everyday lives –in their workplaces, schools, communities—in the economy as well as the political realm.
One lesson of the sixties: chutzpah can make history
A small group of kids with chutzpah , acting creatively , can help trigger a widening movement, can plant a seed to start a branching tree, can hurl a stone in a pool making waves. We learned then an important sociological principle: the power of the powerless resides in collective action that very often starts when small numbers have the chutzpah to initiate action or express ideas that break official rules and silences.
We’re seeing this happening I think all over the world right now.
In Cairo, a small circle of young computer savvy folks, who had read a lot about the nonviolent movements of the sixties, daringly used megaphones and twitter to call people to gather in Tahrir square at a fortuitous moment. In NY a small group of young people decided to tent out in a park on Wall Street. In Madison, a local union of graduate teaching assistants occupied the state capitol building to protest the Wisconsin governor’s efforts to virtually destroy the capacity of public employees to be represented by unions,
And just Friday we learned that the courageous activism of student DREAMers has led the president to provide protection to the right’s of 800,000 American youth.
These are but a few of the astonishing waves of protests in many parts of the world that have been going on for the last 18 months Alongside the Arab Spring, and the Wisconsin movement, and the occupy wall street, massive mobilizations have happened in these months in Quebec, and Chile, In Tel Aviv and Madrid—very often sparked by students and recent graduates. In fact, the size and scope of these are at least equal to similar moments back in the sixties.
One way to interpret all of this: these protests all are seeking a semblance of real democracy—a social set up where people can have a say in the decision that affect them. That quest for real voice is made urgent in a time of economic crisis: When the economic pie is not growing, when it’s shrinking, how is the pain distributed?
As you all know that’s a matter that deeply affects daily life and life chances. We’re being told right now, in California, that our school year must be reduced, that vital programs must be ended, that, in a state whose university was begun on the premise that its tuition would be free so that all qualified could come to it, must increasingly shift its costs to students. This is happening when large numbers of affluent Californians refuse to pay higher taxes—even though many of them were in their youth beneficiaries of a free education.
This is happening on the premise that it’s fair to expect college students to go into debt to pay their education, because their degrees will provide so much opportunity for future earning power—and yet those opportunities are being greatly narrowed by the austerity effort aimed at social investment and public service. The shrionking of the public sector, austerity aimed at the helping professions and at education and social service—directly limits your ability to do the work you’ve been preparing for in your years here.
If you feel, under these circumstances, that you and your peers ought to have more say in the making of policies that affect you, well I’m here to support that feeling,
As a longtime sociology prof here, I am proud to believe that the education you’ve been provided in your years here has given you a good deal of the knowledge, the intellectual tools, to make your voice worth hearing—and to figure out how to make it heard.
Last Friday, I attended the serrvice awards ceremony for graduating seniors honoring their leadership and scholarship—and was deeply inspired by the achievements—often against adversity—of so many people in your graduating class.
This state—and this country--desperately needs to hear your learned voices.
Your own life chances really depend on your active presence in the public discourse.
As we can see from the swirl of conflict around the world, there’s no straight path from people rising up to demand a share of power and the achieving of it. But let’s remember what Dr. King asked us to realize: the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
On the shores of Lake Huron 50 years ago today I internalized a faith in the promise and the necessity of participatory democracy, Now so much older, I am not wise. My experience, and my research efforts lead me to affirm that faith—democracy is desperately needed, it’s possible, Its possibility depends on people willing to question authority even though that might mean serious risk and sacrifice.
Your generation has to lead now in the endless struggle for democracy. But it isn’t all on you. We all together have to make it.
Tags: 2012 commencement speechm chutzpah, participatory democracy, port huron statement
Its graduation weekend coming up at UCSB--and every year at this time I like to put together a collage of recent songs that seem to work together as a musical speech to the graduates. This year, there's an added dimension--I'm making the commencement address on Sunday morning to the social science II event. So the question of what needs to be said right now is much on my mind! Anyway, tune in for songs that challenge, provoke and inspire--and a bit of a nod to Father's Day along the way.
If I have anything to say in the aftermath of Wisconsin it will not be to simply join the chorus crying defeat and disaster. Those far away from the actual struggle, like me, have the luxury of distanced reflection, of course. The results of the election are surely heartbreaking for thousands, not only because of the physical and mental investment, but because a victory would have been truly marvelous, would have been able to be seen as a real turning point for new possibility.
You've heard all the interpretations based on the huge amounts spent to save Walker. Surely such torrents of right wing cash are threatening, but I have to say that I've always found the campaign finance analysis of power much too simple and not usually the key to understanding how important elections are decided. Walker’s funding probably helped him in the early stage of the recall, to overcome negative approval ratings, and therefore dilute the emotional ground for a recall. Maybe too the advertising onslaught in the early phase helped instill the idea that ‘recall’ itself was a tool only to be used in the case of official crime. But that idea may well have been widely believed all along, and close watchers of the campaign indicate that the recall campaign was weak in framing messages to the independent voters that would enable them to see how their interest and lives might be affected by the outcome.
The Wisconsin movement for workers’ rights is, I believe, an historic one. The million signatures for recall, and the million plus voters for recall are quantitative evidence of the fact that Walker’s anti-worker moves helped mobilize and engage a huge ‘base’ that included many people not directly hurt by his initiatives. Real solidarity is possible in 21st century America, we learn. There are a lot of people hungry to participate in collective action for justice and democracy. I assume that the movement has now a great resource in the names and coordinates of thousands of activists and has created many new lines of communication across the state. In fact, one of the main gains of a big electoral project—no matter what the results of the vote—is precisely the identification of a large number of people who share some significant political perspectives and values. And many of these folk have shown in these months that they are ready for direct action as well as electoral politics.
Is there a way for this grassroots network to carry on an effective fight from here on—not only to defend collective bargaining for public employees, but more importantly for jobs and justice for working people?
The Wisconsin election may not have been the worst for public workers. Here in California, voters overwhelmingly approved cuts in pension rights for public workers in San Diego and San Jose. San Jose is historically something of a labor town, so these votes can’t be attributed to right wing populism. On the contrary—in San Jose people were voting in the context of closed libraries and fire stations. They were deciding whether pension entitlements of public employees were as important as the public services they were losing. After San Jose, many mayors and o=governors will be more confident about proposing pension ‘reform’, feeling assured that the popular will is with them.
If we assume that this is a problem for the public employee unions to solve on their own, we’ll be abdicating our own social responsibility and political need. The issue at hand goes beyond the matter of pensions—though that is not a small matter. It’s about the common good. Public worker unions do need to come to the community with a clear expression of their commitment to public service—telling not only how much many have in fact sacrificed in the way of wages and benefits but making concrete pledges about their commitment to the people they are paid to serve. They need to try to shape the emerging debate about their rights and roles so that the social needs they fulfill are understood and foregrounded. And they have to engage fully in clear efforts to achieve tax justice as key to alleviating the fiscal crisis.
I think the future of unionism requires new definitions of who belongs. Emphasis on contract bargaining as the definition and goal of union activity can no longer work. Social movement unionism—whose goal is to speak for the interest of all workers whether or not covered by contracts—is the only framework that makes sense anymore. We need to see more effective experiments in creating union structures that anyone can join and have some voice in. Structures that are not focused on collective bargaining but on social change at local and regional and state levels.
Maybe a good example right now is the National Nurses Union (whose roots are in the California Nurses Association). NNU is certainly organizing for collective bargaining. But simultaneously they are imaginatively mobilizing for social change—in their case taking the lead on the idea of a “Robin Hood Tax”. In such efforts they are making use of a good deal of creative direct action and guerilla theater, and opening their activity to people who support their goals and not just the health workers they are directly representing.
The idea, first broached by Fernando Gapasin, of creating citywide labor membership organizations through Central Labor Councils is now an idea whose time has come. It’s a good way of envisioning how people who want to participate in struggles for worker justice can be brought directly into an organizational framework that gives them a say in the labor movement (and pay some dues!) even if they aren't in a unionized workplace. Formats like this seem to me to be a promising way to broaden the perspective, the language and the reach of the unions. As Fernando Gapasin puts it in advocating a new institutional structure for the labor movement:
“Creating community cultures of solidarity is related to the issue of developing labor movements that embrace the 88% of workers who are not in unions and create an inclusive labor movement that fights for the interests of all workers, not just the 12% that are in institutional unions”.
This week’s elections should spur us to think in these terms.
Here in Santa Barbara, the primary elections went pretty well, despite low turnout. All the candidates supported by progressives—for county board, state legislature and congress—were successful. There will be a tough congressional race between Lois Capps and her GOP opponent Abel Maldonado because of redistricting. The Republican PACS see this district as one of the few where they may be able to capture a democratic seat and so millions will be poured in here by them. Hopefully the Democrats in this district will now unite to support Lois and Hannah Beth Jackson in November. Two other instructive results: Despite a quarter of a million dollars spent to try to pass a measure giving public land to a private developer, the measures was defeated 2 to 1 by environmental groups and neighborhood residents with few dollars at their disposal. Money doesn't always talk. On the other hand, two school finance measures, both supported by 65%, failed to pass because prop 13 requires them to have 2/3 voter support. The capacity of the right wing minority to veto democratic will is a major barrier to rational policy now in the USA. The measures in question were opposed by the SB New-Press billionaire owner Wendy McCaw. I like to say that no one pays attention to her editorials—but in this case 500 people out of 25,000may well have (as Nick Welch points out in the SB Independentthis week)/
Tags: Wisconsin recall, future of labor unions, Santa Barbara election
It was June 1982 when I started to do the Culture of Protest, and this month I'll be doing some shows that mark the moment. This Thursday will be kind of special: We'll rebroadcast the first show. It's a program which coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement and during the show, we read some excerpts from that manifesto of the Sixties new left. So the rebroadcast is especially timely because it will mark the 50th anniversary of Port Huron as well as our 30th. During the hour, much music from the sixties that resonates with the text and the times. A nice mixture of nostalgia and inspiration, I think.
culture of protest thurs 6/7/12 6-7pm kcsb 91.9fm www.kcsb.org
Tags: sixties protest music, culture of protest anniversary, port huron statement
Last week the New York Times published a remarkable piece. It was headlined:
Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will.
The story by reporters Jo Becker and Scott Shane reveals a very dark and dangerous side to the Obama presidency. It makes clear that President Obama personally targets individuals to be killed by drone strikes. His decisions are based on his own personal judgment of whether the potential target fits criteria (the nature of which is secret) that would warrant their execution. These targets are not located in the zones of combat where US military are engaged but in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The targets are allegedly associated with Al Qaeda. We learn from the story that the targeting process has gradually extended from individually named persons, to wider human clusters believed to be warranted for so-called ‘signature’ attacks. Some of those killed were US citizens.
President Obama, according to the story, initially undertook this personal role to try to make sure that civilian deaths would be minimized, but soon learned how to loosen targeting criteria so that many deaths of unknown males would not be counted as potentially civilian. Indeed, the story suggests that the targeting process has gradually widened to include as targets that earlier might have been avoided. Apparently, the administration believes that the program has substantially weakened Al Qaeda, while avoiding the costs in US lives and resources that would be entailed by efforts to detain these suspected terrorists.
The revelations mark a significant qualitative assumption of power by this president over human life that goes beyond any previously known. Since the A-Bomb was created, presidents have of course had the power to annihilate the human race (and in that event annihilate the whole human story!). This god-like power, however, is not supposed ever to be actually used but to serve as a deterrent threat to enemies—and it is balanced by the similar powers available to other rulers possessing the bomb. The Presidential drone kill list provides the president with the ready at hand ability to personally direct the killing of persons based on the president’s personal judgment. No check, no due process—no constraint other than the legitimacy of the president himself.
The article indicates that the president assumed this power not only because of its obvious benefit in defeating terrorists, but for a creditable moral reason. His reading of Augustine and Thomas-Aquinas—of ‘just war’ theory—persuaded him that he morally had to take personal responsibility for this kill program and had to try to ensure that it met the standards of just war doctrine. But the details of the story makes one feel that Obama is kidding himself if he thinks that this perspective provides moral sanction for what he is doing.
He claims legal warrant for his actions, but the documentation of this is secret. He campaigned as one who would reverse the Bush claims for executive power—claims that were used to justify Guantanamo, indefinite detention, rendition and military trials of terrorism suspects. But the article makes it clear that all of these have been retained by this administration. Indeed, it indicates that he engaged the attorney general in conversations designed to find the legal loopholes that would justify continuing these policies. And the article further indicates that some of the kill program has been carried out over the objections of the State Department and the American ambassador in Pakistan.
But beyond the immediate moral confusion is the precedent Obama’s program sets for the rest of the world and the rest of time. It seems to provide authority for the idea that the democratically elected head of a constitutional state can assume the sole authority to secretly execute anyone he regards as a justifiable target. And at the same time it invests in the development of technologies for deepest possible surveillance and reliable murder—technologies easily diffused throughout the world for all kinds of uses that we can imagine. Will this be Barack Obama’s historical legacy?
I’m writing this not, as some misguided progressives argue, to claim that Obama should no longer be supported at election time. I’m very certain that his defeat might well mark the end of political hope. But it’s imperative that, if we’re concerned about human rights, and about the survival of democracy, we try to formulate a strategy to control the droning before it’s too late.
I don’t know what that strategy might turn out to require. But some immediate things we need to try to make happen:
+Push members of congress to take leadership in defense of the bill of rights, due process and related values. A bill of rights caucus might be a good early step—and a valuable thing would be congressional hearings on the kill program, the social impact of drone technology and related matters. After Watergate, Senate hearings on the role of US intelligence agencies were a landmark in getting some control over the FBI and the CIA. Senator Feinstein has taken the lead in proposing a law to prevent detention without due process. Can this move on her part set an example for similar initiatives?
+This story is one of many recent indications that the Holder Justice Department is not serving the country or the president well. IT has quite consistently supported or encouraged the shredding of the bill of rights in relation to the ‘war on terror’. It has apparently been a key element in encouraging the militarization of police response to street protests in our cities. It has embarked on foolish failed prosecutions such as the John Edwards fiasco, but has failed so far to deal with the criminality in the banking and financial sector, even after the appointment of Eric Schneiderman to beef up this effort. I’m hooping that with respect to voter suppression in this year’s election DoJ will be a powerful force for maintaining voting rights. But that crucial effort shouldn’t be seen as a trade-off for not protecting rights in other domains.
+There has to be a growing public awareness and discussion about all the above, carried on in such a way that the President is forced to be accountable for his extra-constitutional activity. Ultimately, we need to dismantle the Imperial Presidency, because any occupant of the imperial office will, we now know strive to expand his capacity for surveillance, control and killing. Obama is the latest of the long line of ‘liberal’ presidents who have done such striving. Wilson jailed and deported thousands who questioned his war policy. FDR imprisoned more than 100,000 Japanese Americans without due process. Truman instituted a Loyalty program that investigated millions of federal employees. JFK agreed to the deep surveillance of Martin Luther King. LBJ authorized the FB’I counter intelligence program that constructed lists of thousands of young activists targeted for preventive detention in case of national emergency. How can we break the imperial chain?
Tags: Obama, drones, kill list, bill of rights, justice department
Dick Flacks here...sociology professor emeritus at UCSB. Budget cuts mean that I can't continue my annual course on political sociology. Maybe a blog will be a space for me to continue to ruminate and pontificate. And maybe (as a veteran teacher on these matters) I can offer some ways of thinking about what's happening nationally and locally that will be useful, as we struggle to make sense of the tortured complexities of these times.
I've been a leftwing activist for more than 50 years. What we've been struggling for all these years is full democracy--to increase the opportunities for people to have real voice in the decisions that affect them. Step by step over these years we've made some gain...but it is a long march, and one that never ends. The big barrier to democracy in our society is the concentrated power of corporations. At the same time, democracy is undermined by the felt powerlessness of people in their daily lives--the persistent belief that our problems are only our own personal concern. It's a strong cultural theme--such individualism--constantlly reinforced by mass media and everyday circumstance. But the current big crisis of the economy maybe makes it more possible for more people to understand that we've got to have social reform and economic reform. So my writing here is aimed at helping us figure out what to think and act on that so that we can hope for new democratic possibilities. WE'll be talking about the local and the national.
The blog name comes from an old labor union hymn:
Step by step the longest march can be won. Many stones can form an arch...singly none. And by union what we will can be accomplished still. Drops of water turn a mill, singly none, singly none.
For 27 years I've had a weekly radio show on KCSB (91.9 fm. www.kcsb.org) It's called the Culture of Protest. It's comes from my fascination with music and social movements. I collect 'political' and 'protest' music and that's what we play each week (Thursdays 6-7 pm). So sometimes here we'll share and talk about that.
I'm worried about one thing about the blogosphere. And that's the way that some people use the blog comment space for anonymous nastiness. I'm sick of the kind of political blather that assaults the motives of others, and sees dark conspiracy behind every thing one doesn't like. This kind of stuff is helping to poison the political atmosphere. So I'm going to strive for a civil tone to whatever interaction may happen on this blogsite.