Wednesday, December 25, 2013

In Praise of Snowden

If Santa Claus were real, it is tempting to think he would be an agent for the N.S.A. He does, after all, "see you when you're sleeping/He knows when you're awake..." In fact, this is the premise of a satirical web-video produced by the ACLU.

If there was a "story of the year" in 2013, it was Edward Snowden's frightening revelations of the National Security Agency's vast surveillance of nearly every phone call, email and text message of American citizens. But instead of praising Snowden and his courageous leaks, the 30-year-old former N.S.A. contractor has been maliciously attacked by the corporate press and the power elite. They know he poses a threat to them.

Snowden, like Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and other valiant whistleblowers before him, continues this country's rich tradition of Americans taking great professional and personal risks--including jail time--for the greater good.

These whistleblowers personify Henry David Thoreau's call-to-conscience dictum, as expressed in his 1849 essay, Civil Disobedience, that "Under a government that imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is... a prison."

Claiming that "law never made men a whit more just," Thoreau appealed to all citizens' moral sense of justice. "Unjust laws exist," he wrote. "Shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?"

Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse... If it [an unjust law] is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. (Italics his.)

Thoreau famously went to jail for refusing to pay his income taxes in protest of the Mexican-American War. According to legend, when his friend and transcendentalist mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson came to bail him out he asked Thoreau, reproachfully, "Henry, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau answered, "The question, Waldo, is what are you doing out there?"

Indeed, Snowden, far more than Barack Obama, deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. Snowden has given us confirmation of what many have long suspected: Americans, in the 21st century, are the most spied upon people in the history of civilization.

The president's self-appointed advisory panel issued 46 recommendations for de-escalating the N.S.A.'s spying program last week. In particular, the panel urged the establishment of a FISA-style court which the president would need to obtain authority from before wiretapping any American phone calls.

While the panel offered some much-needed oversight to the N.S.A.'s so-called "PRISM" program, it remains to be seen how many, if any, of its recommendations Obama will implement. The New York Times, in an editorial Saturday ("Mr. Obama's Disappointing Response," 12/21/2013), took the president to task for his inaction on the matter, claiming embracing the recommendations was "really [the] only...course to take on surveillance policy..." Calling the N.S.A.'s widespread data collection on Americans' phone and email conversations a "clear violation of the Constitution," the Times' editors write:

He [President Obama] kept returning to the idea that he might be willing to do more, but only to reassure the public "in light of the disclosures that have taken place." In other words, he never intended to make the changes that his panel... have advocated to correct the flaws in the government's surveillance policy had they not been revealed by Edward Snowden's leaks. And that is why any actions that Mr. Obama may announce next month would certainly not be adequate.

The fact is, Snowden's actions have had a far greater impact on all of our lives than any innocuous comments Pope Francis has made. Web pundit, Dennis Trainor, Jr. (aka Davis Fleetwood) emphasizes this fact in a recent piece for his video-blog series AcronymTV  ("Because you stand for something. Don't you...?"). "Adults are now confronted with a reality that cannot be dismissed as conspiracy theory paranoia," says Trainor. "The N.S.A., for all intents and purposes, sees us when we sleep and knows when we're awake."

Yet, even among progressives, there remains division over the value of Snowden's leaks. One popular liberal talking-point is to criticize the manner in which Snowden leaked his information. Maine Senator Angus King and New Yorker writer, Jeffrey Toobin are proponents of this argument. Both believe Snowden should have utilized the "traditional channels" for his leaks--which I assume means, Congress and the federal government. But this suggestion is absurd. Congress is well aware of the PRISM program. Even if Snowden had initially taken his revelations to members of the House or Senate do King and Toobin honestly believe they would have acted on it?

As Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who broke Snowden's story, pointed out this summer on Democracy Now! (06/24/13), had Snowden gone through the traditional whistleblower channels he "would have ended up having to go to the very same members of Congress who think that not only are these programs good, but that they ought to remain secret."

King, when asked by The Takeaway back in June whether he considers Snowden a "hero" or "traitor"--in accordance with the mainstream press' typically binary view of the world--the Independent senator replied, "...I'm moving more and more toward the 'treason' end of the scale." This from a man the Portland Phoenix praised during the 2012 election as a "serious thinker with a strong bent for... well considered understanding" ("The King Impression," 10/31/2012).

Incidentally, this tactic of quibbling over tactics or procedure is a typical liberal cop-out. It allows liberal politicians to vote against issues or policies they should, theoretically, support, claiming they take issue with the "procedure." (The Democratic majority on the Portland City Council invokes this stance all the time.)

The importance of Snowden's leaks cannot be understated. It is important to keep in mind that we as citizens have a legitimate right to be informed of these crimes--crimes which are being perpetrated against us. This is not a "left," vs. "right" issue. It affects us all, regardless of our political persuasion. And while it is popular among individuals on both the right and left to cynically shrug their shoulders and claim they personally have nothing to be worried about--that they are not "doing anything wrong"--such an apathetic attitude misses the point. When the government is essentially watching everything you do, monitoring everyone you contact, it is the government that determines what behavior is acceptable.

Think you have "nothing to hide"? The security state will be the judge of that.

Given the blurry, selectively applied label of "terrorist" in post-9/11 America, it is nothing of a stretch for the government to determine the actions of a peace activist, or a member of Occupy Wall Street as "terrorism." (Why, for instance, were the Sandy Hook Elementary and Aurora, Colorado movie-theater shootings not considered acts of terrorism, but this year's Boston Marathon bombing was?)

To that end, we need more Americans like Edward Snowden. His is the truest form of patriotism.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Alan Caron to Kids: "Create Your Own Damn Jobs!"

Media Watch

Re: "New set of challenges on the horizon for teachers," Alan Caron, Portland Press Herald, 12.19.2013.

Alan Caron, President and founder of Envision Maine and PPH columnist.

Centrist political columnist, Alan Caron, has been with the Press Herald for about a year now. He typically represents the "moderate" (read: corporate status quo) viewpoint, frequently advocating fiscal conservatism with (moderately) liberal social stands. Caron is the founder and president of the business-oriented non-profit, Envision Maine, which lists Angus King, TD Bank, and Maine Chamber of Commerce president, Dana Connors as its partners on its website.

I would liken him to the New York Times's Joe Nocera.

Caron fancies himself a political "independent," which, in Maine, is very trendy right now. In reality, he is about as "independent" as his buddy Angus and would-be governor Eliot Cutler. For instance, in an August 8, 2013 column ("Old two-party election system fails us, so let's change it,"), Caron advocated stricter ballot access laws in the state as a sensible, "moderate" way to reform the two-party duopoly. The problem with this approach is that Maine already has some of the most ridged ballot access hurdles in the nation. For a self-described "independent," Caron demonstrates an astoundingly limited capacity to think outside of the box.

Yet Caron's most recent column struck me for reasons I doubt he intended it to. While most of the piece praising the work of teachers and the ever increasing responsibilities they face was blandly by-the-numbers, one short section caught my attention.

Among Caron's three-point "most prominent challenges" educators must address is the notion teachers must produce not only future employees, but future employers as well. He writes:
The next economy will have more small businesses created here in Maine and fewer large ones from away. Increasingly, today's children and their children will need to create their own jobs rather than find them. But schools aren't preparing them to do that. Making our own jobs is, by the way, exactly what our grandparents and great-grandparents regularly did.
While I would like to see some actual evidence for the lofty claim in the first sentence (especially given that it is undermined by everything else I have read), it is the second sentence, with its claim young graduates will essentially need to create their own jobs, that I find interesting.

Now, at face value this is actually sound advice. Maine traditionally has a long history of successful entrepreneurs, and given the current economic climate the idea of working for oneself is becoming increasingly more attractive to Americans.

But in coming right out and conceding members of the next generation may well need to create their own work opportunities, Caron perhaps inadvertently hints at a rarely acknowledged truth about capitalism. Namely, that the system does not allow for full-employment.

This is true regardless of the state of the economy. Even in a healthy, thriving economy, capitalism does not produce full-employment--i.e. a job for every individual who is willing and able to work. This is, furthermore, not a mere "glitch" or aberration of the system. Capitalism, as Marx observes in Das Kapital, is intentionally designed to prevent full-employment. It cannot survive without a constant supply of what Marx termed a "reserve army of labor." Without this supply of reserve labor employers would have less ability to suppress wages and labor strikes, and generally keep their work force under control.

If, as Caron argues, "making our own jobs" is what our grandparents and great-grandparents were forced to do, it is merely further proof of capitalism's effective negation of any kind of full-employment economy. Apparently the exalted "job creators" of their time were no busier "creating jobs" than they are today.    

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Two Americas

On the Rich and the Rest of Us.

John Edwards famously declared during the 2008 presidential campaign that there are "two Americas"--one for the rich and one for everybody else.

While the former U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate's words now ring quite hollow in light of his own hedonistic, duplicitous behavior, his observations into America's ever widening economic stratification nonetheless remain true.

There are two Americas. One, occupied by an extremely wealthy minority, and the other made up of the poor, the unemployed, underemployed and members of what was once referred to as the "middle class." Or, as PBS news-host, Tavis Smiley and Professor Cornel West put it in the title of their 2012 book, there are the rich and the rest of us.

The last 30 years have seen a staggering rise in income inequality not seen since the Great Depression. Currently, the upper one percent of American society owns more wealth than the bottom 99 percent combined. This is a level of inequality unmatched among industrialized nations. As economist Joseph Stiglitz makes clear in his book The Price of Inequality (Norton, 2012), the consequences for such a wealth gap are indeed grave.

He writes:

[A]s our economic system is seen to fail for most citizens, and as our political system seems to be captured by moneyed interests, confidence in our democracy and in our market economy will erode along with our global influence. As the reality sinks in that we are no longer a country of opportunity and that even our long-vaunted rule of law and system of justice have been compromised, even our sense of national identity may be put in jeopardy (p. xii).
Yet the dystopian future Stiglitz forecasts may already be here. These two Americas come with two highly distinct sets of laws that seem to apply only to the poor. The rich are exempt.

Case in point, Ethan Couch, a 16-year-old accused of killing four people in a drunk driving accident in Texas, successfully escaped jail time by pleading a case of "affluenza." The teen, the defendants ludicrously argued, was brought up in a privileged home where he was never held accountable for his actions and therefore gained a sense of entitlement. As a result, the defense argued and the judge agreed, he should not receive the typical 20-year prison sentence for his crime.

"Affluenza," it should be noted, is not even an actual psychological condition. Indeed, this story seems more like something out of The Onion than an actual news report.

American law, as it is currently practiced, only truly applies to the poor. The rich, the elite and the powerful can break the law at will and get away with it. This is exactly what happened when Wall Street trashed the global economy through reckless, illegal gambling, and was then promptly rescued with a taxpayer-funded government bailout. To date not a single banker has gone to prison.

"The rich are different from you and me," F. Scott Fitzgerald allegedly wrote in a letter to Ernest Hemingway. "Yes," Hemingway is said to have replied, "they have more money."

Fitzgerald's classic novel, The Great Gatsby, masterfully illustrates how the wealthy elite cruelly and callously manipulate others for their own personal aims. Gatsby, in his singular quest for fame, wealth, power and, ultimately, love, erases his very identity. Gatsby, Fitzgerald writes, "invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end."

As psychologist Dr. Suniya Luthar notes in the aforementioned Affluenza story, "We are setting a double-standard for the rich and poor. ...[F]amilies that have money, you can drink and drive."

Luthar continues:

What is the likelihood if this [Couch] was an African American, inner-city kid that grew up in a violent neighborhood to a single mother who is addicted to crack and he was caught two or three times... what is the likelihood that the judge would excuse his behavior and let him off because of how he was raised?
She raises an excellent point. Perhaps no other group in America has experienced, firsthand, the blatant hypocrisy and cruel double-standard in our laws than the African American community. Black Americans--particularly young black males--are disproportionately imprisoned at an unprecedented rate. According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Justice, black men make up 40.2 percent of all prison inmates. One in every three black men will spend time in prison in their lifetime, along with one in every six Latino males. The vast majority of those imprisoned are serving time for nonviolent offenses, such as drug possession.

Law professor Michelle Alexander attributes this discriminatory practice to the "War on Drugs." In her revealing book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010), Alexander argues the War on Drugs has far more to do with imprisoning and disenfranchising African Americans from mainstream society than with apprehending any actual drug-lords. Like the racist Jim Crow laws of the 19th century that prevented blacks from voting, she contends, the criminal justice system serves to create and maintain a "permanent under-caste."

Nationally, the unemployment rate for African Americans remains double that of whites. Yet, highly successful figures like Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama are consistently held up as proof that, today, blacks too can "make it if they try."

The left's inability (or is it unwillingness...?) to talk frankly and directly about class and class struggle has left it divided and impotent. This is why I long ago severed myself from the liberal class. I am not interested in dabbling in identity politics or tweaking the capitalist system so more people can join the ranks of the rich. I want a real democratic revolution.

Until such a revolution occurs, may I suggest a slight amendment to the Pledge of Allegiance? Given the vast discrepancies in the enforcement of the law with regard to rich and poor, it is no longer accurate to maintain America provides "....liberty and justice for all."

We should, therefore, change one word so it reads, "....with liberty and justice for some."

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Error: In the original posting of this piece, 16-year-old Ethan Couch was incorrectly identified as "Andrew Couch." The name has been corrected. Guerrilla Press is dedicated to accuracy and regrets the error.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sixteen Tons

...And what do you get? Not much, it turns out.

One of the first jobs I had growing up in Kennebunk, Maine, was cashiering at the locally-owned grocery store, Garden Street Market. I started working in the Produce Department when I was about 15 and continued through college.

The job was hardly glamorous. It involved a lot of standing for long periods, muscle and back pain from the repetitive motions, and, at times, hostile, unruly customers.

But the store owner was a decent man who treated his workers with respect and dignity. My co-workers were genuinely warm, earnest people, many of whom became good friends. And the pay, as far as retail jobs go, wasn't all that bad. By the time I left, I was, as a full-time employee, making close to $9 an hour. I even received a modest health insurance package.

In 2010, Garden Street Market closed when a massive Hannaford moved in just down the street. The owner did not even attempt to compete with the chain store.

His only demand of Hannaford was they offer jobs to any of store's employees who wanted one. Those who now work at Hannaford, I am told, are not happy with the big store or the management. One former co-worker, who was always so chatty and social with the townspeople who came through her line, laments the cashiers are forbidden from talking to customers at length beyond the standard, "How are you today?" and "Did you find everything you were looking for?"

While Garden Street was never truly my "dream job," I still occasionally reminisce about my time working there. I was treated with dignity, respect and, generally, received an honest wage for honest work. What more, really, can any worker ask for?

Alas, many retail and service workers are not afforded the same basic treatment. Local, independently-owned mom & pop stores like Garden Street Market are rapidly going the way of the manufacturing industry. In fact, Hannaford Brothers (founded in Portland, Maine; now owned by the European, Delhaize Corporation) is currently the largest employer in the state. L.L. Bean, Walmart, TD Bank, Maine Medical Center, and tax-dodger Bath Iron Works, round out the top 10.

According to an in-depth jobs report in the Maine Sunday Telegram (June, 2013), the jobs with the most expected growth are almost exclusively in retail, fast-food, or customer service. (Health care also ranks high here in Maine due to the state's aging population, the oldest in the nation.) And, contrary to popular belief, these jobs are not primarily held by teenagers or college students. A recent report by the National Employment Law Project finds the average age of fast-food workers is 29. More than 26 percent of them, according to the report, have children and subsist on poverty wages.

The average retail worker earns around $8.25 an hour--a mere dollar above the federal minimum wage. Most must rely on public services such as foodstamps, WIC, or TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) checks to make ends meet. These retail giants' stinginess toward their workers costs taxpayers nearly $7 billion annually according to researchers at the University of California, Berkley. The fast-food industry alone, made more than $7.4 billion in profits last year.

Indeed, this is another blatant form of corporate welfare, which I wrote about earlier this year. We are essentially paying these companies' employees for them.

As far as jobs go, retail ranks only slightly higher than janitorial work. Employees at big-box stores like Target, Walmart and The Gap, in addition to their cashiering or shelf-stocking duties, must also empty the trash, sweep and mop the floors, clean the associate breakroom and even the bathrooms. They are also responsible for disposing of any trash customers indifferently leave behind in the shopping carts. Such items can include everything from empty fast-food containers, unfinished Starbucks lattes, discarded tissues and even soiled diapers.

In fact, it is quite common for customers to pawn their garbage off on cashiers while checking out, commanding--never asking--them to "Throw this out!" Whether they are oblivious to the large trash receptacles that line the entrance of most of these big-box stores, or simply too lazy to make use of them on their way out, has never been clear to me. I once had an old man slowly and deliberately crumple his receipt up in front of me and drop it right on the register in a manner that suggested I was wrong to have handed it to him in the first place.

Additionally, retail workers must endure erratic scheduling, including shifts on weekends and holidays. Increasingly, more and more retail workers are expected to work on Thanksgiving Day. Associates are often forced to work until the store's close, getting home around 10:30 or 11 p.m., only to return to the store at 7 or 8 a.m. the following day. This unrelenting scheduling particularly takes its toll on single mothers, especially if they work an additional job. And you can forget about having any sort of a social life when you work retail. The few days associates do get off are usually in the beginning or middle of the week--when everybody else is working.

All of this demeaning work for jobs that offer meager pay, no health insurance, no overtime pay, no union protection and little opportunity for advancement. Since most retail workers are considered "part-time,"--even if they actually work close to 40 hours a week--employers do not have to offer them any health care. This is unlikely to change with the official start of Obamacare next year.

But increasingly low-wage workers are fighting back.

On Nov. 29, "Black Friday," Walmart workers went on strike in over 1,500 stores nationwide to demand higher wages. Walmart employees, operating under the labor-advocacy group, Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart, initiated the strikes on what is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. The strikes came on the heels of a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) lawsuit against the retail giant that alleges Walmart illegally fired or disciplined employees who took part in a similar strike earlier this summer.

Walmart is the nation's largest employer and ranks number one on the Fortune 500, with profits of $443.9 billion in 2012.

Doug Born, president of the Southern Maine Labor Council, attended a protest, along with 25 other labor activists and Walmart employees, at the Walmart in Scarborough. The retail giant, according to Born, has a "terrible habit of underpaying" its workers.

So much, it seems, for the idea these corporate big-box stores "create jobs" in their cities and neighborhoods.

"How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach," John Steinbeck asked in The Grapes of Wrath, "but in the wretched bellies of his own children? You can't scare him--he has known a fear beyond every other."

Retail workers of the world, unite!

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How Identity Politics Destroyed the Left

It is difficult not to view Maine U.S. Rep. and would-be governor Mike Michaud's recent disclosure that he is gay with a degree of cynicism.

His announcement, made via an Op-Ed in Maine's two major dailies, The Portland Press Herald and The Bangor Daily News as well as the Associated Press, smacks of a shallow, calculated attempt to win over the progressive LGBT vote in next year's gubernatorial election.

This is in no way meant to diminish the very act of Michaud's coming out. Certainly it is not the place of heterosexual observers to dictate the timing, method and manner in which gay public officials choose to disclose their sexual orientation--or, for that matter, whether one chooses to disclose such personal information at all. And one must be at least somewhat sympathetic to the tightrope balancing act public officials like Michaud--who presides over Maine's northern, more conservative Second District where voters are likely to be less accepting of gay rights--must engage in.

That being said, local political columnist Al Diamon (yes, that Al Diamon) is justified in his recent criticism of Michaud's repeated votes against gay rights legislation as both a state legislator and a member of the House of Representatives ("Where were you when I needed you?", The Portland Phoenix11/11/2013). Michaud, Diamon writes, "stepped up after the war was mostly won."

He continues:

If he's successful in becoming the first gay man to be elected governor of any state, it won't be because he was brave. It'll be because he sat silently on the sidelines for 30 years while real heroes fought to change public attitudes.

It is a valid point--one that recalls then-Senator Barack Obama's stated opposition to the Iraq war, while he continued voting for additional military-spending bills to fund that very war. Yet it is a point that Michaud's liberal supporters--many of whom have already adorned their vehicles with "Michaud 2014" bumper stickers--peevishly brush aside as inconsequential or "mean-spirited."

Former U.S. Congressman and recent Maine transplant Barney Frank (D-MA) in a follow-up letter to the editor published in The Phoenix ("Diamon misreads Michaud," 11/20/13), castigates Diamon's "tone." Frank's defensive, hyper-partisan letter is emblematic of "progressive" gay rights advocates who have absolutely no trouble overlooking the fact that the two most egregious anti-LGBT bills in the last two decades--The Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell--were passed by President Bill Clinton. Or those gay rights "defenders" (like Equality Maine) who refuse to speak out against the unjust imprisonment of Pfc. Chelsea Manning.

The fact is Maine, overall, is pretty accepting of gay rights--and Rep. Michaud knows this. This move was little more than a calculated effort to win over the state's LGBT base. It is, furthermore, emblematic of the cult of "identity politics" which has all but destroyed the left.

Identity politics has become the raison d'etre of the liberal left in this country. Those on the left no longer stand up against poverty, militarism, or a broader sense of social justice. They took to the streets en mass to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but promptly halted such actions when Obama became president. They instead dabble in what Chris Hedges calls the "boutique activism" of multiculturalism, inclusivity and other forms of so-called "identity politics."

Don't get me wrong: I wholeheartedly support all of these efforts.

The problem is, in abandoning a broader sense of social justice for highly specific issue or identity-oriented activism (be it the plight of lesbians, gays, blacks, immigrants, women, etc.), the left has allowed itself to become splintered, isolated and largely ineffective. While the focus on these various "isms" has certainly called much needed attention to the oppression of minority groups, the effort fails to critique the actual system of corporate capitalism which causes such oppression in the first place.

As Hedges observes in his 2010 book, Death of the Liberal Class, "Making sure people of diverse races or sexual orientations appear on television shows or in advertisements merely widens the circle of new consumers. Multiculturalism is an appeal that pleads with the corporate power structure for inclusion" (p. 125).

Contemporary liberals have seemingly lost any sense of class struggle which Karl Marx correctly understood as the central root of all societal inequality and the great scourge of capitalism. The left has, in a sense, lost sight of the big picture. Identity politics has become an end in of itself.

Furthermore, by ignoring class entirely, identity politics erroneously lumps all members of a given minority group together, suggesting their political aims and goals are all the same. Contrary to the dictates of multiculturalism, one can be female, black or gay and still be part of the economic one percent. (Oprah Winfrey, Clarence Thomas, Barney Frank and "feminist" scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter come to mind. Come to think of it... add President Obama to that list as well.)

To wit: This past summer, Supreme Court Justice Thomas voted with the conservative majority to gut key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The notoriously taciturn Thomas has, likewise, compared modern day affirmative action practices to slavery.

Indeed, Thomas's callous indifference to the plight of the majority of black Americans recalls the traitorous, self-serving Dr. Bledsoe in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. When the college-aged, African American narrator inadvertently takes one of the university's wealthy white donors to the impoverished black ghettos on the outskirts of campus, Dr. Bledsoe, the college president, reacts furiously. Upon expelling the narrator, Bledsoe reveals his true sycophantic nature.

"I's big and black and I say 'Yes, suh' as loudly as any burrhead when it's convenient," Dr. Bledsoe tells the narrator in one of the novel's most frightening passages. "but I'm still the king down here."

The only ones I even pretend to please are big white folks, and even those I control more than they control me... That's my life, telling white folk how to think about the things I know about... It's a nasty deal and I don't always like it myself.... But I've made my place in it and I'll have every Negro in the country hanging on tree limbs by morning if it means staying where I am.
Nationally, the Democratic Party stands for little more than the vague concepts of inclusivity and identity politics. Women, Latinos, African Americans and members of the LGBT community were vital to Obama's win in last year's presidential election.

The irony, of course, is Obama has overseen the deportation of more immigrants than any other president in history. In the year since the president's re-election, a number of states have arbitrarily passed some of the most restrictive abortion access laws in the country, despite liberals' insistence that such continued reproductive freedom hinged on Obama's re-election. (Currently, eight states have outlawed abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization.)

If we are losing the fight against corporate capitalism, it is because the strict focus on identity politics has, counter to its aims, left us more divided. The left, if it is to ever be relevant again, needs to rediscover its radical roots. We also cannot afford to wait around for closeted or otherwise self-sabotaging politicians to determine when it is politically convenient for them to stand up and stop actively working to undermine their own brothers and sisters.

To that end, Congressman Michaud's sexual orientation should not be our--or, for that matter, his--primary focus. As Maine voters, we should be far more concerned with what he will, as governor, do to take the state forward and reclaim it from the corporate interests that threaten so much of it and the rest of the nation.