Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Paul McCartney: Blackbird


Blackbird is an old Beatles song, credited to Lennon/McCartney, which is on The Beatles (side 2; track 3), popularly called the White album, a double album released on November 22, 1968, during the height of the Civil Rights struggle in America. I was 10 when I first heard this song on the radio; but it was a few years later when my older brother and I bought the double LP, still popular after the British band's breakup. The song is essentially about the call for freedom. "Take these broken wings and learn to fly."
Via: Youtube

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Out of Commision: Part 2: Improvement

My Health

Broken Arm (proximal humerus fracture) is healing nicely despite the way it looks. I still have  bruising, swelling and pain, but all have diminished in the last two weeks.
Photo: ©2019. Eli G. Greenbaum

After a disappointing visit at Sunnybrook Hospital last week, I had a much better result at Mackenzie Health’s Fracture Clinic, which is a regional hospital near where I reside. The orthopedic surgeon, an upper arm specialist, said that he recommended against surgery. He added that the benefits of surgery would be marginal at best. This is good news.

I start physical therapy in two weeks and return to the clinic for another X-ray on my arm in five weeks, chiefly to monitor my body's process of healing. It has been a little more than two weeks after my unfortunate fall.

At the moment, I still have bruising and swelling, as well as pain, but all are diminished. Another good sign. It is true that I do not have the return of my fine motor skills of my right hand (i.e., neuropathy persists), yet I type this with determination, albeit slowly.

It will likely take months to return to full functionality (if at all), or as the doctor said, consider the likelihood of some diminished range of motion and shoulder stiffness. The way that I see it now is that any improvement is good. Kudos to the staff of Mackenzie Health for a job well done.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Out of Commission

I injured my right arm—dislocated shoulder and a fracture near the shoulder joint (i.e., a proximal humerus fracture), a result of a nasty fall last Thursday. A reminder, albeit a painful one, to always be careful when going up and down any stairs

I spent a few hours in ER, arriving by ambulance. This is never good at any age, but worse when you are older, as I am. I have terrible bruising on my arm, shoulder and upper chest cavity. Not a pretty sight, to be sure. My arm has ballooned to double the size, not a good sign of healing, but of the opposite, I think. The pain is bearable and manageable, but I do have pain. I also have increased neuropathy of my right hand, which is annoying.

My son is typing this on my behalf. I will be out of commission for some time, likely a few months from what I have read and been told. Now, I am waiting for surgery (typically the use of plates and screws) to secure the displaced bone fragments.

Addendum: 8:52 a.m.: I have just been told by phone by Sunnybrook Hospital that I have no scheduled surgery and that they can't for some unknown reason schedule it in the future. That I have to show up at emergency and ask to be admitted. And only then will I have surgery to repair my arm whenever there is an opening, an available spot. No assurance when that will be. No doubt that this is the way it works here in Ontario.
     Perhaps this symbolizes the overall wellness of the Canadian healthcare system today, dysfunctional and out of touch with average Canadians after decades of neoliberalism and cuts. Alas, we Canadians are not supposed to complain; and it is true that few listen to such valid complaints. Yet, we now see the results of such a heartless motto of Greed. Here's mine: Don't fall and don't get sick, lest you fall into the hands of a merciless and uncaring system.
     To this, you can add accepted incompetence, inhumane efficiencies, and banal corruption to a system that has seen most of the good and compassion hollowed out in the pursuit of profits over patient care. The latter can never serve the former, yet it continues for the few that do benefit. I am neither proud nor happy about Canada's Medicare System, and certainly not how it is managed in Ontario.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Alice’s Restaurant (1969)

The 1960s CounterCulture

Alice’s Restaurant (1969), a film directed by Arthur Penn is worth seeing today.  
Via: Youtube

In a film review (“Alice's Restaurant;“ November 11, 1969, Roger Ebert, who gives it four stars, writes:
Arthur Penn's "Alice's Restaurant" is good work in a minor key. It isn't a great film, but you never get the feeling that it wanted to be. You sense that Penn achieved what he set out to do: to make a relaxed, unstudied portrait of some friends, and some months in their lives, and some births, deaths and marriages.
To this degree he has been faithful to the spirit of Arlo Guthrie's original recording. A higher-pressure film would have been inappropriate. You almost wish, in fact, that the rudimentary thrusts toward a plot had been left out. "Alice's Restaurant" is at its best when Arlo is on the road, going to college, hitchhiking, playing his guitar, getting drafted, taking his Army physical, going to see his friends Ray and Alice and things like that.
Unhurried is apt description, when today it is so hurried and people pushed to move quickly, even if in the rush to do so the purpose or reason is unknown. There is too much distraction; too little real contemplation or thinking. The film is about America, on how it was and on how some saw it. It does not so much glorify hippie counterculture as just show it. 

What was all the fuss about? The same as today, although the scenes are written in a different way and the faces are different. It's always about freedom. Freedom from and Freedom to. If this generation of the 1960s was about not trusting authority, we have come full circle to seeing how placing too much trust in authority has led to authoritarianism in many ways that stifle our freedom to be. We have today more rules and social conventions than during my youth. 

We have also lost innocence, and replaced it with cynicism (a sign of despair mixed with anger). More’s the shame, because innocence in youth is good and necessary to enjoy freedom. This generation, that of my children, might be the least free generation in the last 100 years, or more, even though there is so much stuff around them. Much more than in my youth, to be sure. They, the young, for the most part (albeit with some fine and good exceptions), have been indoctrinated to not only obey authority—even when it is wrong, abusive and immoral—but to also regard it as wrong or unduly oppositional to even question it—the Authority and power structure that denies and demeans. 

Thus, in doing so, the young generation are taught to not trust their own instincts; to not trust their own judgments; to not trust their own moral compass.  They are told that they have no time to contemplate and think about what it is they genuinely want or want to do. In short, truly finding and forming yourself as an individual. (I don’t think it is going to be found on social media in particular or on the Internet in general, which is generally a place to sell and consume.) The freedom to think unhurriedly and deeply, without interruption, is a freedom above all freedoms, without which it is hard to have a conscience and make good moral choices, notably on what kind of person you want to be and what path to take to become such a person.

The Cast:
Arlo Guthrie: Arlo Guthrie Patricia Quinn: Alice Brock, as Pat Quinn James Broderick: Ray Brock Pete Seeger: as Himself Lee Hays: as Himself, Reverend at Evangelical Meeting Michael McClanathan: Shelly Geoff Outlaw: Roger Crowther Tina Chen: Mari-chan Kathleen Dabney: Karin William Obanhein: as Himself, Officer Obie Seth Allen: Evangelist Monroe Arnold: Blueglass Joseph Boley: Woody Guthrie Vinnette Carroll: Draft Clerk Sylvia Davis: Marjorie Guthrie Simm Landres: Private Jacob / Jake Eulalie Noble: Ruth Louis Beachner: Dean MacIntyre Dixon: 1st Deconsecration Minister Arthur Pierce Middleton: 2nd Deconsecration Minister (as Rev. Dr. Pierce Middleton) Donald Marye: Funeral Director Shelley Plimpton: Reenie M. Emmet Walsh: Group W Sergeant Ron Weyand: Cop #1, as Ronald Weyand Eleanor D. Wilson: Landlady, as Eleanor Wilson Neil Brooks Cunningham: Medic, as Simon Deckard Thomas De Wolfe: Waiter, as Thomas DeWolfe James Hannon: Himself, as Judge James Hannon Graham Jarvis: Music Teacher John E. Quill: Cop #2, as John Quill Frank Simpson: Sergeant Alice Brock: Suzy

Arlo Guthrie: Alice’s Restaurant (1967)

Political Satire
Arlo Guthrie (born in 1947 in Brooklyn, NY), the son of Woody Guthrie, performs “Alice’s Restaurant” (1967) in this video with wonderful illustrations by Andrew Colunga. It is a satirical song with real-life meaning.  As we all now know, war is not only about causing death and destruction, but about making money. Yes, sir, there are people—merchants of death—who profit on the needless, unjust and immoral killing of others. (There are very few "just wars.") Yes, ma’am, there are people who find this acceptable in this day and age. It is hard to imagine that such enlightened people, many with stated religious convictions, can justify the killing of others.
Via: Youtube

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Woody Guthrie: All You Fascists Bound To Lose (1944)

Woody Guthrie: “All You Fascists Bound To Lose” in a 1944 radio broadcast in defense of his values and ideals, which at the core are American values for the vast majority of people living in the United States. There is a vocal minority who think otherwise. Yes, you fascists, you will eventually lose. As will you right-wing reactionaries and regressives (both religious and secular) and as well the hyper-capitalists and neolibs. Democratic socialists and progressives and others on the Left are on the march, and will not be denied. What was before is now again, an old enemy of the people returns and needs to be taken on, weakened and defeated. In a New Yorker article (“A Story About Fred Trump and Woody Guthrie for the Midterm Elections;” November 6, 2018), Amanda Petrusich writes: “Guthrie worked vehemently to spread and express deep empathy for his neighbors. Now Guthrie’s trajectory feels like an antidote to Donald Trump’s: sometimes, within a single generation, everything can and does change. ‘We’ll show these fascists what a couple of hillbillies can do,’ Guthrie announced on a 1944 radio broadcast, before launching into ‘All You Fascists,‘ a ninety-second song about bending the arc of history.” The moral arc of history, that is, bending toward justice.
Via: Youtube

I’m gonna tell you fascists
You may be surprised
The people in this world
Are getting organized
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Travellers: This Land is Your Land (Canadian version)

Folk Songs

The Travellers: “This Land is Your Land“ (Canadian version), in this 1958 recording, with Canadian lyrics describing Canada's geography, of the Woody Guthrie American  folk song. What is true of the United States is also true of Canada, particularly when it comes to struggling against and overcoming the reactionary and regressive forces that are currently present in our nations, and in many others, as well. Canada is a nation for you and me.
Via: Youtube

The Travellers
Sid Dolgoy: Mando-Cello Simone Johnston: Soprano Jerry Goodis: Tenor Jerry Gray: Banjo

This Land Is Your Land
(Canadian lyrics)

This land is your land, this land is my land From Bonavista, to Vancouver Island From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lake waters This land was made for you and me As I was walking that ribbon of highway I saw above me that endless skyway I saw below me that golden valley This land was made for you and me I roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps To the fir clad forests of our mighty mountains And all around me a voice was calling This land was made for you and me And the sun came shining, and I was strolling And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling As the fog was lifting, a voice was chanting This land was made for you and me This land is your land, this land is my land From Bonavista to Vancouver Island From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lake waters This land was made for you and me

Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land

American Folk Songs

Woody Guthrie [1912–1967]: “This Land Is Your Land,” which Guthrie wrote in 1940 and first recorded in 1944. A great song which many say could be America's second national anthem, since it not only speaks of freedom in the greatest sense of the word, but also of a pluralistic nation that includes and embraces you and me. Some favour this view. I do. I remember learning this song in my elementary school in Montreal during the 1960s, as well as the Canadian version by The Travellers (1955); I had some great teachers then.
Via: Youtube

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Taxing Excessive CEO Pay Is Good for America

Worker Inequality

Bernie Sanders Asks Serious Questions (2009):  Where Do Bank Profits Go? After the 2008-09 Financial Crisis caused by the greed and recklessness of Wall Street, and the subsequent $700 billion TARP bailout (i,e., welfare for corporations) by the U.S. Federal Government, the American people deserved answers. Senator Sanders, as representative of the people, is here asking questions, looking for answers. He was not, however, getting any real satisfactory answers from the CBO director, who was either being evasive or honestly couldn't answer the questions for lack of knowledge. Both scenarios are not good. The major players of Wall Street and Corporate America broke many laws and for now have gotten away with it.  But not forever. “When people break laws, we generally try to prosecute them,” Senator Sanders says in a matter-of-fact way.
Via: Youtube

It is common knowledge that CEOs of large corporations are paid exorbitant amounts. In another good measure to discourage such obscene wages by chief executives, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation that  hopes to rectify this gross level of economic injustice.

In an article (“Sanders, Lee, and Tlaib Partner to Combat Outrageous CEO Pay;” November 13, 2019) in Common Dreams, it reports:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) introduced the Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act, which rewrites the federal tax code to tackle the inequality crisis created by corporate America’s unrestrained greed.

The typical restaurant employee at McDonald’s would have to work for more than 2,000 years to earn what the company’s CEO Chris Kempczinski received last year. A retail worker at Gap Inc. would have to work for more than 3,000 years to receive the annual compensation of Gap’s former CEO Art Peck. Peck’s pay was increased by 33 percent in 2018, even after he presided over years of declines in sales and stock prices.
The Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act would pressure corporations to curb these outrageous pay gaps that are the norm today, by imposing graduated taxes for companies that pay their CEO more than 50 times the pay of the median worker. The tax penalties would begin at 0.5 percentage points and rise to 5 percentage points for firms compensating their chief executives at more than 500 times the rate of their workers. A recent report by the Institute for Policy Studies found that 80 percent of S&P 500 firms paid their CEOs more than 100 times the pay of their median worker.
Many of the firms lavishing multi-million-dollar compensation packages on their top executives rely on taxpayer support—through public housing, nutrition assistance, and Medicaid, for example—to assist full-time workers who struggle with poverty wages.
Another great Bernie idea; real solutions to real problems that average Americans face. Taxing excessive CEO pay by taxing wealthy corporations is good for America, chiefly because it says America cares about fairness and economic justice. Equally important, this says that it cares about the average worker as much as it has cared about the wealthy for decades.

Equally important, I wish excessive CEO pay would be discussed by political candidates and leaders here in Canada. For example, in the latest report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, CEO pay among the 100 highest paid CEOs in Canada was 197 times the average yearly wage ($50,759); in other words, CEOs make about $10 million a year. Taxing excessive CEO pay is also good for Canada, especially since Canadians consider themselves fair-minded and just people. Is anyone in Canada listening?

For more about America, go to [Common Dreams].

For more about Canada, go to [Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives].

Monday, November 18, 2019

(Not) Oppressing the Stranger in Israel

The African Migrant

“You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
Exodus 23:9

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
Leviticus 19: 33-34

Unwelcome Stranger: An African asylum seeker in Israel (2017): There are about 40,000 asylum seekers from Africa (Sudan and Eritrea) residing without status and with uncertainty in Israel; this tiny number hardly represents a “demographic threat” to the State of Israel, yet the government acts as it does, with threats of expulsion and imprisonment. In reality, Israel has decided to become not a democratic state, but only a Jewish one, and even then for only particular kinds of Jews who hold approved views. The government and a large part of Israeli society, with a few exceptions, want to drive these African migrants out of Israel.
Via: Youtube & The New Humanitarian

What happened to the biblical injunction found in the Hebrew Bible to welcome the stranger? It seems that this is not true in Israel, where migrants are called “infiltrators” and much worse. Few of these asylum seekers from Africa get their asylum applications approved by the Israeli government. Only a handful so far, no more than 200 (0.5 percent), according to latest reports.

In The New Humanitarian Roopa Gogineni writes:
At first, some of the arrivals – who now number around 40,000 and are mostly from Sudan and Eritrea – were granted temporary residency. But even though Israel is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention (and once took in several hundred Vietnamese “boat people” in the late 1970s), it has only ever granted refugee status to nine Africans.
As the numbers of asylum seekers have grown, so tensions have heated up in South Tel Aviv, where many Africans live side-by-side with Israelis.
In 2013, the Israeli government passed a law that deemed the Africans “infiltrators” and allowed them to be imprisoned in a desert detention facility, where they were first kept indefinitely, then for a 20-month maximum, and now for up to a year at a time.
It has also attempted to send asylum seekers to African countries that are not their homes, including Rwanda and Uganda. Some who were shipped back have reportedly been pressured to leave those countries, and fled to Europe. A few were killed by so-called Islamic State or drowned in the Mediterranean.
The asylum seekers have their supporters inside Israel. It’s not lost on some Israelis that many of the country's first citizens were survivors of genocide in World War II. Of course, the creation of Israel also kicked off the Palestinians' own refugee crisis – and politicians often refer to the "demographic threat" the Palestinians, both citizens of Israel and those in the occupied territories, pose to the country that defines itself as a Jewish state. Like the Palestinians, many of the African asylum seekers are Muslim.
The majority are, however, Christian. There are about 40,000 asylum seekers from Africa (Sudan and Eritrea) residing without status and with uncertainty in Israel, a precarious position; this tiny number hardly represents a “demographic threat” to the State of Israel, yet the government acts as it does, with threats of expulsion and imprisonment. In reality, Israel has decided in recent years to become not a democratic state, but only a Jewish one, and even then for only particular kinds of Jews who hold approved views. The reactionary and religious right, which is very strong now and has been picking up steam the last few years and decades, has greatly influenced government policy.

The government and a large part of Israeli society, with a few exceptions, want to drive these African asylum seekers out of Israel. This hardly represents the history and the views of the Jewish People, who have had and understood persecution and oppression and, equally important, know and believe that is is important to welcome the stranger. It seems that recent governments care little about international positions or pressure, viewing itself as an exceptional state. It has also taken the entrenched position that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism—not only a false and dangerous idea but also wholly illiberal and authoritarian.

Any nation can and ought to be criticized, including Israel, when its actions run contrary to moral positions. Silence for the sake of community peace is never a good idea when a wrong is committed. Silence tacitly means condoning and agreeing with the aggressor, the wrong-doer. As a Bundist and a Jewish democratic socialist, I view such views and actions as morally and ethically right—to break the silence and speak out against injustice. Ignoring the humanity of black asylum seekers is immoral; it shows a lack of moral clarity on the part of the Israeli government.

It could still turn around and take another view, one based on the Hebrew Scriptures and on the thousands of years of Jewish history when the Jews in the diaspora believed—as some still do today—that it is important and imperative to treat the stranger as you would treat yourself. After all, one never knows the future; and, moreover, it is better not to make enemies and have more true and good friends. Good friends speak the truth.