Time for a VenicEx from our Overlords

July 2016 – The Brits have voted, against the advice of every 1 percenter in the world, to make a “Brexit” (leave) from the European Union across the channel. Perhaps it’s time to think about how Venice can leave our overlords in L.A. City Hall and recapture our cityhood. Every revolution must have a good slogan. Could it be “VenicExit”? Or perhaps, just “Vexit.”

This month, Venice turns 111. In spite of her age, she’s looking hot. Yes, she has a case of melanoma, or is it just zits? In any case, those Big Box pimples can’t ruin her long-time charm and beauty.

Recently supporters of these BB monstrosities won the Little League Neighborhood Council majority and, with it, the right to “advise” their betters at City Hall. But with Venice, it ain’t over, until it’s over. It’s true an infusion of wealth has come to Venice, distorting the lay of the land. Oddly, all that money being raked in by soware companies residing in Venice hasn’t diminished the number of homeless people on our streets. Nor has it contributed to the beauty of Venice.

Some longtime supporters of cityhood lately have told me that they are now fearful of being overwhelmed by the swarm of people in Venice who, if not truly wealthy, are at least rich. Fear not, ye wretched of the earth. Don’t underestimate our situation. Wait until Venice works her wiles on unsuspecting newcomers. Soon, they will be defending the hallowed streets of Venice, and quoting Land Use provisions on setback and fence height. And even the most incorrigible and dogmatic developers and their kin may end up taking shelter under the big tent of cityhood.

The fight for cityhood in Venice has always been a multi-class affair. e desire for self-determination and democracy has never been an issue just for the downtrodden. In fact, the founders of this country, whose birthday we also celebrate in July, included wealthy slave owners, cultured Bostonian merchants and Philadelphia industrialists. In addition, yeoman farmers flocked to the cause and did the actual fighting. Women kept the home fires burning, while slaves and Native Americans probably would have been better off had the British won.

Although Venice is a city, not a country, the same conditions mostly apply. Foremost is the right of self-determination, which is acknowledged as an international legal principle.

Venetians have shown in poll after poll that if they were allowed self-determination, they would vote for a return of their cityhood which was taken from us in 1925 under fraudulent means by an expansionist Los Angeles.

The law was changed after Venice was absorbed, making it more difficult to exit than to enter. e most undemocratic provision was a new requirement that to leave, Venice would need an affirmative vote from the entire city of Los Angeles. Since Venice’s population is about 1 percent that of the megalopolis, this is nearly impossible to accomplish.

Venice simply doesn’t have the resources that the moguls of L.A. could muster to run an untruthful campaign designed to smash a yes vote in the rest of the city. Not even the San Fernando Valley had the resources to counter the constant tales of woe and disaster that would befall every family in Los Angeles if the Valley or Hollywood could make good their bid to escape. Still, voters living in the Valley did vote for cityhood.

A lot has changed since that attempted prison break in 2002. For one, working-class Brits, fed up with economic austerity and more and more wealth accruing to upper-class twits in London and Brussels, struck out into an unknown future. ey overcame a hostile campaign in which those for Brexit were called right-wingers, regardless of where they stood on the political spectrum. ey were called anti-immigrant even though the current government has shut its doors to thousands of refugees just across the channel in Calais, and they have even banned Afghan interpreters who worked for British troops from having safe haven in England.

The winds of self-determination are blowing around the world. Our own namesake, Venezia, recently voted in favor of leaving Italy and restoring the Republic of Venice more than 200 years aer their independence was taken from them by Napoleon.

Catalonia, including Barcelona, has a powerful movement to restore its country which is now part of Spain. Scotland is now demanding a referendum for independence from Britain, and there are calls for the reunification of Ireland.

Our little Venice is scarcely more than a mile square with about 40,000 people, yet is more populous than about 45 of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County. Because of soaring property values and many thousands of tourists, Venice is well equipped to maintain a city government designed by and run by its people, no matter how much they disagree with each other.

Our grievances against our L.A. rules are too many to enumerate in short article. Suffice it to say that City Hall has never cared for Venice. ey hate our independent ways, our love of art, and sand and sea. ey hate the beauty of our beloved city, and the best among them are ashamed of how they’ve treated her.

So how can win back our city while enjoying every minute of it?

1. Circulate a petition for cityhood. It doesn’t have to be official. Let’s judge the sentiments of our neighbors and find others who will help. A few years ago, Dr. John Michel, a kindly homeless man, went everywhere with a Venice cityhood petition. He collected thousands of signatures. Unfortunately, when he died in 2010 no one picked up his pencil and clipboard and carried on.

2. Let’s change the law. It should be our decision as Venetians whether we remain or exit. Let’s go to the legislature (where L.A. is not very popular) and change the law. Let’s explore the possibility of a lawsuit to remove the provision that all of L.A. must vote.

3. Let’s circulate an official petition for cityhood with as many Venetians as possible doing the circulating, and signing.

4. We’ll have to prove that we can afford to be a city. We’ll have to decide if we are going to contract for police and fire, and other services. We’ll have to cost out the alternatives. We will have to make decisions for ourselves!

5. Let’s win our election in a Venice Tsunami.

-Jim Smith

Portrait of an Organizer

Union organizer Yolanda Miranda gazes out of her Venice apartment at the crowd on the boardwalk. She’s finally kicking back – or so it seems, until she pronounces, “I would bet you anything, half those people hate their jobs and their bosses.”

Organizing is not a job for 53-year-old Miranda. It’s a way of life. “I’ve been organizing since I was a kid, picking grapes with my family in the San Joaquin Valley,” says Miranda. “You’ve got to be born with a love of people and a hatred for injustice if you want to be a union organizer – and a lack of sense about when to keep your mouth shut,” she laughs.

The phone rings. It’s a hospital worker in Palm Springs complaining about discrimination against Filipino nurses. “Don’t worry. You’re not alone,” Miranda assures her. “We’re gonna keep at them until management learns it’s got to treat everyone with respect.”

Yolanda Miranda is a bad boss’ worst nightmare. She is what Pete Wilson or Ronald Reagan would describe as an outside agitator or rabble-rouser. Always behind the scenes, always pushing workers to stand up for their rights. “I’m a front-line organizer,” she says, “constantly out there with the workers. I’d go crazy sitting in an office being a union official.”

Miranda is not someone who can be easily run over – literally. Once, while leafleting in front of a garment shop in Arizona, she was intentionally struck by a supervisor driving a van. Miranda picked herself up and chased the van down the street to the cheers of the organizing committee.

Her four children received a liberal education by participating in rallies, marches, picketlines, strikes and boycotts with their mother. Two of them grew up to be boxers. One – Paul Banke – was world Super Bantamweight champion and local hero at the Inglewood Forum before being diagnosed with AIDS. Banke credits his mother with giving him the courage to become the first fighter to go public with his condition in order to build awareness of the AIDS epidemic.

Miranda bristles when I suggest she empowers people. “That’s a Yuppie word. No one can empower anyone else. All you can do is show people that they have the power within themselves to determine their future or change the way they’re treated at work.”

Fear is the great enemy that has to be defeated before people can be free, Miranda believes. “Cesar (Chavez) taught me the importance of having hopes and dreams. Without them, you can’t overcome your fears and stand up for your rights on the job.”

It was natural for Miranda, coming from a migrant farmworker family, to embrace the hopes and dreams of Chavez and the United Farm Workers union. She became a field organizer in Salinas, and loved it. “That was my first experience with seeing how people in an organizing campaign can grow right before your eyes. They stop being depressed. They stop fighting with each other. You can see the energy radiating right out of them.”

By now, Miranda, herself, seems to be glowing. “I admit it. Organizing is my passion. I get high being around people who are fighting injustice,” she cries.

Suddenly, her eyes flash with fire when I ask if unions are out of date. “That’s crazy. As long as there’s management, corporations, bad bosses, workers will need to organize.” It’s true, Miranda admits, unions have been losing ground lately. “That’s because people are scared silly of losing their jobs. It’s the fear factor at work. But it’s turning around. Just wait and see,” she predicts.

Miranda came to the urban labor battleground during the UFW grape boycott, and has since became a much sought-after organizer. In the last fifteen years, she’s organized garment workers, hospital workers, reporters, pressmen, office workers and registered nurses for a variety of unions.

All workers are pretty much the same, says Miranda, whether they think of themselves as professionals or whether they have dirt and grease under their finger nails after a day at work. “Everyone wants the same things, a little dignity and respect, the ability to make ends meet and to know they’ll have a job next week or next year. But, that’s becoming harder and harder to realize in this country. That’s why unions will make a strong comeback. People have not choice but to organize,” she confides.

In the past few months, Miranda has rebuilt a long-dormant organizing committee at a desert hospital. A two-year delay caused when the hospital went to court to try to block a union election victory made the job harder than usual.

Miranda outlines her basic approach to organizing. “The first step is getting workers talking to one another about their common problems. Any group of workers can do it, you don’t need an organizer to hold your hand. A union organizer’s role is to give workers the resources and technical assistance they need to win,” says Miranda. “Just don’t wait until massive layoffs are announced or the company is sold,” she cautions. “Then it may be too late.”

“Once people develop trust with their coworkers, they’re ready to take on the boss,” she declares. “It’s easier in a small workplace where everyone knows everyone else. If there are hundreds of workers, that’s where my computer and database come in. We make sure every department is represented by someone at regular meetings.”

In an organizing drive, most unions collect workers’ authorization signatures calling for an election for collective bargaining. If the union wins, its bargaining committee can negotiate a binding contract that gives workers some protections and guaranteed pay and benefit levels.

“We can also ask for direct recognition of our union by the boss. That’s faster, but hard to do if the boss was the problem in the first place,” says Miranda. “Another way is to strike for recognition, but this takes a higher level of commitment than most workers are willing to make in today’s political climate.”

Being a woman and a Latina (don’t call her a Hispanic – “that’s the government’s name for us,” growls Miranda) has both helped and hurt her work as an organizer. “People of color are often nearly invisible to management. I can go into a workplace and blend in without anyone getting wise.”

On the other hand, discrimination is a constant factor. “Racism is the best tool ever invented to divide workers. Sexism is very close behind. In organizing, we have to break down the barriers of workers congregating only with their own type. Unions are the most racially mixed organizations in America. Like everything else it’s a struggle. I have to constantly urge women and people of color into leadership roles in organizing campaigns.”

One of 14 children, Yolanda Miranda is as Californian as they come. Her family (which includes cousin Luis Valdez, playwright and founder of the Teatro Campesino) has toiled for generations in the fields, and like most farmworkers has reaped few benefits. She believes it is this heritage that motivates both her and Valdez to dedicate their lives to a fight for a better and happier society.

Fighting for a more just society has been an uphill struggle in recent years. “Our family has lived here in California for generations,” Miranda reflects. “We’ve welcomed immigrants coming over California’s eastern border, only to see many of them turn into racists and bigots with Proposition 187 and English-only campaigns.”

The struggle is an uphill one, acknowledges Miranda, observing that we live in two societies in this country. “Out on the street, it’s a democratic country. We have freedom of speech, we can talk and do as we feel. But once we go to work, it’s fascism. For the next eight hours, we have no rights. If we say the wrong thing or the boss just doesn’t like us, he can terminate us. Termination. Now there’s a scary word.”

For Miranda, then, the challenge is to break down the barriers between the political and economic spheres. “All we’re doing by organizing unions is bringing a little democracy into the workplace. It gives us the right to a voice on the job, the right to a vote on a contract, the right to have a job steward stand up for us just as a lawyer would on the outside. How could anyone with a heart by opposed to this?” asks Miranda.

Beyond Miranda’s apartment, the crowd on the boardwalk is thinning out. “They’ve had their whiff of democracy and freedom,” says the organizer. “Monday morning, it’s back to regimentation and fascism on their jobs.”

(A version of this article appeared in the Los Angeles View)

Welcome Back, May Day

The First of May

Welcome home
 May Day!

It’s so good to see you.

You’ve been gone a long, long time.

Marx knows, we tried to carry on

while you were away.

But it was always the same old people.

It became a reunion for tired old lefties.

We mourned you, May,

thought Joe McCarthy’s thugs

had run you off for good.

Now you’re back in all your power and glory.

A million people marched in L.A.

Hundreds of thousands gathering

at the most unlikely cities.

Even Chicago, where it all began.

I’d say you are definitely back.

And who is turning out on May 1st?

It’s workers, nearly every last one.

Just like in 1890 when we celebrated

the fight for the 8 hour work day

right here in the USA.

Back then, lots of us were immigrants

come to seek a better life,

but finding out we had to fight for it.

Some things never change.

¿Que No?

Not only that,

we’re still fighting for an 8 hour day!

-Jim Smith

In Honor of International Women’s Day, March 8

The Women of Venice

Venice is a feminine town.
Here, we take time to talk and walk
and admire the beauty that surrounds us.

Women of Venice paint the murals.
Women of Venice help the homeless.
Women of Venice stand up to free Venice.

Venice is a matriarchy.
It is The Lady, not The Man,
who inspires our poets.

Women of Venice sing our songs.
Women of Venice help women in need.
Women of Venice sustain the Beachhead.

And it is the women who hear
Mother Earth telling us
we must balance our city with nature.

Women of Venice run our stores.
Women of Venice run our homes.
Women of Venice watch over our canals.

We live by the womb of the world.
From the sea we love came all life,
and the feminine spirit of Venice.

But Los Angeles, built for the Queen of Angels,
was stolen by men whose greed
and craving for land knew no bounds.

Now, L.A. treats Venice
like the victim in a bad marriage
battered by developers and gentrifiers.

Someday, O someday,
Venice will be serene and at peace
when we men learn to act more like women.

Women of Venice - Mardi Gras -3-5-11

The Prospects for Venice Cityhood

By Jim Smith

Like the surf that keeps rolling up on Venice’s shore, no matter what, the idea of restoring our cityhood just won’t go away.

In the past year, I have been continually approached by Venetians who ask “what’s going on with cityhood?” or “what do we have to do to get free of L.A.?”

Unfortuately, none of the candidates for Los Angeles City Council District 11, which supposedly represents Venice, support Venice cityhood. They would rather see Venice go down with the ship which is the city of Los Angeles.

Cityhood for Venice not a new issue. In 1925, there were immediate claims of fowl when the supporters of annexation by Los Angeles finally won an election, thus ending the independent city of Venice. In 1940, there was a bill in the California State Senate to restore Venice cityhood. During the 1960s and ’70s, it became a movement, called Free Venice.

Our local paper, the Free Venice Beachhead, has always been a part of the demand for restoration. And, in the 1990s, a new committee was formed that actively campaigned for cityhood. During the “00s,” community forums took place under the auspices of the University of Venice and well-reasoned articles appeared in the Beachhead.

What’s different today? A couple of things. More and more Venetians are becoming disgruntled with the city of Los Angeles. Previously, the megalopolis was able to quietly siphon of much more money from Venice than it returned. Lately, its financial problems have made L.A. look for any way to make a buck in Venice. This includes raising the price of parking and the tickets that everyone eventually gets on “street cleaning” day, whether there is any actual street cleaning or not, schemes such as the “Big Wheel” and the “Zip Line,” which include revocable promises of sharing revenue with Venice.

Waiting in the wings are more metered parking, more amusement rides and more crowds, more fees for city services such as repairing broken sidewalks, allowing advertisements everywhere including Ocean Front Walk, renewed inspections by code enforcers and a wholesale reassessment of Venice’s taxable property values.

The Los Angeles City Council on June 5, 2012, without the glare of publicity declared a fiscal emergency. This enables the Mayor to make massive layoffs (just what we need, more people out of work) and cuts in services. There is a projected deficit of $199 million for fiscal year 2013-14 and $315 million for the following year. Unless it squeezes the life out of Venice and other “holdings,” it is on the path to bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the city is trying to make the poorest among us pay for their mismanagement by raising the sales tax, the most regressive tax on the books.

At the same time, Venice is becoming wealthier. Property values are on the rise again, which could make a great tax base for the city of Venice. As an independent city, Venice would be larger than half of the 88 current cities in Los Angeles County. Some critics have said that Venice would not be viable without a shopping center to tax. Anyone who has been past the intersection of Rose and Lincoln knows that Venice now has a shopping center, even if it is mainly one hugely profitable Whole Foods Market. It is only a matter of time before a new proposal to redevelop Lincoln Center, at California and Lincoln, is floated again. As Lincoln Place becomes repopulated, it makes sense to provide stores that cater to the locals, and are a source of revenue for Venice.

For anyone seriously interested in regaining cityhood, it might be useful to look at how other cities of Venice’s size gain their revenue and what they spend it on. A nearby city of approximately Venice’s size is Culver City. More than 50 percent of Culver City’s revenue comes from three sources:  Sales Tax, Utility Taxes and Business Licenses. Most, if not all, cities’ budgets are easily accessed with an internet search.

In Venice, we would likely gain much of our income from our largest industry, tourism. This would include sales tax, hotel taxes, parking revenue, taxi fees and other ways to derive at least some income on the tens of thousands who descend on Venice each day.

In recent years, Venice has been a war zone of neighbors battling each other over parking, poverty and development. Some Venetians believe that such divisions make it impossible for the community to come together in favor of cityhood.

However, the Coalition to Save the Venice Post Office has brought together groups and people who usually don’t get along. It includes this newspaper, the Venice Neighborhood Council, the Venice Stakeholders Association, Venice Peace and Freedom, SPARC, Venice Arts Council, Venice Chamber of Commerce, various poets, writers, artists, and business people. Personal attacks and extraneous issues are frowned up by most of the participants. As a result, Venice has been able to speak with one voice and to wage a credible fight to save one of our most historic buildings. Unfortunately, in our effort to save our historic post office, we were up against the federal government (USPS) and a movie mogul, Joel Silver, who bought the building and privatized it.

Can we also unite for cityhood, and this time wage a winning campaign? Some Venetians have told me they are wary of cityhood because the other side (homeless haters or sixties hippies, take your pick) would assume power.

So it comes down to this choice: would you rather be ruled by the crooks in L.A. City Hall or “those people” down the block. It also come down to a question of democracy. Can you have anything resembling democracy in a jurisdiction (the city of Los Angeles) of more than four million people? Democracy is more than having a secret ballot election periodically. It is at heart, a question of how much control, power, influence the average person has in the social maelstrom swirling about around him or her.

Venice is a potential city of 40,000 people. It can be walked, biked or skated from one end to the other. Anyone elected to a Venice City Council would have to live in this small area. Does anyone know where the 14 men and one women who currently comprise the Los Angeles City Council live? Does anyone know where the department heads, who have great decision-making power live? In Venice, civic-minded people would know. They would see their councilmembers and hired staff at the market, the hardware store, or out riding their bikes. The potential for real democracy in a city of 40,000 would be much greater than it would be in an entity of millions.

Would people you and I don’t agree with, or like, be elected to office? Yes. Would people you and I do agree, and like, with be elected to office? Yes. This is how democracy works. In a town or a society where everyone thinks the same, you wouldn’t need democracy. But Venice hasn’t been that homogeneous since the Sixties (and probably wasn’t even then). So yes, we would have disagreements, hard fought elections, and disagreeable people.

But we would likely have less disputes that we do at present. If you search carefully through the major controversies that we in Venice have suffered, you will ultimately find an instigator from the L.A. city government. This was true in the abolition of the progressive Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council in 2006, the Overnight Parking Districts, the beach curfew, and the Big Wheel, among others. This does not mean that there weren’t locals who were more than happy to make common cause with powerful downtown interests. However, if Venice was its own city, no one would be able to bulldoze (in more ways than one) their pet projects by relying on these powerful backers. Accommodation, not confrontation, would become the political game in small town Venice.

Election Over, But Fear and Loathing Continues

There is no joy in Whiteville, tonight — the mighty Mitt has struck out.
Across America there are roving gangs of white men, disappointed, angered and on a rampage, after the defeat of their champion, Mitt Romney, and the greater defeat of their nostalgic vision of the country.
They were defeated by a skinny defender of the castle-on-the-hill, which is mostly in shambles, supported by his everyman, Joe, and legions of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, immigrants, gays, and the disabled.
The contrast couldn’t have been more stark, November 6, as the TV cameras panned the audiences at Mitt’s concession speech and Barack’s victory celebration. Romney spoke to an oh-so-white audience, while Obama’s cheering supporters were a rainbow of races and nationalities.
If Obama was a white man he would have won in a landslide. Racism and prejudices of all kinds are rampant on this land.
And yet, Obama didn’t so much win as Romney lost. A better candidate (without the constant smirk), if the Republicans had one, could have pushed into the lead in razor-close states like Florida, Virginia and Ohio. Those three, in which Obama eked out a victory with margins of 50,000, 115,000 and 100,000 votes, respectively, plus one more close state like Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin or New Hampshire, would have changed the outcome. 
Voting for War and Austerity
Will the Real Barack Obama please stand up? Will he lead from the left or from the right in his second term? It doesn’t look good, if you read between the lines. The corporate media pundits are urging that he “reach across the aisle,” and compromise. Problem is, the other aisle is made up of raving corporate shills who want an austerity budget which cuts social programs while protecting the Pentagon.
During the campaign Obama hinted that raising the age for Medicare eligibility would be all right with him. Leftists, on the other hand, have been calling for Medicare coverage for all, regardless of age. Social Security cost-of-living increases may also be approved for reduction. For some time, the propaganda machine has been spewing out incorrect factoids that both Social Security and Medicare are going broke, while ignoring the simple fix of deducting FICA from the paychecks of all wage earners, regardless of income.
The President has already shown that there will be no decrease in aggressive U.S. military moves. Already on Nov. 7, a drone attacked a village in Yemen killing two or three people and injuring several others including a child (http://bit.ly/pnLj30). There have been hundreds of drone attacks during Obama’s first term which have reportedly killed thousands of people, including children, in at least three sovereign countries. This is a clear and serious violation of international law.
It’s not likely that there will be any mercy extended to political prisoners like Leonard Peltier or Bradley Manning, nor any mercy to the 7,225,800 Americans under “correctional supervision.” Judging from past practice, Obama is likely to sic the DEA on residents of Washington state and Colorado, who have just voted to end the war on cannabis.
During and after World War II, the notion of German Collective Guilt, or reponsibility, gained widespread acceptance in Allied countries. Did Germans share guilt in the crimes of the Nazis either by voting for them or otherwise showing support? And if so, do Americans share guilt or reponsibility when voting for candidates of the major parties who are known to, or expected to, conduct illegal acts against other countries and peoples? Is the act of voting an endorsement of the policies, legal or illegal, of the candidate?
Mr. Lucky
Barack Obama has got to be one of the luckiest politicians who ever lived, or else magic is involved. His first campaign, in 1995, was for an Illinois Senate seat. As luck would have it, the incumbent Alice Palmer failed to file sufficient petition signatures to qualify for the ballot. Obama won against token opposition. He was reelected twice with only token, or no opposition.
Obama’s mojo failed him only once. In 2000, he challenged incumbent Democrat Bobby Rush for his Congressional seat. Rush, a founder of the Chicago Black Panthers and a genuine progressive, attached Obama from the left and won in a landslide. Rush is still in the House of Representatives. Obama had to remain in the State Senate until 2004.
In that year, the Republican incumbent in the U.S. Senate, Peter Fitzgerald, decided not to run for reelection. His immediate Democratic predecessor, Carol Moseley Braun, also decided not to run. Obama won the Democratic primary against lesser-known candidates with 52 percent, with the help of campaign aide David Axelrod.
The spooky stuff took place in the general election. The Republican candidate was a wealthy former Goldman Sachs investment banker and “moderate,” Jack Ryan. During the campaign, Ryan’s child custody records were released by court order. They revealed that Ryan had pressured his wife, Jeri Ryan (who played “Seven of Nine” in Star Trek: Voyager) to have public sex at various sex clubs in Europe and the U.S. Ryan resigned from the campaign. Republicans imported right-winger Alan Keyes from Maryland to replace him. Obama won with 70 per cent of the vote.
Three years later, the half-term Senator decided that he should become President. His only real obstacle was former First Lady and New York Senator, Hillary Clinton, who felt she was anointed to be the President. The two candidates fought doggedly. It was Obama’s first real fight for nomination since he had unsuccessfully taken on Bobby Rush eight years ago. Obama led a nearly flawless campaign machine while Clinton had constant problems with staff and spouse. 
The rest is history. Like boxer Joe Lewis’ “bum of the month” matches, Obama has taken on two lackluster Republicans, John McCain and Willard “Mitt” Romney, whose views are to the right of most Americans. Meanwhile, Obama’s left flank has been secure thanks to restrictive laws against third parties.
If You’re White, You’re Right (Politically Speaking)
I’d like to write that the Republican Party has become a relic of history, but their failure in this election year was mainly the failure of Romney to be credible. He almost pulled it off in the first debate, but he soon lapsed back into his role of corporate raider.
Romney wasn’t the only embarrassment, or anywhere near the worst in the Republican Party. That title would belong to the two Republican senatorial candidates, Todd Aiken (Missouri) and Richard Mourdock (Indiana), who turned victory into defeat with one unredeemable sentence each about rape.
Things won’t get better for the Republican Party in 2014 or 2016. White men will be an increasingly smaller share of the electorate. The Republicans must long for the good ole days when only white men were allowed to vote. If that were true today, Romney would have won by 62 percent, according to exit polling.
On the other hand, people of color voted for Obama by huge margins. For instance, Black women voted by 96 percent to 3 percent for Obama over Romney. 
What if the Republican Party fails to attract another Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower? What if it is unable to widen its base because it continues to hold onto 19th Century dogma?
If the Republicans fade to insignificance in the next few years, will we lose even the facade of democracy and be left with just one party? Unlike the 1850s when the Republican Party grew to major party status and elected Abraham Lincoln to the presidency (against three major opponents), there is no easy path for a third party to grow to major party status.
The Duopoly has closed the door to real opposition by another party. The presidential debates are controlled by the two parties, state legislatures have made it increasing difficult to get on the ballot, the equal time requirement on TV and radio has been ruled null and void, and the flood gates for contributions by corporations and secret donors have been opened wide. 
According to OpenSecrets.org, both Obama and Romney spent around one billion dollars in their campaigns. By contrast, Libertarian Gary Johnson spent two million dollars and Green Jill Stein spent one million. Other candidates spent less. The big money comes from Wall Street, military contractors and assorted billionaires. They don’t want to spend on candidates having little chance of success. and they certainly don’t want to contribute to candidates who are anti-corporate, or for drastic cuts in the military budget.
A One-Party State?
If we are to avoid becoming a one-party state in America, election laws must be revamped to create a level playing field. In the November 6 voting returns, the top five candidates were Obama, Romney, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Roseanne Barr. All of them should have been in the debates. 
Public funding of campaigns combined with free air time for candidates might convince the Supreme Court that free speech is being upheld. It would also give Americans a political education they have been lacking. A federal law setting out reasonable rules for how candidates achieve ballot status in all 50 states seems reasonable when it comes to federal offices such as President, Senate and the House.
After trying out democracy for a while, we might even want to incorporate structures that most other democracies have, including proportional representation and a parliamentary system.

George McGovern Dies for Our Sins

George McGovern Dies for Our Sins
I think of George McGovern this night.
He is lying in South Dakota
with the life force draining out of him
It will be his second death.
In 1972, he died for our sins
crucified before millions
because he loved us so.
He loved the four students
who were gunned down
at Kent State
He loved those who suffered
severe poverty and 
racist hatred.
He even loved those who 
were turned against him
by evil men.
But most of all, I think 
he loved the victims 
of the horrendous war in Vietnam.
He loved the Americans 
and the Vietnamese
without distinction.
He knew the 
masterminds of war
were in Washington
Where old men
vainly tried to hold
back the tide of history
He saw that the war
could not be stopped
without a dramatic act.
And so, in the Summer of 72
he took all our sins 
upon himself.
He said, I will be your sacrificial lamb.
Let me be the focus of their hatred
so all of you can go free
Don’t despair my friends,
your fight for justice was right.
our dream will come again
From this defeat, 
and my sacrifice
will come our victory.
We will win a world
of peace and decency
if it takes a hundred years
A world where every child, man
and women is well fed,
educated, housed and happy.
That is my legacy to you.

Fear and Loathing on the 2012 Campaign Trail

By Jim Smith

The title is a homage to Hunter S. Thompson, who in my opinion was one of the most astute political observers of the 20th Century.

The quadrennial game of choosing a new president, or allowing the old one to continue, is underway. In one corner is Barack Hussein Obama, who inspired a new generation of voters in 2008 and then promptly alienated the bulk of them by pursuing the old politics once in office. In the other corner is Willard “Mitt” Romney, son of Presidential contender, George Romney, and founder of Bain Capital, a “leveraged buyout” (money for nothing) firm. These are the official candidates approved by the oligarchy, also known as the 1 percent.

There are also four interesting, “unapproved” candidates who are mostly ignored by the corporate media, and are certainly not allowed in the debates with the approved candidates.

They are, in alphabetical order, Rocky Anderson, former Mayor of Salt Lake City, who is running on his own party, the Justice Party; Roseanne Barr, comedian and leading actress in the former top-rated TV series, Roseanne, who is running on the Peace and Freedom Party; Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico, who is running on the Libertarian Party; and Jill Stein, a medical doctor and activist, who is running on the Green Party.

I’ve made it no secret that Roseanne is my heart throb in this election. She is the bravest of the six, the most outspoken, the most radical (as in getting to the root of the problem). She is the only one who doesn’t talk like she’s just come from the Harvard University campus. No, Roseanne sounds like she’s just walked out of Ralphs Market into the parking lot where she’s having a conversation with some working class neighbors (the way someone talks is not a reflection on their intelligence, but on their upbringing which for Roseanne was a working class environment, not so for the others, apparently). Of course, she’s made a bundle from her runaway successes in TV, but it hasn’t gone to her head. She’s still one of us.

See Roseanne in action at the Venice Rally for Roseanne, Sept. 22, 2012:

• • •

The antics associated with the election campaign have been only for entertainment value for many years. The change in conventions from a place where party activists could debate and discuss their platform and candidates into a slick media hype reflects the drift of America from land of the free to land of the scared and watched.

The Wall Street/Military cabal continues to tighten their grip, not only on the presidency, but on the entire country. The murder of President John F. Kennedy was, in effect, a coup d’état by the 1 percent. Since then, military bases have been set up in a hundred countries, and here are home the police have been militarized and used as an instrument of social control. Much of the Left has refused to oppose this creeping authoritarianism because it’s easier to buy into the “lesser of two evils” scenario.

Party conventions used to be marked by real battles over platform and candidate. In 1924, Democrats took 103 ballots to nominate John W. Davis, who lost to Calvin Coolidge in the general election.

In 1972, George McGovern’s forces were victorious over the old guard Democrats on several platform votes on his way to winning the nomination. McGovern lost badly to Richard Nixon in the general election, but as Hunter Thompson pointed out, he might well have won had not another lone gunman, this time Arthur Bremer, not shot George Wallace. The Alabama Governor, had he been able to run on his American Independent Party, could have split the racist and reactionary vote with Nixon, thereby allowing McGovern to slip into office. (Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, Hunter S. Thompson)

The McGovern loss to Richard Nixon marked the final defeat of the “glorious revolution” of the Sixties. Millions of mainly young people had fought a political and cultural revolution with a varying degree of consciousness about what they were doing. The ruling class responded with typical violence and repression including assassinations of our leaders, shootings of students, mass incarcerations and a media barrage that successfully marginalized the importance of the movement. Fifty years later, today’s sorry state of affairs stems from the defeat of the values of this historic decade when freedom, peace and love seems within our grasp.

• • •

Although it triumphed against its dissidents, rebels, revolutionaries and enemies abroad, the American political system has been approaching a paralytic condition throughout the post-World War II era. The stagnation and reversal of our freedom and democracy has coincided with the growth of the American Empire to world domination.

The nearly 200-year-old civilized process of electing our nation’s leaders peacefully degenerated into violence beginning in the 1960s with the killing of a president (JFK) and then of a presidential contender (RFK). This was followed by a president (Johnson) not seeking reelection because of unrest in the country. His successor (Nixon), and the Vice President (Agnew), were both forced to resign. The newly appointed president (Ford) failed to win election, and his successor (Carter) failed to win reelection. The Iran-Contra Affair nearly brought down the next president (Reagan), whose alibi was senility. His successor (Bush) failed to win reelection, being defeated by a president (Clinton) who was later impeached. Vote tampering (Florida) got the next president (Bush2) into office and then got him reelected (Ohio). After 45 years of the White House being occupied only by conservative Republicans and Southern Democrats, Obama was a breath of fresh air.

Unfortunately, Obama appointed the same old Wall Street cronies to his cabinet and as his top advisors. As the Iraq invasion/occupation was winding down, he sent more troops to Afghanistan. Wire tapping has soared during the Obama administration, and for the first time, a president claims the right to assassinate U.S. citizens. According to a May 29 article in the New York Times, Obama insists on approving “every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war.”

Meanwhile, we seem to have reached the high-water mark of the Empire. Most of South America has been lost without a shot being fired (¡Viva Chavez!). Now the Middle East is becoming “difficult” for American interests. Egypt is no longer an American plaything. Iraq is closer (in more ways than one) to Iran than to America. Afghanistan is a lost cause. Israel’s wag-the-dog demands to bomb Iran are angering U.S. policy makers who are worried about the flow of oil out of the region. New signs of instability in the “Kingdom,” Saudi Arabia, could escalate into an overthrow of Washington’s tyrannical friends. That would be the ball game.

Even though it doesn’t have a real adversary in the world, the U.S. military is scouring the world for faux enemies to justify the war and national security budget of nearly a trillion dollars.

While the Obama regime has supposedly stopped the torture of prisoners during the Bush-Chaney years, it has instituted the targeted killing of American citizens without a trial. The mightiest country in the world is reduced to fomenting drone attacks on poor peasants in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Interfering in civil wars in Libya and Syria is hardly like fighting a real war. CIA efforts to stir up something in Russia have largely fallen flat. China doesn’t want to play war either, it’s too busy raking in U.S. dollars from its peaceful production. The U.S. and Israel are doing their best to portray Iran as a fitting adversary, even though it hasn’t been a world power since around 500 A.D.

Not to worry, media hysteria, yellow journalism, jingoism and fear of foreigners is still alive and well in America.

The most successful war being fought by Democrats and Republicans, alike, is the War on Drugs, which in fact is a war on the American people. The government is able to lock up millions of Black, Latino and white men by making nearly every drug not controlled by the pharmaceutical corporations illegal. Once in prison, they are encouraged to make their fellow prisoners of different races the enemy, instead of those who locked them up in the first place. Prisoners, most of whom are put away for drugs or economic crimes, are the other 1 percent of the U.S. population.

The remaining poor people who are not yet incarcerated are subject to nearly daily harassment by any of the 700,000 police in this country. Evictions and foreclosures guarantee that more Americans will be forced onto the streets than ever before. Meanwhile, the dream of working class families to send a son or daughter to college is rapidly fading as tuition skyrockets. Young women will be further burdened by unwanted pregnancies as access to abortions and morning-after pills are further curtailed.

Speaking of drones, that’s exactly what workers are becoming, at least those who have a job. Even the veneer of democracy fades away when blue collar, white collar and professional workers enter their workplaces. There is no free speech, no democratic processes in giant corporations. Unions are rapidly becoming a thing of the past as membership declines to less than 8 percent of the corporate workforce. Real wages, (adjusted for inflation) stood at $314 per week in 1974. By 2004, they had declined to $277. The standard of living has gone down even further since 2004. It’s not a particular President, or even Congress, that is responsible for the decline of the American Dream. It’s the whole system of capitalism that is having more and more difficulty providing for the “masses.” The problem with the Democrats and Republicans is that they create the illusion that a simple change of policy or party can make everything all right. It is far too late for band-aids.

• • •

In spite of the multiple crises, including our overheating planet, swirling around all of us, the major candidates seem incapable of coming to grips with any of them. That’s not to say the campaign hasn’t been entertaining. The Democratic and Republican conventions both had their priceless moments.

Clint Eastwood will always be remembered for growling “go ahead, make my day.” Now, he will also be remembered as the man who talks to empty chairs. Had he been a saboteur, he couldn’t have done a better job derailing the Romney Express.

The Democrats had their own priceless moment when L.A. Mayor Antonio V. (I can’t write his last name since half of it is copyrighted by his ex-wife) stared into the TV cameras as his future went down the drain. It seems that the platform didn’t mention God, or God’s home town, Jerusalem. Both omissions are inexcusable in backward countries like the U.S.

“Just a technical omission,” said the Party bosses. It’s something that could easily be fixed by a voice vote of the delegates. Only problem was, most of the delegates did not see a need for mixing mythology with a political platform, or giving Jerusalem away to Israel without an agreement with the Palestinians who also claim it.

A two-thirds vote was needed to change the already agreed upon platform. TV viewers and observers in the convention hall thought that the “no” votes had it. Antonio, who was presiding at the time, said, “Let’s try that again.” The second vote came out the same way. Poor Antonio looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He started looking around the stage for help. It was a real dilemma. Should he report what he had heard, that the delegates wanted no part of God or Jerusalem, or should he go for political expediency. Usually, Antonio has no problem choosing expediency over ethics, faithfulness or the truth. But here he was on national TV. In the end Antonio choose to stand naked as a lying politician in front of millions of viewers.

• • •

After the conventions closed, it looked like smooth sailing for Barack Obama and a rout for Williard Romney. Then the first debate happened.

Some say Obama looked like the Prozac President. Al Gore said it was Denver’s high attitude. What Michelle said is probably unprintable.

I say it was his karma for again doing the undemocratic thing by going along with banning other legitimate presidential candidates from the debate. Obama and his “handlers” don’t want him to be held accountable by candidates to his left, including Rocky Anderson, Roseanne Barr and Jill Stein. To be fair, Romney likely doesn’t want any competition from Gary Johnson on his right. In addition, Stein has refused to debate with Barr, a decision that has resulted in some third party debates being cancelled.

The effort to silence alternative voices is also going on in California where the rules on how third parties stay on the ballot have changed. In the past, the Peace and Freedom Party, which nominated Ralph Nader in 2008 and Roseanne Barr in 2012 only had to gain 2 percent of the vote in a statewide election, such as, for Governor, Attorney General, etc. Now, to stay on the ballot, Peace and Freedom must have more than 103,000 registered members by 2014. It currently has around 60,000. It will take a monumental effort to sign up another 40,000-plus in less than two years. Fortunately, Roseanne Barr has been urging people to register Peace and Freedom at every opportunity. The Party’s registration figures will not affect this year’s election, but it will affect the long-term health of the U.S. political process. At 60,000 members, Peace and Freedom is far and away the largest socialist entity in the country. If it goes down, corporate control will increase and the people will have lost a vital alternative.

Thanks to C-Span, we can sometimes look in on what’s going on in Canada, a country much like the U.S., only nicer. They routinely have debates in election years for Prime Minister, with at least five candidates from various parties in the debate.

Now, just imagine a universe not far from here, where elections are publicly funded and all candidates have equal access to the media. In this other universe, there are six presidential candidates in the debates this year. Issues are raised and discussed including bringing all our troops home from everywhere, implementing jobs on demand (it’s already on the books), free single-payer health care, ending homelessness this year, leading a worldwide movement to reduce carbon emissions before they kill us, ending the banks control of the Federal Reserve, no foreclosures, a national rent rollback, rebooting everyone’s debt, not selling off our historic post offices, letting adults control their own bodies (drugs and sex), getting as many people into college as possible (it will pay off ten-fold in the long run), and many more urgent problems.

Romney did exceedingly well in the debate by appearing to be a human being and not a lizard with a face mask. Most viewed probably didn’t notice that he renounced his entire economic package as presented in the primaries.

Here’s how Romney became so charming (you read it first at Venice Dreams). Willard’s “handlers” knew he needed a complete personality swap if he was to be taken seriously by the voters. Therefore, they sat him down for eight hours a day in front of a TV playing the movie “Dave” over and over.

Dave was a 1993 film about a president, Bill Mitchell (named by the screenwriter after Venice’s own gadfly of the same name), who has a stroke and was incapacitated. His “handlers” find a look-alike named Dave Kovic (possible named after the former Venice resident, and Vietnam Vet, Ron Kovic).

Dave, as fake president, played by Kevin Kline, starts to get off the track set by the Bush-like Mitchell and begins proposing common-sense solutions to saving money in the federal budget in a voice just like Romney was using at the debate. Politics imitates art (again).

Obama came roaring back to defeat Romney in the second debate. Perhaps Obama’s handlers sat him down in front of the 2003 film, “Head of State,” in which Chris Rock plays the presidential candidate. In the film, Rock gets his biggest applause when he begins talking about some of the ordeals that working people confront in their daily lives. After each one he shouts out, “That Ain’t Right!” to cheers from the audience. If Romney can have a personality transplant, then so can Obama.

It may be too early for the press to start calling Obama “The Comeback Kid,” as they did Bill Clinton when he snatched victory from nearly certain defeat dealt him by better candidates in the 1992 primaries (read or watch “Primary Colors” for verification). No matter what, the drama has caught the attention of the public, at least those who vote. Forget about global warming, people living on the streets, wars and covert actions, rampant militarism and creeping authoritarianism. Now, it’s all about personalities.  It’s all great stuff to keep the masses entertained and thinking they have a democracy.

My remarks on receiving the “Spirit of Venice” Award, Oct. 7, 2012

The Spirit of Venice
is the light that shines over our fair city
and distinguishes us from all the others.

The Spirit of Venice
means we would rather enjoy life
that chase after the almighty dollar.

The Spirit of Venice
means we would rather watch a sunset
than watch a TV show.

Will the Spirit of Venice survive?
As our immortal poet laureate Philomene Long said
in a poem written for Bill Rosendahl’s inauguration:

“who will walk upon our footsteps into the next century
That the light of Venice not be extinguished
Nor diminished, nor simply be maintained
But that light burn, burn, burn into a boundless Luminosity!”

And a line of my own:
“In Venice, time goes by,
but the magic remains.”

Thank you, and keep the Spirit of Venice alive.

Gestapo Tactics Must End

On July 22, Alesia Thomas, a 35-year-old African-American woman was killed in South Central during a beating by LAPD who said she was “resisting arrest.” The beating included one officer kicking her in the genitals.

On Aug. 18
, 20-year-old Ronald Weekley, also an African-American, was skateboarding home on Rose Avenue when members of the LAPD’s “Violent Crime Squad” went after him because he was allegedly skating on the wrong side of the street. Weekley was tackled from behind while opening his front door. He sustained a concussion, broken cheekbone, and broken nose. Why was the Violent Crime Squad concerned with a minor vehicle code infraction?

On Aug. 21, Michelle Jordan, was slammed to the ground in Tujunga after she was stopped for holding a cell phone while driving. Jordan apparently didn’t move fast enough to obey the cops and was slammed to the ground, twice.

How many other acts of random violence have the LAPD perpetrated out of sight of video cameras and smart phones?

Cops on Steroids?

Why are the police so violent? At least some Venice bodybuilders believe they are exhibiting the same behavior they have seen in the gym from bodybuilders who are taking steroids. Are there drug tests for police? Do they get tested for steroid use?

Three Strikes and You’re Out

If these were criminals and not cops, they would be behind bars for life, according to California’s Three Strike Law.

An Army of Occupation

The LAPD has long acted as an army of occupation in Venice. It’s time we said farewell to these black-shirted, gun-toting, tough guys who create for problems than they solve. After restoring Venice Cityhood, we can decide how we want public order preserved. We might want to create a Venice Peacekeeping Dept. that would be unarmed, but could call on the County Sheriffs or Santa Monica Police if a violent situation developed. Let’s give it a try. Anything would be better than being treated as if we were under occupation.