Sunday, August 14, 2016

Social injustice and a nation's bad karma on a Sunday afternoon

Sometimes, not very often, the weird complexities of social injustice, as well as the contradictory reactions of people caught in this complex web of peace and violence, come right to your doorstep. And the moment of synchronicity is amazing enough to make you feel like the event must mean something profound. Such was the case today on a sleepy Sunday afternoon in Flagstaff, Arizona.

I had spent the day reading "The Apache Wars," by Paul Andrew Hutton, and had been moved by waves of emotions, usually disgust, sometimes tears, by the way Native Americans had been treated in the Southwest. At one point, after reading about the death of Cochise and the forced removal of the Chiricahua people to the San Carlos reservation due to the abrogation of a long-standing peace treaty, I decided to take a break and go for a smoke outside my apartment.

While I sitting on my chair, I looked at the stones in my backyard area, and wondered about how much blood had been spilled on them, or at least near them, in the 19th century. Then, thinking about the previous night's riots in Milwaukee, pondered on the lingering effects, all of the bad karma, born out the tragedies of "civilizing" America.

This story is true. You just can't make this stuff up.

Just then, I heard a kind of yelp. Then I noticed how across the street, some college students were sitting on the fence, taking pictures with their cellphones, looking at something that I couldn't see. Then I heard drums. Then I saw police cars coming from all directions, coming from the different adjacent streets to the main road. At first, it looked like a funeral procession was near.

Moving to the west down the street, escorted in front by several Flagstaff police officers, was a small line of demonstrators, the first of which were holding a banner that stated, "Blue Lives Murder." My first thought was how strange. How completely bizarre. The police were leading a parade of people opposed to them. I wondered how they must have felt.

More protesters followed, carrying signs with pictures of people, mostly blacks, who had been killed by the police across the country.

By this time, there were police cars everywhere, blocking the traffic, followed by a police cruiser with god knows how much electronic equipment. As far as I could tell, there were more police on this detail than actual demonstrators.

Once this procession passed, they went around the corner, drums beating, the police in escort. All of it peaceful enough, but laced with unfathomable irony.

It was definitely a combined Native American, Black Lives Matter protest. A railing against the injustices of our day. But I don't know exactly if what I heard next is right. As I said, I had been reading a lot about the attempted genocide of the Apaches. So, you can take this last reporting as purely subjective: As the chants and drums were going on unseen between myself and some houses, as they headed toward downtown Flagstaff, I swore I could hear repeated shouts, "Cochise! Cochise! Cochise!"

It could have also been "No peace! No peace! No peace!" But then, what difference does it make?

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Trump's chaos theory, the media elite and the looming one-party system


     Donald Trump's new economic team of 13 billionaires has been labeled as a potential threat to his populism. Of course, the corporate media has missed the point, as usual. His populism, a boxed-in mass of personality cultists, is secure, as far as it goes. The attempt to absorb the lower end of the middle class to form a Workers' Party, facing irrelevance in a stagnated global economy, is reminiscent of what dictators did in Russia, Germany and Italy during the 20th century.

     What media has yet to realize is that the Trump 13 is yet another cabal of radical power brokers, all of whom have proven a mastery for coming out ahead when the economic foundations of society crumble. We are witnessing a dangerous con of epic proportions. With the likes of these, it barely matters if Trump wins or loses the election. He is a calculating, reckless bomb thrower stirring up racial hatred to suit his aims because he believes that when it all comes crashing down, he and his friends will be the scum that rises to the top.

     That is the only way his Captain Chaos routine makes any sense. The social disease he has unleashed serves all purposes, as far as he's concerned. Is it about greed? Hardly. Team 13 is rich enough. You can already buy anything you want with a billion dollars, an example of how Caesar wept when all worlds were conquered. Is it about fanaticism? Surely. Is it about authoritarian control on an unprecedented scale? Bingo! The most chilling aspect of Trumpism is the idea of deportation forces for undocumented immigrants, a nightmare scenario conjuring images of the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel), South American death squads, the Russian Red Brigades and myriad forms of ethnic cleansing.

     The Trump campaign is merely a symptom of a groundswell of failures among the GOP leadership that have been going on for decades. His candidacy is a rejection of the Republican elite. Trump's ascendancy as presidential candidate occurred because the other candidates in the GOP primary, a group of anti-democratic opportunists, played the waiting game too long for the past eight years.

     They were too easily tied to the failure of the Bush era, the disaster of the Iraq invasion, the discredited theory of trickle-down economics, deregulation of the banking industry and its disastrous corruption, too dialed in to big money campaign financing, all leading to the worst depression of our time. What we are witnessing right now is part of an organic process of a withering away of a ruling assembly who failed to show any willingness to legislate in the face of dire challenges facing the nation, from immigration reform to income inequality to the monstrosity of entrenched turbo capitalism.

      In this demise many Republicans were left with nothing other than the desire for a dictatorial authoritarian type, since their own party leaders were dithering on the job. Trump is the chicken come home to roost after an era of obstructionism.

    Unfortunately, if a splintering Republican party breaks up into two parties, a fringe-right and true conservative right-centrist holdouts, then the entire right is split into irrelevance. This would lead to a Democratic regime that would more or less lead as a one-party nationalist regime, since most likely it would pull the liberal movement further to the right as it absorbed marginalized ex-Republicans, only to alienate the millennials of the new left.

     Could we see the emergence of a four-party system, as the Greens and Libertarians gain mainstream acceptance? Not likely, or, at least, that could take decades. You need a 15 percent share of the electorate to even get on the same stage for debates. And the Fourth Estate, the media, isn't going to throw its weight into covering a 15 percent market share. The media will continue to ignore such parties until the economics of journalistic coverage compels then to do so.

     But dismissing third-party candidates is an affront to real democracy. When will the media oligarchs allow third-party candidates to debate on the same stage? Never. Or, if so, this could take more than decade. The positioning of the media elite depends on kissing up to those in power in order to gain access. It's a problem with the overculture. And Jesus, people who are insulting committed far-left dissenters because they don't like Clinton are just another face of Trumpism. But progressives won't be convinced by all-or-nothing group-think. The Democrats need to convince the left-wing fringe voter with something more than anti-Trump pragmatism, and meanwhile are playing a dangerous game by pandering to the disaffected right.

     Independents, in the meantime, can only drift as homeless news junkies trying to find a place to belong. Every Sunday they can wake up each morning to watch "Meet the Press" and "Fox News Sunday." Not so much because these shows include good reporting or insightful chatter, but because viewers need to know what the lies are. And then they can wonder: Why?

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Music as Medicine: Summit Dub Squad celebrates 11 years of healing through hip hop infused reggae

     Each morning you turn on the tech with one eye open, the other closed, as if the day's reported disasters may be a bomb about to explode. The stress of the summer season's news has been overwhelming of late. But then you click on a video by Flagstaff, Arizona's own Summit Dub Squad, and you are brought back to the idea that there's nothing funny about peace, love and understanding. It's a video of a show at the Flagstaff Brewing Company and the band is playing. The song opens to the sound of sirens. So yeah, it seems relevant to the times: Panic in the streets! Panic in the streets! The reggae and hip/hop tune, listed as "Hopiland Winter," is quite democratic. The band and the crowd are one. Hopi reggae artist Casper Lomayesva is the guest MC, and then the band finishes off the tune with a heartbeat rhythm, bouncing bass and chinking guitar that flashes into blazes of effects. Everyone in the foreground is dancing, sharing drinks, waving their hands in the air. This is a real good act. There is hope. There is peace out there, freedom, fun. And after more than a decade, Summit Dub Squad is still around: something you can count on.
     "That's definitely a big part of the reason we play music, the healing nature of the music," says lead singer B Dub, one of the founding members of the Summit Dub Squad, which has been providing regular dub therapy to Flagstaff music fans for 11 years. "It's the positive vibration, even if it only lasts as long as the show."
     The core of the band started out as hip hop fans who were hanging out at a house in the Southside area of Flagstaff, until they had to abandon gathering at the place after it was damaged in an electrical fire. The hip hop crew moved on to playing at a house on Summit Avenue. Hence, The Summit Dub Squad was formed. That core group includes B Dub (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, melodica), Hunter E. RedDay (vocals, flutes and electric guitar), Dub Docta Paul (bass), and dj SOE (turntables, keys, drums, general percussion). At any given time, they may draw any number of musicians into their communal mix.
     Says dj SOE (Andrew Baker), "We have a show coming up at the park, and we have some extra percussion instruments so kids can come play with us. We can be just the four of us, but we've had as many as 10 people on stage."
RedDay describes it as a collective.
    "We were established in 2005 and it was a four-piece coming off multiple projects," he says. "It was more of a hip hop collective in the beginning. Our connection as friends goes back further than the band itself. We've kept a hardcore four and we have had numerous people come and go, and now it's evolved into this full-fledged group of people from the community who play with us."
      The band's description at pretty much says: "SDS stands for human rights and environmental justice in a time of insane corporate greed, utilizing roots reggae and positive hiphop music as the channel to chant down babylon!" According to RedDay, who was born in Tuba City, but then traveled around the country and became a fan of any kind of music "with a good beat and a message," their music has a strong connection to "the Hopiland."
     "The message of the music is local, but it's also very global," he says.
     The Summit Dub Squad presents a very good example of what people like to do in mountain towns. They are looking for social interactions that connect with the land, the sky and the shared resistance against the horrors of urban civilization (Babylon, aka Phoenix) and the persecution of oppressed peoples. SDS updates the traditional reggae of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Burning Spear, and B Dub sites the influence of KRS-1 and especially Public Enemy, a group which he saw at one of his first live shows in Phoenix in the early 1990s.
    "I believe, and the rest of the band really believes, music has a very healing quality to it, but people really undervalue that quality in music," B Dub says. "We put a lot of intention in peace, love, unity and respect."
     The title track to their latest of four self-produced albums on iTunes, "Rootsman Journey," features a snaking bass far more pumped up for the urgency of the times, and there is a forceful energy in the way the lead guitar races past the usual chinking of the style. The dub lyrics, as well, move quickly through the ears at a racing hip hop pace.
     "It's a high-elevation sound flavor, that's what we play," says dj SOE, another original "core" member of the band. "It's a lot of heavy bass and drums on a lot of songs. It's really influenced by the dub versions of Jamaican reggae, where you strip back the vocals, putting the bass and the drums and the effects up front."
     They play around 20 to 30 shows a year, performing at least once a month in Flagstaff, and have played on short tours across the Southwest. They have opened for Israel Vibration and Lee Scratch Perry, who B Dub called the "Godfather of  dub reggae."
     The band has a real advantage that has helped them out in terms of productivity: they have their own studio on the fringes of town, in the Pinedale community.
     "I can't imagine what the cost to produce our albums would be without it, the way we do it," B Dub says. "Considering the amount of time we spend on things, it's a huge advantage. We can produce an entire album over the course of a year, and it creates a momentum for us where we can really celebrate our album release parties."
    The eleventh year of the band finds each of the "core four" celebrating how long they have lasted as a group, and how big of a community of musicians they represent. All healing is local, the members say, and no one in the band mentioned anything about getting signed to a major label, or other types of future, fame or glory. They are performing a necessary service in Flagstaff, offering good vibrations. There are few reggae bands in Flagstaff right now, and that includes the Yotis, and dj SOE plays in both of them. So that service is kind of rare.
     "The more the world has reggae music, the better the world is going to be," he says.
As RedDay says, "We aren't trying to take over. We just ride the wave. We're still here. We are needed."

      If you like posts by Douglas McDaniel and Radio Free Arizona, or simply like this post, contribute to the writer's Tip Jar at

Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Goldwater Institutionalized

Most recent news from Arizona's politics includes bills being discussed in the state legislature to allow guns to be carried on college campuses. The curious irony in northern Arizona is the best-known appearance of hand guns resulted in a deadly shooting on the campus of Northern Arizona University. The basis for this wave of open carry stuff is, of course, the Second Amendment, built upon the premise, among other things, that a militia would be needed to remain armed in case, say, the British came back. And in the case of the shooting right down the street, it turned out it wasn't a British invasion, but a fleet of television trucks to display what, exactly? is the benefit of having guns on campus. But extremism is ... blah, blah, blah ...

If you follow this flintlock musket policy initiative to a few logical implications, all part of a Barry Goldwater meme buried like valley fever in the sands of the Southwest, then the sovereign principality of Arizona should send away all federal employees, including the military and border patrol. Then it can establish its own constitution, supreme court, and enforce what it really has in mind, a rigidly biblical caliphate where everyone should be carrying a rifle to everything.

Arizona voters are the first to blame for the apparent dysfunction of this crew. But rather than voting out the designers of the budget crisis, a governor was put in to reinvent the wheel. And Goldwater Institute goons were brought in to be the "yes" men. Sounds like the crunch over school funds is just the tip of the iceberg since these designers, not being scientists, won't embrace the wheel until more research comes in. It's good advice to keep following the money for all kinds of categories as the radicals seek to privatize law enforcement, prisons, social safety nets or hand over public lands to developers. They seem to be intent on handing over government programs to a legion of mercenaries, reintroducing a system that we haven't seen since the 19th century, or, in some cases, the Middle Ages. It's becoming a cruel world, indeed. Which is why, I suppose, all of these rifles are needed.

The Goldwater Institute, hunkered down in the melted money mounts of Paradise Valley, is a menace to compassionate governance. If we had listened to that bunch, there would be no light rail system in the Valley. It's an anti-union, anti public healthcare think tank for the tax dodging cronies of the New Capitalism, replacing social ideals fought for across the Western World with a new religion called "profit." We haven't seen this wave greed hounds since the Reagan era, and now the fate of the 99 percent is at their mercy.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mythville: Time and Sound

Mythville: Time and Sound: W aking to the working man music, seeking the shadows in the sounds of the nineteen seventies, since we are all churned into se...