Dr. Lora Chamberlain on Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy…

but love her or fear her, the good Doctor calls it like she sees it, knows the issues, and is an unflinching Progressive who never pulls her punches. Thought this post was critical as the race heats up towards the election; one that may decide the future and fate of the state and it’s people, and whether it returns to the people or is looted to insolvency and ruin by Rauner and the oligarchs. Doctor:  

Kennedy – Is He Our Progressive Champion??? A report from the Gubernatorial campaign trail:

I have been going to multiple forums with the candidates trying to push them on a IL State Bank, fracking / climate change, single payer health care, progressive taxing solutions, I toss out as many questions as I can get in.

Yesterday I saw Chris Kennedy at Horner Park. A couple of thoughts: Wow, he really does have a temper – this was the second time he has berated me, without my attacking him, I was just stating some truths, I am not liking that very much!

He does seem to be really angry at Madigan and the IL power elites for their corruption, he wants to end conflicts of interest in Springfield by disallowing them of serving as property tax assessment attorneys, and ending other conflicts of interest, and get everyone back to public service – this is very good.

He states that he wants to bend the rules of the economy to benefit the poor and the average folks – this is very good.

He is very concerned that our youth are leaving the state, that our University system is being dismantled by Rauner, and that 75% of high school graduates across the state are not college ready.

He is for a Progressive Income Tax and something he calls a “Jupiter Island Tax” – (“Some of the wealthiest people in the United States live in Jupiter Island: Worth magazine ranked it #1 in the country for having the highest median home sale, and it has the highest per capita income of any inhabited place in the country”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter_Island,_Florida ). This “Jupiter Island Tax” will be levied on executives or anyone who does business transactions in Chicago, even if they are employed elsewhere – (I am pretty sketchy about this tax and tried to get more details from him last night and could not seem to get him to come forth with any). But it sounds like it would tax who we want to tax – the rich folks.

He does not think a transaction tax would work, he thinks they will squirm out of the tax and get away with it.

He does not want to legalize pot and tax it, (he thinks legalization requires more research – he would be more inclined to support decriminalization, he is pretty conservative on this one).

He is for getting to a Single Payer Health Care System eventually, even on the State level if the Feds destroy Medicaid and Obamacare, but was again very sketchy on the details and did not mention California’s steps in that direction.

He thinks that fracking is not part of our energy future but he thinks that coal will stay at the same percentage of our energy mix that it has right now – I was personally aghast at this comment – his brother is Robert Kennedy Jr. who is a very significant environmentalist, it does not seam that they talk very often about this issue.

I really tried to push Kennedy on the economic issues last night. He was for maintaining our obligations to our pensioneers, but seemed to be behind Rahm’s attempt last winter to come to a pension bargain – this did not make sense to me.

I asked him how we could tax the 25% of corporations that pay no tax in this state, I have to say he was not forthcoming – he asked me if I wanted to get into the weeds of corporate tax issues and I said “yes” and then he did not answer my question.

My sense of him is that he prefers not to be questioned about the details around his policies, he is a bit of an elitist, and he wants us to trust that he is going to act in our best interest – well Mr. Kennedy that just does not fly any more in American politics!

He also was not very happy at the end when we brought him a copy of: “Here Come the Kennedys” https://jacobinmag.com/…/chris-kennedy-illinois-governor-ra…, – a must read about some aspects of Kennedy’s background, but he did not have much to say about it.

I was hoping that Kennedy was our independent progressive in the race who had the balls to take on Madigan, Cullerton, and the rest of the power elites in this state – and this would call for a serious set of kahunas! But I get the sense that Kennedy is really a centrist Democrat, similar to Pat Quinn, with a few pet progressive issues. I am going to continue to push him on a IL State Bank, and some of the other progressive issues – I will let you know if I get anywhere.

…and I will let you know what she finds…

Left or Right?

Have to agree with Annie Froelich from a previous post. This is less a sign of Left vs Right, as it is about anarchy(save you posts anarchists) it is about a society that equivocates on everything, which tilts towards the wealthy and white, then pardons, overlooks and explains away their crimes. It is a white cop murdering a Black man on camera, then deciding afterwards he was “afraid for his life.” It is about Sandra Bland. It is about the devaluing of individuals for the purposes of consolidating power and excess. It is about a deficit of moral leadership in the White House deepened by administration after administration. It is racism, consumerism, lawyerism. It is about describing a worldwide religion as terrorists, or a race of people “illegal.” It is a generational assault on education, information and enlightenment in favor of spin, opinion and a beer-swilling, foreigner-hating, big truck-driving, slack jawed nationalism. It is news media for profit. It is profit above community, by corporatists in America who put profit above their nation, and then are protected by media. It is, if the president or congress or the corporate spokesperson lies to get what they want, or to escape guilt and justice. In short it is an American cultural and moral cancer that will prove the ultimate demise of this nation. And all of us allow it to happen.

“Question for my Smarties: I’ve been told again and again by the media and other outlets that my parent’s generation (Baby Boomers) wrecked everything for future generations…”

Chicago comic and friend Catherine “Povs” Povinelli posted that question on Facebook the other day. As a Boomer, technically, born 1962, my first reaction was a thought I’d had for a long time. And I’ll accept responsibility for my generation’s missteps, but there is equal blame to go around regardless of what year you were born. I’ll get to that, but first some effort of generational reconciliation is imperative.

My generation was decidedly and openly non-political, as a whole. Not for any reason. We were just lazy.  The election turnout peaked in 1960. In 1972 it took a nose dive and has remained in the embarrassingly low 50% range since. We partied. We were the last generation before AIDS. In the era of Oprah, local news, mall reports and the consumer generation, we were blithely irresponsible. Mass entertainment, the advent of cable TV and the dawn of Reagan and Clinton era media deregulation erasing boundaries between information and marketing, we settled into a comfortable ignorance. By the time significant realities were coming home to roost we were numbed and dumbed, fat, lazy and righteously judgmental now that we had begun to spawn. MOTHERHOOD IS THE HARDEST JOB, OR IS IT COPS, FIREMEN, SEWER WORKERS, ELVIS IMPERSO…?

As for the later, it was my generation that abandoned Dr. Spock, for video games and TV, placating children into oblivion. We shoved them in a corner with a toy and continued partying, hitting the beauty parlor and bars and essentially treated kids like pets, unless we needed a reason to call in sick to work.

Essentially, on a cultural, economic and social level we were fattened lambs for the slaughter. It began to the slow erasure of news and journalism into information; a qualitative difference. The Oprah generation complained that news overseas didn’t mean anything and brought disturbing images to young and impressionable minds. WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE SAVE THE CHILDREN! “News you can use,” soon appeared. Through the 1990’s Americans ignored “unimportant” news from the rest of the world. That ignorance, rather than correcting on September 11 2001, instead cauterized as ignorant flag waving, Chevy buying, rube-driven nationalism. The Baby Boomer president told us to go shopping, them wrote a check for $10 trillion on an unnecessary war, then blamed a Black Boomer president for having the highest debt in history.

It was all a purposeful roadmap prescribed within the 1971 Powell memo. The memo, by Lewis F. Powell Jr, former corporate attorney and later SCOTUS appointee under Nixon, laid out a recommendation that corporations needed to control the media, the government and education in the country as a matter of priority and power. The WW 2, Boomer and Gen X Republicans have followed that roadmap to the letter.

So yes, Catherine, the Republicans to own Santa Claus!

However, the reality is, tomorrow is a mystery and a crap shoot, and how we get there is anyone’s guess. It is complex and international in scope, a planetary tug of war with a thousand ropes, many of which change sides in dizzying frequency. Each generation comes to its own layered lessons and ignorance equally. The  thing is, following World War 2, started by a previous generation Nazi, whose was stopped by that same generation, the capacity for really screwing things up was exponentially increased. A hand full of weapons, invented by Depression era leaders, from the E=MC2 equation of a turn of the century scientist, could essentially erase humanity. WW 2 era teachers instructed Boomer kids to duck and cover beneath their desks in the event of a Nuclear war. WAIT. WHAT?

Here in America, Black Boomers fought for Civil Rights, joined by White Boomers, and opposed by White boomers. They w ere fighting for rights ascribed in a constitution by revolution generation men who also wrote that Blacks were 3/5th a person. The Civil Rights Boomers Gen X-ers grew up cajoled by Alex P. Keaton characters on television, and dumbed down by truly insipid programs like Alf. They helped teach a generation partly abandoned by parents simplistic and reactive lessons on relationships. A divorce culture, woven inside a consumer culture underscored that family and relationship commitment is as transient as corporate charters and contracts.

Boomer hippies abandoned Vietnam-era activism for the boardroom, or checked out. Generation X-ers faired no better, and in some cases worse. Paul Ryan is Generation X. Generation X and Millenials were the masses strengthening the Occupy movement. They also abandoned the Occupy movement, while the Boomer-driven Tea Party movement helped propel Trump to office. It was Boomers and Gen X-ers, by the way who strategically sought to crush the revolutionary spirit of millenials towards Boomer presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. I have witnessed two genocides leaving millennials scarred or as orphans. We can only wonder how that will resonate with millenials to the benefit or detriment to succeeding generations.

The bottom line, every generation has its blessings and short falls. The problem is that regardless of generation, we are all being coaxed into binary thinking, which has long been the legacy of every generation. Ultimately that is a measure of the quality of information we receive, but also a measure of our desire to understand what is happening in the world. That isn’t easy, but then nothing essential ever is. Learn that you, regardless of generation, are being manipulated, and that includes pitting generations against one another so that the focus is on blaming fellow victims rather than the real perpetrators.  Because here is the deal, a millennial may blame some aspect of the world on Boomers, but Boomers are absolutely bitching about millennials, and Gen X-ers are getting pounded from both each time they complain about being overlooked!

Liberal Literature

Preparing for my first trip to the Balkans in 1992 as the siege of Sarajevo was beginning, I consumed what little Yugoslav and Balkan literature was available at the time. It gave me a decided advantage over journalists. At the end of the war I was able to immerse myself more fully in in literature from the former-Yugoslavia. One of those was perhaps the most overlooked. under appreciated and misunderstood writers, at least outside of what once constituted Yugoslavia; the late Mesa Selimovich (Pronounced: Mesha Selimovich).

This piece isn’t really about Selimovich (26 April 1910 – 11 July 1982), who wrote seminal and iconic world like Dervish and Death, and The Fortress. Although you can now stun and impress Balkan friends by knowing his name. it is a lesson to all true writers who aspire in transcending to literature, just as the would-be artist aspires to become a master painter like Picasso, Titian or whomever. But here is the key, it is impossible to properly be on the side of Kings and despots, presidents, dictators and oligarchs, because theirs eschews all that the writer must stand for-justice and ultimate freedom of expression, which are antithetical to power. To do so is to engage in the censorship of systems and society. Be outside all of those.

The writer, whether overt and consciously, or intuitively and purposefully, is by definition subversive. Anything less is a betrayal or worse, a capitulation. Dervish and Death was, in part a postscript regarding his brother’s execution while they were both partisans during the Second World War. The Fortress, while set during the Ottoman Occupation, was an indictment of life during the post-war Communist period. each writer must find their own period and speak real and eternal human truths. It is far less about being partisan; liking this administration, hating that one. The test and filter must me how it exalts that which binds every soul regardless of race, national origin, religion and politics, though those are certainty ample stagecraft and kindling for the pyre of light and passion and love upon which your story is crafted.

This, by the way, is what I think of while walking the dog, and as an outsider, I am always happy for his feedback…

So Long Ringling Brothers…

So Long Ringling Brothers…

This week saw the final performance of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. There are those who are saddened by what they view is the end of some idealized and romanticized past. I would argue that such a past never really existed. Others, like myself, see it as a relic, a rusting and obsolete relic of an ignorant past.

I was a kid in the 1970’s when the circus came, settling in a field just at the edge of our little Illinois town. I was fascinated by the tents, the odd collection of circus people, and the animals. Even at so young an age I lamented for chained elephants, and big cats kept in uncomfortable small cages. But I was a kid, and absolutely I was awed by the performances.

Even then, however, it felt decrepit, the final gasp of a bygone era. I recall coming away a little sad, and a bit dirty at the utility and slavery of otherwise autonomous, free-roaming creatures. I came away a little emotionally damaged. That lament extended to the people as well. It seemed to primitive and antiquated labelling people as “Freaks,” as in the “Freak Show.” (Besides, Republicans would go out of their minds about where the “half man/half woman” might decide to use the restroom!)

As I became more acquainted with history and other cultures the circus was merely part of the continuum of human and animal exploitation for entertainment evolving for thousands of years ago from brutal contests and shows one might well have found in Rome’s famed coliseum. Circuses, over the centuries had merely evolved to the tastes and tolerances of their contemporary audiences.

And tastes and tolerances absolutely change. No one would ever consider having bears wrestle in a mall parking lot, as once happened in 19th Century America, and which still takes place in a few places around the globe. It was once entertaining to watch white men in Black face mock African American culture and music. We now consider that racist. So what, precisely, are we holding onto by exalting circuses to some elevated cultural and historical status?

Circuses are a thing of the past. I would submit that circus shows today are less akin to the show I saw as a boy, and more like a cross between the flashy Circ du Soleil and a Disney parade, but with more animal abuse and exploitation. circu

The Failure of Language

Recently I was asked by a friend to write an introduction to a guide intended to protect those in Psychiatric institutions, whether long or short term…

The validation of my sanity may well be dependent on labeling the other insane.”

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR)

If you do not understand much of what is written in Jason Page’s Mental Hospital Survival Guide, it is likely not written for you. It is a different language for many of us, but it is only too familiar for someone you love, or someone close to you. This guide is written in the language of the schizophrenic, which is as unique as any other language on earth, complete with its own vocabulary, structure, culture and syntax. So much of it is lost in translation. Empathy fails In that regard, all too often becoming sympathy, which risks being rooted in ignorance. Support demands acumen with the language.  Because language here is imperative, this may be the most important single piece of information they may ever receive. It may save their life. It will certainly impact the quality of their life.

Over the years Jason and I have had many conversations on the limits of language in describing what is commonly referred to as Mental Illness. Even as an author and playwright I grasp, I fear unsuccessfully, with the pale limits of language for a better descriptor that likewise does justice to the schizophrenic, as well as to the dignity of the individual. Mental illness seems to fall short. Mental Disorders almost seems to blame the individual for something entirely out of their control. Mental health seems to parcel people into separate pockets of the unhealthy and healthy. I have tried to use Perspectives, but even this falls short, as if there is agreement on mental issues. Even the word mental detaches mind from body. Mental Distress at least endeavors to indicate one of us is in need of help, support, access to medication, protection, love, care…

A 2010 World Health Organization’s Mental Health Survey estimated that at any given moment there are 450 million mentally ill people in the world, or about 6% of the population. That number is almost certainly conservative. Whether lifelong or episodic, as with depression or despair at the loss of a loved one, or post partum depression, a myriad of distresses awaits all of us at some period in our lives. Being institutionalized, even over night, for severe mental distress, such as depression may happen without a person’s consent if a health professional fears a person may do themselves or someone else harm. The shock and fear and disorientation in an unfamiliar, even seemingly hostile environment may cause a situation to spin out of control. Worse yet, if actions by individuals, the authorities or the institution itself turn abusive, resistance or “common-sense” reaction may lead to greater harm.

Language also fails us in our understanding by separating mind and body. We argue Nature vs. Nurture, as if either could exist independent of the other. More importantly, the question becomes, have we wrested ourselves from the horrific and inhumane 19th century Asylums. Inmates were routinely called Lunatics, Insane, Mad, Deranged and more, which keeps us mired in ignorance. That history is not so easily discarded, as the failure of language so clearly illustrates.

The first references to Schizophrenia appear from ancient Egypt, though likely it has been with us throughout most if not all of human history. The word itself was coined in 1911, a veritable blink of the eye in human history. The revolution in Magnetic Neuro-Imaging, only a couple decades old, reveals absolute physical differences in the brains of Schizophrenics in comparison to non-Schizophrenic brains. Schizophrenic males show differences from Schizophrenics of other genders.

Despite substantial breakthroughs in our understanding of Schizophrenia, we still live in a world in which demonic possession is popular in movies and fiction, in which every major religion advocates exorcism to deal with so-called demonic possession. While Schizophrenia is certainly not the fiction of demonic possession, far too many still believe they are connected. Heinous criminals are routinely called “demented,” “lunatics” or “crazed.” Here again we are allowing the failure of language and the burden of our history of ignorance to fail brothers and sisters who so desperately require our love and commitment, insight and support.

Perhaps the greatest failure is the state of institutions and hospitals. In 2014, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a global watchdog committed to investigating and exposing human rights violations in the field of mental health, exposed how, “our sane cures” and the “sanity” of psychiatric institutions often “abuse and punish the patients” under the guise of treatment or cure. The CCHR pointed to misdiagnosis, over-medication, disregard of restraint, violent restraint, punishment and isolation, abusive therapies and lack of training to name just a few.

Jason Page’s Mental Hospital Survival Guide carries the CCHR assessment beyond the clinical to the experiential. The advice and perspective here is taken directly from his own experiences, detailing abuses and dangers from the perspective of the patient. Having known Jason for a number of years, watching him manage Schizophrenia with a rare and empowered agency, I can think of very few who possess the insight, experience and scars that this narrative is intended to help.



Security Culture and Democracy

Security Culture and Democracy
A friend and long time prominent activist, Bob Simpson, posted on Facebook regarding FBI informers and moles at an underground DC newspaper he once worked for. He filed a FOIA request and was able to read parts of the FBI file. A number of others weighed in about various publications and projects that had been. Many of those had also viewed the FBI and informant files. When I was in Grade school in the 70s, during the Cold War and fears of communism taking over the world, I was taught how the Soviets routinely spied on its citizens and the inhuman and draconian measures taken against dissenters. I was taught that America was different and better. Boy, was it a thunderous shock to find out we were doing the same thing all along. Recall, this nation demonized women for wanting to vote, and attacked them ruthlessly for wanting an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. It went after Martin Luther King jr. for the unforgivable crime of standing for racial equality. 
We have been talking about this quite a lot during talk backs at my play, “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” It was a common discussion during Occupy as well. Even though it seems counterintuitive, I have always advocated uber-transparency. Security cultures play into their hands and gives the government and police major erections, while openness, as well as being absolutely democratic, stymies them. I tested that in 1994 while being arrested and professionally interrogated near the frontline in Sarajevo one dark night. I handed over detailed journals(which I got back, and used for my War Memoir, Everything for Love) and answered every question so fully that they were completely confused.
I know the other side as well. Over the course of 20 plus years in the Balkans I interviewed dozens of former World War 2-era Communist Partisans about their security culture before and during the war, when they were mercilessly hunted by the German Gestapo and others. That was war. Life and Death. We are not there…yet. It was also a different time, in which all of us had not been mapped as with the NSA collection of data. They will get to you in the shadows. Drag them into the light and expose them for the pathetic and petty little clerks and bullies they are.