January

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“Why Don’t They Play You On the Radio?”

Very early in Ronald Reagan’s administration, in January, 1981, the deregulation of the economy went into high gear.  The pace would only increase in future administrations of both parties.  One of the first casualties of Reagan’s agenda were radio journalists all over the country, thousands of whom found themselves suddenly unemployed.  There was no more requirement for local radio stations to provide news, so they got rid of their news departments en masse.  The ceiling was partially lifted on how many radio stations a single person or corporation could own, marking the beginning of the end for the existence of local music markets, setting the stage for the total Disnification of the entire country’s music industry.  Only under Bill Clinton’s administration would the ceiling be lifted entirely on how many radio stations one individual could own in the US.

“Hummer”

In January, 1985, the first Hummer rolled off the assembly line.  This civilianized military vehicle would soon become really popular among a certain set that seemed to epitomize the resurgent right’s pro-war orientation and its complete dismissal of the reality of climate change.

“Contras, Kings and Generals”

After spending several months transporting hundreds of thousands of soldiers, tanks, planes, helicopters, etc., to occupy Saudi Arabia, the US and the UK, along with military detachments from some other countries, began a massive bombing campaign in January, 1991.  After killing unknown numbers of Iraqi conscripts hunkered down in the desert possibly numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the “liberation of Kuwait” was complete.  Eventually the burning oil wells were put out, black snow fell in the Himalayas, and Saddam Hussein remained in power and began slaughtering those who rebelled against his regime — as the US and UK pretended not to notice.

“DU”

In January, 2001 the UN published their finding that NATO’s air war against Serbia that was intended to assist the efforts of those fighting for an independent Kosovo had had the side effect of turning Kosovo into a highly toxic wasteland, permeated with radioactive Depleted Uranium munitions.

“Guantanamo Bay”

The first prisoners of the “War on Terror” were shipped to Guantanamo Bay, a US-occupied section of the otherwise sovereign nation of Cuba, in January, 2002.  This was not the first time the US used Guantanamo Bay as a prison camp, but it would become a primary symbol of the complete disregard for international law, human rights, or due process characterized by the post-9/11 global paramilitary campaign launched by the US.  The US intervening globally was nothing new, but the fig leaf of morality had been removed, replaced by imperialism in its more naked form.

“Lola Aglialoro”

Lola died on January 31st, 2002.  She spent her adult life in New York City, after fleeing Nazi Germany as a child.  She was one of the brightest lights of Manhattan Island.  As a mother and caretaker, many children benefited from Lola’s unconditional love and affection, which she had for all the children of New York and the world.  Including me.

“Song for Oscar Grant”

Oscar Grant was executed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit cop early in the morning of January 1st, 2009, in Oakland, California.  This loving father was killed while lying prone on the BART platform, handcuffed.  His killing inspired protests throughout the San Francisco Bay Area which ultimately led to the conviction of the BART cop — a very unusual development in such cases.  The white cop who killed this African-American man got out after serving 11 months behind bars.

“Corporations Are People, Too”

On January 21st, 2010 the US Supreme Court delivered their infamous verdict known by the shorthand, Citizens United, after the rightwing entity that made the legal challenge to the idea that there should be any limits to financial contributions to politicians.  The Court agreed with them, and now there basically aren’t any.  Not that the minimal constraints on the political power of the rich in the US had helped much before 2010.

“Song for Alistair”

On January 28th, 2010, my dear friend and fellow songwriter, Alistair Hulett, died in his native city of Glasgow, Scotland.

“Watch Out for the Cops”

On January 29th, 2010, Aaron Campbell, an unarmed man, was shot in the back by police in Portland, Oregon.  Aaron was one of many, many people killed by the Portland police in very suspicious circumstances.  Per capita, Portland police kill more black men than any other police department in the US.  Although the city has a progressive reputation (deservedly or not), the state of Oregon and the city of Portland have a long history of institutional racism that is well-documented — starting with the declaration in the Oregon Constitution that people of color were excluded from owning property in the state.  (After the Exclusion Laws were finally lifted in 1926, red-lining effectively prevented much from changing too dramatically since then.)

“Tunisia, 2011”

A street merchant had immolated himself the month before, and in January, 2011 the massive, sustained rising of the Tunisian people had caused the Tunisian president to flee the country (he now lives in exile in Saudi Arabia).  At the same time as Ben Ali left, a similar movement had begun in Egypt which would lead to the ouster of the corrupt dictatorship of Mubarak.  While the Egyptian Revolution was ultimately overturned by the military, the Tunisian Revolution was more successful.

“We Will Win”

In response not to a street merchant’s desperate act, but to a rightwing governor’s frontal assault on organized labor, tens of thousands of people protested every day for weeks in Wisconsin in January, 2011, occupying the State Capitol building.  Although the circumstances were very different between Egypt and Wisconsin, the similarities between the two movements in terms of occupying and holding onto public space was observed by many.

“Bubbling Up”

Actor Scarlet Johansson stepped down as Oxfam Ambassador in January, 2014.  She had been asked by Oxfam to choose between representing Oxfam and representing the Sodastream Corporation of Israel, which had a factory in the occupied West Bank.  Scarlet stuck with Sodastream and remained true to her Zionist convictions.  Or maybe she did it for the money, I don’t know.

“Before the War Came Home”

On January 7th, 2015, angry French Muslims killed racist French cartoonists, along with a cop who tried to stop them, and anybody else who was in the room with the cartoonists.  Terrorist violence in France in recent years has mainly been carried out by French citizens of Algerian descent (the cop was also of Algerian descent, incidentally).  My point here is not to single out Algerians as terrorist-prone — they are not.  My point is that there is a long, unacknowledged history of French state terrorism in Algeria, and the Charlie Hebdo massacre, like 9/11, was a textbook case of blowback — the direct consequences of imperialism.  The chickens coming home to roost, to quote Malcolm X.

“Standing Rock”

The US Army Corps of Engineers announced their intention to give permission permission to DAPL to start building their pipeline through Indian land in January, 2016, in direct opposition to local tribes and the wider environmental movement and movements for indigenous sovereignty throughout the world.  The encampments of Water Protectors began soon, along with massive state repression against this movement, which drew thousands of people from Indian Country and beyond who came to be part of this resistance.