The NFL recently announced it would pay out $765 million to settle a lawsuit from thousands of former players suffering from concussions and related brain trauma. A large sum, but a small percentage of the billions the football league and other professional sports franchises haul in for their owners. The vast gap between sports tycoons and the everyday fans who shell out hard-earned cash to watch their athlete heroes on the field is yet another reflection of the gross inequality between the one percent and the rest of society and another example of how inextricably linked sports and politics are in our lives.
“There’s always so much happening in the world of sports and there’s always so many different ways in which sports not just reflects our lives but shapes our lives,” Zirin tells Moyers. “It shapes our understanding of things like racism, sexism, homophobia. It shapes our understanding of our country, it shapes our understanding of corporations and what’s happening to our cities. In so many different ways sports stories are stories of American life in the 21st century.”
Politically, Central America is characterized, with exceptions, for having small countries in which the business class is very, very strong, where there are political parties absolutely controlled by businessmen, where there is no ideological difference between the parties, and where there are still strong clientelistic relationships and vote-buying. Of course, Costa Rica and El Salvador escape this description. But look at Paraguay, Panama, Honduras and Guatemala: none of them has a left wing in the parliament. It’s shocking. None of them has a left wing! Not even a moderate one! There could be one or two deputies, symbolic, but… Those four cases, and maybe we could add the Dominican Republic, form a very concrete model of doing politics. And then there is Nicaragua, which I believe is an outrage of schizophrenia, because there is a governing party with the roots that it has, but absolutely handed over to the business class, which has more power than it has ever had and an impressive ability to do business, and also with a caudillo leadership, hardly institutional.
From an interview with Spanish political scientist Manuel Alcántara in El Salvador’s El Faro. By way of adam-wola. (via thenoobyorker)
[A] very good way to judge a political leader is by what he leaves behind, and so far the tumult and mismanagement in Venezuela does not speak in Chávez’s favor. Instead, it seems as if recent Venezuelan history, often so farcical, were attempting to replay itself, and ending up as tragedy instead.
For what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts on the de-institutionalization of the Chávez regime—and its consequences.
It would be useful if those who uncritically praised Chávez would read some of the history of other populist regimes, whether Peronism in Argentina or Nasserism in Egypt, of the 1950s. What was said about the “progressive” nature of those regimes then? What is said of them now?
The sad reality is that “revolutionary” regimes in developing countries have been used by Westerners—on the right and left—as proxies for their own internal domestic ideological disputes. In the end, the critiques descend into “it’s all about me” (look at the comments on to the above linked piece, and see how quickly they descend into name calling about left/right stereotypes of Americans). For those of us looking in at this debate from the outside, it rings hollow. At least those on the right are defending their interests. But those on the left? Using the very real, lived history of other people as backdrop for anecdotes in abstract disputes—without bothering to actually learn about the actual “facts on the ground”—is remarkably disingenuous. I get a clear sense that, deep down inside, most Western Chávez supporters don’t really care about the Venezuelan people and their issues—they care about what chavismo as a “brand” does for them.
Emphasis my own.
Henry D’Arthenay is a graduate of the University of Navarro in Media Studies and the lead singer/guitarist of Venezuelan rock group La Vida Boheme. He and his bandmates live in the country’s capital of Caracas where lots of political turmoil continues since the presidential elections on Sunday April 14th.
I spoke with D’Arthenay in his home in Caracas via Skype about the unrest. He also explained the voting process in Venezuela, the role the country’s media plays, and much more.
An excerpt from PT. 1 of the interview:
When you vote here, fuck, we have such a complicated way. It’s not like you go to a place, put a vote and put it in a basket which, in my opinion, should be enough. No! You go to your Centro Electoral, the place where you vote. First, they take your fingerprint into a data system, then you step into this tiny box and there’s a screen. It’s an automated electoral system. You push the button on the candidate you want and that machine prints a tiny paper with the name of the guy you voted for. You fold it, you put it in a box. Then, before stepping out, you have to sign a book with your signature and you put your fingerprint.
Is that why there are all those pictures of people with their pinkie fingers dipped in ink?
Yes! After they put your finger, they moist it in this ink and, well maybe you can’t see it from here but I still have some because it’s indelible ink. That way they don’t have people voting two times. It’s made up to be fail-proof but it actually isn’t.
An excerpt from PT. 2 of the interview:
Inside the Chavismo, it’s very diverse, as diverse as it always was in every country of the world. With the opposition, it’s the same. What was the only thing that was tying them up? The left being with Chavez and the others being against Chavez. That was it! Their moral compass was set by being with Chavez or being against Chavez.
So what’s happening here is like losing the best character. It’s like when Friends was over and Joey started and people started watching Joey and they said “this sucks.” It’s like having Seinfeld without [Jerry] Seinfeld. We’ve been living a Chavez-centric policy for almost 15 years. Now that he’s gone, the institutions and how trustworthy they are, it’s all coming afloat because Chavismo now has a challenge. They have to try to gather their forces around an idea that’s not a person. They lost a lot of people during these elections and it was because a lot of the people, they weren’t voting for the socialist project as much as they were voting for Chavez.
I was made aware of the odd mix of gain and loss when I went back to Atlanta to see my beloved grandmother. She told me not to hold change between my lips while groping for a pocket to put it in—“That might have been in a nigger’s mouth.” Once, when she took me to Mass, she walked out of the church when a black priest came out to celebrate. I wondered why, since she would sit and eat with a black woman who helped her with housework. “It is the dignity—I would not let him take the Lord in his hands.” Tradition dies hard, hardest among those who cannot admit to the toll it has taken on them. That is why the worst aspects of the South are resurfacing under Obama’s presidency. It is the dignity. That a black should have not merely rights but prominence, authority, and even awe—that is what many Southerners cannot stomach. They would let him ride on the bus, or get into Ivy League schools. But he must be kept from the altar; he cannot perform the secular equivalent of taking the Lord in his hands. It is the dignity. This is the thing that makes the South the distillation point for all the fugitive extremisms of our time, the heart of Say-No Republicanism, the home of lost causes and nostalgic lunacy. It is as if the whole continent were tipped upward, so that the scattered crazinesses might slide down to the bottom. The South has often been defeated. Now it is defeating itself.
By TED HESSON
Dreamers in California now have access to in-state tuition and state-funded financial aid for college.
The California Dream Act took effect on January 1, helping level the playing field for undocumented students seeking higher education. Some 20,000 Dreamers are expected to apply, NBC’s San Diego affiliate reports.