Monthly Archives: November 2011
BY ALEX P. VIDAL
LOS ANGELES, California – Sometime in July this year, I made a promise to my publisher in the Health and Wealth, Herbert Vego, not to disturb his sleep by sending a text message early in the morning in the Philippines (between 2 to 4 o’clock) if the news I wanted to relay was not a matter of life and death or something earthshaking, to say the least.
I did disrupt Mr. Vego’s trip to dreamland in the morning of June 26, 2009 (June 25 US time) when I sent a “flash” report text to both his Globe and Smart cellphones that American pop star Michael Jackson had been declared dead upon arrival at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after his body arrived at around 1:14 o’clock in the afternoon.
At around 9:58 o’clock this morning (November 29 US time), I again roused him from his sleep when he became the first beneficiary of my text message that says, “Flash report: Dr. Conrad Murray sentenced to 4 years in jail for death of Michael Jackson. Dramatic scene here in L.A. court!”
Having been at the Stanley Mosk Los Angeles Super Court several times in the past, it was not hard for me to worm my way inside the courthouse when 58-year-old Murray was handed a four-year jail term for “involuntary manslaughter” in the celebrity’s death by Judge Michael Pastor who called the doctor’s treatment of the singer a “cycle of horrible medicine” and “medicine madness.”
I observed Dr. Murray’s facial expression from start to finish. His mood was somber like that of John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a giant black man convicted of raping and killing two young white girls, arriving on death row in a 1999 Tom Hanks movie, The Green Mile. Coffey showed all the characteristics of being a “gentle giant”: keeping to himself, soft-spoken, fearing darkness, and crying often.
The doctor was teary eyed and fighting back tears; he was aware he was being videoed inside the courtroom.
Last November 7, Murray was convicted by a jury.
Jackson’s death had triggered grief around the world, creating unprecedented surges of Internet traffic and causing sales of his music and that of the Jackson 5 to increase dramatically.
Jackson, 50, was treated like a “medical experiment,” the judge exploded, which factored into his decision to hand down the maximum sentence of four years, which the Jackson family had requested.
Jackson died of acute propofol intoxication after he suffered a respiratory arrest at his home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood in Los Angeles. Murray, his personal physician, said he found Jackson in his room, not breathing, but with a faint pulse, and that he administered CPR on his bed to no avail.
After a call was placed to 9-1-1 at 12:20 pm, Jackson was treated by paramedics at his home, and later pronounced dead at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. On August 28, 2009, the Los Angeles County Coroner ruled Jackson’s death a homicide.
It was immediately reported that jail overcrowding could result in the four-year sentence being cut at least in half.
“Four years is not enough for someone’s life,” Katherine Jackson, the singer’s mother, told a TV crew after sentencing. “It won’t bring him back but at least he got the maximum.”
“One hundred years is not enough,” quipped Jermaine Jackson who said he would miss playing music with his brother Michael and being a family.
Along with Jermaine, Katherine, siblings LaToya, Tito, Rebbie and Randy were present at the sentencing, but did not speak, instead allowing family friend and attorney Brian Panish to read a statement on behalf of Jackson’s three children and family.
In the statement, Jackson’s children told the Los Angeles court that they lost their “father, best friend, and playmate” when the singer died, but stressed they were not seeking “revenge”.
The statement asked the judge to “impose a sentence that reminds physicians they cannot sell their services to the highest bidder.”
“As Michael’s parents, we never imagined we would live to witness his passing,” Panish read, on behalf of the singer’s parents Katherine and Joe Jackson. “There is no way to describe the loss of our beloved brother, son, father and friend.”
Murray’s defense attorney pleaded with Pastor to consider the cardiologist’s humble beginnings and good deeds, stressing that this was an unfortunate, tragic chapter in the doctor’s life.
“Whether he’s a barista or a greeter at Walmart, he’s still going to be the man who killed Michael Jackson,” Ed Chernoff said.
The defense lawyer also put some of the blame on Michael Jackson. “Michael Jackson was a drug seeker… He was a powerful, famous and wealthy individual.”
The judge’s tone grew sterner as he gave a scathing review of Murray’s actions while treating Jackson, saying the doctor “violated his sworn oath for money, fame, prestige.” He said there was a “recurring, continuous pattern of deceit, lies,” and cited a “longstanding failure of character” by Murray.
Murray “unquestionably violated the trust and confidence of his patient,” Pastor said.
The judge also mentioned the tape that Murray made of a drugged up Michael Jackson who was slurring his words so badly he could barely be understood and suggested that Murray was contemplating a new tactic if he needed at a later date.
“That tape recording was Dr. Murray’s insurance policy. It was designed to record his patient surreptitiously at that patient’s most vulnerable point,” Pastor said.
The judge called the recording a “horrific violation of trust,” and asked, “What value would be placed on that tape recording if it were to be released?”
Prosecutor David Walgren read from a statement Katherine Jackson made shortly after her son’s death, telling of how the family’s world “collapsed” after Jackson died.
Walgren described how Jackson’s daughter Paris was crying at the hospital. “I want to go with you,” she told her father after he had passed.
“He trusted he would be cared for by Conrad Murray so he would see another day,” Walgren said.
He mentioned that Jackson had plans to go into film making with his children, a passion they had recently developed.
The Jackson family watched from the packed court room.
By Alex P. Vidal
LOS ANGELES, California – Never mind that she was a veteran socialist. What will attract us to Evelyn Reed’s book, Woman’s Evolution, was the research she made for over 20 years for the book which was called “an impressive and absorbing reconstruction of human history” by Sociology.
She takes us on a million-year expedition through prehistory from cannibalism to culture, and covers the world of the ancient matriarchy.
Tracing the origins of the “incest taboo,” blood rites, marriage, and the family, she reveals the leading role women once played. By pinpointing the relatively recent factors that led to patriarchal domination, she offers a fresh insight into the issues raised by today’s feminist movement—and refutes the myth that “human nature” is to blame for the male supremacy, greed, wars, and inequalities of modern society.
According to Reed, the early history of half the human species—womankind—has largely been hidden from view. “To bring it to light requires a reinvestigation of anthropology, where the role and accomplishments of women in prehistoric society are buried,” she explains. Her book is a contribution to unveiling that remarkable record.
She stresses that the resurgence of the women’s liberation movement in the 70’s has thrown the spotlight on certain dubious assumptions and disputed questions regarding the past. Foremost among these is the subject of the matriarchy. Reed asks, “Was there a period in history when women held a highly esteemed and influential place? If so, how did they lose their social eminence and become the subordinate sex in patriarchal society? Or is the matriarchy, as some say, a myth that has no historical basis?”
She contends that the matriarchy is one of the most hotly contested issues in a hundred-year controversy between contending schools in anthropology. Reed’s book affirms that the maternal clan system was the original form of social organization and explains why. It also traces the course of its development and the causes of its downfall. Such partisanship on the side of the matriarchy would alone make her book controversial. But it contains other challenges to long-held opinions on prehistoric society.
“Disagreements are to be expected in a field that covers so vast a stretch of human evolution, extending from the birth of our species to the threshold of civilization, and where the available data derived from biology, archeology, and anthropology is fragmentary and uncoordinated,” Reed writes.
Anthropology was founded as a distinct science in the middle of the 19th century. Most of the founding fathers (women entered the profession only later) had an evolutionary approach. Reed says Morgan, Taylor, and other pioneers regarded anthropology as the study of the origin of society and the material forces at work in its progress. They made brilliant beginnings in illuminating the main stages in human development.
Reed says Morgan delineated three great epochs of social evolution—from savagery through barbarism to civilization. Each was marked off by decisive advances in the level of economic activity. The most rudimentary stage, savagery, was based on hunting and food-gathering. Barbarism began with food production through agriculture and stock-raising. Civilization crowned the development of the ancient world by bringing it to the point of commodity production and exchange.
These three epochs, she explains, were of extremely unequal duration. Savagery is sometimes differentiated into an earlier “primeval” and a later “primitive” stage, both of these rested upon a hunting and gathering economy. Savagery had a span of million-odd years, comprising more than 99 percent of human existence. Barbarism began about 8,000 years ago; civilization only three thousand years ago.
The early investigators of savage society, to their own surprise, came upon a social structure totally different from ours, adds Reed. “They found a clan and tribal system based on material kinship and in which women played a leading role,” she elaborates. “This stood out in sharp contrast with modern society which features the father-family and male supremacy. Although they were unable to tell how far back the maternal system went, we propose to show that it dates from the beginning of humankind.”
They made other astonishing discoveries. They observed that savage society had egalitarian social and sexual relations, arising from collective production and communal possession of property.
Reed says these features too were at odds with modern society, based on private property and class divisions. Thus the maternal clan system, which gave an honored place to women, was also a collectivist order where the members of both sexes enjoyed equality and did not suffer oppression or discrimination.
“Subsequently, these discoveries evoked doubts and resistance from the schools of anthropology that became dominant in the 20th century,” Reed points out. “There arose a deep division between evolutionists and anti-evolutionists that has persisted to the present day. It is only through the evolutionary approach, however, that the concealed history of women –and of men—can be uncovered.”
The principle of universal evolution had already been applied to the problem of the genesis of Homo sapiens with the publication in 1871 of Charles Darwin’s book The Descent of Man.
After he demonstrated that the earliest sub-humans, the hominoids, arose out of the anthropoids, the question was posed: How did this transformation come out? In the following decades, biology, archeology, paleontology, and anthropology jointly assisted in the detective work required to clarify this problem.
Reed’s book adheres to the evolutionary and materialist method in utilizing these findings. It also presents a new theory about totemism and taboo, among the most enigmatic institutions of primeval and primitive society. Anthropologists of all persuasions have held the view that the ancient taboo on sexual intercourse with certain relatives, like our own taboo, arose out of a universal fear of incest. Reed’s book challenges that assumption. The ancient taboo existed—but it was primarily directed against the perils of cannibalism in the hunting epoch.
Reed says the elimination of the theory of a universal incest taboo removes one of the most serious obstacles to understanding other savage institutions, such as the classificatory system of kinship, exogamy and endogamy, segregation of the sexes, rules of avoidance, blood revenge, the gift-exchange system, and the dual organization of the tribe. It clears the way toward an understanding of how society arose–and why it arose in no other from than the material clan system or matriarchy.
“The question of the matriarchy is decisive in establishing whether or not the modern father-family has always existed. The very structure of the material clan system precluded it,” Reed explains. “Instead of being the basic social unit from time immemorial, as most anthropologists contend, it is a late arrival in history, appearing only at the beginning of the civilized epoch.”
“All of life is a dispute over taste and tasting.”
By Alex P. Vidal
HOLLYWOOD, California – What is bad taste? How do we differentiate it from good taste? Who determines whether my taste, your taste, their taste is the better taste over someone else’s taste?
That people differ in their tastes is itself an indisputable fact. It is also true that there is no point in arguing with a man about what he likes or dislikes. But it is still quite possible to tell a man that he has poor taste and that what he likes is in itself not excellent or beautiful. Here there is plenty of room for argument.
Those who say there is no disputing about tastes usually mean more than they say. In our judgment they are wrong not in what they say but in what they mean. They start from the fact that people differ in taste, in what they like and dislike, and conclude that that is all there is to it.
They conclude, in other words, that in talking about works of art of things of beauty, the only opinions which people can express must take the familiar form of “I don’t know whether it’s beautiful or not, but I know what I like.”
This conclusion makes beauty entirely subjective or, as the saying goes, entirely a matter of individual taste. People sometimes take the same position about truth and goodness. The truth, they say, is merely what seems true to me. The good is merely what I regard as desirable. They thus reduce truth and goodness to matters of taste about which there can be no argument.
Let us illustrate the mistake they make. If a man says to us, “That object looks red to me,” we would be foolish to argue with him about how it looks. The fact that it looks gray to us has no bearing on how it looks to him.
Nevertheless, we may be able to show him that he is deceived by the reddish glow from a light shining on the object and that, in fact, the object is gray, not red. Even after we have proved this to him by physical tests, the object may still look red to him, but he will be able to recognize the difference between the appearance and the reality.
This simple illustration shows that while there is no point in arguing about how things look, there is good reason to argue about what things are.
Similarly, if a person insists upon telling us what he likes or dislikes in works of art, he is expressing purely subjective opinions which cannot be disputed. But good critics try to express objective judgments about the excellences or defects of a work itself. They are talking about the object, not about themselves.
Most of us know the difference between good and bad workmanship. If we hire a carpenter to make a table for us and he does a bad job, we point out to him that the table is unsteady or that its legs are too light for the weight of the top. What is true of carpentry is true of all the other arts. Like tables, works of fine art can be well made or poorly made. Well-made things have certain objective qualities which can be recognized by those who know what is involved in good or bad workmanship in the particular field of art.
To recognize excellence in a piece of music, one must have some knowledge of the art of composing music. If a man lacks such knowledge, of course, all he can say is that he likes or dislikes the music. The man who insists that that is all he or anyone else can say is simply confessing his own ignorance about music. He can go expressing his likes and dislikes in music, but he should not, in his ignorance, deny others the right to make objective judgments based on knowledge he does not have.
The question to ask anyone who insists that the beauty in works of art is entirely a matter of personal taste is whether some people have better taste than others. Do some men have good taste and others quite bad taste? Is it possible for a person to improve his taste?
An affirmative answer to these questions amounts to an admission that there are objective standards for making critical judgments about works of art. Having good taste consists in preferring that which is objectively more excellent. Acquiring good taste in some field of art depends on acquiring knowledge about the art and learning to recognize excellence in workmanship.
If there were no objective differences which made works of art more or less beautiful, it would be impossible to say that anyone has good or bad taste or that it is worth making a great effort to improve one’s taste.