LATE BREAKING NEWS

17 06 2018

Three big stories have been in the headlines as I wrote this week’s main blog post. The possibly good news was from the N. Korea summit, where for the moment, at least, one of the world’s ticking time bombs may have been defused. When I first heard this , the cynic in me wondered when Trump will screw this up, or if the Democrats would have to screw it up for him. Since then, the Dems have done all they can to point to this as a dangerous, radical move that conclusively demonstrates that Drumpf is in Putin’s pocket, and that we absolutely must continue our policy of regular practice bombing runs and invasions of North Korea which, the North Koreans have repeatedly stated, is why they feel the need to develop nuclear weapons. What this uproar actually “conclusively demonstrates” is that the Dems and the media are firmly in the pocket of the Neocons and the hawks who want to show the Russians and the Chinese who’s boss, even if they have to vaporize Pyongyang to do it. Could somebody please tell me what threat North Korea poses to the continental United States, beyond the fact that if we nuke them, the fallout will end up here?

The Supreme Court decision allowing Ohio to kick people off the voter rolls if they haven’t showed up for a while and don’t respond to a written inquiry mostly reminds me that it’s important to vote in every election, not just in Presidential years. I think that the more local the election, the more important it is to vote, because we the people have a lot more control over local officials than we do over the big players. Here in NW Nashville,, we have a Metro Council runoff between “a local businessman” and a woman involved with Nashville Organized for Action and Hope, a local social justice organization. No question which one of these two I want representing my interests in Nashville. The “businessman” even boasted about keeping low-income housing OUT of our district. How’s that for “Christian values”?

Speaking of “Christian values,” Jeff Sessions really showed us all how much he lives by his faith when he declared that people fleeing domestic or non-state violence will no longer be considered candidates for asylum in the US. Take “the least of mine” and stick ’em where the sun don’t shine, eh, Jeff?

And, speaking of Christian values and stickin’ ’em where the sun don’t shine, how ’bout if the Egyptian equivalent of ICE had separated Joe and Mary from their Baby when they crossed the Egyptian border? Wonder how baby J’s Real Dad woulda resonded to that? You think the Mosaic plagues were bad? Whohoo! :-)

music: Terry Allen, “Southern  Comfort

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PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE OLIGARCH(S) BEHIND THE CURTAIN

17 06 2018

In 2014, a pair of highly respected political scientists at Princeton and Northwestern Universities jointly researched and published a study on the influence of the extremely wealthy in American politics, which confirmed what a great many of us political activists knew in our guts: the United States is an oligarchy, a country whose political process is controlled by, and largely benefits, the wealthiest Americans, be they flesh-and-blood or corporate persons, or whether they are American or Saudi citizens. It was kind of a “duh” moment for most of us. It’s been obvious for decades that corporate capture of our government is fairly, or should I say unfairly, all-encompassing.  It takes money to win elections, and the corporate sector’s ability to accumulate money, and use the power of that money to change the laws and enable them to accumulate even more money and exert even more influence just keeps growing, like the balance on your credit card debt. As I said last month, accumulating money tends to be extremely addictive.

Another way the corporations have sought to consolidate their hold on the country is through ownership of our news media. All those big corporations that advertise on TV? Those ads are like the brand on a cow, telling the world “we own and control this station.”

And then, there’s the “brands” they advertise. Brands of cars, or beer, or whatever, are a little different from brands on cows. The difference is, the cow brand is seared onto the cow, while the product brand is seared into your mind, if you are exposed to it often enough. But I digress….  When the news sources most readily available to the average citizen spout nothing but approval for the corporate agenda even though they may report critically on some of the effects of the corporate agenda, but never question the validity of that agenda, it becomes difficult for those average citizens to imagine that there might be any more equitable alternatives. You know, like what the US says North Korea does to its people.

I discovered an example of concealed corporate propaganda while researching this story. One of the articles that showed up near the top of the list when I did a search on “Princeton oligarchy study” was on Vox, claiming to rebut the Princeton study. I read the Vox story carefully, and noted that it seemed to kind of nibble around the edges of what the Princeton-Northwestern study had claimed, seemed to use its statistics somewhat disingenuously, and it ignored the voluminous real-world evidence that corroborates the Princeton statistical study. I recalled that Vox is part of the same media conglomerate that puts out Daily Kos. This conglomerate, with its many faces, is widely regarded as the voice of the corporate Democratic Party, and one of those “reliable sources” frequently recommended by those who caution us against the kind of “fake news” that does question the validity of corporatism and/or advocate serious alternatives, like cooperative democratic socialism, AKA The Green Party, among others. That Vox should be so eager to rebut the reality of American oligarchy only emphasizes what I have to say in this post. Read the rest of this entry »





STORY

15 06 2018

This is another chapter in our continuing reading of Charles Eisenstein’s 2013 book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” You can buy or read the whole book here. I hope you will choose to buy it.

 

One day Confucius was walking along with some disciples when they came upon two boys arguing. Confucius asked the boys what the dispute was about. They told him they were arguing about whether the sun was nearer at dawn and farther away at noon, or farther away at dawn and nearer at noon. One of the boys argued that the sun appeared larger at dawn and smaller at noon, so it must be closer at dawn and farther away at noon. The other boy argued that it was cool at dawn and hot at noon, so the sun must be farther away at dawn and closer at noon. Confucius was at a loss to determine which one was correct. The boys jeered at him, “Who said you were so smart?”

This story is from the ancient collection of Taoist allegories known as the Liezi, as rendered by Thomas Cleary in Vitality, Energy, Spirit: A Taoist Sourcebook. Cleary explains, “[The story] illustrates the limitations of discursive reasoning, thus hinting indirectly at a more comprehensive mode of consciousness. Presented as a joke at the expense of Confucius, it illustrates how logic can be coherent within the bounds of its own postulates yet be ineffective or inaccurate in a larger context.”

…..

The reason that the defiance of the Shuar moves us isn’t that they are willing to kill for their cause; it is that they are willing to die for it. This is, in pure form, service to something greater than oneself. This is what we must emulate if we are to cocreate the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. It is also a way to transcend the separate self, since to bow into service is to merge with something greater, something whose power to precipitate change extends beyond our understanding of causality. Then, the unexpected, the improbable, the miraculous can happen.

The more firmly we stand in a larger Story of Self, a Story of Interbeing, the more powerful we become in disrupting the old Story of Separation. I think questions of violence and nonviolence, ethics and principles, right and wrong, lead us into a conceptual maze. See, the sun is nearer at noon. No, it is at dawn. Every evil deed and every cowardly inaction that has ever been perpetrated on this earth has been justified by principle—the logic of a story. As we sober up from our long intoxication with the Story of Separation, we have the chance to enter a “more comprehensive mode of consciousness”—the consciousness of story. In it, we ask ourselves, “What story shall I stand in?”

(I was unable to find the music in this video in a form that I could play on the radio show, but the video and music are definitely worth watching. Instead, I played “Hungama Hai Kyun,” by Ghulam Ali. The link goes to a different version of the song than the one I play, but just as good.)





A SECOND AMENDMENT FOR THE STONE AGE

13 05 2018

the original founders of a certain modern arms manufacturing company…..

When you get right down to it, a firearm is, indeed, an extension of the human arm. With the aid of a very small fire–the explosion of the gunpowder in the bullet–it enables a person to throw a very small rock, aka a bullet, much faster and farther than would be possible manually. The result is that a rock so small that it would be unlikely to do any damage if thrown by hand can seriously wound or kill a person, or any other animal that it hits.

The great-great……great granddaddy of the AR-15

I thought it would be interesting to translate current concerns about firearms into equivalent statements about stones. Here’s what I came up with, followed by some commentary.

Remember—The Constitution supports your right to keep, carry, and throw stones!

The best way to stop a bad guy from throwing stones is for good guys to carry stones and be ready to throw them.

School teachers should have a drawer full of stones and know how to throw them, in case some kid starts throwing stones.

Whether you are considered a mass murderer or a war hero depends entirely on the circumstances under which you throw stones.

Don’t let the stone control crowd cut your rocks off!

Remember, your Constitutional right to keep and bear stones is protected by the NRA (Neolithic Rock Association).

The first three statements are similar enough that I’m going to comment on them all together. What would it say about society if some percentage of the people in it only felt safe if they were carrying around a bag of rocks, out of fear that somebody else who was carrying a bag of rocks would just randomly start throwing rocks at them? Read the rest of this entry »





NASHVILLE’S BREXIT VOTE

13 05 2018

th+graph+1I recently wrote about Nashville’s plans for a better transit system, calling it “another big-ticket neoliberal scheme to make the rich richer,”  and now the voters have spoken. By a nearly 2–1 margin, with nearly twice the expected turnout, the transit plan was voted down. The analyses of the issue that I have read treat it as a failure of strategy and tactics, and largely ignore the fact that the funding mechanism was pure neoliberal flim-flam: they were going to do this wonderful thing for the low-income people of Nashville, that the lower-income people were going to have to pay for themselves. According to the Tennessean, nearly 90% of the revenue for the project would come from an increase in the sales tax. If you are reading this, I probably don’t have to remind you that sales taxes are highly regressive in nature, paid disproportionately by low-income taxpayers. The other sticking point was the widespread perception that the plan did not do nearly enough to address the already rampant issue of gentrification in Nashville, which even proponents of the plan admitted would likely come to neighborhoods with better public transportation. Indeed, Metro sees increased property values as one of the benefits of infrastructure projects, whether they’re sewers or light rail lines. Liberals in the city can make all kinds of cluck-clucks of sympathy about the plight of low-income Nashvillians, but their actions, which promote gentrification, belie those words, and lower-income Nashvillians were rightly wary of the latest set of promises and the likelihood of increased exploitation.

Let me spell that out: people earn low wages in large part because their labor is being exploited. By “exploited,” I mean that their labor produces considerably more value than they are paid for, with their employer skimming off the difference. Nashville’s largely Democratic/neoliberal power brokers blithely assumed that they could successfully exploit the exploited still further, rather than ask the businesses who exploit those workers, and who are disproportionately wealthy as a result, to pay a fair share of the cost. As with Brexit and Trump’s upset victory, the exploited took advantage of the ballot box to do what they could to indicate that they did not want to be exploited any further.

Like Brexit and the Trump Presidency, this is a three-sided issue, not a bipolar one, although every attempt is being made to portray it as such. I hated to see the GOP screw-the-poor crowd get to chalk this up as a victory about as much as I would have disliked seeing the plan win, since, to say it again a little differently, it screwed low-income people by making them pay for the plan and not doing enough to address the rampant gentrification that was all too likely to follow the tracks. The big-ticket construction plan, and the gentrification, would further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor, in the name of “doing something for the poor.” Excuse me for repeating myself, but I think this is an important point to make. That’s how the Democrats roll.

The third position is the one taken by The People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing & Employment, which, in its recent “People’s State of Metro” called for the following: Read the rest of this entry »





TENNESSEE’S BALLOT ACCESS LAW IS DESIGNED TO DENY BALLOT ACCESS

12 05 2018

I wanted to touch briefly on The Green Party of Tennessee’s candidate and prospects in the 2018 election. This is an issue we have litigated for years. We went through a frustrating cycle in which we would win court cases, and the judge would order the state to loosen up its ballot access laws. The state would ignore the decision. The judge would order the state to include our party name with our candidates’ names, and the state would do so for an election, and then drop us when none of our statewide candidates achieved the state-mandated minimum number of votes to stay on the ballot. Recently, the judge who saw things our way retired, and the last time we went to court, we got a different judge, who, in spite of numerous rulings in other courts holding laws like Tennessee’s unconstitutionally exclusive, upheld the state law. The gubernatorial candidate we are running,  Yvonne Neubert, is running as an “independent.” Even if she gets more than 5% of the vote, her win will not help get The Green Party back on the ballot.

yvonne

Barred by law from decaring herself “The Green Party candidate,” she sends the message subtly.

Let’s face it: Tennessee’s so-called “ballot access laws” are actually designed to keep other parties besides the D’s and R’s off the ballot. First of all, they were initially enacted in the early 60’s, as the “Dixiecrat” rebellion, conservative Southern Democrats opposed to racial integration, was gathering steam, in hopes of keeping George Wallace off the ballot in Tennessee. As it happens, there was enough support for Wallace and his “American Independent Party” in the state so that he and his party actually fulfilled the law’s requirements, collecting the nearly forty thousand signatures needed to get their party’s name on the ballot. No party has succeeded since.

There are two ways the law works against an up-and-coming party. The first is that the number of signatures required to place a party’s name on the ballot is large enough so that professional  petitioners are a necessity. That costs about two dollars per signature. Since not everybody signs correctly, or is even entitled to sign, it’s advisable to gather around twice the number of signatures needed. That means that a party that wants its name on the ballot needs to raise somewhere between sixty and a hundred thousand dollars just to get its name on the ballot for one election. If none of the party’s statewide candidates win 5% or more of  the vote, the party is back to square one, and has essentially been fined a very hefty sum just for trying.

Here’s the other way this law actually discourages new parties. Read the rest of this entry »





THE BOUNDARIES OF COMPASSION, pt.2

15 04 2018

In a post a couple of months ago, I wrote about a dustup I was having with some old friends over Caitlin Johnstone’s posts, “Please,, Just Bleeping Die Already” and its follow-up, “Good,” written after McCain had been diagnosed with brain cancer. My friends were horrified that she seemed to be wishing death on someone, even a bloodthirsty maniac like McCain. I thought Ms. Johnstone’s view might fall under the rubric of “radical compassion,” doing whatever it might take to keep him from doing more damage (after all, hurting other people hurts oneself, as well), and decided to ask the opinion of a person I regard as an authority on what is, and is not, compassionate. After that conversation, I communicated with Ms. Johnstone, and on those bases, here is my response to my friends in that discussion group.

First, I want to lay out some context for the statement that “Caitlin Johnstone wishes John McCain was dead.” Here are a few statements that I think fall into the same category as this allegation about her. Read the rest of this entry »








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