THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE

14 05 2017

The word “Resistance,” with a capital “R” and a hashtag, has become rather fashionable in America these days. Thousands of people are marching in the streets, turning out for town meetings, and generally letting it be known they are not pleased with our new administration’s presumption that its narrow technical victory in last November’s election constitutes a mandate for sweeping changes in the way our government is run and in the every-day lives of millions of people.

I’d like to take this opportunity to look at some popular movements around the world that have, to one degree or another, challenged the professional political class and returned government to the people, and examine how they were able to succeed, as well as ways in which they have failed. By learning from other peoples’ experiences, we can do a better job here in America.

My main examples will be Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Greece, and, to bring it down to the local level, the city of Montreal, in Quebec. That provides a spectrum. The Korean movement is just now in the process of achieving its initial aim. In Taiwan, the citizen’s movement has won its initial objectives and established mechanisms that, it hopes, will keep things from slipping backwards. In Spain, the “Podemos” movement is rising into power. Greece’s Syriza Party has won elections, but run smack into forces it cannot change, and is learning how to keep focused on its long-term goals while encountering short-term failures.  In Montreal, the political wing of the movement seems to have been absorbed into the mainstream, but has left significant changes in its wake.

As I write this, Koreans are celebrating the impeachment of President Park Geyun-he, who roused the ire of lawmakers and citizens alike by being too cozy with the country’s financial elite and by going along with US policies that have escalated tensions with North Korea. Her replacement, Moon Jae-in, the son of a North Korean refugee, was a student radical in the 70’s, and was jailed for his role in protesting the dictatorship of Ms. Park’s father. He went on to become a prominent human rights lawyer. On the basis of that, he was hired as Chief of Staff by the Korean Democratic Party’s previous elected President,  Roh Moo-hyun. He was the KDP’s candidate for President in 2012, when he narrowly lost to Ms. Park.

This is what democracy looks like!

This is what democracy looks like!

So, how did the Koreans do it? Massive street demonstrations were a major contributor. Some demonstrations turned out nearly two million people on the same day. Korea’s population is fifty million, so the equivalent in the US would be about thirteen million people all demonstrating against the government at the same time. The real key, though, was that Ms. Park’s party did not have a majority in the legislature (in which four political parties are represented, along with some independent members). Mr. Moon’s party had a plurality, but not a majority, and as the country became ungovernable due to the force of protest against Ms. Park, it was not that difficult to round up a majority to support impeaching her for her very real crimes. The Korean constitution calls for new elections when a President is impeached, and that created an opening for change. Read the rest of this entry »





DON’T TREAD ON US!

8 04 2017

If, as I am, you are accustomed to listening to Radio Free Nashville at home and while you’re driving around town, you got a rude shock last week when you tuned in to 103.7 or 107.1. You didn’t hear WRFN. You heard 24-hour-a-day Christian talk/news radio. Bott Broadcasting is attempting to open a station on our frequency. Their programming is not local, but originates in Kansas City and is repeated on dozens of stations nationwide. WRFN manager Ginny Welsch got them to stop while we sort this out with the FCC, so we need all the help we can get, in the form of letters from you to the FCC, to let them know you appreciate being able to hear WRFN in Nashville. Bott has several other repeaters on other frequencies in the Nashville area, so it’s not like they’ll be shut out of the market if they don’t get 107.1, which they apparently don’t even have call letters for yet. Let’s keep it that way.

Here’s a letter from Ginny telling us what to do:

Hey folks-

Please consider filing an informal objection with the FCC to granting Bott Broadcasting’s translator on 107.1  That is the translator causing us all this interference.
Informal objections need to be mailed to the FCC and signed. Make three copies of your letter, and send them all (in one envelope)   to

FCC Headquarters
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

They don’t need to be fancy.  You just need to say you object because it is interfering with the station you listen to.   Please ask your friends to send one, too.
So, here’s my letter. Feel free to copy and/or adapt it for yourself.
Dear FCC
      Over the last several years, I have enjoyed listening to Radio Free Nashville, WRFN-LP, 103.7/107.1, at home and while I’m driving around town. The station offers a wide variety of music and thoughtful talk shows. Much of its programming is original. There’s no other radio station like it in Nashville. I got a rude shock last week when, instead of hearing my local station, WRFN, I instead heard what I soon determined was syndicated programming coming out of Kansas City, which did not serve my needs at all. Please do not allow Bott Broadcasting to stamp out a local institution like Radio Free Nashville, and keep 107.1 and 103.7 as the frequencies for our community station.
      Thank you very much
     Martin Holsinger
music: Bob Marley, “Get Up, Stand Up” (not part of the FCC letter!)




GREEN PARTY ELECTION NEWS–THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

8 04 2017

Let’s start with election news: the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was a good news – bad news kind of evening for the Wisconsin Greens in Dane County elections on April 4. The Greens lost both contested races they entered but won four seats on Madison City Council, with candidates running unopposed in each instance.

district17

Samba Baldeh

district18

Rebecca Kimble

Steve Arnold took 41.4% of the popular vote in a two way race for Mayor of Fitchburg but came up short. Similarly, Ali Muldrow of the Greens garnered 44.1% and over 20,000 votes but wound up second in her bid for a place on the Madison School Board. Winning their seats to Madison City Council were Ledell Zellers (Distruct 2), Marsha Rummel (District 6), Samba Baldeh (District 17) and Rebecca Kemble (District 18). Congratulations to the Wisconsin Greens candidates and volunteers for making it happen!

Out in Los Angeles, US House candidate Ken Mejia had this to say about his April 4 election:

As of this morning, we are 7th out of 23 candidates, with the top 2 front runners who raised the most money (over $1,000,000 combined) getting a majority of the votes. However, we are only 249 votes away from 4th place out of 23 people – beating 16 Democrats and all other party candidates (Republican, Non-Partisan, Libertarian). In addition, there are many mail-in and provisional ballots left to be counted.

We always knew it was going to be a tough race, especially running as the outsider campaign in a very low voter turn out Special Election (9.6% voter turnout so far). Nevertheless, regardless of what the final numbers are, WE HAVE ALREADY WON!

yeswekenThe top two candidates, both Democrats, will face each other in a general election in June.The winners received 5-8,000 votes to Mejia’s 1300. When you consider that the winning, corporate-sponsored, candidates outspent him by a factor of ten to one–Mejia raised about $50K compared their roughly half a million each–Meijia did very well, indeed. By doing some admittedly simplistic math, we could say that, if Mejia had had access to the same kind of financing as the winners of the election, he would have received 13,000 votes for his money, as many votes as the actual top two combined, and nearly enough to win outright and not need a runoff. Sure, that’s a fantasy, but it points up the tilted nature of our political playing field, and the need for serious campaign finance reform, if not a whole other socio-economic-political paradigm.

So that’s some good news, and some bad news. The ugly stuff happened in Philadelphia, where Democrats did a serious number on Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala’s campaign for a Pennsylvania State House seat.

cherihonkala

Poll workers, who were almost universally Democratic Party activists, reportedly pushed people to vote for the Democrat by, for example, telling voters that if they were registered Democrats, they had to vote for the Democrat,  and otherwise overtly campaigning in the polling places. The write-in election featured the use of ink stamps of the candidates’ names, to eliminate the possibility of illegible ballots. Some voters reported that, when they requested a Honkala stamp, they were given a stamp for her opponent instead, and then not allowed to change the misvote. According to the official results, Honkala lost by about a 4-1 margin, but both she and the Republican candidate, the only one actually on the ballot, have filed complaints, and it seems the DA and the legislature will both be investigating.

And, on that note, a song from The Clash seems appropriate…..

The Clash,”Know Your Rights





SMOKE, MIRRORS, AND ENOUGH ROPE

8 04 2017

Have you noticed that American politics has slipped into Alice and Wonderland territory? That the Tea Party is now hosted by the Mad Hatter’s cousin, the Mad Hairpiecer? And that the Red Queen has morphed into the Blue Queen, with her king and all her courtiers  shouting “Consider your verdict!” when the trial hasn’t even begun, and ordering “Off with their heads!” as the fate of anyone who dares disagree with them? How many people have noticed this, and how many people are simply too swept up in the emotions of the moment to reflect on the absurdity, and danger, of  the things they are being manipulated into believing?

billy-butcher-trump-clinton-pop-characters-5

Thanks to Butcher Billy for the artwork!

The Wonderland metaphor breaks down somewhere around this point, because in our current situation, the Blue Queen and her court have been almost wholly disempowered by the Mad Hairpiecer, so that all they can do is howl. Given the size of their echo chamber, the howl sounds pretty fearsome, but, just like the trial Alice attended, the evidence in the question of  who stole the tarts–or, in this case, the election–remains shaky at best.

For instance, here’s a conversation with our former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that the off-with their heads/the Russians are coming crowd has had to conveniently ignore since it popped up smack dab in the middle of the mainstream, on NBC’s “Meet the Press“:

CHUCK TODD:
Does intelligence exist that can definitively answer the following question, whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials?

JAMES CLAPPER:
We did not include any evidence in our report, and I say, “our,” that’s N.S.A., F.B.I. and C.I.A., with my office, the Director of National Intelligence, that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report.

CHUCK TODD:
I understand that. But does it exist?

JAMES CLAPPER:
Not to my knowledge.

Read the rest of this entry »





HATE

8 04 2017

This is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s 2013 book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.” Through the several years I have been serializing this book on my radio show, I have frequently been astounded at how each month’s chapter seems to speak to current events. “Hate” is no exception.

You can buy Charles’ book, and read other writings of his, by following this link.

He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if thou gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee.

—Nietzsche

To humanize an opponent might be challenging to allies who are still inhabiting a Story of Hatred. They might interpret the new view as softness or betrayal. “How could you excuse those people?”

A friend of mine, a military veteran committed to peace, told me the story of a friend of his who had the opportunity to serve as the personal chef to none other than Dick Cheney, a man whom millions of liberals perceived as an awful human being, a soulless, duplicitous, conniving warmonger. My friend, expecting confirmation of this view, asked his friend what it was like working for Cheney. “Wonderful,” he replied. “You can tell a lot about someone’s character by the way they treat the help, and he always treated me with warmth, dignity, and respect, even though I was only a cook.”

This is not an endorsement of Dick Cheney’s political views or conduct. The point here is that a perfectly decent human being, harboring the same basic motivations and fears as any other human being, can do awful things in one context and admirable things in another…..

….Hold on. Maybe I am saying this only because I am naive. Maybe my soft, coddled upbringing has blinded me to the reality of evil and the need to fight it with force. It is certainly true that I have not experienced firsthand the worst of what human beings can do to each other. But let me offer you the story of the South Korean activist and farmer Hwang Dae-Kwon. Hwang was a militant antiimperialist protester in the 1980s, a dangerous activity during that time of martial law. In 1985 he was arrested by the secret police and tortured for sixty days until he confessed to spying for North Korea. He was then thrown into prison, where he spent thirteen years in solitary confinement. During this time, he says, his only friends were the flies, mice, roaches, and lice that shared his cell, along with the weeds he met in the prison yard. This experience turned him into an ecologist and practitioner of nonviolence. He realized, he told me, that all the violence he had endured was a mirror of the violence in himself.

His number one principle for activism is now to maintain a peaceful heart. At a recent demonstration, a line of police equipped with riot gear was marching toward the demonstrators. Hwang walked up to one of the police and, with a big smile, gave him a hug. The policeman was petrified—Hwang said he could see the terror in his eyes. Hwang’s peacefulness had rendered him incapable of violence. For this to “work,” though, the peacefulness must be genuine and deep. The smile must be real. The love must be real. If there is an intent to manipulate, to show the other up, to highlight the brutality by contrasting it with one’s own nonviolence, then the power of the smile and the hug is much less strong.

Phish: “Revolution” (yes, the Beatles song!)

music: Georgia Whiting, “My Back Pages

The Nice: “My Back Pages” (I may not have time to play this extended cut on the air, but it’s a very imaginative restructuring of the song, and definitely worth a listen!)





TALES OF TWO GREEN CANDIDATES

12 03 2017

There’s a couple of elections in the next few weeks that Green Party candidates are widely regarded as competitive in, and I wanted to mention them.

In California, Kenneth Mejia is running for the US House seat that was vacated when  California Attorney General Kamala Harris won a seat in the US Senate and Representative Xavier Becerra resigned his seat in Congress to become the new Attorney General. There are 23 candidates in the race, most of them Democrats, plus a few declared Republicans, one independent who’s an anti-abortion activist, and Ken, who is a 26-year old accountant. He’s also treasurer of his local neighborhood association and works with a group that helps homeless people. Contrary to people’s usual image of Green candidates, he was active in Air Force ROTC in college. He was not active in politics until Bernie Sanders struck a spark with him. When Sanders failed to prevail against the Democratic establishment, Kenneth went Green.

The election is April 4th. Will the presence of so many Democrats in the field cause them to cancel each other out and give the victory to the Green candidate? We’ll soon find out.

A more local race with its own set of complexities is taking place in Pennsylvania State House District 197, an impoverished, mostly non-white, strongly Democratic bailiwick, where former Green Party Vice-Presidential candidate Cheri Honkala is running. The Democrat who was the State Rep had to resign when it came to light that she had been convicted of felony money laundering in the Spring of 2016, so that’s why there’s a special election for this seat. The Democratic Party nominated a candidate who, at the behest of Republicans, was removed from the ballot because, although he owned property in the district, it seemed from the low utility usage for his house that he didn’t actually live there, but, according to his neighbors there, in high-class Bucks County. (He is an MD who runs a clinic in the neighborhood.) His removal from the ballot came close enough to the filing deadline so that the Democrats’ substitute candidate couldn’t get on the ballot, either.

I should mention here that The Green Party has official “minor party” status in Pennsylvania, so ballot access itself was not at question.  When Cheri Honkala, who definitely does live in the district and has been active in community organizations there for thirty years, filed her paperwork with the board of elections, she asked them to confirm that she had everything in order, and they told her she did. Then, a few days later, after the filing deadline had passed, election officials “discovered” that one sheet of her paperwork was missing, and, even though she got the proper document to them within hours of being informed that it was missing, they declined to accept it and took her off the ballot, too, leaving only the Republican on the ballot. The last time a Republican was on the ballot in this district, in 2012, he got 5% of the vote. Honkala and the Democratic Party candidate are now running write-in campaigns. The election will be March 21st.

When I first heard this story, with only a Republican actually on the ballot, I thought it must be on account of the state of Pennsylvania being run by Republicans, but, it turns out, it’s run by Democrats. It’s odd that they’d take hassle one of their own people like that, but with 95% of the voters being Democrats, I think that they figured they could win anyway.

For Honkala, and the Greens, this is not-unexpected treatment from Pennsylvania Democrats. When Ralph Nader tried to get on the Pennsylvania ballot in 2004, the state disqualified most of his signatures–for things like people signing their name as “Bill” rather than “William”–and charged him over $80,000 in legal fees for his failure. Two years later, Green US Senate candidate Fred Romanelli had the same thing happen to him, resulting in him being billed for about $80,000. It took nearly ten years, but Nader and Romanelli sued the state and won. In the process, they discovered a broad, deep web of corruption and collusion to keep Pennsylvania politics in the hands of pro-corporate professionals, and people went to jail for their part in denying citizens the right to participate in their own government.

None of that changed the system, unfortunately. Incidents like these demonstrate that the electoral process in the United States, from the drawing of district lines to who gets on the ballot to how the ballots are counted, needs to be non-partisan. There are lots of other changes, but this is one we might could accomplish without a full-scale revolution–and it might help open up this country for the full-spectrum peaceful revolution it needs.

Neville Brothers: “Wake Up

 





THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION

12 03 2017

It’s the Cold War all over again. Americans left and right are being accused of taking orders and money from, being the tools of, or at least harboring sympathy for, a miraculously resurrected Evil Empire headquartered in Moscow. If the accusers actually controlled the government, no doubt the political show trials would begin. The accusers–elements of our security apparatus, neo-conservatives associated with the infamous “Project for a New American Century,” virtually the entire Democratic Party, and their allies in the mainstream media–are  using the highly manipulable court of public opinion to find anyone who dissents from their doctrine of Russophobia guilty of the treasonous crime of Russophilia, as if it were some even worse perversion of pedophilia. Their aim appears to be to regain control of the government. They consider this a legitimate counter-revolution. Others call it a coup, American style.

“It’s simple,” the Democrats and their allies say. “If we take over again, everything will be fine.”

It’s not simple, and things wouldn’t be fine if the Democrats were running things, but let’s leave “if the Democrats were running things” alone for now. It’s mind-bendingly complicated, because to truly understand what’s going on in America now requires that we be free of the conditioning most Americans accept unquestioningly–and I’m not talking air conditioning, although that is a luxury that most Americans take far too for granted. I’m talking about mind conditioning–the way we subliminally learn to perceive reality by taking cues from our parents and our culture as we grow up.

As we grow up, and all through our lives, we spend a lot of time absorbing stories from movies, television, and books, and all those stories share certain common elements. There’s a hero, who is clearly a hero, at least in the end, and the hero is not you, although of course you identify with her or him. There’s a villain, and the villain’s identity is usually clear from the beginning. The hero and the villain clash, and, although the villain seems to be winning at first, the hero ultimately triumphs, and all the most pivotal moments in that struggle can be captured in an hour, or two, or maybe longer if it’s a TV series. These are the expectations we then project on real-world events.

But real-world events are not the movies, or even a long-running TV series. In real life, it is extremely rare for anyone to be a complete hero or a complete villain. I’m not, and you probably understand that you’re not 100% hero–or villain–either. Even sociopaths and psychopaths occasionally do the right thing. Well-intentioned people do terrible things. Think about it–doesn’t everybody believe their intentions are good? You betcha. What political figures do as a result of their good intentions may look good to millions of people, and simply awful to millions of others, and it can be difficult to determine in the short run just what “the greater good” really is. It can also be glaringly obvious what does or does not constitute “the greater good,” whether there are millions of people who understand what’s really going on, or just a few. Reality is not determined by popular vote. And, of course, political figures also do things for concealed, strategic reasons, and lie to the public about their motivation. As I said, it’s complicated.

So, with that in mind, I want to examine the history of what some are already referring to as “the new Cold War,” and see how the mainstream American story of what’s going on holds up under scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »








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