Mothers of Invention: Thirteen (from “You Can’t Say That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 6–not available on the net, sorry!)
Mothers of Invention: Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk (from “Broadway the Hard Way,” ditto)
As I promised a couple of weeks ago, I did indeed turn out for the anti-fracking demonstration, and the accompanying hearing, at Legislative Plaza, last Friday. The best thing I can say about it is that it was great to see old friends and new, young faces. It’s good to feel that this movement is being passed on, even if that’s accompanied by the distinct sensation that it’s being pissed on, as well.
The hearing was definitely a pisser. Numerous people called the fracking decision into question on all the obvious grounds–conflict of interest, failure to take into account the value of an unspoiled natural environment, and the dubiousness of the alleged benefits that fracking brings to communities. Channel 5, bless their hearts, did a background investigation that uncovered the fact that making money, not doing studies, is UT’s primary motivation in opening their forest research center to fracking. It won’t be much good for forestry studies after the frackers are done with it! Some members of the State Building Commission even raised the all-important question, “what happens if we get a few years into this and discover that it’s a really bad idea?”
“Trust us,” UT’s representative said, just what BP’s people said when they started deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, just like what Exxon’s representatives said before the Exxon Valdez ran aground, just what Shell said when they attempted to moor an offshore drilling rig in the Arctic Ocean last year.
Here’s quotes from some of the emails Channel 5 uncovered:
“My congratulations to the person who came up with the creative idea for a fracking research project as a means for gaining approval to lease petroleum reserves under the Cumberland Forest. I hope the leases yield much money for the Experiment Station.”
“Given budgetary concerns we face it’s more important than ever.”
“Be prepared for the worse (sic) from the environmental community — but their actions will not sway the governor’s office resolve/support.”
“Haslam will not stop us!!” (Credit where credit it is due: Gov. Bredesen had refused to approve fracking, due to environmental concerns. Thank you, Phil!)
Further emails revealed that UT is asking the gas industry for suggestions about what kind of research to conduct, an invitation for softball topics that will be carefully designed not to reflect badly on the resource exploiters. Nothing like asking the fox to guard the henhouse, eh?
So, the fix was in, and the hearing was just for show. The Building Commission voted unanimously to approve the project. Now, all UT has to do is find a company willing to do business with them–which may actually be a stumbling block. According to one speaker, there has been no new drilling in Tennessee in recent years, because low natural gas prices have made it uneconomical.
The bad news is that natural gas is much more expensive elsewhere in the world, and, as a reporter for “The Motley Fool” put it,
The United States cannot approve or build liquefied natural gas.. export terminals fast enough to appease countries looking for cheaper energy.
That marks a further level of deceit in not just UT’s fracking plans, but the whole campaign to frack the country–this isn’t about “energy independence” for the US, it’s about profits for private companies at public expense. (That’s our forest UT is planning to turn into an industrial zone!)
And, to my knowledge (I had to leave before it was over), the hearing never even got to the deepest, greenest perspective about why destroying the UT forest preserve to extract its oil is a bad idea. As Bill McKibben has pointed out,
We can burn less than 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they’re planning to burn it all — unless we rise up to stop them.
When they approved UT’s fracking plans, the Building Commission completely disregarded the fact that burning the fossil fuels that can be extracted from this Tennessee forest will contribute to the destruction of the planet’s ability to support complex life forms like us. By chosing short-term profit over long-term health, the so-called scholars and businessmen of UT and the Building Commission have shown themselves to be a pack of tawdry “frack whores,” who will happily sacrifice their children’s and grandchildren’s welfare for a fossil fuel fix. We–and “they” are part of “us” for all practical purposes–do not have some other source of clean air, clean water, and live soil besides what is on this planet, nor do we have access to some “planet B” that will remain human-friendly should our foolishness send the Earth’s average temperature soaring towards the boiling point of water.
music: Grateful Dead, “Ship of Fools”
Not that this comes as a surprise. The state of Tennessee has been firmly under corporate control for quite some time now. How shall I count the ways?
A state income tax, which would be a far more equitable way to raise revenue than the regressive sales tax that is now the state’s prime revenue engine, is politically impossible, and has been for quite some time.
The state has repeatedly refused to ban mountaintop removal, in spite of the fact that, even speaking in strictly economic terms, tourism is much more valuable to the state than mining.
The state has cut payments from the workmen’s compensation fund to injured workers, and put control of the fund and its disbursements under a partisan board selected by the governor, rather than the at least supposedly impartial court system. The insurance companies will still receive the same amount of money, but will not have to spend so much on benefits. Apparently, “death panels” are OK, as long as they are part of for-profit insurance companies or appointed by Republicans!
They are working on changing the pension plan for teachers and other state workers so that the state will pay in less, while employees pay in more but receive smaller retirement benefits.
The state has created an appeal process whereby private, for-profit “charter schools” can get permission to operate in a city (and be funded by that city), even if the local school board rejects their application. This from a political party that is howling about Obamacare as an “unfunded mandate”! Apparently, the rule is that Republicans may do to others as they don’t want done to them.
They have passed a bill denying public employees a long-established right to collective bargaining.
They repealed the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which mandated that elections in the state be conducted via a method which produced independently verifiable voting results, saying it would “cost too much,” even though it would actually cost less than the state’s current unverifiable, easily hackable computerized system.
They passed a restrictive voter identification law, which contains provisions blatantly designed to cut down on the number of voters by making it easier to exclude college students, older voters, poorer voters, and African-Americans.
In spite of repeated warnings of completely indefensible unconstitutionality from the state’s own Attorney General, the legislature has repeatedly passed bills that purport to nullify federal laws and international treaties.
The state government has moved to nullify local ordinances establishing a higher minimum wage than the statewide mandate, and prohibited cities from adopting antidiscrimination laws that protect gay Tennesseans from discrimination and persecution.
This is starting to sound like an update of the Declaration of Independence, isn’t it? We’re also starting to get into social issues here, where our legislature’s stances–and probably soon-to-be-revealed Larry Craig-style “wide stances,” show that their political vision, government-corporate partnership at the expense of the people, AKA fascism, springs not from a well-thought-out philosophy, but from the writhing snake pit of psychopathy. When a Republican legislator, in all seriousness, calls our cities “peoples’ republics” simply for passing legislation that is part of the Democrats’ platform, when another legislator asserts that terrorists detonated an “electromagnetic pulse bomb” in the state but the incident went unreported, when our legislators pass bill after bill affirming peoples’ right to carry guns anywhere and everywhere, bill after bill restricting the rights of, or otherwise repressing, religious and sexual minorities, while treating the broader issues of our day, the big crises that government is supposed to deal with on behalf of its citizens–as fraudulent or irrelevant–I’m talking about climate change, environmental protection, peak resources, the onset of a post-industrial age with its resultant “unemployment” and widespread social disintegration, the ripping fabric of our global economy–when public welfare is ignored while corporate greed and personal neurosis are pushed to the fore, then, “Houston, we have a problem,” and, again, the name of that problem is “fascism,” which is the political manifestation of a psychopathic state of mind. Sure, we haven’t seen wheelbarrows-full-of-dollars, runaway inflation a la Germany in the 1920s, but the psyche of America is at least as dislocated as the Weltanschauung that caused Germany to empower Hitler .
Author Paul Levy put it this way in his book, “Dispelling Wetiko–Breaking the Curse of Evil”
Whenever the contents of the collective unconscious become activated, they have an unsettling effect on the conscious mind of everyone. When this psychic dynamic is not consciously metabolized, not just within an individual, but collectively, the mental state of the people as a whole might well be compared to a psychosis. Jung never tired of warning that the greatest danger that threatens humanity is the possibility that millions of us can fall into our unconscious together and reinforce each other’s blind spots, feeding a contagious collective psychosis in which we unwillingly become complicit in supporting the insanity of endless wars; this is unfortunately an exact description of what is currently happening.
The depth and magnitude of the changes our culture and our planet are undergoing at this time are indeed a trigger that has “activated the contents of (our) collective unconscious.” But this madness is certainly not limited to Republicans. While Democrats have done their best to portray Republican craziness as a reason to vote for Democrats, they offer no real alternative to the Republicans, who, when you get right down to it, embody the most ruthlessly logical conclusions of the capitalist system that the Democrats support, just as wholeheartedly as the Republicans. As University of Wisconsin Political Science professor Patrick Barrett puts it,
What gets lost in (the Democrats’ co-option of the protest movement) is any real challenge to the growing imbalance of social, political and economic power. Quite the contrary, the ultimate impact of their actions is to reproduce if not aggravate that imbalance. What we’ve got here is a deeply symbiotic relationship between a pseudo-movement that derives its raison d’etre and financial vitality from a vilification of the right, which it has helped to create and without which it would have no reason for existence. Indeed, the more extreme the right becomes, the better it is for them, since they live off of fear-mongering. To oppose the right in a meaningful sense would put them out of business. That isn’t to say that there is nothing to be feared in the right or that some of these folks don’t think they’re fighting the good fight, but rather that the two work in tandem, much like a good-cop-bad-cop team. As the right becomes ever more extreme, this Democratic Party cum non-profit industrial complex moves further and further to the right itself, thereby giving the Republicans and their ilk ever greater leash and making it easier to frighten the “progressive” masses.
Lest anyone think that this is some kind of conspiracy theory, it’s important to emphasize that this is primarily a function of social and economic structures and political institutions that create a market for these sorts of pseudo-movement leaders, who will flourish if the conditions are right. That’s why we need to focus our attention on altering those conditions, something these people have little or no interest in doing.”
So, the Democrats are fools, as focussed as the Republicans on maintaining a status quo that is leading us all to lethal consequences. What truly threatens the Republicans–paradigm change–threatens the Democrats, as well, and they will do whatever they have to do to keep the game the same.
Paleontologists occasionally unearth the intertwined bodies of predators and prey, killed together because they were so focussed on their own struggle that they ignored, and were overtaken by, a flood, or a mudslide, or whatever, that proved fatal to both. We in the Green Party have done what we could to get the American people and the American political system to acknowledge that it is time, maybe past time, to change or die. We have been ridiculed, ignored, and marginalized for our efforts. Too bad, ’cause here it comes, America. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
music: Mothers of Invention: “Plastic People”
B-52’s, “Breezin” (from the albumn, “Good Stuff”–again, not available on the net!)