1 11 2015

First, a short news article from Democracy Now:

…in New Hampshire, an intruder armed with a hatchet was caught inside a Planned Parenthood clinic early Wednesday morning after smashing computers, furniture, plumbing fixtures, medical equipment, windows and walls. The Claremont clinic, which provides a range of services, but not abortions, was spray-painted with the word “murderer” earlier this month.

The perpetrator turned out to be a teenager.  In Israel, the police routinely shoot Palestinian teenagers who act like that.  They call them “terrorists.” So….sure, the vandalism in New Hampshire was just plain stupid, but isn’t it also “terrorism”? And, if it’s ” terrorism,” shouldn’t those who incited it be prosecuted along with the perp? I’m looking at you, Republicans andFaux News.

Planned Parenthood has not done anything illegal or unethical, but it has been condemned in the court of right-wing opinion, and legislatures across the country are effectively vandalizing the organization by cutting off state funding, eliminating a whole spectrum of health care services for low-income women.

They claim they’re doing this in the name of “Christianity,”a religion whose holy book says:

Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

Somehow the significance of this verse from their holy book eludes the self-righteous reactionaries of our nation, while they claim that Jesus also prohibited abortion, generally under the rubric of prohibiting the killing of “innocent people.” However, the overall sense of Jewish law, to which Jesus was a subscriber, was that a fetus is not a person until it is born and takes a breath, so claiming that the Bible prohibits abortion takes a fair amount of interpretation–you might even consider it contortionism–from people who claim that The Bible must be taken “literally.”FUNDIS

So, these folks act as if their holy book doesn’t say what it does say, and as if it does say what it doesn’t say. and claim they’re not “interpreting” it, when they’re interpreting it to get the meaning they want out of it.  Clearly delusional.

And then, of course, there’s the whole issue of the U.S. Constitution, which, in its very first Article, says

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

In other words, the government is expressly forbidden from passing laws that favor one person’s religion, or discriminate against another’s.  The notion that “personhood” begins at conception is clearly a notion that not all religions share.  Those who demand that the government enforce their religious scruples by banning abortion (or same-sex marriage, or whatever) are trying to abrogate one of the prime directives on which this country was founded–yet they consider themselves supporters of a “strict interpretation” of the Constitution.  This is clearly irrational thinking.

Second…I’m no supporter of Hillary Clinton, but I have enough respect for her as a human being to call the way she was treated in the U.S. House recently as just what it is: stalking and harassment by delusional crazies. Republican-led House committees long ago came to the conclusion that there was nothing Ms. Clinton could have done to prevent the deaths of American diplomats in Benghazi, but they grilled her for ten hours on the same old baloney, the moral equivalent of an abusive man backing a woman into a corner and slapping her around over imagined misbehavior.

The funny thing is, Ms. Clinton, and the rest of the Obama administration, are, in fact, guilty of serious wrongdoing in Libya and elsewhere. I’ll get to that a little later.

Another funny thing is, Jason Chaffetz, the Republican who admitted that he found no illegal activity in his investigation of Planned Parenthood, acknowledged that House Republicans were the ones responsible for cutting appropriations for security at US diplomatic facilities.  You get the “Truth In Strange Places” award again this month, Rep. Chaffetz!

Third, the right-wing echo chamber is awash in moralizing, judgemental stories about how, when minimum-wage workers in Seattle got their raise to fifteen dollars an hour, they asked to have their hours cut, “so they wouldn’t lose their welfare benefits.”  Pundit after pundit claimed this proved that the poor were lazy and welfare-dependent, and didn’t deserve any welfare, let alone fifteen dollars an hour. A deeper look, however, reveals that the specific welfare benefit workers were concerned about losing was subsidized housing. If you’re making $600 (40X$15) a week, you’re not eligible for subsidized housing in Seattle, but the average rent for a privately-owned two-bedroom apartment in the Seattle area is…$1800 a month.  So….which would you rather have, Mr. Breitbart, a full-time job, or a roof over your family’s head?

I’m no fan of locking people up and dosing them with psychiatric meds, but if there were just a few people insisting on a deluded view of Planned Parenthood, Benghazi, poverty, and climate change, among other topics, vandalizing health care facilities and stalking and harassing innocent people who were the subject of their delusions, they would be deemed a danger to themselves and others, and involuntarily hospitalized and medicated.

if he were a poor man....

if he were a poor man….

Unfortunately, there are so many people in this country who are crazy that way, that they have their own political party and control quite a few state governments, including our own here in Tennessee.

music break:  Terry Allen, “Southern Comfort

Contrary to what they would have you believe, the Democrats are not the answer to Republican madness. The Republicans are psychotic, but the Democrats are neurotic–they think they can have their corporate cake and a just society, too. Let’s look at the Democratic record at something like the same level of detail with which we examined the Republicans.

First, there’s the “health care” issue, which should more properly be called the “paying for health care” issue, since it did little to address the fundamental structural and paradigmatic problems with health care in our culture.  Instead, it put some mild restrictions on insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and health care providers, whose grossly inflated prices and profits are a big part of the problem, and mandated federal money to help citizens buy health care from these companies.  Like the bank bailout, it slapped the offenders’ wrists  and then rewarded them, in this case by creating millions of new customers for their products.

I never tire of reminding people that, before it was “Obamacare,” this new system was “Romneycare,” and that it was hatched by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank (another oxymoron?) whose members have figured prominently in every Republican administration in the last 30 years.  In  his classic “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” Paulo Freire went to great lengths to point out the neurotic character of an individual who starts claiming his oppressor’s ideas as his own, even though those ideas justify his oppression.  This seems to me to be what’s going on in the Democrats’ staunch defence of “Obamaromneycare.”

Next, there’s the deeply interconnected issues of petrochemical development and climate change.  With an election coming up, President Obama is ramping up his rhetoric about the importance of taking steps to curb carbon emissions, but let’s look at the record: he will go down in history, if there will be history in the future, as the man who “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory” at the Copenhagen Climate talks. And sure, he’s been stalling on the Keystone XL, but he’s opened the US Atlantic coast to offshore drilling, and that “Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership” agreement that he’s pushing will allow corporations to sue governments for lost profits if government regulations prohibit the companies from doing something they would like to do, regardless of its consequences for the environment–like pump oil and gas out of the ground so it can be burned, contributing to potentially runaway global warming. In the words of Nobel Laureate Joseph Steiglitz,

(Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership)….corporations can sue the government…for the loss of profits as a result of the regulations that restrict their ability to emit carbon emissions that lead to global warming. If this provision had been in place when we had discovered that asbestos was bad for your health—you know, under the current provisions, asbestos manufacturers have to pay for the damage that they’re doing. They pay billions and billions of dollars. If the TPP had been in place, we would have to pay the asbestos manufacturers for not killing us. It’s outrageous.

On this issue, as on the others we will examine, the Democratic Party is claiming to be on the side of the people and the common good, while its actions clearly indicate that it is advancing policies that favor the few over the many.  The question is:  to what extent is this conscious hypocrisy, and to what extent is it neurotic incoherence? As with the Republican mix of intentional manipulation and psychosis, I think it is a mixture of both. The upper echelons of the Democratic Party are hypocritical and manipulative, while the well-intentioned rank and file trust their leaders and swallow the lies, or busy themselves trying to “correct” their leadership by “moving the party to the left.”  But, since the Democratic leadership gets its funding largely from the same corporate system as the Republicans, these efforts always fail. Money talks, as they say.

U.S. policy in the Middle East is another good example of this split between Democratic rhetoric and Democratic reality.  Much of the energy behind Obama’s election was due to his promise to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  While it’s true his administration has pulled most American ground forces out of the region, these ground forces have in many ways been replaced by armed drones, which have the tremendous public relations advantage of not generating any American casualties, outside of a few cases of carpal tunnel syndrome among the drone “pilots” back in Nevada. Meanwhile, the US has been a major contributor to the destabilization of Libya and Yemen–the war crimes that the misfocussed House interrogation of Ms. Clinton didn’t even mention.

And Palestine? Don’t get me started!

When we look at domestic issues, the rhetoric/reality split in the Democratic Party shines crystal clear. Repeal of the Glass-Steagall act, which set the stage for the 2008 financial crisis, was done with Democratic support. Similarly, Democrats, including  then-Senator Hillary Clinton, supported a bill that made it much harder for individuals to get out of debt by declaring bankruptcy. And, of course, when he was elected President in 2008, in the midst of an epic financial debacle caused by Wall Street “casino capitalism,” Obama did not take this opportunity to dismantle “too big to fail” investment firms, penalize their management, and put their assets to work helping out the common people who were actually suffering from the loss of their homes, their jobs, and/or the high cost of medical care.  He appointed Wall Street sharks to prominent positions in his cabinet and fronted the corporate sector huge sums of money–which did not “trickle down,” but trickled up, further enriching the wealthiest 1% of Americans.  When the “Occupy” movement sprouted in protest of this betrayal, Obama’s Attorney General conspired with mostly-Democratic big city mayors to smash Occupy, and Democrats even expropriated its name, starting a propaganda outfit called “Occupy Democrats” that puts out cute graphics about how terrible the Republicans are and how much better the Democrats are–hey, they’re the “kinder, gentler” corporatists, right?

Hillary Clinton exhibited another aspect of the true, neurotic face of the Democratic Party in the recent debate, when she went after Bernie Sanders’ record on gun control, attacking him as “soft” on the issue, playing the fear card, and promising that under her governance, there would be much stricter gun control.  Two things stood out for me about that.  The first, obviously, was her use of “the fear card,” the one mainstream Democrats have traditionally played against threats from the left–“vote for me or you’ll end up with somebody much worse than me.”  The second was her promise to exert greater control to solve the problem.  That didn’t work out very well when we tried to prohibit the consumption of alcoholic beverages in this country, and it hasn’t worked out well for controlling other mind-altering substances, either. Does she really believe that it will work for guns?  I think the best way to radically decrease gun violence in America is to create a saner, more equitable society, but Ms. Clinton wants us to be afraid, so she can be controlling. At an individual level, this would be a subject for family or individual counselling, but somehow it’s become politics as usual in this country.politicsoffear

So that’s a sampler of the Democrats’ neurotic tendency to aspire to do the right thing, and then succumb to their conditioning and do the wrong thing.If you’re doing the wrong thing, it doesn’t matter if your motivation is compassionate or selfish.  Exacerbating climate change and the continued concentration of wealth is the wrong thing to do, and will lead to severe social instability no matter which arm of the Democrat-Republican duopoly gets elected.

The good news is, there is a sane alternative–The Green Party. What follows is some quotes from presumptive Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein’s website.

A Green New Deal:

Create millions of jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, and conservation.

Jobs as a Right:

Create living-wage jobs for every American who needs work, replacing unemployment offices with employment offices. Advance workers rights to form unions, achieve workplace democracy, and keep a fair share of the wealth they create.

End Poverty:

Guarantee economic human rights, including access to food, water, housing, and utilities, with effective anti-poverty programs to ensure every American a life of dignity.

Health Care as a Right:

Establish an improved “Medicare For All” single-payer public health insurance program to provide everyone with quality health care, at huge savings.

Education as a Right:

Abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude. Guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university. End high stakes testing and public school privatization.

A Just Economy:

Set a $15/hour federal minimum wage. Break up “too-big-to-fail” banks and democratize the Federal Reserve. Reject gentrification as a model of economic development. Support development of worker and community cooperatives and small businesses. Make Wall Street, big corporations, and the rich pay their fair share of taxes. Create democratically run public banks and utilities. Replace corporate trade agreements with fair trade agreements.

Protect Mother Earth:

Lead on a global treaty to halt climate change. End destructive energy extraction: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, and uranium mines. Protect our public lands, water supplies, biological diversity, parks, and pollinators. Label GMOs, and put a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe. Protect the rights of future generations.

Freedom and Equality:

End police brutality, mass incarceration and institutional racism within our justice system. Expand women’s rights, protect LGBT people from discrimination, defend indigenous rights and lands, and create a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants. Protect the free Internet, replace drug prohibition with harm reduction, and legalize marijuana/hemp.

Justice for All:

Restore our Constitutional rights, terminate unconstitutional surveillance and unwarranted spying, end persecution of government and media whistleblowers, close Guantanamo, abolish secret kill lists, and repeal indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Peace and Human Rights:

Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights. End the wars and drone attacks, cut military spending by at least 50% and close the 700+ foreign military bases that are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire. Stop U.S. support and arms sales to human rights abusers, and lead on global nuclear disarmament.

Empower the People:

Abolish corporate personhood. Protect voters’ rights by establishing a constitutional right to vote.  Enact electoral reforms that break the big money stranglehold and create truly representative democracy: public campaign financing, ranked-choice voting, proportional representation, and open debates.

Those are some sane responses to the challenges we face on this planet at this time. They are not the reactionary, psychotic selfishness of the Republicans, nor the afraid-to-do-the-right-thing dithering of mainstream Democrats. And sure, Bernie Sanders is promising to do just about everything on Jill’s list, but Jill isn’t having to fight entrenched coroporatist Democrats to get The Greens to adopt her platform.  In fact, some of us would like to take things farther–but that’s a topic for another time.

Well, OK, one thing–Jill, and the Green Party in general, have, unlike Bernie Sanders, been shy about raising the banner of Democratic Socialism.  But, when you read what we Greens propose, you see all the hallmarks–workplace democracy, universal single-payer health care, worker and community cooperatives and small businesses, democratically run public banks and utilities, and the general overthrow of the currently reigning notion that private profit is the highest aim of public policy.  We might as well face it–The Green Party walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck…just as the reactionaries have been saying, serious environmentalism is a cover for socialism.  Get over it!

Of course, neither Jill nor Bernie could do the job of turning America around alone.  It will take a tsunami of populist candidates getting elected to the US House and Senate, not to mention many state offices, to change this country’s course.  That’s our job–yours and mine.  We haven’t quite collided with the iceberg.  There’s still time to save America–and the world.

music:  King Crimson, “Man With an Open Heart



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