ASKING INCONVENIENT QUESTIONS

14 07 2019

As long-time readers of this blog know, I ran for an at-large seat on the Metro Nashville Council in 2015, mostly in an effort to publicize the long-term concerns I express. I received a couple of thousand votes and came in second to last. I said I’d be back, but when this election cycle came around, I didn’t file papers to run, for several reasons. First, somebody asked me to run last time, and nobody asked this time. Second, as I ran last time and got a better understanding of what was involved, it seemed that, if I ran again, I would have to run with the pledge that I would hire somebody as a legal consultant to help me translate my somewhat radical proposals into Legalese, the language in which our governments do business. From there, I concluded that it would be more efficient, and more credible to the voting public, if I, or the “we” that constitutes the local Green Party, simply found a lawyer who shared my/our values, and offered to help her or his campaign. And that’s as far as that got.

A few weeks ago, after attending a Mayoral candidates’ forum in which my concerns for Nashville’s long-term stability were not addressed, I wrote the following letter to all four major Mayoral candidates, and to the ten at-large council candidates I think have the best chance of winning. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Candidate:

I ran for at-large Metro Council in the last election. For a variety of reasons, I’m not in the race this time, but I still have the concerns I ran on four years ago, and I am still writing my blog and doing my radio show, and that is why I am writing you now. I would like to hear from you about “my issues,” and I would like to share your response (and comment on it) as my next radio show/blog post, which will air/be published in mid-July, so I am also asking your permission to publish your response. If I need to do any editing/condensing, I will share my proposed edit with you, to make sure that I have preserved your intentions. Here’s what I’m asking:

The way I see it, Nashville is currently enjoying an extraordinarily prosperous period, especially compared to a great many other cities in this country, and regions of the world. However, the same crises that have overtaken them loom over us—a runaway climate crisis, an increasingly fragile national economy, and the rapidly approaching exhaustion of many of the material resources our civilization depends on, from fossil fuels to rare earth metals to fish, forests, fertile soil, and clean water. To what extent do these factors inform your political agenda?

To what extent do you share my concerns? What do you think the city should, could, or is likely to do in response to them?

Thank you for your time and attention.

No mayoral candidate wrote me back, although Facebook Messenger informed me that John Ray Clemmons opened my letter–at 7:30 in the morning. I hope that some day we will find out that it served as a wake up call for him.

I did better with the council races, with six responses to ten letters sent. Three of the candidates who didn’t respond are the ones who are generally identified as Republicans, although technically Metro Council races are non-partisan. The fourth non-responder was Gicola Lane, one of the organizers behind the initiative that established a Police Review Board here in Nashville.

I can understand why a political candidate would be inclined to handle my questions very gingerly. Al Gore nailed it when he called climate change “an inconvenient truth.” It’s easy to see human history as an increasingly rapid spiral into greater wealth and technological complexity. By and large, people don’t want to imagine that things might move some other way– a spiral of decreasing resources, complexity, and expectations. As Bill Clinton is rumoured to have said, “Nobody ever got elected by promising the American people less.” When Winston Churchill told the British people, “I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat, toil, and tears,” he wasn’t running for office, he had just been elected, and the Germans were taking over Europe and saturation-bombing Britain as a prelude to invasion.

It’s difficult to get people to see that we are in a “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” situation with climate change. Instead of an invading army, we are threatened by the way our own actions are skewing the planet’s climate into a “normal” that is far less human-friendly than the climate in which we have evolved as a species. So far, for most Americans, that change is nibbling at daily life, rather than devouring it wholesale, and so, for most of us in America, and especially here in Nashville, it is possible to live as if nothing has changed or is going to change. City election issues can be restricted to budgets and taxes,  infrastructure, zoning, education, policing, and similar daily life issues. These mundane issues offer almost infinite details to keep us occupied and keep us from looking at the longer-term questions I have been asking. When our community governments do address these questions, they will tend to do so in the context of the short-term, daily-life issues they are used to dealing with. With that in mind, let’s go through the responses I received, with some commentary from me, and then I will suggest a few things the city could do that would tend to steer the city, just as it is, into an entity that is better prepared to deal with the financial and material shortages and extreme weather events that we are likely to see in the mid-term future. Read the rest of this entry »





GREENER PASTURES

9 06 2019

The recent European Parliament elections were very heartening for Greens, with the Green Party frequently being second or third in total number of votes in any given country.  There is some chance that the next President of the European Commission will be a Green. Tonight I’ll be looking at what I consider the three most important contexts of this victory. The first is as it relates to the general growth and maturity of Europe’s Green Parties. The second is the differences between European democracy and American democracy that have enabled the rise of Europe’s Green Parties, while the Green Party in this country has unfortunately remained little more than a footnote. The third is how the Green Party’s ascension fits into the overall context of European, and American, politics.2019-MEP-results

Green Parties are deeply involved in the governance of many countries in Europe. While the Green Party of England and Wales isn’t well represented in England’s Parliament, it has a strong local presence, and elected seven out of Britain’s seventy-three representatives in the European Parliament, including one who had been the Mayor of Sheffield, England’s third-largest city. The Green Party of Ireland has maintained a Parliamentary presence for much of its history and been part of the ruling coalition at times. Read the rest of this entry »





AN APPRECIATION OF NATURAL/CO-OPERATIVE BIRTH CONTROL

5 05 2019

opening music: The Clash Lovers’ Rock

May Day, Beltane, is almost here. It’s the height of the mating season, so it seems like a good time to talk about green sex–and when I say “green sex,” I’m not talking about inexperienced people getting it on. I’m talking about the ecology, and psychology, of our reproductive urge.

A few months back, one of my favorite news reporters/commentators, Eleanor Goldfield, did a story  attacking the Trump administration’s decision to only give women advice on natural birth control, rather than providing condoms, birth control pills, or IUDs. In the process, she also attacked natural birth control itself.  (I prefer to call it “co-operative birth control” for reasons I’ll go into later.)

First of all, I don’t think it’s appropriate to impose natural birth control on women/couples, any more than it’s appropriate for somebody else to interfere in a woman’s decision about whether to carry a pregnancy to term. Not only is it wrong for the state/church to do that, but hey—people who are forced into a behavior they don’t freely adopt, whether it’s birth control or an exercise program, are not going to practice it as carefully as those who embark on such a course of action voluntarily.s However, as a man who was voluntarily involved in the practice of natural birth control for fifteen years in my first marriage and the ten “fertile years” of my second marriage, I had to speak up on behalf of the natural method. What follows is a revised and expanded version of the comment I made on her video.

Although it has been criticized as ineffective, natural birth control can be quite precise. Vaginal mucous changes around ovulation, morphing from a consistency that tends to keep sperm out to a consistency that tends to pull it in, and this is easy to check. Between that and three minutes with a thermometer first thing in the morning, which allows a woman to know when her fertile time of the month is about to start, it’s not difficult for a woman to know if she’s fertile. The thermometer is the only purchase necessary to practice natural birth control. As someone who does his best not to be a “consumer,” having a birth control method that does not involve the frequent purchase of industrially created products is a big plus. My first wife and I practiced this as our sole form of birth control for thirteen years with only one unintended pregnancy, two years in, due to cyclical disruption while travelling. One unintended pregnancy in over twenty years is, I think, a pretty good ‘batting average.” Read the rest of this entry »





THE VEILS OF DELUSION

13 01 2019

Before I get going with my main topic for tonight, I want to briefly address “the government shutdown,” because what I have to say about it seems obvious to me,  but I haven’t heard it from anybody else: Reactionary political organizer Grover Norquist is famous for saying he wanted to shrink the government down to such a small size that he could drown it in a bathtub, and I think that is exactly what Pres. Turnip and his friends are attempting to do–not shrink the government, but see if it’s been shrunk to the drownable point yet. In all likelihood, we are not at that point, but those attempting the drowning are not prepared to admit failure about this, or it, seems, any other issue. Don’t get all smug, Democrats–in your own way, you’re the same kind of crazy.

That gets us back to the original point of this monologue/essay, so on with the show.

I had one of those spontaneous flashes of political insight the other day, the kind of thing that sometimes pops up when I’m trying to settle in and do my own mental housecleaning. There’s nothing like stumbling knee deep through your own mental trash to hang you up when you’re trying to do something to clean up the planetary garbage crisis. Inasmuch as I don’t feel like I’ve been terribly effective in my efforts to clean up the world outside, I guess I must not have done all that well at straightening my inner world, although I can chalk up a few achievements. I navigated a divorce without my ex and I, or the friend she left me for, hating each other, and I haven’t been pushy with a woman, punched a guy, or helped myself to my friends’ peanut butter in quite a few decades. Peanut butter? Yes, I used to be a compulsive peanut  butter eater. I no longer suffer from that affliction. Long story, actually several of them, but some other time, OK? We’re here to talk politics.

The flash of political insight was, “Climate change denial is to Republicans as Russiagate is to Democrats.” Let me lay out the parallels for you. Read the rest of this entry »





from”The Electile Dysfunction Chronicles”: the climax of Chapter 2018

25 11 2018

My apologies for being so late with this show, our first live show since the election. The first thing that happened to me was, “Climate change ate my homework.” Two weeks ago, heavy rain took me offline for enough of the week so that I couldn’t get the show together in time. Last week a close member of my extended family passed away, and his family scheduled his memorial gathering for….Sunday evening, so here I am, the Sunday after  our Continental Native American Day of Mourning, finally getting on the air with an election report.

Honestly, it was not a great election for the Green Party.  We had a few candidates whom we thought might pull off Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez-type upsets against Democrats in races where the only candidates on the ballot were a Green and a complacent corporate Democrat, but none of those races were even close. Beyond those few contests, Greens rarely polled as high as five percent.There’s even one instance of a Missouri Green running against a Republican, with no Democrat in the race, who allegedly received no votes. He didn’t even vote for himself? I find that a little peculiar. I’ve had friends  who voted Green in precincts that later reported no votes for Green candidates, so I have to wonder if that’s what happened there, only on a grand scale. More on that later.

The “successful losers,” especially Kenneth Mejia in California and Samson Lebeau Kpadenou in Florida, along with many of our other candidates, are philosophical about their losses, saying they understand that, the first time you run, you’re mostly just getting your name out there, and are likely to do better in future elections. There are plenty of examples in other countries of parties that have experienced a meteoric rise in popularity as the public camr to the understanding that their countries’ traditional major parties are either utterly clueless about how to meet changing conditions or actively making matters worse, but that has happened in countries that have much more open democracies than ours. More on that later, too.

Perhaps The Green Party’s biggest win in November of 2018 was in a race that didn’t have a Green running in it. Read the rest of this entry »





LAUGHINGSTOCK NATION

14 10 2018

Recently, our President addressed The United Nations, and something unprecedented  took place. When he said,

 “My administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

That usually solemn body broke out in laughter.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Several commentators that I read were aghast, enraged that our country has been brought so low that our President is laughed at by other world leaders.

Not me. I’m glad it finally happened, and I hope it’s not the only time. I wish the world had started laughing at America’s pretensions a long time ago.

I wish that, when Colin Powell falsely asserted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, he had been laughed at. I wish the UN had laughed at George Bush for supporting those lies, instead of acquiescing and giving the US permission to invade Iraq and Afghanistan on the ludicrous pretext that a bunch of Saudis hijacked airplanes and flew them into buildings in the US. I wish the UN had laughed at Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech. I wish French and British diplomats had laughed at the US when this country put them up to the UN resolution that was wrongly used to justify intervention in that country’s US-incited civil war, which plunged Libya from being, as Iraq once was, one of the wealthier, more stable countries in the region into being a failed state and a gateway for African refugees seeking to escape to Europe. Not that African refugees don’t need a safe haven. Read the rest of this entry »





INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ DAY

14 10 2018
     Last Monday was “indigenous Peoples’ Day,” still celebrated in some quarters as “Columbus Day.” In my quarter, I sat quietly on my porch that morning and did my best to reach out to the spirits of the beings, human and non-human, whom us Europeans destroyed by disease, murdered, hunted to extinction, and dispossessed in order to seize this continent. I opened my mind to the whole ecosystem they danced in, and the cultural forms in which they danced, in harmony, for tens of thousands of years before we, far cleverer and far less wise, showed up. I sincerely hope the few hundred years of our rude interruption turns out to be a small blip in a long era of peace and harmony, although the extent of our violation is so great that, when this ecosystem returns to a normal level of stasis, it is likely to be a very different stasis than the one that has prevailed here since the end of the last glacial epoch.
     After a while, my quiet time  was punctuated with multiple volleys of distant, but distinct, gunfire. We live about a mile from Nashville’s municipal shooting range, so I am used to this, and always feel grateful that, whatever the fantasies in the heads of the shooters may be, I do not need to be concerned that the shots indicate any immediate danger to anyone, including me. A great many of the world’s inhabitants do not have the luxury of staying relaxed when they hear gunfire. This particular morning, it occurred to me that the shooters, who do not normally turn out on Monday mornings–weekends are more common–were there because it was a national holiday, and that it was quite likely that to most of them, this was not “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” but “Columbus Day.” To me, it seemed that discharging firearms was an appropriate way to celebrate the life of the man who initiated the genocide of all the ancient, but firearm-free, cultures of North and South America.
     I let those thoughts go, and just kept sitting, contentedly wrapped in the trees, the birds, and the unusually warm October morning. After a while, there had were more shots. “A metaphor, perhaps?” I wondered.
      Then  the roar of a low-flying jet swelled into prominence. It occurred to me that airplanes are the modern equivalent of the sailing ships of Columbus’s various invasion fleets. Like the galleons of old, wherever airplanes go, they bring destructive, bland, corporate culture with them. Those who impose air travel bulldoze vast swathes of the natural world to create airports. Their construction, and the fuel they burn, are inseparable from corporate culture. Airplane culture is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and this reinforced my recurring thought that I can not, in good conscience, travel by air again.
     Full disclosure: the last time I flew, it was to visit family temporarily in Costa Rica, nearly 20 years ago, and that was  only after confirming that I could not book passage on a freighter from the Gulf Coast to Limon, Costa  Rica’s gulf port, which ships a great many of America’s bananas. Freighters, in any case, burn bunker oil, one of the most polluting fossil fuels.
      I kept sitting, the noise of the plane rapidly faded into the distance, and I was once again alone with my four-legged and winged neighbors and the spirits that, against all scientific evidence, I keep sensing in the world around me.
     Maybe what happened to me this morning was a message from the embodied spirits who once inhabited this valley, and the non-embodied spirits that persist here. Maybe they were telling me to hold steady, do what I can, and not be distracted by gunfire or airplanes or those who produce them. This is a time for combining clear vision, strong intention, courage, fearlessness, and, most important of all, it seems, patience. The foolish fog that has enveloped us will pass, and pass faster the less we lose our focus and contribute to the confusion.
     Mother Earth will return to a steady state. If we help Her, that steady state will likely include us. If we do not work in harmony with Her, She will cast us off in favor of whoever will, even if She has to go back to jellyfish and cockroaches and start over again from there. The choice is ours.
 







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