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 »





STARTING THE REVOLUTION WITH….GOURMET HOT CHICKEN?

12 08 2018

My attention was attracted by a headline in a recent Nashville Scene:

H*t Chicken Sh**t Addresses Gentrification in North Nashville

The event, which I’m not sure how to pronounce—“Hot Chicken Shoot”? “Hit Chicken Shi..”….well, never mind–was an effort by Nigerian-American gourmet chef Tunde Wey to call together some movers and shakers to not merely discuss gentrification over a “gentrification priced” $55 dinner, but to actually start funding a community land trust that will “allow residents to buy affordable homes while the land is owned by a non-profit in the community.”

I think this is really good news. I’ve been one of those beating the drum for community land trusts as a way to address gentrification  and was happy to see it featured so prominently at the Co-op Nashville conference a few years back. Recently I’ve been wondering what happened to all the positive energy that was generated at that gathering, so it was very sweet to get an answer without even having to go look.

I wish Tunde Wey and his friends every success in this venture. I hope to send some money  their way, and I hope you will, too. But, being a “deep green perspective” kind of guy, I also have some further thoughts about this project, and that’s what I want to share with you.

This story kind of reminds me of the peace activist slogan “”It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” Here in Nashville, we just went through a massive campaign to pass additional taxes for a public transit system that was widely, and correctly, perceived as a tool for further gentrification of the city. “I’ve already got developers calling me about property (along the proposed light rail route)” one advocate of the plan said, on camera.  (Oops!) This plan was defeated, largely by those who realized it was going to gentrify them right out of town. Something that does seem to be going through, on the other hand, is a “major-league soccer stadium” that will undoubtedly raise property values in its neighborhood, which happens to be one of the remaining pockets of affordable housing. The good news is that the soccer stadium plan is structured to listen and respond to input from the surrounding community. The relevant part of this story, however, is that Metro Nashville is issuing $275M in bonds to pay for the project, with the expectation that the stadium will do well enough financially to pay that back.

Read the rest of this entry »





DISRUPTION

8 07 2018

prettyswiftThis is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s 2013 book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” Due to this chapter’s length, I am only reading part of it this month. The beginning of the chapter, and the end of this month’s reading, are reproduced below. You can find the whole chapter here.

It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.

—Jonathan Swift

The world as we know it is built on a story. To be a change agent is, first, to disrupt the existing Story of the World, and second, to tell a new Story of the World so that those entering the space between stories have a place to go. Often, these two functions merge into one, since the actions we take that are part of the telling of a new story are also disruptive to the old.

This is how I see my work, the work of activists, and even on some level the work of artists and healers. Many of the stories I have told in this book exemplify the disruption of the old story: Pancho’s interaction with the policeman, for instance. I will share some more examples soon, but let’s start by considering a class of people that is the source of the greatest despair for many people I know. It is the class of “people who just don’t get it.”……

…..I believe the conversation must go deeper still. What that Nestlé VP did to justify her company, others can do to justify our whole civilization, as long as we grant them certain premises about the nature of life, self, and reality. For example, if we grant the premise that primitive life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” then any doubts about the overall beneficence of technology run into a brick wall. Similarly, if we grant the premise that nature bears no inherent tendency toward organization and that life is just a random collocation of lifeless, generic building blocks bumped around by purposeless forces, then clearly we need have no scruples about seeking to conquer nature and turn it toward human ends. And finally, if we grant the premise that each of us is a discrete, separate self seeking to maximize genetic self-interest, then ultimately there is no arguing over the broad legal and economic parameters of our society, which seek to overcome that wanton nature and channel it toward pro-social ends.

The Nestlé VP’s views are more or less sound within the framework I have described above, the framework of “making life better through technology,” of the progressive conquest of inner and outer nature. Her views will not change until that framework crumbles. They are completely at home within the Story of Ascent.

I have to note that I take issue with what I regard as Eisenstein’s overly generous characterization of climate change deniers, since we now know, much more clearly now than when this book was written, that the big oil companies became aware of the profoundly dangerous consequences of their business back in the 70’s, and chose to hide what they knew and dispute the revelations of others in the interests of short-term profits. Back then, it would have been much easier to change course than it is now, both because so much polluting infrastructure has been built and because we are now running out of time before the changes wrought by our use of oil and coal send the planet’s climate too far out of control for anything but a crash landing.

I suspect that many corporate executives like the one Eisenstein writes about in this chapter may likewise be well aware that the one percent is quite consciously sucking the rest of us, and the planet, dry. Be that as it may, however, they are human beings like us, and if we are going to create, as I said earlier in this show, “a culture that is equitable, ecological, responsible, visionary, and tolerant,” it is going to have to find a way to include these people. That is exactly the issue Eisenstein is addressing here, so tune in next month for the next exciting instalment–or read the book yourself, if you can’t stand to wait.

music: “Pulled Up,” Talking Heads

Am,” Umar Bin Hassan

On the August “Green Hour,” I began reading with this, and concluded with the end of the chapter:

I heard another smart guy one morning on The Diane Rehm Show, an energy industry consultant. One of the topics was the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, intended to transport Albertan tar sands oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The consultant made the following point, which I will paraphrase: “Look, if we don’t build the pipeline, the refineries on the Gulf Coast are just going to refine heavy crude from somewhere else, and the tar sands will send their oil to Asia instead of the United States. Stopping the pipeline won’t have any impact on climate change or ecosystem destruction. That oil is going to be extracted and refined anyway, so it might as well be done in a way that brings jobs to the United States.”

Philosophers of ethics would have fun demolishing these arguments, which would apply just as well to selling body parts from the Nazi concentration camps. Whether I sell them or not, the camps are still operating, so I might as well put those body parts to good use, right? The point here, though, isn’t to expose the logical flaws in the justifications for the Keystone XL pipeline or plastic bottles, but to show how the things we take for granted determine our moral choices. In the reality bubble they inhabit, their arguments make perfect sense. If it is indeed an unalterable fact of the universe that the tar sands will be extracted, then it would be vain and counterproductive to disdainfully refuse to engage that fact. If our current petroleum-based civilization is unalterable, then we might commend Nestlé for putting its waste to good use. If we take the growing busyness of people’s lives for granted, then we must welcome the conveniences that make modern life tolerable. Within their operating paradigms, both these smart people are doing good……..

…..

Years later, he says, he still gets emails from those participants, telling him that their lives have never been the same since. “Tell me when you give another seminar,” they say. “I don’t care what the topic is.”

The power of that act of generosity was far beyond the mere economic impact on the working-class janitors. Its power lay in its violation of the laws of reality as the janitors, their supervisor, and the seminar participants had known them. The impossible happened, that day. Experiences like that tell us, “The world doesn’t work the way you thought it did. The realm of the possible is greater than you believed it was.”

Music: “Money” — Pink Floyd

Waiting for a Miracle” –Jerry Garcia Band





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 »





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 »





SEX, TRANSIT, GLORIA NASHVILLE

11 03 2018

Before I heard the recent news, I was planning to write a story that examined the proposal to create a rail-centered mass transit system in Nashville. When I heard about Mayor Barry’s resignation and guilty plea on the national news (“a rising star in the Democratic Party,” they called her), I decided that I would be remiss not to comment on a situation that reveals so much about our country’s politics, and human nature in general. So, sex first, then transit.

Let’s  begin with the adultery aspect. I see two somewhat opposing dynamics here. On one hand, in order for people to be fully intimate with each other, honesty is essential. The number of people involved in that intimacy doesn’t necessarily matter, as long as they all agree on the same ground rules and are wiling to work through whatever emotional baggage those ground rules may bring to light. For most people, most of the time, the basic ground rule is, “You and me, baby. Two’s company, three’s a crowd.”

On the other hand, enough people have broken their promise of dyadic exclusivity so that we, as a society, should have figured out by now that we’re not necessarily wired that way. Read the rest of this entry »








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