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 »





THERE MUST BE SOME KINDA WAY OUT OF HERE…..

12 02 2017

I promised that, this month, I would devote my attention to the question of how to get out of the Republican quicksand our nation has fallen into, and how to set our steps on a saner path that will not lead us back into the swamp of corporate-dominated politics, Republican or Democratic. I  want to start by looking at what happened in another country–Argentina.

I recently had the pleasure of a long, informative conversation with a man who grew up there, during “The Dirty War.” “The Dirty War,” in case you aren’t familiar with it, is the term that is used to describe what happened in Argentina after the military took over the government in 1976. There were guerrilla forces operating in the country, but the military didn’t just move against them. They decided to get rid of everybody who kinda sympathized with the guerrillas’ ideals of a more just and economically equitable society. That included the brother of the man I spoke with. His twenty-year old brother was in the military, but somebody thought he might be a threat, so away he went. Thrown from a helicopter into the ocean? Roasted alive? Or simply shot? His family has never learned his fate.

His disappearance was profoundly unnerving for them. Sometimes the military just “disappeared” someone, and that was it. Sometimes, after one member of a family had been abducted, they would come back for the rest of the family, one at a time, or all at once. There was no way to know. dirtywar03My friend was a teenager at the time, “a long-haired hippie kid,” as he described himself–though you’d never know it to look at him now. So there he was, sixteen years old, growing up in a country where the middle class he was part of was not that different from the US middle class. He was going through all the things an American boy his age would have been going through–girls, grades, and, I suspect, ganja–but he also had to think about whether he was going to be kidnapped and tortured, and how he might respond to that. Fortunately, he never had to find out.”But since then,” he told me, “the kind of things that most people feel scared or worried about just don’t bother me that much.” Read the rest of this entry »





CORPORATISM WITH THE GLOVES OFF

15 01 2017

Last month, I went on so long on the question of “how did we get here?” that I didn’t have time to address my next two questions,“What is the nature of this “here?” we now find ourselves in?” and  “Can we/How do we change this “here” into a different, happier ‘here’?” I’m going to address that second question–the nature of our new environment–this month. I’m also going to examine just how much choice we really had about this change.

Trigger warning: I’m going to talk about “the big O” a lot in this post–no, not the anime series, not Oscar Robertson, not that “big O.” I’m going to talk about oligarchy.

Trump has made it abundantly clear that his show of sensitivity to the needs of disgruntled, formerly or still barely middle class white Americans, was a huckster’s trick to draw in the marks. His promise to “drain the swamp” was nothing more than campaign rhetoric, like Ms. Clinton’s claim to be against the Trans-Pacific Partnership she had spent so much time promoting as Secretary of State, or her alleged concern for the welfare of that same sorta-middle class that Mr. Trump was wooing. More on that later. Trump not only isn’t draining the swamp, he’s bringing in bigger, hungrier alligators. His initial cabinet selections, if they are confirmed, constitute the wealthiest Presidential cabinet ever assembled, most have clearly made their fortunes by squeezing the common people, and none show any signs of remorse for their ruthlessness.

For example, Wilbur Ross, who may be our next Secretary of Commerce, made a good bit of his 2.5 billion dollar fortune through corporate raiding–buying companies that were in trouble and putting them through bankruptcy, which involves shedding workers, lowering wages, and reneging on pension plans. He iced his money cake by making millions in the mortgage bubble that prefaced the financial crash of 2008, and was further enriched by the policies Wall Street’s friend, Barack Obama, put into practice, which bailed out the banks and left homeowners hung out to dry. In The Nation magazine, David Dayan comments on this Read the rest of this entry »





“GRAB ‘EM BY THE (CROTCH)–YOU CAN DO ANYTHING”

6 11 2016

In family therapy, we often find that one family member in a dysfunctional family is “the designated patient,” the one who acts out all the family’s secret dramas and traumas, the one that everybody agrees is the “one who needs help,” and the rest of the family uses the distraction of the one family member who is willing to publicly misbehave to mask all the ways that they themselves are neurotic, dysfunctional, or perhaps stark raving bonkers.

Donald Trump has taken the position of “designated patient” in our national dysfunctional family.

if he were a poor man....

Our designated patient-in-chief

He has, um, trumpeted to the world all the petty nastiness that Republicans used to keep on the down-low about how they despised anyone who is not a right-thinking, right-voting, right-sexing white American, and at this level, at least, he is honest and truthful, in the sense of being willing to voice sentiments that other people think but won’t say.

In no instance has this been more the case than in his notorious “grab ’em by the (crotch)–you can do anything” video. He was certainly thinking of it in individual terms, but it has been one of the guiding postulates of American politics at least since Roe vs. Wade, when our national discourse first had to confront what goes on below the belt. Republicans seized the crotches of those who are horrified by the notion that it’s a woman’s choice whether she should have a child or not, while Democrats grabbed the pro-choice faction’s collective private parts. As more “sexual freedom” issues have arisen, from single mothers’ rights through gay rights to transgender rights, the division–and the  parties’ firm hold on the reproductive organs of their respective demographics–has only grown firmer, enabling them to engage in a wide variety of reprehensible behavior as long as they were willing to protect “the rights of the unborn,” or “a woman’s right to choose.”

On the Republican side, we have fundamentalist Christians supporting Trump, a notorious libertine, because he has pledged to re-criminalize abortion and appoint Supreme Court justices who will repeal Roe vs. Wade. These justices would doubtless also come down against gay marriage and other freedoms that those whose sexual expression is somewhat unconventional claim. Much of the argument for supporting Ms. Clinton, likewise, rests on fear of reactionary judges and Ms. Clinton’s pledge to appoint judges who will uphold Roe. “Sure, she’s terrible on lots of issues,” many of her supporters say, “but it’s about the Supreme Court.” OK, let’s look at who’s on her short list for the Supreme Court. Read the rest of this entry »





AN INTERVIEW!

5 11 2016

…with me, not Dr. Stein–don’t get too excited! But, if you ever wondered what I sound like, here’s your chance.

“The Mystic Skeptic” is a radio show that originates on WUTZ, The Farm’s radio station, and also broadcasts on WRFN, “The Green Hour’s” home.

I realized after the interview that my own Green Party experience has been so centred on our struggle for ballot access that I neglected the main ideas we are advocating: a “Green New Deal” that will create millions of new jobs by converting us to a completely renewable energy economy by 2030, our social/economic stimulus plan to make college free, forgive all student debt and implement “Medicare for all,” which would have the effect of liberating millions of young (and not-so-young) people from debt peonage and enabling them to pursue their dreams, and monetary reform, which would end our usurious system of banking for profit, which creates massive societal debt to the wealthiest people and institutions in our country.

Ah, fame is fleeting…the show went off the air and the soundcloud page was taken down. Sorry!





OVERCOMING MONOPOLY POLITICS

9 10 2016

Most Americans treat our country’s two-party political system as if it had been handed down from on high, some kind of eleventh commandment. “Thou shalt only have two political parties, and all others shall be chastised as ‘spoilers’ and cast into outer darkness.”

Not only is this central tenet of American politics not one of The Lord’s commandments, it isn’t even in the US Constitution, which makes no mention of political parties whatsoever. Our current system, which makes it difficult for other political parties than the Republicans and Democrats to get on the ballot and share in the country’s governance, was, over time, tweaked by these two “major parties” to discourage competition,which was already damped down by our “winner take all” electoral system. It’s as if it were the water that we’re fish in, totally taken for granted, just as most people take our lack of a national health system, expensive college education, and lack of paid maternity leave, things which pretty much every other country anywhere near as well-off as ours has, totally for granted, and even dismiss as “unrealistic” the notion that we could have such things in this country.

Let’s use a metaphor to describe our situation. Suppose Ford and General Motors had total control over who could sell cars in America, and used that control to make sure that no foreign car companies were permitted to import their products into the US, and no other domestic car manufacturers could set up business, either. Suppose all that Ford sold was Pintos, which, for the benefit of my younger readers, were notorious for being “unsafe at any speed,” as Ralph Nader pointed out long ago when he was the fair-haired boy of the liberal Democrats. But I digress…suppose all Chevrolet sold was monster SUVs that got about 6 miles per gallon and also had serious safety issues. Suppose Ford and Chevrolet, or the corporations that owned them, controlled the automotive press, and reviews of their products stressed the safety and economy of SUVs and Pintos alike, and routinely trashed foreign cars and Mr. Nader, with his silly vendetta about those cute little Pintos.

2016-election

election 2016–which will you choose?

That’s the American political situation today. Read the rest of this entry »








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