A SMOKING GUN AT LAST, OR JUST MORE SMOKE AND MIRRORS?

13 08 2017

The latest round of accusations in the ongoing controversy over Russian interference in last year’s US election has produced what many in the media are calling “a smoking gun”: Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a woman described by the English national who set up the meeting as a “Russian government lawyer” who claimed to have “potentially compromising material on Ms. Clinton.”

There it is in plain black and white, we are told: the Trump campaign’s core members met with a Russian national and received “material aid” for the Trump campaign from her and her country. Ka-ching! Violations of US campaign finance laws!

Trial for Impeachment!

Trial for Treason!

Let’s step out of the roar of the crowd at this thrilling turn of events and consider what really happened, and what it means.

First of all, I think former US ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock has the most concise commentary on whether it is proper for representatives of a political campaign to speak with the diplomatic representatives of other countries:

Our press seems to be in a feeding frenzy regarding contacts that President Trump’s supporters had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and with other Russian diplomats. The assumption seems to be that there was something sinister about these contacts, just because they were with Russian diplomats. As one who spent a 35-year diplomatic career working to open up the Soviet Union and to make communication between our diplomats and ordinary citizens a normal practice, I find the attitude of much of our political establishment and of some of our once respected media outlets quite incomprehensible. What in the world is wrong with consulting a foreign embassy about ways to improve relations? Anyone who aspires to advise an American president should do just that.

In other words, the Democrats are attempting to sensationalize and criminalize just the kind of openness and communication, i.e., freedom, that the United States supposedly champions in the world, and that this country has pushed long and hard to establish in both the old Soviet Union and in the Russian Federation it has since become. What has turned the Democrats into such a bunch of soreheads? “Why do they hate us for our freedom?”

I think that the driving force behind that anger, and”Russiagate,” is  the Democratic National Committee’s frustration at having lost control of the narrative about Hillary Clinton, as not only Republican but left-wing non-mainstream news sources presented facts about her that disagreed sharply with the DNC’s presentation of her. “If only the Russians, and their allies and useful idiots in the American left, hadn’t publicized all that nasty stuff about her, some of which was totally made up, she would be President now instead of him. ” Read the rest of this entry »





THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE IN KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE…

25 06 2017

This report makes extensive use of a paper written by Barbara Bridges and Joel Kennedy, who pulled together most of the basic information and are quoted at great length in it, to the point where it’s hard for me to separate out their contributions from mine. The fairest way to put it is to give them credit as co-authors. Thank you both for your co-operation!

Not long after last month’s broadcast (which you may have heard as a repeat two weeks ago), I found an essay by two Knoxville Green Party members, Barbara Bridges and Joel Kennedy, about the consonance between Knoxville’s “2017 City Council Movement” and the Green Party’s “Ten Key Values.” None of these candidates have been active in The Green Party, but, to me, that doesn’t matter much. The ideas are  FAR more important than the brand.

knoxpeoplepower

Read the rest of this entry »





THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE

14 05 2017

The word “Resistance,” with a capital “R” and a hashtag, has become rather fashionable in America these days. Thousands of people are marching in the streets, turning out for town meetings, and generally letting it be known they are not pleased with our new administration’s presumption that its narrow technical victory in last November’s election constitutes a mandate for sweeping changes in the way our government is run and in the every-day lives of millions of people.

I’d like to take this opportunity to look at some popular movements around the world that have, to one degree or another, challenged the professional political class and returned government to the people, and examine how they were able to succeed, as well as ways in which they have failed. By learning from other peoples’ experiences, we can do a better job here in America.

My main examples will be Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Greece, and, to bring it down to the local level, the city of Montreal, in Quebec. That provides a spectrum. The Korean movement is just now in the process of achieving its initial aim. In Taiwan, the citizen’s movement has won its initial objectives and established mechanisms that, it hopes, will keep things from slipping backwards. In Spain, the “Podemos” movement is rising into power. Greece’s Syriza Party has won elections, but run smack into forces it cannot change, and is learning how to keep focused on its long-term goals while encountering short-term failures.  In Montreal, the political wing of the movement seems to have been absorbed into the mainstream, but has left significant changes in its wake.

As I write this, Koreans are celebrating the impeachment of President Park Geyun-he, who roused the ire of lawmakers and citizens alike by being too cozy with the country’s financial elite and by going along with US policies that have escalated tensions with North Korea. Her replacement, Moon Jae-in, the son of a North Korean refugee, was a student radical in the 70’s, and was jailed for his role in protesting the dictatorship of Ms. Park’s father. He went on to become a prominent human rights lawyer. On the basis of that, he was hired as Chief of Staff by the Korean Democratic Party’s previous elected President,  Roh Moo-hyun. He was the KDP’s candidate for President in 2012, when he narrowly lost to Ms. Park.

This is what democracy looks like!

This is what democracy looks like!

So, how did the Koreans do it? Massive street demonstrations were a major contributor. Some demonstrations turned out nearly two million people on the same day. Korea’s population is fifty million, so the equivalent in the US would be about thirteen million people all demonstrating against the government at the same time. The real key, though, was that Ms. Park’s party did not have a majority in the legislature (in which four political parties are represented, along with some independent members). Mr. Moon’s party had a plurality, but not a majority, and as the country became ungovernable due to the force of protest against Ms. Park, it was not that difficult to round up a majority to support impeaching her for her very real crimes. The Korean constitution calls for new elections when a President is impeached, and that created an opening for change. Read the rest of this entry »





GREEN PARTY ELECTION NEWS–THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

8 04 2017

Let’s start with election news: the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was a good news – bad news kind of evening for the Wisconsin Greens in Dane County elections on April 4. The Greens lost both contested races they entered but won four seats on Madison City Council, with candidates running unopposed in each instance.

district17

Samba Baldeh

district18

Rebecca Kimble

Steve Arnold took 41.4% of the popular vote in a two way race for Mayor of Fitchburg but came up short. Similarly, Ali Muldrow of the Greens garnered 44.1% and over 20,000 votes but wound up second in her bid for a place on the Madison School Board. Winning their seats to Madison City Council were Ledell Zellers (Distruct 2), Marsha Rummel (District 6), Samba Baldeh (District 17) and Rebecca Kemble (District 18). Congratulations to the Wisconsin Greens candidates and volunteers for making it happen!

Out in Los Angeles, US House candidate Ken Mejia had this to say about his April 4 election:

As of this morning, we are 7th out of 23 candidates, with the top 2 front runners who raised the most money (over $1,000,000 combined) getting a majority of the votes. However, we are only 249 votes away from 4th place out of 23 people – beating 16 Democrats and all other party candidates (Republican, Non-Partisan, Libertarian). In addition, there are many mail-in and provisional ballots left to be counted.

We always knew it was going to be a tough race, especially running as the outsider campaign in a very low voter turn out Special Election (9.6% voter turnout so far). Nevertheless, regardless of what the final numbers are, WE HAVE ALREADY WON!

yeswekenThe top two candidates, both Democrats, will face each other in a general election in June.The winners received 5-8,000 votes to Mejia’s 1300. When you consider that the winning, corporate-sponsored, candidates outspent him by a factor of ten to one–Mejia raised about $50K compared their roughly half a million each–Meijia did very well, indeed. By doing some admittedly simplistic math, we could say that, if Mejia had had access to the same kind of financing as the winners of the election, he would have received 13,000 votes for his money, as many votes as the actual top two combined, and nearly enough to win outright and not need a runoff. Sure, that’s a fantasy, but it points up the tilted nature of our political playing field, and the need for serious campaign finance reform, if not a whole other socio-economic-political paradigm.

So that’s some good news, and some bad news. The ugly stuff happened in Philadelphia, where Democrats did a serious number on Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala’s campaign for a Pennsylvania State House seat.

cherihonkala

Poll workers, who were almost universally Democratic Party activists, reportedly pushed people to vote for the Democrat by, for example, telling voters that if they were registered Democrats, they had to vote for the Democrat,  and otherwise overtly campaigning in the polling places. The write-in election featured the use of ink stamps of the candidates’ names, to eliminate the possibility of illegible ballots. Some voters reported that, when they requested a Honkala stamp, they were given a stamp for her opponent instead, and then not allowed to change the misvote. According to the official results, Honkala lost by about a 4-1 margin, but both she and the Republican candidate, the only one actually on the ballot, have filed complaints, and it seems the DA and the legislature will both be investigating.

And, on that note, a song from The Clash seems appropriate…..

The Clash,”Know Your Rights





SMOKE, MIRRORS, AND ENOUGH ROPE

8 04 2017

Have you noticed that American politics has slipped into Alice and Wonderland territory? That the Tea Party is now hosted by the Mad Hatter’s cousin, the Mad Hairpiecer? And that the Red Queen has morphed into the Blue Queen, with her king and all her courtiers  shouting “Consider your verdict!” when the trial hasn’t even begun, and ordering “Off with their heads!” as the fate of anyone who dares disagree with them? How many people have noticed this, and how many people are simply too swept up in the emotions of the moment to reflect on the absurdity, and danger, of  the things they are being manipulated into believing?

billy-butcher-trump-clinton-pop-characters-5

Thanks to Butcher Billy for the artwork!

The Wonderland metaphor breaks down somewhere around this point, because in our current situation, the Blue Queen and her court have been almost wholly disempowered by the Mad Hairpiecer, so that all they can do is howl. Given the size of their echo chamber, the howl sounds pretty fearsome, but, just like the trial Alice attended, the evidence in the question of  who stole the tarts–or, in this case, the election–remains shaky at best.

For instance, here’s a conversation with our former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that the off-with their heads/the Russians are coming crowd has had to conveniently ignore since it popped up smack dab in the middle of the mainstream, on NBC’s “Meet the Press“:

CHUCK TODD:
Does intelligence exist that can definitively answer the following question, whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials?

JAMES CLAPPER:
We did not include any evidence in our report, and I say, “our,” that’s N.S.A., F.B.I. and C.I.A., with my office, the Director of National Intelligence, that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report.

CHUCK TODD:
I understand that. But does it exist?

JAMES CLAPPER:
Not to my knowledge.

Read the rest of this entry »





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 »








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