“PLANET OF THE HUMANS” –IMPERFECT, BUT VITALLY IMPORTANT

13 05 2020

Depending on who you’re reading and your own viewpoint, “Planet of the Humans,” the new movie from Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs, is either a bomb or a bombshell.  Numerous prominent, well-respected climate activists have characterized the film as “BS” and called for it to be removed from circulation, saying  the film contains

“various distortions, half-truths and lies” and that the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet by promoting climate change inactivist tropes and talking points.”

Others, such as Richard Heinberg, offer a more nuanced view of the film, writing that it doesn’t always do justice to its subject, a critique of our response to the climate change we have provoked, but that, while

Planet of the Humans is not the last word on our human predicament. Still, it starts a conversation we need to have, and it’s a film that deserves to be seen.

So far, over seven and a half million people have seen it since it debuted on YouTube on the day before Earth Day, and it is, indeed, starting some conversations. I had an overall positive response to it, and have been surprised at how many, and who, among my friends have not shared my appreciation. This post/broadcast will be devoted to why I think it is a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion about how, or perhaps whether, we are going to keep the planet’s climate within bounds that will allow human beings to be part of its ecosystem, along with my criticisms of it, and my response to others’ criticisms of it. Read the rest of this entry »





WHEN THE BLACK SWANS COME HOME TO ROOST

12 04 2020

Here in Nashville, our county-wide governance body has district representatives, whose main job is to be the intermediary between the citizens of their district and the city, and “At-Large” council members, whose serve more of an oversight function, kind of like deputy mayors. In 2015, I ran for  that office, largely on a platform that the city was acting like the good times were just going to keep on rolling, but that was not really the case, and we had better do everything we could to prepare for the collapse that was coming. Two of my suggestions were  that we ought to foster local food production and create co-operatively run local industries that would produce a great many of the essentials of life that now come from far away, like shoes, clothing, and tools. I’ll talk about the relevance of those planks of my platform a little later.

I confess that I didn’t campaign very hard. I showed up at the candidate forums, figuring that I was unlikely to win, but it was important for the winning candidates to hear what I had to say, and figured I would get my message out to the general public in an interview with The Nashville Scene. The Scene, unfortunately, chose to belittle my candidacy and mostly dwelt on what a peculiar guy I am, rather than on what I had to say.

I chose not to run in the most recent Metro Council election. I had thought about this a good deal in the years since the previous election, and realized that, given the genuine technical legal complexities of writing legislation, if I were going to run again, part of my platform ought to be that I would spend much of my salary to hire a lawyer to assist me in framing my proposals appropriately. But I don’t know any such lawyer, and, even if I did, it seemed to make more sense to cut out the middle man–me–and just help the lawyer run for office. So, I contented myself with expressing my concerns to all the candidates, and got fairly sympathetic responses back from several of them, as I detailed at the time. I figured it was preferable to have council members in office who are at least aware of our long-term possibilities, and was gratified that most of those who won the multi-seat election were candidates who had responded somewhat sympathetically to my concerns.

Let’s fast-forward to our current situation. Although I have mostly been staying home (which is what I usually do anyway), last Monday afternoon at around five o’clock I found myself driving on some of Nashville’s major commuting routes, which are usually jam-packed with cars at that time of day. There was hardly anybody on the road. I stopped by “The Produce Place,” a locally-owned store that specializes in selling local produce. It was closed, because the store has cut the hours it’s open due to the pandemic. I picked up a very skinny copy of “The Nashville Scene,” no longer fat from entertainment and restaurant ads, and read that the free paper is on the ropes financially and was hoping its readers would form a financial support group so it could stay in business. The Scene, which once prided itself on tweaking the sensibilities of “the bizpigs,” as the editors called the city’s elite, is now owned by one of the wealthiest people in town, and caters to “the bizpigs,” a phrase that has not appeared in The Scene since long before they dissed my Metro Council run. I’m not sure whether I should be sympathetic to their plight or not.

But, I digress….From our home, we can often hear the roar of rush hour traffic on another major thoroughfare. Not lately. We live a couple of miles from the private-plane airport in Davidson County, and are used to having frequent low-flying small planes in our soundscape. They have grown rare. Of course, another factor there is that a tornado blew through the airport a few weeks ago and did millions of dollars worth of damage, destroying hangars and the airplanes parked in them. The upshot is, private air travel, like automobile travel, is way down. I’m glad. I’ve often wondered why it’s OK for one person in a private airplane to destroy the peace and quiet of the thousands of people who have no choice but to hear the noise.

I certainly didn’t foresee that the economic shutdown of Nashville would be due to a pandemic, but here we are, right where I ‘ve been saying we’re going. Such an unforeseeable, catastrophic event, is called “a black swan.” One definition of “black swan” that I read says that “they are obvious in hindsight.” It’s true that worldwide flu epidemics have become an accepted part of modern life, although they have never been this severe before, so yes, we should have seen this coming. In fact, disaster planners in our government did see it coming, but were ignored for the same reason the concerns I raised in my Metro Council candidacy were brushed aside:  anybody who suggests that there’s anything dangerous in our future, whether it’s a pandemic, an economic collapse (which might be set off by a pandemic),nuclear war, or climate disaster, gets short shrift from those who run our society, who are engrossed with making money and exercising power nowWe are a species that is wired to deal with immediate threats and gratification, not the long-term results of our short-sighted actions. We are going to have to change that to survive as a species. In the interest of raising human consciousness, this post is going to examine the effects of this particular “black swan,” and also note a couple more that seem to be circling and getting ready to come home to roost. Read the rest of this entry »





COME YE AMATEURS OF WAR

12 01 2020

I want to start with The Green Party’s official press release about the murder of  Iranian Major General Qassim Soleimani.

Greens joined demonstrations in at least 80 cities in 38 states over the weekend in response to the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassim Suleimani on Iraqi soil, which the Green Party has called an act of war and an unconscionable escalation of hostilities in a region where the U.S. has already wreaked immense devastation over decades.

Lisa Savage, seeking the U S Senate seat from Maine and Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, spoke at a demonstration on Saturday in Portland, ME.

“U.S. military aggression serves war profiteers, not the people,” said Savage in a recent statement. “We cannot bomb our way to a peaceful resolution of the conflict zone our nation has created in Iraq, nor is deliberately provoking Iran in our best interests as a nation. Diplomacy and the restoration of congressional authority over the president’s use of the U.S. military are urgently needed. We need senators and congresspeople willing to stand up to the Pentagon and the executive branch of government to say no to more warmongering.”

Suspicion among peace advocates that the drone attack was designed to move Iran, Iraq and the U.S. even further to the brink of all-out war has since been borne out by President Trump’s abhorrent threat to destroy Iranian sites that are “important to Iranian culture.”

Greens are also alarmed by reports that the Department of Homeland Security has ordered Customs and Border Protection to “’report’ and detain anyone with Iranian heritage entering the country who is deemed potentially suspicious or ‘adversarial,’ regardless of citizenship status” (source: Council on American-Islamic Relations).

Several state Green Parties also issued statements and calls to action.

The Green Party categorically opposes measures ‘authorizing’ preemptive or illegal military actions, or delegating to the president sole power to commit acts of war. Greens have called for the repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) 2001 to restrict the president’s ability to direct more attacks.

A great deal has already been written about this, much of it pure dissembling. The Democrats are outraged, not so much about the murder and the effects it is likely to have, as about the fact that they weren’t consulted first. Only few deeply principled Dems have denounced it wholeheartedly–Bernie Sanders and his deputy Ro Khanna, Tulsi Gabbard, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar, mostly. Some of the more libertarian Republican–Mike Lee and Rand Paul, f’rinstance–are also not pleased.

Corporate media have mostly framed Soleimani as a “terrorist with blood on his hands,” conveniently ignoring the fact that part of the job description for “general” is “being wiling to get ‘blood on your hands’ by ordering the soldiers under your command to risk their deaths in order to kill other people.” Every general in the world–Iranian, American, wherever, has blood on his, or, these days, her hands, or at least has indicated a willingness to do so. Disparaging a general for having “blood on his hands” is like criticizing a farmer for having dirt under hir fingernails. It comes with the territory.

Generals are willing to “get blood on their hands,” but generally recognize that it’s better not to–it’s better to outmanoeuvre your  opponent, and better still to find a way to make peace. That, in fact, is what Soleimani was doing in Iraq on the day he was murdered. According to the Prime Minister of Iraq, Soleimani was on his way to meet with him about getting together with the Saudis and de-escalating tensions in the region, and the US government knew it–in other words, all those top US government officials who are braying that Soleimani was “planning the deaths of more Americans” are either lying, or haven’t done their homework. The US has given the rest of the world yet another in the long list of reasons not to trust Uncle Sam.

Read the rest of this entry »





MR. MUELLER’S MARCH SURPRISE

14 04 2019

just imagine that long-eared critter is a Democratic donkey instead of a Wiley Coyote…..

First off, I have to confess that I did not expect what seems to be Robert Mueller’s core assessment: that he could find no evidence of collusion between the Russian government and the Turnip campaign. From my understanding of Mueller’s record, he has always been a “good soldier,” willing to do whatever The Empire needed him to do, even if it involved shady behavior. Much of it even looks like misbehavior, except that Mueller was promoted, not fired or prosecuted, after doing what he did.  That seems to indicate that somebody upstairs approved, and when I say “somebody upstairs,” no, I don’t mean God.

Mueller let Boston mobster Whitey Bulger get away with murder, and then get away completely. Bulger became a fugitive, and lived under an assumed name for a decade before finally being discovered. Mueller was willing to round up and imprison about a thousand Muslim men in New York City right after 9-11, some for as long as a year, without charging any of them with any crime, in what has been described as “an American Abu Ghraib.” Our court system decreed that his victims could not sue him or the US government for their mistreatment and disrupted lives. As FBI director, Mueller had no problem with torture of “terror suspects,” mass surveillance of US citizens, or with infiltrating anti-war groups looking for terrorists. He was willing to lie under oath and tell Congress there was no question about the Iraqis having “weapons of mass destruction.”

There’s lots more where those highlights came from, but the upshot is that I expected that Mueller, sent in to find Turnip guilty of colluding with the Russians, would find a way to charge Turnip with collusion, even though it was fairly clear to me from the outset that the whole thing was a sham. So, when Mueller’s “no collusion” assessment came out, I was as flabbergasted as any Democrat. Unlike a great many Democrats, i did not roar back with anger and denial. Instead, I did my best to find a perspective from which this turn of events makes sense. That turned out to be not so difficult. All I had to do was determine what has changed as a result of the Mueller investigation and the Russian collusion/interference publicity blitzkrieg that accompanied it, and look at what Mueller did or did not investigate, who he indicted, and what happened as a result of those indictments, and it all made sense. Read the rest of this entry »





“MAKING THE ECONOMY SCREAM” IN VENEZUELA

10 02 2019

“We’re going to make their economy scream.”

Richard Nixon, on US plans to overthrow the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende in the early  1970’s

I am outraged about the way the US is treating Venezuela, a country whose worst crime seems to be spending its oil revenue to elevate the living standards of its poorest people, instead of feeding an oligarchy like The Great God Mammon intended.

Nicolas Maduro, and “the Bolivarian Revolution,” are just a few steps to the left of Bernie Sanders, and yet we have a bipartisan effort to overthrow them. Sanderistas, and all you other “Democratic Socialists,” please note: this is what Schumer and Pelosi really think of you.

Democrats who have fulminated for two years about “covert Russian meddling” in the US and styled themselves “the Resistance” to Pres. Turnip’s hard right agenda for the US have no problem openly colluding with a radical right politician in Venezuela, overtly sending him millions of dollars, confiscating Venezuelan state assets in the US and turning them over to this self-proclaimed, not particularly popular, “President” and US puppet, and coordinating a de-legitimization campaign against the legally, and honestly, elected government of a sovereign nation that, oh horrors, has been forthright in its criticism of US foreign policy, and, in the face of US sanctions, started selling its oil for Chinese yuan instead of American petrodollars.

Gee, I seem to remember, back during the Democratic primary debates, that Ms. Clinton accused Bernie Sanders of “supporting the overthrow of the legally constituted governments of Cuba and Nicaragua.” Apparently, she and the rest of her wing of the Democratic Party think it’s not OK to do that to legally constituted, highly oligarchic, US boot-licking dictatorships, like the Batista and Somoza regimes that once ruled over Cuba and Nicaragua. But hey, if it’s a legitimately elected, broadly popular socialist government, as in Venezuela or modern Nicaragua, or even faintly populist, like the unfortunate Mr. Zelaya in Honduras, why, go right ahead and kill it before it spreads. “Kill” is not a metaphor here. I’m assuming that’s why Elliot Abrams has been made the US government’s point man on Venezuela. He has shown no hesitation in his willingness to kill the poor in order to save the rich.

 

And saving the rich is definitely what is happening in Venezuela. The
“anti-government uprising” is largely a revolt of the middle- and upper classes, who have seen their standard of living slip as Chavez, and now Maduro,  do what they can to help the poorest members of Venezuelan society. And make no mistake about it–the upper classes in Venezuela are more European, i.e., whiter, than the lower classes, and despise Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez as “black Indians,” whose rule they resent the same way some white Americans couldn’t abide having even a lackey of the corporate system like Barack Obama as US President, because he was black. The reaction against Maduro is flat-out racist.

We Greens get a certain amount of pushback from people who think we ought to work within the Democratic Party. The Democrats’ hypocrisy around this Venezuela caper is a prime example of the kind of conduct we Greens are unwilling to tolerate. The Green Party rejects the Democrats’ hypocrisy of claiming to be opposed to racism at home, while supporting what amounts to white supremacy in Venezuela (and Palestine, too–but that’s a whole other subject.) We are an anti-imperialist party as well as an anti-capitalist party, and the Democrats’ willingness to join with the Republicans in bullying Venezuela is imperialism pure and simple–not to mention that the US government is clearly stating its intention to turn Venezuelan oil production, now managed by a mostly state owned company, over to multinational, um, “oiligarchs.” The Green Party is about freeing this country from oil addiction, while the Democrats are happy to mug one of our neighbors to make sure our oil fixes keep on coming.

I want to include a few caveats here. The first is that I, and most other supporters of Venezuela, don’t necessarily agree with every detail of their overall plan, and also can see ways in which the country’s rulers have not done a good job, even by their own standards. Nevertheless, I am broadly supportive of their intentions, which are, to quote Professor Greg Albo,

(to) deepen.. democratic proceduralism, indigenous and human rights and citizen initiatives. But it also embraced an alternate economic model in linking participatory democracy with cooperatives and worker self-management.

That’s exactly what The Green Party is about, and it’s also the program on which Bernie Sanders rose to prominence. So, when I said that those in control of the Democratic Party are willing to kill to stop democratic socialism, I think my concern is well-founded. I hope that adds to your understanding of why Greens cannot be Democrats.

The second caveat is that, of course there is corruption in Venezuela. The Bolivarian Revolution was, and remains, a political movement which pays little attention to psychological transformation. When you try to make change happen merely by passing laws, anyone who is more or less governed by the flaws in their personality–greed, jealousy, desire, selfishness, for example–will continue to do whatever they can to work the system for their personal advantage, especially when it is clear that the system is being stressed by outside parties, like the US, who want to destroy it, and that makes peoples’ lives difficult and uncertain.

The third caveat is that, from my point of view, the worst crime Venezuela has committed has been to extract all that oil….the same crime that the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and a whole lot of other countries are committing….but who’s gonna bell that cat? You can be sure our government has no intention of shutting down Venezuelan oil production for good. The administration has said outright that it intends to turn Venezuelan oil production over to US oil companies.

But of course, it’s not entirely about oil. Our government has also announced that Venezuela is just the first domino–they plan to go after largely oil-free Nicaragua and Cuba next–can Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, and any other non-submissive Western Hemisphere governments that remain be far behind? If a New Democrat-Green coalition takes over the government of Canada, will the US invade? Will British Prime Minister Theresa May negotiate the surrender of the Maduro government, and, on her return to England, tell the press that she believes her actions have brought “peace in our time”?

Read the rest of this entry »





CONTROL ISSUES

15 04 2018

There are a number of seemingly disparate issues affecting the country these days. When I examine their roots, and the way our society is attempting to deal with them, I see that they actually have a lot in common, and that the commonly accepted responses to them are failing to have their hoped-for effects, for a common reason. Likewise, the optimum solutions to all these very real concerns, while individualized according to the particular manifestation they treat, all spring from a common root. I am going to describe these problems, the conventional-wisdom solutions to them, look at the unintended consequences that these solutions engender, and, as best I can, suggest a Green,  radical–literally “to the root”– solution to them.

GUNS AND PUBLIC VIOLENCE

Gun violence has been a hot-button heart breaker for far too long. The natural, and obvious, response is to make it more difficult to obtain firearms, or at least, as comedian Chris Rock has suggested, to make the price of ammunition prohibitive. Five-thousand-dollar bullets would certainly rearrange a lot of people’s priorities. Hey, the Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms–it doesn’t say anything about ammunition! I have no problem with making  high-tech rock throwers, or the rocks they throw,which have no other purpose than to harm or kill other beings, a lot more difficult to obtain.

But, in spite of the tremendous hue and cry about this devastating fact of American life, legislatures, especially Republican-dominated ones, remain deaf to the appeals of the growing clamor for gun control. Read the rest of this entry »





LARRY NASSAR AND THE BOUNDARIES OF COMPASSION

18 02 2018

Even in the midst of a veritable avalanche of revelations of sexual predation, the case of Larry Nassar sticks out like a gaping, bleeding wound. It’s not just that he took advantage of his position as US Olympic Gymnastics Team doctor to use the bodies of young girls as objects in his sexual fantasies. It’s not just that, apparently, a whole lot of the officials involved with him knew what he was doing, and chose to ignore it. It’s that, in our culture, the objectification of female bodies is, in many ways, the norm, so that, viewed from a certain perspective, what he was doing was not so far out of the ordinary. Our commercial culture uses sexually attractive women’s bodies as a lure to sell things to men, and as a way to shame women, deny their worth, and guilt-trip them into buying things that will, supposedly, make them more worthy. In this world of women-as-objects, sex becomes detached from emotional intimacy. “Sex robots” seem like a reasonable use of technology….hey, they’re just the ultimate sex toy, right? This objectification, and consequent alienation, is a symptom of the normalization of sociopathy in our culture.

not the real thing…just a fantasy

People are rightly horrified by Nassar and what he has done. The father of one of his victims attempted to assault him in the courtroom. He will not be the last person to do so. Child molesters are the very bottom of the social ladder in prison, and often meet violent ends. Whatever thrills Mr. Nassar got from taking advantage of the young girls with whom he was entrusted, he will be paying for them dearly.

But our culture has plenty of Larry Nassars  who have figured out socially acceptable ways to victimize innocent people. I want to examine the case of one man in particular, a man whose initial way of molesting women and children was to drop bombs on them. He didn’t know the children he killed and wounded. He didn’t even see them. He was killing people for what he considered a higher purpose, so that the country he lived in would prevail against the country whose women and children he was killing. Read the rest of this entry »








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