WHEN AN ABSTRACT PRINCIPLE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN VERY REAL LIVES

13 09 2020

In a social media conversation I was involved in recently, somebody made this comment:

Voting 3rd party is a good way to let marginalized groups know that your abstract principles are more important than their very real lives.

I thought it was B.S. at the time, and said as much, and did my best to reply “on the fly,” as they say. Since it’s a meme I’ve encounter several other times, it seems worth exploring the role “abstract principles” play in politics, as well as the effects they have on everybody’s “very real lives,” whether they are in a “marginalized group,” or one of the marginalizers. So that’s what I’m going to be addressing here.

The Green Party’s “four pillars” are ecological wisdom, social justice, grassroots democracy, and nonviolence. Ourten key values“add to that list “decentralization,” “community-based economics and economic justice,” “feminism and gender equity,””respect for diversity,” “personal and global responsibility,” and “future focus and sustainability.” I suppose you could call these “abstract principles,” but, at a level, that’s what being a political party is about–a group of people agree that, if certain principles were applied to the way societal decisions are made, the results would be an improvement on the current situation. In those places where Greens have governed, mostly in foreign countries, but in a few lucky cities and towns in America, we have done our best to apply these principles, and I think that, by any reasonable standard, the way we have applied our “abstract principles” has improved the “very real lives” of not only “marginalized groups,” but the whole community.

Democrats, and the Republicans as well, also govern by applying an abstract principle. Yes, they share the same principle, although they differ in the details of applying it and the rhetoric with which they surround it. Let’s take a look at what that “abstract principle” is, and how it has affected the lives of not just “marginalized groups,” but most Americans–because here, in late stage capitalism, everybody outside of the top 10% of wealth holders has been, or is about to be, “marginalized.”

The first thing to do, obviously, is name and define the “principle.” Its name is “neoliberalism,” and here’s the beginning of Investopedia‘s fairly extensive definition/discussion:

Neoliberalism is a policy model that encompasses both politics and economics and seeks to transfer the control of economic factors from the public sector to the private sector. Many neoliberalism policies enhance the workings of free market capitalism and attempt to place limits on government spending, government regulation, and public ownership.

Neoliberalism is often associated with the leadership of Margaret Thatcher–the prime minister of the U.K. from 1979 to 1990 and leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990–and Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the U.S. (from 1981 to 1989). More recently, neoliberalism has been associated with policies of austerity and attempts to cut government spending on social programs.

I think there’s one qualifier that needs to be added to this definition: neoliberalism likes to place “limits on government spending” in all areas except for military spending. That said, let’s look at how the Democrats and Republicans have applied neoliberal principles to America, and the world, and see what kind of results neoliberal principles have produced for “marginalized people.”

Way back in the nineteen eighties and nineties, in accord with the neoliberal principle of “transferring the control of economic factors from the public sector to the private sector,” the Democrats, led by Joe Biden, changed the way we help college students from a being mostly a grant and government loan program to a private loan program run by for-profit banks, with loans that cannot be renegotiated by declaring bankruptcy. This has sunk a whole generation of college students into a lifetime of debt, leaving them unable to buy houses and making it difficult for them to marry and raise children. For what reason? As Joe Biden said at the time, Read the rest of this entry »





TRUST ISSUES

9 08 2020

One of the big headline stories  recently is that Dr. Anthony Fauci and his family now need bodyguards because there are people making credible threats against them. The covid epidemic has sparked a lot of distrust and division. Some people call it “the planned-demic,” a tool that the Democrats are using to make Trump look bad, that Dr. Fauci and others are inflating the danger in an attempt to demoralize the country (thus the death threats), and thus the right thing to do is to ignore all the warnings about wearing a mask. “It’s killed 0.04% of our population,” one commenter on my Facebook feed wrote. “Yeah, this is getting serious.” Yeah, it’s only about four times as many Americans as got killed in the Vietnam War, but instead of being drawn out over a decade, it’s in the last five months. Nothing serious. But the point is, a whole lot of people don’t trust that the government and the media are telling them the truth about what’s going on.

Their distrust is both irrational and rational. First, here’s the irrational part. If you step back far enough to take in what’s going on all around the world, it’s clear that covid is a real threat, and that our government has botched its response, and that botched response has been amplified by the skepticism of so many Americans. But their distrust is also rational, given that the American medical system and its advocates in media and politics have told us that it is the best medical system in the world, even though it’s clearly failing us right now. Even before the current crisis, there was widespread awareness of the many faults of our system–wildly inflated prices, overtreatment and overbilling, misdiagnosis, a tendency to focus on minutiae and miss the big picture.

At the same time, America’s medical system is the most expensive in the world, and has used its wealth to prevent any kind of universal health insurance coverage, let alone a national health system that would lower the cost of that health coverage by removing the profit motive. The US is the only “developed country” in the world where one of the most common side effects of a cancer diagnosis is bankruptcy. Indeed, this is the only country in the world where “medical bankruptcy” is even an issue, and where chronic disease is a pretext for the extortion of wealth from the sick person and their family to doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and other already fabulously wealthy “health care providers,” such as, here in Tennessee, the Frist family and Phil Bredesen.  So gee, why would anybody distrust the word of the medical establishment?

Along similar lines, there is strong bipartisan support among the people of this country for some kind of universal-access public health system. The Democratic Party has had to pull out all the stops to prevent an advocate of universal single payer health care, and a lot of other very popular reforms of our society, from becoming its Presidential candidate. So, does the Democrats’ platform acknowledge this incredibly popular, demonstrably helpful idea? No, in large part due to the influence of money from for-profit medical businesses. The Dems nominated a candidate who is not afraid to state publicly that he would veto “Medicare for All” if Congress, by some miracle, passed it. And Bernie Sanders, the guy who campaigned so valiantly for “Medicare for All,” says he will support that vetoer, the burned-out husk of Joe Biden, for President. Yet another reason not to trust the medical establishment or our political system–or even alleged “insurgents” in our political system.

If you are African-American or otherwise of non-European origin, or if you are a low-income Euro-American, you know you can’t trust that the police will not, at any moment, swoop in and kill you. There was a story on the news as I was writing this about an African-American family that included an autistic young adult, Kobe Dimmock-Heisler.

Kobe Dimmock-Heisler

Kobe’s mother

His grandfather called 911 for help because Kobe was waving a knife around. By the time four police officers showed up, he had calmed down, and the family told the police they didn’t need their help and asked them to leave. The police didn’t leave. They forced their way into the house, which got Kobe agitated again. In response, the police shot him a total of six times, murdering him in the presence of his horrified mother, grandfather, and other family members. 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 »





TRUMP, LOOSE NUKES, THE RUSSIAN MAFIA, SEYMOUR HERSH, AND THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING LINK

9 09 2018

Recently, I went looking for something authoritative about Russia during “the lawless years” that followed the fall of the USSR. After doing some internet searching, I found that Seymour Hersh, whose reputation is reasonably impeccable, had written a story, entitled “The Wild East,” on that subject in 1994. Yes, I know there are those who attack him, but if you’re reporting on things that annoy those in power, or who aspire to power, you will be attacked. Hersh has won plenty of recognition for his work, and this particular piece was published in The Atlantic, which does not put its support behind dicey reporting.

The page was so discouraging to look at that I almost gave up without reading it. It was in that old-style 90’s internet format–wall-to-wall words, no margins, no pictures, no skipped lines between paragraphs. At the top of the page were an underlined 1 and a 2, indicating that it was the second page of an article, since the 2 was black and the one was blue. Might as well start at the beginning, I said to myself, and jumped to page one.

The US embassy in Moscow

Hersh began his story with an account of the unsolved murder of a staff member of the American Embassy in Moscow: Read the rest of this entry »





THE UNITED STATES OF DENIAL

12 11 2017

I want to explore the geography of the United States of Denial just a little. No, “The United States of Denial” is not a new name for Egypt. I’m talking about the good ol’ USA, where we are all united in being in various states of denial. Some of those states are adjacent to each other, some are pretty far apart, and some of the ones that are adjacent to each other are simultaneously quite distant from their neighbors. That’s one of the ways we’re united–in denying our denial. Those other people–they’re in denial Not me!

There’s Republican states of denial, Democratic states of denial, and then there are various liberal-left-socialist-Green states of denial, as well. I think it’s wonderful that, even though the United States of America has effectively closed its political process to all but two basically similar parties, in the United States of Denial there’s room for lots of political flavors.

Republican states of denial have been on the front burner a lot lately. Climate change denial has been front and center, along with science denial in general, as well as denial of racism, sexism, and compassion.  And then, of course, there’s denial of reality in general. Speaking of generals, there’s denial of the danger that a war anywhere in the world would pose to life everywhere in the world.

That particular state of denial, the denial of the danger of war, borders one of the most prominent Democratic states of denial, which also denies the dangers of war. While the Republican state of denial of war danger borders North Korea and Iran, its Democratic counterpart bumps up against Russia. The two states of denial also share a common border with Afghanistan.

Republican climate denialism is so well-known that I’m going to skip over it and give some attention to its neighbor, Democratic climate denialism. Democratic climate denialism is more subtle than the rugged Republican version, which simply denies that the problem exists. Hey, mass extinction is the capitalist way to solve overpopulation!

Read the rest of this entry »





THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE NEW REPUBLICANS…CAN THE GREENS BECOME “THE NEW DEMOCRATS”?

11 09 2016

Today’s date, September 11th, is, to borrow President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words, “a day that will live in infamy.” On this date in 1973, Salvador Allende, the Bernie Sanders of Chile, salvadorallende_251who, unlike Bernie, had succeeded in become his country’s President, was killed in a military coup that had the full backing of the United States and especially our then-Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. The Chilean military, with the assistance of the United States, didn’t just take out Allende. They jailed, tortured, and murdered thousands of Chileans, and forced tens of thousands more into exile. The US then used Chile as a base for “Operation Condor,” which orchestrated the murder of thousands of mostly non-violent left-wing activists all over South America, most notoriously in Argentina, where “the dirty war” killed at least thirty thousand people. That’s a US government program, directly approved by Henry Kissinger, that targeted people like me and, probably, people like you. So, when I think about Hillary Clinton, who has repeatedly declared her admiration for Henry Kissinger, being President, when I notice the approbation with which her followers greet any mention of her faults or approval of the Green Party, when I read that a Clinton-supporting PAC has budgeted a million dollars to pay Clinton supporters to harass Sanders supporters and Greens on the internet, I start feeling a little nervous, and since today is the anniversary of the Chilean Bernie Sanders being murdered by Hillary Clinton’s inspiration, this becomes a more emotionally charged anniversary than it would be if a protegée of Henry Kissinger were not so likely to be our next President. Donald Trump is dangerous because he doesn’t really seem to have a plan.

readyforoligarchy

Do not think about a Green Party!

Ms. Clinton, on the other hand, is dangerous because she does seem to have a plan–and it’s not one she’s sharing with the general public. With a horde of pundits and bloggers ready and willing to bend the truth to discredit any criticism of her, not to mention discrediting the critics themselves, I start wondering if we have a “Ministry of Truth” in our future.

 

Oh yeah, it’s also the fifteenth anniversary of the day a bunch of Saudis apparently hijacked several US airliners and flew them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, killing a mere three thousand people. OK, it was three thousand all at once, not one by one, but…. Anyway, because the Saudis did that, the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. If that makes sense to you, then you can accept the World Trade Center story exactly as the mainstream media portray it. It doesn’t make sense to me and I don’t accept the story, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. The Allende-Kissinger story is much more apropos. Read the rest of this entry »





THE PARTY OF PSYCHOSIS, THE PARTY OF NEUROSIS, AND THE GREEN ALTERNATIVE

1 11 2015

First, a short news article from Democracy Now:

…in New Hampshire, an intruder armed with a hatchet was caught inside a Planned Parenthood clinic early Wednesday morning after smashing computers, furniture, plumbing fixtures, medical equipment, windows and walls. The Claremont clinic, which provides a range of services, but not abortions, was spray-painted with the word “murderer” earlier this month.

The perpetrator turned out to be a teenager.  In Israel, the police routinely shoot Palestinian teenagers who act like that.  They call them “terrorists.” So….sure, the vandalism in New Hampshire was just plain stupid, but isn’t it also “terrorism”? And, if it’s ” terrorism,” shouldn’t those who incited it be prosecuted along with the perp? I’m looking at you, Republicans andFaux News.

Planned Parenthood has not done anything illegal or unethical, but it has been condemned in the court of right-wing opinion, and legislatures across the country are effectively vandalizing the organization by cutting off state funding, eliminating a whole spectrum of health care services for low-income women.

They claim they’re doing this in the name of “Christianity,”a religion whose holy book says:

Read the rest of this entry »





BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME

8 08 2015

In some ways, our government’s shift to the use of drones for a lot of the “dirty work” of the “War on Terror” has been a publicity godsend.  Sure, the U.S. is still committing war crimes, but look at the up side: because “our boys” (and girls, now, too) don’t have to go out on so many missions that put them in harm’s way, a lot few soldiers are coming back seriously traumatized, wounded or in body bags.  Because these robot war crimes are being committed by soldiers sitting in front of video game consoles in Nevada, who kill from thousands of miles away and never have to actually experience the live reality of the deaths they cause, and because they are not subject to suicide revenge attacks by the relatives of those they have killed, fewer American troops are getting their brains twisted up by PTSD.  Because the deaths from drone strikes happen far away from the protection of American troops, American photographers are not on hand to record the atrocities created by our drone strikes.  The graphic images and horrific experiences that helped turn the American public against the Vietnam war and our full-on invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan are being neatly avoided, leaving the corporatocracy a freer hand to pursue their plan, which seems to involve killing enough Muslims to intimidate the rest into doing things our way.

 bad p.r.!

bad p.r.!

worse  P.R.!

worse P.R.!

I often wonder how long it will be until somebody who doesn’t like what our government is doing to “Islamic extremists” gets some drones of their own and uses them against us, or figures out how to hack our drones and turn our own weapons against us.  I’m sure it’s only a question of time.

hiroshimavictim

Really, really terrible p.r.!

And, speaking of time, this week we are observing the 70th anniversaries of those ultimate terrorist attacks, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Unlike Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, they were part of a great military victory for the United States, but the public relations “fallout” was awful:  the brutality of those attacks inspired a worldwide peace movement that has helped restrain the U.S. or any other country from using a nuclear weapon in warfare ever since.  What a waste of money to spend billions of dollars on weapons that public opinion won’t let our military use!

This worldwide peace movement has, unfortunately, been at its weakest here in America, where we have not had a major conflict since the middle of the 19th century.  Here in America, we have long been insulated from direct experience of the horrors of war.  Is that photo of a corpse real, or CGI?

What if there were some way to bring the consequences of war back home, back into the lives, yards, and closets of every neighborhood in America?  With that thought in mind, here’s a macabrely comic monologue, written by Joanne Forman and delivered by Ruth Fahrbach.





SOLSTICE MUSINGS

22 12 2012

music:  Terry Allen, “Xmas on the Isthmus

Here it is, almost Christmas, that day when so many of us celebrate the birth and teaching of a man who said “You cannot serve both God and Mammon”  )Matthew 6:24).  For some reason, this has become a time of year to give people lots of things, although Jesus, the ostensible centerpiece of the occasion, also is reputed to have instructed his disciples to “sell all you have and give the money to the poor” if they wanted to follow him.  And sure, the story tells us that “the three wise men” gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but these are traditional offerings to a venerated being or deity, unlike, say, an Xbox or a Victoria’s Secret gift card.

But the American economy is dependent on xBoxes and Victoria’s Secret, not on incense or even gold, for all its potent symbolism.  The Christmas season is when money changers in the temple, excuse me, I meant to say  merchants, count on earning a substantial chunk of their annual income.  Christmas has become a peculiar crossbreed of a holiday, with Jesus on the outside and Mammon on the inside.  That is because, for all our culture’s protestations about Jesus and Christianity, when you come right down to it, it really is money that we worship.

Let me quote to you, verbatim, one of the dictionary definitions of “worship”:

extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>

There is no question that money, and the accumulation of more of it, is what far too many Americans esteem, admire, and are devoted to. Read the rest of this entry »





A NATION OF (ILLEGAL) IMMIGRANTS

24 11 2012

music:  Buffy Ste. Marie, “Universal Soldier

Two weeks ago, I was talking to you on “Veterans’ Day,” and, uncharacteristically, one might think, had nothing to say about it.  Truth be told, it’s one of my least favorite national holidays.  Kill people you don’t know because your own private voice in your head tells you to, and you’re a psychopath.  Kill people you don’t know because the government’s voice in your head tells you to, and you’re a hero.  I fail to see a significant difference.  No matter why you kill other people, or aid and abet their murder even if you’re not the one pulling the trigger or pushing the button, it scars your soul, or your psyche, if you’d prefer a more concrete way of thinking about it.  Or, how about this:  killing people, for any reason, wounds the murderer.

Not that I blame “our troops.”  Those who end up herded into the military, whether out of a misplaced sense of duty or a psychopathic desire to kill people they don’t know, or simply because it’s one of the few places that offers a steady paycheck and halfway decent benefits any more, are, as the old song went, “more to be pitied than censured.”  Certainly, these veterans deserve all the help we can give them–far more than is available today, since our current frame of reference in regard to American former child soldiers (No matter what the law says, 18- and 19-year olds are, in many ways, still children.) makes no recognition of the enormity of what happens to the minds of those who kill for their country.  Society pays a huge price, in the form of an epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder, millions conditioned into a very undemocratic attitude of blind obedience to authority, and denial.

And those are only the psycho-spiritual costs of our militaristic approach to the world.  There’s also the huge waste of material resources, as our limited supplies of  all the things that make a complex technical civilization possible on this small planet are, essentially, raked into a pile and burned in the process of warfare.

But denial is what I want to focus on tonight, denial of another sort.  Read the rest of this entry »








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