THE STATE BLINKS

9 09 2012

As I reported last month, the 6th Circuit Appeals Court heard the state of Tennessee’s appeal of our case at the end of July, and apparently largely agreed with us, telling the state to go ahead and put our candidates on the ballot while they wrote their final decision.  They didn’t order the state to conduct a lottery to determine ballot placement, but shortly after the court hearing, the state primary gave, uh, “primary facie” evidence of why that might be a good idea, when the first candidate listed  (alphabetically) on the Democrat primary ballot beat out the DP’s anointed candidate by a 2-1 margin and became their official candidate for U.S. Senate, in spite of being a gun-toting racist tea partier who thinks corporate Republican Bob Corker is way too tame.

Well, at least he’s got it right about Corker being a corporate whore–although, as a multi-millionaire, maybe Corker is more of a corporate whore-monger than an actual whore. Read the rest of this entry »

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A DAY AT THE RACES

6 11 2008

I spent election day as a paid poll worker, showing people how to use touch-screen voting machines.  I found this extremely ironic, but played by the rules and kept my amusement and skepticism to myself.  I was working in a mostly-black precinct in a mostly-Democratic county in a mostly-racist (excuse me, I mean Republican) state.  There was no reason for anybody to mess with the machines or the voters where I was, and everything went smoothly.  No votes were flipped, only two people were turned away for not having enough ID, and only one person was asked to cast a provisional ballot, out of 156 votes cast that day.  We all thought it would be much busier, but once we studied the voting rolls and discovered that about three-quarters of the eligible voters had voted early, we realized our hardest job of the day would be staying awake and alert.  Election day was strictly a mop-up operation.

The lack of voting “problems,” i.e. hacked voting machines, and the paucity of complaints about disenfranchisement seems to have been a nationwide phenomenon.  Obama won in Ohio, Florida, and Virginia.  The first two states were the most recent sites for election night robberies, and Virginia was widely considered to be this election’s equivalent.  My sense is that Repugs could see the writing on the wall and so didn’t try to flip votes, since the likely consequence of trying to cheat in an election you lose is investigation and punishment.

Here in Tennessee, the Green Party’s results were encouraging.  Chris Lugo tripled the number of votes he drew in his 2006 Senate run, going from about 3,000 to over 9,000, while first-time candidate John Miglietta fell about 500 votes shy of Ginny Welsch’s 3600-vote pinprick in the leg of the mighty Jim Cooper.   Oh well, Ginny spent a lot more money.  Are people hypnotized by brand names or what?  My precinct polled 2-1 for Obama, but gave Cooper a landslide and split evenly between Republifascist Lamar Alexander and Obama Democrat Bob Tuke–sorry, Chris, you only got 3 votes out of the 155 cast yesterday up where I live.

I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that people can think voting for Obama is voting for “change we can believe in” and not see that supporting Cooper and especially Alexander is shooting that change in the foot, if not the kneecap.  Well, you know what I think about the likelihood of serious change under Obama’s leadership.  As I quipped to a friend of mine, all those “Change” signs will take only a few modifications to be perfect for panhandling–like, “Change I can believe in–but bills would be better,” or something like that.  Mr. Obama faces a challenge at least as serious as the one faced by Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, perhaps more serious because, at that time, we still had domestic oil production, a manufacturing infrastructure, a population accustomed to and capable of hard physical labor, and medical costs were not out of hand.  That’s just the top of the list.

Speaking of the top of the list, Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney got almost 2500 votes in Tennessee, which shows the value of getting on the ballot–in 2004, GP candidate David Cobb was a write in and only 33 people wrote him in.  (Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin each got one write-in vote in the precinct I worked.)  Ralph Nader, who is thought of as a Green by most people who aren’t in the Party, increased his vote in the state from just shy of 9,000 four years ago to just shy of 12,000 this time.  If there’s a mathematical continuity of increase for Chris and Ralph, Chris can expect to be elected to the Senate in 10 years, but Ralph Nader will be 138 before he carries Tennessee, even without factoring in the dip from the 20,000 votes he garnered as the Green Party’s nominee in 2000.  I hope he lives that long.   Gotta love ‘im when he says:

Dear Senator Obama:

In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words “hope and change,” “change and hope” have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not “hope and change” but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

In a post-election interview, Nader was bold enough to say that Obama could be a great President or “an Uncle Tom” for the powers that be, which caused the interviewer to launch a totally misguided attack on him.  Hey, Rahm Emmanuel is going to be White House Chief of Staff–what part of “Uncle Tom” don’t you understand?  Nationwide, Nader got about 539,000 votes, and Cynthia McKinney got about 119,000.  Too bad we couldn’t have figured out a fusion ticket.

I went to an election-night party at Green Party candidate John Miglietta’s; the room was full of people with Obama t-shirts, social activist-types who supported Miglietta over Cooper but viewed Obama as “one of us” and who felt that his election was an affirmation of their values, permission for them to press ahead with their programs and agendas, conveniently ignoring the facts of Obama’s career that Nader so eloquently set forth.  I think that’s the good news about Obama’s election.  Whether he supports them or not, the activists are going to cut loose, and that is going to shake things up for the better in this country, but  I suspect there will be a lot fewer “Obama” shirts at our next election party.

The bad news will come as it sinks in that America has been financially castrated by not just the eight years of the Bush junta’s’s ripoff reign, but by the seeds sown in the supposedly Democratic Clinton years:  the deindustrialization caused by NAFTA and the WTO, the investment bubble blown due to the Democrats’ collusion in the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and the military buildup that is silently sucking America dry.  I think my activist friends are going to bump up against the reality that there is no money for social programs, because the rich got to the trough first and emptied it.   Whatever the rest of us do, we will have to figure it out on our own and among ourselves.  Me, I’m glad I always liked gardening.  It’s probably going to figure large in my future.

In the shorter term, once-and (likely) future candidates John Miglietta and Chris Lugo have announced that they are starting a Green Party PAC with their leftover campaign contributions.  The PAC will enable them to keep raising funds even though the election is over.  This will provide seed money for the next round of Green Party candidates here in Tennessee.  I hope they are many.  Whatever Obama turns out to be, we are going to need a lot more sane, grounded people in politics.

music:  Brother Martin, “Green Party Figure”






SARAH PALIN–BAD COP! JOE BIDEN–GOOD COP?

11 10 2008

I am getting really tired of hearing scary Sarah Palin stories.  I mean, of course she’s the wicked Christian witch of the north, of course she’s ignorant and simplistic and has a very limited worldview, and yes I think that makes her a very poor choice for a leadership position in this country, or even the state of Alaska or the town of Wasilla, where it took only 600 people out of the total population of 5,000 to make her mayor.

And, just as an aside, I’m not impressed by her ability to shoot a moose.  I have been around moose in Vermont, and, while you can’t walk up to them and pet them, they are not particularly shy of humans.  A friend of mine up there commented, long before Ms. Palin became a national figure,  that shooting a moose takes about as much hunting skill as shooting a parked car.   As for dressing a moose, I think that, if you’re going to eat meat, it’s only honest to know how to take it from live animal to what’s for dinner.  My wife can do that, with deer, anyway–we have no moose here in Tennessee–and she’d make a much better VPUS than Ms. Palin.  It is, as the New Agers say, a very grounding skill.  Maybe it should be one of the Vice Presidential prerequisites?   What if we got a vegetarian candidate? But, I digress….

There are two points I’d like to make from my “Deep Green Perspective.”  The first is that Joe Biden is just as scary, in his own way, as Ms. Palin, and the second is that what many see as Ms. Palin’s weaknesses look like strengths to her core supporters, so that when she is attacked for these qualities, it only rallies her base and makes her stronger. Many people don’t understand that we have three colliding worldviews interacting in this election.  When you see it that way, a lot of things start to make sense that seem quite baffling otherwise.  But first, let’s take a critical look at Joe Biden.

A lot of my “left Democrat” friends believe that Obama is playing the Roosevelt strategy, running a conservative campaign that will mutate into a much more radical approach to restructuring the country once he has gotten himself elected by acting more mainstream than he really is.  When I see that he has cold warrior Zbigniew Brezinski advising him on foreign policy and Wall Street insiders like Robert Rubin and his acolyte Jason Furman giving him pointers on financial policy, I have my doubts that foxes like these three will really create a safe henhouse, y’know?  And then we have Joe Biden, “the Senator from MBNA,” a heartbeat away from the Presidency–and sure, Obama’s a lot healthier than McCain, but we’ve got people at Palin rallies screaming “kill him!” when Obama’s name gets mentioned.  Bullets do not respect your healthy lifestyle, folks, and, as I’m going to discuss later, there’s every reason to take those threats seriously.

“The Senator from MBNA” is an epithet Joe has earned by his earnest support of Delaware’s largest corporation, or what was Delaware’s largest corporation until it got bought out by Bank of America, which, with that purchase and its recent acquisition of Merrill, Lynch, is well on its way to fulfilling its name.  Monopoly capitalism….Karl Marx would feel vindicated.  Joe was one of the first Democrats to support the Republican-originated bankruptcy reform bill, which has made it much harder for middle-class Americans to declare bankruptcy.  He voted for it four times over the seven years it took to get the bill passed; Obama, to his credit, voted against the bill, one of only 24 Democrats with enough spine and compassion to do so. Here’s Arianna Huffington on the consequences of this bill:

So what does the bill do? It makes it harder for average people to file for bankruptcy protection; it makes it easier for landlords to evict a bankrupt tenant; it endangers child-support payments by giving a wider array of creditors a shot at post-bankruptcy income; it allows millionaires to shield an unlimited amount of equity in homes and asset-protection trusts; it makes it more difficult for small businesses to reorganize while opening new loopholes for the Enrons of the world; it allows creditors to provide misleading information; and it does nothing to rein in lending abuses that frequently turn manageable debt into unmanageable crises. Even in failure, ordinary Americans do not get a level playing field.

All because the credit-card sharks wanted to be sure of getting their pound of flesh.  And Joe Biden is supposed to be a “friend of the working man”?

And then there’s his support for the Patriot Act.  He introduced a similar bill in the nineties, because of the Oklahoma City bombings, and boasted after 9-11 that the Patriot Act was “my bill.”  He has also been a strong supporter of US military intervention.  And there’s his offhand racism–but there’s one key issue of his that impacts me personally.  That issue is the War on Some Drugs.  Biden initiated the creation of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which one wag recently characterized as “the only federal agency with a mandate to lie to the public,” as well as being a prime mover of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug “offenses.”  He introduced and secured passage of the so-called “RAVE Act,” which turned bottled water and glow sticks into drug paraphernalia.  Joe is personally responsible not only for the Patriot Act, but for the “War on Drugs” as we know it.

Now, I’m not going to admit to any so-called criminal activity myself, but I will say that I have a lot of friends who use “illegal drugs,” and the vast majority of them are responsible, hard-working people; but in the eyes of Joe Biden and the US government, they are all unfit to hold a job, drive, or raise children, and should be stripped of their voting rights and all their assets and jailed or re-educated until they see the error of their ways.  We are supposed to vote for  Biden and Obama because they are not as frightening as McSame and imPlalin?  Can you say “Kafkaesque,” boys and girls?  Very good.  How about “Orwellian”?  When you vote for the lesser of two evils, you are still  voting for evil.  And what does that make you?

musical interlude:  Tom Neilson, “Democrats

Well, enough about the particulars…now for the deeper perspective.  Here’s how it looks to me:

For most of the time since humans became humans, we have lived in small bands of closely-related individuals whose primary commitment was to support each other, whether repelling large carnivores, hunting big game, or fending off raiders from the next valley who thought we were impinging on their hunting territory.  That, in my opinion, is where Sarah Palin, and the millions who support her, are coming from.  They are kind, considerate, and compassionate–with their own people.  The rest of us don’t count, and if we attack any one of them, we have attacked them all.  Loyalty to their pack and obedience to its leader are their supreme virtues.  Questioning consensus reality is treason; active dissent from it is even worse, because we have to hang together to survive in a hostile world.  If you want to know more about these folks read Bob Altenmeyer’s The Authoritarians.  It’s available for free, online.

I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but about three-quarters of the people in the world are still in the grip of this us-versus-them mindset, even though the saber-tooth tigers and the great herds are all long gone, and People Who Are Not Like Us live in the next apartment, not a day’s walk away through the woods.

Joe Biden and Barack Obama, I believe, have evolved beyond this primitive, anachronistic world view–but that does not constitute an endorsement!  They see that the whole human race is in it together on this planet and have a somewhat egalitarian approach, believing that debate among equals is no sin, unlike the Palin-McSame crowd.  However, the Biden-Obama worldview is so firmly committed to materialistic rationality that it incurs the hostility of those committed to the primitive religion of McCain-Palin consciousness, while it in turn is hostile to higher mysticism–hence the support for the war on some drugs and the commitment to the neoliberal, corporatist, ant hill/consumerist/growth agenda, which is as dangerous to the soul and ecology of the planet as the neoconservative, corporatist, ant hill/consumerist/growth agenda; the two differ mainly in how much they trust the ants–excuse me, I mean common people–who will populate the worlds they envision.  Palin-McSamers think humans are basically evil and will do the wrong thing unless watched constantly; the Biden-Obama crowd has seen far enough to postulate the perfectability of human nature, but will constantly be confounded by both  the prerational and postrational impulses that arise from deep within, because the possibility of post-rationality is not comprehensible to them; they, with Freud, think that religion is necessarily primitive, and they have little tolerance for it in either case.

Well, some small percentage of the population, myself included, (at least that’s what I like to think) has gone beyond the polarization games of American politics, and we are neither afraid of the bad cops (McSame/Palin) nor drawn to co-operate with the good cops (Obama/Biden).  We could get along just fine in a world without cops, thank you, and we have a feeling that our numbers are growing exponentially.  If the struggle between the good cops and the bad cops doesn’t destroy the planet’s ability to sustain human life, we will likely take over when they have cancelled each other out.  It’s just a question of time.

Meanwhile, I’m not going to be scared into voting for the good cop.  I’m going to vote for the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney, as well as local Green candidates John Miglietta and Chris Lugo.  And if all the “left Democrats” got fed up with being left by their party’s consistent selection of center-right, neo-liberal, pro-growth, ecologically ignorant candidates and did the same, we would have quite a little movement on our hands, and maybe we could get this country moving again.  It’s just a question of time; but time, my friends, is running out.

music:  Bruce Cockburn, “Gospel of Bondage





SOUNDS OF SONNENSCHEIN

8 06 2008

I went to the Sonnenschein Festival in Hohenwald, Tennessee, over the weekend, a curious little hybrid critter enjoying its third year down in the hill country of south-central Tennessee.

Hohenwald is the county seat of Lewis County, in a part of the state so poor and inaccessible that it was, as I understand it, not even settled until the 1890’s.  The thin soil won’t grow much, not even trees of any great size, and so it was one of Tennessee’s last frontiers.  Nothing much is happening there, nothing much ever has happened there.  When the Tennessee Department of Transportation, that infinite cash cow and welfare system for the state’s road contractors, started to build a 4-lane, divided highway between Hohenwald and Columbia in fulfillment of their self-appointed mission to connect all the state’s county seats with these monstrosities, the legislature actually woke up and stopped them, because everybody could see that the expense and environmental destruction involved would be totally out of proportion with any benefit–and that was before $4/gallon gasoline.  That’s how podunk Hohenwald is.

Anyway, the Sonnenschein Festival is, as I said, a curious hybrid.  The city fathers’ original intent was to have a little bluegrass and gospel music and some cotton candy, bratwurst, and knicknacks, but some of the local counterculturalists got wind of the event and signed up for booths featuring solar energy, biodiesel, alternative construction methods, and the like, and suddenly there were two very different festivals going on all intermingled with each other, even though there originally seemed to be an attempt to segregate all the new ideas off in a building some distance from the main festival grounds.

The festival moved, this year, from around the courthouse to downtown Hohenwald, a difference of a block or two, but the struggling downtown merchants hoped it would generate some more business for them.  Lord knows, they need something. The few miles of four-lane that did get built heading east out of town has sprouted a roster of all the best-known names in low-end American chain stores, including a “Family Dollar” and a “Dollar General Store” going head-to-head and a Walmart Superstore that, even without its parking lot, takes up more room than all of downtown Hohenwald put together–and then there’s the empty, smaller building they vacated when they built the “superstore,” sitting out in front of it–good for what?  Green Walmart?  Get real!

The festival got a lot more integrated with the move. The “alternative” booths are no longer so isolated– Green Party U.S.. Senate Candidate Chris Lugo was right next to the Kewpie dolls.  Another new feature of this year’s festival was a full roster of countercultural speakers in what was referred to on the program as “The Strand Theater.”  I have been an irregular visitor and shopper in Hohenwald for twenty-five years, and I couldn’t recall ever seeing a theater there–imagine my surprise to find that one of the town’s famed “dig stores”  (featuring cheap, cheap, cheap second-hand clothing) was now once again a theater, which apparently it had been back before television shuttered so many of the country’s small movie houses.  With the cost of gas to get to the nearest multiplex now rivalling the cost of movie tickets, a local revival was taking place.

I was curious to see whether the townsfolk would turn out for the speakers, and I was gratified to see that, in significant numbers, they did.  Not massive numbers–a couple of dozen at a time, making them about half the audience–but from what I could gather, many of those who were attending are the town’s movers and opinion makers, and what they appreciated and took from the talks will probably be spread all over Hohenwald.

The opening speaker was David Blume, a lively advocate for permaculture and home-brewed alcohol fuel.  He criticized the country’s current ethanol binge as ” bad implementation of a good idea” and stressed that smaller ethanol plants are much better at providing re-usable outputs (such as feed and fertilizer) than the massive production facilities now being built.  He emphasized that there is not one big answer to the fuel crunch so much as a lot of small, diverse answers, and got cheers and applause from the whole audience when he pointed out that, for a fraction of the cost of the Iraq war, we could have provided “food and energy for everybody in the world.  And when everybody’s got enough food and enough energy, what’s there to fight about?”

The next speaker was Catherine Austin Fitts, whose specialty is relocalizing economics and helping people get their money out of what she calls “the tapeworm economy.”

“What good is it to go and protest the war,” she asked, “when your money is invested in keeping it going?”

And she challenged bible-belt Hohenwald with, “Where would Jesus Bank?”…she can do that, she’s a professing Christian.  Significantly, she will be meeting with the county commission on Monday to discuss how to make Hohenwald more financially self-sufficient.  I’m impressed.

Then there was a break for a benefit auction to help raise money for the festival and Green Living Journal, a magazine that I help edit.  I came out of that with a hundred-dollar gift certificate from “Our Nursery,” a local permaculture nursery that specializes in bamboo.

The third speaker was Albert Bates, a veritable polymath from the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm.  He painted a dire picture of the mess we have gotten into, with oil in decline and CO2 on the rise, but pointed out that many small towns are taking stock of the crisis and organizing to meet it–and, once you are organized to meet this challenge, you’re…well, in a much better position to meet it, and less likely to just get sucked under as it alters our society.

“We have used up five hundred million years worth of stored energy in just the last hundred and fifty years,”Albert said, “and the binge is almost over,” adding a William Burroughs line about “Hairless Apes in the Gasoline Crack of History.” On the positive side, he pointed to brain research that shows that optimism chemically primes our frontal cortexes to be better at problem solving than pessimism does, and quoted economist David Fleming to the effect that “localism is at the limits of practical possibilities–but the decisive argument is that there is no alternative.”

It seems that the movers and shakers in Hohenwald are starting to see that, which I find very reassuring.  After Albert, I had absorbed about all the talk I could handle, and I was hungry, so I went outside and strolled the midway, passing over the bratwurst, the barbeque, and the deep-fried snickers bars, until I found an  old friend cooking health-food pizza in a solar oven he had built himself.  I had to wait for the biracial lesbian couple ahead of me to get done fixing up their kids with pizza, but just the idea of a biracial lesbian couple with kids in ol’ whitebread Hohenwald was delightful.  The heat was brutal and the crowd was thin, but I could feel a change in the air.  Out there in the hinterlands, they’re starting to get it.  Me, I’m hiring my friend to build us a solar oven.  It’s time.

music: Greg Brown, “Our Little Town”





ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH, GOOD FRIENDS….

11 05 2008

The Green Party of Tennessee met in a smoke-free back room at Nashville’s Italian Market last Saturday.  I’d like to say we decided the future of Tennessee, with Party co-chair Katey Culver playing the part of capa di tutti capi, but overall I’m afraid our effect on Tennessee politics is just not that powerful.

The party is, however, beginning to make itself felt.  Chris Lugo, who is once again the party’s candidate for US Senate, reported that the two months he spent as the only person seeking the Democratic nomination finally shamed the Democrats into running somebody against Lamar Alexander, who has been all but endorsed by our so-called Democratic governor.  It’s a bad news/good news situation for Chris–while he’ll be in competition with a Democrat, candidate Bob Tuke is calling for a slow, “phased withdrawal” from Iraq and escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, leaving Chris as the “get out now/settle by non-military means” candidate.  The rising tide of frustration with the war and the Democrats’ failure to end it, plus the fact that this is Chris’s second run, will hopefully improve his showing.

The party nominated TSU political science professor John Miglietta to run against 5th District Congressman Jim Cooper.  John has a tremendous advantage over just about anybody else the Green Party could run, because he is not now, and never has been, a hippie, unlike most of the rest of the party.  If most of us got anywhere close to mounting a serious challenge to the two-party system, the Demopublicans would have no trouble finding dancing skeletons in our closets, which they would use to fan the flames of voter hysteria, and, if necessary, have us arrested or at least publicly humiliated for daring to think for ourselves.  But John, bless his heart, is just as square as they come, and he still sees things our way.  That means a lot to me. For him, it means he could go all the way to the top.

One of my old hippie teachers used to talk about the importance of acceptance of our ethos by “honest squares.”  This is actually quite scientific; if the hippie/Green world view can be arrived at by someone through a process completely independent of the counterculture, that amounts to independent validation of the results of the decades long “thought experiment,” to borrow a phrase from Einstein, that was originally launched by the late and much lamented trio of Dr. Hoffman, Dr. Leary, and Aldous Huxley.  Well, this doesn’t have much to do with our current race for political office and against time, and will probably embaras the hell out of many Greens, but I just had to go and open my big mouth, now, didn’t I?  Well, I’m not responsible for the fact that the Green Party’s lineage goes back through the North American Bioregional Congress to the Haight-Ashbury Diggers to the San Francisco Mime Troupe.  I just think we should be proud of it, that’s all.

Back to the subject at hand!  We also selected delegates to the party’s national convention, and determined who they should vote for–five out of eight are committed to Cynthia McKinney, with Kent Mesplay, Kat Swift, and “uncommitted” each getting a delegate.  I have a hard time getting excited about Green Party Presidential candidates.  In my view, it’s just a publicity stunt unless we’ve got a shot at getting a majority in Congress.  We’re a grassroots organization, know what I mean?

Anyway, Cynthia is black, she’s a woman, and she hasn’t sold out.  I wish her well.

Speaking of grass roots,  I wish I had a whole lot more candidate news for you.  I wish we had a crew of people running for the state legislature, where many races are uncontested, but we are awfully thin in the ranks.  However, we do have a plan afoot that could change that.

The plan is our Ballot Access Lawsuit.  The Demoplublicans have written the rules for getting on the Tennessee ballot in such a way that it is virtually impossible for any other parties to get their party name printed on the ballot.  The only problem is, that’s unconstitutional, according to a court in Ohio, where the laws were about as tortuous and monopolistic as they are here.  The Tennessee legislature could have changed that, but, being made up of Demopublicans and Republicrats, they had more important things to do, like allow mountaintop removal in Tennessee.  So, we are having  to sue in Federal court to overturn Tennessee’s laws.  Since it’s the same Federal Court that overturned Ohio’s laws, we think we have a reasonable chance for success.

The State Attorney General, being a committed Demopublican, doesn’t want to let the Green Party on the ballot, and so he is doing everything he can to drag this case out past this year’s election, just as the state’s election officials are doing everything they can to stall legislation that will replace the state’s touchscreen voting machines with equipment that will produce a verifiable, recountable paper trail.  Put that together with the fact that the US has more people in prison than any other country in the world, a quarter of the world’s known prison population, in fact, and you can get downright cynical about what a wonderful, free country this is.

Well, anyway, the Ballot Access lawsuit will put our party name on every ballot in the state, even if the newspapers won’t give us the time of day.  That could just be the little match that starts the big fire.  Maybe that’s a lot to hope for, but the future of the human race is at stake.  “Once more unto the breach, good friends…..”





RALPH RIDES AGAIN

8 03 2008

Like another prophet from the eastern Mediterranian, Ralph Nader has arisen. Unlike Jesus, Nader probably wishes he didn’t have to. At his age he would probably rather be mentoring somebody young, energetic, and charismatic, and not be subjecting himself to the slings and arrows of outrageous liberals. But, with his favorite Democrat, John Edwards, out of the race, the Clintons having shown him the cold shoulder since 1996, and Barak Obama choosing to watch TV rather than find time to meet with him, what else could an unreasonable man of principle do? It’s not just Ford Pintos that are “unsafe at any speed,” it’s the American electoral process.

You know, it really burns me up that Barak Obama takes time to watch “The Wire,” a TV show about the drug war, but won’t make time to meet Ralph Nader. That’s your mind on television, Barak, and frankly I think it displays remarkably poor judgement–not that Hillary’s is any better.

Both remaining Democratic Party candidates are from la-la land, dedicated to perpetuating the American Dream–which is called “The American Dream” because you have to be asleep to believe it. Neither Barak nor Hillary is speaking to the real issues–the unrestrained imperialism that has made America the pariah of the world, the unquestioned lifestyle that takes enough food to feed a person for a year and turns it into one tank of so-called “biofuel” for an SUV, the collapsed economy that is diminishing possibilities for reform faster than you can say “economic stimulus,” the criminal administration that, judged by the standards that were set by a previous US government at Nuremburg in 1946, should be sent to the gallows by the dozens.

Now, I need to point out here that I don’t think the death penalty is appropriate for anyone. I have spent enough time in jail to know that a lifetime behind bars is a far crueller punishment that the release of death. And by the way, I got that from less than a week in the slammer. But, I digress….

Ralph may or may not run as the Green Party candidate this time. Not everyone in the GP was impressed by our fling with him in 2000, and I can understand why. The simplest way to put it is that he is used to being in charge, and the GP likes to run by consensus. He also has a much higher profile than anybody else the Greens could run, which annoys some Greens and appeals to others.

My own opinion about third-party presidential runs is that they are an expensive exercise in futility unless the party in question is already dominant in several states and has representatives and senators at the national level, but that they are also necessary for the integrity of the third parties involved. So, from my view, the Greens ought to run Ralph Nader while we can. At 74, we’re not gonna have him to kick around much longer. Sorry, Cynthia McKinney–you’re black, you’re female, you’re outspoken, but you got time to wait.

At the state level, former Green Party US Senate candidate Chris Lugo, who has spent two months as the only person seeking the Democratic nomination to run against slick, popular fascist Lamar Alexander this year, has been written out of the Dims’ script.  Mike Padgett, a Clinton/Democratic Leadership Council hack, and Bob Tuke, an Obammoid, are staging a Tweedledee/Tweedledumber battle for the right to (probably) lose to Alexander, who has been endorsed by numerous so-called Democrats. Gov. Bredesen has even gone so far as to discourage people from running against Lamar. Ain’t democracy wonderful?

Lugo has been frozen out of candidate forums and media exposure, and even told to “go to Hell” by some DP members. That’s what you get in this country when your slogan is “Vote for Peace,” apparently. Chris is still considering his options. I think he should do his best to stay in the Democratic race, but that’s an expensive row to hoe and I’m in no position to help him. Padgett and Tuke have hired bigtime PR firms and are in the process of raising millions, which you can bet ain’t coming in $25 chunks from Joe Voter. It’s about the money, folks, not about who’s right. But you knew that.

music: Aretha Franklin, “Respect”





(it’s always darkest before the) GREEN DAWN

12 11 2006

Well, the election results are in, and, as has often been the case in Tennessee, it wasn’t easy being Green. The best percentage of the vote received was the race run by Green fellow traveler Jon Davidson, who garnered 20% of the vote in State House District 52 against well known liberal Democrat Rob Briley—yeah, the family they named the parkway for. Talk about being part of the establishment…. Twenty percent! Over twenty-two hundred votes, nearly as many as statewide candidates Howard Switzer pulled in the governor’s race (2600) or Chris Lugo in the Senate race (2500). Well, at least the Dems can’t call us spoilers. Harold Ford lost it more or less fair and square, probably snowed under by the boobs who turned out to make their religion’s idea of marriage a part of the Tennessee Constitution. All these people so scared of homosexuality…you know, there have been tests done that show that the people who are most homophobic are the ones who are repressing the fact that they have those feelings…as the misadventures of Tom Foley and Ted Haggard have recently demonstrated. The queer tidal wave that all those people are afraid of is—them. The vote in Tennesee demonstrates that we are surrounded by a seething sea of repressed homosexuals! Well, as one of my teachers sarcastically commented, “If you can’t control yourself, control someone else!”

But, I digress….in U.S. House races, Katie Culver and Robert Smith also received better percentages than our statewide candidates, Katie with 1800 votes and Robert with 1,000—if Howard and Chris had done as well as either of them, they would have won about 18,000 votes, still not enough to change the election or even get our party name on the ballot, but I think it would have left them feeling more satisfied. I’m surprised they didn’t do better, especially Howard, since it was obvious Phil Bredesen was going to win in a walk. Howard campaigned intensively among those who have been dumped by Bredesen’s Tenncare purge. He should have done better.

Commenting on the election, Switzer said, “I think the main thing is we don’t have an extensive enough network to get the word out about our candidates. … We have to become more vocal advocates for who (we are) and what we want, pass the word and expand our networks. But, with (electronic voting machines) who knows what the vote tally really was? Our votes are counted in secret in an electronic box we are supposed to have unwavering faith in. “

The biggest kinda-Green vote getter in the state was Ginny Welsch, who won about 3600 votes in Nashville, where conservative Democrat Jim Cooper had no problem retaining his seat. Ginny explored running as an out-and-out Green but backed away when she discovered how much antipathy the label can ignite among ignorant, reactive Democrats, who are, after all, a major voting bloc that any serious candidate somehow needs to cultivate.

I talked with Jon Davidson, who was disappointed in his showing—a friend of his in the state legislature told him that just having his name on the ballot in an otherwise uncontested race should get him about a third of the votes. Jon tested this by spending “only about $100” and not doing any campaigning beyond putting up a website and getting a 45-minute interview from the Tennessean—which, alas, only appeared on their website. Neither Senate candidate Chris Lugo nor gubernatorial candidate Howard Switzer got even that much of a nod from Nashville’s newspaper of record.

Jon noted that his district, according to who votes in the primaries, is about 90% Democratic—he thinks a lot of people just voted the straight Democratic ticket—but he found it gratifying that, in the neighborhood he used to live in, he got 40% of the vote. “And I got 38% of the absentee vote,” he added–”but I don’t know if that was from my friends in the touring music community or from pissed-off Republican soldiers in Iraq.” Jon also noted that turnout in his district was no higher than it had been for the 2002 midterm elections, in spite of all the publicity about how crucial this election was going to be. Nationwide, the turnout was a disappointing 40%.

Some of the best news for Tennesseans was Steve Cohen’s easy win over Harold Ford’s cousin and a Republican for the U.S. House seat from Memphis. Steve has long been the most sensible person in the Tennessee Senate, and he will be sorely missed there, but I look forward to his influence at the national level.

Someone he won’t be seeing in Washington is Richard Pombo, head of the House Environmental Resources Committee, a California representative who went down to defeat. Pombo’s name had become synonymous with putting human greed ahead of the welfare of the planet. He has been replaced by wind turbine entrepreneur Jerry McNerney. Thank you, California.

Tammy Duckworth lost to a Republican. In case you don’t remember, the National Democratic Party literally moved her in from out of state to compete in a race where Christine Cegalis, a fairly radical anti-war candidate was already in place, because they didn’t think Ms. Cegalis could win. Maybe she wouldn’t have won, but neither did Ms. Duckworth. Did Rahm Emmanuel and the Democratic Campaign Committee learn anything from that? Somehow I doubt it.

And I’m not that upset about Harold Ford losing here in Tennessee. Unlike Ford, Bob Corker is honest enough to admit he’s a Republican. We didn’t need to advance the career of a so-called Democrat who wanted to privatize Social Security, who supported anti-environmentalists like Richard Pombo, and who voted for the Patriot Act and the Torture-is-not-torture (Military Commisions) Act. Hint to Harold: try taking Jesse Jackson for a role model instead of Colin Powell.

In general, as I look over national Green Party results, I see the same thing we find in Tennessee: the more local the race, the better the Green Party did. And, while I love tilting at windmills as much as the next old hippie, I think the lesson is clear: we need to follow our own philosophy and act as locally as we can. We need to be working on school boards, zoning boards, county commissions, and the like—we could see our long-term strategy as moving up to winning mayoral races and then state legislature positions. That’s the route individual politicians take, and I think there’s a reason for it: you have to prove your worth at a lower level of responsibility before people will trust you with a higher one. It’s slow, it’s not glamorous, and time is short; but I think it’s the path we have to follow. It’s all about taking care of the details.

That seems to be how the rest of the party sees it.

In a “campaign wrapup letter,” Chris Lugo said:

“Although my ultimate goal would be campaign finance reform,

in the meantime, the practical reality is that progressive candidates in Tennessee

are going to need to do fundraising to get their message out.  Even though we are

going to continue to lose in Tennessee for some time to come, we won't even

register in the eyes of most Tennesseans until we start doing some serious fundraising.

Regarding running Greens locally versus statewide, I think we need to continue to do

both.  In Knoxville (we) are running Greens locally and even though they are losing,

they are continuing to build, having received thirty five percent in one recent Knoxville

 election. I think running candidates for statewide office is very important though, because

that puts (our) voice into the election, which is ground (zero) for the body politic.  There

 is no time when people are more concerned about politics or what is happening in the

 country than during an election, and that is exactly when we need to make sure that we

are being included.”And, as I already said, Statehouse candidate Jon Davidson got 40% of the vote in a

neighborhood where he was known personally without doing any campaigning at all.

So that's what we as Greens will be working on:  networking, fundraising, and local,

 local issues.

The Democrats got themselves elected as part of a national spasm of revulsion.

 They have no coherent plan, and all too many of them have no clue either.

John Conyers, who waxed so eloquently about the sins of the Republican administration,

 now joins Nancy Pelosi in saying “impeachment is off the table.”

 Perhaps this is just a diplomatic move.  Perhaps impeachment will be on the table again

 in the Spring, if the White House sticks to its guns and starts stonewalling Congressional

 attempts at oversight.  But if the Dems stick to form and get all namby-pamby, I believe

the country will neither forgive them nor return to the Republican fold.  Winston Churchill

remarked that “America will always do the right thing, but not until they've tried everything

else.”  The Republicans haven't worked; the Democrats won't work.

There is a Green dawn glowing on the horizon.

(and I don't know why this bottom part got all funny looking!)

music: Leonard Cohen, “Democracy”







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