CORPORATISM WITH THE GLOVES OFF

15 01 2017

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

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

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

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





DILEMMA 2016

5 06 2016

Things are reaching a pitch in the American political arena. Trumpenstein will be the Republican nominee, and, while the last chapters have yet to be written, it is now almost certain, as it really has been all along, that Ms. Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. The next phase of the contest, the Big Face Off Between The Democrat And  The Republican, is about to begin.

In social media, however, the contest between Bernie and Hillary seems far from over. Clinton supporters are upset by the expressed concerns of Sanders supporters and Greens like me, who feel that there is good reason to be wary of a Clinton Presidency. We are told that we are helping Trump get elected, that we are misogynists, that we need to deal with the world-as-it-is and not cling to “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible,” to steal a phrase from Charles Eisenstein. That’s all well and good, Clinton supporters say, but you must support Hillary or all hell will break loose. A la Margaret Thatcher, There Is No Alternative.tina

In an effort to respond to the many people I know who are telling me to get with the Clinton program, as well as those who seem to think Bernie would have won if only I’d supported him, and those who think I’m crazy, stupid, or sentimental not to back Trumpenstein, I want to examine all three of these candidates, as well as The Green Party’s Jill Stein, (cause, hey, this is a Green Party show/blog!) and talk about how they look from the ol’ Deep Green Perspective.

Let’s go for Trumpenstein first. I’m calling him that not just to make fun of him, but because he, like Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, was, in  a sense, brought to life by people who had their own motives for creating him, and who did not realize that he would get away from them and chart his own course. Trump was born (in the public mind) as a commercial, comedic figure, a Falstaffian man of bluff and bluster who was not afraid to say what he thought and exercise power, a man who drew viewers and made money for the network. When he chose to enter the political arena, he cut a sharp contrast with conventional politicians, who carefully shape what they say in a formal language that is intended to offend no one who might vote for them, but has begun to offend a lot of people for its vacuousness. Read the rest of this entry »





NAACP vs. THE ZOMBIES

12 05 2012

We just listened to Richard and Mimi Farina’s”House Un-American Activity Blues Dream,” an electrified and electrifying musical offering that preceded Bob Dylan’s more famous “Bringing It All Back Home”  by several months, and marks the initial cross-fertilization between rock and folk music.  Although it’s  almost fifty years old, it continues to resonate–one recent commentator on Rombama/Obomney even went so far as to note that

Both Obama and Romney stay fit, dress sharply and look vaguely out of sync when wearing blue jeans.

certainly an odd echo of Farina’s line about “Presidential candidates in new Levi jeans.”

And Farina’s solution to his feelings of alienation in the USA–a trip to Cuba–continues to raise American hackles, as Ozzie  Guillen discovered to his dismay.  Talk about getting “banged hard on the head”!

But most of us are not going to pick up and go elsewhere.  “America, love it or leave it,” the reactionaries used to say in the sixties, and a lot of us lefties, from old SDS types like me to the youngest Occupiers, have picked up that gauntlet and said, “yeah, I love America and I ain’t leaving.  What are you gonna do about it?”

The answer has been, “do everything we can to disfranchise as many left-wingers as possible, so we can continue to hold the reins in this country.”  Some people have been directly disfranchised, like the five million or more Americans who cannot vote because they have been convicted of felonies.  The US is one of the only countries in which felony conviction results in permanent loss of voting rights, at the same time as it has, both by percentage and in raw numbers, more of its population in jail or under control of the penal system through probation and parole than any other country in the world, largely for “victimless” crimes such as drugs–mostly marijuana–pornography, prostitution, and traffic violations.  The allegedly felonious percentage of our population picked up markedly when Reagan declared the “war on drugs,” which, as I commented last month, turned the “war on poverty” into a war on the poor.

this is your prison population on a “war on drugs”!

Even if they have never suffered legal consequences from the herb’s contraband status, marijuana users who wish to remain free will tend to keep a lower political profile due to their vulnerability, an effective form of “passive-aggressive” repression that, I believe, is one of the deliberate consequences of the government’s unrelenting efforts to keep marijuana illegal.

But there are subtler ways to disfranchise people than by outright busting them.  The NAACP has written an excellent report on this subject, and I’m going to summarize it for you. It’s called “Defending Democracy:  Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights In America.”

The NAACP starts by pointing out that the non-white population of the US is increasing faster than the white population.  I was surprised to learn that heavily white Republican-ruled Texas is now a “majority-minority” state–one in which non-whites outnumber whites.  This is also the status of California, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.  I was also surprised to learn that five other states–Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, and Nevada–are likely to join that category by the next census.  in this context, the extraordinary efforts of mostly white Republicans to limit ballot access and civil rights that have been so prominent  in Arizona, Florida, and Georgia make sense–the old order is indeed crumbling, and those who have reaped its benefits are determined not to surrender them without a fight.  In those states and others, the NAACP lists several common tactics:

1 )Tighter restrictions on voter registration drives, such as the extreme penalties imposed in some states for getting registration details wrong or failing to return  petitions in a very narrow window of time.

2 ) Greater limitations on where and when citizens can register to vote.  State legislatures have moved to shut down “same day registration,” which allows citizens to register and cast a ballot at the same time.  Other states have simply never complied with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which required state public assistance agencies to provide voter registration services.  “Public assistance agencies” doesn’t just mean “welfare agencies”–it includes motor vehicle and drivers’ license bureaus.

3) Stricter laws about proof of eligibility, such as demanding “proof of citizenship.”  Many older African-Americans were born at home and never had a birth certificate, thus cannot “prove” they are citizens.  Another way in which white Republicans are limiting the right to vote is by instituting longer residency requirements.  This has a heavier impact on non-whites, who, since they are less likely to own their own homes, move more frequently than whites.

4 )Some states are reversing more liberal policies about re-enfranchising ex-felons, which has, according to the NAACP, removed “hundreds of thousands” of–primarily non-white–voters from the rolls. This has been most egregious in Florida, whichis one of the states teetering on the brink of being “majority-minority,” while Iowa has some of the strictest anti-drug laws in the country.

5) States are purging voters from the voter rolls on the allegation that they are dead, have moved out of the district, or are felons, when in fact they may merely have the same name as such a person. Frequently, those purged are not notified and only find out they have been erroneously disqualified when they show up to vote. According to the NAACP  “in Florida, a flawed purge program erroneously flagged and purged 12,000 voters (mostly due to typos and other obvious clerical errors). Over 70% of those flagged voters were African-American or Latino.”

6) Many states have substantially reduced the days and hours when early voting is allowed.  Since people of color are more likely than whites to be working jobs that will not allow them to take time off to go to the polls for a Tuesday election, this has a disproportionate impact on non-white, low-income voters, who are likely to favor candidates espousing more liberal social policies–i.e., candidates who are not Republicans.

7) Many states have passed laws requiring voters to present a photo ID.  According to the NAACP’s report, “Eleven percent of U.S. citizens nationwide—approximately 22.9 million people—do not have government-issued photo IDs. Twenty-five percent of African-American voting-age citizens (over six million people) and 16% of Latino voting-age citizens (nearly three million people) do not possess valid government-issued photo ID. ”  Note that the average is one in ten, but among African-Americans, it’s one in four.  When you factor in the one out of every eight African-American men who can’t vote because of a felony conviction (and granted there’s some overlap), the trend gets kind of obvious, doesn’t it?

And why is this happening?  Proponents of tighter restrictions on voter eligibility blow a lot of hot air about “voter fraud,” but even their best efforts have turned up only an insignificant number of unqualified people attempting to vote, certainly not enough in any district to actually influence an election, and most cases are due to clerical error or misunderstanding.  On the other hand, advocates of stricter voter ID laws in South Carolina were honest, or foolish, enough to come out and say, according to the NAACP’s well-footnoted document, “that suppression of the African-American vote was ‘why we ‘need [voter ID laws in South Carolina].”

And that wasn’t just an isolated, fringe opinion.  The NAACP also quotes American Legislative Exchange Council founder Paul Weyrich, who said

“our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

This sounds like a job for the U.S. Department of Justice, which has the 1965 Voting Rights Act to use against such blatant racism.  But there’s good news and bad news there.  The good news is, Section 5 of the Act requires the DOJ to  “preclear”  any changes in the voting laws in 15 target states that have reputations for discriminating against minorities. That is, the Department of Justice has to OK changes, including redistricting plans, before they can be implemented.  The bad news is, that only applies to 15 states, while the American Legislative Exchange Council’s henchmen and henchwomen have pushed through restrictive legislation in 31 states.  The further bad news is that the DOJ’s enforcement of the Voting Rights Act has grown increasingly anemic through the years, and came to a virtual standstill  during the Cheney administration.  Despite rhetoric to the contrary, under the Obama administration the DOJ has not focused on this area, seemingly preferring the easier pickings of going after medical marijuana providers, while the restricted-voting cabal pushes several cases on the Constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act through the Courts, probably figuring that, if they can persist long enough to get it all the way to the Supremes, that fascist body will grant their petition. The court’s stance has pretty uniformly been “more rights for rich corporations, fewer for the average Joe, or, as George Orwell put it in Animal Farm,  “Some animals are more equal than others.”

And, even if the Supreme Court, Inc. doesn’t take the case or decides in favor of the Voting Rights Act, the corporatists will keep on coming, just as they have kept on coming about abortion, climate change denial, and every other issue that might imperil their control or their profits.  If you’ve been thinking,” if this is an Apocalypse, where are the zombies?” you need look no further.  They Who Cannot Die are in the Republican Party, propelled by the profit motive and dysfunctional belief systems.  If it wasn’t so serious, it would be pathetically humorous to watch the Democrats attempting to reason with them.   The NAACP’s report concludes with a call to return to the tactics that initially advanced the Civil Rights movement, which, considering the many differences between America 50 years ago and America now, may or may not be effective, especially since corporatism has largely displaced populism in the halls of power.  They–no, we–had better gird up our loins.  It’s going to be quite a struggle.

music:  Ani DiFranco, “Which Side Are You On?” (1st link is the recorded version, 2nd is a wonderfully spirited live one)





WHUPPED UPSIDE THE HEAD

12 09 2005

No sooner had John Bolton, acting on behalf of the Bush Junta, demanded that the United Nations delete the phrase, “respect for nature,” from the core values section of a major reform document the U.N. is drafting, than Nature responded by whupping the United States upside the head bigtime, bigtime, bigtime.

You know what I’m talking about. Hurricane Katrina. The biggest hurricane ever to come ashore—ever?–well, OK—the biggest in recorded history, the most lethal of the four category five hurricanes on record. Katrina let the United States know, in no uncertain terms, that this country is vulnerable—woundable—in ways that military preparedness and heightened security measures cannot prevent.

Certainly, there are plenty of things that could have been done to ameliorate the situation. There were plenty of railroad cars and busses available to evacuate those without their own transportation (and ironically, New Orleans’ excellent public transportation system has made it easier for people to live there and not own an automobile). Ways could have been found to assure these people that their homes and belongings would be safe from looting in their absence. And surely we have all heard by now about how the Bush Junta severely cut funding for maintaining New Orleans’ levee system (which was not even built to withstand a category 5 storm to begin with), and what in the world are the Louisiana National Guard’s HIGH WATER vehicles doing in Iraq?

You know, though, that even if everything had been done right, Katrina wasn’t the whole show, she was just an opening number. It’s still only the middle of this hurricane season, and we’ve had thirteen named storms so far—the overall average is four or five. Katrina didn’t go right over the top of New Orleans, but the next storm might—or it might hit Houston, or Mobile, or Tampa—or Miami, Norfolk, WASHINGTON, Philadelphia or New York. Not only the frequency but the intensity of hurricanes is increasing—how long will it be until we have to create a “category six” and then maybe a “category seven”? And not only is the ocean getting warmer, it’s rising….

Dennis Hastert is not my kinda guy, but I think he was right to question the wisdom of rebuilding New Orleans. The city is below sea level, below the level of the Mississippi, it’s now a toxic waste cleanup site, and the river has been trying to take the Achafalaya bypass for a hundred years already. Channelization of the river for human/economic purposes has destroyed much of the network of barrier islands and marshland that used to buffer the city from storms. Maybe it’s time to let the river move, relocate New Orleans upriver to Baton Rouge, and start all over again. Maybe we can do it right this time, though I’m sure it will be done wrong if Messers. Hastert and Bush are in charge. Unfortunately they are in charge, and it looks like we may be getting a Halliburton-dominated, sanitized simulacrum of New Orleans in place of the real thing. Look for lots of eminent domain to be exercised and thousands of poor people to lose everything they had, most especially their communities.

Meanwhile, offers of aid are pouring in from around the world. We’re taking up Germany and France on their offers of fuel, but ignoring Venezuela’s offer of fuel and medical help, and of course ignoring Cuba’s offer of medical help. In case you didn’t know, Cuba has made medical aid one of its chief exports. Cuban medical personnel provide primary health care in Venezuela in exchange for petroleum for Cuba, and whenever there is a disaster in the world, Cuban doctors and nurses are there to help out.

And, by the way, Ivan, a category 5 hurricane, went over Cuba last year, bringing 160 mile-an-hour winds and a 20-foot storm surge, slightly stronger than Katrina. The Cubans evacuated a million and a half people—in a country where private cars are the exception, not the rule—and nobody died. People were allowed to take pets and prize possessions with them, and there was no looting. Ah, these backwards, third-world, communist countries. They’ve got a thing or two to learn from us, don’t they?

So now the spinning and the finger-pointing have begun, along with aid to the victims of this human-assisted natural disaster. There have been demands that various federal officials be fired for malfeasance and incompetence, but we have a government that really appreciates malfeasance and incompetence, so don’t expect any action there—and even if they did get rid of someone, maybe for not being venal enough, the Bush Junta would find an even more obnoxious replacement for them—look at trading Ashcroft for Gonzalez, look at the Supreme Court—Bush nominates good Nazi John Roberts as an associate justice, ignites a storm of well-justified criticism, and responds by—nominating Roberts for CHIEF justice. THAT’S justice? Since when do criminals get to select their judges? What really makes me gag is that a lot of Democrats seem to be willing to go along with giving us a Supreme Court that’s way out in right field.

The Bush junta is probably feeling a bit relieved by the news shift blown in by Hurricane Katrina. Iraq is out of the headlines, Cindy Sheehan is out of the headlines, and the Justice Department’s decision not to challenge Georgia’s new voter registration rules, which some are calling the reintroduction of Jim Crow, didn’t even make it into the headlines. The Republifascists get to try and look like good guys, if they can keep George from sticking his foot in his mouth babbling about rebuilding Trent Lott’s house, and if the skinny on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Kafkaesque rules doesn’t get out too far—they will only mail you the forms you need to your home address, but what if you’ve been evacuated due to a—duh, emergency, and can’t go home because the government won’t let you?

And of course all these wonderful billions of dollars they’re so magnanamously voting to spend are going to be borrowed from the Chinese. At least the Junta had the sense not to try and repeal the estate tax at the same time. Maybe the estate tax repeal is now off the table for good. Maybe. Just maybe. And maybe this whomp upside America’s head will keep the government too occupied to jump off on Iran like they were working up to. Maybe. Just maybe. Stay tuned.








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