SMOKE, MIRRORS, AND ENOUGH ROPE

8 04 2017

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

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

Thanks to Butcher Billy for the artwork!

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

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

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

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

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

JAMES CLAPPER:
Not to my knowledge.

Read the rest of this entry »





OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, INTO THE FIRE

18 12 2016

music: Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows

I confess, I didn’t really expect it to happen. I’m kind of in shock that it did, and I still wonder if some strong wind will suddenly rise up and blow this strange, new, apparent reality away, but for now, the fact remains: On November 8, a strategically located minority of America’s voters–barely a quarter of those eligible–rose up against being slowly roasted in the frying pan of the Democratic Party’s kinder, gentler neoliberalism and…jumped directly into the fire of an undisguised corporate/reactionary/climate denialist takeover of the United States Government. That strategic minority of voters didn’t jump alone, however. They took the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, with them. That’s the bad news. The good news is, millions of people who might have thought everything was OK because Hillary Clinton was in charge now feel extremely insecure, and with good reason. That may not sound like good news, but it’s actually an improvement on what their state of mind with Clinton as President would have been, namely, “feeling secure, but without good reason.” More on that later. It’s one of the several facets of this complex question that we are going to be examining.  We’ll call that “Bad news/Good news.” The others are “how did we get here,” “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’?”

So…how did we get here? Let’s start by looking at a couple of intertwined longer-term phenomena: our overall national sense of well-being, which, I think, is the force that’s been driving the second phenomenon, the waxing and waning of political party ascendancies since the late sixties and early seventies. The Kennedy-Johnson years and early Nixon years were the point in our country’s history when American workers were at the peak of their earnings. A guy with a blue-collar job could buy a house, support his stay-at-home wife, have a family, and send his kids to college if they wanted to go, or into a high-wage blue-collar job of their own. Note use of pronoun “his.”

Psychological sophistication was, not, and still is not, a hallmark of this culture, however, and white, working-class America’s response to change has been to perceive it as stress, and to respond to change/stress by rejecting the change/source of stress. Thus, some people perceived the Civil Rights movement and the Democratic Party’s efforts on its behalf, the hippies, and the anti-war movement as emotional threats, and reacted viscerally to them, rejecting Johnson’s heir apparent, Hubert Humphrey, and voting instead for Richard Nixon, who promised “law and order,” but proved to be pretty disorderly and unlawful himself. Too much stress. Jimmy Carter is a very unstressful Democrat, a Southerner that Northerners feel comfortable with. He’s the Pres.

But another, far more visceral, source of stress had started to kick in in the late 70’s. Workers’s wages quit rising, but the rest of the economy didn’t. In other words, everything cost more, but workers didn’t have more money at their disposal. Source of stress. Throw in a small Middle-Eastern country grabbing America by the crotch, aka the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and a botched rescue attempt, too much stress–Jimmy Carter is outta there after just one term, replaced by an entertainer, who had received hundreds of hours of television exposure as an easy-going, but principled, actor and show host. Much less stress! “It’s morning in America!” Ronald Reagan actually managed to hand the show off to George Bush, Sr., for one term, but the economic stress was continuing, even intensifying, and here’s two nice young Baby Boomers with a fresh approach. Hey, we all know he really did inhale, and so did his VP…they’ll chill us out way better than that crusty ol’ WWII vet. Read the rest of this entry »





“GRAB ‘EM BY THE (CROTCH)–YOU CAN DO ANYTHING”

6 11 2016

In family therapy, we often find that one family member in a dysfunctional family is “the designated patient,” the one who acts out all the family’s secret dramas and traumas, the one that everybody agrees is the “one who needs help,” and the rest of the family uses the distraction of the one family member who is willing to publicly misbehave to mask all the ways that they themselves are neurotic, dysfunctional, or perhaps stark raving bonkers.

Donald Trump has taken the position of “designated patient” in our national dysfunctional family.

if he were a poor man....

Our designated patient-in-chief

He has, um, trumpeted to the world all the petty nastiness that Republicans used to keep on the down-low about how they despised anyone who is not a right-thinking, right-voting, right-sexing white American, and at this level, at least, he is honest and truthful, in the sense of being willing to voice sentiments that other people think but won’t say.

In no instance has this been more the case than in his notorious “grab ’em by the (crotch)–you can do anything” video. He was certainly thinking of it in individual terms, but it has been one of the guiding postulates of American politics at least since Roe vs. Wade, when our national discourse first had to confront what goes on below the belt. Republicans seized the crotches of those who are horrified by the notion that it’s a woman’s choice whether she should have a child or not, while Democrats grabbed the pro-choice faction’s collective private parts. As more “sexual freedom” issues have arisen, from single mothers’ rights through gay rights to transgender rights, the division–and the  parties’ firm hold on the reproductive organs of their respective demographics–has only grown firmer, enabling them to engage in a wide variety of reprehensible behavior as long as they were willing to protect “the rights of the unborn,” or “a woman’s right to choose.”

On the Republican side, we have fundamentalist Christians supporting Trump, a notorious libertine, because he has pledged to re-criminalize abortion and appoint Supreme Court justices who will repeal Roe vs. Wade. These justices would doubtless also come down against gay marriage and other freedoms that those whose sexual expression is somewhat unconventional claim. Much of the argument for supporting Ms. Clinton, likewise, rests on fear of reactionary judges and Ms. Clinton’s pledge to appoint judges who will uphold Roe. “Sure, she’s terrible on lots of issues,” many of her supporters say, “but it’s about the Supreme Court.” OK, let’s look at who’s on her short list for the Supreme Court. Read the rest of this entry »





PAINTING OURSELVES INTO A CORNER

3 04 2016

American democracy has been functionally describable as “a two-party system” for most of our country’s history. There have been “third parties,” but they have rarely been successful at breaking into the mainstream. One exception is the Republican Party, which took advantage of the collapse of the former “second party,” the Whigs, to  become the other major party besides the Democrats, in the election of 1856, running bearded, long-haired John C. Fremont for President.

JCFrémont

John C. Fremont, the first Republican Presidential candidate–a long-haired guy with a beard.

They didn’t win that election, but went on to win in 1860 with Abe Lincoln, and kept that string going for most of the next seventy-two years, until Roosevelt routed Hoover in 1932.

Meanwhile, other parties kept hoping to do what the Republicans had done. The Populists and Socialists never got much traction; the Progressive Party, championed by Theodore Roosevelt and later Robert LaFollette, came closest. The Progressives were actually a spinoff from the Republicans, and succeeded in diverting enough Republican votes to allow the election of Woodrow Wilson, who first kept us out of, and then got us into, World War I. Hey, it was a good excuse for arresting radicals and labor organizers. It’s kind of amusing, in light of the current political landscape, to think of the Republicans as the progressive part of our political spectrum, but that is how they started out–taking the radical position that slavery should be limited and, ultimately, eradicated. I am sure that, when they endorsed this idea in 1856, they had no idea how soon it would come to pass. That should serve as an inspiration to all of us. Thank you, Republicans!

So, what has being a two-party system meant for the form and direction of politics in this country? 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 »





A DEEP GREEN PERSPECTIVE ON BERNIE SANDERS

11 07 2015
sanderswoodcut
Not since the halcyon days when Rev. Martin Luther King broadened his perspective from civil rights for African-Americans to human rights for everybody, and called for an end to poverty, oppression, and warfare, has there been such thunder on the left.  Bernie Sanders has come out swinging, not just as a populist, but as a socialist, and he has tapped into a vein of enthusiasm that just might propel him into the Democratic Party nomination for President, and from there into the White House.
Bernie Sanders’ career has, over the years, built a solid foundation for such an attempt.  As a college student he worked with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi, and he spent time on a kibbutz in Israel before moving to Vermont and getting into politics with the Liberty Union Party. He was a frequent losing candidate throughout the 70’s, and ultimately left the LUP.  Then, in 1981, friends urged him to run for mayor of Burlington, his home and the largest city in Vermont. Sanders ran as an independent and a socialist, won by ten votes, and went on to serve four terms, beating Republicans, Democrats, and Republican-Democratic fusion candidates.  Sanders’ tenure as mayor, according to Peter Dreier and Pierre Clavel, writing in The Nation, produced the following results:
… the city’s largest housing development is now resident-owned, its largest supermarket is a consumer-owned cooperative, one of its largest private employers is worker-owned, and most of its people-oriented waterfront is publicly owned. Its publicly owned utility, the Burlington Electric Department, recently announced that Burlington is the first American city of any decent size to run entirely on renewable electricity.
 
The city has largely continued in the direction Sanders set it in, with protégés of his winning election most of the time since his retirement as mayor in 1989.  The changes that Sanders made in Burlington have remained because they are so popular with so many people, independents, Democrats, Republicans, and socialists alike.  In 1990, again running as an independent, he won Vermont’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  One of his first acts as a Congressman was to establish the “Progressive Caucus.” However, his role since arriving on the national scene has more as a conscience than as a get-it-done legislator.  He has introduced what would be landmark legislation if it went anywhere, but, between hostile Republicans and indifferent Democrats, only one bill, and some floor amendments, have Sanders’ name on them. The bill was a largely procedural one allowing Vermont and New Hampshire to co-operate on taking care of the Connecticut River.

Read the rest of this entry »





THIS IS YOUR GOVERNMENT ON DRUGS

13 08 2011

In addition to blowing off its entire ostensible base–the liberals, the middle class, labor unions and the underprivileged–the Obama administration also recently went out of its way to antagonize that eternal bete noir, America’s marijuana users.

And it all began so hopefully, so changefully.  Candidate Obama had spoken out in favor of loosening the country’s drug laws. calling marijuana prohibition “a failure.”  When asked if he had “inhaled,” he said, “of course I inhaled.  That’s the point, isn’t it?”  Entering the White House, he called for the government to make judgments “based on facts, not ideology,”  a statement that brought hope for change to stem-cell researchers, climate change activists, and marijuana users alike.

Well, at least the stem cell researchers got what they wanted–but hey, they’re part of big pharma, unlike the rest of us peons.  I’ve already talked about Obama’s extremely disappointing record on climate change.  Now, let’s turn to the bad news about marijuana.

Just as the importance of short-term profits (which is, after all, an ideological and not a scientific prioritization) has trumped taking steps to curb carbon emissions, so has the ideology of “just say no” remained firmly in place in Obama’s  Drug Enforcement Agency.  The first signal was his reappointment of Michelle Leonhart, a Bush administration leftover, as head of the DEA.  Ms. Leonhart has a long history of not only enforcing drug prohibition, but obstructing any attempt to end it, whether by allowing research into possible beneficial effects of the herb, allowing other research facilities besides the University of Mississippi to grow it for scientific investigation, or rescheduling marijuana out of “schedule 1,” the government classification for drugs with “no medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

this is your government on drugs!
This is your government on drugs!

Speaking of which, last month, the DEA finally ruled on a nine-year old petition to change that schedule one status.  I’ll let NORML tell the story:

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Friday formally denied a nine-year-old petition calling on the agency to initiate hearings to reassess the present classification of marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance without any ‘accepted medical use in treatment.’

A coalition of public interest organizations…, filed a comprehensive rescheduling petition with the DEA on October 9, 2002. This past May, the coalition filed suit in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to compel the Obama administration to respond to their petition to reclassify marijuana under federal law.

DEA administrator Michele Leonhart posted a letter denying the petition in the July 8, 2011 edition of the Federal Register. Leonhart stated that cannabis has “a high potential for abuse; … no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; … [and] lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

She added: “[T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving (marijuana’s) efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts. … At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”

Responding to the DEA’s rejection, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The DEA is predictably maintaining its decades-old ‘flat Earth’ position in regards to the otherwise well-acknowledged therapeutic properties of cannabis. It is a shame to see an administration that pledged to be guided by ‘scientific integrity’ engage in such blatant politicization.”

Coalition advocates will be appealing the decision in federal court.

Since this announcement, the government has announced that it will step up prosecution of medical marijuana providers in states where medical marijuana is legal, a total reversal of the Obama administration’s initial position, and a return to the “just say no” ideology of the Cheney junta, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan.  The DOJ is also sending letters to states that have or are contemplating medical marijuana programs, telling them that state officials who help implement medical marijuana programs may be prosecuted. So much for hope and change, eh?  Oh, and to ice the cake, they’re going to try to crack down (you should excuse the expression) on so-called “stoned driving,” in spite of repeated studies that show that marijuana use does not significantly impair driving ability, and the inability of urine testing for marijuana metabolites to determine when the marijuana was ingested.  So much for a scientific approach.

This is ideological nonsense of the worst sort.  Not only does marijuana have thousands of years of history demonstrating its safety, it also has a snowballing body of scientific evidence in its favor, not only as medicine for the sick, but as a tonic for the healthy, as well.   More and more countries, not just US states, are recognizing marijuana’s therapeutic value, and on the legal front, it’s the rare official study of current policy (the latest headed up by that notorious stoner, Kofi Annan) that doesn’t conclude that continued drug prohibition is unworkable and unwinnable, and that, ultimately, marijuana use is no more dangerous than the use of, say, coffee.  I mean, consider the percentage of crimes that are committed by people under the influence of coffee vs. the percentage committed by people under the influence of marijuana.  Of course, they don’t keep statistics on coffee, but if they did, you can bet that more criminals are jacked up on coffee than chilled out on herb–whether we’re talking simple traffic offenses, assaults, or white-collar crimes.   Think about it!

So, what’s going on with our government’s insane intransigence on marijuana?

I think there are two reasons why the U.S. government is so staunchly, and apparently illogically, opposed to legalizing marijuana–not to mention other drugs, but especially marijuana.  It has to do with two kinds of control issues.

At a pharmaceutical level, marijuana is a plant which contains a complex web of interacting chemicals.  As anyone who has tried marinol can tell you, it’s not all about THC.  There are many “non-stoning” compounds that, alone or synergistically with other compounds, have a wide range of positive effects on our bodies–anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, antispasmodic, analgesic, and a whole lot more.

Here’s where it gets kinky.  It costs a lot of money to tease out all these relationships, and so the research is not worth doing in our current, for-profit paradigm unless there is the possibility of a patentable–i.e., highly profitable–drug coming out the other end of the research.  And, the way new drug and new supplement approval procedures work, not only is it much easier to approve a patented new drug made from a natural substance than it is to gain approval of the natural substance itself–once the patented drug is approved, it is illegal to market it as a supplement.  That’s why, for example, any “Red Yeast Rice” marketed in the US has to have the statin drugs removed from it, even though Chinese food products that contain Red Yeast Rice don’t have to have their statins removed.  And…the funny thing is, even with the ostensible “active ingredient” removed, Red Yeast Rice is still effective at lowering cholesterol and inflammation.  But, I digress…

It seems to me that what the government wants to do is allow big pharma to dissect marijuana  and concoct expensive, patentable pharmaceuticals from its constituents.  Patenting  chemicals derived from marijuana will open up a treasure trove for the pharmaceutical industry, at the same time as it reinforces marijuana prohibition–“you can’t grow that plant–it contains patented substances!”  Patented substances that won’t have the side effect of pleasantly altering your consciousness, you can bet–because that’s the other kind of “control issue” the government has with marijuana–not to mention mushrooms, peyote, ayahuasca, MDMA, DMT, and that ol’ bugaboo, LSD.

Marijuana, however, is the easiest of these to use, because its effects are, relative to the other substances I mentioned, fairly short-term and low-key.  But, like its higher-powered relatives, marijuana stimulates the mind.  It helps people overcome established patterns of thought and behavior–which can make the same task easier or more difficult, confusingly enough–but the government emphatically does not want people who think for themselves. Keeping marijuana illegal gives the government an easy way to suppress free thinkers. The government does not want you to be a citizen, it wants you to be a consumer–a passive sucker at the corporate bottle–yes, I know I used this image before–but that’s how it is.  Marijuana is just too good for you, and too easy for you to grow yourself, for the U.S. government to ever loosen up and let it be.  Legal marijuana would undermine corporate culture at every level, and they won’t allow it to happen, no matter how popular it is, no matter how impossible it is to enforce the law.     It’s gonna take a revolution in American politics to make that change.

Not everybody in the Green Party uses marijuana, and maybe not enough people in the Green Party use it, because some of us take ourselves way too seriously, but everybody in the Green Party is committed to ending cannabis prohibition. I have a hard time with folks I know who use marijuana but support the Democratic Party.  They are like abused spouses, pledging allegiance to a political party that treats them as if they are incompetent to raise children, hold jobs, drive, or run for public office simply because of their body chemistry, a party that will cheerfully confiscate these peoples’ land and other property  and even outright imprison them because of their marijuana use.   I guess the herb isn’t quite that good at breaking habitual thinking and reaction  patterns, or these folks would have come to their senses long ago!  Well, the first thing about breaking habits is, you have to want to do it.

music:  Richard and Linda Thompson, “Hokey Pokey (The Ice Cream Song)








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