WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

10 09 2011

Here’s my response to that “Mid-Tennessee Progressive Strategy” group’s response to the Obama indictment.  I’ve added links, and changed it a little for greater clarity and because, when I took a little more time for fact-checking, I didn’t have all my details right–but this is substantially the same post.

As I was considering how to respond to the many comments my post elicited, I read the following quote from Susan Sontag in Yes!:

Acting on principle is, we’re told, a good in itself. But it is still a political act, in the sense that you’re not doing it for yourself. You don’t do it just to be in the right, or to appease your own conscience; much less because you are confident your action will achieve its aim. You resist as an act of solidarity. With communities of the principled and the disobedient: here, elsewhere. In the present. In the future…..

The likelihood that your acts of resistance cannot stop the injustice does not exempt you from acting.”

So, with that to set the tone, here is my response to the different objections that were raised to my bill of particulars against the strategy of aligning with Obama and the Democratic Party.

I cannot support him or the Democrat Party because they are war criminals. Obama has not only declined to prosecute any Cheney administration officials for war crimes, he has continued and actually expanded Cheney’s criminal policies. It should be obvious, at this point, that he went into the Presidential race knowing full well that he would be doing that, throwaway lines like “close Guantanamo” (which never happened) not withstanding. To vote for him, or anyone who, like Jim Cooper, continues to support war crimes and war criminals is to be complicit in those crimes, just like the “good Germans” of the last century. And, like Germany and Italy, America has become a fascist state, defined as one in which the government is run in collusion with, and for the benefit of, big business.

Of course, 21st century American fascism has learned a thing or two about how to be “kinder and gentler”–nobody’s getting sent to the gas chamber–but Gaza and Palestine, and the now-60-year old Palestinian refugee camps are the 21st century equivalent of concentration camps—and they are maintained with U.S. aid. And, likewise, this fascism is sure enough of its hold on power that it won’t send us to the camps just for making accusations like this. It’s much cheaper (and better PR) to simply ignore us, dismiss tax protests as “frivolous filings” to be dealt with administratively, and save the legal big guns for those who actually do things that throw a monkey wrench in the gears of power, like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, or Tim DeChristopher.

As for the charge that I am not “dealing with the realities of America politics,” those “realities” are insanely out of touch with real-deal reality. The real-deal reality is that our government’s willful ignor-ance of the seriousness of climate change is a serious threat to the ability of this planet to continue to support higher life forms such as ourselves. The grim difference between the late 20th century’s bane, “Mutual Assured Destruction,” and our current situation is that, while Mutual Assured Destruction turned out to be a threat that never materialized (except to the extent that military expenditures stole from our ability to make the planet a better place for everyone), every day that we continue to extract and burn fossil fuels sinks us deeper into the tar pit of runaway climate change, while our “leaders” babble about “growth” and “job creation.” This kind of unconscious commitment to the idea that the way it’s been is the way it’s going to be is a planetary suicide pact, and, weak old man that I am, it makes me want to kick and scream and raise hell to wake people from the sleepwalk of politics as usual in America.

“I” can’t do a whole lot about this, but “we” can. Vaclav Havel started out as a lonely dissident, and was ground under the heel of the Soviet empire—but he persisted, and eventually enough people came around to his point of view that the whole sorry reality of “Communist” totalitarianism crumbled–not through confrontation, but by decay from within, as an overwhelming majority withdrew their consent from the system. You can bet that he got plenty of well-intentioned advice along the way about how he needed to be more realistic and accept “Communist” domination! Something similar has to happen here. There are two ways the two-party duopoly could come undone: either an East-bloc-style revolution of belief, or the total collapse of America as we’ve known it. As a guy who would like to die peacefully of old age, I would much prefer the former, but, as it stands, I’m deeply concerned that we’re heading for the latter.

As it stands, “progressives” (a term whose definition is a whole other subject) in the Democratic Party are in the position of a woman who stays with her abusive husband, hoping she can change him. As with individual cases, that’s unlikely to happen, especially as long as he (the corporate-oriented Democratic Party, in this case) thinks he can take your support for granted, no matter what he does, because you view him as your only option. Here’s the reality: he’s too addicted to corporate money to ever listen to “progressives” again, and it’s been that way for at least 30 years. There have been some truly noble “progressive Democrats” like Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, and Cynthia McKinney, but they have been seriously mistreated by the mainstream of the Democratic Party.  Well, OK, Barbara Lee has not been harassed by her own party–she pulls 85% of the vote without even trying.  It’s pretty hard to harass somebody who’s that popular at home.

Cynthia McKinney had the good sense to jump to the Green Party, which could really take off if all the people who “hold their nose and vote for Democrats” screwed up their courage instead of holding their noses, and walked out on the Democrats instead of voting for the stinkers. One commenter said he thought the American electorate was trending rightward. I disagree. My understanding of the results of the 2010 election is not that a whole lot more people voted Republican, but that a whole lot fewer people voted Democrat, due to feeling burned by the party’s failure to deliver on their expectations of it. I am also aware of repeated polling that shows that Americans overall are much more “progressive” than the choices that are allowed in our corporate-run political system, and that the” Tea Party” is, when all is said and done, a minority voice. The fact that 50-60% of potential voters don’t vote in most of our elections means that the “Republican majority” is really only about 20-25% of the electorate, and tells me that there is enormous potential for a new political movement in this country that will actually listen to–and speak for–the real concerns of real people. The Green Party was created to do just that.  We do not take corporate money. Those of us who have been keeping it going in this state for the last ten years would love to be supplanted by “progressives” who got disgruntled with the major parties and came on over. In Canada, the New Democrats, who were a “third party” for years, have now supplanted the Liberals as the country’s main opposition party. Change can happen, but only if enough people are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Oh, and “scary Perry”? The blustering bully from Texas and the smooth-talking con-man from Chicago are working for the same masters. Choosing between them amounts to, do you want to be railroaded by the good cop (Obama) or by the bad cop (Perry, Bachman, etc.)? My response is, I haven’t done anything wrong. They have, and I’m not giving them my power. Obama’s a war criminal, Perry’s a murderer who aspires to be a war criminal. The proper response to people like them is to step away, not to try and reform them or work with their political supporters in hopes of creating substantive social change. It ain’t gonna happen, any more than the Mafia is going to become a model civic organization if we reach out to it and try to work to change it.

There are those who say that it’s too late for politics, that the only thing left to do is duck and cover and create our own community survival networks.  To me, that’s a worst-case scenario–not so far out as to be ignored, but not yet inevitable.  I believe it is still possible for the people of this country to wake up, shake off the whores who pass for politicians, and take this country back, and that’s what keeps me, as Susan Sontag put it, “acting on principle.”  Whether it has wider results or not, it’s the only way I can live with myself.

Music:  Richard Thompson, “Borrowed Time





DID DIEBOLD ENDORSE HILLARY?

13 01 2008

This just in from New Hampshire: Dennis Kucinich and Albert Howard, a minor Republican candidate, have asked for a recount of the machine-tabulated ballots due to statistical irregularities in the way the vote broke down. Here’s the deal:

Just as in Ohio in 2004, where exit polls indicated a Kerry victory but the votes came in to give the state to Bush, Obama led in the exit polls but lost in the vote–but only in precincts that were machine counted. These were primarily more urban precincts where Obama should have done well. He won in most of the precincts that were hand-counted, which were more rural, conservative areas where Ms. Clinton would be expected to do better.

The machines that did this automatic counting were made by Diebold, the same company that provided the voting machines that Ohio’s new, Democratic secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner, says were rigged to throw votes to Bush.

If this really was a fix, the question is, whodunnit and why? Some people say that the powers behind the throne want Hillary, not Barak, to be our next President because she’s more with their program than he is. After all, it was her husband Bill who failed to pursue criminal investigations of the Reagan and Papa Bush administrations that set up the Cheney-Bush Junta. If the Iran-Contra and other inquiries had been pursued, many key players in our current ruling elite would now be in prison instead of power, and Hillary seems to be signalling that, as President, she would do the same. And hey, if Bill, on his way out the door, would pardon Marc Rich but not Leonard Pelletier, you know their hearts are not in the right place.

Others say that the Republicans think HIllary would be easier to beat than Obama, and that’s why Diebold, a major Republican campaign contributor, would throw the election to Ms. Clinton.

Why didn’t Obama complain? Maybe he didn’t want to look like a sore loser, since the media are trying to play Ms. Clinton as being picked on by the guys in the race. Hey, they’re not picking on her because she’s a woman. They’re picking on her ’cause she’s wrong!

If you’re more paranoid, maybe Obama is in on the fix. A Clinton-Obama ticket would lend her some much-needed charisma and set him up to run when she retires. And maybe everything was fine, but it starts the election season with questions about the integrity of the process, and that’s something we need to be vigilant about right through to the end. More on this as it develops.

music: Jackson Browne, “Lives in the Balance”





HEALTHCARE FLIMFLAM

9 12 2007

The Democratic front runners have prostituted the language again. “Univeral health care,” according to all three of them, now means subsidizing the insurance companies rather than actually providing health care for everyone. They’ve dropped the phrase “single-payer” from their vocabulary, largely at the behest of the insurance companies that support them. Hillary Clinton, for example, had taken over a million dollars in camaign contributions from the insurance industry back last summer, before the campaign had even heated up.

Ironically, this approach—mandating that people buy private insurance and subsidizing the purchase with government money—is the same program Republican candidate Mitt Romney pushed through in Massachusetts. This has not prevented Romney from attacking these copy-cat Democratic proposals as “European-style socialized medicine.”

We should be so lucky. None of the plans that Clinton, Obama, and Edwards are proposing will do anything to curb the profit-driven excesses of America’s unique, Byzantine private insurance/medical complex. They don’t even talk about doing that. They want to feed the vampire, not drive a stake through his heart. They ‘re not going to limit what insurers can charge their government-mandated captive audience. They’re not going to regulate the insurance companies’ ability to restrict choice of doctors, hospitals, and treatments, or rein in their profit-driven tendency to deny claims. The limited expansion of Medicare that some of them propose will become an expensive catch-all for seriously ill people that the private insurance companies don’t want to risk their profits on, and the fat subsidies to private insurance companies that would be generated under the Democrats’ plans would only feed their high overhead and do nothing to bring down the cost of medical care.

These plans are not European socialism. They are corporate welfare, another example of what happens when government is run for the benefit of big business, aka “fascism.” And it’s the Democrats that are proposing it. Magic! Presto chango! They will invoke the warm feeling of “healthcare for all” and thereby funnel billions into their corporate sponsors’ pockets! More of your blood goes to the vampires! Wow! What a trick!

Of course, the Republicans aren’t even that faux-compassionate. Their proposed solution is limited to tax breaks to help people buy health insurance, and if you don’t pay enough taxes for that to make a difference to you, tough beans, you don’t deserve to live. If that makes you want to vote for a Democrat, ”’cause they’re a little better, anyway,” please be informed: you have been hypnotized!

Let’s look at what these proposals really mean. The typical cost of full health insurance for a family of four in the US is $12,000 a year, which is about the gross take-home pay of somebody who makes minimum wage. Median family income in the US is about $43,000 a year, which is not really that much more than minimum wage, because if, as is usually the case, both partners work, that means the average is about $21,000 per person, which works out to about ten bucks an hour—like I said, not that much more than minimum wage, and clearly not enough to afford 12k a year for health coverage.

Under the typical Democratic candidate plan, how much would a median-income family be expected to pay for health insurance? We have two models to work from. One is Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts program, which, he boasts, brought the per person cost of health insurance down from $350 a month to $180 a month. So, for a family of four, that would be an insurance bill cut from $1400 a month—above the national average I just quoted—to $720 a month, about 20% of their pre-tax income. Still not very affordable.

Or we can go from the claim that the average Democratic proposal will pay $2400 per year per person, which is estimated to be half the typical cost of insurance by some reckonings. It’s also about what countries such as France, Canada, and England pay for health care per person per year. (That’s a 2001 link…I had a more recent reference, but lost it…sorry!) Here, it’s less than half what people pay. Well, we all know how poverty-stricken and uncivilized they are in Canada and Europe. Backwaters of medical technology, y’know? But, I digress….So, if the subsidy pays a family about ten thousand dollars a year, does that leave them two, four, or ten thousand dollars to make up out of their own pockets for government-mandated private insurance? You must pay the corporations money or be penalized!? Yow, I’m still digressing….on the lower end, an additional payment of $160-$320 dollars a month might be affordable, except that the reality of most families’ budgets is that they are already going into debt just to survive, and don’t have room for another $160 dollar a month payment.

And, speaking of going into debt, these dim Dems are living in la-la land to think that the government is going to have money to give the insurance companies. When Cheney and Bush started the Iraq war, and the Democrats bought it, they started a fire that was guaranteed to burn up any possibility of increased spending on social needs in this country. I think the Junta did that on purpose, but I’m sorry, Hillary, there ain’t no $110 billion to spend on that. We’ve about maxxed out our Chinese and Saudi credit cards on that war you voted for, dontcha know?

Well, if we can’t afford to spend any more money on healthcare, then how in the world can we afford universal single-payer healthcare?

We can afford universal single-payer healthcare because we’re already paying too much for healthcare. If we cut out the corpulent corporate middlemen, there’s plenty of money already in the system to take care of everybody. According to Physicians for a National Health Program, ”private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.” Health insurance would be covered by prorated taxes instead of flat-rate insurance premiums, and everyone except the extremely wealthy would end up paying less for health coverage.

Single-payer health coverage is part of the Green Party platform, but the only Democratic candidate who endorses it is Dennis Kucinich—and the party bosses are trying to figure out how to take his seat away from him. Most Americans support single payer healthcare, but our current major political parties are too in thrall to their corporate masters to listen to the people they claim to represent. Time to ring some changes.

music: Rumors of the Big Wave, Echo of a Scream





YOU MIGHT BE A TERRORIST, SO….

9 12 2006

We just listened toBuffy St. Marie, who, by the way, says she has evidencethat the US government leaned on record companies, TV networks, and concert promoters to shut down her career in the 1970’s, possibly even going so far as to hijack shipments of her albums so they never reached record stores. Although some of the evidence looks a little dubious, this wouldn’t surprise me at all. The American Indian Movement scared the hell out of the US government, which responded by framing movement leader Leonard Peltier for murder and terrorizing his followers.

Nor were the Native people alone in being subverted. A covert government program called COINTELPRO broke up not just Black Power political groups but also black cultural organizations, disrupted the burgeoning underground newspaper movement by denying access to newsprint and persuading printers and advertisers not to do business with the anti-establishment press, and a whole lot more. Although COINTELPRO officially ended in 1971, it was surreptitiously continued by the Nixon administration, survived the Carter interregnum, and blossomed into the persecution of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador and and the Christic Institute in the eighties and nineties. So I believe the government screwed her over, although I have my doubts about the guy who says the government killed Buddy Holly.

Nor have things abated. Those Democratic Senators and Representatives who are now supposed to save our asses joined almost unanimously with the Bush Junta’s party to pass “The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act,” which makes it a federal crime to disrupt the activities or profits of any business that “uses or sells animals.” “Terrorism” is defined as “placing a person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to that person, a member of the immediate family of that person, or a spouse or intimate partner of that person by a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, trespass, harassment, or intimidation.” The thing is, the fear has been injected into this issue by the “animal enterprises”themselves–slaughterhouses, oversized chicken, hog and fur farms, and laboratories that do testing on live animals. They keep talking up the possibility of violence by those who oppose them, and have used their lobbying power to make outlaws of their opposition. Animal rights groups, now viewed as “domestic terrorist organizations,” have never had a policy of threatening those whose activities they protest, although some individual members occasionally seem to get a bit unhinged and threatening. Provocateurs, perhaps?

And who’s not on the short list of domestic terrorist organizations? Anti-abortion groups—who have bombed clinics, assassinated doctors, and threatened pregnant women. Right-wing militia groups in the US are not on the short list. And remember, the vote to pass this bill singling out animal rights groups as terrorists was passed almost unanimously, with Dennis Kucinich the only dissenting voice. So yeah, I think it’s quite believable that the government hijacked Buffy St. Marie’s recordings and undermined her career. Do you know who’s reading your email?

Buffy St. Marie, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee








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