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

11 09 2016

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

readyforoligarchy

Do not think about a Green Party!

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

 

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

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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 »





IT’S THE OIL, STUPID!

16 04 2011

Once upon a time, I thought Moammar Qadhafi was cool, a twentieth century Barbary pirate who gleefully steered an independent course, used his country’s oil money to benefit the Libyan people, and thumbed his nose at Moscow and Washington alike.  I soured on him a long time ago, though, as it became apparent that he was pocketing most of the oil money himself, and his regime was blowing up airliners and assassinating exiled Libyan dissidents.  His visit to Rome in February was little short of bizarre, as he suggested that Europeans should convert en masse to Islam, abolish all political parties, and that the etymology of the word “democracy” had to do with people sitting on chairs, not to mention quotes like these:

I am not a dictator to close facebook… But I will be arresting anyone who enters it!

Demonstrate all you want, but do not go to the streets and squares!!

So, I was thrilled when a revolt broke out in Libya that seemed to have the strength to kick his crazy ass out of the country.  I mean, the guy reminds me of Michael Jackson–way cool in the eighties, nuts in the twenty-first century.  But Qadhafi, while he may be as crazy as Michael Jackson, is a lot less musically talented and a lot more dangerous.  It became obvious that he was going to use every means at his disposal to destroy the rebellion, and he definitely had the resources to do it:  modern weaponry, 6.5 billion dollars worth of gold to buy supplies, and a porous southern border with sub-Saharan Africa, a region where money talks and anything goes.  It looked like ol’ Qadhafi Duck was gonna crush the rebellion and give any rebels who survived reason to envy the dead.  But then, but then–instead of hanging these rebels out to dry, as the West has almost invariably done, NATO came to their aid.  Wow!   The empire was doing the right thing for a change!

So why, I wondered, were Cindy Sheehan and the Green Party and a lot of my usual cohorts going ape about this?  Did they actually support Qadhafi?  Did they know something I didn’t?

It didn’t take long for the truth to come out.  First came the disclosure that there had been a quid pro quo to gain Arab support for the intervention:   the U.S. agreed not to squawk about suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain in exchange for co-operation.  It was fine with the Saudis–Qadhafi Duck has long been a loose cannon in the Middle East, and they would be happy to see him replaced with someone more tractable.  Second, I found out that Qadhafi had recently decided to start selling Libya’s oil to India and China, rather than the West.  As Saddam Hussein found out when he tried to ask for Euros instead of dollars for his oil, defections will not be tolerated.

Think of all the oppressive situations the Empire has ignored.  Repression in Iran, Syria, Turkish actions against the Kurds, the civil wars in Sudan and the Congo, the genocide in Rwanda, brutal regimes in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians, the concentration camps known as North Korea and Burma, China’s crushing of Tibet and Tiananmen Square, “dirty wars” in Chile and Argentina–the list goes on and on.  The US has tsk-tsked, turned a blind eye to, or actively assisted in the crushing of one popular revolt after another–but Libya–Libya we can, and will, do something about–and why?  It’s small enough to beat and rich enough to be worth taking.  This is not about freedom and democracy, it’s about greed and hypocrisy, about getting our people in there and taking over from the amateurs who started the revolt. I would like to see those amateurs succeed, but it’s not about freedom any more, it’s about their blood for our oil–again.

My bad, Ms. Sheehan.  You called it right.

The Clash:  “Rock the Casbah





AS IF THERE WILL BE NO DELUGE…

10 05 2009

A number of bits of local news and commentary have come to my attention lately:  Mayor Dean’s “State of the City” address, the report of the Green Ribbon Committee for a Sustainable Nashville, news that the “reform” of Tennessee’s waste management policies is not only a shambles but a sham, and the renewed push for construction of Maytown Center, along with the howls of misguided (or intentionally misleading) protest that accompanied my characterization of its neo-feudal potential last month.

Hizzoner the Mayor used his moment in the spotlight to push for a new Nashville Convention Center, a sort of “build it and they will come,” Hail Mary pass proposal that has been so thoroughly excoriated by the Nashville Scene that I hardly need to go into detail here, except to answer their “what are they smoking?” question with, “must be crack, ’cause any self-respecting pot smoker would see through this welfare-for-developers proposal in a minute.”  I would also add that anybody who thinks any kind of tourism is going to make a comeback is inhaling the wrong kind of smoke.  The only big influx that I see in Nashville’s, or America’s, future, is Chinese and various Middle Easterners coming to repossess whatever they can in consideration of America’s unrepayable debt to them.  The “T” in “T-bills” is gonna stand for “toilet paper,” boys and girls.  Can you say “Confederate money”?

And, speaking of smoking crack, I have to repeat and re-emphasize that anyone who thinks Maytown Center is going to be good for Nashville is still living in the delusionary world of the Bush era.  Growth is over.  If it is built, Maytown will either rapidly turn into a ghost town or suck the air out of the rest of the city and become a gated version of downtown, so the upper crust doesn’t have to cross paths with the homeless.

We would be much better off using the energy that the city’s movers and shakers are putting into these mirages to fast-track and expand some of the proposals in the Green Ribbon Committee’s report, which is at least well-intentioned, if woefully under-ambitious.  I feel bad about having to say that.  I know some of the people on the Committee, and I trust their good will. I went to one of their public meetings, and I think the document they have produced is radical and edgy–for 1975.  At this point, it is too little, too late.    Can we create a sustainable local economy that will support our current population?  Can we produce enough hoes and digging forks for everybody to turn up the ground it will take to keep ourselves in potatoes, let alone manufacture  our own shoes and clothing? Ain’t none of that happening here in Nashvegas any more, — how many weavers and cobblers are there in this town?  We sold our industrial capacity to the Chinese for a mess of profit, and we are about to find out that money is nothing but funny-looking paper once everybody agrees it’s worthless.

The landfill proposals that so outrage my friends at BURNT (Bring Urban Recycling to Nashville Today) are another head-shaker, another high-stakes poker game, played with a marked deck, in the tilting first-class lounge of the Titanic.  Of course, as James Howard Kunstler points out in World Made By Hand, all the recyclables we stick in landfills now are a kind of savings account that we will be able to mine in coming decades, when we will be out of natural resources and the ability to acquire them through commerce, and will have nothing better to do than dig up old city dumps, straighten bent nails, melt down and recast plastic and metal, and treasure the one or two chemists in our city who figure out how to make matches from local materials–because all those disposable lighters we take for granted are gonna be a thing of the past in the future, folks.  Do I have to remind you that you are going to have to cook with a wood fire, unless you’re lucky enough to have a solar cooker and a sunny day? And where will you be gathering your firewood?

Oh, and speaking of rigged poker games on the Titanic, our newly-Republican legislature is attempting to make sure that we don’t switch to optical-scan voting machines in time for the next election, presumably so they can rig it more easily, since they are doing such a patently bad job of running the state that they know they won’t be able to win an honest election…not that the Dims would be much better, it’s just a question of who controls what’s left of the state’s treasury.   Well, OK…the Dims would be doing nothing instead of forbidding local living wage laws, allowing people to carry guns everywhere and restricting abortion rights. “Respect for human life”? HELLO?

As all the various antics listed above indicate, either both parties are clueless about the scope of what we’re in for in this country, or they are figuring the best way to survive is to cut as many people out of the loop as possible.  If national politics are any guide, I would say the Repuglyicans are trying to cut as many of us out of the loop as they can (leaving more goodies for themselves), and the Dim-ocrats are simply clueless.  In this state, most seem to think the best strategy is to try and be as conservative as the Repugs, but since they lack the intense commitment to self-aggrandizement that characterizes so many Repugs, they end up coming across as clueless namby-pambys, which is one reason (besides ignorance and its bastard child, racism) they have been fluffing so many elections lately–like, it wasn’t just that Harold Ford is black, it’s that he’s barely to the left of Bob Corker. Not only is Harold no Jesse Jackson, he’s not even a Barack Obama.

Let me make something clear here–I  am as threatened as anyone by the future I foresee.  Western civilization as we know it needs to end for the planetary ecosystem (including humans) to continue, and I, an aging man with health problems, may not survive the change.  With that in mind, I want to make that transition as smooth as I can, so I am living as simply as I can, and supporting organizations that I believe will help cushion our descent, like our local bioregional council and the Tennessee Green Party.  As long as we have a functioning statewide political system (and I am not going to hazard a guess on how long that may be), we need to take advantage of it and use the framework of the Green Party to raise real issues:  local sustainability, resource conservation, universal access to health care, economic justice, and grass-roots democracy, to name the first few broad headings that come to mind.  There is SO much to do, and we’re  running the Green Party of Tennessee with a skeleton crew–so come on aboard, there’s plenty of room.

music:  Eliza Gilkyson, “Unsustainable





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





GREEN VALUES, BUDDHIST VALUES

29 08 2008

“If there’s a Green Party, I want to join,” the Dalai Lama has said.  Certainly, not all Greens are Buddhists, but this does lead to the question of how much overlap there is between Buddhist values and Green values.  I recently read David Loy’s Money, Sex, War, Karma–Notes for a Buddhist Revolution, which, without mentioning the Green Party, provides some answers.

Loy examines money, sex and war in  order to understand why they never deliver the satisfaction they promise, and points to what it is we are really looking for when we put our faith in these pillars of modern society.  Why, it’s happiness, isn’t it?  Fulfillment!  And how can anything outside ourselves–a lover, a million dollars, or a warm gun–fill an emptiness that is ultimately, nowhere but within ourselves?  This continual, frustrating search has warped human culture to the breaking point.  Could Buddhism alter society enough to prevent our cultural suicide?

Maybe…but we need to understand its limitations.  First of all, Buddhism is ultimately a personal practice, not a social prescription.  Christianity and Islam, on the other hand, have become strongly identified with politics and ways of ordering society.

In Islam we see institutions such as Sharia, which dictate minute details of personal conduct, and the Caliphate, a religious state ruled over by the spiritual heirs of the Prophet, which continues to haunt the dreams of Mullahs and Islamic politicians alike.

Christianity, by accepting the imprimatur of Constantine and becoming the state religion of the late Roman Empire, likewise identified itself politically with what we now call “the divine right of kings,” a form of political absolutism that allowed for no debate, no democracy, and no non-conformism.  It is small wonder that today, even many “Protestants” whose religions began in rebellion against the overarching hegemony of the Catholic Church demand a state that conforms to their religion by banning or penalizing “sins” such as abortion, homosexuality, non-marital sex, and various forms of consciousness alteration, from alcohol to marihuana and the stronger psychedelics.  That these essentially religious taboos are the regular subject of political debate, or in some cases unquestioningly enforced by the authority of the state, testifies to how deeply our culture is held in the grip of religious fundamentalism, in spite of its secular appearance.

Buddhism’s political track record is not flawless, either, of course, but compared to the major Western religions, its sins have been slight.  Tibetan Buddhism before the Chinese invasion had ossified, presiding over a society that was technically devoted to enlightenment, but whose lamas were all too frequently far more secular than spiritual in their orientation.  Still, Tibet was a small part of the Buddhist world, which, before being cut apart by the sweeping swords of first Islam and then Communism, spread a society based on  meditation and reason from the steppes of central Asia east to Japan, and from Mongolia south through the Indonesian archipelago.  While there were militaries in all these lands, there were also monasteries, and the potent call of a religion that not only claimed that material success is just an illusion, but that offered people tools and techniques to discover this for themselves.  By contrast, Christianity and Islam made sheep of people, offering them only submission to the authority of the church as a way out of the misery of daily life.

This, I think, is where Buddhism and the Green Party begin to intersect.  They share a commitment to personal empowerment, to individual liberation as the foundation stone of a liberated society.  What individual liberation means, as David Loy points out, is freedom from what Buddhism terms “the three poisons:” greed/selfishness, anger/separation, and ignorance–which happen to be the building blocks of consumer society.

These poisons are institutionalized in our economy, our nationalism and military, and our so-called news media, and it is only when we free ourselves from the various spells they cast that we are capable of creating a saner way of life.  Loy takes pains to point out that Buddhism does not describe that way of life, but rather trusts liberated individuals to create a society that is appropriate for them:

We should hesitate before deriving any particular economic or political system from the various teachings of Buddhism…..Buddhism is really about awakening and liberating our awareness, rather than prescribing new institutional structures for that awareness.  We cannot pre-determine what awakened awareness should or  will decide when applied to the problem of social dukkha (suffering).  There is no magic formula to be invoked.  That no one else has such a formula either, so far as I can see, means that solutions to our collective dukkha cannot be derived from any ideology.  They must be worked out together. (p. 141)

This, of course, is completely in line with the first two of the Green Party’s “Ten Key Values,” which are grassroots democracy and social justice.  Loy sees Buddhism not as a separate movement, but more as a spice for existing movements that can flavor them with the integrity that comes from personal spiritual practice, commitment to nonviolence, a sense that we are all in this together, and awareness of impermanence and emptiness, which are not as esoteric as they may sound–they amount to the wisdom that everything will change, sooner or later, because nothing has any permanent existence.

Impermanence means that no problem is intractable since it is part of larger processes that are constantly evolving, whether or not we notice.  My generation grew up during a Cold War that would never end, until suddenly it did.  Apartheid in South Africa seemed inflexible and implacable, but below the surface tectonic plates were gradually shifting and one day that political system collapsed.  These characteristics are not always encouraging:  things can slowly worsen too, and solutions as well as problems are impermanent.  It depends on us to understand how things are changing and how to respond to those changes.

That highlights two other principles connected with impermanence and nonsubstantiality:  non-dogmatism and upaya, “skillful means.”  Shakyamuni Buddha’s own flexibility and Buddhism’s lack of dependence upon any fixed ideology implies the pragmatism of praxis.  We build whatever raft will work to ferry us to the other shore, and once there we don’t carry it around on our backs.  Nonattachment allows for the openness and receptivity which awaken upaya:  imaginative solutions that leap outside the ruts our minds usually circle in.(pps. 145-6)

At the bottom of the web page describing the Green Party’s ten key values is a disclaimer:

There is no authoritative version of the Ten Key Values of the Greens.  The Ten Key Values are guiding principles that are adapted and defined to fit each state and local chapter.

Non-dogmatism, then, lies at the heart of both Buddhism and the Green Party, but I think there is an important difference between the two:  it is possible to be an intellectual Green who participates in the party but does not actually live the values, but in order to be a Buddhist one must actually practice what Buddhism offers.  However, just as it is possible to practice Hatha Yoga without being a formal, observant Hindu, so the mental disciplines (which are often referred to as “yogas”) of meditation and attention that are at the core of Buddhism can be practiced without formally becoming a Buddhist.  Of course, these yogas will be more effective in a more formal context, but there is plenty of benefit to be derived from “generic” meditation, just as spending fifteen minutes a day doing hatha yoga asanas is valuable whether or not one dedicates them to Shiva or Krishna.

The Green Party has been searching for the key that will take it from its current marginal status into the realm of being a serious contender in the American political arena.  I would humbly submit that if every Green were to take his or her personal transformation as seriously as the social and political transformation whose necessity we all see, our power would be magnified and unimaginable possibilities would open up.

I could be wrong; perhaps nothing can pull America back over the brink; and I certainly have no way to make anybody else change their life.  But I do strongly suggest that anyone who cares deeply about the fate of America will benefit from reading David Loy’s little bookMoney Sex War Karma, and following his simple advice.  I don’t know of any better idea.

music:  Bruce Cockburn, “The Gift





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








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