PRIMARY RESULTS: TWEEDLEDEE AND TWEEDLEDUM AGREE TO HAVE A BATTLE!

7 08 2010

To nobody’s surprise, Bill Haslam won the Republican nomination for Governor of Tennessee on Thursday, and everybody will be surprised if he doesn’t coast from here to the governorship. Haslam’s victory, I suspect, is largely attributable to the fact that he had not one but two tea-partiers snapping at his heels.  Between them, they drew almost half the votes. If Ramsey or Wamp had had the psychological skill to let go of his own ambitions,  step aside, and let the other go one-on-one with Haslam, things might have turned out differently, but tea-partiers are not known for their psychological skills.  If they ever did take control of the government, I think things would get chaotic in a hurry…but they’re too crazy to win, even in a crazy state like Tennessee.  And so Haslam, who seems like a cross between Phil Bredesen and George Bush, is the Republican nominee, and the race is his to lose.

His main competitor has staked out a number of basically Republican positions for his platform–which is why I’m calling him “Me, Too” McWherter.  If Wamp or Ramsey had become the Republican candidate, at least we’d have a clear choice between a right-wing crazy and middle-of-the-road mediocrity.  As it is, a Mc-Wherter-Haslam contest has all the drama and polarity of a faceoff between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

“Me, too” McWherter supports Arizona’s imposition of a  police state for brown-skinned people.  “May I see your papers, please?”  I can remember when patriotic Americans were proud that that was a question that only got asked behind the Iron Curtain.

He thinks “intelligent design” should be taught in public schools, with evolution given some attention as a “theory.”

He is against a state income tax, a gross act of pandering to the lowest common denominator.  It is this state’s fiscal downfall that wealthy conservatives have sold the average Tennessean on the phony idea that an income tax would affect primarily low- and middle-income people.  That’ s a lie, and McWherter lacks the courage to confront it.  But hey….he’s rich enough that if we had a state income tax, he’d have to pay it.

He showed further lack of courage when asked about the issue of the Murfreesboro Mosque–“you can’t just drop these things into a neighborhood,” he said–as if the Muslim population of Murfreesboro somehow has fewer rights than, say,  the town’s  Baptists.

He has also said he’s against allowing gay couples to adopt children.  Frankly, I think this is an absurdly trivial issue, only pushed to the forefront because peoples’ phobias are being amplified as the general crisis of our culture intensifies, and those who will not face what is happening grow ever more frantic in their efforts to avoid the real issues.

Asked about abortion, he has said that while he, personally, is opposed to it, the decision should be between a woman and her doctor, and not a matter of state law.  That’s the traditional sop the Democrats throw to women–“vote for us, we’ll screw you over every other way the Republicans will, but at least we’re pro-choice.”  But he opposes state funding for abortions–so if you’re poor and pregnant and don’t want to have a baby, tough nuggies.

So….with Democrats like this, who needs Republicans?

Considering the scope and depth of of the problems that face Tennessee, we need a real alternative, and fortunately, one is available.  Howard Switzer is once again running as the Green Party’s candidate for Governor.  With McWherter given a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, I’m hoping that hordes of voters will give up on him and opt for Howard instead, to send  a message to the Tennessee Democratic Party that people are on to their Tweedledee vs. Tweedledum relationship with the Republicans.  It would be a first, but stranger things have happened!

music:  James McMurtry “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore”





TEA PARTIES: BOSTON….OR WONDERLAND?

10 04 2010

When I read about the shenanigans perpetrated by the Republican Party lately, I don’t just wonder “What are they thinking?”  I wonder if they are thinking at all, or if they are merely DNA-powered robots in an extremely reactonary, defensive response to the fact that everything that has ever given them security and a sense of self is vanishing like smoke.

There’s plenty of evidence that there is no thinking involved here, most prominently the “Obama is a Marxist/Socialist!” movement, which I commented on last month.  That post, in which I decried the absurdity of calling Obama a “socialist” and pointed out some of the many ways he does the bidding of the capitalist, corporatist masters of America, prompted a reader who identified himself as “Commieblaster,” from College Road in Olive Branch, Mississippi (oh, the irony!), to comment “Obama isn’t a socialist, he’s a Marxist,” and direct me to his website, www.commieblaster.com.

Well, fair is fair.  If Mr. Commieblaster is open-minded enough to read me, I owe it to him to pay a visit to his domain, and so I did.  Oh, my.

“Eighty members of Congress are Socialists!”  he warns.  What, in his book, makes them “socialists”?  Primarily, it seems, association with an organization called “Democratic Socialists of America,” whose website opens with these words:

Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.

So….the tea partiers, who are reacting to what they perceive as an autocratic government, also feel threatened by the idea that “ordinary Americans” ought to be able to “participate in the many decisions that affect our lives”?   Go figure….

DSA’s site also features a number of articles complaining about Obama’s rightward course  and an interview that specifically addresses “Why Obama is Not a Socialist.”  Other criteria for being a “Socialist,” according to Mr. Commieblaster, include supporting Hamas rather than Israel (which was once described as “the most socialist country outside the Eastern Bloc” and where the government still has far more influence on the private sector than in the US), and entertaining the possibility that Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed.  So…does that make sense to you?

Shortly after hearing from Mr. Commieblaster, I ran across an article written by that ol’ devil Commie, the last Marxist left standing, Fidel Freaking Castro himself, in which Castro said flat out

BARACK Obama is a fanatical believer in the imperialist capitalist system imposed by the United States on the world. “God bless the United States,” he ends his speeches…..

The current administration’s militarist policies, its plunder of natural resources and unequal exchange with the poor countries of the Third World are in no way different from those of its predecessors, almost all of them extremely right-wing, with some exceptions, throughout the past century.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?

Perhaps Commieblaster would say that Castro is dissembling (the devil is, after all, “the father of lies”), but actions speak louder than words, and the evidence still stands that, with every move they have made, from bailing out banks in the financial crisis to promoting coal and nuclear energy development to subsidizing for-profit health insurance to creating a nationwide broadband system by helping out Comcast, the strategies that Obama and all those “socialists” in Congress have employed have propped up the capitalist system, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that highly centralized, private, for-profit systems are the least sensible, efficient, and economically viable means to promote the common good of the American people.

But I’m not going to talk about that right now.  I’m going to keep examining the reactionary, right-wing mindset that looks at Democratic party corporate shills and sees Marxist-Leninists.  Commieblaster is, as far as I know, just another guy on the street like me.  Let’s look at what happens when the people he supports are elected to office and actually get to act on their vision.

We don’t have to look far to do that, because our own state legislature here in Tennessee is dominated by tea-party types.  What have they been up to lately?

Exhibit A:  A committee of the Tennessee House recently sent four bills on to the whole legislature.    To quote Jeff Woods of the Nashville Scene:

Two .. measures are state constitutional amendments …to ban the individual mandate and the other to decree that the free enterprise system will live forever in Tennessee.

(The other) Two… are identical–both bills that supposedly would nullify the law’s mandate that all Americans buy insurance. There are two of these bills because their respective sponsors, Rep. Susan Lynn and Sen. Mae Beavers, are running against each other in August’s primary and anxious to take sole credit for this monumental achievement.

They all passed by voice votes to loud cheers from tea partiers…..

And…two things stand out about this example.  The first is that our country’s first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, fought and won a civil war in this country  over the question of whether states have the power to nullify Federal law.  The decision was, they can’t do that.

Well, times have changed, you might argue.  OK, how about this one:  our most recent Republican administration likewise argued strongly that states did not have the power to nullify Federal law….in the words of that notorious socialist, Antonin Scalia,

The regulation of an intrastate activity may be essential to a comprehensive regulation of interstate commerce even though the intrastate activity does not itself “substantially affect” interstate commerce. Moreover… Congress may regulate even noneconomic local activity if that regulation is a necessary part of a more general regulation of interstate commerce. …The relevant question is simply whether the means chosen are “reasonably adapted” to the attainment of a legitimate end under the commerce power.

In other words, the Federal Government can tell the states to sit down and shut up.

But hey, Scalia said that in the Raich vs. Ashcroft case, which was about whether the federal government had to recognize California’s medical marijuana laws, and everybody knows that anything goes when you’re trying to stamp out the evil weed…but the Bush junta also successfully swatted down Oregon’s assisted suicide  law and California’s attempts to raise mileage standards on cars. So….states can nullify federal law if Republicans want to fight the gummint, but when Democrats try to insist on states’ rights, it’s not OK.  That seems to be the underlying principle here, does it not?

Exhibit B:  Our state legislature has, by overwhelming majorities and without debate, passed a law requiring all medical facilities that perform abortions to post the following language prominently (in 40-point type) in their waiting rooms, or face serious fines if the signage is absent:

“Notice: It is against the law for anyone, regardless of the person’s relationship to you, to coerce you into having or to force you to have an abortion. By law, we cannot perform an abortion on you unless we have your freely given and voluntary consent. It is against the law to perform an abortion on you against your will. You have the right to contact any local or state law enforcement agency to receive protection from any actual or threatened criminal offense to coerce an abortion.”

Lawmakers soundly rejected an amendment that would have included language pointing out that it is also against the law to force anyone NOT to have an abortion.  In their perception, pro-abortion pressure from Planned Parenthood and domineering husbands is much more of a threat than anti-abortion pressure from fundamentalist churches and domineering husbands. Senator Beverly Marrero, one of the only two State Senators who had the courage to vote against this bill (the other was Andy Berke), said of it

We all know this legislation is purely political, designed to increase the anti-abortion bona fides of lawmakers up for re-election this year.

I couldn’t agree with her more.

Exhibit C:  My state representative’s “weekly update” informed me about HB 3280 which, to quote from the bill summary

..revises the substances that give rise to the offense described above in (1), so that it would be unlawful to operate or be in control of a motor driven vehicle while under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, “drug, substance or combination thereof, affecting” the central nervous system instead of a “narcotic drug or drug producing stimulating effects on” the central nervous system.”

“Any substance that affects the central nervous system”?  What substance that we take into our bodies doesn’t affect our central nervous system?  The bill was aimed at making it illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of anything that might negatively affect a person’s judgement and response time, but, taken literally, makes it illegal to drive under the influence of coffee, food, or any of the many prescription drugs that have “do not operate heavy equipment” warnings on their labels.  I take one of those, metoprolol, and I can’t say that I or anyone close to me has observed it affecting my judgement or co-ordination.   Of course, this  It will  probably be used mostly to persecute people whose urine tests positive for marijuana, in spite of overwhelming evidence that marijuana metabolites in urine are not an indication that one is “under the influence of” marijuana, and despite research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Board that pretty well exonerates marijuana as a cause of hazardous driving.

Well, maybe I shouldn’t get my dander up too much about this, just yet.  Although it passed the House unanimously, so far it’s bogged down in committee in the Senate, which is taking up more important things like allowing mountaintop removal in Tennessee, in spite of the fact that the state generates far more revenue from people coming to appreciate our scenery than it does from people destroying the scenery to pull a little coal out from under it.  And that’s just one argument.

And there’s a bill that will insist that all driver’s license tests shall be conducted in English,unless the applicant’s stay in the country has been

approved and authorized by the United States department of homeland security for a specific purpose, including investing, overseeing investment, or providing needed services to companies or businesses in Tennessee, and for a specified period of authorized stay,

In other words, rich foreigners are welcome; poor ones are not.  This one, too, has yet to emerge from the committee thicket, and the state’s business interests are speaking up against it, so sense may yet prevail in this case.

We also have the spectacle of our supposedly Democratic governor worrying that more people will find out they’re eligible for Medicare and sign up for it, easing their own medical expenses but increasing the state’s.

I could tell you more, but I think I have gone on just about long enough.

Into this tea party atmosphere, more reminiscent of Wonderland than Boston, strides Howard Switzer, who is once again the Green Party’s gubernatorial candidate.  I wish we had a horde of people running for state legislature positions to back him up, but alas, it ain’t happening this year.  You can find Howard’s blog at switzer4governor.blogspot.com/

Naomi Wolf, author of The Shock Doctrine, has found a new popularity among the tea partiers, and in a recent interview she said she has some faith that their questioning of authority will, in the long run, be beneficial.  I hope she’s right.  I am concerned that the tea partiers will turn out to be the 21st century version of the SA, the “brown shirts” who provided the populist muscle that brought Hitler to power and were quickly disposed of as a political force once he and his corporate conspirators consolidated their hold on Germany.  On the other hand, Hitler did not have to contend with shrinking resources and a shifting climate, both forces that are more than equal to the task of toppling a civilization.

Unless they do come to their senses, the tea partiers, who seem to have the momentum in US politics at this point, will continue to spend their energy in irrelevant, illusory, paranoid pursuits, codifying intolerance and ignorance, and squashing any dissent other than their own.  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

music:  Greg Brown, Worrisome Years





(it’s always darkest before the) GREEN DAWN

12 11 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Although my ultimate goal would be campaign finance reform,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 local issues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a Green dawn glowing on the horizon.

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

music: Leonard Cohen, “Democracy”




FLUSH A TOILET, KILL A DOLPHIN

12 08 2006

A few weeks ago, Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howard Switzer got what at first seemed like a nice boost: Nashville Scene political columnist Dean Hinton invited him and a campaign-co-worker out for lunch and spent an hour and a half interviewing him, largely on Switzer’s views on healthcare, which is the main focus of his campaign, but also touching the strawbale homes which are his stock in trade as an architect, his years at the Farm community in Summertown, Tennessee, and his current back-to-the-land lifestyle near Linden, Tennessee.

Candidate Switzer left the lunch meeting relaxed, refreshed, and full of good food; he felt he had found a sympathetic ear in his conversation with Hinton, and expected to see an upbeat story about his efforts to reform the health care system spread across the pages of Nashville’s widely-read free weekly.

But that’s not what happened. Under the headline, “Politics in the Crapper,” Nashville’s so-called “alternative” newspaper spent a total of one hundred and thirty-six words dwelling on candidate Switzer’s use of a composting toilet, finishing the snippet with, “(Switzer) says Dems and Repubs often co-opt ideas from Greens after elections. Here’s guessing (his) bathroom routine won’t be one of them.”

I thought this was, shall we say, mean-spirited, and wrote the following letter to the Scene, which they had the grace to print, although Howard and others among my radical friends doubted that they would. Here’s what I said:
I am dismayed by your puerile fascination with gubernatorial candidate Howard Switzer’s composting practices (“Politics in the Crapper,” Off Limits, July 20). You completely ignored his basic campaign message: we can’t expect real health care reform from someone (Phil Bredesen) who has become a millionaire by profiting from the inequities in our so-called health care system. If we are going to provide health care for all, then we are going to have to change the system so that it exists to benefit all people, not just the corporate shareholders.

The Green Party advocates fundamental changes in the nature of our society at all levels, from health care to compost. Human and animal wastes are viewed in our current culture/economy as pollution—yucky waste products to be gotten rid of—when they should be seen as valuable resources for plant nutrition in a localized agricultural economy. Meanwhile, the highly processed fertilizers that our non-organic farmers depend on are skyrocketing in price due to their dependence on natural gas and other petro products, and the expense of transporting salad vegetables from California or beyond is ratcheting up too. Being too neurotic as a culture to get over our shit yucks may be one of the silly little details that doom us.

That was my letter.

Was I throwing the word “doom” around a bit too freely? I wondered a bit, myself—I am prone to hyperbole, goodness knows. Jumping to conclusions is one of my favorite forms of mental exercise, but I soon came across two stories that showed me that I was far, far, more correct about this than I would like to be.

The stories came to me from the L.A. Times via Truthout. The first was titled Sentinels Under Attack, and it told a horrible story: a microorganism that has recently become widespread in the ocean off California secretes a neurotoxin that, when concentrated up the food chain in the bodies of large, carnivorous mammals and birds, causes brain damage that expresses itself as severe disorientation, stillbirths, seizures, hostility, and general failure to thrive. Wildlife veterinarians discovered that, while they could nurse affected animals back to physical health, there was no real brain recovery; once affected, animals lost their ability to navigate and would not care for their young, permanently. Another story told of researchers finding similar, though less drastic effects, in native people who eat a lot of shellfish, and even in children born to women who have eaten a lot of contaminated shellfish while pregnant.

This microorganism, Pseudo-nitzschia, has only become known as a problem in California in the last eight years, but once researchers started looking for it, they found it in the Louisana dead zone, where the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The water there is calmer than the Pacific off California, and layers of sediments can be read like tree rings. Evidence from those layers showed that Pseudo-nitzschia had only started proliferating in the late 1940’s. Its numbers rose when farmers in the Mississippi valley started making extensive use of commercial fertilizers—much of the nutrients in those fertilizers is leached out of the dirt where it is initially spread and carried downriver to the ocean. In California, researchers found that the most intense areas of nitzschia bloom occur around populated areas, where runoff from sewage systems, even when competently treated to eliminate bacteria, still flushes large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other plant nutrients into the ocean, sparking growth of the organism. Flush a toilet, kill a dolphin—or a sea lion, or a manatee, or a seal, or a seagull.

And that’s not the only toxic micro-organism that’s making a big comeback at the expense of us more complex critters. The second article introduced Lyngbya majuscula, known in Australia as “fireweed.” When conditions are right, it can spread across the bottom of a shallow lagoon at the rate of nearly an acre an hour. One researcher said, “It’s like ‘the blob’, but it’s real.”

We are talking about a life form here that is so simple, so basic, that it can apparently exist indefinitely in an ecosystem of which it is the only living member. It may have done that for a billion years or so in the far distant past, our far distant past. We evolved out of it or something like it. Phew. But we are not so simple and basic that we can be the only living creature in our ecosystem. We demand a highly complex web of life in order to survive. The oceans are now evolving backwards, into simplicity, and are big enough to drag the rest of the planet along with them. If things get too simple, we may discover that despite all our cleverness, we can no longer survive on this planet. These are the thoughts generated by the resurgence of Lyngbya majuscula. Fireweed, indeed. No more water, the fire next time….

So what does Lyngbya do? It’s poison ivy on steroids. Scientists have found a hundred different toxins in it. It sucks all the oxygen out of the water and kills fish. It kills fish directly. Touching it, even exposure to water that it’s growing in, causes a rash that makes your skin fall off. It gives off gasses that cause nausea and vomiting. It’s been around for three billion years. It’s been eclipsed until recently by higher life forms, but since we’ve destroyed 90% of the fish in the ocean we’ve cut out its competition, and flushing our fields and toilets has given it the food it needs to thrive.

Scientists predict that these and other microorganisms may soon turn our beaches and coastlines from tourist attractions into cesspools.

Nashville flushes its toilets into the Cumberland River. The Cumberland River flows, ultimately, into the Gulf of Mexico, where the oxygen and the fish have gone and slime prevails.

Maybe Phil Bredesen better adopt Howard Switzer’s bathroom routine, eh?

music: Leonard Cohen, “The Road to Hell”





ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS

16 07 2006

I recently received an email from Ginny Welsch, who is running for Congressman Jim Cooper’s Nashville seat. In it, she said, “I’m afraid that my affiliation as the Green party nominee will harm my chances right now of getting the support I need from other segments of the community. And I can’t risk that at this point, because that is not the focus of my run for Congress. I’ve already been accused of being a Republican plant, running to make sure Cooper’s vote is split and a right winger gets in. I can’t afford to give people who are already unsure about me any ammunition to undermine what I’m trying to do.” She has decided to remove all Green Party references from her website.

Chris Lugo, running as a Green candidate for the Senate seat that Harold Ford, Jr., hopes to win, has faced the same kind of accusations. And, in spite of the fact that the Governor’s race appears to be a shoo-in for Bredesen, Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howard Switzer also finds himself regularly shunned by people who should be his constituency.

This reminds me of something that’s happened to not a few police officers down through the years, when they have attempted to stop an act of domestic violence—let’s be blunt, a guy beating up his wife—and had BOTH parties attack him for trying to break them up. Liberals afraid of a right winger replacing Jim Cooper? Hey, the guy’s apparently already a member of the Heritage Foundation. How much more right wing could an out-front Republican be? Jim Cooper has been called a “Bush Democrat” due to his support for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, Bush’s so-called bankruptcy- and tort reform bills, his unquestioning support for the war on Iraq, and his vote for the bill that denied First-Amendment protections to the internet. He gets good marks from the League of Conservation Voters, but the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) gives him only a 30% approval rating on abortion issues.

Harold Ford, Jr. largely echoes Cooper’s positions, including his lukewarm NARAL ratings and his flag-waving support of the war that’s destroying America’s future, but because he is black it is the liberal thing to do to support his candidacy. I don’t know if that’s reverse racism; it might be perverse racism. Ford is so close to Bush that when the resident visited Memphis trying to drum up support for his attempt to rip off Social Security, he gave Childe Harold a hundred tickets to distribute so there would be some supportive black faces in the room—and Ford did his master’s bidding.

Candidates like Cooper and Ford, who call themselves Democrats but don’t really take a strong egalitarian-populist stand, do not inspire confidence in the electoral process. They inspire cynicism, because they make a sham out of the idea of choice in American politics. Harold and Jim are abusing their constituencies. At election time they woo us with promises of benefits for us and protection from Republican boogeymen, but once we empower them, those benefits never show up and they become the boogeymen. Like abused women, we tolerate this….until enough of us have had enough and we leave. I’ve left, as best as I can. It will take a lot more of us getting fed up to really make a change. Won’t you slip away with me?

Bob Marley and the Wailers–”Top Rankin‘”





A DAY AT THE RACES/DEMOCRATS BEHAVING BADLY

11 03 2006

I’m pleased to report to you that the Green Party here in Tennessee is running its fullest slate of candidates ever in next Fall’s election. The Party’s recent nominating convention produced candidates for Governor, U.S. Senator, and 1st and 7th House districts, as well as a couple of local contests.

Howard Switzer, a resident of rural Linden, Tennessee, is the gubernatorial candidate. He is an architect by profession and one of the founders of the state’s Green Party. His wife, Katey Culver, a permaculture designer and also a founder of the Green Party, is running for the U.S. House against Marsha Blackheart—I mean Blackburn—in the Seventh District. Marcia Blackburn is famously from Brentwood, one of the richest zipcodes in the USA, but Brentwood was gerrymandered into the seventh district. It’s only connected with the rest of the predominantly rural, low-income southwestern Tennessee district by a narrow corridor, which also juts up to include Clarksville, a military town and Republican bastion. I guess our Tennessee solons brought in some consultants from Texas to do the last redistricting. Don’t want them poor folks electin’ someone who’ll actually represent ’em. No. Good luck, Katey—may you surprise us all, especially Marsha.

Chris Lugo, of Nashville, was nominated to run for Bill Frist’s Senate seat, which Bill, thank goodness, is vacating. Chris is in the cleaning and recycling business, and also runs the Tennessee Independent Media Center, a web-based alternative newspaper for those of us here in the midsouth. Full disclosure: a lot of my writing on local issues gets printed at the TNIMC website, and I volunteer my editing talents there also. Chris has a website for his Senate run, featuring his platform, which I think could pretty well serve as the platform for everyone on the ticket.

Robert Smith is the party’s candidate in the first district, which is in the far east of the state. He is a Vietnam veteran and a founding member of an ecovillage near Greenville, and a Native American off the Seneca tribe.

In the two green-tinged local races, Martin Pleasant is running for county commissioner in Knoxville, a race that is technically non partisan, and Jonathan Davidson, who has not sought the endorsement of the Green Party although he is affiliated with it, is seeking a Nashville-area house seat. There’s still almost a month to go until the deadline for filing (April 6), so more candidates may be in the wings. Stay tuned. I’m considering it—but I’d have to give up this radio show to do it. Why don’t you? Just go on down to your county electoral commission and get a petition, and find 25 of your friends to sign it, and you, too, can have your name on the ballot in November. There will be another chance for Green Party endorsement at the state party convention in May. I’ll be happy to help you any way I can.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad news.

First of all, you won’t know by looking at the ballot that any of these folks are running on the Green Party ticket. Due to the way the Democans and Republicrats have fixed the ballot laws in this state, a party has to win more than five percent of the vote in a statewide election WITHOUT its party tag on the ballot, in order to have its party tag on the ballot, or present a petition with the equivalent number of signatures on it, which comes to about 37,000. High hurdles….

Now, for more bad news. The Democrats are working to keep the Greens off all ballots, completely. H.R 4694 (“Let the People Decide Clean Campaign Act”) would grant full public funding to nominees of parties (i.e., Democans and Republicrats) that had averaged 25% of the vote for House races in a given district in the last two elections. All others (i.e., third party and independent candidates) would be required to submit petitions signed by 10% of the last vote cast for partial funding, and 20% for full funding.

Furthermore, candidates who don’t qualify for funding would be barred from spending any privately raised money on their campaigns. Ten to twenty percent of the last vote cast—that’s 35-70,000 signatures in the average congressional district. Just getting that many signatures, even with copious volunteer help, would require serious fundraising. This bill effectively cuts small third parties out of the U.S. electoral process in the name of campaign finance reform. We’re not the problem, but we’re getting fixed—like a dog gets fixed. Well, isn’t that nice?

Whatsamatter with you, you need more than two choices? How unAmerican! This is not something coming from the Republifacists, mind you. This is coming from people even a cynical Green like me is inclined to think of as the good guys. Barney Frank and Henry Waxman are two sponsors of this bill.

Barney Frank!!?? Greenbashed by the gays!! Barney, how could you!! And Henry Waxman!!??

Here’s the skinny: several of the other sponsors of this bill faced Green competition suggesting that their sponsorship is retaliatory. They will be facing Green competition again this year, I’m sure. Get used to it, people.

Commenting on this, D.C. Statehood Green Party activist T.E. Smith said, “The Democrats behind this bill have as little regard for democracy and open elections as Republicans who have used altered district lines and other methods to fix elections. Hiding this stratagem in a bill for public financing of campaigns makes it doubly shameful.”

“An obvious motivation behind HR 4694 is panic over a Green insurgency. Voters have realized that the Democratic Party has given President Bush and the GOP a pass on various abuses of power and radical actions, such as the invasion of Iraq and the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito, which most Democrats declined to filibuster. The time is ripe for a non-corporate independent third party, and many Democrats are worried,” added Mr. Smith.

Well, the good news about this bad news is that it is coming from the Democrats, and the Republicans aren’t likely to let it get very far. They like left-wing splinter parties that take votes from Democrats, y’know? So, the Republicans are good for something. Of course, if we were a serious threat to them, they’d sic Karl Rove on us without a second thought…one of these days, folks, one of these days.

music: Terry Allen, “Big Ol’ White Boys”

Comments

Chris Lugo’s new website is located at http://www.chris4senate.com/
Posted by webmaster on 04/07/2006 01:40:19 PM

and Robert Smith’s blog can be found here: http://1bigtree.tripod.com/robertnsmith_greens/
Posted by brothermartin on 04/07/2006 04:27:36 PM








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