IT TAKES THE LACK OF A VILLAGE TO RAISE A JARED LOUGHNER

12 02 2011

Well, I suppose I owe Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly and all those guys an apology.  When I first heard the news about Jared Loughner’s shooting spree, it seemed natural to blame the hysterical gaggle of right-wing rabble-rousers who have come to dominate our national discourse.  So, sorry, guys, for my knee-jerk reaction.  Jared is not one of yours.  In fact, it seems to me he could just as easily have shot John McCain.

After all, when you get beyond the blustering rhetoric,  tea partiers and neo-liberal Democrats are both part of the problem, not part of the solution, and I think Jared Loughner’s perception of the problem–the meaninglessness and irrelevance of government–was, in some ways, 20-20.  It’s his solution that was deeply flawed.  His “logic” was pretty schizophrenic, and violence? Violence, like mainstream politics, is part of the problem and not part of the solution.  But nobody was close enough to Jared to convince him of either the flaws in his logic or the futility of violence.

Several fingers have been pointed in the search for the answer to how this young man came to shoot 18 people.  Some say it means Arizona’s gun laws are too loose.  Some say it means the “mental health safety net” is stretched too thin.  And some say the fact that he smoked marijuana means that we need to tighten up our drug laws.  I think all of these miss the point.

Tighter gun laws?  As long as firearms are being manufactured, there will be a market for them.  If it becomes more difficult to buy guns legally, there will be a bigger black market, and they will be even more out of control than they are now.  Look at the war on drugs, for an example.

“Better mental health care” is another non-solution.  Mental health care in America has become largely a way for the pharmaceutical companies to sell more drugs and make more profits.  Judging by the record, hese pharmaceuticals don’t seem to be very effective in keeping people from going on shooting sprees, nor have so-called “mental health professionals” been able to spot those with the potential to run amok.

Jared’s use of marijuana, likewise, is no reason to tighten up marijuana laws.  After all, President Obama, ex-President Clinton, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, and Clarence Thomas all used marijuana when they were more or less Jared’s age.  If marijuana helped make Jared what he is, it also helped make them what they are–for better or for worse.

But the mental health and marijuana issues do intertwine to point to how Jared Loughner ended up going off the deep end.

Jared and his entire generation are staring into the void.  There is no imaginable decent future for them, and many, many of them are painfully aware of that.  The American dream of a house in the suburbs, a plethora of consumer goods and high-end vacations, and a no-sweat job that pays the bills is increasingly hollow and unattainable.  The college education our youth are urged into as “preparation for life” is a debt trap, which cannot even be shed by bankruptcy.   Politicians, including Gabrielle Giffords, do not address this; they spout meaningless platitudes and dodge the real issues.  Jared is not alone in noticing this, by any means.

So, how does this relate to mental health and marijuana?

Several ways.  First, unless Jared was growing his own, he was getting his marijuana from a dealer.  If you are engaged in the illegal business of selling marijuana, in order to protect your own ass, you need to make sure that all your customers are sane and responsible enough that they will not get you in trouble.  Clearly, whoever was selling herb to Jared Loughner was being far too “whatever” about his customers.

The dealer’s responsibility to vouch for his customers’ state of mind is about the only shred of the wisdom tradition that is still attached to marijuana culture in this country.

You’re probably wondering what I mean by talking about “wisdom tradition” with reference to marijuana.  Here it is:  in cultures in which cannabis is historically embedded, marijuana use occurs in certain contexts.  In India, for example, many people only use cannabis when they are visiting their spiritual teacher, to make their minds more open to his influence.  However it is used, a tradition of thought, belief, and certain standards of behavior is passed on along with the chillum or hookah.

That is not the case in America.  Due to our restrictive, punitive drug laws and attitudes, parents and children hide their marijuana use from each other, and the wisdom chain is broken.  If Jared Loughner had lived in a culture with a better understanding of the proper use of marijuana, he would have been more likely to sort out his saner thoughts from his crazier ones, and learned not to believe everything he thinks, through the simple mechanism of long, marijuana-inspired talks with not just his peers, but his parents and other elders.

Of course, if he were in a saner culture, he wouldn’t share with most of his contemporaries the uncomfortable feeling of having nothing to grow up for.  It took the lack of a village to raise a Jared Loughner–and thousands more just like him, who have yet to bring themselves to our attention.

music: Tom Robinson, “End of the Rainbow” (written by Richard Thompson)





OBAMA THE SOCIALIST AND OTHER DELUSIONS

12 03 2010

First, a little “I told you so.”  In August of 2008, I wrote the following words:

the Repugs probably are not going to steal this election, because they would rather let the Dims be the ones to fumble around and make idiots of themselves trying to clean up the mess that eight years of out-front pillage has made of the country. It’s much easier to criticize than it is to govern, after all…I should know that!

A great many of my liberal friends are totally thrilled that a dark-skinned man with the middle name of Hussein is going to be our next President. But I think the “Hope Honeymoon” will be over mighty fast, and the next four years will be no love feast for Barack Obama or the Democrat party. While I agree that he will be a better President than John McCain, I think we are in for a long series of increasingly bitter disappointments.  Let me tell you some of what I see coming down the road.

First of all, there is the misperception that Barack is a populist candidate.  He makes every effort to portray himself that way.  His demeanor and delivery are disarming and informal.  He does not come across like a stereotypical politician, but when you read the fine print you discover that he acts like one.

He is getting the bulk of his support from Wall Street.  It is good that the banking gang has recognized that the Bush Junta is not acting in their best interests, but the fact that they have settled on Obama means that he is unlikely to do the things he should to reign in big money’s influence on this country.  Obama has already signaled his willingness to play along with the bankers by his support of the so-called “Class Action Fairness Act of 2005,” which severely limits the ability of private citizens, or even States, to sue corporations.  The NAACP,  the ACLU, and the National Organization for Women, as well as fourteen state attorneys-general, all pleaded with Congress not to pass this Republican-sponsored legislation, but Obama spoke out for it….

Well, the only part of  my prediction I would disagree with at this point is the speculation that Obama is a better President than McCain would have been.  It looks to me like the Repugs are so out of touch with reality that if they had taken the reins of power, we would be a lot further off the rails by now, and further into creating whatever is going to come next….yes, I know it would be draconian and tragic, but think of it as the political equivalent of ripping a band-aid  off a hairy leg….do you want to go slow and agonize over the pulling of each and every individual hair, or just feel all the pain at once and yelp and get it over with?

And, certainly, the Repugs are totally stark raving batbleep crazy.  The fact that so many people have fallen for the ludicrous charge that Obama’s healthcare plan, which proposes to bail out the for-profit insurance business to the tune of  sixty billion dollars, is “socialist”  is a symptom of serious malaise in the body politic. Obama’s proposal is basically the same plan Republican Mitt Romney instituted in Massachusetts, although Mitt drank the kool-aid and claimed in his Presidential campaign that making everybody buy private insurance was ““European-style socialized medicine.”  Tell it to the Europeans!

Can you say “lacking integrity,” boys and girls?

The Romney/Obama plan does nothing to lower the exploitive rates charged by insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, or doctors who think their M.D. is a license to become a millionaire.  It ain’t “socialism,”  it’s a feed trough for capitalist pigs! but I digress….

I am simply amazed at how many people in this country are ignorant enough to label a corporate shill like Obama “socialist,” not to mention that many of these same people believe climate change and peak oil are fabrications for the purpose of introducing “one world government,” and are obsessing over whether Obama is really an American citizen and whether his mother was married when he was born and what they will do when he orders in UN troops in black helicopters, instead  of seeking real solutions to the very real problems we face.  If just a few people were babbling about these fantasies,  they would be considered insane.  Unfortunately, there are millions of people who share these paranoid delusions, and they are a serious political movement. This fog of unreal and groundless accusations completely distracts these people from identifying the true sources of misery and oppression in their lives, whether that’s our corporate overlords or the demons in their own heads.

Yes, the demons in their own heads.   I know, this is a political rap, what am I doing talking about demons, for cryin’ out loud?

OK, demons, in this case, means neuroses, misperceptions, faulty programming like, “if you can’t control yourself, control someone else,” “the most emotional person in the room gets to run the meeting,” and other axioms of psychological power play.  Does that make sense to you?

We like to pretend that we are polite and civilized and ruled by our intellects, but for most of us, that is a sham.  When the pressure is on, as it is now, all that outer husk stuff blows away in the blink of an eye, and all too many of our fellow citizens revert to their inner two-year old, screaming bloody murder and falling flailing to the floor because Mommy won’t give them titty, or their favorite toy, or because it’s nap time and they’re fixated on what they’re doing but too tired to keep doing it happily.  It’s no way to run a country, but it’s what we’ve got to work with.

In spite of the fact that, at least as recently as November of 2008, a sizeable majority of Americans knew that the Repugs are the problem, not the solution, the Dims have been dim enough to discourage a lot of their former supporters, who now seem amnesic enough to return the Repugs to power, in which case they will screw things up even more.  Here and there, where an election is local enough so that face-to-face contact can win out over media barrages, the Green Party will make some inroads, but neither we nor anybody else with sense and solutions is likely to come to power in this country.

It’s sad and poignant.  We are not only poised at the close of the American Empire, we are poised at the decline of human civilization as we have always known it.  We will never again be this wealthy and this powerful.  We are about to run out of cheap oil and the weather is about to go nuts, but nearly everybody is partying like the good times are going to go on forever.  They’re not.  The last two hundred years have been a deluded dream.  We are about to be rudely awakened, and will have one mighty hangover when we come to our senses.

music:  Greg Brown, Worrisome Years





OBAMA–WHAT WOULD MLK THINK?

13 09 2008

A vast chorus of voices has been quick to point to Barack Obama as the fruit of Martin Luther King’s “Dream.”  I have my doubts. Here are some excerpts from Reverend King’s famous, but rarely quoted, speech at Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967, just exactly a year before he was assassinated in Memphis (substitute “Iraq” for “Vietnam” in this speech and it’s frighteningly accurate):

It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor – both black and white – through the Poverty Program.Then came the build-up in Vietnam, and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political play thing of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the young black men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years – especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action. But, they asked, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.

***

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy, and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. (We have now been doing it for two generations.–MH) We will be marching and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years (now fifty–MH) we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela. The need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia (still happening, 40 years later–MH) and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. With such activity in mind, the words of John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look easily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: ” This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from re-ordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Riverside Church, NYC, April 4, 1967

Barack Obama, for all his “hopeful” rhetoric, would not dare endorse this radical analysis of American reality, which, sadly, is as true today as it was over forty years ago.  The “death wish” continues to dominate.  Obama proposes to give us guns and butter, as they say, but we know from the last forty years that it will be guns today and butter tomorrow, always tomorrow, because the sellers of guns are very skilled at keeping their noses in the trough.  Obama’s pledges to build our military will be kept, because that is how the system is set up.  He will throw a few crumbs to the poor and the middle class–who are rapidly joining the ranks of the poor–but it is clear from his speeches and the company he keeps that he is as committed to maintaining American hegemony as John McCain, both Bushes, and Bill Clinton.  He is not the heir of Rev. King’s vision.  He is just Colin Powell with charisma.  If Atlanta is looking for new sources of energy, I suggest they hook a generator up to Reverend King’s tomb, because he must be spinning in his grave.

Now, this kind of talk is going to piss off a lot of people, because to most people badmouthing Obama implies support for a McCain-Palin ticket.  Would I really rather see a PTSD-plagued, nearly senile reptile and a clueless Christian Dominionist bimbo run the country?  Wouldn’t I rather try and pull Obama left  than pull McCain towards the center?

Frankly, I have to take a deep breath and say yes, I think it IS a tossup, when you look at Obama as a slick, charismatic near-neocon partnered with an imperialist-drug warrior patsy for the financial-insurance-real estate tycoons. To those who think they will be able to pull Obama left, I say, don’t kid yourselves–bigger money than you’ll ever see is moving him where it wants him to go. I think it is a sad indication of just how unfree we are in this country when, at a time when we are facing momentous challenges and changes, these phonies are given the spotlight, and candidates like the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney and independent Ralph Nader, who have real answers to the real questions at hand and should be dominating the race, are ignored by the tycoon-directed mainstream media and the public.

I think the country will come unglued faster if McCain wins, and slower if Obama wins.  I don’t think it will be pretty in either case, even though I believe the country needs to come unglued, so that maybe we can put it back together a little smarter than it is now.  I am not prescient enough to know whether a faster or a slower collapse would be better.  I just know that I would rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don’t want and get it.  You make up your own mind.

music:  Eliza Gilkyson, “The Party’s Over





THE OBAMA DILEMMA

13 07 2008

The Green Party has convened in Chicago, and selected Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente as its Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees, the first Presidential ticket in US history composed of two women of color. As always, most people will say this  is a bad time to be supporting a third party candidate in the Presidential race.  The Supreme Court hangs in the balance. (as if the Dims did anything to stop Bush’s fascist nominees!) The ecology and the economy hang in the balance.  The country hangs in the balance,  The planet hangs in the balance.  How could I be so stuck on my principles as to allow the possibility of an alte kaker like John McSame getting into the Presidency and running the country four more years down the road to ruin?

It’s true that a certain parallel can be drawn between this election and the 1932 Hoover-Roosevelt contest, with Obama as Roosevelt.  People look back with nostalgia on Roosevelt and say he saved this country, but let’s be honest–what he did was save capitalism from itself.  If Hoover had somehow gotten re-elected (using the modern Republican style, and cheating his ass off), his hands-off attitude towards the economy and social services, coupled with his ham-fisted attitude towards the poor, could easily have led to complete social chaos, and fostered a radical rearrangement of the country that would put us in a whole different context than the one we are now dealing with.  Roosevelt, instead, set us up for the mess we are in now, by smoothing over the inequities and giving people….hope…..you know, Obama’s stock in trade.

The junior Senator from Illinois has further complicated matters lately by staking out a number of conservative positions , initially on questions like late-term abortion and the death penalty, but now on the equally serious FISA bill.  He has apparently voted to give the administration a pass on seriously illegal activities,  He’s said it wasn’t the bill he really wanted, and he’s also said that, as President, he will be reviewing “the constitutionality of all the laws and executive orders passed while Republican President George W. Bush has been in office.”

And, as Keith Olberman points out in an otherwise blistering attack on Obama, the FISA law that was passed provides civil immunity for the telecoms and the Bush junta operatives who violated the law and the Constitution, but not criminal immunity.  In other words, if Obama’s Attorney General wants to investigate this odious episode and arrest the wrongdoers, he will be able to do so.  For that matter, current Attorney General Michael Mukasey could, but don’t hold your breath.

So–is Obama, in a calculated political move, waiting to get elected before dropping that shoe? He’s said he’s against impeachment because of the turmoil it would create.  Is he setting the stage for post-Presidential prosecution?  If that’s his plan, he certainly wouldn’t tip his hand, would he?

It should be clear by now that I am not clear about how to regard Sen. Obama.  I see a lot of red flags, but I also see somebody who is not playing poitics by the old rules, even as, by necessity, he plays with those who do.  I will almost certainly vote for Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney in November, if only to keep hammering away at Democratic resistance to the Green Party–if you Democrats would get on board about instant runoff voting, we wouldn’t have such bipolar politics in this country, y’know?  And I’m not certain that Obama is willing to tell the American public the awful truth about how far out of line we are here in America, let alone what we are going to have to cut loose of in order to get back in line.  It may be better, in the long run, for the country to go down in flames under McCain than to take Obama’s blue pills of hope.  But maybe not.

My expectation is that Obama will win in November, no matter what the Republicans try to throw at him.  Gonna be interesting times, folks.  Stay loose!

music:  Will Kimbrough, Brand New Song





US GOVERNMENT IS BANKRUPT

23 03 2008

Author Paul Craig Roberts ain’t no flaming radical, either….he was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Reagan, and went on to be an associate editor of the Wall Street Journal.  Read ’em and weep, folks….

 

The Republican candidate for President said he would be content to continue the war for 100 years. With what resources? When America’s creditors consider our behavior they see total fiscal irresponsibility. They see a deluded country that acts as if it is a privilege for foreigners to lend to it, and a deluded country that believes that foreigners will continue to accumulate US debt until the end of time.

The fact of the matter is that the US is bankrupt. David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the US and head of the Government Accountability Office, in his December 17, 2007, report to the US Congress on the financial statements of the US government noted that “the federal government did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting (including safeguarding assets) and compliance with significant laws and regulations as of September 30, 2007.” In everyday language, the US government cannot pass an audit.

Moreover, the GAO report pointed out that the accrued liabilities of the federal government “totaled approximately $53 trillion as of September 30, 2007.” No funds have been set aside against this mind boggling liability.

***

The US will never repay the loans. The American economy has been devastated by offshoring, by foreign competition, and by the importation of foreigners on work visas, while it holds to a free trade ideology that benefits corporate fat cats and shareholders at the expense of American labor. The dollar is failing in its role as reserve currency and will soon be abandoned.

When the dollar ceases to be the reserve currency, the US will no longer be able to pay its bills by borrowing more from foreigners.

I sometimes wonder if the bankrupt “superpower” will be able to scrape together the resources to bring home the troops stationed in its hundreds of bases overseas, or whether they will just be abandoned.

 





DOUBLE STANDARDS IN AMERICA

20 03 2008

Just as Dick Cheney, David Vitter, et al, can hire hookers and get away with it but Eliot Spitzer can’t, Obama’s preacher is getting called on the carpet while white American preachers say (and do) even more outrageous things…and what Rev. Jeremiah Wright said was true…while these guys are full of…baloney, to be charitable…..

from  Cenk Uygur on Alternet:

Rudy Giuliani’s priest has been accused in grand jury proceedings of molesting several children and covering up the molestation of others. Giuliani would not disavow him on the campaign trail and still works with him.

Mitt Romney was part of a church that did not view black Americans as equals and actively discriminated against them. He stayed with that church all the way into his early thirties, until they were finally forced to change their policies to come into compliance with civil rights legislation. Romney never disavowed his church back then or now. He said he was proud of the faith of his fathers.

Jerry Falwell said America had 9/11 coming because we tolerated gays, feminists and liberals. It was our fault. Our chickens had come home to roost, if you will. John McCain proudly received his support and even spoke at his university’s commencement.

Reverend John Hagee has called the Catholic Church the “Great Whore.”the Anti-Christ will rise out of the European Union (of course, the Anti-Christ will also be Jewish). He has said all Muslims are trained to kill and will be part of the devil’s army when Armageddon comes He has said that (which he hopes is soon). John McCain continues to say he is proud of Reverend Hagee’s endorsement.

Reverend Rod Parsley believes America was founded to destroy Islam. Since this is such an outlandish claim, I have to add for the record, that he is not kidding. Reverend Parsley says Islam is an “anti-Christ religion” brought down from a “demon spirit.” Of course, we are in a war against all Muslims, including presumably Muslim-Americans. Buts since Parsley believes this is a Christian nation and that it should be run as a theocracy, he is not very concerned what Muslim-Americans think.

John McCain says Reverend Rod Parsley is his “spiritual guide.”

 





DOING THE AFTERMATH

9 02 2008

It’s all over but the shouting in the New Hampshire recount, and the results, I would have to say, are mixed at best. On one hand, Hillary Clinton won fair and square, and there were not major inaccuracies in the count. On the other hand, the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office reportedly treated the recount request, and the ballots themselves, in such an offhand manner that it was hard for observers (biased ones, admittedly) to believe they weren’t trying to hide something.

Electronic memory cards were missing. Ballots were kept in open boxes. Gee, I always thought of New Englanders as neat by nature, but according to the accounts I’m reading, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a very prim-looking guy, was treating the cornerstones of democracy the way a distracted teenager treats his homework. I’m surprised we didn’t hear the line, “the dog ate my ballot.”

Meanwhile, we have Brad Friedman of Bradblog and Bev Harris of BlackboxVoting.org straining hard to find voting machine problems, but ultimately having to admit that “Most of the big reports are election administration failures. Administration failures are those failures that cannot be blamed on voting machines or the voters or poll workers. They are those failures that fall directly in the laps of clerks or registrars or boards of elections. Not enough paper ballots at the precinct is an administrative failure.”

One of the administrative failures was ballots in California that seemed rigged to cause independents to disqualify themselves from voting in the Democratic primary by failure to mark the right box on the ballot. Also in California, many people who intended to register as “Independent” were instead registered by the Board of Elections as “American Independent,” which is George Wallace’s old party, and were thus barred from voting in the Democratic primary. Another was that, in Green Party primaries, conducted by Republican and Democratic officials, there were (somewhat predictably) major glitches that may have been negligence and may have been malice–like ballots not being sent to rural counties in Arkansas, or Illinois’ decision to print a green stripe on Democratic ballots and a brown stripe on Green Party ballots, and fail to inform polling officials of the Green Party ballots’ existence, so that many Green Party voters were given green ballots instead of Green Party ballots.

Hey, guys, everybody knows the Dems are the ones with the brown stripe! But seriously, until we have a Green Party hefty enough to have representatives in the Board of Elections, we are not going to get any respect from the big guys. They are so insecure, and with such good reason…By the way, in case you hadn’t heard, the Greens are splitting between Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader like the Dems are splitting over Hillary and Barak.
But there have been no reports of weird results from the voting machines, no complaints of voter intimidation. Of course, it is just a primary, but would Diebold really skew their machines for Hillary? Considering the amount of attention that’s on this issue right now, the odds and consequences for getting caught probably look unacceptably high.

Here in Tennessee, we had faith-based voting, which is what you have to call voting on touch-screen machines. This may be our last video poker election, though! More on that in a minute.

Faith-based voting brought a big win for the faith-based candidate, Mike Huckabee, who wants to put Jesus in the Constitution, just like they did in The Handmaid’s Tale. He hasn’t said if he wants to change the name of the country to The Republic of Gilead. Tennessee also went for Hillary Clinton, in a pattern that I find very disturbing.

Obama won big in all the urban counties, including Williamson, which is usually considered a conservative hotbed–I guess what Dems there are around Franklin are liberal ones. In rural, redneck Tennessee, however he rarely polled more than 20% of the vote, and there were counties in which John Edwards did better than Obama.

Couldn’t have been because he’s white, now, could it?

What I infer from this is that racism is not dead in Tennessee, and I don’t think that bodes well for Obama’s chances should he win the nomination. If he doesn’t get the nomination, I’m not sure Hillary will be able to win the election, because she’s going to have to squash a lot of people’s hopes to prevail.
Here’s a couple of numbers for you: so far, approximately 17 million people have voted for Democratic candidates in the primaries, and only 11 million have voted for Republicans. I’m sure that if the Dems try hard enough, they can blow that lead.

And of course, John McCain is now the Republican front-runner, and the buzz on him is that a lot of conservatives and evangelicals won’t vote for him, so he can’t win, either. This is kind of a backwards way of arriving at the conclusion that the 2008 Presidential election is a no-win situation, but really it is. Whoever wins the election is inheriting a bankrupt, spendthrift country that can’t get out of a war it has no moral justification in pursuing and no money to pay for, a country that almost singlehandedly (through our prostitution of China and widespread promotion of “the American way of life” is pushing the planet into a heatwave the likes of which have not been felt since there were crocodiles in Greenland.

Phew….let’s not talk about that now…it’s almost too horrendous to contemplate…can we have a little good news? Even if it’s just a little?

OK, how’s this…as I said earlier, it looks like Tennessee is going to be able to dump its touchscreen voting machines, hopefully by next fall’s election, if the feds co-operate. (Downside: more toxic high-tech junk!) In spite of tremendous, almost inexplicable resistance by Tennessee Election Commissioner Riley Darnell, who acts like his salary gets paid by Diebold rather than Tennessee taxpayers–and hey, maybe it is, how would we know? In spite of resistance from the state’s election officials, and the same goes for them, a small group of committed citizens talked to enough legislators and got enough other citizens to talk to their legislators to get a bipartisan bill to the floor of the Tennessee House that calls for Tennessee to switch over to optical scan voting machines by 2010 at the latest, and this year if the feds come up with the funds. New Jersey Representative Rush Holt is pushing a bill through that will make funds available to states to switch back from the touchscreen machines mandated by Bush’s Helping America Vote Republican Act of a few years past. It’s not perfect, but it’s an improvement that, hopefully, can be improved upon.

Speaking of improving on the improvements, the next step after verifiable voting in Tennessee is getting somebody on the ballot who’s worth voting for. Current ballot laws in the state map out a tortuous and unlikely pathway for third parties to get a named ballot line–that is, for candidates to be identified on the ballot as being members of the Green Party, just for example, rather than as “independent.” A recent court case in Ohio ended with the Federal Sixth Circuit Court declaring that Ohio’s law, which is quite similar to Tennessee’s, is in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. The Green Party of Tennessee has joined with the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party to initiate a lawsuit to overturn Tennessee’s ballot roadblock, and we have every reason to believe that the decision will be handed down in time for the November election.

It’s a little step, but it’s the first one we can take, and whatever we do, we can only do it one step, one day at a time. I hardly even see how it connects with changing the big picture, considering the resistance even a relative lightweight like Barak Obama met out in the hustings of Tennessee.

Perhaps all that’s left for us at this point is to meet the coming catastrophe as gracefully as we can, because it’s becoming obvious that politics-as-usual is going to prevail in the short run, and politics as usual is as capable of dealing with what’s headed our way as the Polish cavalary was capable of stopping the blitzkreig. And we, with our scattered little Green Party here in Tennessee, are metaphorically even more powerless than the Polish Cavalry. But we have a vision, and a call to live that vision–so what else can we do?

music: Eliza Gilkyson, “Milk and Honey”








%d bloggers like this: