A BASKET OF DISPOSABLES

21 01 2018

Our current junta, which took power based on the approval of somewhere around a quarter of the potential voters, seems to be making a practice of doing things that are opposed by at least three-quarters of the adult American public. They repealed internet neutrality. They’ve approved a tax plan that benefits, and is mostly appreciated by, nobody but the insanely wealthy. They’re trying to revive the war on marijuana. They’ve proposed opening virtually the entire coastal US to offshore oil drilling. They’re shredding the Constitution to go after domestic activists of many stripes, as well as Central American refugees who have come here because US policies sucked their home countries dry of all hope and sustenance. They’re expanding their ability to spy on and search anybody they choose. They’re filling the judicial system with right-wing ideologues. And, of course, they’re shutting down every government mention of, measurement of, and response to, climate change and the direct relation between climate chaos and our cultural dependence on fossil fuels.

As we all endure this sh@tstorm as best we can, some people are asking me, “Given this horrendous record, have you repented your refusal to support Hillary Clinton and the Democrats?” That’s a good question, and I’ll respond to it in a few minutes, but the first, “Deep Green,” question I want to examine is, “What is the logic, the pattern, the thinking behind what the GOP is doing?” In order to answer the question about my personal political allegiance and whether it is shifting, I will also examine the question of how things might have been different if Ms. Clinton had been able to turn out a few more voters in a few key states, or if a few more of the votes that were cast for her in those states had been counted, in either case making her the President instead of the guy who’s in charge now, ignoring for purposes of focus the fact that she would have been facing an extremely hostile Congress that, even if they couldn’t manage to impeach her and Tim Kaine and install Paul Ryan as President, would have blocked all of her cabinet nominees, judicial nominees, and anybody and anything else, like her legislative agenda, that needed Congressional approval.

I want to start by discussing “austerity.” You hear a lot about the need for austerity from Democratic as well as Republican, politicians these days. Let’s look at “what we can’t do” because of this supposed need for “austerity.”

Read the rest of this entry »





NOT THE REVOLUTION WE HAD IN MIND…SO FAR

13 09 2015

I came of age in the 1960’s.  I was brought up Jewish, in a synagogue whose Rabbi was an enthusiastic supporter of the civil rights movement, travelled to the South on several occasions in solidarity with Rev. Martin Luther King, and asked probing questions about segregation and racism in our home community, Dayton, Ohio.  While this dismayed some members of the congregation, it was fine with my mother, and we used to go to “interfaith retreats” where we would spend the weekend mixing it up with people–mostly Christian, many African-American–who were similarly interested in a cross-cultural experience.  I joined a local civil rights group, the Dayton Alliance for Racial Equality, and did door-to-door canvassing for them in Dayton’s African-American ghetto, as we freely called it.  This was not a neighborhood of towering, run-down tenements.  Homes were mostly single-family, mostly small, and often a little threadbare.  In those days–the early to mid sixties–somebody was usually home during the day.  There was no air conditioning, so I often found myself knocking on a screen door as I looked through it  into the family’s living room.  I had been brought up comfortably middle-class, but through this exposure I began to understand poverty.

The people I worked with, or, rather, for, were in their 20’s and 30’s, and pretty much all African-American. DARE was a small group, with a half-dozen to a dozen regular members, which, I learned in the course of writing this, did not excuse us from FBI surveillance.  We all had a tremendous admiration for Rev. Martin Luther King, whom we humorously but reverentially referred to as “Maximum Leader.” I lost touch with DARE when I graduated from high school and went off to college, and I’ve often wondered if they followed Rev. King’s lead through his final year, marked by his famous speech at Riverside Church in New York, where he took his crusade for civil rights to a whole new dimension, saying:

….the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” [applause] Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme 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. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

Read the rest of this entry »





A DEEP GREEN PERSPECTIVE ON BERNIE SANDERS

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

Read the rest of this entry »





BARITT ROMBAMA IS A SHOO-IN; GREENS WILL CONTEST ELECTION ANYWAY

12 05 2012

Maybe, just maybe, the shift is hitting the fan for the one percent.  One of this last month’s big stories has been that several of America’s megacorporations have been embarrassed enough by public exposure to stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council, which in turn has been embarrassed enough by the flood of negative publicity it has received to at least officially abandon its efforts to enact legislation that limits voting rights.  On the other hand, they can afford to–so much damage has been done to ballot access by now so that, coupled with the background level of media hypnosis, Mitt Romney might actually have a fighting chance to unseat Barack Obama, and end the shame of Amurrica’s perceived leader being the spawn of a white woman who got careless with one of the darkies…..excuse me, I know that’s horribly politically incorrect, I’m just trying to express what it seems to me that a lot of people are thinking, but are simply too polite to ever say–although one Evangelical Christian friend of mine was willing to go so far as to tell me, before the 2008 election, “It’s not right for a person of Muslim descent to be President of the United States.”  That remark has been enough to give me some satisfaction in knowing that Barack Obama’s sold-out butt is the one sitting in the Oval Office, just because of the cognitive dissonance it creates for so many Right-thinking Americans, but Barack Obama is much closer to Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, or, for that matter, Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan, than he is to Rev. King or even Jesse Jackson, let alone Malcolm X, despite the pervasive right-wing rhetoric about Obama being a “socialist.”  Hey, they call him a “socialist” because they couldn’t get away with calling him a n–and neither could I, so I’m not gonna say THAT word.  I have my limits!

Indeed, the similarities between Obama and Romney are remarkable enough that I, among many others, apparently, am tempted to refer to them as “Barritt Rombama”  and “Mitrack Obomney,” or belittle them as Tweedledim and Tweedledimmer.  Both are the best candidates money can buy, and their images are carefully crafted to appeal to their target demographics, one wing or the other of the tragically vast majority of Americans who are still asleep and dreaming the American Dream.  Obama’s image is meant to appeal to those who believe they are more open-minded, generous, and tolerant, while Romney’s message is intended to galvanize those who feel more sure of themselves, sure about what’s right and wrong and who are inclined to believe that people should be allowed to sink or swim on their own abilities.

If that were what is really going on, it would be wonderful, but that’s not what’s really going on.  What’s really going on is that the forces behind both the Democrats and the Republicans are thieves who are ripping off the world, and the big difference between them is that the Democrats want to distract the guard dog by throwing it a bone, while the Republicans would rather just shoot the dog.  Both, however, are equally intent on taking everything they can get their hands on while the getting is good.  Just where they will go with their ill-gotten gains is certainly a good question, but, apparently, being clever–and stupid– enough to be the expert thieves they are does not mean that they have the wisdom and foresight to be thinking of the long-term consequences of their actions.  Somehow

“Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will some people realize that they cannot eat money.”

has failed to register in the consciousness of the people who think they own America.    If you stay in the sphere of mainstream politics, it’s all about how to get consumption growing again, without even a moment’s reflection on, for example, the fact that “consumption” is an archaic name for tuberculosis, or, in the words of that other environmental core statement,

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

Thanks to Edward Abbey for that one.  Authorship of the “last tree” quote is a little harder to track down, but it seems to originate with the native people of this continent, who, to their credit, have seen this coming and have been trying to warn us clueless white folks about it for several hundred years.  Oh, well, I guess the Green Party is not the first batch of Cassandras to appear in America!

And I guess this is the point at which to mention that the Cassandra Society of Tennessee, aka the Green Party of Tennessee, will be meeting for a nominating convention next Saturday, May 19th, at the Scaritt-Bennett Center in Nashville.  You can get the details on our Facebook page or website, but the essence is that we will be designating our official candidates for various state and national  offices, and deciding whether to endorse Roseanne Barr or Jill Stein as the party’s Presidential candidate.  The comedian or the doctor?  The country could use a good dose of both.  Anyway, there are a great many more offices open than we can contest from among our usual ranks, so we are hoping that dozens, or hundreds, or at least a handful of Green-minded citizens will come out of the political woodwork and stand for office under the Green Party banner this year.

Let’s take a music break

Richard and Mimi Farina, “House Un American Blues Activity Dream”  (the first link goes to the recorded version of the song, the second to a live, acoustic version with a more interesting video)





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








%d bloggers like this: