NO SH*T, SHERLOCK–IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

10 03 2019

For me, one of the big stories of the last month continues to be the attempt to suppress  Rep. Ilhan Omar for  speaking the truth about two of America’s biggest “third-rail” issues–the things no public official wants to talk about because, as Rep. Omar has discovered, anyone who touches them will be shocked, simply shocked, by all the people who are shocked, simply shocked that you would dare mention them. In dysfunctional families, one of the primary rules is “don’t talk about what’s really going on,” and America these days is just one big, unhappy dysfunctional family, in which speaking the truth about, among many other things, Israel and US-Israeli relations is shouted down with screams of “anti-Semitism,” and bringing up a government insider’s history of lies, lawbreaking, and human rights abuses is shushed as extremism. Those two are just a couple of tips of the ol’ iceberg, but they’re the ones I’m going to focus on.

Let’s talk about “anti-Semitism” first. I was brought up Jewish. I was taught that the basis of Judaism is “the golden rule,” “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow.” The state of Israel is clearly not practising that maxim in its relations with the Palestinians or its other neighbors. Therefore it seems to me to be hypocritical for the state of Israel to wrap itself in Judaism and attack any criticism of its vicious, aggressive conduct  as “anti-Semitic.” It’s worth noting, as The Guardian did, that Congresscritters’ willingness to criticize Rep. Omar as “anti-Semitic” rises in direct proportion to the amount of money they receive from AIPAC.

After I started writing this, the UN issued a report calling what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” I think we ought to take a moment to appreciate how far the State of Israel has come. It was founded over seventy years ago as a refuge for the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and now it’s all grown up and committing war crimes and crimes against humanity itself.  Ain’t it wonderful what happens when the victims of persecution don’t adequately integrate their trauma? Let’s hear it for Israel! Read the rest of this entry »





“MAKING THE ECONOMY SCREAM” IN VENEZUELA

10 02 2019

“We’re going to make their economy scream.”

Richard Nixon, on US plans to overthrow the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende in the early  1970’s

I am outraged about the way the US is treating Venezuela, a country whose worst crime seems to be spending its oil revenue to elevate the living standards of its poorest people, instead of feeding an oligarchy like The Great God Mammon intended.

Nicolas Maduro, and “the Bolivarian Revolution,” are just a few steps to the left of Bernie Sanders, and yet we have a bipartisan effort to overthrow them. Sanderistas, and all you other “Democratic Socialists,” please note: this is what Schumer and Pelosi really think of you.

Democrats who have fulminated for two years about “covert Russian meddling” in the US and styled themselves “the Resistance” to Pres. Turnip’s hard right agenda for the US have no problem openly colluding with a radical right politician in Venezuela, overtly sending him millions of dollars, confiscating Venezuelan state assets in the US and turning them over to this self-proclaimed, not particularly popular, “President” and US puppet, and coordinating a de-legitimization campaign against the legally, and honestly, elected government of a sovereign nation that, oh horrors, has been forthright in its criticism of US foreign policy, and, in the face of US sanctions, started selling its oil for Chinese yuan instead of American petrodollars.

Gee, I seem to remember, back during the Democratic primary debates, that Ms. Clinton accused Bernie Sanders of “supporting the overthrow of the legally constituted governments of Cuba and Nicaragua.” Apparently, she and the rest of her wing of the Democratic Party think it’s not OK to do that to legally constituted, highly oligarchic, US boot-licking dictatorships, like the Batista and Somoza regimes that once ruled over Cuba and Nicaragua. But hey, if it’s a legitimately elected, broadly popular socialist government, as in Venezuela or modern Nicaragua, or even faintly populist, like the unfortunate Mr. Zelaya in Honduras, why, go right ahead and kill it before it spreads. “Kill” is not a metaphor here. I’m assuming that’s why Elliot Abrams has been made the US government’s point man on Venezuela. He has shown no hesitation in his willingness to kill the poor in order to save the rich.

 

And saving the rich is definitely what is happening in Venezuela. The
“anti-government uprising” is largely a revolt of the middle- and upper classes, who have seen their standard of living slip as Chavez, and now Maduro,  do what they can to help the poorest members of Venezuelan society. And make no mistake about it–the upper classes in Venezuela are more European, i.e., whiter, than the lower classes, and despise Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez as “black Indians,” whose rule they resent the same way some white Americans couldn’t abide having even a lackey of the corporate system like Barack Obama as US President, because he was black. The reaction against Maduro is flat-out racist.

We Greens get a certain amount of pushback from people who think we ought to work within the Democratic Party. The Democrats’ hypocrisy around this Venezuela caper is a prime example of the kind of conduct we Greens are unwilling to tolerate. The Green Party rejects the Democrats’ hypocrisy of claiming to be opposed to racism at home, while supporting what amounts to white supremacy in Venezuela (and Palestine, too–but that’s a whole other subject.) We are an anti-imperialist party as well as an anti-capitalist party, and the Democrats’ willingness to join with the Republicans in bullying Venezuela is imperialism pure and simple–not to mention that the US government is clearly stating its intention to turn Venezuelan oil production, now managed by a mostly state owned company, over to multinational, um, “oiligarchs.” The Green Party is about freeing this country from oil addiction, while the Democrats are happy to mug one of our neighbors to make sure our oil fixes keep on coming.

I want to include a few caveats here. The first is that I, and most other supporters of Venezuela, don’t necessarily agree with every detail of their overall plan, and also can see ways in which the country’s rulers have not done a good job, even by their own standards. Nevertheless, I am broadly supportive of their intentions, which are, to quote Professor Greg Albo,

(to) deepen.. democratic proceduralism, indigenous and human rights and citizen initiatives. But it also embraced an alternate economic model in linking participatory democracy with cooperatives and worker self-management.

That’s exactly what The Green Party is about, and it’s also the program on which Bernie Sanders rose to prominence. So, when I said that those in control of the Democratic Party are willing to kill to stop democratic socialism, I think my concern is well-founded. I hope that adds to your understanding of why Greens cannot be Democrats.

The second caveat is that, of course there is corruption in Venezuela. The Bolivarian Revolution was, and remains, a political movement which pays little attention to psychological transformation. When you try to make change happen merely by passing laws, anyone who is more or less governed by the flaws in their personality–greed, jealousy, desire, selfishness, for example–will continue to do whatever they can to work the system for their personal advantage, especially when it is clear that the system is being stressed by outside parties, like the US, who want to destroy it, and that makes peoples’ lives difficult and uncertain.

The third caveat is that, from my point of view, the worst crime Venezuela has committed has been to extract all that oil….the same crime that the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and a whole lot of other countries are committing….but who’s gonna bell that cat? You can be sure our government has no intention of shutting down Venezuelan oil production for good. The administration has said outright that it intends to turn Venezuelan oil production over to US oil companies.

But of course, it’s not entirely about oil. Our government has also announced that Venezuela is just the first domino–they plan to go after largely oil-free Nicaragua and Cuba next–can Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, and any other non-submissive Western Hemisphere governments that remain be far behind? If a New Democrat-Green coalition takes over the government of Canada, will the US invade? Will British Prime Minister Theresa May negotiate the surrender of the Maduro government, and, on her return to England, tell the press that she believes her actions have brought “peace in our time”?

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SMOKE, MIRRORS, AND ENOUGH ROPE

8 04 2017

Have you noticed that American politics has slipped into Alice and Wonderland territory? That the Tea Party is now hosted by the Mad Hatter’s cousin, the Mad Hairpiecer? And that the Red Queen has morphed into the Blue Queen, with her king and all her courtiers  shouting “Consider your verdict!” when the trial hasn’t even begun, and ordering “Off with their heads!” as the fate of anyone who dares disagree with them? How many people have noticed this, and how many people are simply too swept up in the emotions of the moment to reflect on the absurdity, and danger, of  the things they are being manipulated into believing?

billy-butcher-trump-clinton-pop-characters-5

Thanks to Butcher Billy for the artwork!

The Wonderland metaphor breaks down somewhere around this point, because in our current situation, the Blue Queen and her court have been almost wholly disempowered by the Mad Hairpiecer, so that all they can do is howl. Given the size of their echo chamber, the howl sounds pretty fearsome, but, just like the trial Alice attended, the evidence in the question of  who stole the tarts–or, in this case, the election–remains shaky at best.

For instance, here’s a conversation with our former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that the off-with their heads/the Russians are coming crowd has had to conveniently ignore since it popped up smack dab in the middle of the mainstream, on NBC’s “Meet the Press“:

CHUCK TODD:
Does intelligence exist that can definitively answer the following question, whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials?

JAMES CLAPPER:
We did not include any evidence in our report, and I say, “our,” that’s N.S.A., F.B.I. and C.I.A., with my office, the Director of National Intelligence, that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report.

CHUCK TODD:
I understand that. But does it exist?

JAMES CLAPPER:
Not to my knowledge.

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THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION

12 03 2017

It’s the Cold War all over again. Americans left and right are being accused of taking orders and money from, being the tools of, or at least harboring sympathy for, a miraculously resurrected Evil Empire headquartered in Moscow. If the accusers actually controlled the government, no doubt the political show trials would begin. The accusers–elements of our security apparatus, neo-conservatives associated with the infamous “Project for a New American Century,” virtually the entire Democratic Party, and their allies in the mainstream media–are  using the highly manipulable court of public opinion to find anyone who dissents from their doctrine of Russophobia guilty of the treasonous crime of Russophilia, as if it were some even worse perversion of pedophilia. Their aim appears to be to regain control of the government. They consider this a legitimate counter-revolution. Others call it a coup, American style.

“It’s simple,” the Democrats and their allies say. “If we take over again, everything will be fine.”

It’s not simple, and things wouldn’t be fine if the Democrats were running things, but let’s leave “if the Democrats were running things” alone for now. It’s mind-bendingly complicated, because to truly understand what’s going on in America now requires that we be free of the conditioning most Americans accept unquestioningly–and I’m not talking air conditioning, although that is a luxury that most Americans take far too for granted. I’m talking about mind conditioning–the way we subliminally learn to perceive reality by taking cues from our parents and our culture as we grow up.

As we grow up, and all through our lives, we spend a lot of time absorbing stories from movies, television, and books, and all those stories share certain common elements. There’s a hero, who is clearly a hero, at least in the end, and the hero is not you, although of course you identify with her or him. There’s a villain, and the villain’s identity is usually clear from the beginning. The hero and the villain clash, and, although the villain seems to be winning at first, the hero ultimately triumphs, and all the most pivotal moments in that struggle can be captured in an hour, or two, or maybe longer if it’s a TV series. These are the expectations we then project on real-world events.

But real-world events are not the movies, or even a long-running TV series. In real life, it is extremely rare for anyone to be a complete hero or a complete villain. I’m not, and you probably understand that you’re not 100% hero–or villain–either. Even sociopaths and psychopaths occasionally do the right thing. Well-intentioned people do terrible things. Think about it–doesn’t everybody believe their intentions are good? You betcha. What political figures do as a result of their good intentions may look good to millions of people, and simply awful to millions of others, and it can be difficult to determine in the short run just what “the greater good” really is. It can also be glaringly obvious what does or does not constitute “the greater good,” whether there are millions of people who understand what’s really going on, or just a few. Reality is not determined by popular vote. And, of course, political figures also do things for concealed, strategic reasons, and lie to the public about their motivation. As I said, it’s complicated.

So, with that in mind, I want to examine the history of what some are already referring to as “the new Cold War,” and see how the mainstream American story of what’s going on holds up under scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »





FROM PARIS TO NASHVILLE

9 01 2016

In December, the 21st “Council of Parties” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Paris. Almost everybody seemed to understand that we are in “no more fooling around” territory, with some notable exceptions, like, f’rinstance, India and Saudi Arabia. Ironically, these are two of the countries with the most to lose from further climate change–like, their inhabitability.  Even so, it has become common knowledge that climate change denialism has largely been, um, fuelled by oil companiesbig-oil-the-new-big-tobacco-29081 who did the research in the 70’s and 80’s and, like the tobacco companies before them, realized that their product was lethal, and who nonetheless chose to elevate their short-term bottom line over the long-term survival of not just their customers, as with the tobacco companies, but of the human race, along with most other species on the planet. I could be snide and sneer about the oxymoronic quality of the phrase “corporate ethics,” but it’s not just corporations that prioritize reaping short-term benefits over preventing long-term threats.  It’s a fairly common human trait, it turns out, and one that is plaguing our efforts to stop doing things that release more carbon and accelerate climate change, and to start doing things that will capture carbon and reverse our ever more tightly spiralling spin into planetary oblivion. In order to reverse climate change, we must reverse our own conditioned responses.  The outer depends on the inner, as always.

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CO-OPPING NASHVILLE

13 12 2015

As many of you probably know, I ran for Metro Council last summer.  My candidacy was pretty minimal–I made no attempt to recruit volunteers or raise money, and spent none of my own.  I created a blog and a Facebook page to lay out my platform, attended several candidate forums, posted ideas and answers on several internet voter education sites, and was interviewed by the Nashville Scene, which, as it did when Howard Switzer ran for Governor, trivialized my campaign and ignored my issues because they’re Democrats and we’re Greens, and they don’t care for competition on the left. (I was hoping to provide a link to the job the Scene did on my friend Howard, but they have apparently opted to chuck that article down the ol’ memory hole. Probably a good call on their part.)

There were three key pillars in my platform.  One was re-localizing Nashville, economically, socially, and politically–creating neighborhoods in which people could attend school, shop, work, and go out and socialize without needing to use an automobile–thus simplifying the city’s traffic problems–and granting these neighborhoods a fair amount of control over their zoning, codes enforcement, new construction, schools, and policing.  Another pillar was to identify and foster industries that would serve local needs that are currently being met by goods imported from across the continent or across the ocean.  The third pillar was to foster co-operatives as a form of small-d democratic community organization–not just food co-ops and other retail establishments, but worker-owned service and manufacturing co-ops, and housing co-ops, as well.  These worker-owned co-ops would include the local-needs industries, and the housing co-ops would be part of a larger context of urban land trusts. All these would serve to increase opportunities and living standards for lower-income Nashvillians, stabilize their neighborhoods, and empower them with an ownership stake in the places where they work, shop, and live. My proposals were largely modelled on the ones that made Bernie Sanders’ reputation as Mayor of Burlington–they were radical and populist but pragmatic and very “doable.” They are also infectious, in the sense that people hear them, like them, and make them their own.  Their emphasis on citizen, not government, ownership appeals to people all over the political spectrum.2015_1206co_2

That was my basic message.  About 2,300 Nashville voters heard it and signalled their approval by voting for me.  That earned me second-to-last standing in the election, but, for me, the important part of my campaign was that, in the course of attending the candidate forums, I got to speak repeatedly to the candidates who did win the election.  Hey, at several of these, there were more candidates on the stage than voters in the audience! Besides, candidates are also voters, and we each had four votes in the election besides the one each of us was likely to cast for ourselves.

And so, I planted my seeds, with no idea which ones would sprout or where, and, once the election was over, happily returned to my wooded hollow and my usual pursuits.  Imagine my surprise early last week when I glanced through my email inbox and discovered that the Tennessee Alliance for Progress (TAP), in partnership with Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) and the Southern Grassroots Economies Project, (which springs from the venerable Highlander Folk Center) was sponsoring an all-day workshop on….creating co-operatives in Nashville.  How could I not go?

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THE GREAT FRACKING FRAUD

4 12 2012

There’s a story making the rounds of the mainstream media these days, frequently trumpeted as “International Energy Agency says U.S. to overtake Saudis as  top oil producer.”  This may, technically, turn out to be true. But, as they say, “The devil is in the details,” and in this case, there’s definitely a Hell’s worth of details behind that headline that are all too frequently overlooked in this, our oil-based culture’s cargo cult moment.

“Cargo  cults,” to refresh your memory, were a religious movement that flourished briefly in the South Pacific after World War II.  The natives, who had been living a largely neolithic existence, saw that our troops came in, built an airstrip, and then airplanes landed, bringing all kinds of wondrous things, never before imagined, to the island, and the islanders.  Then,when the war was over, the mysterious strangers packed up and left, the airplanes no longer arrived bearing their magical cargoes,and the airstrips grew up in brush.  Some of the natives thought that, if they just rebuilt the airstrips, the planes would come again.  So they tried it, but it didn’t work, at least not directly, although the brief peak of our now-declining civilization has, in fact, brought the airplanes–bearing tourists, not soldiers, this time–back to many of those once-isolated tropical isles.

But no such temporary relief awaits us.  In fact, the granting of our wish for the oil age to continue bears such a horrific price tag that it’s a sad wonder that most people seem all too willing to buy it.  I’m going to examine the thorns of this “petroleum rose,” and, I hope, push the chorus of voices crying “DON’T TAKE THAT DEAL!!” to a volume level that just might save us from the fraudulent, Faustian  fracking bargain. Read the rest of this entry »








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