Archive for January, 2016
My thoughts: Bernie Sanders is calling for a political revolution – Me too. Most progressives and Democrats have have trouble with this and have no interest or understanding of such an idea. Their focus is narrower, as they are busy fighting for a multitude of issues, many of which may have varying success. Some of these may even have overlapping benefits, evoking even more enthusiasm. These people work extremely hard to make these changes: civil rights, Obama Care, women’s health & equality, minimum wage and many other truly valuable democratic causes. The problem is, none of these changes (even most of the New Deal) are secure in the democracy currently practiced in America. Every government in history is a reflection of those in power, accumulated over time and power (real power, not just who gets elected) only changes through revolution. America’s democracy is controlled by the wealthy and their primary weapon or tool is the corporation. Yes, “we need a revolution”, but where Bernie focuses on a variety of policies, I believe the primary or initial policy of that revolution should be to remove any and all political power from corporations. Corporations are not people and have no innate rights under the U.S. Constitution and this statement must be permanently written therein.
We are currently at a place where, over time, the wealthy have worked diligently, enabling corporations to wheedle their way as legal precedents onto various Supreme Court decisions, thus granting corporations “rights” that were never intended via the Constitution. Over time, other changes such as “money as speech” have also been assumed (Citizens United). From the late 1800’s, “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad” decision, The Powell Memorandum to ALEC, the power and affect of corporations has become more and more successful and refined. Who has more money/speech/power than multi national corporations and their billionaire directors? The power and control over the laws that are written/passed (NAFTA, CAFTA and soon TPP), the people elected and the control of the news and advertising we see and hear are all frightening. “We The People” have no real chance as things currently stand. It is merely a game to play at, as we deceive ourselves.
To begin this revolution we need an amendment to the constitution that correctly defines the corporation. This process is already in progress through many groups and one of the best is called Move To Amend, where the focus is very specific and simple. I would also like to see severe changes in the rules of incorporation of every state, maybe even national standards eliminating loopholes. At one time corporations could only exist as long as they proved a social benefit (yes socialism) and when that was not present the corporation was dissolved. A pretty sweet idea with some real teeth.
After “corporate personhood” is correctly defined in the constitution the ability of the Supreme Court, wealthy players and political organizations to manipulate laws ensuring inequality through the continuation of any excessive leverage should be severely curtailed. This process will take some time. Simultaneously, the ability of social, progressive and democratic policies become much more viable. While these two breakthroughs are strengthening, members of Congress and the Senate can begin to focus on reacting to the desires of the larger population, no longer needing to spend ridiculous quantities of time (or any) seeking money and then bending to the whims of power players. Lastly, as citizens organize to accomplish change, they will have a much greater assurance that those changes may endure. Additionally, the causes that they fight for (like climate change and Obama Care) may not need to be diluted, fearing the rage of corporations (insurance industry, pharmaceutical industry, fossil fuels industry, etc.) and their lobbyists. They may actualize the change that is needed, when it is needed.
Yes we need a revolution, but Bernie, because of climate change, we need to make sure we are focused on the correct target, where real changes can occur and endure, where the political process is corrected. This revolution must focus on corporations.
Read this: As an avid basketball player and fan, I just had to include this. In the two articles below from The Nation Magazine, author Dave Zirin interviews Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on a whole range of subjects. Kareem has always been one of my favorites and I am glad to see him in an article in The Nation Magazine. He always seems to be overly serious, seeming to have trouble with the shallow focus of many, particularly in the world of professional sports. Zirin says that “sitting down with a basketball legend with a genius-level IQ demands eclectic questions and invites delicious answers.” Somehow they never get to basketball and that is appropriate today. After the interview Zirin say he “somewhat understood what makes Kareem that ‘different kind of cat’.” He goes on to suggest that a less athletically gifted Kareem would “have been perhaps a New York City librarian, content amidst the stacks of books and fulfilled by showing that one troubled kid how to find joy in the written word. Librarian Kareem would also have written crime thrillers with a social justice bent after work, just as a hobby.”
Well Kareem is writing and creating some notice in the process. He even recently got under the skin of “The Donald”. The first link describes the lead up to the interview with Kareem and the second link deals with some of his main points of emphasis.
Read & watch: It’s easy to discount the science of climate change when it happens very gradually. That may be changing however as in many places around the world the changes can be very rapid. The article in the link below, found in The Daily KOS, by Pakalolo, discusses two possible meltwater pulses that appear to have begun on 01-01-16. Warming ocean temperatures were the instigators as “remnants of hurricane Alex were pulled into a storm system just south of Greenland on Friday January 15, 2016. An event that then flooded both Baffin Bay and Western Greenland with warm, tropical air. At the same time, Greenland observers both noted what appears to be ice mass losses over Western Greenland as well as a possible large melt water outflow issuing from the Disko Bay area” What these events will mean, how extensive they will be, what we can do (if anything) and many more questions are running wild. But, as Pakalolo says, “if this event in Greenland is the start of another Meltwater Pulse we are effed.”
Although these pulses are not in themselves disastrous, each one suggests the inevitability of many others preparing to occur. “We are in so much trouble and it is only January. 2016 is going to be a disastrous year for the Greenland ice sheet.” Scientists are trying to make sense of these changes and are careful about sending erroneous alarms. “Glaciologists Tenney Naumer, Alun Hubbard and Jason Box believe that a large melt water pulse occurred at Jackobshavn Glacier — one of the swiftest-melting glaciers on Greenland. Over recent years, it has been one of the primary hot-spots for summer Greenland ice mass loss. But during recent days, mass loss also appears to have occurred in this area.”
Read the whole article and watch the short video. Look for more on this and make sure your representatives “believe in science”.
Read this: A primary reason to oppose TPP is being illustrated right now. Following in the example of trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA, TPP will add further protections to ensure corporate profits at the expense of democratic principles. “TransCanada announced Wednesday that they are filing a lawsuit under NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) asking for 15 billion dollars in costs and damages from the American people. TransCanadas’s justification is simple: “TransCanada asserts that the “U.S. administration’s decision to deny a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline was arbitrary and unjustified.”
Other groups, such as Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska disagree. “The rejection of Keystone XL was justified in order to protect the land, water and property rights of farmers and ranchers,” she said. “This desperate attempt by TransCanada is a move to show their shareholders they have a viable project when they have hit a dead end.” As Bill McKibben, 350.org co-founder, said, “This isn’t going to get the pipeline built, and it is going to remind Americans how many of our rights these agreements give away … the idea that some trade agreement should force us to overheat the planet’s atmosphere is, quite simply, insane.” While rejecting the pipeline Obama said, “Keystone XL was not in America’s national interest. It would not have contributed to our economy, lowered gas prices or contributed to our energy security, and it would have posed a serious threat to land and water along the route and to the climate by significantly increasing carbon emissions.” Most important, however, was that the American people expressed their opposition to this pipeline, part of its’ democratic process.
Incorporated into these trade deals (NAFTA, CAFTA and soon TPP) are protections for corporate profit that go far beyond anything most American citizens (citizens of any nation for that matter) would approve. Like so many laws, they are created behind closed doors, the press is excluded and we find out the consequences later. TPP, the latest example, has followed this blueprint to the tee. Now that congress is ready to finalize its’ passage we are finally learning of the dangers. This has to stop. If there is a way to modify these (overly protective) portions of the existing trade agreements they may be salvageable. If not, we should pull out of these agreements completely. The realization and acceleration of climate change (as Naomi Klein partially titled her recent book) CHANGES EVERYTHING.
So where does this leave us on Keystone XL? “Keystone XL is dead and nothing about this legal maneuvering changes that,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said. What about the TransCanada suit? We have to wait and see on that one? In the mean time, do everything you can to help kill TPP unless these types of corporate protection are removed. This will require democratic participation.
Read this: In the Daily KOS article linked below Steven D. tries to figure out what America conservatives mean when they say “I want my country back.” There are a lot of times to go back to and each of them had a slew of problems we no longer face, but somehow those times seemed better to some people. Racism is one past we could go back to and Steven tells his personal story as a white child born in 1956 in North Carolina with the incomprehensible horrors associated with that. There are of course other possible meaning for this phrase “I want my country back”. Is it the time before the Civil Rights movement that was so special? Before the time where people “worked hard to end discrimination and enshrine equal treatment under the law for all races in voting, employment, housing and so forth … [coming] only after years of arrests and brutal mistreatment of non-violent protesters and a major arm twisting effort on Congress by LBJ”. Was it the time before “civil rights struggles … such as those for women and for LGBT people”? Some don’t think that was so great.
It’s hard to figure out what is meant with such a vague statement. They are seldom asked what they mean, but when Donald Trumps’ speeches use the phrase, they produce goosebumps for some. One thing for sure, although we can’t go back in time to any previous period, the conservative right is launching multiple attacks to try to reverse many of the accomplishments so valued by progressives and the left, via years of Civil Rights stuggles. When we here the use of the conversation killing phrase “I want my country back”, we need to demand to know what that means.
Read the entire article for more depth.
Read this: The link below, to an article from the Union of Concerned Scientists, examines perceived progress on climate change issues made by the American Petroleum Institute, and it is not good. In the API’s latest annual report on energy in the U.S. they almost completely ignore climate change and any real discussion of alternative energy sources. “Last year’s API report … was notable—for some, even praiseworthy—because of its inclusiveness, technology-wise. API gave space to a host of organizations to talk about a range of low-carbon energy options, including solar, wind, and energy efficiency … and the word “solar” appeared 79 times.” Since then something seemed to changed. The “API just merged with America’s Natural Gas Alliance, but that move seems to actually have narrowed their vision, not broadened it.” Last year it seemed the API was on the right track, regarding climate change, only needing to get more focused and aggressive, but, that would be too much to hope for. Insterad, the “2016 State of American Energy report … focuses pretty much exclusively on oil and natural gas (and… voting for oil and gas). Any discussion of climate change is suspiciously absent, and carbon reductions show up in the report in only one sentence, one that gives credit for recent reductions to—you guessed it—natural gas.” None of this was unexpected. “Unfortunately, API’s history on climate change is mostly one of deception. API earned a starring role in our (Union of Concerned Scientists) recent Climate Deception Dossiers report because of its efforts over many years to help deceive the public about climate science and solutions.”
The battle over climate change has a long way to go. As this article points out, even as we make progress (COM21) there will be corresponding setbacks like this API change of heart. The battle goes on and we must not relent.
Watch this: We must remember that the quality of the democracy we have is a reflection of our participation. Yes, it is supposed to be a government of the people. It will and does primarily reflect those interests above all others. So who participates? We know the powerful participate 24 / 7 / 365 and today with endless money (Citizens United / $=speach), but the rest of us don’t really practice democracy much at all. We need to make democracy part of our daily lives and not just for a few causes that gain our attention. We seem to have forgotten this.
Once again, Moyers and Company provided an appropriate video that goes into much more depth on this very topic. Moyer interviews historian Harvey J. Kaye, author of the new book, The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great. Kaye calls for really active participation, saying “we must remember what Jefferson said ‘In every generation America needs a bit of rebellion’.” When was the last time, maybe the only time, most of us really put ourselves on the line for something we believe in and rebelled? If our abstinence continues we have an awful lot to lose. The conservative right is aggressively targeting the entire New Deal for removal. Progressives must find ways to counter these efforts. While recruiting young lawyers to battle Wall Street FDR told them “go to Wall Street for two years so you can learn about them and then you can control them”. So much was accomplished by our predecessors and we are allowing it to be taken away with very little resistance.
Kay’s book emphasizes “the four freedoms” as what FDR saw as critical, making them the foundation of the changes he fought so hard for. So what are those four freedoms? They are: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Not really very radical ideas, but definitely concepts that interfere with the agenda of most of the 1%, for whom democracy has been doing a fine job. FDR valued these four freedoms so much he created “The Victory Medal” at the end of WWII, given to everyone in uniform who served during the war. It was a medal like many others on the front, but on the back there was something interesting. On the back are listed “The Four Freedoms”. Kaye says “what it takes to realize the four freedoms is that we must defend, sustain and secure democracy by enhancing it”. Additionally, the second link, from The Nation Magazine, points to an article by Allison Claire Chang that documents many of the sources that allowed FDR to be successful. “Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms were inspiring in their own right, however, it was the nation’s authors, film directors, and visual artists who would expand a brief sound bite into a compelling vision worth fighting and dying for.” Something we desperately need today. As one of Szyk’s illustrations so appropriately asks, “And what are you contributing to the war effort?”
Today, America abounds in increasing inequality and yet so many, at or near the bottom, either support right wing conservative movements or don’t vote at all. To this Kaye says: “The only thing that enables conservatives to appeal to the vast majority of working people is when that vast majority is frustrated, disappointed and angry”. Bernie Sanders is right when he says America needs a “political revolution”, but more than that, we need to wake up and fight to “enhance our democracy” before it is completely unrecognizable.