Monday, October 28, 2013

October 14, 2013

Tonight was the Counter Recruitment presentation at Goddard with some teenagers telling us about how they inform their peers about the true nature of the armed forces.  Apparently kids feel they have to go into the armed forces because college is so expensive now.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Suicide in Which Sense?

Inside the Republican Suicide Machine, an article by Tim Dickinson in the October 9th edition of Rolling Stone, attempts to uncover the funding, organizational and ideological split currently severing the Republican Party, and leading to the shutdown.

The article does reveal how the Citizens United deregulation of campaign finance has turned the US House of Representatives into the private fief of a handful of billionaires and gigantic political action committees.
Last November, this redistricting effort produced a shocking subversion of representative democracy. In the popular vote, almost 1.4 million more Americans cast their votes for Democratic House candidates than voted for Republicans. But Republicans maintained a commanding majority in the House. "Gerrymandering saved them," says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
It's become frighteningly apparent to the rest of the world, if not to Americans, that our political system is unstable and unable to serve the best interests of the majority of people inside, as well as outside the United States.

But the problem is more than just disagreements over the budget.  The question of whether the masses can govern ourselves or whether wealthy self-appointed feudal lords will hold the reins of power is not going to be resolved by 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans between now and December 15.  That's the divide behind the disfunction.  "Less government" is a euphemism for "less democracy."

"Common Ground," is the watchword of the day. Just as many wealthier Americans see the poor and needy as unworthy of Federal aid--or even food, health care and education--many working and middle class people see the wealthy as greedy and grotesquely over privileged.

As much as we would like to oppose "them" with the wealth and status belonging to "us," an honest look at reality shows that to be a false and harmful contrast.

Historically, people who work hard, successfully, and benefit society the most, don't grow wealthy from it.

In fact, in an unregulated capitalist system such as we have now, gigantic concentrations of society's wealth accrue not to the most deserving, but rather empower single families or small groups to completely dominate government, media, energy, warfare and vast swaths of economic and political activity. Such dominance is usually the result of inheritance or some combination of timing and luck, but is ultimately completely disproportionate to the individual's contribution to society.  But Feudalism is a doomed economic model.

Even the brightest, most industrious individual could produce scant lasting wealth outside of the context of a healthy society and government. Government is the soil in which capital grows.

Everybody agrees that those who contribute most are entitled to more rewards than those of us who contribute less.  But it's the wealth of generations, of society as a whole, that circulates through our economy, not the wealth of individuals.  Yet, regardless of the value or harm of their role in society, individuals in our system can lay claim to fortunes, not of their own creation, but cultivated by the flow of wealth through history, social progress, and technological development wrought by generations of hard working progenitors and fortuitous laws and political circumstances.

But why would the masses be interested in perpetuating a system where the richest 400 people own as much wealth as the poorest 150 million? An economic system that creates and exacerbates such disparities is doomed.  People would be unreasonable to tolerate it.

Tax rates and government priorities change over time. We had forty years of higher taxes, and now we've had thirty years of lower taxes.

It's strange that we who have benefitted so much from the investment and sacrifice of those in the past, would resist government social investment through taxes upon large amounts of the wealth we consider to be "ours,"  when such bridge-building, wetlands preservation or scientific research would greatly enrich posterity.  Granting that innovators and inventors of penicillin or laptop computers should prosper, most of the innovation and invention involved is the bequest of previous generations, and should therefore benefit society at large, not just a few fortunate individuals.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Today the EPA held Listening Sessions here in Manhattan.  Members of the public were invited to express their thoughts and concerns regarding regulations on existing coal-fired power plant emissions the EPA is going to propose in June of 2014.

You had to sign up to speak, and they gave you three minutes.

My say so went something like this:
We are revelers out at a fine restaurant, enjoying every delicacy of nature, but when the bill arrives, each of us turns and looks the other way.  We don't want to pick up our tab.

We're happily determined to use as much energy as we can to satiate, enrich and insulate ourselves from the rigors of nature, as long as we can ignore the cost.  The Obama Administration's pollution standards for existing power plants are inadequate.  And it is no longer reasonable for people to tolerate the large scale burning of coal and other fossil fuels for any purpose.

We need a big carbon tax.  
As long as we don't see the gutted mountain ranges, the smothered valleys and toxic streams and rivers, we play on in our dream of profit and prosperity.
As long as we don't see or smell the billowing smoke, the declining species of birds and wildlife, the climate devastation of drought and forest fire--as long as we don't see the cancer and asthma--we can turn on our electronic entertainment, our computers, our air conditioners with a carefree push on the on/off button.

I've grown up in a society believing progress is any and all economic growth, and cheap energy consumption fuels this delusion of progress.  But this concept is fatally flawed.  We are not only committing mass suicide, but we're perpetrating a mass extinction upon this entire planet right now.  We've burned a trillion tons of coal out of the ground, and we've put so much CO2 into the atmosphere,  the world is saturated.

Forty years ago we knew it was time to scale down our energy consumption and taper off of fossil fuels.  Remember?

What happened in the interim?  The fossil fuel industrialists hijacked our government, including our energy policy, and subordinated everything on earth underneath the economic principles of unrestrained growth and unlimited consumption.  And this is the end.  It's too late for coal now.

This August it rained three days in a row in Ulster county, and on the fourth day the ground in my yard was so hard and dry, it seemed like a place where it hadn't rained in weeks.  We passed 400 parts per million CO2 this summer.  The hell with money and energy, as human beings our first responsibility is to safeguard this planet, or do we think some other species is going to do that for us?

The increasing desperation of wildlife facing extinction far outweighs the cost to humans of energy conservation.

Please exercise common sense restraint and get us off coal now.  The cost to the environment is the bill we must pay, and it's already much higher than we can afford.  Conserve.  Conserve energy.   A future is now the price of coal and fossil fuel generated electricity.
About 50 people spoke.  The Administrators were very receptive to the audience and really extended the sense of inclusion in the policy formation process.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Unraveling, Raveling


Everybody's getting stressed out about the Republican shutdown of government, and the threatened debt default.  The whole world is getting worried, especially since they feel so helpless to effect any resolution that will protect their economic interests.
TOKYO — Japan’s finance minister urged the United States on Tuesday to avoid a default that could cast the global economy into turmoil and hurt the value of Japan’s enormous holdings of United States Treasury bonds, a day after similar warnings from China, which has an even larger stake in American debt.
 It's surreal.
Boehner ‘Disappointed’ by Obama’s News Conference .... 
But he rejected the president’s call for Republicans to vote to raise the debt ceiling before any negotiations could begin.
“What the president said today was if there is unconditional surrender by Republicans, he’ll sit down and talk to us,” Mr. Boehner said. “That’s not the way our government works.”
It really demonstrates the character of the Republicans, and, by extension, of the American people, that a political party could try to negotiate a budget deal by threatening to damage the world economy.

How is that even legal?  It's not even a protection racket; it's just a stickup.  Most mainstream corporate media don't even dare to report the anomalous character of these "negotiations."  A lot of the public sees no wrongdoing in the Republican tactics, and merely blames both sides equally for the impasse.

For these reasons, I believe there will be a default, and it will crash the economy, and our social contract and political system will melt down, starting in a couple of weeks.  The Republicans are only willing to bring things to this point because, actually, that is what they want.  They can get everything -- almost-- that they really want, that they've worked for for the last thirty-five years -- by defaulting now. A default would gut the bulwark of social and economic structures on which our society has been built for the last eighty years, in one fell swoop.

I don't believe it's a prize they are capable of resisting, whatever the consequences.  And most people don't believe at all that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the Department of Labor, the EPA, all banking and finance regulations, student loans, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, Health and Human Services, and dozens--if not hundreds, thousands, even--of other Federal programs and laws are suddenly going to come to an abrupt halt and shatter.  It's unthinkable, so nobody's really doing anything to prevent it.

A lot of people know it's what the Republicans really want, but not enough people to make the public aware in time.

By Thanksgiving our government could consist of the military, Congress and the White House.  Civilization as we know it would disintegrate quickly all over the world.  The suffering, waste and desperation would be unlike anything since the Russian or Chinese Communist revolutions.  But our military would remain the sole organizing force in the world.  It's power might even be enhanced vis-a-vis countries like Russia and China.  The super rich, with their media and financial monopolies, would be left in complete control of every office of American government.

You don't become a billionaire by putting the public's interests first.

And now the billionaires are in control of the House of Representatives, and they're in a position to have the IRS and the Department of Commerce virtually expunged overnight.

On The Other Hand

There are a lot of people much smarter than I am who must have thought about this whole problem and come to better, kinder, gentler conclusions.  Surely there are too many people with too much to lose to just stand by and watch and let the Republicans blow the whole system up.

But that would potentially be the best solution, because it would give humanity one last chance to save the earth's species from the imminent mass extinction we're causing.

Monday, October 7, 2013

End Game

I keep picking up Deep Green Resistance and reading a few pages, then putting it down for a few days, unable to hold on to the required sense of urgency.

I go back to thinking about my job, home improvement, finding more work, the Peace Movement, the tv show, family and friends, and politics.

But then I go back it.  Some subconscious assessment of the world is setting off an alarm in my mind and I can't turn it off.

"Industrialism itself is what has to stop.  There is no kinder, greener version of it that will leave us a living planet."
Keith, L, Deep Green Resistance, "The Problem," Seven Stories Press, NY, 2011; p. 21.