Saturday, May 28, 2011

Challenging Presidential Leadership

Earlier this year, a group of environmental organization leaders sent a letter to both President Obama and China's President Hu. It highlighted the current state of climate change inaction and concluded with the following:
Nature tells us time is running out, but we can’t see the clock. As we blindly reach critical climate “tipping points,” things promise to get worse, much worse. Central to the solution is a wartime-like mobilization by the governments of the United States and China to cut carbon emissions 80 percent (based on 2006 levels) by 2020. This is required if we are to reduce carbon emissions to 350 parts per million in the atmosphere, the level top climate scientists say is safe for humanity.

There is no more important measure of presidential leadership than living up to the expectations of our children to protect their future. Every day our respective governments fail to act, their future grows more perilous. We await your response.

I firmly believe that the same criteria of leadership needs to be applied to the selection of a Green Party presidential candidate. I will not vote for any candidate who does not make this the central issue. For the sake of our our children, we must find a voice who will speak for the future.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Strategy and Structural reform, NOT Language is key to Moving Forward

I would take issue with Scott's premise in regards to a "new language for a new paradigm". More than that I would take issue with the continued definition of the primary policy debates being structured along the bipolar fault lines, that Scott continues to demonstrate. This requires more than the response below. It also requires an internal review of who we are as Greens and how we can escape the marginalization of irrelevancy.

First, the Tea Party is right about spending and the budget;
Second, the Green Party has NO fight with Tea Party supporters, but we are NOT the same as Tea Party;
Third, the issue of ecological democracy demands we address the structure of American government and not simply the policies of American government;
Fourth, working towards structural reform also means we redefine the constituencies as they are represented in political parties, this is NOT simply a matter of changing the language;
Fifth, if any third or fourth parties are to establish viability there is a greater need to address the role and character of non-profits and advocacy groups in the political process. Failure to do this will simply result in one party systems as is seen in American cities and rural states;
Sixth, public employees are civil servants and the issue of organization of labor is NOT bound to the future of public employee pensions, they are distinct matters;
Seventh, the debate within the Green Party and elsewhere, needs to be presented with a strategy capable of unifying people beyond the existing identity politics of the “faux left” or the anti-government politics of the Tea Party.

The change in language is simply the result of the change in agenda and the change in strategy. Cities, like Detroit, are withering on the vine. It is not fair or even-handed to deny the impact of the Democratic Urban Machines. We see it and we know it. But Greens have NOT shown the ability to move beyond the fundamental Democratic Party constructs of either agenda or structure. And, as a party it remains bound to progressivism because of its deep-rooted ideological foundation that has NOT broken out of the “paradigm”, Scott’s protestations to the contrary.

Scott McLarty: New Language for a New Paradigm

Editor's Note:  See reposted below an important article on the Common Dreams Web Site by Scott McLarty, media coordinator for the Green Party of the United States,on the need for new language in political discourse in the U.S.

Editor's Update: Scott McLarty's article is Number 20 in this week's list of most viewed articles on Common Dreams.

Posted on Common Dreams, Thursday, May 19, 2011

Which Side Are You On? New Language for a New Political Reality

by Scott McLarty

"Everybody pulled his weight, Didn't need no welfare state... Those were the days!"

Those are some of the lyrics from the theme song to the popular 1970s TV sitcom 'All in the Family', considered controversial in its day, about a working-class bigot named Archie Bunker, who sang it at the top of the show with his wife Edith. Archie's nostalgia for pre-1960s America informed much of the show, which satirized small-minded conservativism, paranoid patriotism, contempt for youth culture, and racism.

One of the ironies of Archie Bunker's worldview is that the 1930s, 40s, and 50s weren't nearly as conservative as he remembered them. The same faulty nostalgia drives the so-called conservatives of today's Republican Party and the Tea Party movement, who imagine those decades as a time when hard-working Americans pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps.

It's true that Americans worked hard during these years. But the bootstraps stuff is nonsense. The 30s through 50s were the time of the New Deal, low-cost loans from the Federal Housing Administration, the GI Bill, huge subsidies for defense contractors during the Cold War and other industries that employed millions of people, massive transfer of funding from cities to the burgeoning suburbs, federal projects like interstate highway construction and the space program, generous investment in public schools, record union membership, high tax rates for corporations and the wealthy, good job benefits, and Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which ensured financial stability in old age and medical crises.

These things softened the trauma of the Great Depression and gave us the greatest period of prosperity in US history. Middle-aged Tea Partiers and Republicans, born in the 1940s through the 1970s, reaped the benefits of the kind of progressive 'big government' and 'socialist' ideas they now condemn. By their own standards, Tea Partiers are practically red diaper babies.

The irony of the Cold War's capitalism vs. communism paradigm is that capitalism in the US and other western countries required generous helpings of socialism to make it work. Conservative politicians like Eisenhower and Nixon seemed to understand this and generally supported the social programs listed above.

Since the Reagan Administration, Republicans, with help from Democrats, have worked to dismantle such programs and policies. Since 2008, the conservative movement has been galvanized by President Barack Obama's victory (although Mr. Obama's actions in office hardly place him on the left), leading to the formation of the Tea Party and igniting the conflict in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker's plan to cut benefits for public-sector employees and abolish collective bargaining rights.

The economic principles of today's GOP and the Tea Party don't come from any period of time within their own memory, so it's difficult to identify what kind of values they're trying to preserve or restore. But if we look further back in American history, to the late 19th century, we can find a match in the Robber Baron Era.

The Robber Baron Era was a period of misery for the millions of Americans who worked in factories before child labor laws, the eight-hour day and 40-hour work week, workplace safety laws (think of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire), or recognition of collective bargaining rights. It was a time of widespread political corruption, with officeholders in cahoots with the chiefs of monopolies and near-monopolies. Laissez-faire capitalism was mostly unchecked by the power of unions or by government regulation. It ended with a period of widespread labor unrest and the reforms of the Progressive Era (1890s through the 1920s).

William Cronon recounted some further history in a recent New York Times column:
"Republicans in Wisconsin are seeking to reverse civic traditions that for more than a century have been among the most celebrated achievements not just of their state, but of their own party as well.... [W]hile Americans are aware of this progressive tradition, they probably don't know that many of the innovations on behalf of working people were at least as much the work of Republicans as of Democrats.... When Gov. Gaylord A. Nelson, a Democrat, sought to extend collective bargaining rights to municipal workers in 1959, he did so in partnership with a Legislature in which one house was controlled by the Republicans. Both sides believed the normalization of labor-management relations would increase efficiency and avoid crippling strikes like those of the Milwaukee garbage collectors during the 1950s. Later, in 1967, when collective bargaining was extended to state workers for the same reasons, the reform was promoted by a Republican governor, Warren P. Knowles, with a Republican Legislature. The policies that the current governor, Scott Walker, has sought to overturn, in other words, are legacies of his own party."

("Wisconsin's Radical Break," March 21, 2011)
On the evidence of history, calling today's Republican Party and their Tea Party supporters 'conservative' is as absurd as calling supporters of civil rights and racial justice 'reactionary' because they invoke the values of the Reconstruction Era.

Radical Ideology for a New Century

"I like to say I'm more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other." -- Pete Seeger
Gov. Scott Walker is not a conservative, nor is Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. Neither are Fox News, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or any of their fellow corporate royalists and faux populists.

They are radicals. The GOP and the Tea Party are inspired by a vision that's partly reactionary (revival of Robber Baron Era economics) and partly innovative, with world-changing ideas that would have astounded JP Morgan and John D Rockefeller.

The innovative parts of their agenda include the embrace of globalization and the international power of major corporations through pacts like NAFTA and bodies like the World Bank and IMF; the neocon doctrine of preemptive military aggression; 'public-private partnerships' such as cash-cow contracts for the homeland security industry; huge taxpayer-funded handouts for favored corporate elites, the most obvious of example of which is the TARP bailout that funneled hundreds of billions of dollars to reckless Wall Street firms after the 2008 economic collapse that the latter caused. (Many Tea Partiers, to their credit, opposed the Wall Street bailouts.)

It's worth noting here that such agenda are bipartisan, supported by mainstream Democrats.

One of the top claims of 'conservative' activists is their devotion to the US Constitution and the ideals of our Founding Fathers, which motivated the reading aloud of the Constitution in the US House of Representatives in January when Republicans took over as the majority.

For Republicans and Tea Partiers, the Constitution might as well be written in hieroglyphs. Except for the Second Amendment's right to bear arms, they decline to apply the Constitution to the denial of habeas corpus, warrantless surveillance of US citizens, torture, disregard for international treaties signed by the US, and other abuses that are clearly outlawed.

On the other hand, they enthusiastically defend the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, which upheld 'corporate personhood' and exacerbated the widespread corruption of our election system, even though the Constitution grants no rights to corporations and the Founding Fathers warned against the excessive power of the monied interests. Corporate personhood was enshrined by a series of Supreme Court rulings, beginning with Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886, which extended the 14th Amendment's equal protect clause to cover corporations. The rulings coincided with the post-Reconstruction passage of the first Jim Crow laws in the South and the beginning of the Robber Baron Era. In effect, legal rights and protections were transferred from black people to corporations.

All of this gives us a clue about the real ideology motivating today's conservative (and many liberal) politicians, media pundits, and activists: corporate power, profit, and privilege.

All other principles are subservient to corporatism. The GOP isn't opposed to socialism when it satisfies corporate lobbies, as the Wall Street bailouts prove.

Consider Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, currently on a mission to overturn the Democrats' health care reform bill. Does Gov. Scott really oppose public spending for health care? In 1997, he was forced to resign as CEO of Columbia/HCA after the company pleaded guilty to 14 felonies and agreed to a $600-plus million fine in the largest fraud settlement in US history, for fraud involving Medicare and other public health programs. For bilking taxpayers out of hundreds of millions, Rick Scott was paid $9.88 million and allowed to keep 10 million shares of stock worth over $350 million.

Republican politicians might be gunning for Medicare and Medicaid, but they're not above making a killing from such programs, on behalf of themselves and the corporations they're connected with via the public service/private business revolving door. The same ideology informs the granting of no-bid contracts, tax breaks and loopholes, and other forms of subsidies to favored firms.

George Lakoff notes that "The wealthy have, to a large extent, amassed that wealth through indirect contributions to them by governments -- governments build roads corporations use, fund schools that train their workers, subsidize their energy costs, do research they capitalize on, subsidize their access to resources, promote trade for them, and on and on."

Dedication to corporate interests overwhelms all other concerns. It turns the conflict between free-market capitalism and socialism into a quaint relic from another century, rather like the conflict between the German princes and the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation. It makes the free market into a myth for the gullible who believe that locally owned Main Street shops can compete with WalMart or Old McDonald's family farm has a chance against Monsanto.

Conservatism means, or should mean, emphasis on entrepreneurialism (as opposed to corporate capitalism), self-reliant local economies (small businesses and farms, rather than big chain stores and agriconglomerates), economic security for Americans (freedom from destitution because of unemployment, old age, or the cost of medical emergencies), democratic sovereignty (rather than subordination to international trade cabals), observance of the US Constitution and international laws and treaties that the US has signed (Article VI), and deployment of the US armed forces solely for immediate self-defense.

Today's conservative leaders have abandoned these ideas and replaced them with a scheme to manipulate government for a radical redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top. For these politicians, government is only a threat to America when it benefits working people or the poor or public health or the environment. Big government for big business is perfectly acceptable.

The amassing of wealth and power for the corporate sector has become the major project of the GOP in the 21st century, with the Democratic Party's cooperation.

New Language for a New Paradigm

We need terminology that more accurately describes political tendencies in the US and world in the 21st century, placing the rule of corporate elites and militarism on one side and democracy, human rights and freedoms, and the health of the planet on the other.

The evolution of two-party politics in the US, with politicians from both parties under the influence of corporate lobbies and campaign checks, made it inevitable that both Democrats and Republicans would veer away from their stated principles. Such influence has always been evident, but began to push politicians into extremist territory with the beginning of the Reagan Revolution. (And even Reagan left Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security alone.)

Progressives are as deluded in hoping for a progressive rehabilitation of the Democratic Party as true conservatives are in believing the GOP upholds their values:

"Money's conquest of American politics has therefore rendered impotent the well-worn prescriptions of the left and the right, which now deliver only scapegoats rather than solutions... Today, government can be 'big' in terms of spending while handing all its work over to contractors. In the twentieth century, business and government were adversaries. Today, the wall between the two that may have once existed has become a revolving door and both share common interests."

('One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy' by Allison Stanger, quoted in Harper's)

The traditional spectrum of Republican-conservative on the right and Democrat-liberal at the left, with a gray area for moderates in the middle, belongs in the trash. The 'centrist' gap between the two parties is really an overlap where Republican and Democrat politicians are most enthusiastically loyal to corporate lobbies, with euphemisms like "Republican moderate," "Democratic Leadership Council," "blue dog," and "triangulation" to describe them.

A more accurate spectrum would find most Republicans at the furthest extreme and most of the Democratic Party next to them. This is the side that serves corporate power, profit, and privilege. It embraces the ideology that underpins state capitalism, a condition in which major corporations have grown so powerful that government's chief purpose is to take marching orders from them.

Think of government as a wholly owned subsidiary of General Electric, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Monsanto, Wall Street, the insurance and pharmaceutical cartels, and other top industries. (China, which now provides cheap labor for corporations, has shown us that both communism and capitalism can be subsumed into the state capitalist system.)

What's on the other side of the new spectrum? In the US, not much, if we're talking about political clout. Some Democrats like Dennis Kucinich, Greens, environmental and community activists, socialists, unions that haven't placed allegiance to Democratic politicians ahead of their members' needs, even some libertarians and traditional conservatives who recognize that unrestrained corporate power is as much a menace as state power.

The retreat of the Democratic Party from its traditional constituencies has enabled Republicans to move towards even greater fanaticism. When Democrats co-opted the health care mandate idea from Republicans, who had introduced it in the 1990s, they drove the GOP into a frenzy of opposition to reform, further marginalizing single-payer (Medicare For All), the one proposal that would have provided universal medical care and dramatically lowered costs. The health care reform debate turned out to be a factional dispute over which party best served insurance and other medical industries. (For a more thorough description of "liberal disintegration," see Sam Smith's "The death of liberalism and what to do about it" in The Progressive Review, May 9, 2011.)

Progressivism has nearly collapsed as a political force, even though progressives still exist and sometimes get elected. We can begin digging ourselves out of this hole by adopting a new model to replace the Republic/conservative/right vs. Democrat/liberal/left paradigm. We can declare our independence from the bipartisan consensus. We can reject the "active propaganda machinery controlled by the world's largest corporations [that] constantly reassures us that consumerism is the path to happiness, governmental restraint of market excess is the cause of our distress, and economic globalization is both a historical inevitability and a boon to the human species" (David C. Korten, 'When Corporations Rule the World'). .

Doing so will bust open the narrow political debate offered daily in the mainstream media. It will give us a revolutionary chance to reverse the dangerous direction of the US in the 21st century, which now promises decades of perpetual war, undiminished fossil fuel consumption as the climate heats up, privatization of dwindling resources like fresh water, an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, the collapse of financial security for working Americans, concentration of power and wealth among a small number of 'too big to fail' firms, and growing government and corporate intrusion into our private lives.

Call it Corporate America vs. We the People. Globalization vs. Mother Earth. Privatization vs. the Public Good. Wall Street vs. Main Street. Plutocracy vs. Democracy. Which side are you on?

Scott McLarty serves as media coordinator for the Green Party of the United States and for the DC Statehood Green Party. He can be reached at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Corruption never has been compulsoruy

I recently re-read Carmel's Robinson Jeffers's Shine Perishing Republic. One fragment of that poem resonated with me to the point that I tweeted about the need for "dead white poets" to remind us that "corruption is not compulsory…" and it still haunts me. It seems so necessary as corruption seems to be just part of the landscape on Washington. I should have put a couple of explanatory hashtags in that tweet: #ensign would have been appropriate and probably #coburn. That the Sen. from Oklahoma can face the public after using his influence to help out a colleague who can't keep his pecker in his pants is really an example of just how cynical the public has become… like we seem to expect this of our electeds.

This made me go back to check the Anticorruption Republican, a blog that was once a reliable source of info on all of those Republicans slimed by association with Jack Abramoff. Alas, since most of them are gone, so is public access to that blog. But then, personal proclivities was not their main target anyway.

Now, I read that ex-Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold (maybe going to run for the seat of retiring Sen. Kohl) with a blast at the ties some Congressional Democrats have with big business. If Wisconsin does send him back, it would make an interesting show.

What it obvious out of all of this is that Jeffers was right. Corruption is truly not compulsory. It is the result of a series of decision made consciously over time. Whether to use one's power to help a friend hide is problem, as Coburn did, or to become the lapdog for corporate interests most of the decisions seemed to be "logical" at the time. But as one decision follow another, at some point, it just become the way they do business.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

When will the assault of public education end?

The national media has covered the Republican Assault on public employee unions in Wisconsin. It has not paid as much attention to California sine the Republicans do not have the capability of passing such legislation here. So, the assault comes with a different tactic, the ghost of Howard Jarvis reminding us to continue cutting taxes even though our schools get worse every year.

Joe Navarro sent me the following note and I would ask you to read it and his blog post that it mentions. Joe is a San Benito County Green, a published poet and a member of his local school board.
Dear Friends,

As you know I am a school board trustee and have to grapple with a deficit and budget crisis. The state underfunds schools and the Republicans and media blame public school employees for the economic problems of school districts. The burden of the problems are placed on the backs of working people and children, yet no one with any authority wants to force the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes. Please take a moment to read my blog article. Let me know what you think. Thank you