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As I give it at least my dozenth try at getting the ol’ blogger legs back going, lets take a look at some highlights of life here in America, February of 2010 (grab a beer or a joint or a big mug of coffee, this is a long one):
Seems it was a very good year to be a Washington lobbyist- the best year ever, actually. The Center for Responsive Politics has looked into tens of thousands of disclosure findings and found that in 2009 special interests of every kind spent $3.47 billion lobbying the Federal government. “Even when companies are scaling back other operations, many view lobbying as a critical tool in protecting their future interests, particularly when Congress is preparing to take action on issues that could seriously affect their bottom lines.” said CRP director Sheila Krumholz. Among those numbers, the dollars from your and my health care premiums (if you’re lucky enough to even have health insurance) spent ensuring Congress could not pass a meaningful overall of the health care system was $266.8 million (that amount spent by the pharmaceutical and health products industries represents a record for one sector). The report also notes- oddly- that this year saw a decline in the number of actual registered lobbyists, prompting speculation that in the face of tighter controls on lobbying from the Obama Administration some aspects of lobbying have moved under-ground; now there’s a welcome development: the seedy back-room world of those with power manipulating politicians for their personal gain moving into a closet in the back-room. “Democracy”? is that what you folks call this?
I’m decidedly excited about organized labor threatening to “stay out” of this year’s elections in protest over the way the Obama Administration and Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate have failed to deliver much of anything for working people. Lets face it, the Republican Party is not even an option- in terms of political choice- for working class people (I know what you’re thinking about Tea Party-ers and rednecks and religious fundamentalists and the like, and I’ll get to them, but I’m referring here only to those who are at least partially aware of their class-standing, the existence of class society, and who reject in general the inherent good of wealth concentrated among the wealthy (even if some of these things happen far from even their own waking consciousness)). For years organized labor have leaned towards the Democratic Party knowing they’d at least get thrown some bread crust, and that that would always be better than the mere crumbs the Republicans may throw. But in the face of being so hopeful, so full of excitement and promise (and after spending serious money and donating serious volunteer time) to get Obama in and with majorities and everything, labor has gotten jack shit. Read the rest of this entry »
Following from that title, let me be clear: for every Dem I despise, there’s a Republican to match him (or her). Likewise, for every motion made by a Dem that I like, there’s an equal one done by some GOP operative. But lets take a quick look at what the Dems, on the national stage, are up to:
- Max Bacus (D-Montana): We ‘can’t afford the unmitigated effects of fighting climate change’. Yes, that’s right, it’s too expensive to have an energy/transportation/industrial system that doesn’t rape and pillage the planet. Score one for Nineteenth Century thinking.
- Patrick Leahy (D- Vermont): Talks a dam tough game, and quite honestly, has come through solid on a few things for us Vermonters… but when it comes to the USA PATRIOT ACT, or holding the Bush Administration accountable for any number of their crimes (domestic or international), well, let’s just say score one for Orwell’s 1984.
- Harry Reid (D-Nevada): While so many out in liberal la-la land are excited that Reid has decided to force through “a public option”, the fact of the matter is that, no matter what any polls show or what the public opinion is, nothing that’s going to hit the Senate floor will be good enough and health care (and the cost of health insurance) (hell, the very idea of having health “insurance”) will continue to cripple working people, be they lower or middle class. Listen, this is just the issue of the moment- health care ties into so many important things right now. It’s time to take a page from the Revolutionary playbook: it’s estimated that, at best, 25-33% of the public supported becoming independent from England at the time of the American Revolution; but those guys went forward with it anyway… and you know what? no one questions their wisdom now- no one, ever, anywhere, suggests it was a bad idea because it wasn’t supported by a majority of the people at the time. Once Americans have full-blown, never see a bill, maybe your taxes go up a little (if you make a decent living or better to begin with), health care, I’d give ’em 10 months at best to forget entirely what their original opinion on socialized medicine was. When it comes to health care in America, score one for Eighteenth Century England.
- Barack Obama (D- United States): October has been the deadliest month for American troops in Afghanistan- ever. Score one for electing a “socialist”.
I could go on of course- there are thousands of elected Democrats all over the country. But that would be exhausting, and I’m tired as it is. Plus, I may feel obligated to do the same for Republicans (just to be fair) which just well might take a lifetime. But my point is simple: don’t rely on politicians (liberal, conservative, “independent”, whatever) to make the world right. We’ve got to do it ourselves. It’s always been that way, for all of human history. My favorite bumper sticker is still an axiom that I adhere to every waking moment: “comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable”.
As I try-out my writing wheels (haven’t done this for a while) forgive me if I ease myself in. So for your consideration, a few things around the interwebs that have caught my eye:
- For starters, a really great piece contemplating- and naming- the manner in which class (or, better yet, “class war”) determines who is going to fight U.S. wars and who, well, doesn’t have to even think about it. Even better: the author reminds us of the Helots, a class of people in ancient Sparta who were more or less owned “by the public” and used as warriors and soldiers to fight and conquest and pillage on behalf of the elite of their day; and then the author goes on to suggest that today’s “all-volunteer military” represent a sort-of class-based version of the Helots.
- Somewhere back in time there I had come across, read, and meant to post here about a pretty good piece written from the libertarian left to the libertarian right (as embodied by the “Tea Party” protests). Of course, I never got that up, as my postings this past summer have been mostly limited to occasional youtube video’s and endless “geez, sorry I haven’t written anything lately” diaries. But now that same piece has been made available as a pdf for printing out the pamphlet yourself, which was an excellent reminder to me to direct your attention to the thing. I won’t say I’m with it 100%, but I think it’s well done, and definitely in a better direction than 97% of what “anarchists” put out, either on the web or in print.
- But speaking of the dribble anarchists put out there: another exception to that 97% I just mentioned in this piece, noting that the Nobel Prize in Economics not only was just awarded to a woman for the first time, but that her work largely validates and confirms what anarchists have been saying all along. Specifically, Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel in Economics for her work challenging the notion that common property (“the commons”) is poorly managed and should either be regulated by central authorities or privatized. Ostrom’s findings- again, which just won her a Nobel prize in Economics- have been that when certain common sense principles are applied (for one, that everyone involved knows the parameters of usage) collective management of resources is much more efficient and beneficial to the population- and planet- as a whole. Read the rest of this entry »
With behemoth health foods retailer Whole Foods marching ahead with plans for an out of scale (and, with the existence of so many local food co-ops, localy-based retailers, and yes, direct-from-the-farm markets, we could say wholly redundant and un-necessary) South Burlington location, faux-progressive and CEO John Mackey may well be getting a bit concerned. That’s because Vermonters in Pittsburgh to protest the G20 meetings have chosen to target a Whole Foods retailer there as part of their protest against the corporate elite’s pro-profit and anti-sustainability agenda.
A group of Vermont farmers and students blocked the entrance of a Pittsburgh Whole Foods around 10:00 Friday morning. They then build a raised-garden bed, complete with growing plants and vegetables, under their banners which read “Whole
Communities Not Whole Foods for ½ the people” and “ A Whole Lot of $$$$ GREEN $$$$$” as well as “Grow Gardens Not Corporations”.
From the activist’s press release:
One person joining them from Pittsburgh said “I’ve have watched Whole Foods
come in and cater to wealthier folks from outside this neighborhood with its
corporate green image while selling products that not only don’t contribute
to a local or sustainable food system but are totally unaffordable to most
folks that live here.”
Jean Marie Pearce left her farm in the Northeast Kingdom to participate in planting the garden. “We need to realize that Whole Foods is about growing profits not sustainability and the G20 is about growing capitalism not a healthy world. I want a world where food is grown for everyone, not the GDP for 20 countries! Examples like the dairy farm crisis right now prove the need for more inclusion around these policies. We can’t protect or control our economy when it is run by 20 people and their corporate friends.”
Once these Vermont activists return from Pittsburgh, we can only imagine what they have in-store for the developers who hope to build a Whole Foods in South Burlington. It’s a safe bet that Whole Foods and those developers are working on trying to imagine that very thing right this moment.
I’ve mentioned before that one of the sites I regular to keep up to speed with the news and opinions of the American left is commondreams.org. Of late, they’ve really stepped it up, especially regarding the health care debate and the “Tea Party” movement that has sprung up around it. Here’s their lastest little side note, a good one, from several angles:
But We Thought Socialists Made The Trains Always Run On Time
You gotta love those zany teabaggers. Now the people who went to D.C. to protest government-run programs – on government-built roads, with government-funded police protection etc – are complaining the government-run subway system didn’t meet their needs, and Texas Rep. Kevin Brady has sent an angry letter to the subway czar. The kicker: Brady voted against stimulus funds to improve the Metro. Cognitive dissonance, thy name is wingnut.
“I will demand answers from Metro,” wrote Brady to whatever socialist tyrant runs the D.C. subway.
Counting requires logic, and given the political right’s distaste for all things rational it’s no real surprise they may have some trouble counting from time to time. Still, the difference between 1 and 20 should be obvious, as should the difference between 100,000 and 2,000,000. From politifact.com’s truth-o-meter:
In the competitive world of Washington protests, crowd size is often a matter of dispute. Organizers usually boast of huge crowds, while police and the news media offer much smaller estimates.
So supporters of Saturday’s “tea party” protests against President Barack Obama were quick to highlight their big turnout. To bolster countless claims on blogs and Facebook, many posted a photograph that showed a gargantuan crowd sprawling from Capitol Hill down the National Mall to the Washington Monument.
But it turns out the photo is more than 10 years old, apparently taken during a 1997 Promise Keepers rally.
I’ve witnessed first hand the difference between ‘official’ estimates of crowd size and on the ground reality, to say nothing of the wide swinging estimates that crowd participants can and do claim. But while the (leftist) marches and rallies I’ve seen and been in usually vary by the thousands- a crowd of 5,000 people called 2-3,000 or a 500+ being ‘officially’ or in the news media called “a few hundred”, or even something close to 500,000 people being called “tens of thousands”, the right- who admittedly are pretty new to this grassroots, populist thing- take it to another level. All last week the right-blogosphere and news commentators were proclaiming their righteousness vindicated by the “2 million” people they brought to DC. Of course, the only problem with that number is that it is way the fuck off. 2 million? Not a likely number for one city for almost any rally, right or left. I was at the Million Woman March (or whatever it was called) in DC a few years ago; a DC march that organizers, city officials and the press all pegged to be around a million people (crowd estimates are, after all, extremely tricky things). You knew that was a shitload of people because they (we) were literally everywhere- the entire city was over-run by participants and there wasn’t a store, train, bus, or sidewalk to be on or in where one wasn’t in the midst of other participants.
More from politifact.com:
Pete Piringer, public affairs officer for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Department, said the local government no longer provides official crowd estimates because they can become politicized. But the day of the rally, Piringer unofficially told one reporter that he thought between 60,000 and 75,000 people had shown up.
Even if we were to use the left’s standard for what to expect of crowd estimates from city officials (75,000 would often mean something more like 100,000 even up to 150,000) we get no where close to the political rally organizer’s wet dream number of 1 million; still way shy of the generally absurd 2 million mark. But here’s the pic the right circulated to show their huge turn out last Saturday:
And this is where politifact.com breaks it down, um, rationally:
We asked Piringer whether there were enough protesters to fill the National Mall, as depicted in the photograph.
“It was an impressive crowd,” he said. But after marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, the crowd “only filled the Capitol grounds, maybe up to Third Street,” he said.
Yet the photograph so widely posted showed the crowd sprawling all the way to the Washington Monument, which is bordered by 15th and and 17th Streets.
There’s another problem with the photograph: It doesn’t include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth Street and Independence Avenue that opened on Sept. 14, 2004. (Looking at the photograph, the building should be in the upper right hand corner of the National Mall, next to the Air and Space Museum.) That means the picture was taken before the museum opened exactly five years ago. So clearly the photo doesn’t show the “tea party” crowd from the Sept. 12 protest.
Also worth noting are the cranes in front of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. According to Randall Kremer, the museum’s director of public affairs, “The last time cranes were in front was in the 1990s when the IMAX theater was being built.”
There go those stupid, god-dam facts getting in the right’s way again. Sorry there folks.