Rotten Tomatoes for Republicans

All right, I admit defeat. I can’t tune out those crazy Republican Congressmen who actually believe that they are acting righteously in preferring to shut down the U.S. Government rather than guarantee all Americans the right to affordable health care.

I need to let off a little steam, so bear with me.

First of all, WHO ELECTED THOSE CREEPS????

It is beyond depressing that we have such an apathetic, distracted, numbed electorate, of whom barely 50% generally even bother to show up to the polls.

Of the half who do show up, obviously they are the easily manipulated types, because these Tea Partiers have managed to convince them to vote against their own interests time and time again.

It’s no secret that the Tea Partiers have been most successful in the so-called Red States, where the egregious gap between rich and poor (ie, the gap between the 1% of extreme wealth and the 99% of everyone else, way down at the bottom of the mountain) is huge.

Why would people vote against their own best prospect of getting affordable health care?

Why would people vote against the political party that, while far from perfect, has at least shown a measure of human decency and responsibility in its approach to governing?

images-2It’s only fathomable if you remember how, in Tea Party country, education and the media are entirely controlled by these same craven elites, who will stop at nothing to seize power and control of the country.

In these parts of the country, people live in ideological bunkers, where party-controlled propaganda is the only message they get.  Red China anyone?  1984?

With the advent of the World Wide Web, in America at least, it’s hard to maintain a complete lockdown on information.  But as we all know, we tend to surf to places on the Web that are familiar and tell us what we want to hear.

So I get my news from The New York Times, while in Tea Party country the average citizen is more likely to check out Fox News.  The same story looks entirely different as reported by these different media—check it out and see for yourself.  Spin rules.

This is the only way I can explain the fact that these Tea Party maniacs were elected to Congress in the first place.

I can only hope—yes, I still do have hope—that in the next round of elections, they will be sent back to their Neanderthal caves where they belong.

Then the rest of us adults can get on with the much more important business of the day.

HillaryCare1993aAffordable health care—yes, of course!  We should have had it long ago, back when Hilary Clinton tried to get it going in the mid-1990s.  She was stymied by lack of authority as merely the First Lady, seen as overstepping her bounds (get thee back to the parlor, Mrs. Clinton!).

Now President Obama is getting blowback for daring to challenge the status quo and lobby openly for the rights of the poor and for all Americans who have gotten screwed by the medical industrial complex over and over again.

It’s the same old same old, which is why I have resisted taking up the Tea Party gauntlet this time.  Why should I waste my time and energy with their nonsense?

And yet, as the government shutdown looms, and behind it the mythical debt ceiling crisis, I just have to add my voice to the chorus of BOOS and throw some metaphorical rotten eggs at those stinking Tea Partiers who want to deprive ordinary Americans of the right to a functional government, along with the right to affordable health care and an economic system that at least attempts to lift all boats.

images-1I thank the President and the Democrats for holding the line on this one.  “We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” right?  Let’s let those terrorist Republicans dig their own fox holes and stew in their own SH*T.  I’d like to see John Boehner coming out when it’s all over like Saddaam did, dazed, dirty and totally deposed.

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I have a dream: the 20th century visions of King and Obama and the “fierce urgency” of our time

mlkihaveadreamgogoFifty years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dreams with the American nation:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

“I have a dream today!”

Today President Obama, himself the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream, honored the legacy of the Civil Rights movement, telling us that because people in Dr. King’s generation marched for justice, “America changed. Because they marched, the civil rights law was passed. Because they marched, the voting rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes. Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed and Congress changed and, yes, eventually the White House changed.”

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But Obama’s dream remains too limited.  He is still dreaming a 20th century dream of middle class jobs and security: the longing for a society offering  “decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures — conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.”

Such a scenario assumes the stability of the real workers of our economy: the trees and plankton that supply our oxygen and the microorganisms that make our crops grow.  It takes for granted steady, predictable rains and moderate temperatures.

We can no longer make such assumptions, and President Obama is wrong to preach to the nation as though 20th century problems and concerns were still paramount today.

Yes, the problem of the color line still exists in 21st century America.  The unemployed still need jobs.  The racial disparity in prison populations is disgraceful.  But these are not the most pressing issues of our time.

President Obama lauded the young of the 1960s for being “unconstrained by habits of fear, unconstrained by the conventions of what is. They dared to dream different and to imagine something better.”

He argued that “that same imagination, the same hunger of purpose serves in this generation.   We might not face the same dangers as 1963, but the fierce urgency of now remains.”

In fact, we face even greater dangers today than in 1963, and it was dishonest of our President not to allude to the much more serious problems now bearing down on us full force: the juggernaut of global climate change.

The wildfires burning in California this week are the among largest ever recorded in the United States.

The rate of species extinction is faster now than it ever has been in the history of human civilization.

The ice melting at the poles promises to release heat-trapping methane gas at rates not seen since prehistoric eras.

Human population is on track to reach 9 billion or more in this century, way beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth.

We don’t know where all this is leading, but surely we cannot expect positive outcomes from these dramatic planetary shifts.

These interconnected environmental issues are the great challenges of our time, and it is to them that President Obama should have alluded, if he was being honest with himself and with the American people.

Whether or not the Syrians used chemical weapons against their own people; whether or not African Americans get to the voting booth; whether or not the American middle class sinks into poverty…all this will not matter at all when accelerating climate change begins to bring food shortages even to the most cosseted Americans.

Here is what our President should have said today:

‘I have a dream that Americans will step into a leadership role in the great fight of our time, the transition to a sustainable, renewable-energy-based society.

‘I have a dream that people of all nations, all creeds and from every culture on Earth will embrace our common challenge of finding ways to mitigate human damage to the planet, and adapt to the changes that are rapidly coming our way.

‘I have a dream that men and women from all over the globe will stand together, knowing that divided we will fall, but united we have a chance to safely ride out the storms that face us.’

My own personal dream is that our political leaders will stop lying to us, and will summon us to step up to the great ethical and empirical challenge of our time: creating lifeboats on which our children and grandchildren may sail safely into a sustainable future.

Dispatch from the heart of the American clean energy movement

 

My son Eric and I at the rally

My son Eric and I at the rally

On this cold, blustery day in Washington D.C., thousands of people braved the elements to send a resounding message that we will not stand idly by and let Big Oil continue to run the great ship Earth straight on to the reef of global heating.

Although my body feels battered and tense from standing clenched against the wind so many hours, my physical discomforts pale beside the sheer joy of the memories of today’s climate rally.

The most exciting part was when the whole huge, enthusiastic, orderly crowd began marching from the meet-up point by the Washington Monument, signs and banners and flags flying high, drumbeats and chants rising up into the clear sky above Washington, winding ourselves into a huge coiling serpent wrapping itself around the White House, parading and prancing and stomping and making all the joyful news we could as we passed by the iron gates under the watchful eyes of security.

On the march!

On the march!

It was somewhat deflating to know that the President was not home–and even worse to get word that he was golfing in Florida, no less (my regular readers will recall how much I detest golf courses and consider them symbolic of all that is wrong with humanity’s relation to the natural world).

But it was gratifying to see the media out in fairly substantial numbers covering the march; many, many video cameras were rolling and iphones were snapping and people were even wandering around the crowd doing spot interviews about what had drawn the protestors to DC this fine, cold Sunday.

I think I can speak for many when I say that what drew us out was a deep concern for our planet, and a desire to draw a line in the sand–in this case, the Keystone XL serving as that iconic line–to indicate our opposition to the continued rape and pillage of our Mother Earth.

No more impunity! If the fossil fuel magnates win this round and the Keystone is built, let it not be with impunity. Let our whote-hearted opposition to this misguided investment be duly registered in Washington, today and at re-election time next November.

At one point today as the wind whipped over the crowd the speaker observed wryly that “we like wind!” and everyone waved their “Forward with Clean Energy!” signs vigorously and laughed.

Standing up for the Sandhill Cranes of North Dakota!

Standing up for the Sandhill Cranes of North Dakota!

A small tribe of seagulls circled overhead for a while, wondering if there would be potato chips on offer at this gathering, and a young woman dressed in a lifesize Sandhill Crane outfit poked her long, elegant neck way above the crowd.

The gong has rung to signal the start of another round in the long struggle for a transition to a sustainable human relationship with the planet.

A good 35,000 people turned out today to tell the President and Congress, loud and clear, that we want real action on the climate disaster-in-the-making, and we want it to start RIGHT NOW.

If the New York Times is any indication of whether those in the mainstream halls of power are getting our message, the prospects look good, because the front-page story this evening is precisely about the Keystone XL issue and today’s big rally.

We the people do have the power to direct our elected officials to safeguard our interests. Our interests, not the corporate “persons’” interests.

As the chant went in the march today, “This is what democracy looks like!”

YES!

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Postscript, President’s Day 2013:

Even the MSM press was on to this rally!  The New York Times covered it, as did The Washington Post.  HuffPost Green did a good job, and of course we could count on Common Dreams to be one of the first to cover Bill McKibben’s victory speech at the end of the day!  Right next to yours truly, I am truly honored to say.

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Time to grow up, America: from the quest for independence to the recognition of interdependence

FE_DA_130121obama-inaug425x283In his second Inaugural speech, President Obama gestured back to other great and trying times in American history—“Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall”—and even further back, to the Civil War period and the War of Independence.

In all of these historical eras, freedom was the watchword, and first slavery, then inequality, the great evil that had to be eradicated in order for us to move forward as a nation.

Now we’re in a different period, unlike any we have yet lived through as Americans or as global citizens.

What we need now is not more freedom, but more connection.  If there are battles to be fought today—and there are!—they must be in the name not of liberty, but of interdependence.

It is hard to make a stirring speech out of complex concepts like interconnection, collaboration and sustainability, and President Obama’s gestures in this direction were, at best, oblique.

He spent a lot of his time echoing many of the enduring pieties of American history, including the Declaration of Independence, those famous lines that every American schoolchild studies: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This is “our generation’s task,” Obama said;  “to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American.”

There is a fundamental dilemma built into this founding creed, because of course one person’s pursuit of happiness may very well impede or encroach upon another person’s life and liberty.

For instance, is it OK that corporate “persons,” in their single-minded pursuit of short-term gains, ie, financial happiness, cut short people’s lives by poisoning our air, water and food supply with toxic chemicals?

Is it OK that your friendly neighborhood billionaire pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, considering that fact that this makes him very, very happy?

President Obama made no secret of his progressive agenda for social equality, ticking off social issues such as equal pay for women, gay marriage, and a more generous immigration approach as “our generation’s task to carry on.”

It was a surprise to many to find him also taking up the hot-button issue of climate change in this speech.

Echoing the Preamble to the Constitution, he insisted that “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.  That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

In the days of Wilberforce and Lincoln, a political leader who dared to speak out against slavery risked the wrath of the richest, most powerful men on Earth.

Today, a politician who dares to speak out against climate change runs the same kind of risk.

We know that the pockets of the huge energy conglomerates like Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Chevron and the rest are way deeper than the puny resources of the American government.

Those guys can buy themselves the best lawyers, the best lobbyists, the best media workers, the best researchers and scientists…and if short-term profit is their only motive, then they have no incentive to desist from continuing their pell-mell push to extract every last ounce of usable oil, gas and coal from the Earth’s crust.

President Obama indicated in his speech that he understands the ethical and scientific implications of allowing the fossil fuel industry to ride roughshod over the possibility of a sustainable future for our children and future generations.

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity,” he said.

As a parent, I know that my responsibility to my children is greater than any claim I could make to personal freedom.

I cannot blindly pursue my own happiness at the expense of theirs.

No more can we as a nation and as a human civilization continue to pretend that we don’t understand how our permissiveness towards corporate freedom, with its myopic focus on next-quarter profits, is undermining our obligation to future generations—and not just future generations of humans, but of all the creatures and plants who grew up with us on this planet.

If the President truly believes what he said, that “our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity,” then he must act boldly to uphold a new creed for the 21st century, based not on freedom and liberty, but on responsibility and interdependence.  And we need to be right by his side, giving him the courage to act on his best convictions.

President Obama ended his speech by affirming that “You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

“You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift,” he said, concluding:

“Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”

Wait! No, that’s not right!  It’s not “that precious light of freedom” we need to embrace now; it’s “that precious recognition of interdependence.”

What he should have said in closing was this:

“With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and work together to create a sustainable, global socio-economic framework, manifested on the local level by caring, collaborative communities who understand that now is no longer the time of independence, or of freedom, but the dawn of a new era of responsibility and interdependence.”

In short, it’s time for us humans to grow up.

If you need more convincing, check out Tiffany Schlain’s marvelous 10-minute “cloud film” INTERDEPENDENCE and read her “Declaration of Interdependence.

For a heartbreaking take on  the urgency of our mission to shift to renewable energy and put a lid on global warming, watch Nikki Craft’s film RESIST DO NOT COMPLY, made with Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith.

And then join your fellow grown-up citizens in doing the work that it is, as the president said, our generation’s greatest task.

I have a dream…for President Obama and our nation

There is a fair amount of speculation today over what President Obama will say at tomorrow’s Inauguration speech, which coincides with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Obama, like King, is a great orator, especially when he allows himself to lose his cool and display the inner fire that animates him.

President Obama arriving in Newtown last month

President Obama arriving in Newtown last month

I hope that tomorrow he will allow us to see his human, emotional side, as he did when he shed unscripted tears the night he visited the bereaved parents in Newtown last month.

It’s true that many of his followers have lost the starry-eyed sense of possibility that made his first Inauguration such a joyful affair.

The romance of our first Black president, an outsider who dodged all the slings and arrows lobbed at him by his opponents to sprint his way to victory, has settled into a more realistic relationship.

We know he’s not superhuman.  He’s not infallible, and he cannot please all of us all the time.

But I hope that in this second term he will be bolder in his governance of the country.  Now that he doesn’t have to worry about running for office again, he can afford to take more risks to get his agenda through.

We’re seeing him do this with gun control, as—to give him due credit—he did in the first term with the Affordable Health Care Act.

It looks like he’s poised to make a positive move on immigration.

These are all important issues.

But they pale by contrast with the single most important issue of our time, restabilizing our climate.

Severe flooding in Jakarta this week from unusually heavy monsoon rains

Severe flooding in Jakarta this week from unusually heavy monsoon rains

An image shot in Jakarta this week gives a snapshot into what is ahead for us, as a nation and as a global human civilization, as the oceans warm, the glaciers and poles melt and release trapped methane and the climate becomes more extreme and erratic.

Scientists tell us that the die has already been cast; the planet is set on a warming course that cannot be reversed.  But it can be mitigated.  We can still keep the average rise in temperature to 4C rather than the 10C that is the current worst-case scenario for the next hundred years.

I have a dream that President Obama surprises the nation and the world on Inauguration Day by announcing a plan to divert current government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry into a new federal fund to promote:

  • a shift to distributed energy (rooftop solar arrays, town wind turbines, local geothermal, etc);
  • new incentives for the manufacturers and installers of renewable energy components;
  • a new R&D push to improve batteries and design data centers and other industrial plants that use less energy;
  • an initiative in urban planning and architectural design to begin the arduous, expensive but necessary process of refitting our cities, towns and individual dwellings for our new climate reality;
  • a strong push to improve the environmental component of our education at every level and in every subject—not just science and technology, but medicine, philosophy, history, sociology, literature and of course economics and business.

This is my dream for the Inauguration speech, but I will not be holding my breath waiting for it.

tumblr_mguif6Qltd1qzsjkco1_400I won’t be in Washington for the Inauguration, but I want to be there for the Presidents’ Day (Feb. 17) climate change rally in DC, sponsored by 350.org and the Sierra Club, to pressure our politicians to do the right thing for us and for our children.

President Obama, I know the tears you shed in Newtown were real—I know you are a feeling, caring human being who does not like to see innocent people suffer.

You have an opportunity in this second term to make a historic difference in our nation’s stance on climate change.

Instead of being one of the world’s biggest polluters and consumers of energy, we can become one of the world’s biggest innovators in renewable energy and energy conservation.

We can once again resume our historic position in the world as a moral and practical leader, doing what’s right for our planet and its beleaguered denizens.

The people elected you, Mr. President, not the corporations.

Do it for us.  Now.

Election 2012: Avoiding the Same Old, Same Old In the Redistribution of Power

Bravo to Maureen Dowd, who nailed the delusion of the Republican party with her typical biting humor.  “Mitt Romney is the president of white male America,” she said. Just not of the rest of us.

And—surprise!—we are a hell of a lot more numerous and, in an honest-to-God democracy, more powerful than they are.

White male America did turn out to elect Mitt their hero of the privileged status quo.  Imagine their surprise to discover that a status quo they thought undefeatable was already gone!

Karl Rove

It was interesting to see the little white men behind the curtain coming out after their Mitt-marionette went down in flames—men like Karl Rove, who flat-out refused to believe, on national TV (Fox News, of course) that his horse had actually lost the race.

It’s true that there wasn’t anything inherently “less Presidential” about Mitt than about that other wealthy political scion, George W. Bush—unless perhaps it was Romney’s conservative, highly patriarchal Mormonism, evidenced in the remarkable spread of his lily-white grandchildren—even if, as far as we know, he and his five sons only have one wife each.

Romney family

Both Bush Jr. and Romney expected the Republicans wizards to deliver them the White House with minimal effort on their part; and in return they would deliver the Supreme Court and the dismantling of regulatory inconveniences for Big Business, while keeping the women in the parlor and the help in the kitchen.

As Dowd pointed out, “the more they tried to force chastity belts on women, and the more they made Hispanics, blacks and gays feel like the help, the more these groups burned to prove that, knitted together, they could give the dead-enders of white male domination the boot.”

And so we did, so resoundingly that even the most obtuse of Republican strategists must have gotten the point.

Women, Latinos, Blacks and queer folk in this country make up a majority, and if you goad us with sticks and prods, you will see us turn out at the polls in record numbers to kick you out and get our own people to represent us in the halls of power.

The election of 2012 marks the dawn of a new age in America, when the so-called “minorities,” buoyed by a wave of powerful women voters of every ethnic, religious and even political stripe, showed the Man who’s boss.

No, Obama may not be the perfect hero to lead this charge, but as a mixed race American and a thoughtful man who obviously loves and respects his wife and daughters, he will do for now.

Obama family on Election night 2012

After all, as Dowd concludes: “If 2008 was about exalting the One, 2012 was about the disenchanted Democratic base deciding: “We are the Ones we’ve been waiting for.”

The newly empowered voting block of women, gays and ethnic “minorities” (a quaint term that will soon bite the dustbin of history) must take a good hard look at the hierarchical structure upon which the white male patriarchy was founded, and which it upheld so religiously for so long.

Our Founding Fathers were as guilty of this as their old masters back in Europe.  And indeed those who have studied colonialist and post-colonialist politics tell us that the biggest obstacle for newly emerging political bodies, whether they be newly independent nations or, as in 21st century America, newly emerging political landscapes, is that as humans we tend to replicate what we know, rather than take the risk of imagining and executing something truly new.

Thus we found, in state after state, the ideals of Communism crushed beneath the iron boots of dictators who used the banner of Communism to re-enact the oppressive structures of the past.

The challenge for all politically engaged Americans as we move on from Election 2012 is to keep the momentum going, rather than subsiding back into the same old, same old of structural American power hierarchies.

President Obama introduces Sonia Sotomayor

President Obama, over the past four years, was not able to resist the immense gravitational pull of the Beltway, although he did have a few shining moments of independence, like his successful appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

The truth is, it’s not only unrealistic to expect him to be our knight in shining armor, it’s antithetical to the spirit of true liberty and democracy.

The 21st century is about the redistribution of power in all its forms, including wealth, politics and energy.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, and we have to create change ourselves—in our homes, in our workplaces, in our schools, in our stores, and in local politics.

We have to change our relation to the natural world, which has long held the sad position of totally disrespected base in the patriarchal white hierarchy.

No one is going to do this for us—not Obama, and not even Jill Stein.  We have to do it ourselves, and the time to start is now.

Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen? Hell no!

Parsing the memes dealing with women in this election season is almost dizzying.

From “binders full of women” to the insinuation that if women get pregnant from a rape, it’s “something that God intended,” Republicans seem determined to put their feet their mouths over and over again.

There are signs now that women are getting the message, and getting more politically active as a result.

Yesterday I received the new Lesley Gore video, “You Don’t Own Me,” from several sources; if you have’t seen it yet, it’s worth a look: it’s a composite of many different women (most of them young) telling the politicians to get their f**king hands off our bodies (emphasis mine).

The specter of Roe v. Wade being reversed has a lot of women frightened.

We seem to be heading eerily towards the scenario imagined by Margaret Atwood some thirty years ago in The Handmaid’s Tale: a nightmare landscape of environmental devastation and societal breakdown, where the elite, safe in their gated communities, feel righteously justified in considering forced childbearing the only function of fertile young women.

I am still trying to wrap my head around the reality of the fact that we live in a country where Viagra is fully covered by insurance, but contraception often is not.

We live in a world where powerful men can get away with assaulting women and boys repeatedly, with the collusion of those around them. Sandusky and DSK, I’m looking at YOU—but these just the most scandalous recent cases, there are so many more in their club.

And if we move over to the virtual world, the violence against women’s bodies grows exponentially.  People always tell me that there’s all kinds of porn out there, from the soft & cuddly to the whips and chains, but from what I know, there are an awful lot of men jerking off to women’s pain.

I really don’t like calling men out like this.  I believe that many–probably most—men are fine upstanding citizens who would never hurt a woman.

But the truth is that we women need all those fine upstanding men to stand up for us now.

I was shocked at the statistics released last week showing that if only men voted in the Presidential election, Romney would win.

That means that an awful lot men support the kind of patriarchal social structure Romney indisputably stands for.

When is the last time you heard of a Mormon woman running a big company, or holding political office, or doing much of anything outside of doing the admittedly fulltime work of raising a big brood of children?

And then there’s the other half of the ticket, Paul Ryan—a Roman Catholic who seems to be Scrooge re-issued in a virile young package.

These two are the front men for a huge back-to-the-future wave of religious conservatism that employs much more subtle means than the Islamic Brotherhood, but with the same ends: to uphold male privilege and keep women securely ensconced in the private sphere.

A Romney might take a look at those “binders of women,” but in the end he’ll choose a nice young white man as the “most qualified” of the lot.

A Ryan might approve of a married woman leaving the home to earn some extra bread for her husband’s table, but if her daughter was raped while mom was out and got pregnant, too bad—suck it up, have the child, life goes on, and it’s just too bad that rapists are so rarely punished.  After all, boys will be boys, and girls ask for it.

If all American women voted in this election, President Obama would win by a landslide.

Obama has been good to women where it counts: he’s drastically improved health care and fought off the insurance dragons who want to label even pregnancy a “re-existing condition”; he’s stood up for women’s ownership of our reproductive health; the stimulus he put into place in his first year has kept our economy limping along,despite the repeated and concerted efforts of Republican Congressmen to sabotage it; and his government showcases a number of powerful, strong women who provide excellent leadership models for all Americans.

Shortly after he was sworn in as President of the United States, Barack Obama wrote a public letter to his two daughters, Malia and Sasha, in which he says:

“These are the things I want for you—to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That’s why I’ve taken our family on this great adventure.”

The historic election of the nation’s first African American President represented a giant step forward for this country.  A racial barrier that had seemed insurmountable fell, just as suddenly as the Berlin Wall fell two decades ago, ending what had seemed to be an everlasting Cold War.

We need the gender barriers to fall too. I know there are young women in the political pipeline today who have the dream of breaking through all the glass ceilings and reaching the sky, and we should be doing all we can to support them.

Today, what we need to do is prevent the takeover of this nation by rightwing religious conservatives.  We need to vote President Obama back into office.

And then we need to keep going, to make this a nation where all our children—no matter their gender, their race, their class, their religion or their ethnicity—can soar.

Surmounting the challenges facing us not just as a country, but as a planet, will take every ounce of creative, innovation and intelligence we can muster.

We need all our children to turn their minds to this task.  We can’t afford to leave half the population—our women—barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

Love in the end times

The political horserace in American politics has begun, with both Presidential candidates running full-tilt but ponderously towards each other like armored knights on horseback, wielding the lances of millions of dollars’ worth of attack ads and backed up by slick, smart campaign pages.

Meanwhile, it continues to be hot, hotter and unbearably hot here in the Northeast.  It was a blessing to wake up this morning to a brief soaking rain, breaking weeks of drought.

But there is no way to fool myself into hoping that things will go back to normal, weather-wise.

As many people have been saying lately, this is the new normal.

Just as we’ve gotten used to a political climate in which it’s normal for a Presidential candidate to hide his tax returns, refuse to comment on moving his millions into off-shore tax havens, and totally repudiate everything he once stood for in order to lick the shoes of his political bosses, we’re going to have to get used to a climate that lurches from one extreme to another–from blizzards to heat waves, from floods to droughts.

Those extremes also characterize the new economic normal.  These days, I’m having trouble convincing myself that the global economy that has been built up over my lifetime, since the end of World War II, is ever going to be able to function in such a way as to provide security and prosperity for the majority of the world’s people.

Maybe it never did.  There has always been a vast underclass of the disenfranchised, for whom globalization was just another name for displacement, oppression and exploitation.

The difference is that now we’re seeing a huge spike in the ranks of the poor right in the heart of what used to be called the First World—right in our backyards.

For a middle-class earner like me, it is getting harder and harder to make ends meet, and there are no substantial raises or bonuses in sight.

For the millions who are unemployed or under-employed or scraping by with under-the-table jobs in the informal economy, this new normal has got a distinctly  Dust Bowl feel to it.

Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala

The Occupy encampments have faded away, victims perhaps of effective police surveillance, infiltration and undermining.  The only Presidential candidate who has any new ideas to offer about improving the economy is the one we never see or hear on prime time, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, along with her running mate Cheri Honkala.

Most people aren’t saying much about the panic that runs like a live wire through their interior lives.

We are trying to enjoy this hot summer in the usual ways: going to the beach, having barbecues with friends and family, taking in a nice air-conditioned movie now and then.

But every once in a while a voice will break through our heat-addled stupor, crying to us to Wake up, wake up, before it’s too late!!

So, for example, we hear marine scientist Roger Bradbury shouting out from the Opinion Pages of the New York Times today, telling us to pay attention now, in these crucial last years before the planet’s entire coral reef ecosystem collapses, setting off a chain reaction of events that may very well include the starvation of millions of people, particularly in the tropics, who depend on the ocean for food.

Bleached coral

“Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution are pushing coral reefs into oblivion,” Bradbury says. “What we will be left with is an algal-dominated hard ocean bottom, as the remains of the limestone reefs slowly break up, with lots of microbial life soaking up the sun’s energy by photosynthesis, few fish but lots of jellyfish grazing on the microbes. It will be slimy and look a lot like the ecosystems of the Precambrian era, which ended more than 500 million years ago and well before fish evolved.”

Bradbury advocates “an enormous reallocation of research, government and environmental effort” towards the “ecological engineering” necessary “to make the economic structural adjustment that communities and industries that depend on coral reefs urgently need.”

Even though Bradbury aims to be pragmatic and forward-thinking with his wake-up call, I still wonder if he’s living in a dream world.

Governments and the United Nations can’t even agree on basic protocols to begin to cut carbon emissions and pump up our renewable energy industries.  They don’t appear to give a damn about the hundreds of millions of poor, hand-to-mouth folk who are already being hard hit by climate change pressures, and they are not even willing to act when it comes to trying to assure the safe passage of the elites into the Anthropocene, air conditioners and all.

What should we be doing in these end times?  Where should we be putting our energies?

Not in the political side show of the Presidential race.

Not in the mindless distractions of our media-saturated cultural environment.

No, I believe we need to do two things above all as the world warms and our precious days of “normal” existence come to a close.

One: stay close to friends and family; strengthen the bonds of community.  We will be needing each other more than ever in the times ahead.

Two: Try to stay in the present moment as much as possible.  We humans are very good at casting our minds forward into the future, but in this case, the scenarios are only going to be pushing our panic buttons.  It’s important to stay calm and focused.

Tend the parts of the earth you can reach.  Keep your love flowing.

Help Wanted: Strong Leadership on Climate Change, Starting Immediately

Now if only President Obama could show the same leadership on climate change as he has just demonstrated on the divisive same- sex-marriage issue.

The same narrow-minded interests that made same-sex marriage such a boogeyman for the President are also controlling the GOP-dominated boardrooms of Big Oil, from Mr. Cheney on down.

These people seem to be motivated by one thing only: the bottom line.  And they seem to be able to think only as far as a quarter or two ahead.

They don’t see that they are driving us as fast as possible over a cliff from which there will be no recovery.  Or maybe they see, but just don’t care.

It was with great appreciation that I opened up The New York Times Opinion pages today and saw the indefatigable James Hansen offering the lead op-ed, once more displaying his vision and leadership in 1) insisting that the comfortable NYT readers pay attention to the imminent and grave threat of climate change, and 2) offering a practical solution for bringing about the swift change of course we need to avert disaster.

Those of us who have been thrown into gloom by the prospect of Canada scraping down the boreal forest to exploit their tar sands will be somewhat heartened by the strong language Hansen uses to condemn this approach to “solving” the peak oil crisis.

Alberta, Canada: from boreal forest to tar sand devastation

“Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.”

This is not some crazy Armageddon-spouting evangelical talking here.  This is James Hansen, senior scientist and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The way to head off this catastrophic scenario, as Hansen and many other scientists have been telling us now for at least a decade, is to reduce our use of fossil fuels.

It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense, and Hansen has an easy, no-nonsense solution for forcing Americans to change our ways and start doing what we have to do to save our planet and our civilization.

“We should impose a gradually rising carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies, then distribute 100 percent of the collections to all Americans on a per-capita basis every month. The government would not get a penny,” Hansen says. “This market-based approach would stimulate innovation, jobs and economic growth, avoid enlarging government or having it pick winners or losers. Most Americans, except the heaviest energy users, would get more back than they paid in increased prices. Not only that, the reduction in oil use resulting from the carbon price would be nearly six times as great as the oil supply from the proposed pipeline from Canada, rendering the pipeline superfluous, according to economic models driven by a slowly rising carbon price.”

As Hansen observes, in practice what we have been doing is just the opposite: “instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true costs, leveling the energy playing field, the world’s governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels with hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This encourages a frantic stampede to extract every fossil fuel through mountaintop removal, longwall mining, hydraulic fracturing, tar sands and tar shale extraction, and deep ocean and Arctic drilling.”

These subsidies must stop.

Canada and the US must stop playing poker with the future of our children and our planetary epoch.

All of us, from President Obama and Prime Minister Harper right on down to each one of us ordinary folks who drive cars, heat our houses and run our air conditioning, need to stop pretending that business-as-usual can continue any longer.

Calling on President Obama: Be Our Warrior for Peace

Although most Americans think of Presidents’ Day mainly in terms of sales on home appliances and electronics, as well as a welcome mid-winter day off, it’s worth stopping to think for a moment about what we are actually celebrating on this day.

Why take a day out of the national calendar to honor Washington and Lincoln?  What is there about these two heroic figures to inspire us today?

Both Washington and Lincoln were warriors.  They took our nation into bloody wars fought on idealistic principles.

Washington led an insurgency against British troops, an outrageous act of treason against the powerful British Crown.

Lincoln led American troops into battle against our own Southern states, which were threatening to secede from the Union.

In both cases, wars were fought and many lives were lost but survivors agreed that the cause had been just, and the sacrifices necessary.

Both Washington and Lincoln were able to build political coalitions and persuade Americans of the rightness of the course of action they were about to undertake.  They did not lie to the people about the dangers or the costs; they appealed to Americans to support the Revolutionary and Civil Wars on the basis of the moral justice of the cause.

What a contrast this presents to the most recent time America mobilized for war, in 2002-03, when our president relied on smoke, mirrors, propaganda and outright lies to manipulate Americans to support the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A president should never lie to the people, especially when lives are at stake.

On Presidents’ Day, 2012, we face another round of saber-rattling, this time with Iran.  The regional politics of this conflict are deep, complex and ancient, dating back to pre-modern quarrels among the Jews, Sunnis and Shias.  They are of concern to us, way over here in America, mainly because of our reliance on Middle East oil, and secondarily because of our ideological support of the state of Israel.

Today, our President is weighing the possibility of an escalation of this conflict. Pakistan has just made a defiant announcement that it will stand with Iran in the event of war.  Pakistan is a nuclear power; Iran may be too.

We have not teetered so close to the brink of nuclear war since the scary days of the 1980s, before the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union was revealed as just a small Wizard projecting a big image from behind a screen.  Unlike the harmless Wizard of Oz, however, these generals are armed with nuclear warheads, and they may be prepared to use them.

When nuclear weapons are used, civilians suffer.  Innocent civilians; innocent animals, birds and flora.  Surely the recent release of radiation in Japan should serve as a reminder of just how obscenely dangerous even peaceful applications of nuclear technology can be.

What we need in our President today is that he be a warrior, yes, but a warrior for peace, not war.

Just as Washington had the courage to risk treason to break away from the established bond with Britain, and Lincoln had the courage to stand up to the South to end the established reliance on slave labor, today we need our President to take a stand against the addiction to fossil fuels that is proving so destabilizing to human  civilization and our entire planetary environment.

On Presidents’ Day 2012 I call on President Obama to restore America’s role in the world as a beacon of “liberty and justice for all,” but now with a new, 21st century inflection.

When Washington thought of liberty and justice for all, he did not include women or enslaved Africans in that “all.”  Lincoln turned a corner, demanding liberty and justice for the slaves, but ignoring the disenfranchisement of women.

As we enter the 21st century, we need to again rethink the “all” for whom we intend liberty and justice.  Every living being on this planet deserves to live its life peacefully, without undue suffering.

It is now abundantly clear that the path America has laid down since the 1940s—a path littered with spent shells and warheads, paved with an oily slick of asphalt, and reeking with pesticides, herbicides, and chemical treatments of all kinds—has proven to be a disaster for us, and for the world that has followed along behind us.

Industrial civilization and a consumer-based society has proven to be a disaster to every living being on this planet, and the planetary ecosystem as a whole.

We need our President to stand up to the oil barons, the merchant princes and the corporate bankers and insist that they now funnel all of their resources into creating a new path into a different kind of future.

We need our President to rally the sick, bewildered, overburdened populace and lead us not into another insane war, but into a vast new Americorps project to restore education and health to our communities.  We need America to become once again a model and a support for the rest of the world.

President Obama, when we elected you we believed you would be a different kind of president. Yes we can was your motto, and we believed you would be able to lead us out of the nightmares of the 20th century, into a cleaner, healthier, kinder  21st century.

There is still time for you to make this vision a reality, Mr. President. On Presidents’ Day, I challenge you to live up to the best aspects of Washington and Lincoln, and lead us out of danger…lead us home.

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