Political Turbulence and the Coming World Transformation

I just saw Rachel Maddow’s program this evening. Did you know the extent to which Democrats have been winning unexpectedly in heavenly Republican districts? Obviously there’s the stunning victory in New York 26, but there’s much more going on. ¬†Democrats are winning everywhere: for Jacksonville mayor, for Tampa mayor, in New Hampshire for a state senate seat, and in Wisconsin for a state assembly seat.¬† In a 50-50 Maine state senate district, the Democrat won by over 40 percentage points. In Ohio a Republican state senator who voted for the union busting bill resigned after relentless criticism for that vote. In Alabama, a state senator flipped from Republican to Democrat. The Republican governor of Florida (Rick Scott) has a 29% approval rating, while Republican John Kasich in Ohio is cratering in the polls and Republican Scott Walker is doing poorly in Wisconsin. In Ohio a poll showed an 18% lead for the opponents of the union busting bill.

What’s going on? I don’t think I’ve ever seen this quick of a political turn-around? This is more dramatic than what happened after the government shut-down in 1994-95. Now you never know what will happen down the road, but what were the Republicans thinking? Their strategy makes no political sense. It’s as if the end of the world were coming, and the Republicans tried to grab as much stuff as they possibly could before all hell broke loose. Busting unions, destroying Medicare, eviscerating social programs, offering tax-give-aways to the super-rich and corporations, gutting the environment, criminalizing abortion, and much more does not seem to be working out so well for them politically.

Honestly, I can’t make sense of what they’re thinking politically. It’s totally illogical and just plain bizarre. They could have caused a lot of damage and still maintained some semblance of political viability, but they chose instead to take a wrecking ball. The only thing that I can postulate is that Republicans were not thinking politically, but were instead doing the bidding of a few very powerful super-rich people such as the Koch Brothers. In other words,, Republicans had marching orders and happily walked the plank. Somehow, I guess, they think that these guys will rescue them or do something.¬† I’m not sure, but that’s all I came come up with.

They are handing the 2012 general election on a silver platter to the Democrats. Why?????¬† Do you have any ideas out there? It makes no sense. I’m perplexed.

Now, that said, I am concerned for our country. Yes, I want far-right-wing crazies, nut-jobs, and loony-tunes to lose, but our country needs at least two viable competing parties. Without that either party will probably mess things up even more. I can’t imagine that Democrats will know what to do with the massive majorities they might win in next election if things go as they seem to be going. We need two real parties with serious ideas that must compete with the serious ideas of the other party. Right now the Republicans are nuts, like invading locusts destroying everything in their paths, while Democrats are gleefully watching the self-destruction, but they don’t have any real ideas. Now Obama, I believe, has a vision, but the Democrats as a whole are pretty much empty.¬† So where does that leave us as a country?

What I wish for are two parties: one which is expansive, trying to move the nation forward by advocating expenditures that will improve our quality of life and develop a new strategy to keep our economic global prominence; and another party that stands for fiscal responsibility that creatively figures our ways to save money, keep taxes reasonable, and act as good managers and stewards of our resources.

What’s happened? Where are these parties? I consider myself a progressive independent, a strong supporter of Obama, who has no alternative but to vote Democrat in light of the madness that currently passes for Republican policy.¬† But that’s not what I want. I want a Democrat party that stands for something meaningful and hopeful and a Republican party that recognizes itself as a solid citizen watching over expenditures carefully and supporting change while also understanding the value of tradition. Instead, the Democrats just kind of float along living in FDR’s shadow, while the Republicans have gone off the deep end. Where is the imagination and creativity? Where is honor and responsibility. It exists with a few individuals, but it’s absent from political groups as wholes.

This is a wild time. Maybe we have to go through it as a country, but we are sure facing tremendous uncertainty and volatility unlike anything I can remember and really know about historically, at least since the Civil War. This is, I think, part of the great shift happening at a global level. We are entering a new period of history and consciousness, watching the collapse of old systems (including political ones) while new ones emerge.¬† Perhaps we should not get caught up in the day-to-day, political and social earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but look through and beyond that to the world that is coming–for us and the globe. Perhaps nation-states will disintegrate as new forms of governance emerge that act at both global and local levels. A lot of people focus on up-and-coming countries like China, but perhaps we need to look toward the new structures that are emerging that have nothing to do with nations or political parties, but with movements–such as environmental activism or freedom movements in the Middle East or micro-financing or the post-religious “spiritual but nor religious” phenomenon or whatever –that are creating systems that we can’t even really seen just yet.

I have for a long time sensed a global shift and world transformation bubbling up from the depths, but experiencing it is completely different from envisioning it.

Any thoughts out there in the blogosphere and web world?


Immigrants are the Core of Who We are in the US

I could not agree more with Reverend Wallis.  As the recent dismissal of  Chipotle employees (in Washington, D.C.) demonstrates (because the company was afraid of their legal status), our immigration system is broken. Reverend Wallis is right when he notes that our country would grind to a halt without Latino/a immigrant workers. We would simply not function as a country without them. These are hard-working people with the kind of drive and energy that is at the core of the prosperity and dynamism of the U.S. The xenophobia and fear that characterizes so much of our national discourse on this topic is not only economically and morally harmful to us, but it diverts us from the real problems we face.

Except for Native americans, we are all immigrants, including my grandparents who came to this country from Russia and Poland. The Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) is one of our greatest symbols, representing the most deeply held values of our people. Let us not react to our anxieties and hatred, but let us live out our dreams and hopes. That is the meaning of every great moral and spiritual tradition.



European Corporations Treat U.S. Homeowners and Workers Like Slumlords

In Europe, corporations treat workers with some respect, but in the good, old USA, those very same corporations act as slumlords and bully workers. This shows how important government actually is in protecting our standard of living.  Who else will protect working people?



Youth Blocked in Japan

In Japan, there is a enormous economic generation gap, where youth cannot advance because of a conservative culture and the economic control of older people. With the earthquake and tsunami, will society grow even more rigid or open up?



The Wisconsin Bullies are at it Again

Wisconsin Republicans push radical agenda ahead of recalls. I guess that’s what bullies do:


Koch Brothers’ Thought Control

The Koch Brothers use their power to intimidate their employees to vote for their favored candidates:


Wisconsin’s Radical Break

William Cronon of the University of Wisconsin wrote this op-ed on March 21 and then conservatives launched a witch-hunt by trying to rifle through his emails. All you have to do is express an opinion and talk about decency and living standards to qualify for harassment from corporate sponsored bullies.


Collective Bargaining and Living Standards

This piece explains how and why collective bargaining raises living standards and is key to the existence of a prosperous middle class:


In South Africa Freedom is Limited by Multinational Economics

Naomi Klein is wrong on Israel (with her advocacy of boycotts) and often shaped by ideological arguments (without consideration for complexity and abstracted from life on the ground), but there are other times that she has profound things to say.

Below she writes a fascinating article, demonstrating the tremendous power of billionaires, corporations, and Neo-Liberal economic thought.  It makes me realize how hemmed-in Obama and any national leader is.  Trying to do anything that runs up against economic orthodoxy, now matter how reasonable or moderate, is virtually impossible, given the threat of stock market declines, currency and commodity collapses, and threats of investment withdrawals.  Governments do not control their societies or their national resources; corporations and powerful interests do.



Labor Rights Threatened Worldwide

Attempts to quash labor and worker rights are occurring globally:


Corporations Own Us–Lock, Stock and Barrel–But We are Ultimately More Powerful

The American Petroleum Institute plans to contribute directly to political candidates.  Ah, a new way to buy our political system.  I guess American no longer own our own country anymore.


And here’s Paul Krugman’s take on corporatizing of both Iraq and Wisconsin


In the meantime, we talk a lot about bullies in schools, but what about these bullies from the Chamber of Commerce who hack activist computers?


Through all this, we need to remember that we have the choice to accept this or not. The corporate interests seem all-powerful, but that’s only because we the people allow them to do what they do. We could change that tomorrow if we so chose. We have the capacity to through peaceful means to stop the madness in its tracks.¬† How? By voting, by contacting our elected representatives regularly, by speaking out publicly, by refusing to shop (where reasonably possible) with companies that engage in autocratic and harmful behavior, by frequenting local establishments that are friendly to the environment and workers, by protesting on the street or on the web, and (most of all) by living according to our own beliefs and our own souls–not according to the manipulations of corporate media machine’s. Often we (including me) are rats in a maze running around following the expectations of a consumption-driven economy, but we can choose to follow our own paths and live our own lives however we want. There is nothing that we cannot change collectively if we follow our authentic selves and share that with others. It seems simple and polyannish, but it also happens to be true. Instead of succumbing to anxiety and fear (which corporate interests feed off of), we simply need to tap into courage and step into genuine freedom.


Don Banks on NFL Labor Talks

This is a devastating piece on this sports war between the rich and richer.



Christ Christie and Labor

As I read this, we can see how much the unions in Wisconsin learned from the mistakes of the New Jersey unions.  They agreed to concede wages and benefits in order to keep more fundamental rights.  The result is thus far remarkable, even though the legislature passed the bill in what amounted to a coup against freedom.  What worked for Christie in New Jersey has been up till now politically damaging for Republican governors and legislators in Wisconsin and Ohio.



How to Fight the Power of Corporate Wealth

Take your money out of the bank! ¬†That hits them in the way they understand best. ¬†Plus it’s peaceful, and you can do it very quietly.


Wealth and the Middle Class

What’s happened to the middle class?¬† That’s the question we need to ask in light of the bailouts and the crushing of workers’ unions in Wisconsin.¬† Does work matter any more or only shuffling paper?¬† Those of us committed to spiritual exploration need to recognize that the exploration of meaning and purpose in life requires that people are not always in survival mode. Spiritual truth is also connected to justice.

David Koch and Rupert Murdoch battle the middle class through Fox and the Wall Street Journal

The Wisconsin battle is part of a 150-struggle to break unions, now with the Koch Brothers leading the charge: http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/gov_walker_does_something_big_20110304

Bob Herbert discusses the financial crises facing ordinary, working, middle-class Americans:

This essay argues that we need to increase upper income tax brackets in order to prevent the concentration that would destroy democracy in this country.  While I do not agree with the authors (and others) that decreasing government waste is not an important issue and that we need to figure out how to make medicare work more efficiently (social security is in fact basically sound), I cannot fathom why we keep lowering tax rights on the wealthy.

Robert Reich makes a similar argument:  http://robertreich.org/post/3591689800

Ellen Brown argues that a state bank would solve many of Wisconsin’s and other states budget/pension issues–of course, that presumes that Walker and others are actually concerned about the budget rather than crushing labor http://www.webofdebt.com/articles/wisconsin.php

In the meantime, the percentage of underwater mortgage are on their way up:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_underwater_mortgages

Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO lauds the 14 Wisconsin Senators who stood up for workers’ rights:¬† http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-trumka/todays-heroes-the-wiscons_b_831749.html

More and more cities are broke:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/magazine/06Muni-t.html?_r=1 (via Dianne Bazell)

Jackob Hacker and Paul Pierson, in their book, “Winner Take-All Politics,” discuss the rising inequalities in the US economic system: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/03/inequality-and-political-power/?scp=8&sq=middle%20class&st=cse (via Dianne Bazell)

Robert Reich argues that the real issue is not jobs, but wages:  http://robertreich.org/post/3638565075


Poem of the Day: In honor of those who do the work behind the scenes and move the world forward

Marge Piercy, ¬†“To be of Use” (from The Art of Blessing the Day: ¬†Poems with a Jewish Theme: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out

The work of the world is common as mud
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.


Koch Brothers Buy Wisconsin

This article discusses the enormous amount of money the Koch brothers invested in the Wisconsin governor’s race: ¬†http://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/02/9964/cmd-special-report-scott-walker-runs-koch-money

And this was before the prank call!!


Wisconsin: Fraying of Union Bonds

Very sad, because working people need to stick together.¬† But anti-labor forces (plus the ineptitude and corruption of unions) have managed to split union and non-union workers and the employed and the unemployed by creating envy and resentment:¬† if I don’t have a job, then you shouldn’t have any benefits.¬† This is self-destructive for everybody, except for the extreme wealthy and for corporations that run the show.¬† The last quote blows me away, where a woman says that we don’t really need unions anymore, because “there’s laws that protect us.”¬† Obviously she’s incredibly (obtusely) naive, but the forces of economic domination have tricked her and many others like her.¬† To quote the Pete Seeger’s song:¬† “When will we learn, when will we ever learn?”



British Trade Union Movement, Israel, and Boycotts

The British Trade Union Movement has been co-opted by anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian activists, committed to ending the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.



Putting the Axe to Workers Rights

The Wisconsin governor’s proposal ¬†is simply an out and out attempt at destroying public unions. ¬†By taking away collective bargaining and by making it almost impossible to organize and collect dues, the governor is removing a basic human right: ¬†the right to organize and bargain.

Now, I  am certainly aware of the the flaws in unions:  corruption, living in the past, backwardness, seniority over merit, and general ineffectiveness.  The inflexible opposition of unions to workers contributing more to health care and pensions is a serious problem.

At the same time, unions are responsible for worker rights, lunch breaks, the 8-hour day, 40-hour work weeks, overtime, vacations, the weekend, child labor laws, the retirement system, and so much more. ¬†In general, people are unaware that the lives they lead are possible because people died and suffered violence on picket lines. ¬†No matter how flawed our unions are, they serve as a check against an inherently unbalanced relationship between management and workers. ¬†It’s not ultimately the fault of management that absence of unions has led to abuse–it’s simply the human condition. ¬†Without unions (or some kind of collective bargaining forces), workers (both union and non-union) will find themselves going backwards, increasingly losing their time off and unable to live middle-class lives. ¬†And management will find itself saddled with unhappy and unproductive workers, as they shuffle paper on the deck of the Titanic.

I don’t know what to advocate here in terms of union tactics, but I can say that the time is coming when what the Egyptians had to do in a non-violent protest against a cruel dictatorship, we will have to do to preserve our basic human rights in the workplace. ¬†The governor of Wisconsin is betting on public dislike of unions, as he and his corporate, billionaire backers use one segment of the populace to beat down the other. ¬†In the ensuing division, both groups will go down the tubes while the extreme rich grow even richer–unless people stand up for their rights.¬†¬†They will to have risk their jobs and well-being to make sure that they preserve a reasonable standard of living, which is the foundation on which our democratic republic stands.

This country is not supposed to be a tyrannical plutocracy, where billionaires secretly run the rest of us poor slobs by convincing some of us that we can be rich just like them. ¬†That’s nothing more than a con. ¬†Of course, wealth can be a worthy goal, but it should not be the primary value of a humane society, nor will it lead to a nation’s economic prosperity. ¬†That only occurs when everybody works together, when we each have a voice in the governance of our society, and when we each have realistic access to educational and vocational opportunity.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/us/12unions.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23 (via Nelson French)


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