Monday, February 18, 2013

ballistic missiles and climate change

Yesterday, was the day I gave up hope. That’s not entirely true. I gave up hope in July or so 2011. Yesterday (Feb 17, 2013) was when the fire of hopelessness stopped glowing, becoming nothing more than a chalk black piece of coal, white ash eddies floating about. How can hopelessness be conceived as a good thing? In the sense that it aids in abandoning old and failed worldviews, yes. 

The event that served as the catalyst for this diminished composure contributed to the earlier elation. After reading an essay on the relationship between our collective sense of hope as cowardice in the face our inability to control our own destinies, I was inspired to sit-in at the White House. I was arrested for failure to disobey a lawful order, which means whatever those in a position of coercive power say, devoid of any moral evaluation. I like to use the religious term “baptism” because I truly felt reborn and repurposed, perhaps knighted in a new struggle against the dark. 

As the following year came and went, Occupy sprouted and I was again hopeful, but not in the sense of naïve trepidation. I am not alone, I thought. Others see the truth that our economic system is literally killing us! Upon critical reflection that only participation can inform, I found the whole 99% mantra to be misguided. Certainly extreme economic inequality is a problem that has unknowable social costs, but what about those of us in the empire?

For the last several years I have been readying a well-thought critique of industrial civilization. The longer I ponder, the more I realize that my long-held hypothesis that our failure to be rooted—a direct consequence of our normative structures and our means of production—directly contributes to the radicalization of our daily lives. The more I learned about how truly dependent our entire existence is on fossil fuel energy, the more I realized there is no practical way to wean ourselves from them. Still, I came to the conclusion that no matter how bad shit gets, people will not give up notions of perpetual progress and growth that fuel the fire burning earth’s capacity to sustain human life and enough diversity to weather the certain cosmic perturbations that remind us from time to time that we are but a happenstance germ of space-time.
Yesterday was my fourth rally against the Keystone XL pipeline. Have we succeeded? Fuck no. Will we? No. And my outlook becomes grimmer daily. The sit-in, the end-of-action rally and a follow-up “hug the White House for moral support” event all had something in common that the most recent spectacle did not. The first three were small and personable (as intimate as possible with a few thousand people). At the end of each there was a wellspring of energy that maintained its pragmatic edge. Yesterday’s event lacked that allure. Instead, we had a climate rally packaged for consumption, just like everything else in our (mono)culture. There were big speaker towers, jumbotrons, someone running a smelly diesel generator to show clips of a documentary about the Randian big business lobby’s corruption of the Supreme Court (irony not lost). There were celebrities. YEA! We can’t fight anthrocidal foundational norms of progress, growth and anthroparchy without movie stars! 

Most disturbingly, however, were the general heckles and the overwhelming sense of techno-narcissism; people have no interest in the actual science of energy that says we can’t run our system on renewables. When a First Nations chief from Alberta said that people cannot be second to economy, I heard boos. No fucking joke. And when I said, “oh, cool. I’d love a copy of the Socialist Worker” when a distributer passed, the people behind me laughed. No place for different ideas, I suppose.
If hope is cowardice, I’ll borrow a quote without attribution that goes something like: the opposite of courage is not cowardice, but conformity. The mass consumer spectacle I saw yesterday confirmed my most recent foray into the literature, which is dark ecology, exit environmentalism or whatever else you want to call the counterrevolution against co-opted centrists. The entirety of the old environmentalism still reads the same bed time stories granting warm fuzzies about how great the future will be. It relies on the same narrative of evil men—the “boogeyman theory of bad things,” if you will—that support the ontology of rational choice. We aren’t rational beings. If we were, we would destroy civilization before civilization destroys us. Moreover, conceptualizing all our problems as legislative fixes, greedy bankers or corruptible politicians or Islamic extremists, or NWO conspiracies of ancient secret societies opens a scary door for two reasons. First, as JM Greer needed to remind me, fascism is a centrist and populist movement. Sure the whacky right in America looks fascist, and they are, but there is just as great a danger from the left. Second, it precludes any effort to see the root of our crises—which is the way in which we conduct our daily lives. 

I conclude, then, that the climate movement is dead, even though it was only recently born. It is dead because what I saw yesterday showed that the best the country has to offer is not ready to cease its own contributions. I thought this acronym appropriate: B-MISL. Because like a ballistic missile ensuring a particular fate, the “Bourgeoisie for the Maintenance of an Imperial Standard of Living” ensures we will not turn the ideological corner intentionally. It will be thrust upon us. And there will be blood.

Monday, October 29, 2012

2012 Election Endorsements

It’s that time of year. And in keeping with what will hopefully become a long tradition, I offer my endorsements for the California November 6th General Election.


I’m voting for Gary Johnson. I like Jill Stein, but she lacks Johnson’s executive experience. And while I believe she is well-intentioned and would continue to operate under the ethical code of “first, do no harm,” I don’t think Washington contains the political will to accommodate her agenda. While Stein’s most intriguing goal is to convene a UN convention advocating the ban of drones in warfare, Johnson is sufficiently anti-war for me. Further, unlike Stein, he has a clear plan for addressing the national debt and the looming fractional reserve crisis without the ballyhoo of austerity in Romney-Ryan extremes. In either case, a vote for a third party is strongly encouraged, as we will not cost Obama the election and we can send a clear message to the Democratic Party establishment that we want a broader policy discussion and we know that we can take our government back from the monied interests.

Vote Third Party.

4th Congressional District

Tom McClintock is the best example of a hyperpartisan, Grover Norquist coalition partner in Washington. He is also the archetypal career politician, having never established principles through community organizing nor in business--McClintock ran for his first office a few years after college and has yet to cease his parasitic attachment to the same government he claims he wants to eliminate. He has personally snubbed me as I reached out to discuss streamlining environmental review for energy development of the northeast district’s geothermal potential. These are ideas any Republican should be willing to entertain. Instead, McClintock sits, as a career politician, in a majority GOP district and serves not his constituents but the radical fringe of the anti-tax crusaders and austerity pusher-men. 

Jack Uppal is a breath of fresh air for the typical voter in the 4th district. He has experience in the private sector, managing massive budgets. He represents the American Dream and the future of the Democratic Party, and American politics, as an Indian-American scientist and entrepreneur. He has the pragmatism to navigate the polarized halls of Washington and recognizes that education is the foundation of a strong economy and robust democracy. 

Vote for Uppal.


I may abstain here. But Feinstein hasn’t done anything too bad, as far as I can tell. And we also need to recognize that control of the Senate may be the only bulwark against a Romney-Ryan slash-and-burn agenda. 

CA 1st Assembly: The farmer and the Philly

We have two choices in the 1st Assembly District. We could look at party labels and judge we have no real choice, seeing to Republican candidates. However, in this interesting system of top-two primaries, at least we have a choice between two different versions of conservatism. While it may beg skepticism of the Republican-led charge to break Democratic dominance of the legislature when we consider the 1st District used to seat a Democrat until redistricting, we should take our choice with a grain of salt and embrace the nuances of character, rather than party affiliation that make democratic political systems interesting. 

Rick Bosetti seems a reasonable enough guy, a former Philly, businessman and local political star. He wants many of the things his constituents also desire. However, if you spend some time reading his issues platform, you may find yourself strangely staring at a duplicate of Tea-Party candidate platforms: anti-tax, anti-regulation, lots of empty talk about “job creators”. The most intriguing thing he states is that he believes public lands should remain public for under the stewardship and for the use of the public. However, in the next breath he stirs fear of some dangerous conspiracy of “extreme environmentalists” threatening mining, timber and agricultural industries in the district. More Teahadist rhetoric. Yuk.

Brian Dahle is also a Republican, but reading his platform, he sounds much more focused and much more reasonable than Bosetti—ironic too considering that Bosetti received the Sac Bee’s endorsement based on his “pragmatism”. Dahle talks about two central pillars of his campaign. First, as a farmer, Dahle wants to secure “point-of-origin” water rights. Second, Dahle wants to preserve rural values. While the latter smacks of black-and-white primetime gender roles and iron-fisted household discipline, and he is indeed not afraid to accept endorsements from religious groups, the former catches my ear. Now, I’ll admit my own bias toward a farmer. However, also considering the future that awaits us, focusing on water storage capacity and the ability of people to subsist in their native environment and within their regional or local culture are two profoundly simply goals with potentially system-shaking ramifications. When (or perhaps, if) I run for office, I would run on the slogan: Ethics and Resilience. Dahle seems to carry this fire. And he has executive experience in regional issues councils to boot.   

Vote Dahle.

1st Senate District: Beauty and a Beast
Gaines is the incumbent. He will likely win because of the demography (and perhaps the educational inadequacies) of our district. But here’s my beef. Gaines is consistent, but this is far from a virtue. He consistently adheres to the Norquist-Reagan coalition of bathtub crusaders, those who want to drown government. We live in an era that government is all that stands between the huddled masses and the vicious claws of the capitalist system. As an anarchist, or libertarian socialist for a softer label, I would rather keep government around long enough to make the necessary institutional changes that will create the requisite social system to live peaceful and meaningful lives without government. Gaines promises everything that will destroy the masses in unleashing the forces of economic neoliberalism and political fascism. Gaines might echo Reagan, but I make my own noise. “Read my lips: go fuck yourself.”

Julie Griffith-Flatter is a woman after my own heart. And reading up on her goals and guiding philosophies, I was forced into the above angry tirade. If Julie didn’t have a (D) next to her name, I’d say she’s probably a Green. And on top of that, this is the first time in more than a decade of closely following politics that I’ve come across a candidate who knows what truly ails us as a people. She proposes a platform that weaves the simplest ideas, showing me that American politics can embrace holism. She proposes economic development that maintains communities. She believes a healthy environment is necessary for a healthy resource-based economy, where “creating jobs” is about serving the needs of a community based on its proximate resources—rather than providing tax breaks to lure companies in for a few years only to move again leaving the jobless in their wakes. Most importantly, she sees rural development under the above principles as necessary for a strong state economy. She believes that any jobs created should be fairly compensated and that education is the foundation of a new California. If I had to venture another guess, I’d say that she is a bioregionalist. And this makes me happier than words can describe, because the bioregional vision is the practical application of Social Ecological Politics a la Murray Bookchin. If we want to hang hierarchy and smash the state, or even if we just want to elect someone who has our interests in mind, she’s the best damn choice I’ve ever seen. [update: G-F emailed me back and confirmed with a humble "I'm still learning" that the deep ecology/bioregional vision informs here policy ideas.]

Vote for a real future. Vote Griffith-Flatter! 
Taxes for education: Prop 30 versus Prop 38

I don’t need to explain the importance of education, or how fucked the whole system has become in the last few years. Prop 30, which Gov. Brown supports, will raise money for the schools through a very temporary sales tax increase and a higher income tax for high wage earners. It has built-in citizen accountability measures and places funds in a hands-off account to prevent the legislature from borrowing from education monies as precipitated the current conundrum. The “no” campaign is funded by one Charles Munger, a Republican super activist on the Forbes 400 list. Follow the money…

Prop 38 could be construed to be the one-percent’s answer to Prop 30. It offers similar education funding with similar accountability guarantees. The primary differences are that it will raise income taxes on all Californians and it is a 12 year increase versus the four years for Prop 30. While we may think this is less acceptable than a small sales tax increase and a heavier burden for the Golden State’s most golden, I think that both initiatives could provide a needed steroid to primary, secondary and higher education to create the skilled workforce and enlightened citizens to help us transition in to the post-carbon future. Prop 38’s longevity will help create a stable tax regime for education in the near future and also diverts 30% of revenue to pay off debts for the first four years. Finally, Prop 38 has a provision to require districts to disclose their spending. Transparency and local accountability are important to consider.

Vote Yes on 30 and 38.

Government accountability

Prop 31 and 40 both aim to create more accountability of our broken state legislature. The former establishes budgeting guidelines and requires performance goals to judge program efficacy. Any bill spending more than $25 million would have to have built-in funding. Finally, Prop 38 establishes a precedent for returning money to the local level, permitting counties and municipalities to collaborate in providing government services. This is an alternative to the top-down approach of government. While opponents note some dangers in this degree of flexibility, I think it is a step toward a more federated system of governance that will be increasingly important as centralized institutions begin to fail. 

Prop 40 maintains citizen control of redistricting. If this prevents gerrymandering, as it should, I think it’s worthy of a yes.

Vote Yes on 31 and 40.

Of, by and for the corporations: Prop 32, 33 and 39

Prop 32 is union busting disguised as campaign finance reform. The yes campaign is funded by two people on the Forbes 400 list. This bill prohibits union members for opting to deduct campaign contributions from their paychecks. It does nothing to curb PAC and super PAC spending. 

Prop 33, funded by a Forbes 400 insurance magnate and a list of lobbies representing insurance agents, is supposed to be consumer protection allowing auto insurance premiums to remain at a discount if you change carriers. In fact, this bill establishes the grounds for charging higher premiums for those that leave the auto insurance market for any length of time. If we already receive a good driver discount by law, there is no reason to open the door on higher premiums for those that move to a city where car ownership isn’t necessary. 

Prop 39 changes the two-option multistate business tax regime to a sales-based assessment only. The big push for this reform is to fund (almost $1 billion/year in new revenue) an energy efficiency program to retrofit schools and other public real estate. The existing tax regime was created using backroom deals to provide loopholes for tech companies. While opponents point out that a dedicated fund is irresponsible and limits legislative flexibility, I believe energy efficiency retrofits are a serious attempt to curb the effects of rising energy costs on the general fund, and are therefore, worth the fiscal straight-jacket. 

Vote No on 32, 33, and Vote Yes on 39.

Prop 37

All I need to say is Follow the money. Monsanto, Dow and DuPont are funding a deceptive campaign against GMO labeling. Literally, hundreds of populist farming groups, health care experts and environmental groups advocate for GMO labeling. And so do I. If there was one truly no-brainer vote on the ballot, this is it.


Vote YES on Prop 37!

Criminal Justice Reform: Prop 34, 35 and 36

Prop 34 saves money and stops the immoral practice of executing prisoners. The US is one of the few developed countries that execute its prisoners. California once outlawed it but we reneged. Now is our chance to put a nail in that coffin.

Prop 36 ends three strike sentencing for non-violent third offenses. It will also allow some people who had, for example, a DUI as a third offense, to get credit for time served and perhaps be released after resentencing instead of overcrowding our prisons with people who don’t deserve to be there. In either case (36 and 34), the opponents can’t make a logical case and rely on appeals to fear and emotion.

Prop 35 is a tough one. While most voters will probably agree that human trafficking is deplorable, Prop 35 tries to address something we don’t need to legislate. Trafficking is almost entirely a federal—and global—law enforcement issue. We already punish human trafficking. Prop 35, opposed by victims’ advocates and the sex industry but lauded as necessary by a broad coalition headed by dozens of churches, defines vaguely what constitutes trafficking. It also expands the sex offenders registry and would make legal the monitoring of any sex offender’s internet usage. Again, while all this seems welcome, it would make madams, pimps, johns and hoes all sex traffickers. It also doesn’t explicitly exempt people convicted of aiding the movement of illegal farm labor. It creates one VERY BROAD, VERY VAGUE AND VERY DANGEROUS category of crime and opens the door to incredibly oppressive criminal punishment for consensual sex workers. The bill is well-intentioned but is too vague, and at this point, not necessary.

VOTE NO on 35, Vote Yes on 33 and 34.

This concludes my analysis. Stay informed. Stay engaged.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Process of Convergence in the Ethereal

An interpretation of dreams

               A few days ago, I had a dream. I woke up, my back aching from either the rigorous exercise regime forced upon me by the imperative of lowering government health care costs or some other physiological condition. The dream itself wasn’t important, simply my subconscious justifying sensations of my conscious. However, conversing first with my sister, and then Simona (my wife), I realized there were similarities in all our dreams, experienced at approximately the same time. Since it seemed a little strange for coincidence, I examine several similarities and apparent themes and thought I’d write them down. I know admittedly little about the interpretation of dreams and capitulate that this may just be another huge helping of my characteristic confirmation bias.

               In my dream, I was going somewhere. I was with a few others I didn’t know. We were compelled to depart our meeting place, I vaguely remember, to alert another household of something. Time was of the essence, so we jumped into a beater American pick-up. An older model made of steel. We were careening down a gravel road in a sparsely settled outpost, one not unlike the skeletal remains of mining towns in the Rockies on I-70 west of Denver. As we rounded a corner, the back end slid out and I apologized as we, first slipped, and then tumbled down a hill. I woke up after acknowledging that I and my comrades had survived relatively intact. Just a few scrapes and bruises, and my twisted back.

               Simona also had a dream with an automobile as the focal object. In her dream—details, of course, less vivid in translation—she was driving down a stair case. As she approached a landing, another car obstructed the path. She hit the gas and wedged herself between the wall and the impediment, badly damaging both, but succeeding in her passage.

               My sister explained that she, and I and others, were the prey of a vicious serial killer. She spent most of her dream trying to avoid a certain death. However, she confronted this menace on more than one occasion. When she did, it transformed into a mouse that resembled Brain, the comical menace hell bent on conquering the world, a quiet genius of dubious motive. 

               She also explained that her life-partner had a strange dream of his own. In it, he transformed periodically, under what conditions he did not disclose, into dog. And every time he strutted off to his own rhythm, he would encounter more and more dogs until, together, they formed a formidable pack.  

               Now, If I had to employ speculation in the interpretation of these dreams—and in hearing of these second two from members of our tribe separated by the expanse of the continent, I determined there must be some story of which these comprise chapters—I’d give them a revolutionary twist. And I would order the pieces into a narrative as follows.

               *We are being pursued by an evil force that seeks to destroy us. But when it is exposed to light, those that cannot chisel the façade see something smart. Capitalism seeks to consume us and we are made ignorant by the myths of efficiency, progress and inevitability.

               *To fight this menace, we must seek those who share our passions, our ideologies and our vision for true equality through transcendent love. We must build our army from these volunteers and we must embrace the fierceness of wild dogs. 

               *On our road, we must make hard choices. We will certainly have to choose sacrifice, of our possessions and of our comfort in maintaining order through easy choices. It is, after all, our own fear and inability to act in faith that has thus prevented our congealing into a coherent revolutionary force. 

               *Finally, we have little time. We don’t know when the bend in the road is going to be too tight for the speed at which we must move. We don’t know if we are going to make it to the future unmolested. However, if we can fall back onto the resilient communities (this is how I interpreted an old steel pick-up truck from the age of good craftsmanship)—our families, churches or whatever institutions we find most humanizing—we will have no trouble crawling from the heap of a mistake and continuing on toward the journey. 

               Reading some words of Emma Goldman the other day, it occurred to me that my own growing interest in the spiritual mystery teachings and anarchist political thought and practice are really two sides of the same coin. 

               The mystery teachings and anarchy are not ends, but processes of learning and love.