Thursday, April 20, 2017

Think outside the two party box

Guest: Caroline Fenner, former English teacher, United Federation of Teachers chapter leader, and Director of the Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance, talks about grassroots organizing to resist the Trump agenda.

Bernie inspired a wave of social activism, even after he lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton. On election day, polls had him 12 percentage points ahead of Trump, a lead that he had maintained during the previous year. Sad that Democrats had defeated their best hope of winning in the fall. Sad for all of us.

We are still figuring out how Bernie has changed the landscape all across America. There are huge crowds now demanding that Trump not roll back a half century of social progress. Not only are there lots of people active, but they are willing to organize. In one way, Caroline's organization embodies Howard Zinn's principle that movements, not parties create change. Nixon thought he had no choice but to go along with the Clean Water Act. He tried to sabotage its passage on the sly (Tricky Dick), but found the grassroots environmental movement too strong to openly defy.

The question now is how separate various grassroots movements are from the Democratic Party. Organizations like Citizen Action and the Working Families Party have been tied a bit too closely in the past. For example, when Obama won the presidency the peace movement died. Much of it had been bankrolled by the Democratic Party as a way to win the election. After Obama won, his party didn't need peace anymore. 

That would be our worst nightmare, that organizations like Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance end up working for candidates and not for social change. I would think the group would have been right in there pressuring the Democratic Party to elect reformer Keith Ellison as DNC Chair. Another corporate shill, Tom Perez, was elected instead. Perez won't dare question his party's ties to Wall Street and the one percent, the very issues that lost the last presidential race. 

Can local activists rise to the occasion? Their organizational skills are remarkable as well as inspiring. But can their movement think outside the two party box?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wilson's secrets turn out to be America's secrets

GUEST: Ajamu Baraka, internationally recognized Pan-African human rights activist, editor for The Black Agenda Report, and vice-presidential candidate for the Green Party USA in 2016, talks about race and how the two party system favors the very rich.

The journey is longer than I had thought.

The more I read and hear, the more I realize that my own journey to understanding race in America is far from complete. I had thought that as long as I opposed racism, that I was dong the right thing. But holding to a principle is not as effective as understanding the long term caste system that I have been living under.

Black people have been systematically deprived of their rights in a caste system that appears to have been as rigid as any one might find in India. I learned in history class that Woodrow Wilson was an "idealist" who couldn't compromise his own morality to get important legislation passed. Now I find that he was a hardened racist who demanded that a curtain be put up in federal offices to separate African Americans from whites. He also passed a law forbidding Blacks from supervising white governmental workers, resulting in the firing of many career African Americans.

Wilson's secrets turn out to be America's secrets. Racism was alive and well in government rules and regulations well into the 1980's. FDR's WPA was purposefully segregated. When Black GI's returned from WW II, they couldn't get loans to live in suburban developments. They weren't allowed to buy houses there either.

The hidden history that most Blacks know, but most whites don't.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Those whose greed has erased their wisdom

GUEST: Tom Newmark, chair of the American Botanical Council, the co-founder  of The Carbon Underground, and chair of the Greenpeace Fund USA, talks about his Sacred Seed project and Finca Luna Nueve, his farm and teaching center in Costa Rica.

Tom's interview represented a combination of science and spiritual thinking. I have grown up always putting the former over the latter, as if science alone could help me overcome my anecdotal view of life. But my short experience at Standing Rock has made me question whether science is all important.

Can science bring us to completely understand our place in the organism that is our earth? Scientific studies may get there someday. Maybe humans will eventually be classified as part of the whole, much like electrons spinning around the nucleus of an atom. But now, we must use our other senses to help restore the world around us which is in chaos.

The Lakota use a type of spirituality to govern their lives. Their reverence for the earth and for all the life upon it is wisdom and not science. I think that science at this point cannot save us. There are too many principles to learn in too short a time. The funding for science is now controlled by those whose greed has erased their wisdom, the oil barons and the weapons makers. We have to use our spiritual wisdom to save ourselves.


Missing is labor and social justice activism

GUEST: Jesper Roine, a professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, whose research contributed to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, talks about income and inequality, as well as his new book, Pocket Piketty, that brings the concept of economic justice to a larger audience.

Piketty's book is now widely read by the capitalists of the world, those in the IMF and World Trade Organization. Something is wrong with the neoliberal model that they have been promoting in the rest of the world.

Roine's Pocket Piketty makes these ideas more accessible (160 pages versus over 600). I did understand most of the concepts involve, the inevitable return of the victory of capital over labor. In Piketty's view, the two world wars and Great Depression destroyed so much capital that the ratio of capital to labor became much more equitable. Starting in the late 1970's however, capital began its climb back to the heights of the Gilded Age. Labor's share shrank until the world was again divided between the obscenely rich and the impoverished majority.

Piketty offers some suggestions for how to turn this around through higher taxation and more government spending on social needs. All these efforts are to avoid the obvious end stage of great inequity, and that is revolution. 

Missing is labor and social justice activism. Piketty has the ruling class making the decision to lessen the gross income inequities that face industrial societies. Maybe the working class would make more permanent adjustments. We will be interviewing some Marxist economists for a more democratic take on how change will come.