My friend Paul Schechter has granted me permission to copy and paste, without much commentary, his reply to an email solicitation he received from the Green Party of the United States. The message features the photo and words of perennial candidate Howie Hawkins of Syracuse NY.
The only commentary I will offer is a bit of context: Paul is one of the co-founders of Houston Access to Urban Sustainability, a co-operative housing initiative in which I was involved for three years. He now lives in Madison WI, where he grew up, but he maintains a connection with the two HAUS houses: ownership. (He says he would very much like to sell the houses to the co-op, but this has proven more difficult than anticipated. Anybody want to help HAUS Project with a down payment?)
The main thrust of the GPUS message is that Democrats in Congress will get their paws on the Green New Deal and water it down. This watering down is already in progress, according to some reports, and progressive Democrat Pramila Jayapal of Washington is actively pursuing this Green New Deal Lite. So the Greens would like to make sure that the program on which they ran in 2012 and 2016 remains intact.
I don't agree with everything Schechter says here, but I also don't feel the need to rehash discussions we've had before. With only light editing and without further yada-yada, take it away, Paul!
Remember when the business section of your local paper had several pages of stock quotes from the various stock exchanges, the options market, etc.? Wait, perhaps I should take a step back...remember when we still had newspapers?
With our digital subscription, we receive the print edition of the Houston Chronicle every Sunday, and it's kind of sad. With a cover price of US $4.00, it is pretty skimpy compared to the 50-cent Sunday editions I remember from my youth. And half of its thickness is blow-in advertising supplements. (Since our subscription costs $14.00 a month, that price is reduced to $3.50 per issue in a typical four-Sunday month. It also includes the online edition, which has been troublesome lately, but that's a story for another time.)
In my youth, the only real reason I ever looked at the business section of the paper was to see the share price of companies I found interesting, such as my stepfather's employer. I certainly didn't pick it to read the articles, which were chloroform in print.
But now I'm older and harder to put to sleep with mere words.
I like reading the works of the Chronicle's business columnist Chris Tomlinson. He frequently makes points with which I agree. I find that weird, but encouraging. Tomlinson is certainly no flaming lefty, more of a common-sense conservative: In almost every column, he displays an uncanny ability to NOT spout orthodox classical econ talking points and base his punditry on actual facts.
Therefore, Tomlinson's column from yesterday's edition didn't merely disappoint me. It infuriated me.
Thanks to a medical appointment this morning, this morning I got to listen to a portion of Letters and Politics for the first time ever. Mitch Jeserich devoted yesterday's entire installment (one hour), except for the news briefs at the top, to an interview with 2008 Green vice-presidential nominee Rosa Clemente. Like her running-mate Cynthia McKinney, since 2008 Clemente has dropped out of electoral politics to devote herself to activism and scholarship.
Here's a copy & paste of what I wrote to accompany the link on the GPTX Facebook page:
Rosa Clemente on "Letters and Politics" this morning. My respect for her grows every time I hear her speak. She is an astute observer of socio-political history and its current trajectory. I proudly cast a write-in vote for McKinney/Clemente in 2008.
Yesterday, in a conversation with somebody who knows more than most people about the human brain, that somebody referred to the brain as "a cognitive miser." At first, I assumed that he meant a phenomenon David Eagleman (at least I think it was he) has addressed: Our brains filter out the great majority of external stimuli because, if it didn't, we would be overwhelmed, unable to respond to all of it at once, and end up remembering far more unimportant stuff than the important stuff we actually need.
But no, he wasn't thinking along those lines, even though he identified one of the brain's primary functions as to protect us. He was referring to the way the brain receives information and puts it in virtual drawers, or what he called "buckets." We categorize the world and evaluate things based on whether they might be harmful or beneficial to us. Categorizing helps us learn associatively: New Object X is similar to Familiar Object Y, and Y is good, some X is most likely good too. This is also an aspect of the brain's protective function.
The downside, as I observe it, is that our brave new Web-Wide World exposes us to more stimuli and information than our brains can properly process. Too much of the information is inaccurate or incomplete, and we need Snopes or some equivalent as a third-party bullshit detector, but that's a side-issue. If our brains do not have time to figure out which bucket something belongs in, we tend to winnow down the number of buckets we use.
Too often, that number of buckets is reduced to two. We stuff information haphazardly into buckets labeled "harmful" and "beneficial." Perhaps later we'll devote the time to examine something and categorize it appropriately, but perhaps we won't.
First, an apology to my dozen or so regular readers. My intentions for this blog in 2019 have fallen into disarray. I have been posting only sporadically, mostly because I find myself with less time to write, or even to read the stack of books on my bedside table, and even less time to think deeply about what to write. Work, home life, and artistic endeavors have made my plate fuller than usual thus far, not that that's a bad thing in itself.
In re-reading recent posts, it has not escaped my attention that my attention has focused on some Democratic politicians. Why would this longtime Green even care about the political ambitions and positions of Reps. Gabbard and Ocasio-Cortez? It's not because I'm a middle-aged white dude with a thing for attractive young women who can talk intelligently about matters of policy. (I'll candidly admit to heavy long-term crushes on Abby Martin and Eleanor Goldfield, but those two are NOT Democrats and that's NOT the explanation.)
The best answer I can offer to that is that the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party has fascinated me from a distance. Can this ethnically diverse, mostly young freshman cohort swim against the tide and pull their party back to the left? Can they get their agenda past the neoliberal gatekeepers in the Capitol?
There was a reason—well, several—for my giving up on the Democratic Party more than 20 years ago. If anything, Team Donkey has become more corporatized and corrupted than it was when President Clinton took his political triangulation performance art to DC. I'm not exactly optimistic about a party that Sen. Joe Manchin can call home even trying to dismantle late-stage capitalism and all its feudalist tendencies.
But I'm rooting for that outcome anyway. Socialism or barbarism, y'all.
It's a busy day here at UST Blackboard Support, this being the first day of classes for Spring 2019. But I wanted to toss out a link to Caitlin Johnstone's response to Tulsi Gabbard's announcement that she will her announce her presidential candidacy soon.
Caity says what I was thinking when I saw the video from Gabbard's interview with Van Jones over the weekend. But, being a full-time blogger, she says it better than I would.
Branko Marcetic's analysis of Gabbard from Jacobin in 2017 is making the rounds, reminding us that Gabbard is not perfect, progressivism-wise. Well, yeah, if she were perfect, she would not be running as a Democrat. Marcetic does give Gabbard allowances for the way her stances have evolved in a positive direction, but when it comes to her role as BJP cheerleader, she has a lot of explaining to do.
It's easy enough to say, Coverage of Syria has grossly exaggerated Bashar al Assad's human rights record because the US empire has had a hard-on for Syria for decades. The US and its Western allies have no such imperial designs on India (that we know of), so saying the same thing about Narendra Modi's record of lethal anti-Muslim attacks both in Gujarat and in India as a whole.
As for her drawing the admiration of David Duke and Steve Bannon, that's even tougher.
This is just a quick one, without any ponderous pondering. Common Dreams has a an article or an opinion piece involving Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez almost every day. Two recent pieces about her Madd Twitter Skillz have caught my eye: this one and this one. And almost every time there's a teaser about an AOC item, I click through.
While I'm under no illusions that Alex from the Bronx is a dyed-in-the-wool Democratic socialist or the Millennial political savior for US Progressives, she is a phenomenon well worth watching. Seeing how Republican legislators respond to her very presence in the House and her public statements interests me. Seeing how members of her own party respond—not just her colleagues in Congress, but other high-profile liberals as well--fascinates me. (See Mike Figueredo's analysis of Whoopi Goldberg's gentle condescension below.)
AOC fits into my "public service" model of political figures. Her progressive stances on various issues contrast sharply with those of the corporate Democrats in Congress. Progressives who somehow break through the neoliberal wall and get elected, or even get regular allotments of TV time, provide a public service by showing just how corporatist the Democratic Party leadership has become.
In public appearances with AOC, establishment Democrats twitch uncomfortably, worried that she might start talking about Green New Deals and Medicare for All. In op-eds, they whip out adjectives like naive and unrealistic, or more diplomatic equivalents.
AOC may be 28, and not as well schooled in How Things Work in DC as her colleagues. But she knows one very important and undeniable fact: Shit is fucked up, and it's up to ordinary people to fix that. Elected representatives won't do the right thing until the people force them to. The corporate Dems need to get used to that ASAP.
This Facebook rant was inspired by this piece posted in The Intercept last night after Trump's Wall Speech.
Last night's televised Oval Orifice address (which, I'll admit, I haven't watched) and the general response to it make me think of Dr. George Lakoff and Caitlin Johnstone. Both these writers have important, Big-Picture things to say about this and related issues—and how the Democrats lost 2016. (Hint: It wasn't Susan Sarandon's fault.)
Liberals and progressives have been trying to argue against the border wall using facts, statistics, and reasoning. That's a great approach if you're trying to convince other liberals and progressives. If you're trying to convince conservatives, or win elections against them, or talk to people who don't claim any ideology (Obama/Trump voters), facts and reasoning are mostly ineffective. Too many conservatives and non-ideologues care less about documentable facts than about whether you're telling a good story.
Yes, policy should be evidence-based. Not so long ago, in my lifetime, even Republicans believed that. But if you trot out facts and stats in your electoral campaign, you risk losing your audience.
Sorry about the sporadic posting. Been busy lately.
Since I hired on at MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2002, I have admired Dr. John Mendelsohn immensely for what he did in raising awareness of cancer prevention & treatment, as well as raising the profile of MDACC itself. On occasions when I saw him, he had this transcendent glow about him, and not just because his lab coat was the whitest possible shade of white.
This morning, in my daily email digest from the Chronicle, I was saddened enough by the headline about Dr. John Mendelsohn's recent death from a glioblastoma. That ethereal glow of his did not shield him from cancer, nor did his years of oncological research, nor did all the advances in treatment that MDACC pioneered under his watch.
Millions of past and present patients and employees at MDACC will lionize this man. However, the news also leads me to reflect on the side of Mendelsohn those folks will likely overlook. I'm gratified that the article's author, Todd Ackerman, chose not to ignore that side.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.