IBI Watch 4/22/12

22 04 2012

Third Way?  Already Seen that Disaster Movie  //

Talk is rising of a ‘radical middle.’  These are people who are tired of the two-party system, tired of the supposed extreme views of the two choices presented by the Republicans and Democrats in the upcoming presidential election, tired of the gridlock that holds back progress.  No, thanks.

In 1980, I was tired of President Carter and his handling of the mess in Iran, and voted for Republican John Anderson, who was running as an independent.  I regretted that in short order.  Then in 2000, many on the left and some in the middle embraced that old consumer crusader, Ralph Nader.  They lamented the ‘sameness’ of Bush and Gore.  Remember the refrain?  There was not a dime’s worth of difference between the two, they said.  I hope those who supported Nader, whose dogged, ego-driven crusade was a major factor in the chain of events that gave us four years of W, share some of my regret from 1980.

And now we have 2012.  Many of President Obama’s supporters are disappointed with a perceived lack of progress on his agenda.  Count me in that crowd.  However, I think that, given our current reality – the strength of the two-party system, supported by gushers of corporate cash – supporting anyone but Obama in 2012 would be progressive suicide.

Here is a quick description of the third way.  I offer some advice – if Fox News cheerleads on something (check the links on the page), it’s a pretty safe bet that it will lead to disaster for progressives.  If this third way business grows, I see it leading only in one direction, and it is not good.  A President Romney who governed like Governor Romney (you do remember that moderate, who instituted universal health care in Massachusetts, right?) would not be the worst thing in the world.  But that is not what we will get.  No, along with the few remaining members of what used to be a big club – moderate Republicans – Willard (his real name) Romney has been forced to choose.  That is, be sidelined by the increasing extreme Republican party, or convince people that you are really one of the right-wing extremists who now run the party.  Romney’s choice could not be more obvious – he has spent most of his waking hours these last couple of years denouncing his moderate past, playing dumb on science, and generally pandering to the right wing.  It is easy to see the kind of Supreme Court justices he will appoint.  With the court already leaning far-right, if Romney appoints a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg – a likely event in his first term – we could be looking at more decisions like Citizens United and strip searches for minor arrests, and overturning universal health care (very likely soon) on into the foreseeable future.  Want proof?  You will never guess who is Romney’s main advisor in this area.  Watch a short video here on the same revelation.

How about a few more reasons why electing Romney would be a very bad idea?  Here is a commentary on the real effects on individual liberty and the common good, by AlterNet’s Joshua Holland.  This article in an NPR blog details political scientist Keith Poole’s argument that today’s Republicans are more conservative than they have been in a century. Just check the imbedded chart for the story.  And finally, populist commentator Jim Hightower has Romney’s number.  Whatever it is, it has lots of dollar signs in front.

All this is why Canada will look so much more attractive if Romney manages to take the presidency in six months.  It’s also the main reason I support Barack Obama for re-election.

Give Michele Her Due

Minnesota’s Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has another achievement of sorts.  That would be, showing that the Tea Party’s real name should be ‘Get that Black So-and-So out of the White House’ Party.  Her ‘tar baby’ charge has no racial overtones.  Sure, she would use the same language with a blond European opponent.  Sure, it wasn’t a calculated attempt to keep the focus on the president’s race.  Sure, Bachmann is not a demagogue.  Sure.

All the Money’s Gone . . . Not

You hear this in discussions about all levels of government in America.  We are broke.  The money’s gone.  We have to cut spending.  The deficit is the biggest problem.  We all need tax relief, but especially the ‘job creators.’

Many believe this stuff, and it just enables the further concentration of wealth in the hands of the powerful few at the top.

The truth is, tax rates at the top are lower than they have been in almost a century.  And when you consider that earned income – wages – are taxed at a higher rate than investment income – dividends and capital gains – it is generally true that the wealthier you are, the LOWER tax rate you pay.

This AlterNet piece considers what would happen if we acquired the political will to restore some of the taxes on the wealthy that have been hacked away ( allegedly in the cause of trickle-down prosperity) over the past 30 years.  This article, by Les Leopold, includes some shocking statistics on the growth in the numbers of millionaires at various levels of wealth these past few decades, plus impressive charts to back up the arguments.  And you know things are getting bad for the general good when some conservative commentators call for higher taxes in the Wall Street Journal.  That is what Robert McKinnon did recently in the Wall Street Journal – a ‘modest wealth tax.’  Here is one more perspective – one you don’t see very often – a progressive arguing in favor of a flat tax.  That’s just what Dorothy Brown does on CNN’s site.  Here is a quote:  “First, tax all forms of income at the same rate. Second, repeal the progressive tax system and enact a flat tax. If a flat tax is good enough for Mitt and Ann Romney, it should be good enough for the rest of us.”  As you might guess, Brown’s flat tax is not exactly your corporatist model.

Indian Subcontinent Glaciers in Wars – Military and Scientific

It’s unusual to see two stories about glaciers in and around India surface in the same week.  It’s even more unusual to see two such stories with completely different themes.  The first figures in the longstanding impasse between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir.  Pakistan recently lost 140 people – mostly border soldiers – to a massive avalanche of ice and rock.  That very incident is causing both sides to reconsider – for now- whether it makes sense to make a battlefield of such a desolate, inhospitable place.

The second glacier story feeds into the ongoing war over climate science and its implications.  News surfaced that a major Himalayan glacier may actually be gaining mass.  When a story like this hits the news, it causes an outbreak of trolls on news sites ridiculing Al Gore.  And Fox News starts crowing again – see here and here.  True believers may stop there, but I prefer to look at the big picture.  This Guardian article puts it all in context.  And, despite all the obfuscation by Fox and the army of pignorant (pretend ignorant) pundits, people are increasingly understanding the dangers of letting climate chaos continue to spin out of control.

And there is some climate good news.  Solar power is growing markedly.  GM’s Bob Lutz is ripping the Republicans for stonewalling electric cars,  (Hey, maybe the bailout bought some common sense!)  And finally – what do you know – emissions cap and trade really works!  And – it does no harm to ‘job creators.’ Too bad we keep electing pignorant politicians.

High-Tech Feudalism

To predict the future, just take current trends and extrapolate.  Your vision won’t be perfect, but you have a pretty good idea of the outline.  Paul Ehrlich is ridiculed by the right because his predictions of exploding population have not come true in exactly the way he envisioned.  Still, the population crisis continues unabated, at the great cost of human suffering and a degraded environment.  A favorite dystopia  is T.C. Boyle’s A Friend of the Earth.  It’s a work of fiction, of course, but his predictions – broken climate, mass extinction, battles over vanishing resources – are steadily coming true as well.

This is my way of introducing a column appearing in the 4/22 Star Tribune.  Bonnie Blodgett – a favorite commentator of mine, I might add – bravely wades into the line of fire by taking current trends – increasingly unequal wealth and income distribution, massive but stealthy war spending, proliferating enclaves for the highest rollers– and predicts a future of an ever-wider gulf between the have-nothings and the have-everythings.  She even throws in a sci-fi twist.  Highly recommended.  A wave of troll attacks on the Strib site is predicted – in the immediate future.

Earth Day Music

Here are two celebrations of Earth Day on Sunday.

First – a haiku

One more Earth Day dawns

We take and take from Mother

Now is payback time

Second – a six-pack of Earth Day-related music videos, with short intros that I posted in a music group that I frequent on Facebook.  Enjoy!

Earth Day 1 –   Don’t be fooled by the TED Talk logo that starts this video. This is a funny, subversive song by Jill Sobule that highlights how we ‘enjoy’ what we are doing to the climate. Manhattan in January. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zcSdv3j7zs

Earth Day 2 – Randy Newman’s song Burn On Big River still resonates. The Lord can make you tumble, the Lord can make you turn . . . But you know who can make it burn. Based on an actual event. For the unfamiliar, Randy Newman is one of the most incredible songwriters and movie music scorers on the planet. Forget Short People! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SKGIwsXuA0

Earth Day 3 – A rarely heard song by the Beach Boys. Also performed by the Roches, but I could not find that rendition on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fm54l5OEvUs

Earth Day 4 – Red House recording artist Chuck Brodsky is well regarded for his story songs, many of them about baseball. For this one, not a baseball in sight. Fits Earth Day nicely. Gotta keep up the neighborhood! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlF34iU57BU

Earth Day 5 – If you have ever heard the late great Stan Rogers, you remember the powerful voice and impressive songwriting. Stan died in an airplane fire in 1983. His son Nathan carries on the tradition, and sounds eerily like his dad. He also is a writer of his own songs. The Field Behind the Plow is one of Stan’s greatest songs, and celebrates the abundance of the earth and the work farmers do to feed us all. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhontgT5OpE

Earth Day 6 – For my money, there is no better song for the day than this one. Dave Carter (also sadly late and great, WAY before his time) and Tracy Grammer perform his Gentle Arms of Eden. Happy Earth Day! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAGMATHlSK4

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. ”

― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN

Contributed links to this posting –Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper





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