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That’s Not Progressive

The day after Hillary Clinton chose Tom Kaine as her running mate, a story on my NBC app was titled, “Boring? How Tom Kaine’s Faith, Upbringing Make Him Anything But.” The article’s pro-Kaine bias was difficult to swallow, but its second sentence, which described him as “a white male progressive Senator,” really stuck in my craw.

Tom Kaine is no progressive. The article touted his moral compass because while he’s personally opposed to abortion, as Governor of Virginia he supported a women’s right to choose because it was the law of the land, and while he opposed the death penalty, he presided over several executions for the same reason. That sounds more like slavish adherence to the status quo than being either moral or progressive.

But there is a bigger issue in play. We’ve heard the word progressive bandied about with nauseating frequency at the Democratic National Convention this week. It was used to boost LBGTQ rights, to reject the blanket exclusion of Muslim refugees and indiscriminate, mass deportation of the undocumented, to understand that Black Lives Matter has a point, to acknowledge human induced global warming, to support a gradual increase in the minimum wage and free public college tuition.

All of these things are fine, but we can’t let centrist democrats, or anyone else, be anointed progressive simply because they have cherry-picked items from our agenda. A progressive program must also include a fundamental restructuring of neoliberal, globalized capitalism. It should place human needs before the profits of Wall Street financial manipulators and the military industrial complex. It must demand the redistribution of wealth from the 1% to the rest of us. It needs to elevate diplomacy over warfare, and address the root causes of terrorism, rather than counter their violence with that of our own.

I don’t always agree with Bernie Sanders’ positions. But he has confronted the masters of capital and, therefore, deserves the progressive mantle he wears so proudly.

It is not progressive to buddy-up to Wall Street. It is not progressive to back fracking and nuclear power. It is not progressive to support agribusiness and global extractionism. It is not progressive to bomb Bosnia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. It is not progressive to embrace Henry Kissinger, AIPEC and Benjamin Netanyahu.

I fear that the mainstream media and the centrist democrats they support are attempting to redefine progressive to delete any critique of our economic system from the term. We can’t let them hijack that word. One way to thwart that is to refuse to use it as they do. Whether you hold your nose and vote for Clinton and Kaine, decide to vote for Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, or sit out the election entirely, don’t accept that you are voting for a “progressive” unless you are voting for someone whose program at least seeks to restructure, if not destroy, today’s rapacious capitalism.  Read More 
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Climate Change & White Privilege

Recently my daughter Rachel argued that my refusal to vote for Clinton because of her climate change policies is a reflection of my white privilege.

Her argument went this way: Because I am a relatively affluent older straight white male, I don’t have immediate concerns that poor people, people of color, women and the LGBTQ community have about a Trump presidency. Rachel did not belittle my climate-change concerns. She agreed about the gravity of environmental situation, but said I have the privilege of stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, while the more vulnerable people in our country can’t afford to do that.

It makes sense that some people are more fearful than I am of a Trump victory - people whose children are in danger of being shot by a cop, whose family members could be detained and deported as undocumented or denied access to a needed abortion. However, while that argument justifies their position, it does not undercut mine.

Trump could make matters worse, but cops are already murdering young African-Americans under the current administration and there is no evidence that a Clinton presidency would change that. As Secretary of State, Clinton facilitated the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected President of Honduras, transforming that nation into a killing zone which, in turn, has created a flood of refugees we are now trying to deport. Clinton also has a long history of supporting policies that have screwed poor people.

While Trump might increase the oppression of the poor and undocumented in this country, Clinton’s neo-liberal economic policies in support of multinational corporations and extractionism will accelerate the destruction of habitats and livelihoods of tens, even hundreds, of millions of indigenous people in Latin America, Africa and Asia. A Clinton presidency is an immediate and dire threat to those people. And ask the people in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere who will be bombed to smithereens when hawkish Hillary takes over if they’d find her presidency acceptable in order to avoid Trump. It may seem insensitive, but just as I may be more insulated from a Trump presidency, at least some of the domestic poor can afford a Clinton presidency more easily than those on other continents whose lives her policies will destroy.

Finally, I will not vote for Clinton because my reading of the science teaches me that her policies will push us over tipping points that will generate positive feedback loops that will destroy the productive capacity of the planet. It may appear less immediate because of the lag between the production of greenhouse gases and their full impact, but we have run out of time. It won’t matter what color, gender or age you are when we face biospheric collapse. We are all in the same boat and we will all go down with the ship.

We need more people withdrawing support from those whose policies will spur climate chaos. Perhaps my privilege enables me to do so, but it is still imperative.  Read More 
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Brexit: Right Choice for the Wrong Reasons?

My first response to the Brexit vote was “good.” No, I haven’t become a Trump supporter or a right-wing nationalist with immigrantophobia. I liked the result for environmental reasons. The European Union is a key element of globalized capitalism that puts profit ahead of people and ecological concerns, consumption before of conservation, and is rapidly depleting the world’s resources. As a radical environmentalist I believe that de-globalizing or re-localizing the world’s economies is necessary to avoid climate change tipping points that will decimate the productive capacity of the planet before the end of the century. Anti-globalization sentiment was at least in part responsible for the pro-exit vote and that is a good thing.

Of course, it isn’t that simple. Nationalism and xenophobia also played a role, and preventing global warming had little to do with Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Those who voted to leave did the right thing, at least in part, for the wrong reasons. That’s not surprising and it parallels the seemingly contradictory path the world must take to insure our species’ continued existence.

Our survival depends upon replacing the world-spanning networks of financial institutions, extractive corporations, agribusiness, the military-industrial complex, and the governmental entities that enable them, with localized, egalitarian, self-governing communities that not only produce sufficient food, clothing and shelter sustainably, but also provide cultural and intellectual sustenance. However, since we face a planetary crisis, a successful 180-degree turnabout of this nature will require worldwide coordination and cooperation. A globally coordinated plan of localization almost seems like a contradiction in terms, but it won’t work if it is done in a random or patchwork quilt-like manner.

Such localization can’t be achieved by pandering to nationalism or racism. It won’t produce the desired ecological result as long as one nation acts more entitled than the next, one race exploits, or attacks another, or one religion knows it has a god-given right to impose its beliefs on all others. Such attitudes are antithetical to the viability of our species; the survival of more than a fragment of the human race over the next hundred years will also require an equitable redistribution of resources.

This is a new kind of globalization. Some on the left think we can utilize multi-national impulses such as the European Union to move in this direction. However, any institution dominated by neo-liberal capitalism will impede rather than facilitate global environmental progress, even if it becomes somewhat greener within its borders. Capitalism’s regulations and structures are designed to serve the 1% by facilitating growth and consumption. It can never be transformed from within into the collective green savior we need.

While it is a mind-boggling task, we must reconstitute all major, top down, neo-liberal entities from the bottom up. To paraphrase the revolutionary chant of the 1970’s, we need “one, two, many Brexits,” but we need them for the right reasons.  Read More 
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