Washington State Uprising – A Community Response to Budget Cuts

I think for the next ten days, my thoughts, time, money are on the Washington Uprising.

A bunch of groups are coordinating activities around the State and carrying the message to the Governor and the Legislators in Olympia. Washington State is jumping on the austerity bandwagon. We have a Democratic Governor, Christine Gregoire, who is a reasonable person. Governor Gregoire is no Scott Walker, but she is not fighting for us. She is not fighting for her own values. The War on the Poor has to stop. The Class War is in full gear. The top 2% of wealth and income scale have to be forced to start paying their fair share. Once that happens, we have no need for the cuts. You cannot balance the budget on the backs of the poor and disabled, you have to balance the budget by fixing the revenue streams that fund critical public endeavors like education, health care, parks, transportation, housing, services to the disabled, and so much more.

If trickle down economics worked for the benefit of all of us, if deregulation of private industry created responsible wealth and employment, if the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few created stable communities, we would all be eating rainbow pie by now.

Government serves functions that private, for-profit industries will never address. If there is no money, no profit in it, the globalization capitalists have declared war on it. Prisons are fine because they can be operated at a profit by corporations. We can keep schools are if we can get rid of qualified teachers and privatize education and put control in the hands of private entrepreneurs to create cash flow and train a work force to flip burgers and fry potatoes. Health care is great if we can manage cost and ration care to create stock dividends and CEO bonuses and not get too concerned about the actual health of the population sitting in the waiting room or standing in line at a free clinic.

Have to stop and work on a media project in support of the activities being planned for next week. Hope you can take a day off next week. I am taking the week off to be involved in the activities. If you want to know more about the Washington Uprising, try

We are Washington. It’s one website that organizers are using to get the word out.   Olympia Coalition for a Fair Budget is another website that is getting the word out and organizing activities.

Favorite Guitar Player?

I love Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana, Joe Pass, Duane Allman and Dickie Betts as a duo were very fine, but I will choose Pat Metheny.  Pat’s collaboration with Lyle Mays has produced some great stuff.

The guy is a fantastic technician on guitar, but it’s more than that.  He plays in the key of hope to my ear.

Scientists to the Rescue – MIT Creates Artificial Leaf that Can Power a House

Dr. Daniel Nocera and his team at MIT have created an artificial leaf that might be able to power a home.  Here’s a bit from the story I found at Mail Online with help from Slatest:

About the shape of a poker card but thinner, the device is fashioned from silicon, electronics and catalysts, substances that accelerate chemical reactions that otherwise would not occur, or would run slowly.

Placed in a single gallon of water in a bright sunlight, the device could produce enough electricity to supply a house in a developing country with electricity for a day, Nocera said.

It does so by splitting water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen.

The hydrogen and oxygen gases would be stored in a fuel cell, which uses those two materials to produce electricity, located either on top of the house or beside it.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1370839/Scientists-Holy-Grail-science-mastermind-worlds-artificial-leaf.html#ixzz1I0NMTV5y

Can Libya Turn Out Well?

I think from the start of the intervention, the military attack, the outcome in Libya has depended on removing Qaddafi from power.  If he stays, he will crush his Libyan opponents at a future time and place.  If he stays after the intervention, he will sponsor or cooperate with folks who will launch bombings and attacks against Western civilian targets. He’s a murderous, vindictive thug.

Courtesy Wiki CommonsJustice would be nice for a guy like this, but if that means a public hanging like Saddam Hussein got, I would rather see Qaddafi retire to a villa somewhere like Idi Amin did when he was forced out of Uganda (I think Amin’s obit at the Guardian is comprehensive and accurate).

The Guardian is also reporting today that Italy is working to arrange a villa somewhere in Africa where Qaddafi can retire.  Frankly, I would rather see the guy moved into Amin’s villa in Saudi Arabia, but I don’t think that is likely to happen.

Obama comes out of this looking pretty good if Italy can persuade Qaddafi to leave Tripoli and Libya.  Maybe he should be promoted to General as part of the retirement process?

Libya and the prospects for a “democratic” uprising remain wildly uncertain even if Qaddafi declares victory, accepts a promotion and retires to an Unlibyan villa.  Like the other Middle East uprising in Tunisia and Egypt, the prospects for a Libyan democratic awakening are fragile.  A military strongman or a Iranian style theocracy are possible to arise from the chaos and struggle, and then these countries are likely to follow the Animal Farm model and we will all see again that the flaw in revolution is corrupt leadership.  The instances where an incorruptible leader like Nelson Mandela or Lech Walesa arises to help a revolution in a country develop a democracy with structure and electoral accountability are rare.  The long term or episodic outcomes even in these instances do not rule out regression.  Look at the election of Hamas in Gaza.  How the US and its allies and proxies did not understand that a free election in Gaza would elevate Hamas is a marvel.

Democracies can elect the wrong people.  The US might even have some history of that sort.  But what is going on in the Middle East is a popular uprising.  The masses are tired of living on almost nothing while the rulers of the countries feed steaks to their pet tigers. Real Politiks – the politics of cronyism and temporal security, economic stability create some unfortunate alliances where industrial nations forge bonds with despotic rulers and fail to comprehend the fundamental instability of the countries under despotic rule.  Idi Amin is not a good trade partner.  Some animals are more equal than others.

On a parallel track, I noticed this morning on the wires that Egypt’s military has decided that Mubarak may not travel out of Egypt.  I don’t think this is good news for Mubarak.  He should have taken my advice and gone to check on his real estate in London when he had the opportunity.

Joe Bageant Has Gone Deer Hunting with Jesus

Joe Bageant died yesterday.  He fought a good fight against cancer the past 4 months and kept writing and posting.

Here is part of a piece he wrote not too long ago:

AMERICA: Y UR PEEPS B SO DUM?

Ignorance and courage in the age of Lady Gaga

By Joe Bageant
Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico

If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

Teabags One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? That wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?

But a more reasonable explanation is that, (A) we don’t even know we are doing it, and (B) we cling to institutions dedicated to making sure we never find out.

As William Edwards Deming famously demonstrated, no system can understand itself, and why it does what it does, including the American social system. Not knowing shit about why your society does what it makes for a pretty nasty case of existential unease. So we create institutions whose function is to pretend to know, which makes everyone feel better. Unfortunately, it also makes the savviest among us — those elites who run the institutions — very rich, or safe from the vicissitudes that buffet the rest of us.

I will miss the guy.

More on the Libyan Question

Juan Cole has an interesting post up at Informed Comment on the current state of affairs in Libya:  Top Ten Accomplishments of the UN No Fly Zone.

I find Juan’s analysis of the current state of affairs to be a little encouraging.  I understand the break that exists between the folks who do not believe military force should have been used and those of us who were clamoring for protection of the people who were being targeted by the Libyan armed forces.  This seems to be posed as an either or situation: either we stand by and let the Libyans settle things themselves or we attack Gaddafi and set up for an Iraq-style invasion. But maybe this is not an either or situation, but a “both and” situation. Maybe there are more options than the either or analysis suggests?

Gaddafi is like Mugabe is like Mubarak is like Papa Doc, he is a guy who has seized and wielded power over a country for decades.  People in charge become principles unto themselves, they transcend principles like autonomy or economic justice or populist ambition for a better life.  People in charge for decades become institutions and it’s hard to change institutions and yet change will occur.  The arc of history bends toward justice because human beings want justice and will work and sometimes fight for it.  In any given moment, the arc of history may suggest retrograde movement, but I believe it is two steps forward and one step back.  It would be great to never see a step back, but the forces that support and benefit from the status quo fight the human beings who work for expansion of justice, for expansion and protection of human rights because the impact often occurs in a zero sum game where human progress comes at the expense, a pinch on the lifestyle of the ruling class.

It has been a mistake to embrace Gaddafi over the past decades.  Even though democracies may embrace retrograde politics at times (Michelle Bachmann anyone?) they do allow for changes in the political direction of a country when enough voters/activists decide a new direction is needed.  Leadership that does not answer to the will of the people on a regular basis is a tyranny even when it is popular.

In terms of the “both and” option mentioned above, I am hoping that the international community can identify and commit to means other than military attacks to convince Gaddafi that his time has passed.

The Libyan Question

I was really concerned that the international community would simply stand by and watch as Libyans were slaughtered by their own military forces.  Think Rwanda and Burundi and those awful type of events and outcomes all over again.  The US and the international community stood by as human beings were exterminated. If you need background on that I recommend the PBS video – Ghosts of Rwanda – as definitive coverage.

This is always a problem when an armed force decides to slaughter or exterminate a civilian population.  Should “we” get involved or should we step back and let the local conflict be decided by local forces?  The German attempt to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe was accompanied by territorial encroachment and domination of neighboring European countries and was confronted, but the truth is that the international community was very slow to come to the aid of the groups that were identified for extermination.  It wasn’t just Jewish folks, the Romas, gays, communists, and more were targeted for their ethnicity, their politics, their orientation to the mainstream culture.

Jump forward to the Cambodian holocaust.  The international community sits on its hands. Jump forward to Rwanda, Burundi, the Congo.  No effective action.  Look at the Sudan.

Yet we (the UN, the US et al)  intervene in Bosnia and I am not sure why.  I read and listen to Andrei Grubacic and I am not sure the intervention really worked to further goals that I have about the elevation of persuasion over coercion.

So, here we go.  I felt we should intervene when the rebels in Libya were in danger of being crushed and exterminated.  But once Western forces start bombing the country I am very uneasy.  Can this work out well?  Is there an end in sight?  Are we there because Libya has sweet oil?

Want to hear Grubacic? You got it. Anarchism and Marxism, Part I.

Economics, Taxes, Bailouts and Political Folly

Let’s be blunt, shall we?  The republicans are committed to winning elections and regaining the majority no matter how much harm they do to the country making that happen.  When in power, the republicans govern like drunken sailors.  We get unfunded wars, tax cuts, corporate social programs like Medicare Part D and deregulation that allows for the possibility of one economic bubble after another.  Bubble economies (think the dot.com frenzy, followed by the home refi and ownership society craziness) allow for the appearance of wealth generation and create annual bonuses for bankers that are only slightly taxed.

Not that the Democrats are much better.  They get an opportunity once in a blue moon when the country manages to overcome the propaganda of Fox, Comcast, Clear Channel et al and the vagaries of vote-counting systems that have no mandated papertrail to assure integrity.  The Clinton era of 1992-1994 and the Obama era 2008-2010 are the two times that has happened and look how those two year stints turned out.

When they are out of power (which is most of the time) the democrats do better than republicans do when they are out of power.  They do not seize every opportunity to make things go wrong for country for political gains in the next election, they appear to function somewhat responsibly, working with the party in power to negotiate legislation and policy toward the mainstream, but the upshot is the political situation we have today, where US citizens and soldiers who have been convicted of no crime are tortured in the brig by deprivation of contact, by systematic humiliation, and more in the hope of breaking the mind and spirit of an individual.  This will break most of us.  Human beings are social animals.  Where State governments work to strip unions of collective bargaining power.  

All of this negotiating and compromising creates a meek democratic party that cannot remember its own priniciples when the stars align to give them a majority.  The party is so unfamiliar with governing from a majority position that it can’t figure out that the solution to an economic downturn of the scale of the great depression or the great recession is keynesian economics directed at job creation and infrastructure, not the stabilization of the economic status quo.  Nothing is too big to fail as the democrats have proven in 2008-2010 as they governed themselves and the country further into the ditch as they protected financial institutions that are the fount of electoral politics. They were completely inept in their understanding and response to the ultimate SCOTUS corporate decision – Citizens United.  There were legislative fixes that should have been in place even before the Supreme Corp announced its unsurprising decision.

And health care?  Yes, health care needs fixing.  The system we have is a private enterprise mess.  The health care fix is in moving to single payor.  This isn’t rocket science.  In the absence of the fortitude and votes to go to single payor, you have to keep it on the table in the form of a public option or you might as well not waste the time and effort on the reform battle.  Sure, it’s a good thing to have new rules that allow “children” up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance policies and to reduce corporate profit-taking by rescission and pre-existing condition sleight of hand, but 2008-2010 screamed for a job program, for the bankruptcy court cramdown solution to the housing mortgage crisis, for an all-out push to reduce our energy dependence on foreign oil and look what we got instead.

It’s not too late for the democratic party to learn how to lead, even from a minority position, but they have to be ready next time to speak the truth.  We need to raise taxes and regulate the economy and industry.  We have to be true to our founding principles regarding human rights instead of bending to the pull of commerce and profit.

Set Bradley Manning free.  Put Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in jail (and ct scan to determine once and for all if they are human or reptile).  Stop the wars.  Bring the troops home, close down at least half of our foreign bases.  Reinstate the tax structure that existed under President Nixon, if not the one that existed under President Eisenhower.