Monday, May 28, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
being denied, he got it backward. It is the Catholic Church that is at-
choose a religion that denies contraceptives, your path is clear: Do not use contraceptives. However, that does not give you the right to deny contraceptives
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
TAKE BACK THE POWER!
by Burt Liebert
It isn’t as if we haven’t had lots of warnings. Newspapers, magazines, books, television, the Internet––we’ve been threatened for years about climate change. And if we haven’t experienced it personally, we’ve certainly been reading about it: This past year this country suffered the worst outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded. Midwestern farmers were unable to plant on time because of flood-ravaged, soggy soil. Floods devastated areas from Australia to Pakistan. Texas and parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico experienced record heat, drought, and burned-over land. Crop failures menaced France, Germany, Russia, and Australia. Much of the United States sweltered in a record heat wave.
Of course, we are doing something about it. We are installing solar panels and wind generators. We are insulating buildings. We are setting goals: Numerous countries, even some states pledge to generate X% of energy from renewable sources by the year X. That’s all very good and comforting––until we look at the skyrocketing demand for energy in the next few years. Even while some parts of the world are suffering mass starvation, in China, India, and other parts of Asia, and to some extent all over the world, the global economy is lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into the high-consumption middle class. With all the effort we are putting into sustainability, the carbon count in the atmosphere continues to rise, (393 at this writing) and extreme weather is becoming normal.
So where does our country stand? We are acting as if we were the last generation to occupy the planet. Proposals abound to eliminate environmental protections. We are squandering hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and uncounted amounts of the earth’s precious resources on pointless, brutal, unending, unwinnable wars. Then, to “balance the budget” we fire police and fire personnel, along with school teachers and librarians.
Unemployment hovers over 9% nationally. Government subsidizes profitable corporations and continues low taxes for the super-rich. More and more wealth is in a few hands. This great nation of ours is becoming a banana republic without the bananas.
With Bin Laden captured and killed, we had an ideal opportunity to declare victory and bring the troops home in triumph. But the wars go on as if nothing had happened.
So what can WE do? We can write to a Congressperson, autograph a petition, send money to progressive organizations, carry a protest sign into the streets. There’s nothing wrong with that, except it’s not making a difference. The movers and shakers in this country, those who inhabit the corporate board rooms and executive suites, couldn’t care less what you and I think.
Why is this happening to our country? Are we simply following some inexorable law of life: societies, like individuals, appear, grow to their point of greatest accomplishment, then fade inevitably into senility?
I refuse to believe that! People come from all over the world to study at American universities, to be treated by American doctors. They marvel at (and sometimes envy) our personal freedom, our quality of life. There is too much greatness in this land of ours to kiss ourselves off as senile.
So why are we allowing all this bad stuff to happen? Jessie Unruh, a California legislator of a bygone era summed it up perfectly:
MONEY IS THE MOTHER’S MILK
That’s it. Money. Pure and simple. The American people have given control of economic and political life to a small cadre of super-wealthy, super-powerful, super-greedy individuals, who are using their power to further their own selfish interests, at the expense of you and me and America. By the power of the “campaign contribution” (actually a bribe) they have captured the Congress, the President, even a politicized majority of the Supreme Court. We have done what President Eisenhower warned us not to do:
WE HAVE GIVEN OUR POWER
TO THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX
And in its insatiable greed, it is destroying us.
As long as private money is putting public officials in office, there is little chance of significant improvement. Our fifty-dollar campaign contributions will never match the five-and-six-figure payoffs of the corporations. Even an act of Congress can be wiped out by five Supreme Court justices. Of course, we need to keep writing to elected officials, signing petitions, carrying that banner through the streets. But to make a serious difference, to make a dent in the hitherto impenetrable wall of protection employed by the powerful, we will need stronger ammunition. We need
A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
Here is a rough draft:
ANY CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES MAY RUN FOR PUBLIC OFFICE BY CIRCULATING A PETITION TO PLACE HER OR HIS NAME ON THE BALLOT. ANYONE RECEIVING 10% OF THE REGISTERED VOTERS IN THE DISTRICT SHALL BE CONSIDERED A CANDIDATE.
NO CANDIDATE FOR ELECTED OFFICE AT ANY LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT, OR CONTEMPLATING RUNNING FOR PUBLIC OFFICE OR OCCUPYING PUBLIC OFFICE MAY ACCEPT ANY GRATUITY, WHETHER IN CASH OR OTHER VALUABLE CONSIDERATION, OTHER THAN PREVIOUS CONTINUING LONG-TERM EMPLOYMENT.
NO PERSON, INSTITUTION, CORPORATION, OR OTHER ENTITY MAY GIVE OR OFFER TO GIVE ANYTHING OF VALUE TO ANY PERSON CONTEMPLATING RUNNING FOR PUBLIC OFFICE, RUNNING FOR PUBLIC OFFICE, OR OCCUPYING PUBLIC OFFICE. VIOLATION OF THESE PROVISIONS SHALL RENDER ALL PARTIES SUBJECT TO PENALTY, INCLUDING FINE, IMPRISONMENT, OR INELIGIBILITY TO HOLD PUBLIC OFFICE.
THE CONGRESS, THE VARIOUS STATE LEGISLATURES, AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS SHALL APPROPRIATE FUNDS NECESSARY TO CONDUCT POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS AND APPORTION SUCH FUNDS EQUALLY TO ALL CANDIDATES. NO MONEY, OTHER THAN THAT SO APPORTIONED, INCLUDING THE CANDIDATE’S OWN, SHALL BE USED TO CONDUCT A POLITICAL CAMPAIGN.
But won’t financing all those campaigns suck up a lot of tax money? Yes, of course it will, but the Corporate Barons discovered years ago that money invested in politics pays off handsomely, from those nice, juicy no-bid military contracts to look-the-other-way environmental policy. It’s time for us taxpayers to learn that lesson, make the investment, and reap the benefits.
It won’t be easy. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress, then ratification by 38 states. The Corporate Barons will fight it tooth and claw, for it takes away their power. We can’t begin to match the truckloads of money they will pour in. Nevertheless, we have the advantage.
WE HAVE THEM OUTNUMBERED!
Americans are fed up with a government that operates only for the benefit of the few, and can outvote the Barons once we spread the word. Once we take back our power, we can make our elected officials work for us. We can find a job for everyone who wants to work. We can restore education to the high priority it needs to keep the nation strong and prosperous. We can bring the troops home and help to reverse climate change. We can gain a fair wage for a day’s work. We can save endangered species and support our parks and libraries. We can protect people’s homes from conniving bankers. We can clean the air we breathe and the water we drink. Every public service organization needs to come on board, for this is THEIR fight. Whatever the cause, this amendment is prerequisite for success.
We will have to generate an extensive public education program to inform the voters of the importance of this issue and to let every Congressperson know that staying in office will depend on voting for this amendment. We need to conduct town hall meetings all over the country, to send emails, make telephone calls, write letters. We need to spread copies of this pamphlet among our friends and family, at the shop or office, to our bridge club and golfing partners. Most important, send these to other states, to friends in Kansas, Uncle Joe in Wisconsin, Cousin Linda in Ohio, to grandma and grandpa in Florida.
THIS WILL BE A GREAT LEAP FORWARD FOR DEMOCRACY!
Is taking such a huge step just one impossible pipe-dream? Of course it is! But the United States of America is a pipe-dream. A group of colonists with only single-shot, muzzle-loading ball-and-powder muskets facing down a contingent of British regulars––what a dream! But they made it stick. They chased the British out of the area and created a new nation––a nation without a king! Without a dictator! A nation where the people elect their own leaders!
Today that nation is drowning in a sea of greed and corruption. That puts the ball in our court. We can let the dream die, or we can revive it. I vote to revive it.
This message may be freely copied and
distributed to others.
A nation operating under this amendment is portrayed in the novel Out of the Cage. A description of the electoral process is in Chapter 31, pages 209-211. Out of the Cage is available from:
3747 Redwood Circle
Palo Alto, CA 94306
$14.95 + $5.00 S&H
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Thursday, March 3, 2011
TOWARDS A DEMOCRATIC NATION
Almost two and a half centuries ago a group of upstarts on the North American continent had the audacity to rebel against the English King George and establish a new nation. These rebels had strange ideas, such as people making their own laws instead of living by the whims of a king or other ruler. We call it democracy.
Since then, we, the people of that new country, have staged an unremitting struggle to become the kind of nation we like to think we are. The quest for democracy has been a series of major battles. In the nineteenth century CE an important movement towards democracy was abolition of slavery. Despite a devastating civil war and bitterness that is not entirely erased even now, the outcome of that struggle was preordained, if we Americans are to call ourselves a democracy.
The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed the slaves, and in 1865 the 13th amendment firmly embedded the prohibition against slavery in the Constitution. It was just part of the the natural flow of events. Slavery had to be abolished. You can’t have slavery and democracy. They just don’t go together.
Not that it was easy. Powerful economic forces fought desperately to maintain the status quo. But once the issue was brought into the light of public scrutiny, sooner or later, the end of slavery was inevitable.
At the same time, another major battle was raging. Led by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others, women were fighting for civil liberties, mainly the right to vote. Here, too, was a long and often painful battle. And here, too, the outcome was assured because you can’t have democracy while half the population are second-class citizens. So in 1920 the 19th amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote, was the inevitable outcome of that struggle.
The second half of the twentieth century saw the monumental effort to free the South from racial segregation. Again, the outcome was predetermined. You can’t have democracy with part of the population in second class status. The same forces that fought to continue slavery also fought against the liberation of women and against integration in the South. But by the end of the seventies, black children were attending school with whites and black people were entitled to trial by jury instead of lynching. They could even walk into a restaurant and be served.
I can’t pretend that these battles are completely won. We’re still plagued with gender and racial discrimination in the workplace and other areas. But compared with the situation before these battles for equality were fought, we have made tremendous progress.
So here we are in early twenty-first century. Again we face a monumental struggle for civil liberties, this one for the rights of the sexually different. We have made some progress. Gays will soon be openly serving in the military (That’s new!), and civil unions may be a step forward. Or––they may be just a method of delaying the inevitable. The same powerful forces are at work again, and another battle is raging.
Let me suggest two questions that need to be asked about denial of gay rights, such as California’s Proposition 8: 1) Who does it help? 2)Who does it hurt? I find the answers to both these questions obvious. First, Who does it hurt? Clearly, Proposition 8 hurts about 5% of the population, who were born homosexual. They are denied a civil liberty (the right to marry and establish a family) that you and I claim for ourselves.
And who does it help? Nobody, but this requires an explanation. We are all born into a culture, and that culture largely determines our customs and traditions and the behavioral norms of our everyday lives. When we encounter people with other customs, traditions, and norms there is a human tendency to feel affronted, violated. “These people are out of conformity, ignoring what ‘everybody’ considers proper.” We instinctively want to suppress this wanton behavior.
But the essence of democratic living is diversity, room for all of us. Once we understand that other life styles do not threaten our society, but enrich it, we can celebrate the magnificent variety of the great human race. So when I propose that nobody is helped by the ban on homosexual marriage, I mean that nobody is wealthier, healthier, wiser, more loved, or in any material or emotional way better off. As a matter of fact, opening up gay marriage would benefit you and me in the same way that we were all ennobled by freeing the slaves, elevating the status of women, and integrating the South.
So is it too much to ask for us Homo saps to evolve a bit since the days when we debated the merits and demerits of slavery, and not have to go through such destructive, wrenching battles, when the outcome is preordained––if we want to live in a democracy? We can’t have it both ways. If we can discriminate against anybody, we can discriminate against––anybody. There are only two kinds of societies: free and not free. Take your choice. I vote for democracy.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I FINALLY saw it in print! I’ve been saying it for over a decade now, ever since the Supreme Court ruled that not all votes have to be counted in Florida, handing the Presidency to unelected George Bush. What they meant, of course, is that not all democratic votes have to be counted. If those Florida votes had been predominantly Republican, you can bet your bottom booties they would have been counted. The Supreme Court disgraced itself with this blatantly partisan decision. It should be noted, however, that the Supremes do include four good, honest, fair-minded justices, including Obama’s recent picks, but the five rock-ribbed Republicans––JohnRoberts (Chief Justice) and Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas––are enough of a majority to control the shenanigans.
In the February 2011 issue of the Lowdown, Jim Hightower said it loud and clear, after highlighting some of the sins of this Republican-dominated court:
1) In 2007in Lilly Ledbetter vs Goodyear Tire. Here they ruled for the Corporation because Ms Ledbetter did not file her sexual discrimination suit within the 180 day filing period. But for years she did not know she was being paid less than men doing the same work. As soon as she found out, she filed. “Tough!” ruled the Gang of Five.
2) In 2008 the five Republicans reduced the damage award Exxon Corporation was ordered to pay for the Alaska oil spill from 5 billion dollars to 500 million––a mere 10% of the original amount.
3) Twice in 2009 the Fearsome Five handed Big Corporate America more windfalls by ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency on two major cases.
4) But let me get to the really bad stuff: In 2010 the five Protectors of Plutocracy pulled off the biggest heist of all. In the notorious Citizens United case they ruled that there shall be no limits to the amount of money corporations and their lobbyists can put into politics. This ruling overturned decades of previous decisions, nullified the sensible laws of 22 states, and thumbed their noses at democracy, decency, and the American people. This issue was not about “freedom of speech,” as they’d like us to believe, but about whose speech will be heard. And now you can be sure that CORPORATE POLITICAL SPEECH, with its millions of dollars, will overwhelm the rest of us.
From the final page of the February Lowdown: “John Roberts, the leader of the pack, has turned into an autocratic, unelected national lawmaker, imposing his political vision as the law of our land. He is doing major structural damage to America’s unifying sense of fairness and justice. We can’t allow him to keep hiding behind the judicial robe while he mugs us and our democratic ideals. HE SHOULD BE IMPEACHED." (Capitals mine.) Someone finally had the courage to write that John Roberts should be impeached!
You can subscribe to the Hightower Lowdown ($15.00/year, $12,00 seniors) at:
PO Box 20596, New York, NY 10011
(I have no financial interest in this publication.)
Monday, September 6, 2010
OUT OF THE CAGE
By Meg Bowman
At a time when much of our literature is awash with pronouncements of gloom and doom, Burt and Margie Liebert’s new book, Out of the Cage, is Eleanor Roosevelt’s proverbial candle in the darkness. For over half a century we have been regaled with dire warnings of nuclear war, greenhouse gasses, global warming, climate change, and the coming storms, floods, droughts, fires, and loss of planetary species.
Not that we can afford to ignore these warnings. The threat is real. But beyond warnings we need a plan. That plan is clearly laid out in Out of the Cage. While the book does deal with the usuals of green technology––solar panels, wind generators––it also goes well beyond.
Don’t be afraid to get your head out of the cage, the authors are saying, and visualize a whole new way of life. I find it interesting that their solution lies not in endlessly generating more and more energy, but in needing less, on finding satisfaction in human relationships instead of the never-ending quest for wealth and possessions. It is a treatise on humanism, on ethical living.
As frosting on the cake, we get an intriguing love story, featuring Gordon van Cleve, wealthy, sophisticated New York business executive, who views the concept with deep distaste. I wondered as I read, if Gordon was really me, finding the whole idea a bit unrealistic. But on second thought, maybe . . . . And finally, the idea came together so logically, I wonder why it isn’t our prevailing life style. I would have liked the authors to tell us how to get there from here. But on the other hand, it leaves a challenge for us to get our heads out of the cage and build a world that will allow our children and grandchildren to experience the same gloriously abundant planet we enjoy today.