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Jackpine Radical

Jackpine Radical's Journal
Jackpine Radical's Journal
May 23, 2015

An amplification of Bernie's 12 Steps from his website

1. Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools. It has been estimated that the cost of the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, a war we should never have waged, will total $3 trillion by the time the last veteran receives needed care. A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive. We need to invest in infrastructure, not more war.

2. Reversing Climate Change
The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.

3. Creating Worker Co-ops
We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives. Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.

4. Growing the Trade Union Movement
Union workers who are able to collectively bargain for higher wages and benefits earn substantially more than non-union workers. Today, corporate opposition to union organizing makes it extremely difficult for workers to join a union. We need legislation which makes it clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union.

5. Raising the Minimum Wage
The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. No one in this country who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
6. Pay Equity for Women Workers
Women workers today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. We need pay equity in our country — equal pay for equal work.

7. Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.

8. Making College Affordable for All
In today's highly competitive global economy, millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Further, with both parents now often at work, most working-class families can't locate the high-quality and affordable child care they need for their kids. Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline.

9. Taking on Wall Street
The function of banking is to facilitate the flow of capital into productive and job-creating activities. Financial institutions cannot be an island unto themselves, standing as huge profit centers outside of the real economy. Today, six huge Wall Street financial institutions have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product - over $9.8 trillion. These institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. The greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. They are too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.

10. Health Care as a Right for All
The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.

11. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans
Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. We must strengthen the social safety net, not weaken it. Instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs, we should be expanding these programs.

12. Real Tax Reform
At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that major profitable corporations have paid nothing in federal income taxes, and that corporate CEOs in this country often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. The time is long overdue for real tax reform.

May 18, 2015

I think this is fine for GD.

And we should probably do more of it.

I think it's a moderately complicated situation.

To lay a bit of groundwork, I will start by saying that the government is completely unresponsive to the needs of the public, except insofar as those needs match the desires of the ruling corporations. Thus we were allowed to have ACA but not universal health care because it served the interests of the insurance companies (e.g. guaranteeing them a captive pool of young, healthy people to insure), while incidentally actually doing some good for some of the public. (But many people now have insurance that they can't use because of the copays, deductibles, & exclusions).

Likewise, our Corporate Masters really don't care one way or the other about gay rights, women's rights, etc. because these matters don't much affect their pathways to profit. What they actually care about are things like deregulation, stifling (or, better, absorbing) competition,etc.

To be an acceptable candidate, you have to be "right" on the economic issues, no matter your party. On the social issues you are free to fight it out with the other side. The Big Guys don't care who wins at that level, but it serves their interests to continue the illusion that there are two parties with significant differences between them.

The one social issue that the Big Guys might care about is racial/ethnic discrimination. One of the sickest features of human nature, at least as it is expressed in this country, lies in the fact that some people will put up with almost any abuse or deprivation as long as they are assured that there is a class of people worse off than them, upon whom they might look down. The single best tool for controlling the masses is to play them off against each other. So Joe Sixpack knows damn well who's causing his problems. It's those (color-coded for easy recognition) dark folks down the street with their welfare Cadillacs.

So the parties are left to fight it out on issues that don't matter much to their masters, who really don't care whether it's a corporate Republican or a corporate Democrat as long as they vote to deregulate, keep up the military expenditures, and otherwise behave themselves.

Boehner is known to have declared, back in 2009, that their purpose was to destroy the Obama Presidency. I see it as pure partisanship, fueled with racism. I have no idea if Boehner is a racist in his (alleged) soul, but it doesn't matter; he's playing racist dog whistles to a racist audience.

I see the Republicans as divided into 2 groups: the corporatists and the Tea Party. For the most part, the corporatists are cynical, grandiose manipulators, and the Tea Partiers are largely useful fools who believe their own horseshit.

May 16, 2015

Thoughts on the Death Penalty

Four arguments are commonly made in opposition to the death penalty. Let me review them before moving on to the particular concerns I want to discuss. Here, then, are the traditional arguments:

First, we have no need for a death penalty to protect ourselves from murderers because Wisconsin law permits us to put them in prison for life without hope of ever being released.

Second, it is expensive to seek the death penalty. Studies in other states have shown that it costs more to sentence a murderer to death and then wade through the appeals process than it would have to simply imprison the criminal for life.

Third, there is always the possibility of executing an innocent person. Some people seem to think that the use of DNA evidence is an absolutely certain means of avoiding such errors, but that is simply not so. Any number of events, ranging from misbehavior on the part of police officers to errors at the crime lab, could bring about terrible miscarriages of justice.

And fourth, there is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime. Just consider for a moment—can you imagine criminals thinking to themselves, “I want to go on a killing spree, but they will put me to death if they catch me, so I won’t do it. However, I would go out and murder a bunch of people if all I had to face was life without parole.”

If you think the death penalty is somehow going to make you safer, how do you explain this?—Murder rates per 100,000 population range from a low of 1.2 in Maine to a high of 13.0 in Louisiana. Twelve states, including Wisconsin, have no death penalty. The average murder rate for these states is 2.90. The remaining 38 states have the death penalty. Their murder rate per hundred thousand residents is 5.3. The probability of this being a chance result is less than one in a hundred.

At 3.3 murders per 100,000, Wisconsin has a slightly higher murder rate than the average for states without the death penalty, but considerably lower than the average for states with the death penalty. Why, then, should we be in any hurry to legalize the death penalty and thereby join the group of states with the higher murder rates?

Another question—Might there be something about having a death penalty that causes states to have a higher murder rate? I think there may be a connection. Let us make no bones about it. To approve the death penalty is to assert that it is permissible for a large number of people—the state—to gang up and put one of its members to death. When a state authorizes executions, it is in effect saying that killing is not only permissible, but is in fact desirable, in some circumstances, including circumstances that do not involve immediate self-defense. Children learn both behaviors and attitudes by the example of their elders. From what we know of child development, there is every reason to imagine that children who grow up in a society that approves the killing of human beings will have lower inhibitions against killing than do children whose society teaches an absolute intolerance of killing.

Wisconsin has never executed a criminal since attaining statehood in 1848, and explicitly forbade the practice in 1853. This is a proud tradition that I believe to be worth keeping.

December 22, 2011

Capitalism is dead. But how many of us is it gonna take with it? Look to OWS for answers.

The world economy as currently structured requires growth to sustain it. Capitalism has the same ethics as a cancer, and will just as surely kill its host if left unchecked. The host, of course, is the biosphere.

The species does NOT need growth to sustain it--either in population or in "productivity."

What we need is workable population control and a functional distribution system that ensures everyone has enough so they may live happy, self-fulfilling lives. If we have less attachment to useless, throwaway material possessions, we need to work less. If we have machines that absorb the work of production, then a major portion of the proceeds of that production ought to go to the people.

There is a path to a world in which everyone has the basics such as food, shelter, education and peace. People would not have to work as hard in this world. Everyone would have the time and opportunity to flourish as fully-functional humans. We just need wisdom to get there.

Unfortunately, the wise and fair-minded do not generally rise to power in this system, and perhaps not in any other.

The American Revolution was an attempt to build a more foolproof hierarchical system, based on a division of powers among 3 branches, those 3 branches themselves basing their authority on the consent of the governed.

But almost from the outset, the rich and powerful interests captured portions of the government and bent them to their own narrow purposes. Andrew Jackson & the smallpox blankets. Using cops & Guardsmen to bust strikes. Make up your own list. The point is that by now, the corruption is virtually complete.

So how can you build an incorruptible hierarchical system, one that is impervious to the toxic effects of money? The more I think about it, the more convinced become that you can't build such a system.

When I was a state employee, I used to say that the state's organizational chart consisted of a pyramid of boxes with names in them, each connected to the boxes below it by diodes. The system was designed to pass orders downward from the top, but not to allow any signals to arise into the system from below. It was a classic hierarchy. Shut up & do what you're told.

Nowhere was this hierarchical unidirectionality of communication made more clear than in the old Soviet Union. Right after the revolution, Lenin was faced with decisions about how to modernize his new nation in a hurry to elevate it from its quasi-feudal state. He thought about putting in a national telephone system. But he scrapped this plan. Instead, he wired the major cities for networks of loudspeakers--the ultimate one-way communication device.

Now, contrast any such hierarchical system with the system in place at an OWS General Assembly. In the GA, someone speaks and everybody gives immediate feedback on how they feel about what the speaker is saying.

Then there is the Human Mike. The "mic check" phenomenon is a very interesting one. One person's message is passed on to the crowd through the concerted, self-coordinated actions of those crowd members nearest the speaker. The speaker must have the consent of his "microphone" if he is to be heard. That's sure a bit different than Moscow, 1923. It's also different from any previous protest action in America. In the past, there were always defined leaders, whether Tom Hayden or MLK. Not this time. The power is distributed very differently.

The major difference between previous social actions and the present worldwide upheaval is the nearly universal access to the new social media. The 1% have their broadcast media, just as Lenin had his loudspeakers, and they have gotten very sophisticated in using these tools to shape public opinion. Classically, the public has had little capacity to respond. Oh, you could write a letter or make a phone call, but in general the public was limited to one-to-one communications, while the Mighty had one-to-many communication capability.

But the transpersonal environment is now very different than it has been at any time in the past. Each person has one-to-many capabilities. For example, I'm writing this in hopes that many more than one of my fellow-travelers will read it, and each of them will have the power to respond in kind, i.e. with one-to-many capabilities.

One way of looking at the massive one-to-many linkages among maybe 1 billion of us is that we have created a feedback mechanism unlike anything the world has yet seen. We are escaping the information filters that have always been imposed on us. We are making direct contact with each other around the world and sharing hour common humanity and our common concerns.

Learning occurs in the presence of feedback. Instant learning occurs in the presence of instant feedback. Learning means adaptability, constant change, constant updating of the information banks. No hierarchical system can coordinate an action as swift and graceful as a leaderless flock of birds suddenly executing a change in direction.

This is why I look to leaderless organizations such as OWS as experimental workshops for developing the new society.

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