Author Archive: delicatemonster

The Tax Cut Bill –Part 2 of a 2 Part Punch.

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Mark Twain once famously quipped, “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

But let us, for the sake of argument, take the opposite view. Suppose you were not an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress? Than would you still vote for this monstrosity of a tax bill even if you were in a vulnerable GOP seat? Why? According to Dr. Nancy Maclean, author of Democracy in Chains, you might still vote in favor of the cut because you would be taking the long view, and, in her words, you could be “sealing the case for a constitutional convention.”

In a recent article in The Hill, (http://thehill.com/opinion/finance/366488-the-gop-tax-bill-could-kill-two-birds-with-one-stone), Dr. Maclean postulates that the huge fiscal deficit created by the GOP tax cut will kill two birds with one stone. The first bird is our social safety net –Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. These will all go on the chopping block as congress tries to contend with a potential 1.2 trillion dollar deficit. The second bird is a constitutional convention that could permanently alter the government of the United States.

Maclean writes that “many state legislatures were persuaded [to participate in a constitutional convention] in part by the lure of a Balanced Budget Amendment. A ballooning deficit could help get the remaining six on board.”

“By inflating the debt, the tax bill helps convince the American people that you cannot trust either party when it comes to spending. That in turn strengthens the case for a Balanced Budget Amendment, which has long polled well (until people learn that it will destroy programs they like and depend upon, like Social Security and Medicare). A ballooning deficit could help get the remaining six on board.”

Maclean points to Article V of the U.S. Constitution which provides two routes to amendment: through Congress or two-thirds of the states.

Our constitution has been amended 33 times, but always through congress. Maclean notes that Representative George Mason of Virginia introduced the inclusion of the state option in 1787 and won assent. Mason was a states right advocate, and ironically, it was at the university bearing his name, George Mason University, that a little known economist named James Buchanan first argued for a state based constitutional convention to alter the U.S. government. Most folks have never heard of James Buchanan, but the people who have heard of him — and take him quite seriously — are some of the most powerful players in conservative politics today: David and Charles Koch.

“George Mason University is today the core academic base camp of the Koch political operation… it was a GMU faculty member and Nobel Laureate in economics, James McGill Buchanan, who taught Koch and his grantees that what Buchanan called a “genuine revolution in constitutional structure,” would be needed to control citizens’ appetites for government spending.

“Why a revolutionary change? Because libertarian radicals like Buchanan and Koch believe property rights are the core human right and that government should have the right to tax — and therefore to spend — to ensure only one of three national objectives: the rule of law, social order, and the nation’s defense.”

Note that nowhere in that list is the notion of community, or social good or even what used to be referred to as the ‘commons.’ A social safety net wouldn’t just be destroyed, but with a constitutional convention, it might be written out of the governmental process entirely.

Maclean continues, “Buchanan argued that the only way to secure the liberty and property rights of the wealthy minority was to permanently change the nation’s governing rules. He referred to this as enchaining the Leviathan, a government that, he said, would otherwise only grow. He urged the leveraging of state power to achieve this. And it’s working.”

“In 2009, the GOP had full control of the legislatures of 14 states. Since the 2010 midterms, a radicalized Republican Party has gained total control of 26 states (the legislatures and the governorships), compared to the Democrats’ seven. The party has control of the legislatures of another six. In short, the shrewd Koch-GOP strategy of achieving domination at the state level puts a partisan constitutional convention within view.”

“Here’s the really scary thing.” Maclean notes, “There are six states in which the GOP controls both houses of the legislature that have not yet authorized a convention: Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, South Carolina, and Virginia. Six could line up in short order.”

Please note that Virginia is in that list.

This puts Shelly Simonds’ battle over that single vote that gives Democrats a single seat in the House of Delegates, which flips the House of Delegates out of GOP control, a whole new sense of urgency. God speed Shelly Simonds! The fate of the nation may hang on your efforts to secure the seat you have justly won.

In the meantime, the coming year is shaping up as a classic Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. Happy New Years, everyone!

You can purchase Dr. Maclean’s excellent book on James Buchanan, Democracy in Chains, the deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America, here:

 

 

 

 

 

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In Defense of Christmas

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The recurring theme of a “War on Christmas” is now a tradition. Annually, stalwart intellectuals like Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Bachman and (gasp) Donald Trump will take to the air waves and announce that our Christmas spirit is somehow less than Christian because we say ‘Holiday’ rather than ‘Christmas.’ Fox has been especially energized this year, issuing a ‘thought’ piece that suggest the ‘War on Christmas’ may yet be won, but wondering if Donald Trump has gone far enough. Indeed!

But there is something of value to it, aside from the unintended humor it invokes: a great ‘teachable’ moment, as they say. After all, the history of Christmas is the story of one makeover after another. In truth, it begins before Jesus was even a twinkle in Joseph’s eye. In those heady pagan days, when the unconquerable sun was worshipped in all its pagan glory and the winter solstice rejoiced at the coming gift of the sun (or ‘son of God’ if you want to be playful) there was an honored period of about 7days – running approximately from just before the Solstice (Dec 17,18th) through to Dec 25th that became one long party ride, a kind of burning man for the pagan era.

The premise from today’s principle talking heads is that Christmas has always been about Christ, and any sense of holiday or festivity outside ‘Christ’ is somehow an interloper watering down the spirituality of the time. This, of course, is exactly backwards. Most of our cherished Christmas traditions have nothing to do with Christianity—and everything to do with the underlying pagan traditions that celebrated the winter solstice and the return of the so called ‘unconquerable sun.’

The infamous Roman holiday of Saturnalia is really at the center of all this. It was a huge party, a gigantic fair and festival of the home. The ancient Greek writer, poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes a time of widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked; where, as he said, “sexual license” was taken; and even incidents of human sacrifice were recorded. These incidents were given a culinary representation in human-shaped biscuits, something we still see in traditional Christmas cookies. Remember those ginger bread men?

According to Janet Shotwell, lamps were kept burning to ward off the spirits of darkness. ” Riotous merry-making” took place, and the halls of houses were decked with boughs of laurel and evergreen trees that were brought in by the citizenry in the hopes that they would guard the life essences of the plants until spring. As one comic put it, our Christmas tradition is based on an act of sympathetic magic. Schools were closed, the army rested, and no criminals were executed. Friends visited one another, bringing good-luck gifts of fruit, cakes, candles, dolls, jewelry, and incense. Processions of people with masked or blackened faces and fantastic hats danced through the streets. The custom of mummers, visiting their neighbors in costume, which is still alive in Newfoundland, is descended from these masked processions.

But one of the most equalitarian aspects of Saturnalia was a sit down feast shared by masters and slaves. In fact, during the festivities slaves were given the freedom to do and say whatever they liked. A Mock King was even appointed to take charge of the revels, and from this fantastic class reversal, developed the so called “Lord of Misrule’ of medieval Christmas festivities.

About 354 AD, Christianity came along and tried to co-opt solstice festivities, but couldn’t really suppress the whole merry making, drinking, gift giving thing. They did manage to make the climax of the winter festivities the official day to commemorate the birth of Christ, however, and, of course, gave it the name we know and love. Christmas.
Since the hero of the New Testament was born in the Middle East, forcing native pagan activities to mesh with the birth of Jesus creates a weird iconography for the season. Do we actually ever look at the classic manger scene, laid in a bed of snow like cotton, ringed in red and green, under a evergreen spruce and begin to wonder? The iconography of Christmas is ridiculously mixed in with reindeer, holly, snow scenes and other phenomena peculiar to northern European myth. There’s an urban legend of a Japanese department store that tried too hard to symbolize the Christmas spirit by mounting a display of a Santa Claus figure nailed to a cross. Crucified Santa would be just as surreal as a chocolate Jesus. The iconography which presumably represents the ‘spirit’ of the Holidays is nothing more than a co-opted pagan winter Saturnalia that Christians for the last two thousand years or so have been trying hard to forget.

In fact, if you want to find the first real Grinch in history, you need only travel back to the time of real conservatives: the Puritans of England. Under Oliver Cromwell’s reign, Christmas was officially cancelled. During the English Interregnum, when England was ruled by a Puritan Parliament, Puritans sought to remove elements they viewed as pagan from Christianity—this effectively meant the entire holiday. We will bomb the holiday in order to save it!

Under Cromwell, in 1647, Parliament banned the celebration of Christmas, replacing it with a day of fasting. They considered the festivities “a popish festival with no biblical justification.” Protests followed as pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several cities and for weeks Canterbury was controlled by the rioters, who decorated doorways with holly and shouted royalist slogans. Now that’s a true defense of the Christmas spirit!
Taking Cromwell’s lead, in Colonial America, the Puritans of New England outlawed Christmas celebrations in Boston from 1659 to 1681. The ban was eventually revoked, but by the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Christmas was not widely celebrated in the US. And it wasn’t until the flux of immigrants in the next century (especially the good Irish and Italian ‘papists’) when the Christmas spirit would really take hold again.

So sadly, there have been moments when Christians themselves almost succeeded in destroying the Christmas holidays. But this isn’t one of them. In fact, one suspects that the only thing which can kill Christmas are the religiously intolerant set on defending their ahistorical sense of the season’s ‘spirit’ or the concomitant commercialism that seems to accompany the season every year.

I can’t wait for the right wing talking heads to start harping on that.

The Tax Cut Bill — Part 1 of a 2-Part Punch

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If Trump’s presidency signaled the end of a reasonable Democratic process in terms of legislative responsibility to the will of the people, the Republican’s Tax Bill signals the end of the economic compromise that was formed with our ruling class under Franklin Delano Roosevelt 75 years ago.

The broad outlines of that compromise are still in place in Europe and many other industrialized nations. It goes something like this: capitalism is allowed to drive primary parts of the nation’s economy with the understanding that a certain level of social order and cohesion is necessary for the benefit of all. To ensure that social order and cohesion, a social safety net is provided to those who may be the losers in the capitalist marketplace. In Europe, this broadly takes the form of unemployment insurance (the dole), nationalized healthcare, and sometimes nationalized pensions and education. In the United States this took the form of a patchwork of social safety net programs: Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP), Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, various grants for higher education and so forth.

The US was never as monolithic in its implementation of the social safety net, and never as generous. Reasons for that vary, but on the healthcare front, one large part of that was a tendency among Southern Democrats to be unwilling to have healthcare provided for blacks on an equal footing with whites. So any form of nationalized healthcare was voted down. There was also the Red scare, which effectively made both major parties ‘pro capitalist’ to a fault. This really hasn’t changed in the last 50+ years. As recently as last year, during a CNN town hall, when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was asked if the Democratic party could move more left on economics, she replied, bluntly, “We’re capitalist,” or, in other words, no, we cannot move further left. She tried to nuance that blunt assertion with a few feel good statements about the need to look out for those less fortunate, but the bottom line is a disavowal of the initial compromise made 75 years earlier. This should probably be expected from the party which– back in 1992– made a deal with the devil and ushered in the era of ‘triangulation.’ –or third way politics, essentially arguing against– and then legislating against– the compromise Franklin Delano Roosevelt had made with the ruling class to provide for a social safety net. Instead, the Democratic party, under the Clinton administration worked through the legislative nuts and bolts of a transition to a purer form of capitalism that we now know as neoliberalism.

How did this happen? Since its inception, the social safety net in the United States had been fiercely attacked by Republicans. If you go back to the initial legislative battles over simple concepts like Social Security Insurance, Republicans at that time warned that the program would “impose a crushing burden on industry and labor” and “establish a bureaucracy in the field of insurance in competition with private business.”

“Never in the history of the world has any measure been brought here so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people,” Rep. John Taber (R-NY) said, arguing against the program.

This was nonsense, of course.

One of my favorite quotes from that era belongs to Republican Daniel Hastings of Delaware who worried feverishly that Social Security would “end the progress of a great country and bring its people to the level of the average European.”

Yes, irony abounds. One wishes sorely now that our people could be brought to the level of the average European.

Being Republicans, the fact that their arguments were floating free of any tangible mooring with reality didn’t bother them at the time, and hasn’t to this day.

Throughout the Reagan and Bush eras, there were Republican efforts at privatizing social security that failed, but that didn’t stop them from using scare tactics, suggesting that Social Security was insolvent, which is gibberish since social security is a trust fund. People pay into it, “contribute” throughout their working lives. The only way it can be ‘insolvent’ is if another entity (like Congress) decides to spend the money in the trust fund on something other than social security contributors. In other words, if congress steals the money in the fund, and then lies about it. Keep this note in mind.

Republicans also attacked other elements of the social safety net. At a campaign rally in 1976, Ronald Reagan introduced the so-called “welfare queen”:

“She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”

Based loosely on the account of one individual, Linda Taylor, this ‘welfare queen’ myth misstates her criminal activity by failing to note that Taylor didn’t just rip off welfare agencies. She stole money from a host of other businesses, and defrauded private individuals, and was involved in a kidnapping and possible murder attempt. In short, she was a career criminal who was ultimately arrested and taken to jail. She was in no way an indicator of ‘welfare’ abuse, any more than an individual burglar is responsible for wide-spread home insurance fraud.

Individuals committing welfare fraud are, in reality, very rare and an incredibly small percentage of those legitimately receiving welfare. But Reagan managed to tap into the underlying racial resentment and fear surrounding any kind of mandated government assistance. “Welfare queen’ became a racialized symbol of all that was wrong with liberal programs to help the poor. And it didn’t stop there. Hopping on the bandwagon, Newt Gingrich infamously lamented a food-stamp recipient who used her benefits to fly to Hawaii at taxpayers’ expense. This, too, was gibberish. As anyone who has actually enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would know, benefits are tightly restricted to food products off of the shelf and can’t even be used to buy other necessities, such as diapers, much less a plane ticket.

Thanks to Reagan’s “welfare queen” and other propaganda efforts by Republicans and their allies, by 1989, 64 percent of Americans felt that “welfare benefits make poor people dependent and encourage them to stay poor,” This was all nonsense, but it set the stage for President Bill Clinton’s infamous ‘triangulation.’ Just as only a Republican could go to China, only a Democrat could take on welfare. And Clinton used the national mood as a political opportunity, declaring an end to “welfare as we know it” in 1996. Under his leadership, AFDC was eliminated and in its place was something called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF…
Temporary was the operative word.

No longer would poor families be able to draw on the government for material support. Now there was a five-year time limit on benefits AND a requirement that the applicant for aid would have to constantly be looking for a job. Worse, for the first time, the federal government gave states wide leeway with welfare funds, allowing them to be diverted to non-cash-payment programs. The intent was to allow states to fund workforce training, higher education, affordable child care, and other supports that would help women find employment. But in reality, there were almost no standards regarding what states could do—for example, some states allowed these funds to be used for classes that urged women to get married. Most significant, though, the dollar amount given to the states by the federal government, and the amount states were required to contribute themselves, was set at 1996 funding levels, with no mechanism for increasing it.

That meant states could run out of money and refuse aid to qualifying families simply because they no longer had the funds. It also meant the cash amounts given to each individual family were eroded by inflation. In July 2015, the highest average cash payment for a single parent with three children was only about $704 a month in California. In two states, Mississippi and Tennessee, benefits are less than $2 per person per day, and in 27 more states the program provides less than $5 per person per day.

Two years ago, Clinton finally acknowledged: “The poorest welfare families…are worse off, and we should do something for them. And all of us who supported it should admit that.”

If you ever wonder why there are so many people on your street corner with signs, you can thank neoliberals from either party. What Republicans started at the dawn of the welfare state, and neoliberalism and triangulation under Clinton continued – the refusal to acknowledge the implicit compromise between society’s needs and laissez-faire capitalism—the Republican majority in all three branches of government have pretty much finished this week.

Most of you know the basics of the current Tax Bill, but here they are again, just as a reminder.

According to the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the final bill, in the first year, the top 1 percent of the wealthiest taxpayers get 20.5 percent of the benefits, but by 2027, they’ll get an amazing 82.8 percent.

And while regular folks will get a break of a few hundred dollars at first, not only do their breaks come with expiration dates, by 2027 every group earning less than $93,200 a year will on average see their taxes go up. More than half of American households will see a tax increase. What’s worse, of course, are the seemingly endless loopholes still packed into the 1000 plus page document, that are tilted heavily toward the already wealthy and well-connected. Add to that, the malicious elimination of the ACA individual mandate, which will likely force millions of Americans off of health insurance (estimates are up to 13 million), and you have the perfect storm for what remains of our 75-year-old compromise with capital.

One of the most telling contributions to the Senate debate over the Tax Bill came from Tom Carper, a moderate, business-oriented Democrat from Delaware. He pointed out that it wasn’t Barack Obama, or any other Democrat, who invented the individual mandate. It originated in a 1993 health-care-reform bill that John Chafee, a Republican senator from Rhode Island, put forward. It was subsequently picked up by another Republican, Mitt Romney, when Romney led the passage of a sweeping health-care law as the governor of Massachusetts. “It’s a Republican idea. It’s a market-based idea,” Carper said calmly.

But, of course, today’s Republican Party isn’t the Republican Party of Chafee or Romney. It’s the party of the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Robert Mercer, Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, ALEC, and the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In many ways, this tax bill, with its huge breaks for major corporations and very wealthy individuals, is the logical corollary of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which legitimized the wholesale corporate purchase of political parties and elected politicians. As our democratic integrity got flushed away with the election of Trump and his acolytes, our economic integrity has been flushed away as well. We are left with whatever didn’t go down the bowl.

The wealthy interests that bankroll the Republican Party have now achieved a major item on their agenda. What remains to be determined is whether this victory will help bring down the G.O.P. in next year’s midterm elections before they can implement the second part of their strategy to destroy the social safety net in America completely– by slashing Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Paul Ryan has promised us this outcome; and it makes sense, as it’s the natural consequence of this tax cut. “You see,” the argument will go, “cutting these ‘entitlement’ programs are necessary to offset the dreadful deficits we now have.” What Paul Ryan and the Republican majority may or may not mention is that any mounting deficit will have been caused precisely by the unnecessary and wholly gratuitous tax cuts they just gave to some of the richest families on Earth.

See you at the polls. Or on the street.

by Jack Johnson

 

Fighting Giants, Part 2: David Meets Goliath

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To get a sense of the stakes for what should have been a boring meeting of the Virginia state water control board (SWCB), just count the state police cars in the parking lot. That would be thirty-seven (37) shiny gray Virginia state police cars on a cold Monday evening. Then take a little tour around the parking lot for the meeting place; a community center in Henrico County with the heart-warming slogan, “strengthening families, uplifting communities.” In addition to thirty-seven state police cars, there was a Henrico Special Events Vehicle, a Henrico Multiple Casualty Events Vehicle, multiple ambulances, a fire truck, a State Police Mobile Command Center Vehicle, two Hazardous Material Vehicles, and a Henrico Police Van. Plus, just to be on the safe side, private plain clothes security provided by Dominion Power.

This is not your daddy’s state water control board meeting. This is Dominion Power’s DEQ’s hand-picked state water control board meeting—and things aren’t going the way they planned.

For starters, approximately 80% of the audience is hostile to the idea of approving the 401 water certifications for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—the nominal purpose of this meeting. Not just against, but positively hostile. Many have traveled from faraway Nelson, Buckingham or Floyd Counties or even out of state. Nearly two years ago, when the pipeline was first being surveyed, these individuals organized to fight it, and have since formed advocacy groups, and rapid reaction teams, like Friends of Nelson County, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Wild Virginia, to name a few. There are also larger environmental organizations like Southern Environmental Law Center, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Sierra Club, plus progressive umbrella organizations like Alliance for Progressive Virginia coming together to form a potent grassroots, activist force. They have lawyers and individuals dedicated enough to sit through long winded meetings and public comment periods. Despite Dominion seeding many of the comments with individuals on their payroll (or individuals who had been on their payroll); despite the phalanx of state police officers and Henrico County officers, the room was decidedly anti-pipeline.

As the public comment period progressed, because they were frequently admonished to remain quiet, the activists showed approval of speakers by snapping fingers or waving hands. They uniformly turned their backs on speakers with whom they disagreed, or hissed loudly. They were disruptive, effective and sometimes entertaining.

One activist decided to sing her opposition to the pipeline. Another, after stating her credentials as an environmental engineer and planner, said bluntly, “This proposed pipeline is the poorest plan I have ever seen.” Said another activist, “This plan is a disaster.”

A young man with beard and colorful head wrap was even more direct: “I see through all of this. I see through your suits.” [addressing the board] “You are bored. You are so afraid. You are so scared of a single moment of truth. … This world is dying, you must know that. Our rivers, our land, our people, our climate — it’s all dying. If you can’t face that, perhaps something is dying in you.”

Mara Robins from Floyd County and a member of Preserve Floyd stood and delivered a bold declaration, stating in part:

“If you will not protect our water, we the people will. If you will not safeguard our water resources, we the people will, if you will not stop the pipelines, we the people will.”

All the activists, most of the room, in fact, stood with her. She ended on a poetic note:

“Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream.”

When I caught up with her outside, she was breathless and excited. She showed me her transcript and then whispered, “I thought for sure they were going to kick me out of there.”

She laughed and smiled broadly—she didn’t know yet that her words would prove prophetic.

**

There were supporters of the pipeline, too, of course. Some who had worked for Dominion or other energy companies in the past, some who currently worked for energy companies or similar ventures. They spoke of their years of experience, of being convinced of the safety of the pipeline passageway.

Occasionally, they went into philosophical detours that did not end well.

One made the obvious point that everyone needed power, that the room in which he spoke was being heated and lit by power provided by burning fossil fuels and civilization would be handily lost without it. The diatribe was rather quickly countered by a rousing street chant from the activists:

“Ain’t no power like the power of the people and the power of the people don’t stop!”

Another less sanguine moment occurred when an apparent Ayn Rand fan announced that all those in opposition to the pipeline were anti-capitalist frauds.
He shouted, loudly, “I stand against denigrating the virtue of profit!”
Which was greeted by a stunned silence as the crowd tried to determine if he was actually serious, and then there was the combined hissing of all the activists voicing their disapproval like the sound of an enormous snake.

Perhaps the worst moment came near the end when an amendment was in the works and the water board chairman, Robert Dunn, decided to chide the activists, saying, “Maybe when you get older some of you will begin to understand how these things work.” That did not go over well with at least one activist shouting back, “I’m 67!”

And this was when Mara Robbins, who was amazed that she had not been ejected as she spoke through her declaration the previous day, finally was ejected. Wearing a bright blue bandanna, she and another activist were led from the meeting by state police officers because of their loud protests against the chairman’s words. Outside the meeting, she said simply, “We will not allow this pipeline to be built…. If they exhaust us of legitimate means, then we take it into our own hands.”

 

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 This image is from Richmond.com–it’s a photo of Mara being escorted out after her outburst at the chairman’s comment.

 

It might come to that, but for that Tuesday, December 12, there was a compromise, of sorts. It was likely the legal arguments and the incompetence of DEQ’s process itself which forced an amendment, and thus a delay in the pipeline construction.

What was the DEQ process? They had recommended approving construction permits and then, later, reviewing plans along the way for several specific factors that impact water quality, including storm-water management, erosion control and efforts to monitor a complex limestone geography called karst. Because of this process, uncompleted reports from the DEQ that should have provided information to the SWCB about everything from sediment build up to slope erosion and karst geography were never provided.
“The DEQ’s erosion and sediment control plans and stormwater control plans are incomplete and have not been presented to the Board,” said David Sligh, Wild Virginia’s Conservation Director. “Karst analyses are incomplete. Data related to specific water body crossings is non-existent. The Nationwide 12 permit has not yet been authorized and determined to be applicable. The procedure is not based on sound science and is legally flawed. We cannot accept this betrayal of our trust and our rights without challenge,” Sligh stated.

Those and similar words likely helped to push the state water control board to reconsider rubber stamping the ACP pipeline in the same way they rubber stamped the MVP pipeline.

Tuesday afternoon, just as the board was preparing to take a vote (that all the opponents thought was a mere formality), board member Timothy G. Hayes moved that the certification be amended so that it would not go into effect until all those reports were completed.

He said the move was intended so the board could “at least have the opportunity to have one more swing at it if we have to.”

“The board today acknowledged what we’ve been saying all along, that this process is flawed,” said David Sligh, afterwards, “This is an advance over what we thought we might get today.”

Although the victory is mixed, the certification was approved but it won’t go into effect until the reports are completed and accepted—through a process which has yet to be determined—the activists I spoke with were genuinely pleased.

“It could have been worse, much worse,” said one activists, noting a straight up certification like the MVP pipeline was what many thought would be the outcome.
Said another, even more simply, “I’m not grieving today.” A sense of collective relief. The activists had managed to buy themselves, and their cause, some time.

Outside the meeting, David Slight explained, “Everybody from the landowners to the activist groups, to the students mattered today–the collective effort is what mattered. We have never seen this kind of uprising of people in this state on an environmental issue. I’ve been working on these issues for over 35 years and I’ve never seen this kind of effort. I’ve never seen this kind of unity.”

Perhaps it was that collective action and unity which explains the incredible number of police officers for a wholly peaceful meeting between anti-pipeline activists and brokers for the state and Dominion Power. That had the mark of fear in it; fear of the people and their organizing.

As the board shut down the meeting and multiple lines of state troopers—between twenty to twenty-five again– began herding the audience out, Sharon Ponton of Nelson County sang out: “People gonna rise like the water,”

Others joined in, as they trailed out of the community center, singing, “Shut this pipeline down.”

By Jack Johnson

Fighting Giants

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People unite from across the state to protest the Atlantic Coasts Pipeline

There’s a monstrous quality to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. It’s not just that the pipelines promise to permanently scar the natural forests, valleys and mountains through which they will plow to bring gas to foreign markets. Nor is it the damage to local water resources that will occur. Nor is it the use of eminent domain to override the protests of local homeowners and landowners, or the damage to their property, or the very real possibility of fractures and leaks along the lines. It’s not even the obvious problem of increasing our carbon footprint by burning natural gas and leeching methane– a by-product of the fracking process– into the atmosphere at a time when scientists are warning that their previous predictions of climate change were too mild and that the worst case scenarios they had envisioned are likely the most accurate (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/global-warming-temperature-rise-climate-change-end-century-science-a8095591.html). No, it’s the perfect, domino-like quality as each of these arguments, and more, fall to the economic and political collusion of the energy companies and our state government.

Last Thursday, December 7th, despite public comments in opposition to the water-quality certification approval at a ratio of about 90 to 1, a 7 member Virginia State Water Control Board (SWCB) –ostensibly the citizen’s representation — rubber stamped its approval. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, after the Virginia State Water Control Board approved the certification, 5-2, At least one member of the audience screamed profanities at the board members and vowed to visit them where they live.

The next day, Friday December 8, 2017, Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to overturn Virginia’s unlawful approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The litigation was filed on behalf of the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Wild Virginia. One can only hope that this action does better than previous attempts to forestall a monstrosity that will not benefit Virginians, except those who have stock in Dominion Power and Duke Energy. Or those who depend on those power companies for political clout and funding come campaign time, including, of course, Governor-Elect Ralph Northam and Governor Terry McAuliffe, the last of whom was probably responsible for pressuring the DEQ and the SWCB in its approval vote.

According to Greg Buppert, Senior Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center: “After hearing from numerous citizens and officials that the Water Board did not have the information it needed to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Board failed to insist on a thorough, science-based review of this project. Their decision to move this pipeline project forward reflects the political pressure that Governor McAuliffe has put on his agencies to approve gas pipelines before he leaves office. But the Board still has the chance to acknowledge and remedy this broken process by sending plans back to Dominion next week at the Atlantic Coast Pipeline hearings and reversing today’s decision on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. As Virginia’s watchdog for water quality, the Board must ensure that Dominion doesn’t abuse its political power to push through a risky and unnecessary project like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

According to Wild Virginia, the filing “asserts that the Board has failed to base its decision on adequate and complete information and, therefore, lacks a rational basis for its action. All parties admit that vital information and analyses were missing at this time yet the Board endorsed DEQ’s recommendation to approve the rushed permit decision.”

The press release also highlights the fact that the Board issued the permit regardless of seriously incomplete information from MVP. “‘The DEQ’s erosion and sediment control plans and stormwater control plans are incomplete and have not been presented to the Board,’ said David Sligh, Wild Virginia’s Conservation Director. ‘Karst analyses are incomplete. Data related to specific waterbody crossings is non-existent. The Nationwide 12 permit has not yet been authorized and determined to be applicable. The procedure is not based on sound science and is legally flawed. We cannot accept this betrayal of our trust and our rights without challenge,’ Sligh stated.

This Monday,  December 11, 2017, the Virginia State Water Control Board will have another round of open hearings for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline at 9:30 a.m. at the Trinity Family Life Center, 3601 Dill Road, Richmond, VA.

There will be a follow up meeting, Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at the same location. Likely there will be a heavy police presence, but if you can make it to either meeting, please attend. When fighting giants, you need as many boots on the ground as possible.

How Revolutions Begin

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So are disasters born, and revolutions made. The GOP Tax bill, just passed by the Senate now to be reconciled with the House version, makes a mendacious mockery of governance. It is a put up,  a fake out, a three-card monte for policy, and in the end, if we let them, a set of plutocratic cry-babies will walk away with the scalp of our social safety net.

Most of us know the broad outline. Huge tax cuts for the 1 percent and corporate entities that rule our nation, all of which will be paid for (or so the happy story goes) by jacking up taxes on graduate students by up to 400 percent, limiting middle class homeownership tax benefits, repealing the ObamaCare individual mandate, changing inflation calculations, and by cutting the deduction for state and local taxes.

As more than one pundit has noted, it is a bill written by the landed aristocracy, for the landed aristocracy.

So it’s bad in its inception, as economics and as policy. As an ancillary benefit, this bill will also explode the deficit. When it does, I bet what remains of my 401-K that Republicans are going to immediately start demanding cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Bam, bam. Bam. They’ve already started on Medicare, which, under congressional rules is due for a $25 billion cut in 2018. That’s just the beginning.

The poor are going to get clobbered. If the repeal of the individual mandate is maintained in the House version, some 13 million Americans will have to drop health insurance coverage in the next decade.

At certain points, words fail to convey the enormous moral, economic and cultural rot that coalesced in our legislative chambers to produce this bill. It is a monstrosity of inequality, a policy lie, an economic stupidity, placing an abusive and crushing burden on the most vulnerable of us, for the benefit of the most powerful and wealthy.

If I was a Republican right now, I would be careful about mentioning my party allegiance in mixed company.  Not mixed as in interracial or gender differenced, but mixed as in Republican and the rest of the world. They have shown themselves to be a hateful class now, and it’s likely –and appropriate – that they be treated accordingly.

A Numbered Rant

Over the last two weeks, the changes coming out of the Executive Branch have been fast and furious.  In keeping with the pace, APV member Kathy Walker wrote a set of  rapid responses on social media which we have collected below. Please feel free to engage with your own observations in the comments area below.

  1. One good thing comes out of the Devos confirmation: knowledge that we are on our own. If the Republicans won’t stand up to block the nomination of someone so flagrantly unqualified, they damn well aren’t going to impeach Trump. It is going to be a long two years until we can vote one of these bastards out.
  2. I realize that there are all sorts of charlatans around today who spend a lot of time and energy trying to prove that when Jesus said all those things about helping the least of these, he didn’t really mean disadvantaged people, and when he said the thing about the rich having a hard time getting into the kingdom of heaven, what he really meant was you should hoard money like a tick hoards blood.Believe in Jesus if you want, don’t believe if you don’t want to, I don’t really care, but if you’re going to say you believe, don’t twist every last thing your prophet said into the opposite of what it means….
  3. We are about 35 years behind in this fight. It was about that long ago that the religious right started showing up at local and state republican conventions (In VA) and shutting out the more moderate folks who had been doing the work, and pushing the party far to the right. So yeah. Anyone wanting change should start showing up at the local level, and taking over, and pushing things back to the left. The good news is so few people show up that taking over should be feasible, now that everyone has noticed that we are three inches from fascism. The bad news is that local political meetings are deadly dull, not nearly as fun and empowering as all these protests, and they are so annoying, but despite their lack of sex appeal, that’s where the work gets done.
  4. I really wish a million people had shown up when Bush lost the popular vote, and might have lost the Electoral vote too, if the count hadn’t been stopped by the Supreme Court. Where was everybody then? Oh well. Water over the dam.
  5. So, trump rushed into his first military foray, and at least some of it went badly, and we lost an American soldier, and then Trump went to meet the family of the dead Navy seal and milked that for all it was worth. And then online I see a trump supporter actually make the argument that it is really great to have a president who will go to the funeral of a dead soldier, because Obama never, ever, did anything as patriotic as go to the funeral of a dead soldier, so it is a shame the mainstream media wasn’t going to cover Trump’s great patriotism, because the MSM was so biased [note: this while the story was being played on ALL the networks], which is why it was so unfair that when Obama went to those funerals he always got media coverage, and that’s why he was always going to so many funerals of dead soldiers, for the publicity.

It’s almost quantum, the way so many contradictory pasts can exist at once, jumbled up in one mangled argument. Or it could just be contrariness.

  1. I have heard people say they can’t believe someone would give up on friends because of politics. “just politics.”

There is no such thing as “just politics.” There is whether or not Gen X is going to at some point this year again lose most of its home equity and watch its retirement accounts evaporate for the third or fourth time since we started earning money. There is whether or not my international students can visit their grandparents in another country without being detailed or handcuffed when they return. There is whether or not my friends who are LBGT have to worry about their safety and their civil rights. There is the fear of my friends who are raising children who are nt lily white, not heterosexual, not whatever is defined as “mainstream,” that their children will become victims of police brutality or hate crimes or vigilantism. There is the erosion of financial stability from the middle class, which started in the 970’s and the desperation at the bottom, which is always with us. But there is no such thing as Just Politics and yes, I will give up on you if you don’t join us over here on the right side of history pretty darn fast.

  1. PBS American Experience is on right now, about Oklahoma City–Waco–Ruby Ridge. Just what I need to sleep well.
  2. Average working class salaries started to drop in the late 70’s. The upper 20% have been taking home an increasingly larger share of income since then. Most families didn’t catch on because that’s also when so many families went from having one working adult to two working adults. We have lost ground for decades, all of us, and as someone who works pretty hard, I am somewhat pissed off about that. We are all in the same boat. It’s not an excuse for the Right’s racism and sexism and authoritarian tendencies.
  3. Lately I have been thinking about the wisdom of pig farmers.
    Don’t put lipstick on a pig.
    Don’t teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
    Don’t wrassle with a pig. You’ll both get filthy, but the pig will enjoy it.
  4. The banality of evil. After WWII, so much effort went into understanding how ordinary people could have followed the Nazi’s orders so easily. We are seeing echoes of the great experiments again. As in the Asch study, we have Trump voters looking at pictures of the crowd at the inauguration and agreeing it was the biggest crowd ever. As in the [Stanley ]Milgram experiment, we see people blindly obeying authority. Homeland Security agents handcuffing a five year old who is here legally.
  5. It is freaking me out a bit how everything the right accused the left of doing is actually something that the right is doing. Orlando is a false flag, but Bowling Green Massacre really exists. Private email servers. Goldman Sachs. Hillary sneaking around murdering people vs Putin having people murdered .I am just waiting to see the reveal on whatever inspired the child porn/pizza parlor story.
  6. When people start talking about abortion these days, I want to start talking about my uterus. “So,” I want to say, “let’s chat about my uterus.” or “what do you know about my uterus?” And my guess is, if I ask this to these random people, they will not have much to say, which is funny when you think about it, because when they talk about regulating abortion, they are talking about MY UTERUS.
  7. Marching is great and all but we need to remember a few things about it. It won a few specific battles during the Civil Rights Movement, but …. marches and protests are symbols. You can use symbols to defeat symbols. Making people sit in the back of the bus is symbolic; it is a performance about power. It can be defeated by a protest, which is a performance showing displeasure with the current power structure.
  8. Many of the great battles of the Civil Rights movement were won in the courtroom. We remember the marches, but the strategy focused heavily on strategic lawsuits. Brown v Board of Ed. Loving v Va. Plus the countless suits that struck at segregated streets, housing covenants, job discrimination, etc. In many ways, the judicial system is much more conservative now than it was back then. Not sure the strategy will work this time.
  9. I’m wondering if Dan Clawson http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-465-02680-7 has recent numbers on how much $ a Senate candidate has to raise every week to wage a successful campaign. I seem to recall it was $10,000 a Week? or more? Anyone seen recent numbers?
  10. For you, Lynnie. I remember maybe 10-15 years ago now watching the Olympics, and there was a particularly annoying human interest story on between events about the sacrifices one of the athletes had made for her sick child, blah blah motherhood blah blah — motherhood being great and all that but the tendency here to fetishize it instead of subsidizing it like the other post-industrial nations do pisses me off. I digress. So, there’s this long story about this woman and the arduous struggle she went through to get medical help for her child– she was from a nation with a much less developed health care system –and finally she manages to get her child to Germany for life-saving surgery. And I was floored. Because any story on the air on a network during the Olympics is going to be closely following the accepted patriotic script… And I thought, When did our script change? When we were kids, the script would have been that she came to the US to get medical treatment for her child because we have the most rocking science. But instead, it switched to some regressive gender role crap. It really struck me at the time.
  11. Don’t even get me started about how we were supposed to have a super-collider (https://www.scientificamerican.com/…/the-supercollider-tha…/)
  12. The crowd that loves to chant USA, USA somehow has missed the fact that what made us great was two things: we had what Fitzgerald called “a willingness of the heart,” and we had an amazing dedication to science. We made it to the moon!!! And not too much time elapsed between the first flight and making it to the moon.

When a nation dreams of science, it can be a beautiful dream. Science is about hope and exploration and possibility. And now we are falling behind, and for the same few stupid reasons. Lack of funding, really short-sighted. Religious weirdness, corporate strangleholds (internet, energy)

  1. I have been worked up for a long time about how Republicans are so anti science, but now they have leapfrogged past me and started disregarding reality itself. The bar can always sink lower.

    Some fan of the Orange one is on Charlie Rose right, talking about how great this is going to be, now that Orange One/Congress are repealing the limited safeguards put in after the last economic crash. And I saw a Republican Congressperson claim they were repealing regulations that had been a “boot on the throat of the common man.” We have a president who has no concept of what the job is supposed to entail, and half the American public is too benighted to be terrified.

  2. For a measure of how far we have fallen from grace, politically, scientifically, think about how Jonas Salk didn’t patent the polio vaccine. Think about how the government used to put its resources into backing research for public health problems. We saw Lady from Shanghai at the Byrd last week. I was talking with Vance afterwards about the character of Bannister, lurching around on his canes, and how when the movie opened it would have been so taken for granted that he was paralyzed by polio that it is never addressed in the script. I don’t think that younger generations have an understanding of the implications of that, and that means they also aren’t going to see the dangers of having an anti-vaccine Cabinet.
  3. Interesting discussion last night on point 2. India suggests keeping lines of communication open. I could see some wiggle room with people who really just voted for the Thing because they always vote R. That was apparently the best predictor of who was going to vote for him all along. But people really should not be able to plead “didn’t feel like thinking this decade” as an excuse. The evidence has been there all along about who he is.

    Now, the avid supporters, the one who are actively pushing his propaganda in my feed. They are gone. Fuck that. No more Photoshopped pics of Obama as a terrorist, no more Photoshopped pics of the Thing with Santa and Jesus. Because keeping these people as friends and leaving these offensive posts in my feed is a step towards normalizing what is going on, and I will not do that.

Where is the line, ultimately? What line does he have to cross before you can no longer maintain a relationship with people who support him? You don’t have to draw your line where I am drawing mine, but my advice is to decide right now where that line is, because he is going to cross it, sooner or later.

~By Kathy Walker

 

 

In Defense of Christmas!

Alliance for a Progressive Virginia

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The recurring theme of a “War on Christmas” is now a tradition. Annually, stalwart intellectuals like Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Bachman et. al. will take to the air waves and will announce that our Christmas spirit is somehow less than Christian because we say ‘Holiday’ rather than ‘Christmas.’ The only thing more vitiated of actual intellectual content is the peals of outrage over Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson’s suspension because he managed, in a single interview, to shred whatever veil of civility his on air persona once presented. There are millions of writers, thinkers, speakers of all political and cultural persuasions who will never garner the kind of audience Phil has, precisely because speech, of the variety that Phil has the privilege to practice, is NOT free. It is very expensive. Considering the banality of Phil’s assertions, it should cost him more than his pathetic job is worth.

But the ‘War on Christmas’…

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I Was an Eighth Grade Communist (and Other Reasons to Vote for Bernie Sanders)

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This really happened. In the eighth grade, prodded by Ms. Spiver, an enthusiastic teacher with an enlightened vision for an open classroom, I had the opportunity to research different governing systems.  I chose communism because the name sounded cool and appeared to frighten everyone. I read about Marx and Lenin and the proletariat of the state and the main idea which I glommed  was to ensure everyone’s basic needs were met. This seemed grand, generous and even beautiful. I quoted the Encyclopedia Britannica at length, and with a flourish, scribbled out three pages in long hand, ending the paper with a makeshift version of the iconic hammer and sickle.

I thought Ms. Spiver would be proud.

The next day I was called into a parent/teachers conference.  This was in Raleigh, North Carolina circa 1976 when the rabid anti-communist Senator Jesse Helms graced the Channel six news editorial spot which my father listened to every. single. night.

Ms. Spiver was all ‘tender mercies!’ and ‘Lord child!’ and ‘where did you get such ideas?’ and I wasn’t sure if she was as concerned about my paper and my education as the possibility that Mr. Creigh, who  substituted as an insurance agent on days when he wasn’t playing the principal, might take serious offense. But I explained, and even defended as best I could the idea of equality, and everyone getting what they needed, these all seemed like fine goals. What was the problem?  Ms. Spiver, to her credit, did not try to correct my initial interpretation, but merely advised that my opinion on the matter was somewhat out of step with the adult population of Raleigh, North Carolina circa 1976. Mom and dad ushered me home, silent in their Buick. Dad finally parked the car in the lot and turned and proceeded to give me the low down. “Communists are bad because they represent a totalitarian system. They don’t allow freedom.  You understand?”

I nodded my head.

“Okay?”

“Okay.”  That sounded like something to avoid. And the tone in my father’s voice was enough for me to forget my flirtation with alternate political systems until high school when we began looking at the social democratic governments, and I found myself once again intrigued by the idea that a government would be based on people getting what they absolutely needed; regardless of their jobs, social stations or life situations.

Denmark, Finland, Sweden, England, to a lesser extent, Germany and Spain. If all these countries pursued such programs, why didn’t we?

My father, with the patience of Job, once again explained what he thought should have been obvious.

“What if I just gave you a dollar every week instead of letting you earn a dollar by mowing the lawn? Hmmmm?”

“I’d have a dollar but I wouldn’t have to mow the lawn.”

Yes, he conceded, okay, but that’s not the point. The point is if you give people something for nothing they’ll take advantage of it. Like all those welfare queens.

By this time, Ronald Reagan was running for high office and was denouncing shady welfare queens that rode around in Cadillacs and bought caviar with tax payer’s money. This activity rankled the hell out of Jesse Helms who never missed an opportunity to denounce the welfare moochers.

Do you want to be a welfare queen?

I decidedly did not want to be a welfare queen. I gathered from my father’s tone that I was not supposed to like the idea of riding around in a Cadillac, eating caviar at the tax payers’ expense, no matter how much fun it might appear.

By the time I entered college, Reagan was in his second term. Taxes had been slashed and the poorer residents of mental homes were dumped onto the city streets.  Despite the loss of tax revenue, billions were being funneled into such patently absurd pursuits as an armed space shield; a so called ‘star wars’  shield that would provide cover for the Western Hemisphere by shooting down missiles aimed to blow up our cities. Since there were none and since billions were being funneled into a useless and unworkable program while the homeless and mentally handicapped were left to fend for themselves, (many times I stood in line with them at the local 7-Eleven), I wrote a few college paper editorials suggesting this kind of activity was ill-advised. I proudly signed my name.

My college Spanish teacher, a middle aged Cuban exile, caught up with me one day.

“I have read what you have written,” she whispered, “You are part of this nuclear freeze movement, too, no?”

“Yes.” I said. Sure I was. Who wouldn’t  be opposed to nuclear weapons lying around waiting to obliterate the world 200 times over?

“Are you a communista?”

Of course I wasn’t a communista! What had that to do with the nuclear freeze movement? But, for her, the nuclear freeze movement was loaded with fellow travelers and communist sympathizers and what not. I tried to ease her mind by telling her I wasn’t a communist, closer to a  democratic socialist, really. This did not appear to help matters.

“You know I come from Cuba. There, when Castro came to power, he forced my family into exile. We had a mansion and servants in Cuba, but when I came to this land, I had to cut my hair and sell it, just to survive. Can you imagine?”

I really couldn’t. “So you were very rich,” I said, “That must have been nice.”

“They stole everything!”

“Right. But now Cuba has much better infant mortality and death rates. It has one of the best medical systems even by Western standards. Cuban doctors help poor people all over the world.”

“So you are a communista!”

“No, I’m not. If I’m anything, I’m a social democrat, like in Finland.”

“It’s the same.”

“No, they’re really different.”

And so I went on to explain to her that one could be a social democrat without falling in lockstep with state run economies like in Cuba or the Soviet Union.  In fact, one of the best examples of social democracy operates as the capitalist heart of Europe: Germany. “They have what they like to refer to as a social market economy. They try to combine the virtues of a market system with the virtues of a social welfare system. You can get a free education, even free higher education, free healthcare and free retirement. Some of your basic essentials are guaranteed by the government, but other stuff, like where you work or what you make is dictated by a private sector economy. Of course, you pay taxes for these things, but the government operates to redistribute the money so it benefits everyone. That is social democracy in a nutshell.”

“It will never work,” she advised me, predicting Germany’s downfall by the end of the decade.

That was 1987. Germany’s still around. It’s 2015. Germany still provides free healthcare, free retirement and free higher education and it is still one of the strongest economies in Europe.  Our economy, conversely, is dogged by huge gaps of inequality, a dysfunctional healthcare system moderately improved by the ACA, insanely expensive higher education costs, and a retirement system whose paltry offerings are even now threatened by reactionary politicians. Our incarceration rate is the highest in the world. Our homicide rate is one of the highest. Our infant mortality rate is higher than Cuba’s and is comparable to Serbia. You read that right, Serbia. None of these things are natural or necessary. They are by design because we refuse to grow up like the rest of the civilized Western world and insist on the fairy tale version of capitalism that doesn’t require any funding for public infrastructure or social services beyond the absolute bare essentials. The only thing we want to pour money into is our vastly over sized military which has caused many more problems in the last few decades than it has solved.

The  majority of the Western industrialized world embraces some form of socialized democracy. In our own country the most successful government programs are inherently socialized: Medicare, Social Security. And, of course, our own Defense Department is an almost entirely socialized bureaucracy.  We have patches of socialism all over the place, but the rightwing has done an excellent job demonizing the term. In fact, the last time someone claiming to be a socialist ran for President was nearly a 100 years ago.   His name was Eugene V. Debs. He famously said when he was convicted of violating the Sedition Act in 1918, that “while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” Ringing words that beautifully encapsulate a social democrat’s world view.

It’s become increasingly obvious that a strictly free market agenda is disastrous for a people and an economy. One only need look at Kansas under Brownback’s ideological leadership. The state’s surplus has been turned into a catastrophic black hole of debt through a combination of tax cuts for the wealthiest and slashing of public funds. One could see the same disastrous pile up under George W. Bush’s leadership.

The Spanish teacher who accused me of being a communist told me that I needed to ‘grow up.’ The nice thing about Bernie Sanders candidacy is that it  is already grown up.  It assumes responsibility for everyone in the nation, not just those that manage to make the cover of Forbes.  He has tirelessly advocated for the poor and the underclass and, unlike the vast majority of American politicians, assumes it’s okay to travel coach class.  But don’t take it from me that Sanders knows what he’s talking about or that social democracy is a mature governing principle. Take it from that flagship of capitalism, the Economist. In a 2013 article, that magazine declared the social democratic Scandinavian countries, “probably the best governed in the world.”

So there’s no need to carry on with this charade that the ‘socialist’ option cannot win.  We can. Actually, in many areas, we already have. Si, se puede, baby. The only real question is, how soon before the rest of us grow up?