Saturday, April 26, 2014

Vladimir, Stop It. Just Friggin' Stop It !

This blog first appeared in DelawareLiberal on April 26, by ProgressivePopulist

Ok, Vladimir.  Enough of the belligerence.  Crimea was an outrage and eastern Ukraine doubly so.  So was Georgia.  Speaking for myself and possibly millions of my fellow Americans, we don't want a renewal of one of our worst mutual eras, the Cold War.
Many of us admire and envy your history and culture.  In particular, your nation's demonstrated willingness to change and try to improve.  Take your 20th century revolution, for example.  You set aside many centuries of brutal oppression by your Tsars, turned them out and tried a grand experiment.
Ok, so communism didn't serve its intended purpose and became oppressive in its own right.  But one of my hero's, Mikhail Gorbachev, had the courage to admit it wasn't working and instituted in the same century a second major reform, Glasnost and Perestroika.  We're still waiting here for needed reforms to the failures of our economic system, capitalism.  The world and many American's hailed his guts and balls.  And many members of your Union appreciated the autonomy Mikhail and his team gave them, though it has been a rough transition for many.  You can be admired like that too.  Through fear?  Not so much.
Yes, a few mistakes were made along that path, including bringing over American's best and brightest consultants  from such institutions as Wharton and Harvard to result in privatization moves that created a Russian oligarchy of insiders that has become the envy of our own oligarchs.
But now, your mimicry of our own history of imperialistic overreach stuns the imagination.  For that matter, the mimicry of your own overreach in the closing days of our grand partnership in WWII in eastern Europe causes one to wonder about why we both fail to learn the lessons of history which have so much to teach us both.  That imperialism doesn't work for anybody.
Let's not do this.  We shouldn't make your feel hemmed in and caught in a vise with our NATO alliance.  You shouldn't begin recreating your Union in response to that vise.  Let's get together and loosen the vise and work out mutually autonomous partnerships in that region and grow the economic pie for everyone's benefit.
Look, there's alot of admiration over here for your huge contributions to humanity and culture.  Your ballet and classical music has made the world a better place.  As have  your brilliant contributions to science, architecture and art.  And your willingness to end our nuclear campaigns of mutual terror.
We should have learned from your admission that Afghanistan was unfixable.  And many of us here are grateful for your strategic brokerage in Syria to retire their chemical stockpile without blasting an already ruined populace off the face of the earth.
Vladimir, cut Pussy Riot and the gay community there some slack.  There's much creative energy for  building your democracy pent up with these folks, just waiting to be unleashed for good.  Just as I, as an atheist admire your country's willingness to allow the Orthodox Church to surface from the underground and serve some of your people who seem to need them,  Russia will not be harmed by political dissidents and those with lifestyles which you might not understand.  You're better than that.  Hopefully, we are too.
Finally, I have an idea.  Let's put all this crap aside and form a partnership to address the imminent catastrophe of climate change.  Let's together lead a new  Union of enlightened countries possessing passionate survival instincts and use our scientific resources to redirect our huge energy interests toward limiting  carbon dependence and assure our planet of clean air and water.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Procrastination Nation

This blog appeared in DelawareLiberal on 4/12/2014 by ProgressivePopulist

Residing in my "twilight years", I've been reflecting on the many unresolved issues facing my country and revisiting the ebb and flow of progress/regression in the search for solutions  I've witnessed and worked for as an activist over about 45 years of my more than seven decades of life.
This is the bucket list I've pondered.   Yes some progress here and there, some local, some at the state level and a smattering of successes federally.  My observation is that the neglect of many and failure of other reform efforts to a great extent is attributed to an unengaged citizenry as well as their elected representatives at all levels of government.  Maybe we're mostly just too damned busy trying to endure our lives, but we talk a good game about making life better for future generations.
Certainly, those generations have more gadgets to improve daily life;  gadgets and stuff seem to be what American's do very well, perhaps better than most on the planet. But, improving the social order, in my opinion, certainly better than much of the third world, but compared to other "advanced" nations, not so much.
So, here's my bucket list, listed vertically to allow readers to ponder the size of the list and reflect on each issue.  My goal, maybe unmet, is not to depress you.  Rather, to cause some reflection.  In no particular order:
Climate change- largely ignored
Environmental degradation- still tolerated
Immigration reform- again and again
Tax reform-more complex and unfair
Guns-a national obsession
Wars-most ill or dishonestly conceived
Mental health-more art than science
Gerrymandering-misused by the powerful
Campaign finance-way worse, not better
Joblessness-mostly blaming the victim
Healthcare for all-a distance dream still
Trade deficits-not favoring our citizens
Women's rights-moving in the wrong direction
Civil rights-racism very alive and kicking
National debt-a blight on the future
Public education-the under served still awaiting results
Student debt-nibbled on but unresolved
Voting rights-regression, not improvement
Corporate lobby-citizens massively losing  influence
Financial crime-goes unpunished vs. citizen petty crime
Corporate boards-still in control of the plutocrats
Right to organize-labor rights nearly non-existent
Mass incarceration-worst in the world and privatized
Drug war-lost but still hugely harming the citizenry
Sexual exploitation-sex slavery and male intimidation winning
Surveillance state-all downhill since 9-11
Judicial reform-money wins, poverty loses
Voter participation-regressive policies impeding
Equal  economic opportunity-promised but not delivered
Pretty grim results.  But an abundance of people of good will can still turn us around together with peaceful uprising and persistence to inspire the uninspired.  My own belief, as a populist,  is that we can make the most progress short term with local, municipal and state progressive leadership, ultimately shaming and outflanking the federal plutocrats.  Optimism can prevail and shake the moribund populace to engagement to better their condition.