Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Mother's Day Funeral

Today, Mother's Day, I attended the funeral of my friend.  Having known her for over a decade, I can't recall how and where we first met.  But from the very start, it felt like we had been old friends forever.

Esther was the child of Holocaust survivors.  As such, she embraced that unique set of neuroses associated with Holocaust survivors and their children.  Her voice tone was a gravelly whine that would have been enough to drive anyone crazy, which resounded with immeasurable grief.  Yet, she was warmly courteous and respectful, and took interest in my life, as well as sharing hers.  She never failed to phone me for every Jewish holiday to convey her good wishes.

She emitted a lifetime of grief, and the light of her life was her 2nd husband Barney.  I never met Barney, and they often lived apart.  Secretly, I said to myself that it would be difficult to live with Esther's grating voice 24/7, and distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Barney fell ill and had collapsed at their home in SoCal.  Esther called me to share the news that he was in the hospital.  She hadn't been feeling well but wanted to drive down to see him.  I agreed to go with her, and be her alternate driver.  Come the day we were to leave, Esther called me to cancel.  Two weeks later, Barney had died.  When she finally got there, she found his corpse guarded by the dogs in the garden several days after his demise.  She had his body shipped for burial in St. Helena, and the headstone was finally ready 5 years later.  Esther phoned me last week and 3 weeks ago to invite me to the unveiling of Barney's stone.

Many times, she told me about her cruel brother who wouldn't release her portion of the inheritance, and how he cheated her out of the apartments she used to manage.  Eventually, she had to hire a lawyer and sue her brother to get her share released.  He was not present when I joined Esther at the memorial of their mother's death.  But he was there today, beside her pine box, bearing a masculine version of Esther's face but much taller.  He was first to eulogize his sister.  He spoke annoyingly long about how he neglected her as a child and, as a result, she got run over and injured.  He professed that ever since then, he vowed to protect his little sister.  The length of his eulogy was almost as if the more he talked, the more his guilt could be assuaged.

Esther often shared with me the grief of her divorce and how her X-husband has somehow turned her daughters against her.  She had never even seen or met her grandchildren, and another one was soon on its way.  Her daughters wouldn't talk to her.  I convinced her how it was their problem and she need bear no guilt for having done anything wrong.  I urged her to reach out to her daughters even though they might rebuff her advances.  I encouraged her to keep trying, and finally she got through to one daughter, who invited her to Los Angeles to see her grandchildren.  Seeing her grandchildren was one of Esther's greatest joys.  And after a couple of years, she was on good terms with one daughter and in communication with the other.  A great improvement!

Esther's oldest daughter got up to speak after Esther's brother.  She spoke about what a treasure it has been these last 5 years to be sharing her life with her mother.  Even her young son and daughter got up and spoke eloquent, heartfelt words about their grandmother.  This daughter so resembled my best friend Alice, and she was warm and charming.  She didn't look anything like Esther.  Elder daughter was tall, with olive skin, brown eyes, thin lips, and an aquiline nose.  Esther and her brother had northern European complexions with round noses, full lips and gray eyes.  Elder daughter said she looked like her mother.  I didn't see the resemblance.  She warmly thanked me for my kind words when I bid her farewell.

Esther's 2nd daughter spoke about how their relationship had been "up and down" and how, now that she herself was a mother and wife, she understands how difficult it can be.  She recalled how they would all fly here the last few years as Esther was on her death bed, and then she would recover, and not die.  I realized that her main relationship was being at her mother's bedside at the time of death to claim her inheritance.  This daughter was unable to look anyone in the eye, and kept turning her back to me after lunch when I was trying to bid them all goodbye.

Then there was Faith, who left the message on my phone about Esther's demise and the funeral.  Esther and I both had issues with hoarding resulting in clutter.  I had decided, years ago, that I would clean the clutter out of one "zone" of my house per year for Passover.  Over the years, the clutter had dissipated and there were many wide open empty spaces to be seen in my domain between the remaining eyesores of clutter.  But I was shocked at the level of clutter at Esther's house.  Over time, we discussed it, and she decided to take it on.  So, together, we worked on a corner of her kitchen.  It didn't look like much when we were done, but a 10,000 mile journey begins with the first step.  Esther realized how important it was to have someone else to help sort through the clutter, that she hired a helper, which led to Faith.

Faith is the daughter of a locksmith who had worked with Esther for years ever since she was managing the apartments in San Francisco.  The locksmith also gave Esther a eulogy at the funeral.  Faith lived with Esther the last few years helping like a nurse's aid and companion.  She stated at the graveside that living with Esther was not always easy but was the best education a young person could have.  Esther was so knowledgeable in law, as well as such a good and kind friend, Faith considered living with Esther to be a privilege.

Altogether, what this funeral meant to me was to demonstrate that it is our family and friends who give us the most fulfillment in our lives.  And how it is a damn shame if you wait until after death to say the things you want to say to your mother.  There's no time to waste in petty grievances, and it is urgent to shower the people we love with love.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Moment of Joy

In my creative writing class with Ellen Weed, in the 4th week, we were assigned to write a piece about our most joyous experience.  It posed a problem because which of several joyous experiences should I choose, and what exactly does she mean by "joy?"  Most people feel joy when they look at their newborn baby or the day they get married.  Those didn't jump out at me as one of the most joyous experiences of my life.  Every time I speak to my centenarian mother on the phone and she tells me she loves me, I feel joy, but only a small joy.  What were the most joyous experiences I can remember?

There was that time my slave Master kicked me out and told me I was now free in the middle of India.  But too many of my stories took place in India over 4 decades ago; aren't there any more recent?  One divine afternoon of sexual union in the shower was certainly one of the memorable and more recent joyous experience, but X rated was not appropriate for this class.  So I thought about the several times that I have been touched by Grace, and decided to work up a piece on the joy of being filled with God's Grace. 

Here it is:

A Moment of Joy
As a Jew, the holiday of Yom Kippur has had great meaning for me.  It is the one day each year that Jews come face to face with our Creator to be forgiven.  Elul is not only the name of the month before Yom Kippur in which Jews practice many forms of ritual forgiveness and charity, but also the name of the process of purification.  We recall all our unskillful words and deeds of the last year and spend a month and then a week forgiving ourselves and letting them all go in preparation for the big day.  We beg forgiveness of others, and forgive them for trespassing against us.  On the day of Yom Kippur, we fast as we spend the day with our congregation turning and returning to the One. 
After a month, and then a week, and then a day of sacred fasting, we prepare ourselves to be face to face with HaShem.  As the day of purifying rituals moves along, we reach the culmination.  We bow down to YHVH in full prostration. During the first prostration, we culminate the period of purification by begging forgiveness for ourselves, and then we forgive ourselves of our sins.  On the second full prostration, we forgive our neighbors, relatives, community for the unskillful words and actions they have done toward myself and toward others.  Included in the 2nd prostration is begging God’s forgiveness for the State of Israel and what they are doing to the Palestinians, and for fomenting war profiteering around the world.
On the third prostration, we have to forgive every murderer and despot in history.  I recall working hard to forgive Hitler, Bush, Cheney, Idi Amin, the instigators of China’s Cultural Revolution, David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, Queen Isabella, and every other genocidal maniac that we recall from history.  Hardest, of course, is forgiving the man who killed my daughter. 
Part of the process is to make oneself empty and receptive to God’s Grace.  As my face presses on the floor in full prostration, if I have been effective in the forgiveness exercises, I will be taken over with such a passion that I wail and sob while tears stream out of my eyes.  These are not tears of anguish or despair.  These tears are for the release of hate, resentment, blame and injustice.  These are the tears that flow when I am touched by the finger of the Creator and filled with her Grace. 
A few years ago, Yom Kippur fell on the same day as the Mendocino Environmental Center big street fair fundraiser.  I was able to get there in time to hear Clan Dyken, the last band of the lineup.  I arrived directly from the break fast terminating Yom Kippur.  I had culminated a month, a week, and a day of purification, and had just finished forgiving every murderer in history.  I felt spent.  I didn’t feel like dancing.  I sat on a hay bale wrapped in my meditation shawl and listened to the band sing “Imagine” by John Lennon.  I began to imagine all the people living life in peace, and then it happened. 
I was using my skills at sending lovingkindness around the world, but instead I was sending Peace all around the world.  My inner being emptied out and was filled with a rush of rainbow light.  There was a pillar of rainbow light coming down from heaven on the whole scene and exchanging energy and going back up again.  With each breath, I amped it up and focused that rainbow light and spread it enveloping the entire planet.  The sense of thrill and joy as I focused the rainbow light passing through my empty conduit up and down and all around the Earth was overwhelming.  Once again, touched by Grace, I sobbed uncontrollably with tears of utter joy. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Very Harrowing Day

Today was quite the harrowing day for me.  I attended a Move to Amend workshop on the Corporate Rights and Powers Timeline in Willits given by David Cobb.  Afterwards, Al Rosen of Willits Public Access TV asked if I was willing to appear on TV to talk about the Grange/Guild conflict.  I agreed.  He wants either 3 people from the Guild side, or a panel of 3 from both (or more) sides.  Anyway, I said I would get back to him with a date.  

Meanwhile, someone overheard Al and I talking and notified Lanny Cotler, who then called me to invite me to talk.  I accepted.  Lanny also asked me if I knew about the Facebook page imitating the RV Grange FB page saying their 100-yr celebration was cancelled?  I assured him that we agreed at our meeting Thursday night not to do anything to hurt or damage anyone.  He felt assured that was consistent with my nature.  After squeezing a used swamp cooler into my Subaru and then searching all over the back roads of Willits to visit a friend who lives beyond Third Gate, I finally got to Lanny’s house.  We hugged at the door but I could see a lot of tension in his face and I could feel he had an agenda.  

We sat down and reviewed our ties.  We are not only friends, and community members, but being Jews, that makes us mispuscha, “kin."  We agreed right away that we can still love the people we disagree with.  

First Lanny started by telling me that everything I have heard from Bob McFarland is a lie.  I wasn’t too surprised since both sides are accusing the other side of lying.  After all, this is the age of Trumpian "Alternate Facts."  Lanny then began a history from 2005, including the 2009 annual CA Grange convention, and the plan to make the Grange more progressive.  Although there was a note of derision in his voice, he described the kind of political organizing plan we are currently working on to make Mendocino County elected officials more progressive.  I interrupted Lanny to mention the similar plan by local progressives, and he readily agreed it is a good plan.  So why was Lanny deriding Bob for his well-organized plan?  

Lanny went on to talk about Bob McFarland’s personal shortcomings.  He praised Ed Komsky as a “straight-shooter” but Bob as charismatic but wily.  My thoughts at that point were the pan calling the kettle black.  Also, my personal email experience with Komsky demonstrated a few personal flaws on that side also.  So one of Lanny’s major points was the personal character flaws of Bob McFarland.  

Lanny’s next point is that fraternal law presides over corporate law, and therefore, although the local chapter may hold title to the property, the bylaws of the fraternal order say that the local chapter doesn’t own the building but rather stewards it, as proven by the Vista Grange case.  Therefore, Bob is a "tragic hero" since he will fight this to the “death.”  There is no chance of winning in civil court since the court doesn’t care about the Grange.  I didn’t fully understand this point.  But he added that the Guild side is doomed because the Grange side has more money.  Of course, with the deep pockets of Monsanto behind the Grange, the fight is David against Goliath.  I have never read the CA State Grange bylaws from before the change so I don’t know.  And this is a question that the courts are still adjudicating. 

Lanny’s next point was to say that Bob McFarland only cares about taking properties, whereas the Grange only wants to support and promote local chapters.  That’s exactly what I hear Bob say about Ed Komsky and the newly formed State Grange.  Once again, both sides are accusing the other side of the same thing!  Lying and stealing!  

Lanny may have been trying to badmouth Bob to convince me to turn to the Grange side, but the more details he told me about Bob, the more admiration I gained for him.  Lanny told me that he separated from Bob in 2013 when Bob declined to support or publish Lanny’s newsletter, the Independent Grange Communications Network.  He gave me a copy dated 11/5/2013 and emailed me several more issues.  I have yet to read them.  Lanny told me his aspirations for the future of the Grange, and his words were nearly identical to what Bob says he wants for the future of the Guild.  I was astonished that both Bob and Lanny verbalized the exact same goals!  I can see how they were once partners. 

Lanny stated to me that he and I agree on about 99% of all issues, and this is the one issue upon which we differ.  I have heard the history from many others, and was astonished that hearing the tale from Lanny’s viewpoint that it was the SAME history I heard from people on the Guild side!  So what was the rub, I wondered?  

Lanny finally got to it.  The Guild is damaging the venerated reputation of the Grange. Lanny and I both agreed that the historical roots of the Grange are now topsy turvy to the current National Grange and CA State Grange, which policies have been corrupted.  But Lanny and the folks at Little Lake Grange are planning to change it from within!  Except that Lanny says he's tired and isn’t involved anymore.  I responded that Bob tried to change it from within and look what happened to him!  I added that the Grange doesn’t need the Guild to damage its reputation; it is damaging its own reputation.  

Lanny finally asked me where I stand.  I told him that as long as the National Grange had a policy in favor of industrial farming and states on their website that GMO agriculture is "necessary to feed the world,” that I would NEVER ally myself with an organization that defends Monsanto in court.  Lanny invited me to help change it from within.  I laughed. We hugged at the doorway and I assured him that we don’t have to hate each other because we disagree.  We mustn’t be enemies.  He hesitantly agreed, his eyes full of regret.

By this time, I was starving. I hadn’t eaten since 7:30am and could only think of food.  As I headed home, I came upon the exit to Redwood Valley and realized that I had been invited to the 100-year celebration.  I could probably buy food there with a check.  The first person I met was Peter Mayland, the psychologist who attempted to mediate 2 months in a row, but both times left early in frustration before I even arrived from my conflicting Red Cross meeting in Willits.  Peter asked me if Hal was hosting a synonymous celebration in the nearby park.  I told him I knew nothing about it.  That was the 2nd malicious rumor going around about the Guild side.  Peter also blamed Hal.  I agreed that Hal was not the wisest leader, but declined to mention that Hal had resigned the other day.  I cut off the discussion with this red-faced licensed psychotherapist who perpetuated false rumors, used blame as a tool, and left mediation sessions early in frustration, by saying that I was too hungry to chit chat right now.  He gave me a wide smile realizing he had been cut short. 

Unfortunately, the only thing they had at the celebration to which I wasn’t allergic was pie.  So I wrote a check for 2 pieces of pie, but remained starving.  The sight of those 2 slices of raspberry pie made my stomach growl.  I hugged a few more friends going out, and passed Jini Reynolds on the porch.  We hugged and she rushed away.  

Suddenly, as I was leaving, someone I never saw before was calling my name.  I turned around and saw a suntanned handsome man with ice blue eyes looking trim and fit calling me.  I saw his nametag said Ed Komsky.  The shade of his tan was reminiscent of the latest fad in DC, bronze.  Every time I see a TV commentator or expert appear with bronze skin, I know they are allies of Trump.  The bronze skin, fit stature, and ice blue eyes brought me back to the Nazi occupied Warsaw Ghetto of Poland and gave me shivers up and down my spine.  I smiled cordially and we shook hands.  He said, “You want to talk to me?”  I responded amazed, “I want to talk to you?”   So he smiled and said, “You want to ask me questions?”  I had no idea from where he got these notions.  I had just sat through 45 minutes of Lanny Cotler, my hands were full of pie and my stomach was hollow and grinding.  Also my son had a choral performance with the Ukiah Symphony at 8, which gave me less than an hour to eat and get there.  I assured him that I didn’t want to ask him questions, and left.  

This demonstrates the insidious creep of Monsanto's invasion into the back door of the first county in the Western Hemisphere to ban GMO agriculture back in 2004.  It’s the malicious rumor mill, and the manipulation that wins well meaning organic farmers to the Grange side.  Like Republicans, the Grange can only win with manipulation and lies.  Lanny described Bob as personally charismatic, and Bob described Ed as like a Svengali.  When I saw Ed’s charming smile, handsome physique, and the alluring blue of his eyes contrasted against his bronze skin, I knew what Bob was talking about.  It is through charismatic leaders that lies are generated and perpetuated.  Monsanto has entered Mendocino County through a back door in the name of the venerated Grange, and is charming organic farmers into supporting with their paid dues what is contrary to their own interests. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Portrait of Neo-Con Operatives

A portrait of neo-con operatives

Is it the haircut that seems so similar?

Or is it the face of a zealot who will do anything to fulfill his aims?

This is the portrait of men who kill for Christ.

Thoughts about being Average

I have never claimed to be average. I have no ambition to be average or normal. To me, if you ran the statistics on domestic violence, drug abuse, cigarette smoking, alcoholism, cardiovascular disease, and the use of chemical herbicides, and insecticides, all would be average and normal. The family which practices Non-Violent Communication, eats healthy home-cooked food, avoids plastics, walks or rides a bike instead of burning fossil fuel, and pulls their weeds is not at all average.

I do everything I can to try to slow climate change. I admit, I drive a gasoline-powered car, but can't afford a hybrid or electric car. I get around town on my bike for most errands and only use my car when I have to haul freight or travel in the rain or dark of night.  I dream of a biodiesel SUV, but current regulations prohibit such vehicles into the USA.  I waited 2 decades for a front loading washing machine to be permitted into the USA; I am already a decade into waiting for my biodiesel SUV.

In addition, I am slowly phasing plastic out of my life. Plastic is difficult since nearly all tools and appliances are made with plastic nowadays, and single-use plastic bags have been banned in the State for a year already. Garbage bags are one of those things that are hard to shift away from plastic. I commonly reuse single-use plastic bags to line my garbage cans. As such, I brought about 150 single-use grocery bags from my sister's home in another state. That number of bags should have been sufficient for 5-10 years of garbage pail liners.

Part of the regime includes recycling. All food waste goes into the compost, which we use to fertilize our crops.  Meat bones go into the curbside yard waste bins. Our town recycles everything except plastic bags and Styrofoam, which have to go into the landfill waste. The waste management company not only pastes a large label to the recycle bin explaining what can be recycled and how, but also sends similar announcements in the mail. One such notice is attached to our refrigerator to remind everyone. Even our waste management company suggests we rinse the food waste off of the recycle items in this devastating drought using gray water.  So we have a gray water catch basin in one side of the double sink with a hand-held ladle for use in rinsing recyclables and dishes destined for the dishwasher in the other sink.

At election time, I collect all the voting literature in a big pile on the kitchen table. I collect the opinions of the various newspapers and political action groups and add them to the pile. Then I schedule a few days with my sons to sit around the kitchen table studying the pros and cons of every candidate and initiative, until we all fill out our ballots together.  I have come to understand that traveling short distances by bicycle, avoiding plastic, reusing plastic bags, recycling, composting, use of gray water, and studying the ballot before voting are not average but rather exceptional.  

The purpose of this lengthy prologue is to introduce our new housemate. He is part Native American, but doesn't know what tribe. He feels a kinship with green-growing things and talks in sacred terms about "ceremony." Yet, he lives on an egg farm a buys his eggs from the grocery store.  He uses a roll of toilet paper a day but declines to purchase toilet paper made from recycled material.  When our new housemate saw my sons and I studying the voting literature, he remarked that "nobody does that." I assumed he meant that he has never seen anyone do that. He meant that he has never himself done that. He said that the "average person" doesn't study up on the issues before voting. I think he is right. It makes me wonder why the government and all the newspapers even give us all this reading material if no one bothers to read it. I am perplexed.

After several months of gently orienting the new housemate to recycling and the use of gray water, I find him doing a laundry every day with just a few rags and not a full load. I find soiled cans in the trash and plastic bags in the recycle bin, and the gray water will be polluted with grease and food waste requiring even more water just to clean the gray water basin. He takes at least one shower per day and flushes the toilet more than 10 times/day. He has already depleted my imported bag supply and had to buy a box of plastic bags from the store to replenish the supply. He takes the garbage out daily needing daily replacements of plastic garbage bags. All the food he buys is wrapped in individual plastic packages, and throws his CRV (return deposit) beverage containers in the trash. It is beyond his comprehension why we should conserve on plastic bags, let alone recycle according to the city requirements. Every day I pick food and cans out of the garbage, plastic bags out of the recycling. My new housemate smiles and lies to me saying he will try to get it right next time. After all, it is written in his lease that he must recycle according to the city's requirements.

The housemate contends that the "average" person doesn't do any of this. He states he is a "team player," and if the majority don't bother recycling, composting, conserving water or reducing the use of plastic, then it wastes his time to do otherwise. I was astounded at his use of wasting time as the reason not to recycle since he wastes a lot of my time talking about himself to me. I have known this man casually for many years and am well aware that most of what he says is rhetoric. In essence, he will sit for an hour watching me pick his soiled cans out of the garbage and rinse them with gray water while he goes on and on about himself, his family, his extended family, the farm in which he feels a kinship, the construction jobs he is so proud of, and his health issues. I have heard it all before. But he doesn't have time to rinse the cans out himself because he is a "team player," his team being the unknown "average" people whom he assumes never comply with the policies, laws or rules. 

In a certain sense, he is right. The average person doesn't connect their car trip to the corner store, their garbage full of plastic wrappers, single portion wrapped food items, disposable plastic eating ware, daily showers or toilet flushes with the melting ice caps, the continent of plastic in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or the fact that their citrus trees and bougainvilleas froze to death last winter or that the shoreline parking lots are now flooded.

Here is a word about ignorance. Ignorance is the condition of ignoring. To ignore is to know the facts and choose to not take heed of them. It is one thing to be a baby never having been exposed to the information. One would refer to such baby as being ignorant but in fact they are uninformed. They can't ignore what they have never known. It is entirely another case when every package of cigarettes has a lethal warning on the side and a person smokes them anyway. It is another thing when a diabetic eats a doughnut, or someone with lactose intolerance has a root beer float, or if a woman votes for a candidate who proudly admits to sexual abuse.

So, I have to conclude that my new housemate is right. The average person ignores the facts.
It is the topic for another essay what drives the average person if not facts and regard for their own welfare and the welfare of their community. And if it is isolated to the USA or if this kind of ignorance is worldwide. And if it is unique to this time in history, or if the use by people in power to convince the average person to ignore the facts has always been used throughout recorded time. And why people prefer ignorance when given a choice. All topics too extensive for today's exploration of what is average.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

About feeling blue

The gift of life is very precious. We are not given life for no reason. We, the living, need to find out what that special purpose is, and then carry it out. The purpose is usually about healing the world, tikkun olam.  And like the flapping of the wings of a butterfly, everything we do affects everything and everyone else in the world just a little.

I imagine humans were created in order to help the omnipotent eternal Being develop wisdom. Limitless power and unending compassion doesn't mean that S/he is wise. It is a commandment in Judaism for all Jews to work on fixing the world. That's probably why so many world leaders have been Jewish.

Feeling down depends on a lot of reasons. Sure! Lots in life sucks! But we can't have pleasure without pain. We can't have happy without sad. Yeah. Take a pill and be neutral all the time. Ugh! Feelings and emotions are part of the mind-body complex that we have been given this time around. Without the precious gift of life, there would be no feelings. So the choice is nothing or everything. I observe my feelings with interest and seek to find the true message the emotion is trying to tell me. What lesson is there for me to learn from this emotion to make me wiser?

If the emotion is unpleasant, I observe with interest what unpleasant feelings do to my body, to my throat, my gut, the hair on my back, my heart, etc. I also observe that I feel repelled by the unpleasant emotion. I observe this all with interest. I am timeless, and currently embodied in this corporeal temple for a few years, to help the eternal One heal the world.  

In addition, a junk food diet will make anyone feel blue.  Proper nutrition including fruits and vegetables are essential for good mental health.  B-vitamin deficiency is known to cause or exacerbate mental health issues.  We take a daily vitamin over here of B-50.  It helps to keep us sane.  

Aerobic exercise gives off natural endorphins that act like anti-anxiety medication.  A sedentary lifestyle eating junk food texting to your friends on your smart phone is bound to cause metabolic changes that will make you feel depressed.  

Volunteer your time to those less fortunate than you. Their horrific stories make our woes seem so minor.  Start counting your blessings instead of focusing on the empty half of the glass.  I'm alive!  I can still walk and talk and think and feel.  I have a safe, warm, comfortable place to sleep and people who love me.  I have enough money for my needs.  I have another precious day of life for tikkun olam, to heal the world. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The election of 1912 was very similar to today a century later

I finally finished reading "The Bully Pulpit" by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It has been an amazing read since conditions a century ago were very similar to now. Only the political parties seemed more honest.  

It was mainly focused around the election of 1912, in which all 4 candidates agreed that corporate abuses were the #1 issue. All 4 candidates were in the Progressive spectrum.

Republican William Howard Taft was formerly Roosevelt's sidekick in the Progressive Republican agenda to regulate corporations, break up the Trusts, promote labor rights, and conserve land from the greedy hands of mining corporations and preserve them for the People. They favored a post office bank, child labor laws, 8-hr workdays, Workman's Comp insurance, European style social insurance, direct election of Senators, prohibition of corporate campaign donations, and a progressive income tax. Taft wanted to break up all the trusts. During his first term beginning 1908, he made a lot of compromises. By 1912, he was considered the "Conservative" of all the Progressives running.

Not being chosen by the Republican convention, former President Teddy Roosevelt felt Taft had abandoned the Progressive agenda by compromising with the corporations on some things, so he started a new party called the Progressive Party. But since everyone associated it with Roosevelt, people liked to call it the Bull Moose Party. They were also advocating women's suffrage, and the rights of referendum on 5-4 split SCOTUS decisions. His platform was that all power belongs to the People and money is to serve the People, not be master.  People are more important than property. 

On the way to Roosevelt's first speech as the Progressive candidate for President, an assassin shot Roosevelt at point blank range. The bullet was slowed by the 50-page speech he had written and folded in half to fit into his breast pocket. The bullet lodged in his rib, and he went on to give the entire speech anyway before spending the remainder of his campaign convalescing. He still beat Taft 27% to 24%. He never regained his robust health and died 6 years later of a cardiac embolus.

Calvinist intellectual Woodrow Wilson, governor of New Jersey, was the Progressive Democrat. He was chosen at the Democratic Convention on the 48th vote. Can you imagine if there were 48 votes at the upcoming Democratic Convention in Philadelphia? If so, I'm sure Bernie would be the winner! Wilson had almost the same agenda as Roosevelt and Taft. Only, Wilson was a southerner, and so firmly believed in segregation. He institutionalized segregation in many government services. He also initiated the Federal Reserve in order to control the money supply. But as a candidate, he was an anti-corporate Progressive. He won with less than 42% of the vote.

And Eugene Debbs ran as the Socialist candidate for the 4th time. No, the campaign was not conducted from prison this time; that would be 1920, when he was convicted for Sedition for speaking against the war. He was not just anti-corporate; he believed that the whole Capitalist system was wrong and was impossible to regulate. He promoted common ownership of the means of production, co-op prisons, a national bureau of health, abolition of both the Senate and the presidential veto. 
All of these Progressives envisioned an expanded role for the government beyond just national defense.  They all felt to one degree or another that the role of the government was the welfare of the People.   Unlike today, when only the Green Party expresses values like the Progressives of 1912.  Both our current Democrat and Republican Parties kowtow to Wall Street and corporate interests, just like the corrupt legislatures that the 1912 Progressive candidates were striving to fight. 

The things I liked most about this book are these:
1. Every time they described the boundless energy of Teddy Roosevelt, I thought of Aric Cordell.
2. It really put into perspective the current 2016 election when we are facing mostly the exact same issues.
3. The incredible Muckraking journalists, Ida Tarbell, Jay Baker, Lincoln Phillips, Sam McClure, etc., thought that when they exposed the corruption to the American People, that justice would prevail. They all became disillusioned understanding that the general public doesn't care a whit.
4. It contrasted the campaign styles of Roosevelt and Taft. Taft was straightforward, trustworthy, logical and linear, and wanted to be loved. Roosevelt wanted to win. He rode the public sentiment like a surfer, and learned how to manipulate the legislature in order to get what he wanted. It teaches me how much of getting political justice has to do with manipulation.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The 1912 Democratic Platform was far more Progressive than now

The thing about voting in California is that your absentee ballot only gets counted if you submitted it well in advance of election day. Absentee ballots submitted on election day don't get accounted for until almost a month later. Since the polls in CA close 3 hours after those in the east, by 7pm on election day, Californians have a pretty good idea of how the rest of the nation voted. If it is close, you can vote for the lesser of 2 evils. In 2000, I voted for Gore instead of Nader at 7:45pm. If one candidate is distinctly ahead, you can vote for the best of the lot, because your vote becomes a statement at that point. In 2012 when Obama was far ahead of Romney, I proudly voted for Jill Stein.

The question is, if the race is close, do you vote for the best choice thereby possibly allowing the worst candidate to get elected like in 2000 when Nader got over 2% of the vote which supposedly stole the election from Gore. The fact is, Nader took the blame but Bush stole the election in a rigged system. The next question is, when the system is rigged, what difference does it make how we vote?

It was obvious to Gore in 2000, to Kerry in 2004, and to Sanders in 2016. The system is rigged and they ended up walking away rather than challenge a corrupt system. Bernie at least used his considerable influence, having nearly as many primary votes as Hillary, to squeeze a few progressive concessions into the Democratic platform. Bernie wants it to be the most progressive platform the Democrats have ever had, but he has overlooked the far more progressive 1912 Democratic platform listed below.  Woodrow Wilson was the Democratic candidate and winner. Link to the actual text of the 1912 Democratic Platform
Curb corporate abuses with:
  1. Honest tariffs
  2. Regulation of Railroad rates
  3. Break up the monopolies with Anti-Trust laws
  4. Prohibit all corporate campaign contributions
  5. Regulate of Interstate Commerce
  6. Conserve of National Parks and wilderness lands free from corporate exploitation
  7. Nationalize of Alaskan coal before the giant monopolies take them
  8. Labor Rights
  9. Oppose the Federal Reserve but favor public banks
  10. Post Office Bank
  11. A Civil Service Law rather than the Spoils System of government positions
  12. Direct election of Senators
  13. Farm credit reform
  14. A Progressive income tax
  15. States Rights
  16. Presidential primaries in States
  17. Pure Food and Public Health
  18. Decrease poverty and the high cost of living with redistribution of wealth
  19. Control the Mississippi and use it to generate power
  20. Enforce the Monroe Doctrine with a strong navy
 The fact is, that in 1912, everyone was so sick and tired of the giant corporations getting filthy rich at the expense of everyone else, destroying free trade and monopolizing the industries, that all 4 candidates in the election were Progressives.  William Howard Taft, the incumbent, was in the Progressive wing of the Republican Party.  Woodrow Wilson was in the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party.  Former Republican Teddy Roosevelt split the Republican vote by starting a third party called the Progressive Party (aka Bull Moose Party).  Eugene Debs was a Progressive Socialist, left of the other 3 Progressives.  1912 Election candidates in Wikipedia

Conditions a century ago sound a lot like now.  Obviously, whatever the Progressive Reformers did to control corporate abuses a century ago didn't last.  History repeats itself.  But where are our Progressive reformers now, to break the stranglehold of the corporations?