Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nader Shows Up a Spoiled System, Helps McKinney

Ralph Nader entered the 2008 presidential campaign this week asking tough questions that none of the major party candidates have taken up. No wonder they denounce him as a spoiler. Nader, McKinney and the other third party candidates do spoil the insider game that seeks to limit American voters to the two choices of the two corporate parties. All voters benefit from their efforts.

Nader’s independent campaign helps all third parties and third party presidential candidates. His campaign particularly helps the Green Party and the campaign of Cynthia McKinney.

The fight to open up the US electoral system in which the Green Party is engaged benefits greatly from the presence on the ballot of as many highly qualified independent and third party candidates as possible. The more well-qualified candidates the better because they can debate each other and draw attention to each other’s campaigns in ways that would not be possible if each were the only third party candidate in the race.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Re-Thinking the Foundations of Green Politics

Inspiring article by Steve Welzer in the new issue of Green Horizon Quarterly. Here are some excerpts:

Transcending Marxism, Freudianism, and Environmentalism

"The leftist movement for social liberation focused narrowly on sociopathological issues. As the critique of modernity broadened, two alternative, but also narrowly-focused, liberatory movements arose during the 20th century: a movement focusing on the psychopathological aspects of modernity (vide Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents) and the environmental movement, which focuses on the ecopathological aspects.

"The importance of the Green movement is that it holds the promise of synthesizing the narrowly-focused social, psychological, and ecological critiques. Emergent Green theory recognizes that our most serious problems flow from the aberrant direction we’ve been going in for millennia—away from sanity, toward lifeways that are unmoored from the community/nature matrix.

"This implies that human liberation won't result from changing ownership of the means of production or from psychotherapy/pharmacology or from simple environmentalism. Beyond notions of political revolution or personal liberation, what is required will be a Deep Green transformation of lifeways—renewal of appreciation for limits and balances, revaluation of community, re-establishment of our relation to nature and place. The problems of the epoch of development—imperialism, war, inequality, ecological crisis, mass forms of neurosis, preoccupation with technology—are all symptoms of the fact that we’ve lost our bearings in a headlong rush toward hyper-modernity. Our challenge now is to recover our grounding and find our way home."

Kent Mesplay on Breaking the Stranglehold of the Two-Party System

Green Party presidential candidate Kent Mesplay was recently interviewed by Lisa Karpova in Pravda, the Russian daily, on his presidential campaign. He was asked a number of good questions about the operation of the US political system.

Interview with Green Party Presidential Candidate Kent Mesplay

1. As we can see, the system presently is heavily weighted against 3rd parties.What steps do you think need to be taken to break the stranglehold of the 2 party system?

The first step will be to allow candidates equal time and access to media coverage. Right now, most coverage is purchased by the wealthier candidates. Running for office is a money-grab, with back-up provided by committees in the two parties that accept funding and direction from corporations (e.g. debates are not regulated as "in kind" expensive contributions and are corporate-driven in content and appearance). So, getting the money out of polics is important, such as by publicly funded campaigns. Still, rather than just have taxpayers subsidize advertizing agencies it would be better to reinstitute equal access laws. Also, having proportional representation and, as a step to this, preferential voting such as I.R.V. will help improve representation and alternative party access

2. Why do you think American voters are unwilling to vote for candidates who are neither Republican or Democrat, (according to the Green site "corporate" parties)?

People who are disgusted with politics in this country do not vote (a silent, invisible vote against the system). The way forward is to have a rapidly moving campaign that begins to look like it can succeed. It is possible, even for higher-ticket races, for Greens to be elected (although generally improbable). Currently, there are over 200 elected Greens to office. These tend to be local positions, including mayor-ships. Voters will vote for an "underdog" but only if it does not look like the underdog is moments away from being steam-rolled flat. So, there is a chance of electing a Green president or senator, but it is slight under the current system. A full-out, organized "protest" vote engaging celebrity support and the youth is a good way forward. It's not that the voting public tend to like the candidates of the two main parties: they tend to enact "lesser evilism" voting in which they vote for the least offensive candidate. Changing the system through preferential voting, in which one ranks candidates, will go a long way toward improving this process.

3. The media makes exposure difficult for 3rd party candidates. Don't you think this situation should be legally challenged?

Yes. Nader and others have law suits taking place, such as around the blocking of a candidate in Pennsylvania and in the illegal blocking of Nader's campaign by Democratic-party operatives in 2004. It is practically illegal to participate in politics in this country outside the rigid two-party structure (that behaves as one party on key issues).

4. The problems with the US election system leave much to be desired when preaching to other nations about democracy. Please comment about the current fixation of the administration to "spread freedom and democracy" which frankly has people worldwide rather cynical regarding US motivations.

The "freedom and democracy" rhetoric used by the U.S. government is only a cheap selling point used to buy the support of supposed patriots who are really the ones, through their lack of critical thinking, selling out this country. Our country invades and then proclaims itself the "good guy." It's not just "worldwide": we are getting sick of this within the U.S. as well.

5. What would be your first order of business were you to be the President of the United States regarding how the US would tackle global warming and its dependence on oil? What about US use of depleted and enriched uranium, is this not an ecological disaster of horrendous proportions?

The United States needs to declare a state of emergency and use all available resources to improve our energy efficiency and move entirely toward sustainable, renewable energy. It is for lack of separation of big-business and state that we do not have this. Our government is run by corporations. Nader recently said every branch of our government is run by business: even the labor department. Our government is border-line fascist, and I mean this in the loose, lay-man sense of the term denoting a dangerous confluence of business and government, especially regarding the business of war. Yes, I fully agree regarding the release of depleted uranium: another "verboten" subject in the U.S. . . .

8. How would you propose conducting relations with Cuba and your other southern neighbors such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia? What about Iran?

I believe in normalizing relations with Cuba and creating better diplomatic ties to the other southern neighbors mentioned. Especially with Fidel Castro stepping down there may be an opportunity for thawing the chill between our countries. Cuba has invested resources in living sustainably and now has much "green" experience that may be valuable for other countries such as the United States that need to cut their waste and live more within their means. Foreign leaders critical of the Bush regime are immediately villified in our press.

Hugo Chavez is not the villian he is made out to be. Iran is not the threat that our government would like us to believe it is. Especially after our invasion of Iraq, I am extremely critical of our presidential administration's grasp of reality.

9. Re ending the occupation of Iraq:

The policy concerning Iraq needs to be a presidential-level apology to the people of Iraq, apology to U.S. service personnel and their families, apology to other U.S. citizens and world citizens. The stated goal needs to be unconditional, immediate withdrawal (which may take six months to fully implement) together with a parallel "surge" in diplomatic efforts. Politically, an international body such as the U.N. is needed to help with transitioning toward a more peaceful society.

Informants and others friendly to "coalition" efforts need expedited VISAs so that they can leave the country. U.S. high-level diplomats need to work tirelessly in the countries surrounding Iraq to form a coalition of politicians, celebrities (authors, musicians, sports personalities, etc), tribal leaders, religious leaders and a cross-section of the youth who can help lead the region toward becoming stable. At the very least, such a coalition would have a visible advisory role, but more appropriately would have a strong role to counter the business-driven policies of the U.S. government and would act in a manner representing the needs of the Iraqi people, not our war investors. Finally, a U.S.-sponsored clean-up needs to be conducted to address environmental damage and war reparations need to be offered in an effort at real justice.

10. There are many possible methods of implementing universal health care. The Green Party advocates single-payer health care in which the government is responsible for insuring and ensuring that ALL citizens within the United States are covered.

I would like the policy extended toward non-nationals who are here visiting or working illegally. If rare illnesses are brought into the country by people seeking work, it is important that they, too, receive adequate health coverage to stem the spread of disease. We are a wealthy enough country to provide health care for all. Forms of "universal" health coverage that allow competition and depend on private insurers, such as the plans I have seen offered by Democratic Party candidates, tend to leave people uncovered.

The Republican Party is opposed to anything but free-market health coverage, which leaves over 40 million people without coverage for some time of the year in the U.S. Health care in the U.S. is sporadic, expensive and exclusionary. We can change this. A feature that I would like would be for allowance of regional specialization with clinics scattered about for ready access, rather than the current model of fewer, larger, more distant hospitals.

For security purposes, it is important to have strong regional health care. Also, I would be friendly toward policies recognizing and encouraging complementary or alternative health care, such as by recognizing the importance of working with healing plants and ancient "energy" practices. Western medicine has much to learn. Because of corporate influence (pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, advertising companies) the trend has been toward abolishing health care that is rooted in community wisdom and practice. I would like a blend of "old and new" with our medical practices, with a balance of standardization and respect for diversity. I study with Native healers and others who do "energy" healing.

11. Why did the Clintons experience difficulties in implementing their health care plan?

The difficulty experienced by the Clintons in producing a reasonable health care plan in the United States came from the business sector, which treats health care as a business from which short-term profits are to be derived. Our elected representatives first and foremost represent business interests. There is no separation of business and state in the United States, which gets in the way of representatives being able to actually solve problems in various sectors, including that which ought to be considered a basic human right: health care.

12. What are your chances of being the nominee?

Someone once told me to always run as though I am winning. At present, other Green Party candidates have more votes and nominating delegates than I have. I have not done a strict delegate count, in part because there are so many "fluid" parameters in the Green Party race, but I think it would be safe to say that by the time of the July convention I will be in third place or better. At present I am somewhere in the middle. The two most famous candidates are currently in the lead, but our most famous one (Nader) has not declared himself a candidate as of this writing. My strategy is to pick up my campaign and be a solid third or better and to be the second-choice pick of most of the delegates.

In 2004 I was told, after the nominating convention, that if our rounds based upon preferential voting had lasted longer I would have been the nominee since I had so much "second place" support. Depending on what happens in between rounds of caucusing and voting at the nominating convention I could win if one of our two front-runners drops out of the race and I attract their delegates. This is not as unlikely as it sounds. In 2003 Nader requested that his name be taken off the primary ballot in my state of California prior to the primary race. It is not at all clear what the man is doing this time around, but it is creating dissention within the party.

13. Anything else?

Yes, thank you for the interview. The Green Party is a truly international party. The reader is encouraged to read about our key values and be advocates for their favorite ones: be it decentralization, post-patriarchical values, peace and nonviolence, social justice or environmental health. In the United States we are at a critical time in that our government is sliding toward totalitarianism in a way that is invisible to many people. Because of the fear promulgated by our "leaders" another 9/11-type event could be used as an excuse to impose martial law and cancel the presidential election. Many people here do not realize how many of our rights as citizens have disappeared under the current Bush regime. We need perestroika and glasnost, American-style, here in the US: restructuring and openness.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Green Party Ignored to Death on Stupor Tuesday

Bill Meyers, a California Green, has an interesting post on his blog about yesterday's California primary. Here are some of Bill's points:

"Ralph Nader won, which I'll get back to in a second. The most obvious point is that only about 25,000 Green votes were cast in all of California, excepting I think there were a lot of write-ins for Barack Obama. This is a dismal turnout, and if you are not depressed enough by American politics already, I'm going to go into why.

"For statewide offices in California Green Party candidates have polled far higher. For instance, in the 2002 race for Governor, Peter Camejo received 393,036 votes.

"Before declaring an end to the Green Party, consider what people in Mendocino County were saying about how they wanted to vote in the primary. There were two common themes among greenish voters here: people could not vote in the Green Primary because they had switched to Democrat, usually back in 2004, to vote for Dennis Kucinich. And people who were mad they were registered Green because they wanted to vote for Barack Obama.

"Let's take the Barack Obama greens first. A secondary comment was that the Green Party primary was not exciting because they had not heard of any of the candidates except Ralph Nader, who no longer excited them. Since there was close to zero press coverage of the Green Party candidates, of course they had not heard of them. If the corporate press that they say they hate and distrust had not whipped up Barack's campaign he'd be as obscure as any other black person in Congress.

"The Kucinich greens are a sad lot. Consciously or not, Dennis Kucinich had a mission in 2004: to destroy the Green Party. He did great at that. He claimed he was going to move the Democrats to the left, but instead he made a joke of the left within the party. So he killed two birds with one stone. The dope-addled Kucinich Democrats of Mendocino County mostly fell into the we-love-Obama camp. After all, they had trained themselves for over a decade to hate the kind of Democratic Party that the Clintons represent. And Obama is not Clinton.

"Anyone who thinks that because they are now what passes for the far left in the United States, people registered in the Green Party must be particularly astute or even news-aware don't know the Greens of Mendocino County, or of California. Green Party members, as a whole, hardly ever vote. They pay little attention to the news, and get most of their knowledge of the world from the corporate media. When focused they are as smart as anyone and may remember some of the lessons they have learned about corporate control of the media, the candidates, and the two party system, but they drift away from that pretty easily.

"Cynthia McKinney is a far better choice to lead the Green Party ticket in 2008 than Ralph Nader, but she was smashed in the primary. Interestingly, there was only one city where the press covered the Green Party primary at all: San Francisco. There was a Green Party Presidential debate there, and while there was no TV coverage, the daily paper wrote a short article and enough people attended to create a buzz. Cynthia edged out Ralph there, 46% to 44%. If there had been statewide televised debates I think the statewide electoral results would have been similar.

"Why? Because Greens, like other voters, mostly vote based solely on name recognition. Ralph Nader has way better name recognition than Ms. McKinney, an African-American who has served several terms in the House of Representatives for her Georgia district."

Green Party Presidential Primary Results

Richard Winger reports today in Ballot Access News the results of yesterday's Green Party presidential primaries.

"Four states held Green Party presidential primaries on February 5. Arkansas and California state elections officials have incomplete, unofficial results, but Illinois and Massachusetts elections officials do not provide that service.

"Arkansas: With only three-fourths of the counties reporting so far, the results are: uncommitted 273; Cynthia McKinney 116; Jared Ball 54; Kent Mesplay 48; Kat Swift 26. Ralph Nader was unable to have his name on this ballot since he hasn’t declared his candidacy. Arkansas Greens have severely criticized Pulaski County (the most populous county in the state) election administrators, for not making Green Party ballots available in many precincts.

"California: with 96% of the precincts reporting (but many uncounted absentee and provisional ballots), the results are: Ralph Nader 16,835; Cynthia McKinney 7,124; Elaine Brown 1,259; Kat Swift 843; Kent Mesplay 564; Jesse Johnson 506; Jared Ball 444.

"Illinois: check back for better results. The Chicago Tribune reports 1,446 for Cynthia McKinney, 438 for Howie Hawkins, 369 for Kent Mesplay, and 302 for Jared Ball. Thanks to Brian (commenter below) for these returns. As in Arkansas, Green Party activists are making a determined effort to alert the press in Illinois of election day problems. In Cook County and certain other counties, there were many precincts in which elections officials told voters that there is no Green Party primary ballot.

"Massachusetts: check back for better results. Fragmentary returns suggest that the race between Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney is extremely close."

The reason we had no Green Party primary in New York yesterday is because the Green Party does not have ballot status in New York. Only parties who have ballot status are permitted to participate in the official primaries. The Green Party of New York participated in 2002 when we had ballot status. We have not had ballot status since that time because our candidate for governor has not gotten at least 50,000 votes. People have a right to register in the Green Party in New York because we won a lawsuit in 2003 giving us that right as long as we are successful in placing a candidate for governor on the ballot. In 2006 we placed Malachy McCourt on the ballot by collecting almost 30,000 signatures.

The Green Party of New York will decide how to choose our presidential delegates at the state committee meeting on Feb. 23.

Court Overrules BOE and Allows DREs

To the disappointment of many, on Monday, Justice Kimberly O'Connor, Acting Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, overruled the decision of the Board of Elections and determined that LibertyVote’s DRE could be purchased by New York counties. Read Bo Lipari’s blog for the details http://www.nyvv.org/boblog/