Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rethinking the legal drinking age

Check out the Amethyst Initiative (h/t Chris Weigant). Like Chris, I was part of the age cohort that was affected by the de facto national policy of mandating 21 as the legal drinking age in the US. That always struck me as just another example of our Puritan heritage haunting us, and as a policy it seems to have been an abysmal failure. Binge drinking seems to have been a problem in the US for a while, but has taken a turn for the worse in the last couple decades. Alcoholic beverages have a sort of "forbidden fruit" quality that makes them extra attractive among traditional-aged college and university students under the current circumstances. I'd much rather lower the drinking age to something around 18 (personally, I'd get rid of the age limits altogether, but that might be too much to expect here), and focus on sensible, nonsensationalized education on the consequences of overdosing on alchohol as well as on the potential consequences of operating any sort of motorized vehicle while drunk - in other words, try a "tainted fruit" approach. Given what I know of some of the attitude and persuasion literature, I think the "tainted fruit" approach would have a more positive impact in reducing binge drinking than what we're doing now. Heck, we might even save a few lives in the process.

Everything went black

Exactly one month from today, I'll be posting a tribute to some bloggers who seem to have vanished without a trace. The idea, which I will credit to a commenter by the handle darue, came from the comments to Ductape Fatwa's last ever blog essay - Cell Phones Are the New Barbie. In late May, darue said:
been thinking we need an annual holiday to remember all the frequent posters around the tubes who mysteriously go silent.
To which I replied:
That's a darned good idea. I was thinking Sept. 19th - it would at the least mark the last day that Ductape Fatwa posted anything anywhere.
Thus the idea for a blogswarm of sorts was born. Anyone wishing to join in is free to do so. Just drop a line around Sept. 19th, and let me know what you've got - with linkage provided (or as Ductape Fatwa would say, nerdified link), of course. Although electronic media can on one level seem rather impersonal, on another level there is an interaction between living, breathing human beings whose words impact one another - often in ways that are quite profound. It's that much more personal level that I wish to memorialize.

September 19th is only a month away.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Follow-up to "The Colorado Green Party needs to do some housekeeping"

The situation with the Colorado Green Party and its handling of national party's nominees for Pres & VP is, to say the least, a cluster fuck. I had may take on it yesterday. Today, I merely wish to highlight a few items by bloggers who seem a bit closer to the whole mess.

First and foremost, I'll simply give Benjamin Whitmer props for sending some of his readers my way. His post on The Try-Works (Recreate 68 has been covered extensively at his blog, and provides some useful context) was picked up by AngryIndian over at La Reyna's Journal & of course at Intelgentaindigena Indigenism Novajoservo.

Steve Argue and Cynthia McKinney provide some context, which can be read here (see also The Largest Minority). The short version at Not My Tribe goes a bit like this:
For agreeing to speak at a rally organized by R-68: Resignation threatened. Fundraiser, place to stay, withdrawn. All scheduled engagements canceled. Assistance to get on Wyoming ballot, withdrawn. Every effort to remove her from Colorado ballot, threatened. McKinney was also informed she had been last choice candidate of Colorado delegation. So there.

Are we witnessing someone’s hissy-fit nervous self-immolation? Could be, but it packs the wallop of a suicide bomber. Local party gutted; bystanders, fellow Greens, burned; vital preparations annulled just months from the election. Third parties probably attract people who have difficulty with authority. In this case with irreparable consequence.

Over at Green Party Watch, some additional context and editorializing are offered:

This originated over a disagreement about “violence”, specifically that Recreate ’68’s statement on non-violence was not strong enough for others. That led to the division between the Colorado Greens and others from Recreate ‘68. But when McKinney and Clemente refused to recuse themselves of speaking at one of the two largest political demonstrations in America this year, apparently one member of the Colorado Greens decided to put some teeth into her demands that they pull out.

While I empathize with the predicament that the Colorado Greens are in, I also feel that McKinney and Clemente are doing the right thing by speaking in front of and standing with the tens of thousands of frustrated and angry protesters demanding action against the War in Iraq, the War on Civil Liberties, and the dissipation of Democracy in America. These are our votes - and McKinney and Clemente have to go out and earn those votes.

Whether it is one individual or a handful in the Colorado Green Party that are choosing to hold their ballot line hostage, they are potentially denying Democracy to the voters of Colorado by threatening to remove McKinney from their ballot. The voters of Colorado, be they Greens or Republican-Democrats or Socialists or Independents, deserve a choice at the ballot box. No one person or small group of individuals should have that power to deny an elective choice to over a million voters, and it is exactly that kind of power over our Democracy that the Green Party has been fighting against.

I hope that this situation is resolved in a way that allows all participants to save face, but in no way should the Green Party ballot line in Colorado be denied to McKinney and Clemente, and no one should have the right to make demands on a candidate from a position of this level of power.

For their part R-68 has done what they can to disabuse the public of some of the disinformation spread about them in the run-up to the DNC convention later this month, including the following:

We would like to reiterate the fact that, contrary to reports, all of the events coordinated by R-68 are permitted and legal events and are organized with our statement of non-violence and our statement of principles of solidarity in mind.

How well that works is hard to say - I suspect that those who've already closed their minds to R-68 won't exactly get the message. Dee Taylor perhaps sums things up best:

It appears that Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente will be participating with both groups at the DNC the last week of August. They are scheduled to speak at the ARD event and to march with the R68 group.

Regardless of varying philosophies of protesting by both of these groups, this is the RIGHT thing for McKinney/Clemente to do. It is disingenuous of the Colorado Greens or anyone else to denounce any individual or group who choose to participate with one group or the other, or both groups.

This is a PEACE movement - HEL--LOOOOO!. The more folks involved to stand up against the injustices in our world the better. The more factionalism that occurs, the more the right-wingers (I include the Democrats in that) smile because the progressive movement will never move forward with all this controversy. Don't you see? It's exactly what they want!

So to all those attending the DNC protests - cut the crap and just do what you need to do to speak out! Just do it! Do it for those of us who cannot be there! Do it for all life that suffers on our planet!

As for the Colorado Green Party? They've got a problem on their hands, insofar as their leadership appears to be resistant to the changing face of their party on the national level. Previously I'd made mention of what had struck me as a rightward shift with regard to immigration policy in Colorado Green Party co-chair Dave Chandler's rhetoric on his blogs. The cats at RAIMD did a bit more digging around and their findings strongly suggest that there has been more than just a shift in Chandler's rhetoric - there's more history than I'd realized. Read his statements and judge for yourself. If his rhetoric on migrants isn't nativist, it sure is awfully damn close. From where I sit, I don't see much difference between his remarks and those used by some of the wingnuts who populate my state's legislature (or hate groups that have vandalized communities in my region within the past year). Heck, the sad fact of the matter is that our migrants from Mexico and Central America are as much war refugees as anything. Granted the war against them has been fought less with bullets and bombs and more from Wall Street board rooms and DC think-tanks, but the level of human suffering, of starvation, displacement, and environmental destruction have been no less devastating. We ignore the need to reach out and unite with our campesinos & campesinas who have become part of our communities not only at their peril but ours as well. A narrow focus on ecological footprints in our own back yards is short-sighted: the ecological footprint our society leaves across the globe is one that is not only unsustainable, but one that has proven lethal for those who just happened to be in the way. It doesn't matter how environmentally friendly the footwear alleges itself to be.

To the extent that partisan politics has any relevance left in the struggle to advance human rights and dignity, the Greens in Colorado risk being made irrelevant by those who are turned off by the rather reactionary "liberalism" of the Dems, and who are desperate for attractive alternatives. That, amigos y amigas, is the truth as I see it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Colorado Green Party needs to do some housekeeping

Imagine if a state's Democratic or Republican party chair refused to support the national party's presidential and vice presidential candidates, and did so quite vocally. Well, in this case the party might be different, but the incident has occurred. A co-chair of the Colorado Green Party, Dave Chandler, has made it be known through his blog that Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente are not worthy of his support and by extension not worthy of Green Party members in Colorado. The ostensible reason is McKinney's willingness to embrace the support of other arguably more radical organizations. My guess is that the real reason is McKinney and Clemente speaking at an anti-DNC event hosted by a rival organization, Recreate 68, rather than the one organized by T.A.R.D. (h/t Benjamin Whitmer for the more apt acronym) after practically being ordered not to by various members of the Colorado Green Party brass. T.A.R.D.'s DNC activities seem to include a bbq event wherein hobnobbing with Democratic party members will be on the agenda.

So here is most of the text of Chandler's missive:
I am the co-chair of the Green Party of Colorado, but I am not supporting Cynthia McKinney for President.

Colorado Green Party candidates this year are exceptional and I support them whole heartily: Bob Kinsey for U.S. Senate; Art Goodtimes for San Miguel County Commissioner; Scott Zulauf for Jefferson County Commissioner; Jerry Lacy for Custer County Commissioner; Joe Calhoun for Congress-CD 2; and Tony D'Lallo for State House District 34.

There have been internal Green Party controversies involving the Green Party of Colorado and the McKinney presidential campaign that have raised very serious concerns for me -- structurally the McKinney campaign is disorganized, uncommunicative, and there have been incidents of a dismissive attitude towards state and local Green Party groups. These failings in operation are seriously at odds with the Ten Key Values that make the Green Party distinctively different from the major political parties.

There are more importantly real issue oriented reasons why I believe the nomination of McKinney and her vice presidential pick, Rosa Clemente, was a mistake by the national convention of the Green Party of the United States.

In politics and running for office, one cannot stop other groups or organizations from expressing support or opposition to your candidacy or cause. In this Republic where free speech is enshrined as our first freedom in the Bill of Rights, people and groups have a right to say what they think and believe. However, one also has the right to choose with whom one decides to associate.

The Cynthia McKinney campaign cannot stop the Workers International League from endorsing her ... but McKinney has decided to embrace that recommendation and publish it on her web site. This is also true of the Workers World Party.

Here are the links:

Workers International League: "your candidacy is the best choice for working people"

WorkersWorld: Cynthia is a Militant Voice for Peace

This is plainly and simply unacceptable to me.

I believe that there are indeed politically and socially disaffected and alienated Americans who should be reached out to and encouraged to participate in our democratic process -- the two afore mentioned groups, however, are not part of the 'oppressed' or 'forgotten'.

My goal has always been that the Green Party could become in time a major principled, progressive mainstream political party in the United States of America. The commitment of Greens to a more inclusive democracy, to a broader, pluralistic Republic, to politics free from the taint of big special interest money makes the Green Party uniquely different from the Democrats. The Green Party's commitment to non-violence and rejection of militarism and nationalism as an organizing principle for the country makes us radically preferable to the Republicans.

Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, however, appear to be moving the Green Party I believe in, in a very different direction. To put in glibly, but honestly -- I don't know what a 'hip hop' political party is.

Furthermore, even passing references to violent revolution are anathema to me. This is NOT Green, it is uncivil, and for a vice presidential candidate, Ms. Clemente does not seem to know the difference between radical, reactionary, and being gratuitously inflammatory...
What I find attractive about McKinney's campaign so far as it goes is that she and Clemente have the potential to broaden the appeal of the Greens beyond that party's usual white, middle-class base. In that regard, I am certain that I'm not alone. Unfortunately, that very broadening of the party seems a bit threatening to some of the party brass. Just to go to one of the later sentences in Chandler's missive, "I don't know what a 'hip-hop' political party is," I'd wonder if he even bothered to ask. Surely it wouldn't have been too difficult, and if nothing else would be much closer to the value of "respect for diversity" than his admittedly glib remark - which came across as dismissive. I also wonder if the contention that the characterization of the Workers International League and Workers World as not part of the "oppressed" or "forgotten" is more than a little disingenuous. Whatever one might say about Marxist organizations within the confines of the US empire, they make an effort to reach out to the oppressed and forgotten in a way that others have often refused. Maybe there's a reason why M1 of dead prez would feel represented by McKinney/Clemente, and maybe, just maybe, moving the Greens in a "different direction" will reap benefits such as more votes come election time. More of the same hasn't exactly worked.

As I mentioned at Whitmer's blog, The Try-Works, there is something else rather disturbing about the Colorado Greens' co-chair:
Chandler also has a history of supporting some pretty right-wing efforts targeting undocumented immigrants, as well as using right-wing rhetoric, albeit of a “populist” variety in discussing undocumented immigrants.
Given that the ten principles that the Greens like to promote include nonviolence and social justice, we should question the wisdom of supporting initiatives that would further harass the most vulnerable residents of our communities, as well as the apparent hostility towards those crossing the border even while paying some lip service to targeting the execs who exploit undocumented migrants (somehow I wouldn't count on ICE to do any of that). I've mentioned before that our politicians, pundits, and activists have too narrowly focused their discussion on violence and nonviolence on the individual interpersonal level, rather than broadening their concerns to organizational and structural violence. Both of these latter forms of violence are inherent in the ballot initiative in Colorado that would require police to impound cars of unlicensed drivers, to the extent that "it is a thinly-veiled effort to target illegal immigrants, who are not legally allowed to hold a driver's license." Similarly, trying to dissuade people from Mexico and Central America from cross the border in the name of presumably propping up US laborers' wages - in effect telling these fellow human beings to starve as NAFTA and CAFTA continue to do their damage - does nothing to prevent the on-going structural violence inherent in those so-called treaties and arguable serves only to exacerbate an already inhumane set of circumstances.

To my friends who make up the Sanctuarysphere, I would simply observe that the Colorado Greens may not be allies in our struggle, at least under the current leadership. Although this might seem a bit harsh, I do think that Colorado's Greens need to clean house and remove goons like Chandler from positions of power, if they harbor any hopes of being a genuine opposition party/organization rather than as a clique for predominantly white, upper-middle-class hippie wannabes.

The US has a prison-industrial complex

The continuing story: find out what the products are being manufactured via what amounts to slave labor for pennies on the dollar (everything from lingerie to bull whips). Our corporate propagandists also tend to recommend investing in prison stocks. There's big money involved in putting your ass in the big house.