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Commentary Global Peace & Collaboration

Like It or Not, Space Force is a Thing…

| Steve Clark |

At one of her first press conferences, Biden’s Press Secretary Jen Psaki chuckled derisively when a reporter asked about the new President’s plans for the Space Force, but she said she’d check into it and get back. A couple days later, she corrected herself, saying the new command, established in the last year of the Trump Administration, “absolutely” has the “full support” of the Biden Administration.

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the command could be headquartered — and where matters of space and aliens are often top-of-mind — Bob Anderson is a vigilant critic.

“I have been trying to get the local peace community educated to the fact that what is going on here in NM is far worse than the nuclear weapons programs on which they are fixated,” Bob writes. “I like space and technology, but what is going on here is a wild ride pushed by the war profiteers and imperialist policies. They’re looking for ways to make money by raising American anxiety about other nations’ intentions. This is a good article on what is in the mix for now on developing a space policy. The first graphic is breathtaking; this could doom humans to never leave the planet!”

DOD Faces Tough Decisions on Space Rules (Breaking Defense, 02 Feb 2021)

Categories
Financial Justice Social Justice

Public Banks Revolution

| Madeline Chang |

The movement for Public Banks is growing. California has passed a law clearing the way for cities to form their own banks. 25 of 50 states have proposed legislation in support of publicly-owned banks, New York, Oregon, New Mexico and Washington among them. The Bank of North Dakota was, for 100 years, the only state public bank, started in the aftermath of a populist uprising of farmers and small businessmen in 1919. California just legalized public banking with the Public Banking Act, which will allow city and county governments to create or sponsor public banks.

Below are remarks made as part of the New York Town Hall on Public Banking.  

There are successful models of the government using public money for the public good in our history. One of them is the Reconstruction Finance Corp, or the RFC. This was a lending agency that President Roosevelt used to fund the New Deal and World War 2. It issued bonds and loaned or invested over $40 billion.  

What’s important about this is that instead of taking out high interest loans from private banks to pay private corporations (to build roads, for example), which is what we tend to do today, the RFC cut out the middlemen. It was the Government that created the money to loan and invest in highways, bridges, and Post Offices at this time and it was the Government that put people back to work — about 3 million unemployed men and women. And the net profit to the government was over $690 million. So we have this precedent where the government became the biggest investor in the economy. Economic power was essentially relocated from Wall Street to Washington DC.

Today, we need reconstruction again, just like during the Depression of the 1930s.  

We need to rebuild the economy, but we can do even better than that by correcting past injustice. Black & brown communities have been hit the hardest by COVID-19, on top of all the inequality and disinvestment that private banks have made worse for decades. Public banks can help reverse the racial wealth gap by lending to Black & brown families, providing capital historically available mostly to white families. The RFC example shows that we don’t need to raise taxes.  We don’t need austerity measures, like cuts to public education or transportation.  

Another successful model is Postal Banking, which we actually had from 1911 to 1967. We have two Postal Banking bills now pending in Congress. The great thing about Postal Banking is that the infrastructure is already there. There’s an existing network of 30,000 Post Offices.  

So Postal Banking is a perfect opportunity to serve the 25% of households that are unbanked or under-banked because people can’t afford to keep a balance or because there are no banks located in their communities. These households spend about $40,000 over a lifetime just on checking and savings account fees and pay up to 400% on payday loans.

For further reading go to the Public Banking Institute website and Ellen Brown’s many books such as Banking on the People, Democratizing Money in the Digital Age and The Web of Debt.

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Uncategorized

“Once In A While There Are Rainbows” – Podcast on Immigrant Justice

| José Calderón |

Thank you to Professor James McKeever for this interview and his podcast that is advancing new and innovative scholarly roads. Please connect with this podcast for an informative discussion on the significance of community-based scholarship and the possibilities for creating new models of racial equity and quality of life that are emerging in the contemporary period and for the future.

Listen to the full podcast here (description below).

I sit down with activist intellectual Dr. Jose Zapata Calderon. We discuss the roots of migration and Biden’s proposed Immigration policies, community engaged scholarship, multiracial coalitions, and in the end some sound solutions for inequality.  

José Zapata Calderón is Emeritus Professor in Sociology and Chicano/a Latino/a Studies at Pitzer College and President of the Latino and Latina Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley. He received an A. A. from Northeastern Jr. College, a B. A. from the University of Colorado and a PhD in Sociology from UCLA.

As the son of immigrant farm workers from Mexico, he has had a long history of connecting his organizing and academic work with community-based teaching, participatory action research, critical pedagogy, and engagement. He was a national founder of the URBAN-Based Research Action Network and the American Sociology Association Latino and Latina Studies Section. From 2013 – 2015, he served a two-year term as a board member of the Los Angeles County Board of Education.

He was recently honored with the prestigious National Association for Chicano and Chicana Studies Scholar Lifetime Achievement Award and has received numerous awards including: the Ambassador Nathaniel and Elizabeth Davis Civil Rights Legacy Award; the “Dreamkeeper Award” from the California Alliance of African American Educators; the California Campus Compact Richard E. Cone Award for Excellence and Leadership in Cultivating Community Partnerships in Higher Education; the Goddess of Pomona Award from the City of Pomona, the Michi and Walter Weglyn Chair in Multicultural Studies at Cal Poly University, Pomona; and the United Farm Worker’s Union “Si Se Puede” award for his life-long contributions to the farm worker movement. A recent TedX video, Finding Cesar Chavez: A Transformative Moment,” was chosen as an Editor’s Pick nationally.

As a community-based public intellectual, he has published over sixty articles (with the most recent one “The Same Struggle: Immigrant Rights and Educational Justice” in the book Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out: Voices from the Front Lines of the Educational Justice Movement) and including the books: Lessons from an Activist Intellectual: Teaching, Research, and Organizing for Social Change, and Race, Poverty, and Social Justice: Multidisciplinary Perspectives Through Service Learning. 

Categories
Democracy: Rule of Law & Elections Economic Justice Organizing

Capitol Assault, Shay’s Rebellion and the Footballs of Mass Consciousness

| Steve Clark |

After 57 percent of white voters went for Trump in November and, then, a section of them stormed the Capitol this week, progressive people are asking, “What is the deal with white Americans?”

It’s a good question. Obviously, Trump made it ok to stand up for white supremacy, and he made conspiracy theory into a fine art. And he turned out his voters. But, it would be unfair and counterproductive to label them all “deplorable.” How should we assess the state of White America?

A crucial first step is to recognize that American society — along with the section that voted for Trump — is the on-going interplay of its three adult generations (Boomers, GenXers and Millennials), each of which has a unique character.

Only among the oldest generation, age 65+ (the Boomers), did Trump win a majority of votes (52%). Boomers are an idealistic generation, and, whatever their individual politics — left, right or center — each Boomer absolutely believes he or she knows best…and facing, now (late in life), an unsatisfactory end to their lifelong social and political endeavors, Boomers are desperately striving, one last time, to put their ideals into action. This is true of left and right Boomers as well as the middle. While rightwing Boomers are the core, both of Trump’s cabinet and his fan base, far fewer GenXers (45%) and Millennials (35%!) cast votes for him.

A generational conflict of this nature always occurs late in America’s Fourth Turnings, those every-80-year intervals when the evolving generational constellation fosters a mood of social crisis and transformation. Yet, precisely because this conflict emerges in every cycle but to little consequence, we can alleviate fears of it getting out of hand this time around.

Shay’s Rebellion

Take the case of Shay’s Rebellion, during the crisis era of the American Revolution. The colonies had fought a long war and won independence from England in 1783, completing a crucial first step in the Revolution. But the second step, after military victory, was the actual construction of a functional self-government. Initially, the former colonies (led by the era’s elder, idealistic, Awakener generation) set up government under the Articles of Confederation, a structure that left the central government weak (relative to the various states) but appealed to the anti-authoritarian streak that persisted (and still persists) in America’s idealistic psyche. But, without an effective system of finance, the new national government could not discharge its obligations to the younger citizen soldiers who had left home and family to join General Washington in defeating the British. Meanwhile, a postwar debt crisis led state governments to increase taxes on their citizens. Pinched and indignant, a few thousand former soldiers in Massachusetts led by Daniel Shays rebelled and marched on the local armory. State militia provided a strong defense; Shays and others escaped to Vermont but were tried in absentia. Two men in custody were hanged, but, eventually, the rest (including Shays) were pardoned, yet with pariah status. Shays died a lonely alcoholic.

A few years later, in 1791, soon after the Constitution was adopted and Washington became the first President, the Whiskey Rebellion kicked off in western Pennsylvania when the new government imposed the nation’s first federal tax (a whiskey tax). At the time, a host of Revolutionary War veterans had settled on this western frontier, claiming lands granted them as compensation for their wartime service. Led by former Major James McFarland, hundreds of veterans and their followers joined the rebellion, only to be squashed by federal troops sent by Washington. In the final confrontation, McFarland, himself, was killed.

My point, here, is that a large section (possibly, a majority) of the older generations — after defying existing government and demanding its capitulation in the early years of Fourth Turnings — ends up resisting new authority in midstream, even resorting to violence in vain efforts to impede this turnover of history.

We see the same thing, today, in the majority of struggling Boomers who continue to back Trump out of their own need of help and the persistent fear (true, in fact, and nurtured by Trump) that the government is in cahoots with the nation’s elite to cheat them of their rightful due. Most of these abide Trump’s racism because — in the lack of enough government spending to actually ensure their personal security — they feel pitted against minorities in a contest for survival. As one (white) Boomer who has spent most of his life in rebellion against our government’s failures (though enjoying, even in that, the benefits of white and male privilege), I understand anti-authoritarian (anti-government) sentiment, but progressive GenXers and Millennials — for good reason at this late date in our nation’s crisis — are intolerant of such dangerous thinking and destructive antics. If history is a guide, after this week’s showdown at the Capitol, today’s Trumpers will be singled out for the same kind of absolute suppression endured by Shays and McFarland.

Owing to the ongoing generational gestalt, today’s white rightwing oldsters have little chance of enlarging the cultural foothold they gained (over the last four years) through Trump’s articulation of their gripes. They will remain dangerous and sometimes destructive, but the majority of their younger followers will move to the center and left as the government implements programs of genuine social investment while continuing to beat down and lock up elder rightwing leaders.

WVO’s Consciousness Football

The Workers Viewpoint Organization’s consciousness football is another way to evaluate the white voter in America. WVO’s analogy dates to the late 1970s when the young, Boomer-dominated New Left was trying to figure out how to build a revolutionary party. It was obvious that “advanced workers” had to be the target of our outreach and recruitment, but their interconnections and roles relative to the total body of Americans — the masses — was little understood. In contrast to WVO, most leftists viewed the masses (and mass consciousness) as a giant pyramid, with the most advanced at the top and widening strata of less politically astute workers as one moved from the advanced to the middle and, finally, to the backward at the bottom.

WVO attacked the pyramid as belittlement of the masses, their consciousness, and their necessary role in social transformation. Noting Chairman Mao’s observation that “the masses are the makers of history” (not the advanced workers or the party, itself), WVO asserted that, far from a pyramid, the consciousness of the masses is shaped like a football.

As in the pyramid, the most advanced workers are a relatively small number, but, unlike in the pyramid, so are the relatively backward workers. The vast majority are the fat sections of the football between the two ends. In normal times, the ends are small in number and of little practical consequence, dominated by the mainstream in the middle. But, in times of crisis, the football elongates. The center is squeezed, and more people are pushed toward both ends. The backward and the advanced grow in number and activity, becoming more crucial in the political dynamics of the middle. Yet, the middle remains the largest section, and, ultimately, the way it moves determines the course of history. While its passive normalcy anchors the nation’s politics “in the middle” most of the time, in Fourth Turnings, it shifts left and right, until it finally draws a verdict on its true leaders and locks itself, to one end of the football or the other, for the duration of the turn.

Early in this Fourth Turning, after 9/11, neoconservative Boomers (Bush et al) got their shot at power, but their proposed resolution — a democratic renaissance in Iraq after a US invasion — proved not only imaginary but disastrous, and our nation stumbled along with centrist, neoliberal leadership (Obama) in Bush’s wake. Eight years into that, with their personal situations devolving, American voters, in desperation, took a deal with the devil (Trump) that promptly descended into chaos.

Minds Clear Now

However, with George Floyd’s murder on May 25 — and the nationwide rebellion against police violence that ensued — the middle sections of the American people largely cleared their minds. Aroused in the midst of a pandemic by one too many video-taped police killing of unarmed black men, America’s middle shifted its support to Black Lives Matter, and when Trump tried to mobilize the US military behind his call for law and order, the generals stood with the people and rebuked him. That was coup attempt number 1. Last week, desperate in his final weeks, he tried it again, also in utter failure.

The racist diehards who enjoyed a resurgence under Trump will now crawl back — or be beat back — into their old confines, but the beat-down will succeed only if the majority of white Trump voters are given the opportunity to join the rest of the nation in finding good, secure jobs in post-pandemic, post-industrial society. For this, the Biden Administration must step boldly forward with programs like the Green New Deal and a federal Job Guarantee. If white Trump voters see and enjoy real opportunity in their own lives, they will embrace intersectional collaboration for the greater good. That is the nature of the middle forces, whatever their race, ethnicity or gender, whatever the time in history.

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Uncategorized

Event: Racism and Policing in the U.S.A.

Police stand by while white supremacist mobs run amok. Black Lives Matter and other protests by the left are attacked with impunity. Police use deadly force against ordinary citizens, disproportionately people of color. All of this is current, but none of it is new.

The Oakland Greens, Bay Area System Change Not Climate Change, and the Alameda County Peace and Freedom Party will host a forum on racism and policing in the United States on Saturday, February 6th.

Come hear the following speakers, followed by floor discussion: 

Signe Waller Foxworth, social justice activist, an organizer of a 1979   anti-Klan rally that turned into the Greensboro Massacre 

Gerald Smith, Oscar Grant Committee against Police Brutality   and State Repression 

Melissa Nold, civil rights attorney, Vallejo CA. 

Learn more via the flyer below. Sign up at http://bit.ly/SudsSnacksRacismPolicing