Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A "modest proposal" to Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada

There is a tide in the affairs of men, that taken at the flood leads on to fortune, Omitted all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full-sea are we now afloat and we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures.
Julius Caesar Act 4 Scene 3

Perhaps a trifle melodramatic for our purposes, given the original import of the lines.
Nevertheless, it is the timing of a tide, taken at the flood, leading on to fortune that commends these lines now.

In Canada, we have a majority Liberal government, with its ‘dauphin’ leader, Justin Trudeau, son of our former Prime Minister. The Conservatives and the NDP are both in search of a new leader, with basically a vacuum in both parties: the Conservatives have scrounged up only no-names, and the NDP, no one. In the case of the Conservatives, their “minimum” requirement of cash precludes many if not most from even considering throwing their hat into the ring. The NDP, on the other hand, are almost unconscious, deflated by both the election result from the October vote, and the rejection of previous leader Thomas Mulcair by the recent party convention.

It may seem more than a little ironic to find a “tide in flood” at this moment, given the nadir of both opposition parties, and the literal flood of news stories pouring out of the Liberal government PR machine. However, as with the stock market, so too with politics, “buy low, sell high”….only in this moment, it is the country, and not incidentally the Green Party of Canada, that could leap forward to seize the moment, in a manner evocative of the recent emergence of Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party leader candidate for president of the United States.

In Canada, Elizabeth May has established herself as credible, knowledgeable, collaborative, articulate and more than worthy of the leadership mantle of her party. However, putting aside the BDS issue that was vomited out of the recent party policy convention (an issue needing both revisiting and re-voting, if the party is to survive), there are some significant strokes of colour, imagination, courage, democracy and verging on a re-set of the way politics is done in this country.

Of course, there needs to be a national strategy to reduce green house emissions, and a new tax code that effectively levels the playing field between the “have’s” and the rest of us. However, neither of those planks in the platform, taken together or individually, will excite more than a handful of policy and legal and accounting wonks. It is time for Ms May and her party to overhaul the way we even think about government.
Let’s start with the obvious need for committees of cabinet not merely for the photo op of flying to Bejing with the Prime Minister, his wife and daughter. Just as the First Nations relationship to the federal government crosses all government departments so too do most other major issues facing Canada and all other countries around the world. The Environment and climate change cannot and will not be effectively managed by one or two ministers; it needs a committee including the Attorney General, the Finance and Treasury Board, the Natural Resources and the Industry department both domestic and international, as well as Global Affairs, if it is to be examined, and cross-referenced with respect to policy options, enforcement options, scientific realism and attainability, and how Canada interacts on the world stage. No single minister, no matter how competent, professionally and intellectually can straddle all of the implications of this urgent file and any government that restricts the issue to a single minister is living in the la-la land of one-person leadership. And the gap in resources cannot and will not be filled by even the most expansive bureaucracy. Ms May knows this file as well or better than any parliamentarian on the ‘hill’ and she would ‘get it’ in her attempt to highlight a new way of addressing such an issue.

And that is only a beginning: On the First Nations/Ottawa relationship, Ms May could announce that all parliamentary debates, (and those of all Commons and Senate committees) will be simultaneously and instantly translated into at least one aboriginal language, and on each of those committees, an appointed First Nation representative will be first an observer, second a committee resource, and third a potential voting member. Similarly, all appointments to federal boards, commissions, up to and including the Supreme Court of Canada, will solicit names from the various First Nations communities, to serve as full members on those committees.

Expanding the federal responsibility for aboriginal education, as well as the underwriting of much of graduate studies, a Federal Department of Education would monitor, and disseminate “best practices” in both formal and informal, interactive and scholarly method and manner, replacing the rather insomniac Council of Ministers of Education. And, of course, Child Care, for both pre-school children and school-age children, now the exclusive purview of the provinces, would  be researched, documented and monitored so that all parents in the country would learn where their childrens’ opportunities and challenges are in comparison with those parents and children in the rest of the country. For too long, education has been an agent preserving the status quo, the conventional power structure and the appointments of those who most “fit” into the politically correct culture. Rather than have the private sector invade this important phase of national life, (the threats are already on the horizon, and they will not be easily dissuaded, nor blocked), a federal presence, with federal tax monies, might be able to give a national pulpit for one of the most important service in every culture, especially with the invasion of the digital technology. The separate and provincially, and increasingly private-corporation funding of this sector needs restraint, boundaries and push-back, so that children are not developing as mere pawns of those corporations. (If you think this is “social engineering” then just take a look at the K-12 curriculum that is being peddled to American children and their parents who seek to home school. Could a federal department of education also monitor and perhaps through public awareness, document the corporate dollars that are pouring into our graduate labs and research centres, in order to preclude the ideological imprint of a wealthy donor on the education that is offered in a school bearing his or her name? A federal footprint in the education sector would also be an opportunity to co-ordinate more effectively, those nefarious attempts to radicalize Canadian youth.
Of course, still with education, the Green Party could eliminate all interest on all current and future Canadian student loans, thereby relieving thousands of a considerable portion of the burden of financing their university and/or college education. Not only would this move provide an economic stimulus, it would also enable those entrepreneurial graduates to consider “entrepreneuring” rather than entering some large business organization.

Still with graduates: Naturally, federal support of alternative experiences analogous to the former Peace Corps in the U.S. and Katimavik here. We do need a complete re-think of our national education efforts, without backing away from such experiments as the international baccalaureate.. a window on international universities for Canadian scholars. Consideration of a foreign service “enlistment” for those whose talents, interests and passions fit, would also provide a large shot of adrenalin to those philanthropic ventures already extant, and would enhance Canada’s international reputation, in ways very different from the recently announced military initiatives, under the UN rubric, of Peace Keeping.

With respect to the failure of the corporate world to hire and to train university graduates, the federal government could announce funded internships, with the costs to be shared between the corporations hiring and the federal government. An insertion of public dollars would also remove the current abused and too readily available option of un-paid internships, and the cynicism on both sides that results from such a failure.
Another issue needing national attention is the pathetic manner in which the Canadian culture, including Government and private groups, fully integrate newcomers to our way of life. Economic and language burdens seem to grab most of the attention, while full integration wanes and is rationalized as “part of the independent spirit” that all immigrants must demonstrate in order to prove their worth to the country. And the real answers will not come from bureaucrats, nor from politicians, but from the immigrants themselves. And the federal government, along with the provinces, can and must initiate a high-priority public investigation into the history of our “integration” processes, and the specific ways immigrants would have them supplemented and complemented.

Public policy, as an instrument of public good, especially directed toward open wounds that we all know have been left unattended for decades, if not centuries, would thrust the Green Party fully into the ‘flood’ of the public discourse and would make all national and regional media wake up, sit up and begin to dig into a new political vision that could and would inspire thousands of new voters, whose legitimate cynicism about the political process will not be quieted with the legalization of marijuana.
There is a real opening in the public dialogue into which the Green Party could not rush but confidently and respectfully submit provocative proposals, and move past a current fuzzy and ill-defined profile, with the aim of initiating a new dialogue across the country.

And then there is TRADE, neither a sub-set of Global Affairs, nor a sub-set of economic development, nor of  G8 (7) or G20 deliberations. It is a matter for the federal government to list the ingredients of a fair trade policy and submit such a list of criteria to all countries seeking to establish trade agreements with Canada. For example, there is a large degree of opportunism attending today’s announcement that Canada intends to apply for membership in the Asian Development Bank, for the purpose of garnering contracts with countries like China, where there has already been overdevelopment, and where neither the environment nor the fair treatment of labour play an important part in their decisions to award contracts. Will Canadian companies, for example, be freed from their legitimate expectations in hiring back home, when they operate in a country like China?

Ms May your imagination, and your courage and your leadership are more needed and more expected today than on any day since you became leader. 

These ideas, suggestions, and proposals are submitted with the full understanding that none may appeal to you or your party and with the full expectation that they will be dismissed as irrational, inconsequential, unfeasible and therefore readily consigned to the trash. Before you reject everything, however, you might give some thought to a coast-to-coast high speed monorail that would expedite the movement of Canadians and their lighter freight to all parts of the country, thereby introducing us to each other, in ways heretofore unaffordable for millions.

Happy leading!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"dumbing down" versus "political correctness"

Dumbing down is not just a race to the bottom by reduction of the most complex situation to the 140-character sound byte.

Dumbing down is also method of conducting politics that risks undermining the essential processes of a free democracy.

When Hillary Clinton delivers an essay detailing the threads of a connection between the Trump campaign's links to the Alt-Right, a dangerous, if somewhat hidden, threat to racial and economic quality and opportunity, leading to the obvious and evidence-based conclusion that a Trump administration would deploy various faces of racism. Some of these faces include:

  • deportation, 
  • patronizing of blacks ("what have you got to lose, your situation is so horrendous?), 
  • promising the moon while delivering a burned-out 15-watt light bulb, 
  • shouting through acolytes over reasonable questions about the release of tax returns,
  • barring Muslims from entering the country
  • slandering Mexicans as rapists, drug dealers, and criminals
  • promising to expel "undersireables"
  • bragging he knows more about how to defeat ISIS than the Pentagon                                                                                                                                                      
  • Trump's response, without batting an eye, is to shout into the nearest microphone,  "Hillary is a bigot!"
An research-based, articulate essay-formatted "case" that propounds a legitimate point of view of a political opponent evokes another verbal bomb, "bigot" without a single piece of evidence as support.
Back in another life, as a high school English teacher, it was a major point of both instruction and evaluation of a student's grasp of the literature that s/he provide evidence in support of each opinion from the text under consideration.

It may sound like a simple, obvious and easily dismissed goal of a pedagogical path to critical thinking; however, evidence from the text, a quote from one of the characters, a piece of behavioural evidence, a summary of a author's perspective...some or all of these "proofs" compromised the "bar" expected of all reasoned arguments even for fourteen-year-olds. Of course, as these students moved through the next 'grades' enhanced sophistication in the selection and use of the evidence as a window into the level of intellectual comprehension, emotional intelligence and developing maturity of the student would generate a kind of admittedly subjective higher grades. Liking a character, or a portrayal of a scene, or the considering a conversation "believable" brought with it an almost obsessive requirement to point to the evidence that supported the contention.

Name-calling belonged, if at all, in the school-yard, where there were no monitors and no filters for how kids treated each other. Name-calling was a kind of habit that legitimate classrooms were determined to confront and reasoned arguments were the path to a mature conversation. Insight, imagination, creativity, and even maturity were believed to be implicit in the choice of and the refined use of evidence.

This feature of the adolescent education was not restricted to a provincial curriculum guideline, nor to a specific country or culture. It was the stuff of both legal and political theory and practice.It was and is the stuff of scientific research and the presentation of most sources of public discourse. And, regardless of the legal ideology, evidence for an argument was the sine qua non of an effective and professional presentation. Even today, the level of the 'writing' in any publication is measured by the writer's digging, finding, collating and distilling before actually writing the piece. 

This is not the stuff of "political correctness" nor of academic "snobbery". It is not the stuff of Harvard preppies, nor Yale Law School Mute Courts, nor Bio-ethics graduate school seminars. It is the stuff of how we have brought into focus the multiple factors and vectors in order to base both considered arguments among those seeking the truth in whatever professional project is on the table.
And one of the core ingredients to this approach to evidence is that it attempts to reduce or eliminate the use of the "ad hominum" attack.

The New York Times has editorialized that this campaign is witnessing the destruction and elimination of truth, facts and reasoned argument. Former Senator Patrick Moynahan used to point out that his opponents were entitled to their own opinions but that they had to agree to a set of facts, on which the argument could proceed. The complete abandonment of the real facts, whether it is about the level of crime, the nature of Muslim or Mexican immigrants, the bigotry of the Democratic candidate, the capacity to have Mexico build the wall, the feasibility of signing on to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Japan, or the capacity to force China to adjust its no legitimate foundation for any candidate for the most powerful elected position in the world.

While it is true that a good argument, well articulated, reasoned and refined is no assurance of the making of an effective decision, nor does it assure an effective execution of that decision, it is a minimum standard to which we have held our leaders. Of course, all arguments, even replete with appropriate evidence, will be tilted, even sometimes tainted, with a substantial injection of the other techniques of propaganda which comprise the core skills of advertising, marketing and political charisma. Hence, the emergence of the old Latin aphorism: "Caveat emptor" (Buyer beware!)

Grabbing public attention, euphemistically dubbed "name recognition" is another sine qua non of any political campaign. And yet, such a goal need not mandate the candidate's gushing and rushing to the bottom of the language barrel, where 'ad hominum' attacks, radically inflated and unrealistic and simply unfeasible promises, linked to the most scurrilous and nefarious of sycophants and a history of mendacity define the strategy of getting that public attention.

We still expect those seeking the trust and the confidence of the public to have a level of trust and confidence in that public that is demonstrated in the level of respect the candidate shows for the public. Shouting, name-calling, bullying, and skipping from one subject, and one position on every issue, to another file and a completely antithetical position on each file, like a flat stone skipping across the waves as an entertaining pastime.....these are not the items on a menu of one who even has that kind of respect.

And to conflate a respectful presentation of an argument into "political correctness" is to demonstrate a level of intellectual and emotional vacuity that evokes images of straw scare-crows dotting a farmer's field to protect the harvest. When T.S. Eliot wrote The Hollow Men* and used the words, "headpiece filled with straw" he did not have the current Republican candidate for the White House in mind.

However, it is appropriate to mine from Eliot's words, an appropriate reflection on the man and the campaign the Republican candidate is waging. If ever there were a hollow man seeking to 'rule the world' it is the current Republican candidate. And the insult he is foisting on two hundred million voters is so monumental as to be unable to have ever been considered in any previous campaign for the White House. Not only is there literally no substance to every utterance belching from his larynx; there is also no thought behind any of his arguments, except the sheer shilling, like a barker in a carnival begging passersby to come and see the freak inside. And is there, or can there be a more insulting and patronizing pandering for votes?

*We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar                                         (The opening lines of the poem)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A cultural retrospective

How will our children and grandchildren see the kind of culture they inherit?

Academic pursuit seeks to analyse evidence from their respective points of view and build a framework for future scholars to deploy both in method and in content comparisons. Periods of history, for example, become known for their significant characteristics: the age of imperialism, the age of trade expansion, the age of religious upheaval, the age of industrialism, the age of social development, the age of space exploration.....

Depending on the tilt to the historian's world view, favouring a view that starts with the importance of economics, or politics, or of agriculture, or of religion, or of technology, or of militarism or the significance of individuals, (is history made by individuals, or does history make individuals?), the evidence gathered from multiple sources, written, spoken, gathered from museums and land digs (veering into anthropology) is then shaped into a theoretical framework that either withstands the test of peer review, thesis defense, and the longer test of time.

In a period characterized by the burgeoning of both the sources of human information and the sheer weight of that megadata, we are all trying to tread water keeping our heads from dipping under the weight of too much information, and trying to avoid drowning in its tide. At school, we read general text books, providing overviews, themes really, of the various historical periods. Significant treaties, wars, discoveries, plagues, and documents (Magna Carta for example) were painted in picasso-like pencil sketches, along with basic mathematical processes, scientific experiments, and the occasional hand-work in a "shop" or an "art" class, once again offering introductions to the students' interests, skills, talents and potential. We memorized, regurgitated for tests and basically forgot the fine print of each discipline, retaining glimpses of insight from a teacher, or a thinker's quote, a colleague and, more importantly, from those specific experiences that tend to shape our perception of how the world operates.

Our intellect retained faint if seemingly permanent markings of a line from a novel, ("Happiness is a brief relief in the general drama of pain," for example, from Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge) or a feeling generated by a piece of music or poetry or a game we watched or played in, or a trip organized by ambitious and imaginative teachers seeking to expand the "horizons" of their students.
However, it is those moments that left a deeper mark of grief perhaps, or of embarrassment, or of an award or even for some a small compliment that seemed to offer a shift in the perspective through our individual kaleidoscope.  And it is in our bodies, our visceral imprints that we store much of the foundational footings of our world view.

Did our parents have a pattern to their lives that included church attendance? Did they work at jobs valued and respected by the people in the town? Did they have friends who were more similar than different in their political or social or domestic views? How did they speak of and regard those of other churches, other ethnicities, other food choices? What did our parents and our teachers think of those who lived down the street, or in the big city, or in another province or state, and especially in another country? How were the people in our town considered who lived in large homes, and drove big cars? We they successful? Were they snobs? Were they to be emulated? Were they more educated? How did our neighbourhood view another neighbourhood from a different part of town, on the "other side of the river"?

While the specific answers to some of these questions were never explored overtly and in depth, for example, in any public or high school classroom (that would have been considered gossip by many, and far too dangerous for others), if we had been asked by people we trusted, we could have offered answers, many of them likely to offend us even as we related them to an outsider. We knew where the bootleggers lived; we knew where the 'beer parlours' were and who were those regulars, even though we were not among their number. We knew, for the most part, who were the local leaders in at least two political parties, Liberal and Conservative. (In my case, the province was governed by Conservatives, with Liberals in charge in Ottawa.) There was an inherent and deeply embedded theme of "us and them", those who were "like us" and those who were "different" and less worthy of our respect and our association. In a recent conversation with a middle aged dairy farmer, he recalled the different locations of the "smoking areas" in his high school: for the "jets" (the five-year, academic, upper class, the smoking area was 'inside' the quadrangle of the school building; for him and the four-year, tech, "less smart" and less likely to succeed, the smoking area was out on the street, away from the school building. Somebodies, already, and virtual nobodies already and forever, at least in a mind-imprint.

Athletics, art and music, even school "government" were sources of status, and inherently also of jealousy, dividing the 'insiders' from the outliers, those who chose to fit into the "establishment" from those who chose to criticize and to ridicule the upper class. In small towns, those who lived in big cities were automatically 'snobs' simply because they were perceived to be more wealthy, more educated, and more likely to inherit power. Conversely, those who lived in those same cities considered the small town kids, stereotypically as losers, as 'fags and as an underclass. And people from another country, especially the United States, all of whom seemed to drive new and very large cars with multicoloured license plate, were rich and invaded our town in summer to vacation in their cottages, which also seemed more like 'estates' than cabins.

Our world, following the second world war was almost like a middle-school history class: easily described, easily defined, and very easy to fit in to, lacking the kind of collision of competing forces, with the possible exception of the protestant versus Roman Catholic difference, the former with no Pope, and no Mass, and no idols, and no unmarried priest, while the latter had each of these features.
And even that dividing line was observed in the extreme only by those sectarian 'bigots' who likely believed that Rome was another name and site for Hell. We had never heard of the Black Panthers, for example, although we had a kind of rampant racism right on our own main street, only in our case, the target of our racism was First Nations young men and women who lived "outside" of town, on what were and still are reservations. We had never heard of the Ku Klux Klan, either, although our own brand of white supremacy restricted its "burnings" to the verbal kind without the crosses or the white robes. There were at least three "Chinese" restaurants, all of them frequented by all people in town, where both "Canadian" and "Chinese" offerings were on the menu. Only in the big city were these offerings separated by restaurants specializing in only Chinese, or other ethnic menus.

A few people in our town subscribed to a daily newspaper, like the Toronto Star (liberal), the Toronto Telegram (conservative) or the Globe and Mail (business focused), while many subscribed to the local weekly, The North Star, which featured coverage of the town council, the various historic and family celebrations, athletic results and examination results from the Royal Conservatory of Toronto, and the predictable "ladies" nights of the local service clubs. Rarely did the local crime scene merit the front pages, and when it did, the case was the most serious, a very rare murder. One local lawyer even appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada, in such a case, making his own and the town's history and reputation more complete and more legitimate.

Occasionally, a national figure, a singer, or a comedian or a public broadcaster would visit, making a kind of news "splash" and adding a shot of cultural "spice" and human interest to an otherwise quite "grey" cultural landscape. Yet, "grey" was predictable, dependable, reliable and very comfortable, infused by the occasional visit. Nothing, it seemed, could or would threaten the predictability and the reliability of our town's life and culture. The largest employer was the government, civil servants earning the largest portion of working income; just to the north, there was a small C-I-L plant making explosives for construction and demolition purposes now in peacetime. (During the war there was also a D-I-L operation, Defense Industries Limited, making munitions.) The only war we really heard about was the Cold War, between the capitalist and the communist blocs, and while the insertion of nuclear weapons and fallout shelters frightened us in the early sixties, except for the Cuban missile crisis, that conflict seemed to be symbolized by the soaring rhetoric of J.F. Kennedy and the shoe-pounding podium at the UN by Kruschev. Even Korea, a conflict that continues today, seemed so distant and out of reach of our grasp as to have very little impact on our consciousness and culture.

Television sets were creeping into the living rooms in our town in the late 50's, bringing in entertainment and news programming from the United States, and opening windows to the wider world. Appointment watching including the almost "sacred" Saturday nigh Hockey Night in Canada
broadcast from Maple Leaf Gardens. Canadian broadcast offerings differed significantly from those of the U.S. in their quaint, almost rural cultural ambience, especially compared with their New York/Los Angeles big city slick flavour. Commmercials, too, were immediately recognizeable with respect to their country of origin. Canada had for decades been able to watch American movies, and for most children, that meant Saturday afternoon matinees, and a steady diet of another staple of North American culture, the "western" or the occasional musical by Rogers and Hammerstein. Simplistic renditions of life in "Oklahoma" for example, or the "South Pacific" delivered in musical language were easily digestible and rarely socially or politically or theologically challenging.
There was one in the sixties, Pajama Game, that took on the issue of workplace  culture and worker pay, but also in a non-offensive and musically palatable style.

All of this is by way of comparison, neither hidden nor implicit, but exposed and explicit, of the differences in how we "grew up" and where and how we are bombarded by significantly different images today. The civility and simplicity of the fifties and sixties, at least from our perspective, has been replaced by a confluence of images of human rights vying for our attention, with images of conflict within and between religions, with debates over globalization versus nationalism, with political rhetoric that would have embarrassed even those vying for class rep in grade nine in the mid-fifties, and with a 24-7-365 news cycle and supporting cast of media moguls and narcissistic reporters, that has veered so far toward the gossip magazines of the entertainment industry (along with the ratings competitions for audience and advertising dollars) as to be virtually unrecognizeable in comparison with its long and honourable history.

Each of us, adult and youth, is now "in touch" with all of the events, and all of the analysis (most of it instant, making it all literally oxymoronic), many of the books through book reviews, most of the movies and television entertainment and documentary programs, from all of the various countries, (especially when compared with the available options in the fifties and sixties)....yet this ubiquitous access has many predictable impacts:

  • there is so much data that I have thrown up my arms and detached from the burden of considering its impact
  • I am having trouble keeping up with the 'news' and so stick to something I like, like the sports o fashion, or movies/entertainment choices
  • I find and read those pieces that agree with  my perspective and leave the opposition to itself
  • I peruse the headlines, while selecting the occasional issue for deeper reading and reflection
  • I have decided that the human values I espouse are under threat and so I read and reflect on their potential atrophy and decide on which stories best reflect the best of human angels
  • the access to information and opinion has turned each computer into a potential classroom, linking all people and all time, exploding the potential of human existence and I devour as much as I can of the opportunities/threats as part of my civic responsibility
  • I continue to perceive today through the lens of my yesterdays, reflecting on how my earlier views have, are and will continue to change as I continue this brief journey
  • I see the seeds of sectarianism back in my home town, exploding around the world, without a vigorous, penetrating and sustainable body of academic research and political will in support of the pursuit of international peace, security and environmental sustainability
  • cultural history is, or has, replaced the more focused perceptions of history like the economic, political, military, or even ideological for me and I find reading cultural history most inclusive and also most demanding and penetrating in our search for the roots of human behaviour both positive and negative
No doubt, there are many other emerging perspectives; however, the development of authenticity and human integrity remain high on the public agenda. Also the public discourse that either enhances or restricts that global pursuit, and even necessity, dominates both our media, and our increasing cynicism that we either do not have, or cannot not find the collective will to make the kinds of changes facing all of humanity. And we find ourselves joining forces, in mind and in spirit, if not in body, with those forces that support a public ethic of integrity, authenticity, compassion, and social justice all of us have experienced, along with its abandonment and exclusion, from our earliest years. We know the people we trusted when we were kids, and the people we found it hard, if not impossible, to trust. Those images and the desire to associate with those people (not necessarily like us in faith, or in language, or in ethnicity, or in geography) but who share a human spirit that is defined by its quality and capacity to enhance human existence, to seek justice for all, and to fight for those human rights and dignity that all humans have and warrant are more alive today, and more refined today than they were in our adolescence, and thereby more likely to find support and complement around the globe.

And such a global force for life, a life that is more abundant and more capable of giving life to forthcoming generation, cannot and will not be stopped, thwarted or defeated, although the daily diet of bombs and earthquakes and drugs and plagues and despondency often seems to cloud our perspective.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Climate change:"greatest global health threat of the 21st century" (Medecins sans frontieres)

Climate change is the “greatest global health threat of the 21st century,” so it is incumbent that physicians take a stand to protect their patients, one of the world’s leading human-rights advocates says.

“Responding to climate change is not just a scientific or technological issue,” James Orbinski, a founding member of both Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and Dignitas International, told the general council of the Canadian Medical Association in Vancouver on Monday. (Andre Picard, The Globe and Mail, August 22, 2016)

It isn’t the threat to my breathing that worries me!

It isn’t the dying salmon that will die before they spawn because the water in the rivers is too hot!

It isn’t the droughts and the floods and the fires in parched forests that worry me!

It isn’t the failure of the world governments to keep their commitments made in Tokyo, Copenhagen, and Paris!

It isn’t the rape of the rain forest that makes me mad!

It is not the surge in temperatures, forest fires, floods and drought that makes me angry!

It is not that in all of the political campaigns being waged, especially in the United States, the subject of global warming and climate change is not even being mentioned, and not being demanded from candidates for president from an unconscious corporate media machine that makes me loose sleep at night!

 It isn’t even the sewage-infested waters for swimming, canoeing and rowing in the Olympics and in the Toronto harbour where Canadian Olympians train!

It isn’t the depletion of the ozone layer that risks our existence that upsets me!

All of these things are tragic and deplorable, preventable and reversible. However, they are not being addressed with the kind of urgency, energy, commitment, collaboration and consistency they require.

However, they all pale when compared with what is at the core of our global denial, avoidance and irresponsibility.

It is the atrophy of the human spirit and the accompanying courage, foresight, intelligence and

especially the political will that really removes the hope, the optimism, the creativity and the basic will

to survive that leaves millions living in deplorable conditions, breathing in toxic air into their lungs,

drinking water not fit for the animals so polluted with industrial and residential waste, and attempting

to grow crops for food for their families and their animals.

Decades ago, scientists were accused of dropping the word apocalypse so frequently that they virtually lost their public podium from which to address the issue. Today, as David Suzuki repeatedly reminds every audience he faces, “We are running out of time!.....if we have not already done so!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

An introduction to the American Green Party Option

American voters, and those in other countries who believe the American election process matters to us all, have been treated to a barrage of personal attacks, and an assault to their sensibilities especially by the Republican candidate, Trump. Whatever policies he has advocated have been shown to be hollow, misguided, bigoted, isolationist, unaffordable and vacuous. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has a prescription for every ill, some of it workable, some of it mere rhetoric that seeks to find the sweet spot in the electorate’s dream fantasy. She also walks, rides and even rests under a cloud of public distrust, whether warranted or not.

On the other hand, just this week, for the first time on a national and international television program, CNN host Chris Cuomo asked the Green Party# candidates for President and Vice-president, Dr. Jill Stein, and Amaju Baraka* respectively, questions about their proposals, and the reasons for their agreeing to participate in the rough and tumble of American politics. For those watching and listening, the results were remarkable.

A medical doctor by profession, Dr. Stein has transferred her “care” from individual patients to the country and the planet. Some of her statements, expressed in almost doctor patient clarity, are both astounding and inspirational. Just a few here:
  • ·      her aggressive offensive on global warming and climate change, 
  • ·      her bold presumption to close ALL American military bases (there are some 700-800 scattered around the globe),
  • ·      her willingness to utter a startling proposal to initiate a PEACE initiative to bring the war against Islamic terrorism to an end (“We started it and we can bring it to an end!”)
  • ·      her proposal to eliminate all student debt, “just as the country baled out Wall Street” to release these graduates as an economic stimulus to the country
  • ·      her massive jobs proposal to build crumbling infrastructure
  • ·      her retraining of the jobless in small and rural communities, not only the large cities
  • ·      her embrace of a vice-presidential candidate whose career has been engaged in the human rights movement, and who criticized Bernie Sanders for his national approach that left out foreign policy, “although I really wanted to feel the Bern”

These are just some of the ideas that came from the show. And then there was the answer to the question, “How does your feminism differ from that of Hillary Clinton, and how would that influence your way of governing?”
Dr. Stein articulated a “caring” posture for all women, and then expanded her vision to include the children of all families on the planet, while being careful to endorse the aphorism, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ (the title of Ms Clinton’s book on raising children).

For his part, Baraka was confronted by some of the more pugilistic phrases he had used to criticize President Obama (“Uncle Tom,” the most inflammatory). His explanation was that Obama brought high hopes into office yet failed to live up to the historic potential of that moment, by not bringing about the radical change of his potential. He also acknowledged that, in context, he uses rhetoric to bring the impact of his meaning to his audiences.

There is no question that the Stein/Baraka ticket infuses a heavy shot of adrenalin into the political debate south of the 49th parallel. Whether or not the duo can generate adequate public interest to climb up to the threshold of 15% in public opinion polls to enable their participation in the presidential debates is still an open question. Whether they deserve the exposure they have already achieved is unquestionable. And, in her answer to the question of drawing votes away from Clinton and thereby enhancing Trump’s vote, Stein points to a purpose to continue the Sanders revolution as a movement, now separated from a single man, pointing to the potential ‘victory’ for that movement through her and her running mate’s efforts.

When, in this space, we offered a modest endorsement of the Clinton candidacy, we had not been exposed to the person and the ideas included in the Stein/Baraka option. And while those ideas represent a singularly radical shift in both American domestic and foreign policy, the arguments sustaining that shift are so compelling as to warrant a full public airing.

For those interested in finding a political nest from which to participate in a social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental revolution, the Green Party’s proposals, while admittedly far removed from conventional Washington politics are the twigs and the mud of such a nest. It is an thought-provoking, intellectually challenging, and optimistic (even daring) set of ideas in the tradition of reaching for the stars, an integral component to the American way of doing things. Affordability, and limits to the penetration of the ideas into the public consciousness, of course, will impede their access to the real levers of power, the elected political class in Washington. The obvious need for local candidates in both the House of Representative and the Senate, candidates who can both assimilate and then articulate these Green Party ideas to their constituents, will continue to provide a measuring stick of how the party is planting the needed seeds for the eventual ground-breaking emergence of these ideas into the political sunlight.

We heartily endorse, just as we did and still do, the LEAP manifesto from a wing of the Canadian NDP at its last convention, a full public discussion of the Green Party platform, and a full scrutiny of the candidates currently espousing those positions. The American political scene is in desperate need of a shift from the ideas of money, military and hard power, environmental denial and “ostrichness,” and corporate and Wall Street domination, not to mention the rape of labour and voting rights legislation to a more egalitarian, more expansive, and more sustainable environmental position.
The baggage of both Clinton and Trump, the former from her political market-worn mis-steps, the latter from a business career of dramatic abuse of both people and government regulations, have to point millions toward a closer examination of the Green option. If we were voting in the November election, at least on the presidential ballot, we would be casting a vote for Dr. Jill Stein and her running mate Amaju Baraka. As the most powerful country in the world, the United States needs the kind of leadership that can and does offer a real beacon of light and hope to the rest of the world, and not a dark cloud of cynicism, suspicion, fear and denial supported by the largest military fortress in history.

**Baraka’s biography on his personal website says that he has fought for human rights for four decades, focusing on both domestic and international issues. He’s worked as a grassroots organizer in the Black Liberation Movement and the anti-apartheid movement. Beyond that, he has worked with Central American solidarity struggles, as well.
His biography says that he has been working in the United States to apply the international human rights framework domestically to social justice advocacy for more than a quarter of a century. He has briefed Congress on human rights and has spoken before several United Nations agencies. (From International Business Times website)


Platform of the Greens/Green Party USA (from the party website This platform is not binding for candidates on any level

Download the Platform for printing: platform.rtf (59k)
You should be able to open this file and print from most word processors.

This platform was adopted by the delegates of the membership of the Greens/Green Party USA (G/GPUSA) at their annual Green Congress, meeting in Chicago, May 26-28, 2000. It reflects the majority views of the G/GPUSA membership.
G/GPUSA's national officers, spokespeople, and National Committee are expected to act in a manner consistent with the policy framework set by this platform. In keeping with G/GPUSA's structure of "democratic decentralism" where accountability is bottom-up, not top-down, the platform is not binding on the state and local affiliates of the Greens/Green Party USA.
This platform, therefore, does not necessarily reflect in every respect the views of Green Party candidates at any level, including Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke, Green Party candidates for President and Vice-President in 2000.
The Greens/Green Party USA is the original Green Party organization in the USA. It carries forward the radical vision of the early Greens based on grassroots political and economic democracy, nonviolence, social justice, and ecological sustainability.
Formed as the Committees of Correspondence in 1984, the annual Green Congress changed the name to Green Committees of Correspondence in 1989 and to The Greens/Green Party USA in 1991. G/GPUSA is a membership organization of individual members who participate in affiliated local and state organizations and support the organization with dues scaled to their ability to pay.
Green politics is an ecological approach to politics that links social and ecological problems. Ecology studies the relationships among organisms and their environment. Political ecology brings human institutions and ideologies into this holistic perspective.
We find that the same institutions and ideas that cause the exploitation and oppression of humans also cause the degradation and destruction of the environment. Both are rooted in a hierarchical, exploitative, and alienated social system that systematically produces human oppression and ecological destruction.
For the Greens, therefore, the fights against racism, sexism, class exploitation, bureaucratic domination, war, and all other forms of social domination and violence are central to the movement for an ecologically sustainable society. In order to harmonize society with nature, we must harmonize human with human.
The Greens carry forward the traditional values of the Left: freedom, equality, and solidarity. We want to create a truly democratic society without class exploitation or social domination. But Greens expand this notion of a classless, nonhierarchical society that is harmonized with itself to include an ecological society that is harmonized with nature as well.
To the social movements, the Greens say that in order for humanity to progress toward a democratic society, we must resolve the ecological crisis so that people are still around to enjoy democracy. To the environmental movements, the Greens say that in order to have an ecological society, we must have a democratic society so that people have the power to choose ecological sustainability. To survive, we must have ecological sustainability. To choose ecological sustainability, we must have the power of democracy.
The following platform planks are the immediate policy goals we support to move us toward an ecological democracy.
An Economic Bill of Rights
  • Universal Social Security: Taxable Basic Income Grants for all, structured into the progressive income tax, that guarantee an adequate income sufficient to maintain a modest standard of living. Start at $500/week ($26,000/year) for a family of four, with $62.50/week ($3,250/year) adjustments for more or fewer household members in 2000 and index to the cost of living.
  • Jobs for All: A guaranteed right to job. Full employment through community-based public works and community service jobs programs, federally financed and community controlled.
  • Living Wages: A family-supporting minimum wage. Start at $12.50 per hour in 2000 and index to the cost of living.
  • 30-Hour Work Week: A 6-hour day with no cut in pay for the bottom 80% of the pay scale.
  • Social Dividends: A "second paycheck" for workers enabling them to receive 40 hours pay for 30 hours work. Paid by the government out of progressive taxes so that social productivity gains are shared equitably.
  • Universal Health Care: A single-payer National Health Program to provide free medical and dental care for all, with freedom of choice for consumers among both conventional and alternative health care providers, federally financed and controlled by democratically elected local boards.
  • Free Child Care: Available voluntarily and free for all who need it, modeled after Head Start, federally financed, and community controlled.
  • Lifelong Public Education: Free, quality public education from pre-school through graduate school at public institutions.
  • Affordable Housing: Expand rental and home ownership assistance, fair housing enforcement, public housing, and capital grants to non-profit developers of affordable housing until all people can obtain decent housing at no more than 25% of their income. Democratic community control of publicly funded housing programs.
Grassroots Democracy
  • Community Assemblies: Ground political representation in a foundation of participatory, direct democracy: a Community Assembly in every neighborhood, open to all of its residents, acting as a grassroots legislative body, with its own budget for local administration, and the power (in concert with other Citizens Assemblies who share a representative) to monitor, instruct, and recall representatives elected to municipal, state, and federal office.
  • A Proportional, Single-Chamber US Congress: Abolish the disproportional, aristocratic US Senate. Create a single-chamber US Congress, elected by a system of mixed-member proportional representation that combines district representatives elected by preference voting and party representatives seated in proportion to each party's vote.
  • Environmental Home Rule: Establish the right of every state, county, and municipality to restrict or prohibit the production, sale, distribution, storage, or transportation of any substance it designates as dangerous or toxic.
  • Average Workers' Pay for Elected Officials: Pay elected officials average workers' salaries so that they understand the needs of average people and stop being an elite of professional politicians with separate class interests.
  • DC Statehood: Full self-government and congressional representation for the people of Washington DC.
Fair Elections
  • Proportional Representation: Elect legislative bodies by proportional representation where each party has representation in proportion to its total vote.
  • Preference Voting: Elect single offices by majority preference voting where voters rank candidates in order of preference and votes are distributed according to preferences in instant runoffs until a winner receives a majority of votes.
  • Public Campaign and Party Financing:Equal public campaign financing and free broadcast media time for all candidates who agree not to use private money. Equal free broadcast media time for party broadcasts. Public financing of parties through matching funds for party dues and small donations up to $300 a year.
  • Fair Ballot Access: Federal legislation to require each state to enable a new party or any independent candidate to qualify for the ballot through a petition of no greater than 1/10th of 1% of the total vote cast in the district in the last gubernatorial election, with a 10,000 signature maximum.
  • Eliminate Mandatory Primaries: Allow parties the right to nominate by membership convention instead of state-run primaries.
Ecological Conversion
  • Ecological Production: Set goals and timetables to phase out and ban the production and release of synthetic chemicals and to convert all production to materials that are bio-degradable, bio-inert, or confined to closed-loop industrial cycles. Use federal investments, purchasing, mandates, and incentives to:
    • Phase out most chlorinated and other synthetic petrochemicals and phase in natural, biodegradable substitutes.
    • Phase out synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and phase in organic agriculture.
    • Shut down waste incinerators, phase out landfills, and phase in full recycling.
    • Require manufacturers to be responsible for the whole life cycle of their products by taking back used packaging and products for re-manufacturing, reuse, or recycling.
    • Legalize industrial hemp as an ecological source for wood pulp, paper, cloth, lubricants, fibers, and many other products.
  • Renewable Energy: Invest non-renewable energy sources in the creation of self-reproducing, renewable energy systems. Use federal investments, purchasing, mandates, and incentives to:
    • Shut down nuclear power plants.
    • Phase out fossil fuels and phase in clean renewable energy sources.
    • Reduce auto-based transportation and expand pedestrian, bicycle, and rail transportation.
  • Biotechnology-No Patents on Life; No Transgenic Organisms:
    • Ban patents on life forms in order to preserve genetic diversity and common access to our common inheritance of nature, including farmers' access to seeds and breeds.
    • Ban the release into the environment and the use in food production of genetically modified organisms that result from splicing the genes of one species into another.
  • Environmental Defense and Restoration:
    • Full funding for anti-pollution enforcement and toxic sites clean-up
    • Preserve ecosystems and biodiversity by strengthening the Endangered Species Act and expanding areas designated as wildlife refuges and wilderness areas.
    • Ban old-growth logging, clear cutting, and strip mining.
    • End all commercial exploitation of public lands by private timber, mining, and cattle grazing interests.
    • Ban off-road vehicles on federal lands. Decommission National Forest logging roads.
    • Restoration of public lands degraded by commercial interests.
    • Manage federal lands primarily for ecosystem protection and restoration.
    • Support large-scale ecological restoration based on conservation biology.
  • Environmental Justice: Strengthen and enforce laws that prevent toxic industries, toxic dumps and air pollution from targeting ethnic minority communities.
  • A Just Transition: A Superfund for Workers to guarantee full income and benefits for all workers displaced by ecological conversion until they find new jobs with comparable income and benefits.
Sustainable Agriculture
  • Fair Farm Price Supports: Reform farm price supports to cover the costs of production plus a living income for family farmers and farmworker cooperatives.
  • Subsidize Transition to Organic Agriculture: Subsidize farmers' transition to organic agriculture while natural systems of soil fertility and pest control are being restored.
  • Support Small Farmers: Create family farms and farm worker cooperatives through a homesteading program and land reform based on acreage limitations and residency requirements.
  • Break Up Corporate Agribusiness: Create family farms and farmworker cooperatives through a homesteading program and land reform based on acreage limitations and residency requirements.
Economic Democracy
  • Eliminate Corporate Personhood: Legislation or constitutional amendment to end the legal fiction of corporate personhood.
  • End Corporate Limited Liability: Make corporate shareholders bear the same liabilities as other property owners.
  • Federal Chartering of Interstate Corporations
  • Periodic Review of Corporate Charters: A public corporate charter review process for each corporation above $20 million in assets every 20 years to see if it is serving the public interest according to social and ecological as well as financial criteria.
  • Strengthen Anti-Trust Enforcement: Require breakup of any firm with more than 10% market share unless it makes a compelling case every five years in a public regulatory proceeding that it serves the public interest to keep the firm intact.
  • Democratic Production: Establish the right of citizens to vote on the expansion or phasing out of products and industries, especially in areas of dangerous or toxic production.
  • Workplace Democracy: Establish the right of workers at every enterprise over 10 employees to elect supervisors and managers and to determine how to organize work.
  • Worker Control of Worker Assets-Pension Funds and ESOP Shares:Pension funds representing over $5 trillion in deferred wages account for nearly one-third of financial assets in the US. 11 million workers participate in employee stock-option plans (ESOPs). Reform ERISA, labor laws, and ESOP tax provisions to enable workers to democratically control their assets.
  • Democratic Conversion of Big Business: Mandatory break-up and conversion to democratic worker, consumer, and/or public ownership on a human scale of the largest 500 US industrial and commercial corporations that account for about 10% of employees, 50% of profits, 70% of sales, and 90% of manufacturing assets.
  • Democratic Conversion of Small and Medium Business: Financial and technical incentives and assistance for voluntary conversion of the 22.5 million small and medium non-farm businesses in the US to worker or consumer cooperatives or democratic public enterprises. Mandate that workers and the community have the first option to buy on preferential terms in cases of plant closures, the sale or merger of significant assets, or the revocation of corporate charters.
  • Democratic Banking: Mandatory conversion of the 200 largest banks with 80% of all bank assets into democratic publicly-owned community banks. Financial and technical incentives and assistance for voluntary conversion of other privately-owned banks into publicly-owned community banks or consumer-owned credit unions.
  • Democratize Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve System: Place a 100% reserve requirement on demand deposits in order to return control of monetary policy from private bankers to elected government. Selection of Federal Reserve officers by our elected representatives, not private bankers. Strengthen the regional development mission of the regional Federal Reserve Banks by directing them to target investments to promote key policy objectives, such as high-wage employment, worker and community ownership, ecological production, and inner city reconstruction.
Progressive and Ecological Taxes
  • Ecological Taxes: Tax pollution, resource extraction, harmful products, and the use of our common wealth of natural capital (land sites according to land value, timber and grazing lands, ocean and freshwater resources, oil and minerals, electromagnetic spectrum, satellite orbital zones).
  • Simple, Progressive Income Taxes: Enact a no-loopholes, graduated personal income tax with equal taxation of all income, regardless of source. Provide an income tax credit for each dependent to replace and fully compensate for the current exemptions and deductions that benefit to the average taxpayer, such as the home mortgage deduction and medical deductions.
  • Eliminate Regressive Payroll Taxes: Fund Social Security, Health Care, Unemployment Insurance, and Workers Compensation out of progressive income and wealth taxes.
  • Guaranteed Adequate Income: Build taxable Basic Income Grants into the progressive income tax structure to create a Universal Social Security system that ensures everyone has income for at least a modest standard of living above the poverty line.
  • Maximum Income: Build into the progressive income tax a 100% tax on all income over ten times the minimum wage.
  • End Corporate Welfare: Target subsidies for worker- and community-owned enterprises, not absentee-owned corporations. Put subsidies in the public budgets where they can be scrutinized, not hidden as tax breaks in complicated tax codes. Progressively Graduated Corporate Revenue and Asset Taxes
  • Wealth Tax: Enact a steeply progressive tax on net wealth over $2.5 million (the top 5% of households).
  • Inheritance Tax: Replace the loophole-ridden estate tax with a no-loopholes, progressive inheritance tax on inheritances over $1 million.
  • Stock and Bond Transfer Tax: Encourage a shift from speculative to productive investments through a federal stock and bond transfer tax on all securities transactions.
  • Currency Speculation Tax: An internationally uniform tax on currency conversion to discourage speculation. Revenues from the currency speculation tax should be channeled through international agencies into ecologically sustainable, democratically controlled development in poor countries.
  • Advertising Tax: A tax on advertising to fund a decentralized, pluralistic media system of real public broadcasting, public service broadcasting on commercial media, and independent nonprofit, noncommercial media.
  • Federal Revenue Sharing: Reduce state and local government dependence on regressive sales and property taxes through federal revenue sharing that combines centralized collection of progressive and ecological taxes with decentralized decisions on spending.
  • Ecological and Feminist Economic Accounting: Expand the Bureau of Labor Statistics into a Bureau of Household, Labor, and Environmental Statistics with revised national economic accounts, statistics, and indicators that include stocks and flows of natural wealth, household production, and labor time values. Existing national income accounts and indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) ignore the ecological foundations of the economy and the value of household production. Ecological accounting will identify the true costs of resource depletion and pollution and hence appropriate eco-taxes to internalize full costs. Social accounting will identify the true value of household production and its contribution to the economy and social well-being. Labor time accounting will record and publish the current and dated labor time for goods and services, establishing the average labor time required for each product. These labor time values will serve as shadow prices against which to judge the fairness of actual market prices.
Human Rights and Social Justice
  • End Institutionalized Racism, Sexism, and Oppression of People with Disabilities: Strengthen civil rights, anti-discrimination, and affirmative action laws, programs, and enforcement.
  • African American Reparations: A national commission on reparations for African Americans.
  • Indian Treaty Rights: Honor all treaty obligations with Native Americans and Chicanos.
  • Immigrant Rights: Support the rights of immigrants to housing, education, health care, jobs, and civil, legal, and political rights.
  • Reproductive Freedom: People should be free from government interference in making their reproductive choices, including abortion, which should be covered by all publicly funded medical insurance programs.
  • Comparable Worth: Legislation to enable women and minorities to receive equal pay for work of equal value.
  • End Discrimination Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People: Outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment, benefits, and child custody.
  • Same-Sex Marriage: Legal recognition of same-sex marriages.
Criminal and Civil Justice Reforms
  • Abolish the Death Penalty
  • Prosecute Police Brutality-The Jonny Gammage Law: Require independent federal investigation and prosecution of law enforcement officers charged with violating the civil rights or causing the bodily injury or death of a human being.
  • End Political and Racial Persecution by the Criminal Justice System:Freedom for all political prisoners and prisoners of racial injustice. Clemency for Leonard Peltier. New trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
  • Restorative Justice: Establish a humane criminal sanction system based on prevention, restitution, rehabilitation, and reconciliation rather than vengeance, forced labor, and profits for the Prison-Industrial Complex. Restore full funding for college degree granting programs in state and federal prisons. Jobs and justice, not more police and prisons.
  • Legal Aid: Expand funding of legal aid and public defender programs so all people can have competent legal representation.
  • Fight Corporate Crime: Strengthen laws and enforcement against corporate crime with penalties that include incarceration of executives and revocation of corporate charters.
  • Oppose Tort Reform that Limits Class Action Lawsuits and Caps Victims' Compensation: The threat of high victim compensation awards by civil juries must be maintained as an important deterrent to corporate crime.
  • Civil Liberties: Support the Bill of Rights. No compromise on civil liberties and due process for "national security," "anti-terrorism," or "the war on drugs." Repeal the 1994 Crime and 1996 Anti-Terrorism bills. End domestic political spying by police, military, and intelligence agencies.
  • End the "War on Drugs:" Decriminalize possession of drugs. Regulate and tax drug distribution. Release nonviolent drug war prisoners. Treat drug abuse as a health problem, not a criminal problem. Drug abuse treatment on demand.
Labor Law Reforms
  • Repeal Repressive Labor Laws: Repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, the Landrum-Griffin Act, the Hatch Act, and state "Right-To-Work" laws which have crippled labor's ability to organize by outlawing or severely restricting labor's basic organizing tools: strikes, boycotts, pickets, and political action.
  • A Workers' Bill of Rights: Enact a set of legally enforceable civil rights, independent of collective bargaining, which (1) extends the Bill of Rights protections of free speech, association, and assembly into all workplaces, (2) establishes workers' rights to living wages, portable pensions, information about chemicals used, report labor and environmental violations, refuse unsafe work, and participate in enterprise governance, and (3) establishes workers' rights to freedom from discharge at will, employer search and seizure in the workplace, sexual harassment, and unequal pay for work of comparable worth.
  • Expand Worker' Rights to Organize and Enjoy Free Time:
    • Majority Card-Check Recognition of Unions
    • Strong and Speedy Penalties for Employers Who Break Labor Laws
    • Ban Striker Replacements
    • Triple Back Pay for Illegally Locked-Out Workers
    • Unemployment Compensation for Striking and Locked-Out Workers
    • Binding Contract Arbitration at Union Request
    • Full Rights for Farmworkers, Public Employees, and "Workfare" Workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act
    • Ban Prison Slave Labor: End the use of US prisoners to produce goods and services for sale to the public.
    • Double-Time Pay for All Overtime
    • Prohibit Mandatory Overtime
    • 6 Weeks Paid Vacation Annually in addition to Federal Holidays
    • 1 Year Paid Educational Leave for Every 7 Years Worked
    • 1 Year Parental Leave for Each Child Born with No Loss of Seniority
    • Right to Work Short Hours: No discrimination in pay and promotion against workers who choose to work short hours.
Revitalize Public Education
  • Equalize School Funding with Federal Revenue Sharing: Federal financing of all public education (instead of by regressive local property taxes) so that every school has the resources it needs to provide the highest quality education for every child. Use a simple formula based on student population with adjustments based on need to help bring up school quality and student performance in poor communities.
  • Decentralized Administration: Cut through stifling centralized administration with site-based planning, policy-making, and management with participation by parents and teachers with release-time. Maintain central support staff for decentrally administered schools.
  • Class Size Reduction: Federal legislation and financing to reduce student-teacher ratios in classrooms to 15 to 1 in all public schools.
  • Preschool Programs: Federal legislation and financing for public schools to make available Head Start-type programs for pre-Kindergarten children starting at age 3.
  • After School Programs: Federal legislation and financing to make available after-school recreational and educational programs for all school age children.
  • Children's Health: Clinics in all schools to check eyes, teeth, and general health at all grade levels. Healthy food at breakfast, lunch, and after school programs. Birth control information at middle and high schools.
  • Improve Teacher Training and Pay: Improve the quality of teachers with support for career-long training. On-the-jobs apprenticeships for teachers-in-training. Teacher pay scales comparable to other professionals with similar education and responsibilities.
  • Multicultural Teaching Staffs: Strengthen affirmative action programs to recruit and support ethnic minorities to enter teaching at every level: teacher, aide, assistant, apprentice.
  • Tuition-Free Higher Education: Federal legislation and financing for tuition free education at public universities and technical schools for everyone who wants it.
  • Oppose the Privatization of Public Schools: We oppose all schemes for corporations to pursue private profits at the expense of public schools and schoolchildren.
    • No School Vouchers: No school vouchers from public budgets for private schools.
    • No For-Profit or Religious Charter Schools: Stop the diversion of public funds to for-profit corporations or religious organizations running charter schools with unaccountable administrations, uncertified teachers, and segregated student bodies.
    • No Commercialization: Stop turning school children into a captive market for commercial marketing interests with franchises that undermine democratic funding and accountability.
    • No High-Stakes Testing: Stop the curriculum takeover by commercial standardized test and test-prep corporations. Stop linking administrator and teacher pay and student graduation and retention to standardized test performance. Stop reducing education to answering multiple choice questions. Put teachers back in charge of ongoing, genuine assessment in the classroom.
  • Curriculum for a Multicultural Participatory Democracy: We support a democratic public school curriculum that fosters curiosity, critical thinking, and free expression, that explicitly promotes democratic and egalitarian anti-racist, anti-sexist, and multicultural values, that replaces Eurocentric with multicultural textbooks and other curriculum materials, that does not sort children into academic and non-academic tracks, and that is academically rigorous with high expectations for all children.
  • Support Bilingual Education: Minority-language children with limited English proficiency must have instructional programs that build on their native language and culture while building English proficiency.
Free, Diverse and Uncensored Media
  • Infodiversity: An uninformed people is not free. Create a vital, democratic, diverse media system, delinked from corporate profit objectives and able to present a wide range of issues and ideas in their full complexity, free from censorship by government or by private corporate power.
  • Support Nonprofit and Noncommercial Media: A decentralized, democratic system of public funding of diverse nonprofit, noncommercial media, including broadcast, print, film, website, and other cultural production. Funding to exceed existing support for for-profit media, including lower mailing rates and tax deductions for donors. Guarantee free, universal Internet access.
  • Real Public Broadcasting: Complete public funding for real public radio and television broadcasting, with no advertising or grants from private corporations or foundations. Support a decentralized, pluralistic system of multiple national networks and local stations, all independently controlled by boards elected by their publics and their workers.
  • Regulate Public Airwaves in the Public Interest: Reassert the public's right as owners of the electromagnetic spectrum used as broadcast airwaves to regulate their use in the public interest. Re-appropriate 6 prime-time hours a day of commercial broadcast time on each station for real public service broadcasting: ad-free children's and news/public affairs programming. Fund this liberated time by charging commercial broadcasters rents for the bandwidths they use, a tax on sales of commercial stations, and a tax on advertising. Program this ad-free time under the control of artists' and educators for the children's programs and journalists for the news and public affairs programs. Restore the Fairness Doctrine. Free time for all candidates for public office. Prohibit paid political ads or require free ads of equal time for opponents. Redistribute substantial bandwidth concessions to public, nonprofit, and locally owned commercial stations, including low-power stations. Increase stakeholder representation on and public accountability of the Federal Communications Commission.
  • Antitrust Actions to Break Up Media Conglomerates: Reform antitrust legislation to require the break up of corporate giants because their concentrated power threatens democracy, not just competitive pricing, especially with regard to media concentration where a few media conglomerates control the public's access to information. Require separate, independent firms for all TV stations, TV networks, TV show producers, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, book publishers, film producers, music recorders, Internet service providers, cable TV systems, cable TV stations, amusement parks, retail stores, and so forth. Repeal the pro-conglomeration Telecommunications Act of 1996. Subsidize the existence of multiple newspapers and magazines to express a diversity of opinion in all communities.
International Solidarity
  • A Global Green Deal: Build world peace and security through a Global Green Deal. First, the US should finance universal access to primary education, adequate food, clean water and sanitation, preventive health care, and family planning services for every human being on Earth. According to the 1999 UN Development Report, it would take only an additional $40 billion to Fund Global Basic Human Needs, an amount that is only 13% of the 2000 US military budget. Second, the US, which now spends half of the world's military expenditures by itself, should demilitarize its economy and reinvest the Peace Dividend in financing and technical assistance for an Ecological Conversion of Human Civilization to Sustainable Systems of Production.
  • Peace Conversion: Cut US military spending unilaterally by 75% in two years to establish a non-interventionist, non-offensive, strictly defensive military posture and save nearly $250 billion a year.
  • Peace Dividend: Dedicate the $250 billion a year Peace Dividend to the Global Green Deal, Ecological Conversion, the Economic Bill of Rights, and providing full income and benefits for all workers and soldiers displaced by demilitarization until they find new jobs at comparable income and benefits.
  • Unilateral Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Disarmament: These weapons of mass destruction have no place in a non-offensive military. The US should set the example and demand that other nations match our lead before the proliferation of weapons to countries around the world leads to mass destruction.
  • Cooperative Security: Pursue a "cooperative security" strategy that seeks mutual arms reductions, progressive elimination of cross-border offensive capabilities, and further cuts in military spending. The goal is to progressively demilitarize down to a non-offensive defense of U.S. national territory using a coast guard, border guard, national guard, and light air defense system, which would cost about $3 billion, or less than 1% of current US military spending.
  • Democratize the United Nations: Cooperative security cannot work as long as the United Nations remains a US puppet. Support reforms to democratize the United Nations, such as more proportionality and power in the General Assembly, an elected Security Council, and the elimination of the Great Power Veto on the Security Council.
  • A Pro-Democracy Foreign Policy: We call for a fundamental shift in US foreign policy, from supporting repressive regimes in the interests global corporations to supporting the pro-democracy labor, social, and environmental movements of the people.
    • Support International, Multilateral Peacekeeping to Stop Aggression and Genocide
    • No Unilateral US Intervention in the Internal Affairs of Other Countries
    • Close All Overseas US Military Bases
    • Disband NATO and All Aggressive Military Alliances
    • Ban US Arms Exports
    • Abolish the CIA, NSA, US Army School of the Americas, and All US Agencies of Covert Warfare
    • End the Economic Blockades of Cuba, Iraq, and Yugoslavia
    • Cut Off US Military Aid to Counter-Insurgency Wars in Colombia and Mexico
    • Freedom for Lori Berenson and All Political Prisoners
    • Require a National Referendum to Declare War
  • End Global Financial Exploitation: Cancel the debt owed by poor countries to global banks. End the exploitation of poor countries by IMF "structural adjustment" policies. Abolish the IMF and World Bank and replace them with a democratic international financial institution for balancing international accounts and financing short-term current account balances.
  • Fair Trade: Withdraw from the World Trade Organization, NAFTA, and all other corporate-managed trade agreements that are driving down labor and environmental conditions globally. Establish an internationalist social tariff system that equalizes trade by accounting for the differences among countries in wages, social benefits, environmental conditions, and political rights. Tariff revenues to a democratic, international fund for ecological production and democratic development in poor countries in order to level up social and environmental conditions to a high common standard.