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Oakland, CA

Posted By Bakari

A few days ago, coming home from work after dark, a neighbor came over to ask for a jump.
I took the alternator out of my truck, but the charger I use in its place has a quick charge / jump start option, so I brought that over.
While we waited for it another neighbor, someone new I had waved to but never met, came over to see if we needed any help.
Somehow we got onto the topics of being "green" and the recession.

The neighbor with the dead battery is involved with a local semi-official flea market. They are conscious of the fact that, along with being a way to make money, selling things second hand is also environmentally responsible. They are actively looking for ways to be more so, for example sourcing "plastic" bags made of plant materials. She had never heard of plastic island, but understood how it happened and the significance as soon as I described it.
The new neighbor talked about the house of cards credit schemes that led to our economic situation, about concentration of wealth, government and banks and stock markets roles.
While I had plenty of my own to add, I found myself agreeing with nearly everything both of them said.

This in contrast to interactions with neighbors over the past couple years: the neighbor in the 10ft long trailer who blamed all the countries problems on "the liberals", the neighbor who couldn't see any possible reason to run bio-diesel instead of petrol when it costs more - even when I pointed out that even if he doesn't live long enough to see environmental harm affect his life his kids might, not to mention the narrowly avoided fist fight and the 3 year old who buried his dads meth needle.

Like I have written, its funny that global warming is the thing that finally got peoples attention - even though there isn't hard scientific evidence that human activity will change it in a significantly more dramatic way than the natural climate cycles already do - when we have known for many decades that our use of resources is totally unsustainable.
But whatever. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is better than not doing the right thing at all.

Now combined with economic changes, ideas I have been thinking about all my life are becoming more and more popular. What will life be like after the credit based economy has its debts called in, and we no longer have the capacity to exploit natural resources at an unsustainable level, (as is absolutely vital for the American way of life as we know it)?
Of course there were always others who imagined it coming someday, with varying levels of serious - movies like Six-String Samurai on the one end, cults and militias on the other.
But now I am finding it everywhere.
The Gubbins Experiment, a blog I read about a guy who has given up not only driving, but also accepting rides in any motor vehicle for a year, wrote his most pessimistic post ever. My boss, a small business owner with a contract with BART to run the BikeStation seemed to imply that the end of civilization as we know will happen within the next 20 years, and that it will hit dramatic and fast when it does. I met my most recent friend in part via (literal) dreams of a post-apocalyptic future.
And now, even here in the trailer park, people are thinking in global terms about sustainability and economics.

Contrast it also to discussions I have had recently with some single issue activists, who I found by and large narrowly focused on not just one issue, but one side of one issue, unable or unwilling to consider other points of view, ignoring historical and current contexts that don't support a pre-determined conclusion, and offering more criticism than real solutions.

Maybe I had it wrong all along.

Maybe it is the general public, the random ordinary everyday people in whom our potential salvation rests.
That is the most encouraging possibility I have come across in many years.

Posted By Bakari

 [This was written by my mother, and is re-posted here without permission]



There are so many reasons that I am euphoric about Obama's landslide election to the position of President of the United States that I can't begin to name them all, and when I try, I get tangled up in words, none of which can adequately express all the reasons.

At first I was happy not to have to explain anything as most people around me share my elation, and people all over the U.S. , and indeed around the world, understand in great measure the significance of what just happened here.

However, by the day after the election I was disheartened by the number of people in my LGBT community who were so disillusioned and depressed by the gay-marriage set-backs that they failed to be moved by the significance of Obama's election. It is not all LGBT people, by any means, who are too boggled down by that single issue to appreciate the magnitude of the good thing that just happened. But a significant number seem to be.

Then too are those whose political understanding is narrowed in other ways; those who, for example, believe that the only event worthy of the term "revolutionary" is one where a capitalist system is replaced by socialism overnight. Surely there will be those who say of Obama, as they said of Roosevelt , "he saved the capitalist system from itself," and they will see him, therefore, as an anti-hero.

My initial reaction was to feel sorry that some of my friends and associates were missing out on something so wonderful and I put forth my arguments of why they should celebrate, not mourn, this incredible moment.

As I continued to hear from more and more LGBT people for whom the (temporary) gay marriage defeat overshadowed the election of the first Black president of the United States (who also happens to be more progressive than most presidents of our lifetime), I began to get annoyed by the tunnel vision of so many in the LGBT community who, (like so many individuals in so many oppressed groups), can only see their own oppression, their own struggle, their own specific needs, and can do no more than give lip-service to any other cause. I don't know why I always expect more of activists, (and of everyone I know personally), but I do.

Finally, I came to terms with the fact that badgering people haphazardly with various reasons they should be absolutely elated right now rather than sad and self-pitying was not helping anyone, and that I was wasting too much time reacting to the statements of individuals one at a time. I decided it would be much more productive for me to try to organize my thoughts and share them with everyone at once – and then let it go and let people choose to appreciate or not the wonder of this moment.



[entire blog at MySpace]

Posted By Bakari

Couple years ago I posted about trends in the US government spending (it popped back up to the top because I updated the first graph)
Since then of course the trend I described has only increased and intensified.

Today I look forward instead of backward, and suggest something crazy!

Our government debt is growing faster than GDP.  Now they say that the housing "crises" is likely to spur another rescission.  The war is still going on, the eminent running out of social security funds hasn't been addressed, and taxes on capital gains, stock dividends, and inheritance have been reduced or eliminated and those that haven't been already made permanent are still in the works.

The finance problems in housing loans was primarily due to people deliberately purchasing houses out of their price range with the assumption that the market would not only go up forever, but would continue to go up at the same rate is was at the time.
It didn't, since much of what sent it up was the very speculation based on that assumption, sort of like the non-sense a decade ago.
And they ran out of money, couldn't make the payments.

The country is being run the same way, on extended credit, on the assumption that GDP will always grow fast enough to encourage outside investors.

But as a recession dawns, spending increases and revenue decreases, the dollar continues to fall against the Yen and the Euro.

Part of the draw in buying US currency, (both in the form of federal bonds, which pays for nearly 9% of all federal spending) and by buying into the American economy (real estate, stock in US companies etc.) is our large overall economy and its fairly consistent growth, but a large part is just that the US dollar has been recognized as the dominate international currency for a long time now.

(note that data from the treasury website don't seem to add up, nor do they perfectly match the wiki data - but they are all fairly close.  Also, I rounded the numbers off)

In 2007:
Total US government debt: $59,100 billion
(44% of total held by foreigners)
(25% by foreign governments specifically)

$1,697 billion total federal receipts (revenue)
48.8% income tax
36.4% SS/medi-care
10.4% corporate

$2,887 total outlay (government spending)

Real deficit=$1,190 billion 

The entire $869 of SS taxes paid in '07 is included in the official receipts, however the time when there are more retirees than workers is fast approaching, and any money spent from the fund will have to be repaid - and will not have gained any interest in the meantime.  In fact, they do spend SS funds, but this is borrowing, not real income

Revenue only pays for 59% of the budget of the government.


<entire blog at MySpace>


Posted By Bakari

Whether history teaches us to be optimistic or pessimistic is only a matter of when and where you choose to look.

There have been wars at least as long as there has been civilization - which of course continues to today.
Empires have risen, Persian, Chinese, Mongolian, Ottoman, Aztec, Inca, British, USSR.
Some lasted for centuries, some covered the majority of the world (that the culture knew of).
Every one of them fell, for one reason or another, eventually.

That could give hope that the US, which is extending influence both culturally, politically, and militarily throughout the world, will inevitably follow - but its seems obvious that it will be replaced by another - no matter the ideals in begins in, it will inevitably grow corrupt. They all do.

In the 3rd century BC the Egyptian library/museum at Alexandria contained the collected knowledge of the Egyptian and Greek civilizations, the largest in the world. While the circumstances of its destruction are debated, it was apparently due to some combination of war and religious fundamentalism.

The civilizations of the Mediterranean created, among other things, plumbing, calculus, and democracy (but only for white male property owners) - and at the hight of the Roman Empire, a popular spectator sport involved watching humans fight to the death, and eventually flooding the coliseum to create mock sea battles - but with real weapons - for the entertainment of government and the wealthy.
In the Dark Ages, as Rome fell, much of the infrastructure was allowed to fall to ruins, and everything from libraries to aqueducts was lost - along with the education and intellectual development that had accompanied it, and much already acquired knowledge and technology was lost.
Then came about the forced conversion of people in Europe, Asia, and Africa to Christianity and Islam, as well as wars between the two (the Crusades) - ultimately spreading throughout the world, and, of-course, lasting to the present.
Europe's renaissance consisted largely of no more than the re-discovery of things which had been previously known, but lost.

For every Ghandi there has been a Hitler and a Mussolini. For every Roosevelt and Carter we've had a Regan, A Bush, and a Bush Jr. Lenin's "people's revolution" turned quickly into Stalin's purges.
Che failed to start a revolution, and after all of Chavez's work, today immigrants still work in pesticide laden fields for far less than minimum wage while middle class Americans with far more comfortable lives advocate criminalizing them for it.

For all the noise the anti-war movement made, American troops pulled out because the North Vietnamese won.
In fact, the non-violent success Ghandi seemingly had happened to be at a time when the British Empire was already in decline with Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Egypt, and Iraq becoming officially fully independent in (or around) 1931, and their military over extended worldwide - a guerrilla war with Ireland, the aftermath of WWII, and calls (and actions) for independence throughout the British Empire in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. For 40 years India had sought independence, but it was not until these - often violent - worldwide events came along that it was finally granted.
Then, almost immediately, (as British representatives had predicted) the country split, and the potentially violent stand-off between newly formed Pakistan and India (both of which have nukes) has lasted to this day. So much for non-violence.

<entire blog at MySpace>

Posted By Bakari

Ever seen those fundamentalist evangelical christian fanatics gathered at gay parades and abortion clinics?
They gather up a good group of like minded people, they have signs, slogans, chants.

Has seeing them ever made you think maybe gays really are going to hell, or that abortion really is worse than murder? Even a little bit? Even for a moment?

My guess is no. You look at them, and think they are idiots, you are disturbed that they feel something so disgusting with enough conviction to even be there. You wonder why they care so much about issues which don't even directly affect them.

And yet, so many of us feel that, when it is ourselves holding the signs, saying the chants, that we are somehow influencing people, changing peoples minds, raising awareness perhaps.
Anyone who is still unaware, doesn't care. Anyone who is on the other side, just thinks poorly of the protesters, they aren't going to have a change of heart based on a chant or a slogan. Perhaps a long, in depth dialog, showing facts they may have been unaware of, demonstrating the logical fallacies of their assumptions, on so on, but not a chant.
Those people who do things like "honk" a horn in support, they were already on our side to begin with.

Then there is the idea that it will somehow influence politicians.
An elected official either gets your vote, or they don't. If you approve of them 51%, they have no reason to care if that increases to 99%, because you will already vote for them. That increase would cause a corresponding drop in some other demographics vote. Like wise, if you like them 49%, they just as well may alienate you all the way, as they have already lost you.
(Hence "non-binding resolutions", get just enough support, without any political backlash)
Unless you have a city wide general strike, chances are any protest, however large, is actually composed of a fairly small subset of the population.
Outside of actual voting, why should they be concerned with the will of the citizens? Because they get there power from the fact that we choose to give it to them. They make the laws, but if the entire society, or a significant portion of it, doesn't follow one of them, it becomes meaningless. It is extremely unlikely at this particular point in time in this country, but the possibility of a coop always exists.

So the question becomes, how strongly do the citizens object to the actions of their leaders? What are they willing to risk, or sacrifice?


In the case of a protest, basically nothing. The individuals involved have very little risk from being there. It costs only a few hours of time, and having to stand or walk.
And, it seems most protests, anything short of the majority of a population, has little or no real effect.

Compare to those actions which have had the intended effect.


<entire blog at MySpace>