Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guilt free about the Market

Some people seem to have guilt feelings about the Wall Street collapse. They want Obama to win but are unnerved by a strange temptation to rejoice in the stock market collapse and may even fear a come-back.

No need to hope feel guilty about the Wall Street collapse helping Obama. The genie is out of bottle on Wall Street and Obama's economic plan is such a workable mix of the old "New" Deal and "New" New Deal to carry the day. A rebound of the stock market won't make those who have already lost 30-40% of their 401Ks feel so good as to reach for the old Republican snake oil.

McCain is apparently having trouble articulating a new economic "reform" proposal. Rumors were it was to be a cut in capital gains taxes. That's wonderful for anyone still sitting on unrealized capital gains. But since most of us have seen our savings vanish in the past year, we won't have much new investment dollars saved to benefit from future capital gains on new investment. The lesson of the past 48 hours is that the only source for new investment is the government in one guise or another..

The genius of FDR was not that he was a genius, it was in the people he picked for advise and in the programs he chose from their advice. It’s may be a lost fact of history, but the man who turned the “new” SEC from a bureaucratic lightweight into the engine of prosperity it became was one of his closest advisors: Wall Street raider and reputed bootlegger Joseph Kennedy. You may remember is sons. Joe K. broke with FDR over WWII and was loathe to take on Hitler, but has head of the SEC, he was brilliant.

In Obama we have a man he is bright enough to pick good advisors and bright enough to choose among the options. He will be nobody’s stooge.

I believe that the obvious practicality of Obama's plan will carry the day. People know we need reinvestment in infrastructure. People will see the common sense ion rewarding companies that invest in US jobs. Cash strapped citizens who need an infusion from their IRA's will may very well see their homes and future's saved by the chance to tap into their retirement accounts without penalty (before retirement age).

Finally, there is one part of the Obama story that I am sure resonates with a majority of Americans: His mother's struggle with the HMO while she was dying of cancer.

McCain's prescription of deregulation to let the free market work its wonders on the health care system, just won't fly. His only answer will be to state that he really means some regulation (like pre-existing conditions). But that's regulation and will defeat his whole proposal. That we need a national system meeting national standards, is the future.

We have seen the future and it is Obama. (We hope.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The bailout: Getting even with Mommy and Daddy

I have always thought that so much of the vitriol I see in life is an adolescent working out of unresolved problems with one's parents. The blogspere and particularly the reaction to the failed bailout is an example. The invective for those attempting to sort through the financial mess created by the neocons and their George Bush puppet is truly astounding.

As many have pointed out somewhat soberly, the real issue here is availability of credit in a wide variety of circumstances. Among the items that will be seriously impacted are not only home loans, but student loans, appliance loans (like refrigerators) and auto loans. "Good," some of are oedipally challenged exclaim. I don't need a new car or refrigerator and (a) I dropped of of college because some geeky professors never saw my brilliance or (b) I got my student loans, up yours.

Then there is the small question of the real pay-day loans. The ones by small businesses need to make pay roll. Bye-bye pay checks. Too freaking bad, you say.

Then again, the stock market lost more value Monday then the total cost of the bailout. If you don't have an IRA or a 401K retirement account, who cares?

We are told by scripture that we are brother's keeper. Those who selfishly pursue ideological or political goals now and sink this economy into a recession cum depression, don't care about their brother or the their sister. (My God, am I being judgmental?)

I did not experience the depression although my family was steeped in its lore as I grew-up. For those relishing in the defeat of their parents (be it McCain or Pelosi) I suggest a crash course on what the depression was really about. Here's some suggestions for your viewing: "O Brother Where art Thou," "Grapes of Wrath," “Sullivan's Travels,” “Night of the Hunter,” and "Sea Biscuit." They are all entertaining but in the background is a picture of what a Depression era America is like. Forget the horse race in Sea Biscuit and concentrate on what happened to the jockey's family.

Is the bailout package the very best of solutions? Hardly. But it’s a step forward. I am reminded of the old Vietnam slogan: When your up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember you were there to drain the swamp.

As for the movies, I am sure there are better choices, these are off the top of my head. Here's my message: stop getting even with your parents and grow-up. We are facing problems that the big kids have to solve.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is Christ Weeping

The following is adopted from a salon.com comment which was an "Editor's Choice"

I was baptized a Roman Catholic and I remain Catholic to my core, although the Vatican might argue about the Roman part.To me there is only one Christian message and one Christian commandment: Love.

Christ preached that all the prophesies and scripture were founded on love. A generation before Christ, Rabbi Hillel propounded the Golden Rule and stated that everything else is commentary.

As good hearted as many evangelicals are, there is an extreme with a political agenda that is anti-Christ and anti-Love. So much of the Extreme is based upon stilted, strained reading of scripture by 19th century zealots whose powers of reasoning and deduction were seriously defective. They were literally the false prophets in sheep's clothing the Bible warned us against.

The successful mega-church evangelicals with their opulent palaces contrast with Christ's praise of John the Baptist who dressed in animal hair and ate locusts and honey: "What did you go out to the desert to see, a man dressed in fine clothing?"

The concept that a heart-beat away from the presidency would be a person, like Palin, who believes that man walked with the dinosaurs is appalling. The denial of science by the Extremists is already having a dreadful impact on the education of the next generation of American scientists.

Christ wept when he foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Perhaps, for the abuse of His name by the Extremists, He maybe weeping now.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Political Chess

Two bad decisions may decide the election: Obama picking Biden and McCain picking Palin. But they were bad decisions for very different reasons. One was a misreading of the political chess board; the other was a cynical, disastrous gambit.

Let’s take the Biden pick by Obama first. It was an unarguably a good pick on its own terms. No one is going to have a heart-attack because Joe Biden will be a heart beat from the Presidency. He is knowledgeable and he is prepared.

But Obama misread his position and was over confident. Maybe perhaps so were some of his supporters like moi (just had to stick in a little Miss Piggy French). It left McCain an opening and he took it by the “brilliant” move of picking a feisty woman who would both attract feminists and, perhaps, more importantly, energize his base.

The problem is that as we take a second look, Palin is perhaps the worse prepared choice for Vice-President in my (ergo modern) memory. For all her problems, Geraldine Ferraro was an experienced office holder at a national level. Some have talked down Harry Truman’s pick as VP by Roosevelt in 1944 (I was 7 years old) when he was forced to dump Henry Wallace who had gotten a little too far ahead of the curve. But Truman was an experienced Senator who had made headlines investigating war profiteering. Even Dan Quayle had national experience. Indeed, conspiracy theorists have ideas about just how deep his experience ran. There were connections between his Senate office and some of the Central American “freedom fighters” lionized by Reagan.

I was like many a bit perturbed by the seeming guile of the McCain campaign in choosing to let Palin make her debut on ABC in an interview with Charles Gibson who might have seemed a patsy type interviewer for her. Boy was I, and the McCain camp, wrong.

McCain had choices that were far better than the one he chose and who would have really put the Dems behind the eight ball. The two most intriguing were the traditional Tom Ridge who might have put both Pennsylvania and Ohio in the McCain column. The other, untraditional choice, was Joe Lieberman who, politically and personally, from my perspective, is a flawed vessel. But it would have been an enormous blow.

Obama’s most obvious choice was Hillary and although I wasn’t a fan of hers for the Presidency, as a resident of New York who has met her twice for at least a handshake and a minute of conversation, I can attest that this is one, smart hard-working lady who, but from my perspective, goes to often for the power guys and gals.

The irony is that the reason that Hillary was never seriously considered was the 800 pound gorilla Bill Clinton, who couldn’t be ignored. The calculation that he would add a wild card factor to the campaign by Obama and that Bill and Hillary could not stand vetting because of the Clinton Library stuff and the pardon scandals that involved Hillary’s brother was a reasonable one. In a sense, Obama studied the whole board and played Karpov. However, McCain threw caution to the win and tried a wild Kasparov gambit.

Obama’ studious study seemed to backfire by the initial thrust of McCain’s daring gambit. But, now the daring gambit may end-up like a lot of other daring gambits, as this writer so sadly knows: a blunder into checkmate.

I wonder how many moves are left?

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Party of Lincoln

Once there was a time when there was a Republican Party that called itself "The Party of Lincoln." They sang the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at national conventions. Now, no more Lincoln.

Lincoln and his genius are the great enigma's of history. As Gary Wills as written, he literally redefined America at Gettysburg, re-establishing the egalitarian and populist ideals of the Declaration of Independence as the defining document of our the Republic. In one alternative history book, the Union loses Gettysburg, the South wins the war and Lincoln re-emerges as the founder of the American Socialist Party.

But even though he made his mark as a lawyer for the railroads, Lincoln was a populist. In the Lincoln-Douglas debates he argued for the rights of the individual over the rights of property. And, he advocated the right of people to revolt, if government ever trampled on their liberties.

Unlike Lincoln, Obama won his Senatorial campaign in Illinois. His is also a studied intelligence. He has been gifted with an education at the finest educational institutions in America, among the very best in the world. He was a fatherless child, Lincoln a motherless one who, according to legend, whittled the feet for his mother’s casket.

The contrast between McCain and Obama personally, could not be greater.

On can not presume to call Obama a new Lincoln, Roosevelt or Kennedy. But more than any Presidential candidate since Kennedy, he embodies the very best of what we have to offer ourselves, and the world.

He is a risk, a risk of enormous disappointment if he fails. But, he has the intellect and the savvy that could lead us out of our current multiple crises.

The issue in this campaign will be whether America has the courage to follow the candidate of the real “Party of Lincoln.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Obama and Patriotism

Once I heard someone say that the truly great democratic leader is one who dreams a great dream for us. As one whose first presidential vote was for Jack Kennedy, and whose last presidential vote maybe for Barack Obama, I have been gratified, at times stunned, by Obama’s eloquence. Is he a perfect vessel for social justice? Was Lincoln?

One of the incidents involving Lincoln's nomination in 1860 was his message to his supporters at the Republican convention that they not trade promises for convention votes and that he would not be bound by their promises. They ignored his message. After he was nominated and elected, he somehow kept every deal they had made. He was a lawyer for the railroads who was an authentic populist, who mocked those who believed the property rights were equal to human rights.

As Obama does a gandy dance* around some of the difficult issues that have been used by the right to push back the clock, not beyond the two Roosevelts, but beyond Lincoln, we might just cut him some slack. A littler obfuscation on gun control, for example, may be painful to some of us, but it might be appropriate, although the NRA, apparently, hasn't been fooled. A little distancing from Wes Clark’s blunt, but accurate, assessment of John McCain's service career, isn't the same as drinking cool aid.

Ironically, during the 1960 campaign, my eldest brother, an Air Force officer, complained about Kennedy's war record. "The only thing he did is get his PT Boat run over by a Jap destroyer." **

This is not the first time in this campaign that Obama has shown amazing insight and grace with his analysis of a complex problem. His first speech on race, when he tried to explain Rev. Wright's anger is, and will be, a classic. Rev. Wright repaid him by a self-absorbed display of petulance that nearly destroyed Obama's campaign.

I expect that some of the response to Obama’s message on patriotism will reflect the same destructive anger that marks Rev. Wright and so much of the Vietnam protest. Those protestors who burned the American flag may have actually prolonged the war and insured the birth of the Nixon-Reagan-Bush era.

Obama chooses not to burn the flag, but to wave it. God bless America, the beautiful.

*Gandy dancer refers to the footwork of railroad workers placing and resetting ties on the rail road.

See http:/www.johnklotz.com/billy.htm for more about my family and WWII.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Is Obama channeling JFK?

A dream died on November 22, 1963.

To many Americans, who are old enough to remember, John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas was the principal reason for a long American nightmare of which Bush II is simply the culmination. Ted Sorenson, the other night, stated that the 1961 Inaugural address was only Kennedy's second best speech. The best was, in Sorenson's opinion (and mine, his June 1963 American University speech at which he chartered a course to end the cold war. That he had plans to withdraw from Vietnam after the 1964 election is a matter of public record now. All that ended in Dallas.

I have always felt that second biggest casualty at Dallas was Khrushchev. The Cuban Missile crisis had scared them both and Khrushchev had staked his won career on his new relationship to JFK. His leadership survived for several months but eventually was ousted.

Maybe Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone nut gunman. To some, his cloudy intelligence background and the incredible convenience of JFK's death to those who were looking to profit from the Vietnam War is more than a convenience.

If anybody is interested, I wrote an op-ed piece on the media and the environment using Kennedy's speech American University as a starting point. http://www.johnklotz.com/new-jfk.htm

I wrote an op-ed piece for Newsday (which made the WP wire) in November 1993 which discussed the media and the assassination. http://www.johnklotz.com/new-jfk.htm

In any event, you can graph the dissolution of the Americans trust in government has beginning it sharp climb to the time when the public discovered that LBJ’s peace campaign of 1964 was a con job.

I don't know if Obama has Kennedy’s Irish political smarts and I don’t think he has quite obtained JFK's eloquence [maybe he needs a Sorenson], but he's getting there. And beyond political smarts, he has the intellectual capacity to be a truly great President. He will bear the heavy burden of enhanced expectations.

But, after a years of pessimism about the future, and years of second rate intellects occupying the White House, I am suddenly optimistic about the future. I have seen the future and it's Barack.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Why I am still a Catholic

The Washington Post today (Friday March 14, 2008) reported that Catholic educators in the United States were concerned about a forthcoming visit from Pope Benedict who has expressed disdain for non-Catholic influences at Catholic colleges. File this one under “Will they [the Popes] ever learn.” But that raises a question: Why do I still call myself Catholic?

The most amazing thing about the Church has been its ability to survive the power madness of so many of the Popes. Christ washed his disciples feet, this Pope seeks to wash their brains. Others have washed (laundered) money. Like most of my generation, I recall the explosion of true faith in Christ that occurred during the papacy of John the 23rd, but its been a long time gone.

The Vatican never learns. It was the attitude espoused by Benedict that suppressed Copernicus and Galileo and thus delayed the progress of human knowledge. Yet, somehow the Church survives the Vatican and truly remarkable Catholic men and women contribute to human knowledge.

The “Big Bang” theory was first espoused by a Catholic priest who was mocked by the scientific establishment until he was proven right. Teilhard de Chardin pioneered concepts that sought to merge faith and evolution (not in the "intelligent design" sense). Unfortunately, because he was under Vatican prohibition, his most important works weren’t published until after his death, Teilhard and “we” were denied the benefit that vetting and debate, over his ideas, would have created.

The Catholic faith is really quite simple and the reason why I am still a Catholic (although how Roman I am may be subject to some debate) is that the key issue of the Reformation was the Protestant advancement of “Faith” rather than Love.

Jesus taught it, St. Paul and St. John wrote it, and St. Francis lived it. There is only one measure and way, Love. As long as the Church bureaucrats flee that message and seek first not the Kingdom of God but the enhancement of their power, the Church Magister will become increasingly irrelevant to those pursuing the faith of Love. In the information era, for the Pope to seek control of the flow of information at any level, is not only bound for failure, it is ludicrous.

Yet, for all its folly, and at times corruption, the most direct way, back through the milennia, to Christ’s message of love is the Church. It’s just a bigger Church than the Vatican wishes to admit. It’s all those who love.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Obama's rendezvous with history

[The following post is derived from a comment posted on Salon.com that was designated as an "Editor's Choice]"

This has been the most pre-convention fun since 1960 and I think the result will be as good. I hope everybody relaxes and enjoys the ride.

If Obama should lose, I will have no trouble voting for Hillary, although with a slightly heavy heart. But after the results today, I don't think that is a likely possibility.

In the lead-up to this week-end (February 9-10), Maine was pictured as a toss-up and HRC's best chance for a victory. In the end, Obama did about as well as any place else this weekend. On Tuesday (February 12), barring a major misalignment of the stars, he will in fact win all three primaries in which he is favored by as much as he was favored anyplace this weekend. By the tine we get to March 4 and the two big enchiladas he will have had a virtual month of crushing victories.

I believe he and his campaign have demonstrated the talent and have the money to roll through those two and the best HRC will get is an inconclusive stand-off, a virtual draw.

The recent shake-up of the Hillary campaign is a reflection of all the things the Obama campaign has done right. No campaign is a one man band but this campaign reflects the genius and talent of a truly remarkable human being who has been its candidate and leader (or "decider" as Shrub might say). Maine clinched the deal for me.

I hope at some point, HRC understands that she is facing someone who could become very special in the history of our country. She is Douglas to his Lincoln, Adams to his Jefferson, Al Smith to his Roosevelt.

Hillary is a brilliant woman and would make an able President. But Obama is gifted beyond extraordinary. The long dark night of the American soul may really be over this time. I only hope that HRC and company, get the point soon enough. As John Edwards said: there comes a time when you have to get out of the way of History.

The most likely scenario I see is the simplest: that Obama is breaking free and running into clear field. If he enters March with nothing but victories in February after Super Tuesday, then it will be over, one way or another. I think Donna Brazile’s strong statements this weekend about the role of Super Delegates will carry the day. She is no dewy-eyed reformer but a Party insider (IMVHO). The wind is blowing and you don’t have to be a weatherman etc.

Obviously his campaign will have to perform extraordinarily well in Texas and Ohio, but based upon its performance thus far, it will.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Clinton, Obama, Jesse Jackson and the Jewish vote in Florida

There's a reason why Ted Kennedy got angry about Clinton's brandishing of a Jesse Jackson comparison to Obama: it was an attempt to tarnish Obama in the Jewish community. That may sound harsh but all last week, former Clinton adviser and somewhat psycho anti-Hillary pit bull Dick Morris was praising Clinton's genius in his use of the Jackson thing and that by paining Obama black in SC, the Clintons was guaranteeing victory everywhere else on Super Tuesday. The Clintons were doing this for "fun." (Hillary's description of negative campaigning). There is a dark side to the Jesse Jackson analogy and that was the extent to which Jesse Jackson became anathema to the Jewish community because of perceived anti-Semitism, aggravated by his infamous description of New York as "Hymie Town."

Would you really doubt that B. Clinton, the great triangulator, was unaware of this. And, by the way, do you doubt that Teddy Kennedy, whose been around for a few years in politics, isn’t aware of the unfortunate connotation attached to Jackson's name by some older Jews - particularly I can assume - the ones retired in Florida by the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions.

Having spent the last 38 years of life in the Bronx and seeing the "Scoop" Jackson" 1976 Democratic primary vote in Coop City, I can assure that the Jesse Jackson as enemy mentality was prevalent at the time. Coop City is largely Black and Latino now. The Jews who lived there have either died or moved – to Florida.

Given the enormous micro-polling that goes on in the Clinton campaign orchestrated by Mark Penn, I'll betcha a poll of Florida Democrats revealed (would have revealed) that among the Jewish emigres, Jesse Jackson had strong negatives. Ergo, link Obama to Jackson repeatedly and often. If you have ever taken, or answered a poll, you know how its done. A list of names is read and for each name you are asked: “If XX is endorsed by YY, would it make you more or less likely to vote for him?” Or simply: “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of YY.” In this case “YY” would be Jesse Jackson.

I had a dental appointment this morning. My Dentist is second or third generation Jewish and market-tested this theory on him and he agreed immediately that by linking Obama to Jackson, Clinton was playing to the Jewish vote, including his.

The fact that Bill Clinton and Hillary can express amazement that anyone could believe that it was deliberate ploy is testament to their acting ability and their low estimation of the intelligence of the American voters. They should win an Oscar, not the Presidency. I only hope that Jewish voters don't fall for it.

Of course, Obama has another Jewish issue going for him: The more he talks about his mother and father and his love and respect for them and his roots, although different from typical Jewish roots, he plays to the strong sense of family that underlies Jewish culture. That’s targeting with a heart. "He's such a nice boy."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's all about him

There was a time when Americans valued "class" with a small "c." I'm not talking about economic "class" or social "class" but a genuine understanding that it's not all about me and the ability to congratulate a successful opponent with grace and dignity, understanding that there is a tomorrow and that in politics (and sports) today's adversary may be tomorrow’s ally or teammate. Among the classless moments of my memory are Nixon's "You won't have Nixon to kick around any more" and Roger Maris's comment after the Yankees lost to Pittsburg in the 1960 World Series: "Everyone knows we were best team. It's too bad we didn't win."

Right up there is Bill Clinton's Fred Thomasesque speech in Missouri Saturday night. It was all about Bill and not much about Hillary. The anchors at CNN and MSNBC didn't make that up. It was there on the screen.

There's empathy and there is pseudo-empathy. There is the empathy of one who truly feels your pain and the pseudo-empathy of a narcissist who adopts empathy as a mask for his or her self involvement. In Missouri, after Hillary's lost, Bill Clinton by talking about himself and his administration definitively defined himself. It was all about him. His empathy has all the sincerity of Mitt Romney's smile.

Maybe it's time that the Clintonistas started reviewing the great accomplishments of the Clinton administration. Was he better on the environment than Bush - by a million millions. Was he better on the economy: Clinton rode the Wall Street wave and left office just before the deluge. We also lost the Congress in 1992 and didn’t win it back until 14 years later in 2006.

NAFTA was his, remember? Not to denigrate his entire administration. To me, the most pressing issue for electing almost any Democrat will be, and remains, the reactionary packing of the Supreme Court. We lose this one and the Court may be gone for a generation.

In 2000 I played a minor role in helping Hillary get her the Sierra Club endorsement. I have no regrets. I wish her a long, long productive career in the United States Senate. I hope she will have one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Will Hillary's barrage elect McCain?

The Democratic debate in South Carolina Tuesday night (1/21/2008) turned very ugly. One of the “issues” was Obama’s use of voting “present” in the Illinois State Senate when he was dissatisfied with certain aspects of otherwise good legislation.

However, Hillary Clinton has her own explaining to do on her claimed opposition to the 2005 bankruptcy amendments. She didn’t vote present. She was recorded as “not voting.” The only one of 100 Senators not to record a “yea” or nay.” The 2005 Bankruptcy amendments were a consumer disaster. In the House, even Barney Frank voted against them. I think that I heard Hillary say she opposed the Amendments. Am I wrong? Did she duck the vote?

Is that true? She alone among all the Senators, is the one who did not vote on the bankruptcy law that catered to the credit card companies in an attempt to make credit card debt non-dischargeable. Does anyone have an explanation for this? Is her convenient absence one reason why she has such superior fund raising ability? From long experience: a lobbyist WILL tell a legislator, if you can’t be with me, go to the bathroom when the vote comes-up. It happens.

If Obama wants a real issue, and the infighting persists, I suggest he check with the folks in Fayetteville Arkansas where the Clinton regime built a toxic waste incinerator. One of the edges Bill Clinton had in 1992 was his early fundraising from Wall Street. He delivered, they paid. The key to the incinerator binge was the money the Wall Street bond lawyers and underwriters made in the sale of bonds. As I wrote for City Sierran in 1992: “If it’s bondable, it’s buildable. Whether it’s workable is irrelevant.” See http://www.johnklotz.com/burn.htm

Incidentally, the Sierra Club and its allies defeated the mass burn incinerators, which were an initiative by Governor Mario Cuomo and Mayor David Dinkins, both of whom were defeated for reelection in heavily Democratic New York. I am not a Giuliani fan, but it was Republican Governor Pataki and Republican Mayor Giuliani that put a nail in the coffin of both the mass-burn plan and a hospital waste in incinerator in the South Bronx. Was that important. See http://www.johnklotz.com/andy.htm New York City's air quality is now among the best of major cities.

If the Clintons don't get a grip, the only winner in the Democratic debate will be McCain. Hillary’s shrill performance may cut Obama down to size, but it may set up ”nice guy” John McCain for a win, as I expect the polls will be showing. Although McCain has enormous liabilities issue wise, I don’t think they will be able to tag team him the way they are tag teaming Obama. We may notice that the “straight talker” speaks with a forked tongue but it will be a tough sell.

I am for Edwards but as that possibility fades, the only Democratic ticket that will make sense is Hillary-Obama. Hillary’s courting of the Latino power structure may make the need for a dramatic gesture to the most consistent overwhelming Democratic vote - the African-American vote. It’s not that they will they vote for McCain, it’s will they vote in sufficient numbers for a candidate who is destroying their best spokesperson since MLK and Jessie Jackson’s heyday.

Nice guy John McCain may dampen their ardor to vote for Hillary. Somewhere out there, I can also hear Michael Bloomberg licking his chops.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Is Clorox bleaching the green Sierra Club white?

For over a decade, I was fairly active in the Sierra Club, but for multiple reasons over the past two years, I have had to let Sierra Club stuff slide. But now, something has happened that requires some comment. Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club has announced an exciting new “partnership” with Clorox to develop green products. The question to many is Clorox bleaching the green Sierra Club white.

What we are watching is perhaps the final chapter of the conversion of the Sierra Club ‑ on a national level ‑ from an activists driven organization to a corporate driven organization where the interest of the Sierra Club as a corporation invariably trumps the interest of the Sierra Club as an activists’ organization. I struggled against that mentality for about three years and then, as pressures from my practice, and my son Mike's illness, moved front and center had to cede the struggle to others. I would bring to your attention several hall marks of this struggle which have ramifications not only of Sierra Club members but for the nation at large.

(1) the decision to pull all criticism of Bush from the Club's web site taken in haste without due deliberation in aftermath of 9/11. According to the President of the Club, the was a no-brainer because of concerns about corporate contributors.

(2) the refusal of the BOD of directors in February 2002 to seriously implement the report of the Global Environmental and Security Task Force which I happened to chair. We recommended that the Club “message to security” and demonstrate that our environmental goals are intrinsically related to national security. Robert Kennedy, Jr. had earlier made the same point a few weeks after 9/11.

When we reported to the Club Board of Directors (“BOD”) the Executive Director ostentatiously read the newspaper and then said that "We have passed this by focus groups and they don’t think that this is something the Club should get involved with.” I subsequently coined a phrase "focus group morality" to express my disdain for those who would substitute the opinions of focus groups for the dictates of conscience. Incidentally, a number of people have pointed out that it was reliance on focus groups to dictate strategy that was key element of Kerry’s 2004 loss.

(3) I believe it was the same year that saw the creation of the Sierra Club Mutual Fund which was supposed to open the door to unlimited wealth for the Club. I thought at the time that proposal would create a rather run-of-the-mill fund which would not really be truly extraordinary and arguably not all that green.

(4) Then there was the struggle in the fall of 2002 to get the Club to oppose the Iraq war and nip it at the bud. The Club had an existing anti-war policy on environmental grounds but the insiders led by Pope struggled ruthlessly and disingenuously to squelch opposition to the war in the Sierra Club.

The Club’s Council of Conservation Leaders, (CCL) passed a resolution in September of 2002, that the Club opposed the looming invasion of Iraq. The BOD sidetracked the resolution to the Conservation Governance Committee (CGC) and then in a private E-Mail (somehow I acquired a copy), the President of the Club lobbied the CGC to defeat the resolution. In October, with the Sierra Club's voice having been silenced, many Democrats voted for the war resolution and that vote has come back to haunt many of them particularly Clinton, Kerry and Edwards.

The great “what if” of American politics is “what if” we had vigorously opposed the war resolution? Could we have budged Kerry or Edwards. I don't think Hillary was budgeable. How different our political history would have been had either Kerry or Edwards voted "no" and at least in Edward's case we now know it was a very close call (thanks to the venomous memoir of perpetual loser and focus group freak Bob Shrum).

The low-point of the affair was when the National Conservation Director threatened to discipline the San Francisco Chapter for proposing to thank Nancy Pelosi for her vote against the 2002 resolution.

It was only after an E-Mail proposal by Pope to expel the members of the Glen Canyon Group in Utah for publicly opposing Club policy was published by the LA Times that the Club - too late - changed its position and publicly opposed the war.

And then there was the 2003 BOD election where independent voices were purged from the BOD under guise of protecting us from the anti-immigration faction. I am told that the husband of one candidate invested $125,000 dollars in that effort. The main problem was that among those purged in the immigration struggle were independent voices that opposed the efforts of the anti immigration faction.

Perhaps, the final blow was the closing of the CCL E-Mail list that allowed a free flow of ideas among members nationwide.

But Sierra Club members at the local level should not lose heart. They still have enough autonomy to deal with local issues and your voice n what happens in our communities is vitally important. You are doing God's work. Whatever the penzavotte at the national level do: "Keep the faith, baby."

During the Vietnam War, the Sierra Club took the courageous position that the use of Agent Orange was wrong. History has proven it right. Now the Club squashes dissent about war and makes deals with corporations whose environmental record – like Clorox – is atrocious.

When I objected to the purging of Bush from the Club web site in 2001, the Club President defended that act by saying that they had a telephone conference that afternoon and that the purge was a "no-brainer" because of the impact of 9/11 on the corporate donors.

She was right. It was a no brainer. It was also a no guts. The struggle for a habitable environment demands both brains and guts.

Is Clorox bleaching the green Sierra Club white? Perhaps I am being unfair, maybe the Club has just changed interest from green trees to green papers.