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Posts tagged Politics

Art and Politics

Samain                              Moon of the Winter Solstice

 

In to the city to meet with Justin, Sierra Club’s lobbyist and policy wonk.  We’re putting together a campaign strategy for this upcoming session.  I love the ins and outs of politics, the practical, no nonsense nature of the analysis, the calculations.  The realities of power, not its dreamy possibilities.

It is though, at this stage of my life, not as exciting as taking in a new painting, wandering through a new exhibition, revisiting a print I’ve seen many times.  Even so,  politics are deeper in my life, started earlier, continued throughout my life while the arts have been only a once in a while thing until the last ten years.

The man I am now, the man I am becoming, loves the museum gallery more than the legislative chamber, the exhibit hall more than the voting booth, research for a tour more than campaign planning.  Part of me is not sure what to make of this change, but that it has happened there is no doubt.

Perhaps these later years have bent the knee toward beauty rather than the lady justice.

No, of course it’s not either art or politics, of course not.  There is, though, a real matter of how much time I want to devote to life outside our home, how much energy I want to give to projects for others and how much I need to spend on my own work.

These are not easy matters for me, questions I’ve juggled my whole life, but I’ve always tried to remain true to what my inner life tells me.  Just now, it says open that new book with all the paintings in the Louvre.

With Thoughts of Green, Growing Things Dancing in My Head

Winter                                Waxing Moon of Long Nights

We’ve warmed up to 0.  Midmorning’s brittle sunshine diffuses in the hazy, partly cloudy sky.  The whippets go outside, pee, turn around and come right back inside.  Rigel, unphased, continues to hunt around the machine shed, staying on the hunt for hours at a time.  Sometimes she comes in after midnight, too.  Vega prefers the comforts of home, a couch, a bone, heated air.

A subtle change has occurred in my inner world.  I have begun to wonder where the seed catalogs are.  I have one in hand but I didn’t like their seeds so I’m waiting for others.  This year’s garden will benefit from last year’s mistakes.  In particular I’m going to make a real effort with leeks, have a better onion crop (sets), plant fewer greens and harvest more regularly (in general), beets, beans, one squash, not many tomatoes since we stocked up this year.  I’ll plant potatoes again, too, but this time I will store them in the basement rather than outside in the garage stairwell.

It is  time, too, to get back to work on legislative matters for the Sierra Club.  I got a call last night from Josh Davis about a meeting of the Club’s political committee next week.  No tours for the time being, just fine with me.  After Sin and Salvation followed by the Louvre, I can use a rest.

In the middle of January I head out to Denver for a week to take in the Stock Show with Jon and Jen and  Ruth and Gabe.  This is a premier event of the western US.  I’m going just to see what it’s like.

This Is The Question I Face Now. One I Have Not Answered.

Spring            Waning Seed Moon

Agency.  There’s been a lot written in psychology and history about agency.  We have agency when we can affect the flow of events in our own lives or in the world around us. (No, I’m not going to get into the subtle no-free-will arguments floating around.)  A lot of the historical work has concerned how those without agency–say women, slaves, workers–get it or why they don’t have it.  In the case of the individual agency refers to our capacity to direct our own life.

A sense of agency underwrites our sense of self, or our sense of group identity.  Note that our agency or our group’s agency can be positive or negative.  A more negative sense of agency, that is, sensing that others or factors outside your control influence your life or your group, leads to a feeling of diminished capacity or is a feeling of diminished capacity.  A positive sense of agency promotes a feeling of active and successful engagement with the world, the ability to act in ways congruent with your self-interest or your group’s self-interest.

Here’s where I’m going with this.  In my regression back into the ministry after 8 or so years out I made the move because my writing career had not produced the hoped for results.  I had lost a sense of agency in the work area of my life and moved backwards on my psychological journey to retrieve it.  Going backwards to pick up something left behind is a key element of regression.  Its flaw lies in a return to a previous reality no longer relevant.  The ministy was what I had done, a minister what I had been.  The experience of return to the ministry produced missteps and a low level of energy for the actual work.

Now, about ten  years later,  once again I have reached back into my past, this time even further, to retrieve a sense of agency, the ur-agency, for me, the political.  This is the work with the Sierra Club. (hmmm.  just realized I did the same thing two years back when I studied Paul Tillich.  That was a return to life as a student, a potent form of agency for me.)

What the work with the Sierra Club, the study of Tillich and the ministry have in common is an attempt to regain a positive sense of self through a form of agency already well-established and presumably easily recaptured.  None of these activities in themselves is a bad thing, but that is the lure, the  seductive call of regression.

Back there, if only I could go back in time, and become the captain of the football team again.  Prom queen.  College radio jockey.  The actor I became after college.  My successful years as a bond trader or nurse or carpenter.  Back there I was strong, able.  I had a way with the world, a position of respect and self-confidence. READ MORE »

Crabby but Eco-Friendly

72  bar falls  20.76 0mph  ESE dew-point 64  sunrise 6:29  sunset 7:58  Lughnasa

Waning Crescent of the Corn Moon

A Sierra club blogger caught these comments after her light hearted, energetic account of her second day at the Democratic convention:

What I would like to know is the substance of what is being said and promised to America. The rest is nonsense and not worth our time.

I would also like more substance. This is time consuming, I don’t appreciate my time being wasted on insignicant information.

I agree with Bruce. Less fluff, more substance.

I posted the following:

Geez. Lighten up. Color is part of the information. This kind of crabby feedback is part of the problem we have in general. Who wants to listen to folks who sound like tight-lipped great-grand parents?

The environmental movement has a large dose of self-righteousness that often brooks no dissent.  It is not unlike the New Left of the sixties.  The tone and flavor of “I’m right and you’re not” creates a sense of condescension that impeded the capacity to get our message to the people who need to hear it.  Are we wrong about some things?  History assures us we are?  Which things?  Well, it is not history yet.  This reality should make us more humble.

I watched a good film the other night called U-571.  The plot is irrelevant here, but the Captain said to his Ex O, “To be a captain you have to make decisions with imperfect information and no time for consideration.”  This is the human condition on all the great issues of the day.  We get further with each other if we admit our information is imperfect.  What we look for is the trend, the decision that if not made will hurt us more than inaction.  Climate change sure seems to be one of those decisions.  Could we have some of the science wrong?  Absolutely. Is the trend clear enough to make decisions now imperative?  Seems so to me.

But there may be some who read the data differently.  They might disagree about urgency, agency.   They might disagree, as noted physicist Freeman Dyson does, with the assumptions that go into the climate models.  Those of us, though, who see the need for action must make our case in a way others can at least agree with us that acting is more important than the possibility of being wrong in some of the details.  That’s our task.

Windows Down and Moon Roof Open

66  bar steady 29.87  0mph NW dew-point 52   Summer night

First Quarter of the Thunder Moon

First meeting of the Sierra Club political committee is under my belt.  I am delighted to say that there were several things we did that I cannot talk about yet.  It was fun, sitting around the table again, considering political strategy, making decisions.  There was a volunteer opportunity, but, unlike many times in the past, I did not step up.  The Sierra Club has a well conceived and well run political operation; it will require some time to understand.

Margaret Levin is an excellent staffer.  Her presence reminded me of my work with the Presbytery, helping things happen, supporting when necessary, providing guidance, prodding at times.  Josh Davis, the chair, is very knowledgeable about state level politics.  He came tonight with a map of the state house districts color coded by safe seats, 5% margin and 2% margin races.  In addition there were districts Sierra Club allies have targeted in blue.

There were two past chairs of the political committee on the committee which is great.  Continuity and experience.  This will be an educational process and I look forward to it.

Drove home with the windows down and the moon roof open, listening to a lecture on Thomas Hardy.

Bozo the Clown and Jesse Helms Die

77  bar falls 30.01 1mph SW  dew-point 50  Summer, pleasant

Waxing Crescent of the Thunder Moon

Sometimes coincidence says things that would have not occurred to me:

Larry Harmon, longtime Bozo the Clown, dead at 83.

Former Sen. Jesse Helms dies at age 86.

Mulch goes down today.  Old leaves and grass clippings from last year stored in plastic bags.  Straw baled on a farm.  Organic matter that will blend into the soil, enrich it and give it better composition.  Before it does that, it will suppress weeds and keep the soil beneath it cooler, helping plants fight the extremes of summer heat.  An all purpose good deal, mulch.

A columnist referred to the 4th as the happiest of holidays.  It has sparklers, band music, cookouts, fireworks and family gatherings.  As for me, a solid northern European intellectually, I find it a sober holiday.  Our government, at its least competent level in decades, has not made tiny, forgivable, do over mistakes; no, they have blundered on the world stage as well as the domestic.  They have tanked the economy, made citizens suspicious of Washington, politicized the judiciary and made WC Fields and Mark Twain look like optimistic boosters.  On the foreign affairs we have reversed and three upped Teddy Roosevelt.  Now we speak loudly and shoulder nuclear RPG’s.

In light of this July 4th is, for me, a time to redouble my own efforts to bring down these clowns (apologies to Larry Harmon, mentioned earlier) and to change policy at the national, state and local levels.  My own focus now is the natural world, the world that can go along on its own without human interference, if it does not have human interference, that is.  In times past issues of war and peace, civil rights and economic justice were stage front in my political world.  They remain critically important, but I choose to pass that torch to another generation of activists.

On a lighter note I look forward to charcoaled hamburgers, potato salad, corn on the cob and cold watermelon when Kate comes home.  We also have a cache of sparklers to set out in the yard and light.  Star spangledness will live on in our Andover backyard.

Trust in the Land

76  bar falls 29.85  1mph ESE dew-point 60  Summer, sunny headed toward hot

Waning Crescent of the Flower Moon

“Over 200 LEED-certified new homes are being built by the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation under the auspices of…Dudley Neighbors Inc., Boston’s two-decade-old community land trust — a burgeoning affordable housing strategy where residents buy the homes but not the land underneath, thus reducing the price.”   This from the Land Institute website yesterday.

Another memory jogger.   25 years ago I worked in a small University of Minnesota and hospital dominated neighborhood of Minneapolis called Cedar-Riverside.  A grand plan for very dense housing proposed by Keith Heller, a UofM economics professor and Gloria Segal, a Minnesota DFL heavyweight would have buried the community with housing for more than 25,000 people.  That would have meant fitting a city the size of Andover on a plot of land that is a small neighborhood by Minneapolis standards, a plot of land those 25,000 + would have shared with Augsburg College, St. Mary’s Hospital, Fairview Hospital, and the University’s West Bank campus which included the Wilson Library, two towers of classroom space and a performing arts center.

Citizens of the neighborhood fought back, filed an environmental impact lawsuit, a notion then in its infancy, and won.  The settlement of that lawsuit provided the neighborhood with several million dollars to use in developing the community at a level consistent with the residents wishes.  We pursued several innovative community development strategies in those days.

Among them was a land-trust.  This was well in advance of the land-trust referred to in the Land Institute quote.  It worked like this.

We developed different housing options, mostly townhomes, all as co-operatives, that is, resident managed and jointly owned.   These were limited-equity co-ops, meaning you paid a small fee up front to join the co-operative, usually around a $1,000 and when you moved you sold your unit back to the co-op and received your fee back in return.  This idea had two positives from a community development perspective.  First, it allowed low-income people entree to a self-governing living situation (no landlord or they became the landlord).  Second, it discouraged speculation in the individual units which would make the units affordable over time.

The land-trust was a guard against a problem that had occurred in the 70’s in some cities. Community based developers would build low-income housing units as co-ops, then turn the whole project over to the co-operative.  As time went by and the property values increased, the co-op and its land would become more and more valuable.  Eventually, a for-profit developer would make the co-op and offer they couldn’t refuse and the co-ops would sell out.   This removed the housing from the ranks of affordable housing, defeating the original purpose in its construction.

The landtrust prevented that in two ways.  First, the land was  held in trust by a third party, usually a land trust corporation controlled by a community development corporation or the community development corporation itself.  This made every transaction for the whole a three party negotiation with the land-trust holding veto rights.  Second, a clause in the contract stipulated that if the land ever was sold, it triggered a penalty which equaled the interest on all the years since the projects completion.

A secondary aspect of the land-trust was its ability to lower the overall cost of the housing by taking land out of the total development equation.

No good deed goes unpunished, however, and I imagine the good folks in Boston will find similar problems to those that have developed in Cedar-Riverside.  Turns out everyone wants a piece of the increase in home value pie.  Tenants became incensed when all they got back was their original fee instead of an inflation or value multiplied amount.  Co-ops also vary a good deal in the people who come to share responsibility for them.  Sometimes general management was an issue, too.  Still, in my mind, the land-trust remains a sound tool for developing and maintaing housing affordable to all.

Aarrghh

Just in case you don’t think the Presidency matters much, look at what G. Bush did to the American way of life: 

Guns 

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting, the justices’ first major pronouncement on gun rights in U.S. history.

Exxon Valdez 

The Supreme Court cut punitive damages for Alaskans harmed by the Exxon Valdez oil spill by 80 percent Wednesday in a ruling that may signal new limits on damage awards for victims of corporate wrongdoing.

Even an off year for business at the U.S. Supreme Court is still a good year.

The court yesterday ruled in favor of Exxon Mobil Corp., cutting $2 billion from the punitive damages it owes for the 1989 Valdez oil spill in Alaska. The 5-3 decision, which leaves the oil company to pay $507.5 million, ended a 19-year legal fight.

Device Ruling

The medical-device case, stemming from a burst heart catheter made by Medtronic Inc., extended a high court trend toward “pre-empting” state regulations and lawsuits when a federal statute covers the same territory. Businesses typically champion pre-emption because it means a single, national set of rules.

The 8-1 device ruling said patients generally can’t sue over products cleared for sale under the most intensive federal review process. The court similarly concluded that federal law displaced California’s restrictions on employer speech against unionization and Maine’s attempt to stop shippers from delivering tobacco to children.

Death Penalty

Justice Kennedy for the majority.

“The constitutional prohibition against excessive or cruel and unusual punishments mandates that the State’s power to punish be exercised within the limits of civilized standards.”  

This wonderful logic, with which I agree, the court used to deny the death penalty for child rape.  It leaves intact, however, all the other so-called capital offenses.

The Great Work: Practical Steps

73  bar steady 29.84 0mph NNW dew-point   61  Summer, cooler

                  Last Quarter of the Flower Moon

This e-mail went out today to the Woolly Mammoths and the folks at GrovelandI wanted to add it here and alert you that I will post further mailings here, too.  Political passion still burns in this heart, but it has been diffused over the last several yearsIt is now coming, again, to a point In politics focus, clarity and persistence are 98% of the struggle. 

To:  Woolly Mammoths, Groveland UU members 

Friends, 

As you may or may not know, I will be on the Sierra Club’s political committee for this election cycleAs part of that work, I hope to keep you informed.

This mailing is a first step in that directionIf, for any reason, you do not wish receive these updates (about one a week, probably less until August or September), just shoot me an e-mail and I’ll take you off the list.  Alternatively, if you know someone you think would be interested in these regular updates, you can send me their e-mail or suggest they send it to me themselves. In their 1991 bookGenerations, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe predicted that the baby boom generation would meet one more major ethical challenge before they passed from the sceneThey didn’t define that challenge I have waited, watched, to see what might emerge as our final generational call to actionI found my answer in Thomas Berry’s book, The Great WorkBerry says that the current American generation has this Great WorkTo lead the world to a human presence on the planet compatible with the health and welfare of all living things.   

Work with the Sierra Club furthers the Great Work for meThis kind of work requires partners, many, many partnersPerhaps you will be or already are such a partner.     

Anyhow, I’ll leave you with this thought:  Love your Mother.  From: Margaret Levin, Sierra Club North Star Chapter [mailto:north.star.chapter@sierraclub.org]
Sent: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 12:11 PM
To: rugosa@comcast.net
Subject: Put Minnesotans Back To Work
  


Sierra Club -- North Star Chapter 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet
 Dear Charles, Take Action to Support Green Jobs for Minnesota$4 a gallon gas. Global warming. The worst Minnesota job numbers in 17 years. Washington continues to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to big oil companies. We deserve better! That is why the Sierra Club is partnering with United Steelworkers union in the Blue Green Alliance. We are working to create thousands of green jobs for Minnesotans. A green job is work that helps us build the clean, renewable energy economy. But we won’t get them unless Governor Pawlenty makes a Green Jobs Plan a priority. Tell Governor Pawlenty to go to bat for Minnesotans and implement a Green Jobs Plan for Minnesota now!So what is our vision for the green economy?

  • Over 18,000 jobs in renewable energy manufacturing.
  • Jobs producing the steel plate for the blades and towers in the growing wind energy industry.
  • Jobs for electricians, steam fitters, plumbers, sheet metal workers and other skilled tradesmen retrofitting America‘s buildings to make them more energy efficient, save money, and reduce global warming pollution.
  • Jobs manufacturing the stainless steel needed to build biomass refineries and the American-made clean energy vehicles needed to cut global warming pollution.
  • Thousands more jobs constructing a new smart electric grid to bring clean electricity into our homes, offices, and factories.
  • Jobs installing solar panels on homes and buildings and erecting the wind turbines we need to bring us clean electricity.

Over the next few months, the Blue Green Alliance will be reaching out to Minnesotans to get them involved in making the plan a reality. You can make a difference by telling Governor Pawlenty that Minnesotans want thousands of renewable energy jobs. Sincerely, Margaret Levin
Interim Director, North Star Chapter
PS. Have you already sent a letter or postcard to Governor Pawlenty urging him to implement a Green Jobs Plan for Minnesota? Help us spread the word by fowarding this email to 5 of your friends.

The Air Redolent With Lilac

61  bar steady 29.84  0mph N dew-point 52  Beltane, night

First Quarter of the Flower Moon

The first quarter moon has a mask quality, one side lit and the other dark, but showing just a bit.  It’s as if the moon wears a Venetian mardi gras mask, one side white, the other black.  Maybe if you look just to the side you’ll see a hand wrapped loosely around a wooden rod, holding the mask in place.

Joseph called again tonight.  He wanted me to wear a suit to this outdoor graduation in 100 degree weather.  His buddies in the background said, “Nobody wears a suit!”  I assured him I’d look fine in a Hawai’ian dress shirt and white slacks.

bris-tripgrandpacropped400041.jpg

At Gabe’s bris in Denver

Like me he had no interest in his college graduation, but this one means a lot to him.

When I took the trash out tonight, the first quarter moon was due south of the house, the air redolent with lilac.  Lilacs recall the 1890’s, aunt’s in flower print dresses with large platters of fried chicken and the south, a lilac scented culture.  Each time I go to the south, and I know I’ve said it here before, it feels like I’m going to Gothic America, a dark simulacrum to the north.

Older now, I know we need both the dark and the light, the repressed and the open.  Jung suggests that the energy for a new America lies in the south and Barrack Obama’s presidential candidacy may just unlock it.  I saw a cartoon that especially touched me, a small African-American boy sits on his bed in his pajamas and his mother has her hand on his shoulder.  She says, “I never thought I could say this, but you could be President someday.”  There is more here than meets the eye, more juice.

Tonight I watched Mississippi Burning again.  Those are my times, the years in which I was young and in which I became a thinking, political person.  There is a wide gap between those years and today.  Have we come as far as we need to?  No.  But we have come so far.  It reminded me again that America is a young nation, not even 300 years old.  If we can move beyond slavery, beyond Jim Crow, beyond segregation and the KKK in a hundred and fifty years or even two hundred, then we will have a solid foundation upon which to build a nation of many cultures rather than of one only.

Watching that movie and contemplating the distance traversed in my lifetime, I have a sense of movement that gives me hope for the future.  What more can a granddad wish?

Barrack Obama has reportedly made disparaging remarks about the baby boomer’s psychodramas.  He would do well to remember that we were the footsoldiers in the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and that we embraced feminism.  We may have had our excesses, I know I did, but to deny the contribution and the real pain many of us suffered in pursuit of a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all (men) people are created equal is to have a historical myopia too often indulged by our right wing brothers and sisters.

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