Renaissance Vegan

My views on issues of social justice, animal rights, veganism and more

Resisting the Coming Darkness

 

protest_trump

These are dark times and we need to be prepared to resist the new administration’s cuts to social programs; restrictions of rights for women, people of color and others; and many other abominations that are ahead. Just in these first few days we’ve gotten a glimpse of the dangers ahead with a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and calls to defund Planned Parenthood.

I just listened to a great podcast from Bitch Media’s Popaganda called 10 Ways to Resist Trump

Among the topics discussed were:

  • Stop Fake News
  • Support Your Local Abortion Fund
  • Diversify Your Media
  • Fight Ignorance
  • Offer Your Skills

The first resistance tactic discussed was to get in touch with your representatives. The host, Sarah Mirk interviewed Zahir Janmohamed, the host of the podcast Racist Sandwich (I can’t wait to bite into this one) who previously worked as a congressional staffer and as the advocacy director for Amnesty International. His advice:

Don’t stop sharing ideas on Twitter and Facebook; they’re important organizing tools, says Janmohamed. But they’re a “firehose” of information when it comes to weighing in on politics, and a lot of members of Congress don’t follow the discussions about policies that are trending. The best way to get representatives to actually respond, says Janmohamed, is to go old school: look up your Congressperson and write an actual letter.

Other suggestions include calling members of Congress or writing a personal email if you don’t have time to write a letter. He also advised that all members of Congress use Google Alerts, so if you mention them in a blog post they will see it.

The least effective way to share your opinions, says Janmohamed: online petitions. “If we’d get 10,000 of those form letters, we’d count those as one correspondence,” he says. But if a constituent wrote in with a personal note, saying who they are and specifically what they want, a staffer would always read it and take notice.

The last of the resistance ideas was to Talk About Racism. Sarah interviewed Heather Cronk, codirector of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), which is focused on getting white people to talk with other white people about race.

“We are obsessed with organizing white folks to organize around racial justice,” says Cronk. She urges white people to bring up issues like Trump’s appointment of white supremacists, the need for groups like Black Lives Matter, and the way mass deportations hurt communities even when it feels awkward.

“Something a lot of white folks get hung up on is not only feeling uncomfortable having that conversation, but feeling like you have to get it exactly right. We encourage people to just do it anyway,”

SURJ created some talking points and primers on how to have these conversations. She suggested starting by asking family members why they voted for Trump and then lead into a discussion about policies.

“What we know doesn’t work is avoiding conversations about race, class, and gender, and about how all of those things intersect…. Let’s create space for folks to air, ‘Here’s why I’m afraid.’ Then we have an opportunity to dispel that. It does us no good to pretend that doesn’t exist. Let’s air it, so then we can help pull it apart.”

There were some excellent suggestions in this podcast, I hope one or more of them prompts you to get involved and join the Resistance to Trump and the new Congress. I’ll see you in the streets on January 21.

Austin

Welcome to Austin
I spent last week in Austin, Texas at a conference for users of Tableau Software. Tuesday night my wife, who was at home in CA, and I traded text messages as the results came in. I went to sleep before the final result was announced, but knew what the result would be.

I woke up Wednesday morning hoping it was all just a bad dream, somebody else’s nightmare, but I had to face the truth.

I went to the conference and did a good job of staying focused. However as I was heading there I thought about making a Free Hugs sign to wear for those, like myself, who needed one.

Wednesday night was our Data Night Out with lots of food, music and fun. The conference provided shuttles to the party venue, but it was less than a mile away. As I waited for a shuttle I heard that there was some kind of disturbance in the streets that was impacting the shuttles so I, and others, started walking.

There is a bridge that crosses the Colorado River near the downtown area and leads to the Texas Capital building. As I got there, coming the other way was a large group of protesters, mostly young, chanting “Not my president,” F*** Trump,” “Love trumps hate” and others.

So I joined them.

We wound our way, around some police barriers, to the Capital building. The police were evident, but allowed us to march thru the streets unmolested. Along the way I met a couple of other conference attendees in the crowd.

Crowd in front of Texas State Capital
Most of the marchers were students from the University of Texas, others were high school students. They had been marching since the early afternoon.

On the steps of the Capital we had what I would call an Occupy moment. Using the People’s Mic many came forward to share their fears, anger and concerns. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ people shared being scared that the levels of hate and anger towards them would increase. Some shared stories of physical and/or sexual abuse. Others shared about the lack of support from their families, or fearful of sharing their sexual preference. Many were concerned about heading home that evening. The crowd called back “We love you” and hugged and supported the people who shared. It was a beautiful, moving sight.

As the crowd thinned and people started to leave several members of the core group asked people to pledge to continue protesting and resisting, only continued resistance would bring change.

Then on Thursday the final keynote speaker at the conference was Bill Nye. It was clear that he was unsettled about the election results. No, it was clear he was really pissed.

Bill Nye at Tableau Conference

His message to this group was to use their talent, passion and intelligence to CHANGE THE WORLD! To find solutions for addressing climate change and to combat science deniers with irrefutable facts and figures.

In the coming months we all need to decide what our way forward will be. I know that I don’t have all the answers, or even most of them.

The last post I wrote many months ago, in a different time and place when I still believed that Bernie could be the nominee, talked about Hope, Struggle and Change. I hope we’re all ready for the changes and struggles ahead.

Hope, Struggle & Change

Bernie Sanders Supporter

Jeff Swensen / GETTY IMAGES

The young vote their hopes. The old vote their fears. What we have among too many of mine (and Tom’s) generation is what I call George McGovern Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (GMPTSD) where voting for your hopes instead of your fears is deemed suicidal. It made a generation risk adverse and militant only about the most miniscule of reforms.
Comment by Randy Cunnigham on I Used to Support Bernie, but Then I Changed My Mind by Tom Hayden in The Nation

 

Rolling Stone has championed the ‘youth vote’ since 1972, when 18-year-olds were first given the right to vote. The Vietnam War was a fact of daily life then, and Sen. George McGovern, the liberal anti-war activist from South Dakota, became the first vessel of young Americans, and Hunter S. Thompson wrote our first presidential-campaign coverage. We worked furiously for McGovern. We failed; Nixon was re-elected in a landslide.
Jann S. Wenner, Publisher

Tom Hayden, the 1960s radical who helped write the Port Huron Statement laying out the goals of the Students for a Democratic Society, has set aside his idealism in 2016. Like Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner he has fallen in line behind Hillary. But not before extolling Bernie’s virtues.

Tom wrote:
I was an early supporter of Bernie, one of those who thought he could push Hillary to the left, legitimize democratic socialist measures, and leave an indelible mark on our frozen political culture. More deeply, I believed he was the best possible messenger in the wake of Democratic Party shortcomings.

 

Jann wrote:
It’s hard not to love Bernie Sanders. He has proved to be a gifted and eloquent politician. He has articulated the raw and deep anger about the damage the big banks did to the economy and to so many people’s lives. He’s spoken clearly for those who believe the system is rigged against them; he’s made plain how punishing and egregious income inequality has become in this country, and he refuses to let us forget that the villains have gotten away with it.

I’ve been watching the debates and town halls for the past two months, and Sanders’ righteousness knocks me out. My heart is with him. He has brought the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations to the ballot box.

Then the BUTS appear

Jann: But it is not enough to be a candidate of anger. Anger is not a plan; it is not a reason to wield power; it is not a reason for hope.

Tom: The populist clarity of Bernie’s proposals can be problematic, even for some of his supporters. For example, to simply reject Obamacare in the belief that ‘political revolution’ will lead to a single-payer solution is simplistic.

My second worry about Bernie’s candidacy is that he has not really faced an all-out Republican-financed media assault in this entire campaign. If he’s the nominee, that will be merciless. And my third concern: Bernie is leading an incredible movement and sowing seeds for the future, but lacks a concrete plan for turning his legacy into a permanent progressive force.

Or recently, this piece in Talking Points Memo by John Judis

“He’s not going to get the nomination, is he?” my wife asks anxiously as she gazes out of the kitchen window at the Bernie for President sign on our front lawn. No, I assure her, and he certainly won’t win Maryland on April 26. I’m voting for Bernie, and my wife may, too, but we’re doing so on the condition that we don’t think he will get the nomination. If he were poised to win, I don’t know whether I’d vote for him, because I fear he would be enormously vulnerable in a general election, even against Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, and I’m also not sure whether he is really ready for the job of president.

I appreciate Judis’ honesty, but really? He recognizes the need for fundamental changes in our system, but isn’t willing to work to make it happen?

If any of these writers could provide a clear and compelling reason to support Hillary, I could accept them turning their backs on their ideals. But their reasons are the usual B.S. – more qualified, more experience, more likely to win – empty phrases with nothing to back it up.

All they have is fear – of Trump, or Cruz, or another democratic defeat because of McGovern or Dukakis or Nader Gore.

Thanks to Matt Tiabbi for his excellent reply to Wenner’s editorial that included this:

The millions of young voters that are rejecting Hillary’s campaign this year are making a carefully reasoned, even reluctant calculation about the limits of the insider politics both she and her husband have represented.

For young voters, the foundational issues of our age have been the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis, free trade, mass incarceration, domestic surveillance, police brutality, debt and income inequality, among others.

And to one degree or another, the modern Democratic Party, often including Hillary Clinton personally, has been on the wrong side of virtually all of these issues.

In the last few years we’ve seen a increase in activism – Occupy, The Dreamers, Black Lives Matter, and fractivists and other environmental activists. Bernie’s Revolution is working to give these groups a voice in the political process. They know change isn’t easy and doesn’t happen overnight.

There is a Bay Area singer named Roy Zimmerman who believes where Obama went wrong was talking about hope and change, but not the struggle that would be needed to affect the changes. I, and the millions who support Bernie, understand the struggles ahead.

Hope, struggle and change – by Roy Zimmerman
Hope, struggle and change
There’s trouble and danger on the road to justice.
Going to keep on hoping, going to keep my eyes open.
And the change will come, the change will come
But it won’t be easy.

Your Grass-fed Humane Meat and Dairy is NOT the Solution to Climate Change

Climate change is being accelerated by gases such as methane emitted by cattle. (Kman999 via Flickr)

Climate change is being accelerated by gases such as methane emitted by cattle. (Kman999 via Flickr)

Back in October 2015 I wrote a post Carbon Farming – Hope or Hype? It focused on the claims by those who believed that research and field tests by John Wick and the Marin Carbon Project and others, like Alan Savory, had found a way to increase soil carbon and make it safe for environmentalists, like Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, to promote eating meat and dairy from grass-fed animals.

At the time I questioned how it all could add up, and would the sequestered carbon dioxide offset the methane and nitrous oxide from all of these grazing animals and their manure?

Now, we have a clearer answer. It doesn’t.

A new report by 23 scientists from 16 labs and institutions in the Nature journal found this:

We find that the cumulative warming capacity of concurrent biogenic methane and nitrous oxide emissions is a factor of about two larger than the cooling effect resulting from the global land carbon dioxide uptake from 2001 to 2010.

An article on Truthdig.com written by long time climate change reporter Tim Radford summarized it this way (emphasis mine):

The soil itself may be making the world warmer.

That is because humans have changed the way the landscape and its living things works, and now—thanks to those other greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxides, from cattle, fertilisers, manure and agriculture—the terrestrial biosphere is actually accelerating climate change.

In the spirit of Marco Rubio’s famous robo-comment – Can we dispense, now, with the myth that grass-fed, “humane” meat and dairy products are good for the environment?

We must get serious about changing our eating habits and embracing a vegan diet. This change will immediately help to reduce greenhouse gases by reducing methane from animals and other gases from manure and fertilizers that are used to grow the crops fed to these animals.

“This study should serve as a wake-up call to governments, policymakers and individuals around the world,” says one of the study’s co-authors, Anna Michalak, a researcher in the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology.

“We must expand our focus and devise strategies that target the biogenic emissions of these other greenhouse gases if we are to change the course of climate change.”

The time for action is now. Find a vegan or plant-based diet community in your area and find the support you need to make the change. Another option is the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart Program from PCRM.

What you eat can change the world – one meal at a time.

Permission to Hate

Really?

There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities. They have risen up to reject the neoliberal policies and political correctness imposed on them by college-educated elites from both political parties: Lower-class whites are embracing an American fascism.

These Americans want a kind of freedom—a freedom to hate. They want the freedom to use words like “nigger,” “kike,” “spic,” “chink,” “raghead” and “fag.” They want the freedom to idealize violence and the gun culture. They want the freedom to have enemies, to physically assault Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, homosexuals and anyone who dares criticize their cryptofascism. They want the freedom to celebrate historical movements and figures that the college-educated elites condemn, including the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederacy. They want the freedom to ridicule and dismiss intellectuals, ideas, science and culture. They want the freedom to silence those who have been telling them how to behave. And they want the freedom to revel in hypermasculinity, racism, sexism and white patriarchy. These are the core sentiments of fascism. These sentiments are engendered by the collapse of the liberal state.

Chris Hedges – The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism

Wednesday night in Fayetteville, NC a 78-year-old white man punched a black protester who was being escorted out of a Trump rally. His response when asked why he did it?

We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American. Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.

What makes someone do this and talk this way?

There are more and more people who wonder if we will make it through this election year without someone being killed at one of these rallies where hate and fear of the “other” is fed.

I fear there may be no turning back this hate and the racism and xenophobia that accompany it. I hear my friends and colleagues talk about how terrible it would be if Trump becomes president. It can’t happen here, they say. The American people are too smart to allow that. (Read Sinclair Lewis’ book – It Can’t Happen Here – to see how it could)

Really? I hope and pray they’re right.

In the meantime, the rest of the world looks at what is happening and wonders if we’ve gone crazy. Here’s what The Economist had to say:

The things Mr Trump has said in this campaign make him unworthy of leading one of the world’s great political parties, let alone America. One way to judge politicians is by whether they appeal to our better natures: Mr Trump has prospered by inciting hatred and violence. He is so unpredictable that the thought of him anywhere near high office is terrifying. He must be stopped.

Because each additional Trumpism seems a bit less shocking than the one before, there is a danger of becoming desensitised to his outbursts. To recap, he has referred to Mexicans crossing the border as rapists; called enthusiastically for the use of torture; hinted that Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court justice, was murdered; proposed banning all Muslims from visiting America; advocated killing the families of terrorists; and repeated, approvingly, a damaging fiction that a century ago American soldiers in the Philippines dipped their ammunition in pigs’ blood before executing Muslim rebels. At a recent rally he said he would like to punch a protester in the face. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

The world doesn’t know whether to laugh, cry or plan an intervention. All the while, our news channels can’t get enough of The Donald (and his positive impact on their profits) and the audiences who wait for the next outrage to exit his brain and mouth.

Please take the time to read the rest of Chris Hedges column.

There is only one way left to blunt the yearning for fascism coalescing around Trump. It is to build, as fast as possible, movements or parties that declare war on corporate power, engage in sustained acts of civil disobedience and seek to reintegrate the disenfranchised—the “losers”—back into the economy and political life of the country… If Clinton prevails in the general election Trump may disappear, but the fascist sentiments will expand. Another Trump, perhaps more vile, will be vomited up from the bowels of the decayed political system. We are fighting for our political life.

It Can't Happen Here

Hillary’s Speaking Fees – $21.4M in Two Years

Robert W. McChesney, author of several books on media and politics and professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has compiled a list of 91 events where Hillary Clinton was paid to speak after stepping down as Secretary of State and before she announced her candidacy for president. In that two year time period, she earned $21.4M.

I took the information and created the visualization below. It is also on the Citizen Uprising website with the list.

Also, visit the page created by McChesney’s nephew, Jed, that shows how long it has been since Hillary said she would “look into” releasing the transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches.

A 21st Century Caste System

jim crowThe Warmth of Other SunsI recently started listening to The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson. At the beginning of the book she describes the oppressive Jim Crow laws that severely limited the lives of African Americans in the south and made them second-class citizens. Once the Federal government loosened its protections of African Americans after the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal accommodations were legal, State legislatures in the South worked overtime to constrain what, when and how African Americans could live. They replaced slavery with a caste system as rigid as those in India or South Africa.

I was thinking about this as I heard a news report on Democracy Now about a new law in Louisiana that has shut all but one of the state’s abortion clinics. In Texas a similar law has closed half of the 40 clinics in that state.

Legislative Partisan Composition 2014 Post-Election

With Republicans controlling governorships and legislatures in 24 states, they are working overtime to create a 21st Century caste system. Regulating and placing constraints on people of color, poor people, women, immigrants and others. Whether it is restricting access to abortions or contraceptives, drug testing in order to get benefits or cutting the amount of benefits available – laws that place undue burdens and hardships on these groups are being passed in record numbers.

Since the Supreme Court decision gutting portions of the Voting Rights Act, legislatures in the south and other places have passed laws to restrict access to voting. These laws will make it harder to win control back from the Republicans in these states and will keep the House of Representatives in Republican hands after the 2020 census when they get to draw the new congressional district maps.

Movements like Moral Mondays in North Carolina and Black Lives Matter have pushed back against these restrictions with some success, but the tide is against them.

Ultimately, it will be up to all of us to roll back these restrictive laws and make our political system work for all of us, not just the wealthy and powerful.

Despite the recent losses in Nevada and South Carolina, Bernie’s political revolution keeps growing with thousands showing up for rallies and marches across the US in states holding primaries next week. This is what democracy looks like!

Bernie_march

Who Can Give Us Hope Today?

FDR

Noam Chomsky, in an interview on Alternet, was asked if a climate of fear was a factor in the rise of Donald Trump.

Fear, along with the breakdown of society during the neoliberal period. People feel isolated, helpless, victim of powerful forces that they do not understand and cannot influence. It’s interesting to compare the situation in the ‘30s, which I’m old enough to remember. Objectively, poverty and suffering were far greater. But even among poor working people and the unemployed, there was a sense of hope that is lacking now, in large part because of the growth of a militant labor movement and also the existence of political organizations outside the mainstream.

I recently read the book Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H. W. Brands. At the end of the book, as he describes the millions who lined the tracks as the train carrying FDR made the slow trip from Warm Springs, GA to Washington, he puts into perspective the impact FDR had on America and its people.

FDRHe had given them reassurance during the most frightening phase of the depression, and confidence during the most trying days of the war.

It had been a remarkable accomplishment, reflecting a unique bond between the president and the American people. They put their faith in Roosevelt because he put his faith in them. He believed in democracy – in the capacity of ordinary Americans, exercising their collective judgement, to address the ills that afflicted their society. He refused to rely on the invisible hand of the marketplace, for the compelling reason that during his lifetime the invisible hand had wreaked very visible havoc on millions of unoffending Americans. He refused to accept that government invariably bungled whatever it attempted, and his refusal inspired government efforts that had a tremendous positive effect on millions of marginal farmers, furloughed workers and struggling merchants…

Did he get everything right? By no means, and he never claimed he did. But he got a great deal right. He caught the banking system in free fall and guided it to a soft landing. He sponsored rules that helped prevent a recurrence of the banking collapse and of the stock market crash that preceded it. The programs his administration formulated furnished jobs and experience to much of a generation of young people. He helped the parents of these young people keep their homes and farms. He showed their grandparents that old age need not be accompanied by poverty. He gave workers a hand in their efforts to rebalance relations between labor and capital.

Beyond everything else, he provided hope. He didn’t end the Great Depression, which was too large and complex for any elected official to conquer. But he banished the despair the depression had engendered. He understood intuitively… that the presidency is above all a moral office. A president who speaks to the hopes and dreams of the people can change a nation. Roosevelt did speak to the people’s hopes and dreams, and together they changed America.

One reason why I support Bernie Sanders, who Chomsky calls “an honest and decent New Deal Democrat,” is his deep concern for the people who work hard, but can’t get ahead. Like FDR, he speaks for the forgotten man – today’s 99% – that corporations and governments have abandoned.

Can Bernie be the 21st Century FDR that we need to give us hope as we struggle to make the necessary changes in America today?

Imagine

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

Paris Peace Sign

Our Democracy – what’s left of it – Needs You!

Bernie Sanders

When people say I am too serious, I take it as a compliment. I have always understood politics as a serious endeavor, involving the fates of nations, ideals and human beings who cannot afford to be pawns in a game. I suppose this understanding makes me an outsider in contemporary American politics. But if I am more serious about politics than those candidates who jet from one high-donor fundraiser to the next, or from a Koch Brothers–sponsored summit to the Sheldon Adelson “primary,” I do not think I am more serious than the American people.

The American people want political campaigns to be about candidates’ stands on the issues, not about fundraising, polls, or the negative ads that overwhelm honest debate. Elections should be influenced by grassroots movements and unexpected coalitions, not by the cult of personality or a billionaire’s checkbook.

Bernie Sanders – from the introduction to the new edition of “Outsider in the House” – read more here

I see Bernie’s quest for the presidency not as a fight for the soul of the Democratic party, but a fight to save the soul of America. He has built a truly grass roots movement and energized hundreds of thousands of people – whites, blacks and hispanics; straight and LGBTQ; young and old; hippies and veterans.

Will it be enough? Can we reclaim our democracy? I’m not sure – but I’m going to do what I can to help make it happen.

That’s where you come in also. Democracy is not just practised on Election Day. It needs a full-time commitment.

As we’ve seen with the latest setbacks to the fossil fuel industries or the push for a $15 minimum wage – it takes people demanding change, lots of people.

When Bernie becomes President, it will take millions of people raising our voices for change.

A politics of struggle is rooted in values and vision, and above all trust. It involves a compact a candidate makes with the people who share the values, who embrace the vision. It doesn’t say, “Vote for me and I’ll fix everything.” It says, “If I get elected, I will not just work for you, I will work with you.”

If you don’t know a lot about Bernie – Vermont Public Radio produced a great one hour show that follows Bernie from his childhood in Brooklyn to running for President.

I lived in Vermont for 10 years and was proud to have Bernie as my Congressman and Senator. Not everyone in Vermont loves Bernie, but they vote for him because they always know where he stands.

Find out more about the campaign at BernieSanders.com and sign up to volunteer. They need people to call voters in the early primary states – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

And if you are out here on the west coast, join me at the Enough is Enough West Coast Rally this Saturday from noon to 4:0pm at the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza.

Let me be very clear. As I have mentioned before and will mention again and again, THIS CAMPAIGN IS NOT ABOUT BERNIE SANDERS. It’s about putting together A GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT of Americans who stand up and say: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”
Bernie Sanders

Join the Revolution to take back our country – this might be our last chance.

enough-is-enough-wc-690x404

 

Enough is Enough Poster

 

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