My post-election message: What progressives won this year
A jittery week at the polls, huh? One measure of our political anxiety is that liquor sales spiked this week. Also, it’s probably not a coincidence that a new breakthrough in drug legalization was made on Tuesday, when 56 percent of Oregon voters said YES! to sanctioning the use of “magic mushrooms,” which are said to relieve anxiety and depression.
Political pundits have rushed out to say (even gloat) that Tuesday was a debacle for Democrats, especially for the progressive movement – and we certainly did not match our extraordinarily high expectations. But hold the mushrooms.
Jim Hightower’s Radio Lowdown
America certainly has an abundance of food (even though many Americans do not), yet we face a momentous choice of whether to pursue a food future rooted in the ethic of sustainable agriCULTURE – or one based on the exploitative ethic of agriINDUSTRY.
What better symbol of agri-industry’s vision of “food” than that ubiquitous Thanksgiving bird, the “Butterball” turkey. The Butterball has been hoisted onto our tables by huge advertising budgets and regular promotion payments to supermarkets. The birds themselves have been grotesquely deformed by industrial geneticists, who created breasts so ponderous that the turkeys can’t walk, stand up, or even reproduce on their own (thus earning the nickname “dead-end birds’). Adding torture to this intentional deformity, the industry sentences these once-majestic fowl to dismal lives in tiny confinement cages inside the sprawling, steel-and-concrete animal factories that scar America’s rural landscape – monuments to greed-based corporate “husbandry.”
As the eminent farmer-poet-activist Wendell Berry tells us, eating is a profound political act. It lets you and me vote for the Butterball industrial model or choose to go back to the future of agriculture, which is the art and science of cooperating with, rather than trying to overwhelm, nature. That cooperative ethic is the choice of the remarkable “Good Food Uprising” that has spread across the country in the past 30 years. Now the fastest-growing segment of the food economy, it is creating the alternative model of a local, sustainable, small scale, community-based, organic, humane, healthy, democratic – and tasty! – food system for all.
To take part in the good food movement and find small-scale farmers, artisans, farmers markets, and other resources in your area, visit www.LocalHarvest.org.
Let’s talk Turkey!
No, not the Butterball sitting in the Oval Office. I’m talking about the real thing, the big bird, 46 million of which we Americans will devour on this Thanksgiving Day.
It was the Aztecs who first domesticated the gallopavo, but leave it to the Spanish explorers to “foul-up” the bird’s origins. They declared it to be related to the peacock – Wrong! They also thought the peacock originated in Turkey – Wrong! And, they thought Turkey was located in Africa – well, you can see the Spanish were pretty confused.
Actually, the origin of Thanksgiving is confused. The popular assumption is that it was first celebrated by the Mayflower immigrants and the Wampanoag natives at Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1621. They feasted on venison, furkees (Wampanoag for gobblers) eels, mussels, corn, and beer. But wait, say Virginians, the first precursor to our annual November Food-a-Palooza was not in Massachusetts – the Thanksgiving feast originated down here in Jamestown colony, back in 1608.
Whoa, there, hold your horses, pilgrims. Folks in El Paso, Texas, say it all began way out there in 1598, when Spanish settlers sat down with people of the Piro and Manso tribes, gave thanks, then feasted on roasted duck, geese and fish.
“Ha!” says a Florida group, asserting the very, very first Thanksgiving happened in 1565 when the Spanish settlers of St. Augustine and friends from the Timucuan tribe chowed-down on “cocido” – a stew of salt pork, garbanzo beans and garlic – washing it all down with red wine.
Wherever it began, and whatever the purists claim is “official,” Thanksgiving today is as multicultural as America. So let’s enjoy! Kick-back, give thanks we’re in a country with such ethnic richness, and dive into your turkey rellenos, moo-shu turkey, turkey falafel, barbecued turkey…
Remember when candidate Trump promised not only to wall-out all migrants crossing our Mexican border, but also to make Mexico pay for his xenophobic wall?
Well, Mexico hasn’t paid a peso… and won’t. So, he keeps running to Congress, demanding that it pony up unlimited billions of our tax dollars for his pet political project. Aside from one token appropriation, however, Congress has said: “Ummmm… no.”
But that’s no hill for a narcissistic climber. Unable to get tax money legitimately, Trump has simply stolen it, taking money from the US military budget. Ignoring the constitutional mandate that only Congress is empowered to control the flow of government money, Trump filched $6.1 billion from our military last year, snatched another $3.8 billion this month, and intends to swipe at least another $3.4 billion before the year is out.
This executive “reprogramming,” as the White House euphemistically calls its daylight robbery, is being pulled off by masking Trump’s wall obsession as a “national emergency.” The Pentagon brass has been yanking funds meant for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, National Guard… and ultimately from our fighting forces.
Presidential autocracy aside, Trump’s massive larceny raises three other interesting issues of public morality: One, his trickery sets a precedent not only for future presidents, but also for our young people’s behavior; Two, our congress critters, especially Trump Republicans, are setting a new standard of craven meekness in the face of this direct executive assault on their authority and on our democracy; and, Three, by simply kissing off a budget loss of more than $13 billion, saying it’s in excess of the military’s needs, the Pentagon is admitting that the war machine is routinely taking way too much of the public’s money.
“Defying Congress, Trump Plans to Renew Fight for Border Wall Funding,” New York Times, March 10, 2019.
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Meet Jim Hightower.
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and New York Times best-selling author, Jim Hightower has spent four decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.
Twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hightower believes that the true political spectrum is not right to left but top to bottom, and he has become a leading national voice for the 80 percent of the public who no longer find themselves within shouting distance of the Washington and Wall Street powers at the top.
Hightower is a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, spreading the message of progressive populism all across the American grassroots.
He broadcasts daily radio commentaries that are carried in more than 150 commercial and public stations, on the web, and on Radio for Peace International.
Every month he pens a rousing newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, that blasts through the corporate media blockade to lend new reporting and populist perspective on the events of the day.
A popular public speaker who is fiery and funny, he is a populist road warrior who delivers more than 100 speeches a year to all kinds of groups.
He is a New York Times best-selling author, and has written seven books including, Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And It’s Time To Take It Back; If the Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates; and There’s Nothing In the Middle Of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos. His newspaper column is distributed nationally by Creators Syndicate.
Hightower frequently appears on television and radio programs, bringing a hard-hitting populist viewpoint that rarely gets into the mass media. In addition, he works closely with the alternative media, and in all of his work he keeps his ever-ready Texas humor up front, practicing the credo of an old Yugoslavian proverb: “You can fight the gods and still have fun.”
Hightower was raised in Denison, Texas, in a family of small business people, tenant farmers, and working folks. A graduate of the University of North Texas, he worked in Washington as legislative aide to Sen. Ralph Yarborough of Texas; he then co-founded the Agribusiness Accountability Project, a public interest project that focused on corporate power in the food economy; and he was national coordinator of the 1976 “Fred Harris for President” campaign. Hightower then returned to his home state, where he became editor of the feisty biweekly, The Texas Observer. He served as director of the Texas Consumer Association before running for statewide office and being elected to two terms as Texas Agriculture Commissioner (1983-1991).
During the 90’s, Hightower became known as “America’s most popular populist,” developing his radio commentaries, hosting two radio talk shows, writing books, launching his newsletter, giving fiery speeches coast to coast, and otherwise speaking out for the American majority that’s being locked out economically and politically by the elites.
As political columnist Molly Ivins said, “If Will Rogers and Mother Jones had a baby, Jim Hightower would be that rambunctious child — mad as hell, with a sense of humor.”