Whither the Greens and Me?

In the just-concluded election, I cast my vote for Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein and was quite vocal about it. And, no, I didn’t help elect Trump: I live in California where our electoral votes were never in doubt for the Democratic Party’s well-worn candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Now the election is over and I’m considering what, if any, role I want to or should play on the American political scene going forward.

I have concluded that I am not going to continue with the Green Party, at least not as an active supporter and participant. That decision has little or nothing to do with how the party conducted its campaign or with any specific outcome. It has everything to do with my new vision of hope for the progressive cause in America and with my desire to remain flexible and independent until that scene sorts itself out.

I won’t do anything precipitous; I don’t need to worry about my party affiliation until the next election in 2018. But I have cut off contributions to and volunteering for any specific party-supporting activities in the meanwhile. Instead, I choose to spend the little time I’m willing to devote to politics these days to the progressive movement in the broader sense.

progressivismThe stunning election of a right-wing demagogue to lead a nation that has traditionally stood for diversity and democracy seems to be having an unintended positive side effect: a coalescence and re-energizing of the progressive base. Today, a progressive interested in the broad agenda can pick from several national movements to support. There’s MoveOn.org, which is practically venerable at this point, and which claims 7 million members. There’s Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution, which staggered out of the starting gate with internal disputes about leadership but which has the most clearly articulated progressive “platform” with more than 20 planks. And there’s Organizing for Action, the successor to outgoing President Barack Obama’s Obama for America campaign group. OFA claims 5 million supporters and counting.

Then there’s Keith Olbermann’s loosely defined movement which he dubs “The Resistance”. (If you’re not watching his regular vidcasts sponsored by GQ, you owe it to yourself at least to sample them over at YouTube.

Here’s the problem. Unless these various attempts at creating an umbrella group over the Progressive Movement come together to share resources (mailing lists, information sources, donors, organizing expertise and more), conservatives will continue to win the day electorally despite their demonstrably minority position among voters.

So where does this leave the Green Party?

Given that it is a political party, and despite its clearly progressive platform and agenda, its primary focus is not on carrying out that agenda directly, but rather on getting candidates elected. Frankly, I’ve reached a place where I don’t care what political label a candidate chooses to adopt; the question is whether he or she is progressive. In recent years, that has meant they were either Democrats or Greens or Socialists. But if that weird anomaly called a “Progressive Republican” were to appear on the landscape, I would unhesitatingly vote for that candidate.

I have essentially become a one-issue voter. Facing the existential crisis of global warming, it seems to me that focusing on other no doubt incredibly important subjects like income inequality, social injustice, criminal justice reform, and big money in politics is for all practical purposes futile. If we fail to solve the global warming catastrophe looming on the horizon, all of these other issues will fade into oblivion, along with the human race.

Given that reality, and my general disposition to be broadly progressive in my views, it seems too narrow for me to identify with any political party. Unless something drastic changes between now and the 2018 election, I will register as Independent. I will continue to monitor both the Green Party and the Democratic Party to see how progressive their agendas and platforms become — particularly on the subject of the climate — then determine at an appropriate point whether to register for one of those parties or remain independent.

This is an odd place for me to find myself. A lifelong Democrat, it was difficult for me last year to register with a different party and to vote for that party’s candidate for president. But then, these are odd times in our nation’s history.

 

If This New Tech is Legit, Global Warming May Have Met Its Solution

If this development is legitimate — and not a hoax like, say, cold fusion of a few years back — this new technology could literally save the human race.

Brilliant Light Power Logo

Brilliant Light Power Logo

Researchers at a well-funded startup called Brilliant Light Power have used a quantum physics technique to convert hydrogen molecules to something called “hydrino” — essentially dark matter — so efficiently that they were able in a recent public demonstration to produce more than a million watts of electricity from a relatively small sample in a small, lightweight device.

I am cautiously wildly optimistically skeptical. Not being a physicist, I cannot evaluate the underlying science here. But it’s worth noting that four separate teams of validators using cross-supporting methodologies separately confirmed BLP’s SunCell’s production of one million watts of electricity. Reports say the demonstration produced power gains of over 100 times the power to ignite the Hydrino reaction, and at power densities higher than any previously known energy source.

The company is targeting industrial uses first and plans to have commercially viable products on the market in 2018.

I’m going to keep a very close eye on this development.

Farewell to a Great Friend

Word came yesterday evening that one of my best friends and the man to whom I literally owe my life passed away yesterday. Ted Lane was a rare human being who lived his life in as close to constant contact with Spirit as anyone I’ve ever known. He was the creator of an amazingly helpful healing technique called Patternology, which changed dozens and dozens of lives, including several in my family.

Ted had a congenital disease which by all rights should have laid him to rest many years ago. More than once, doctors told him he was in his final days or weeks of life. Time and again, Ted and Spirit — an indomitable duo if there ever was one — rebounded and proved the medicos wrong.

We worked together for nearly 20 years refining, documenting, automating, and promoting Patternology. Being a perfectionist, he never quite brought himself to release his miracle discovery to the broad attention it deserved. Perhaps he was intended only to plant the seed and see it through to early adolescence; others may pick up the mantle now that he has released it by his passing.

Ted was one of the most consistently optimistic people I’ve had the pleasure to know. No matter what setback or challenge he faced, he could always be counted on to find the silver lining and the life’s lesson. In each obstacle, he saw opportunity. I could always count on him for an emotional lift when I needed one, and often when I didn’t even realize I needed one.

On the first day I should have died, Ted appeared at my house. I still don’t know how that happened. Maybe we had a scheduled meeting. Maybe my wife asked him to come. Three days prior, I’d been in the ER and been diagnosed with “pre-pneumonia” and I was still feeling really lousy from that multi-day experience. I didn’t have any of the classic symptoms of heart attack, so when my wife Carolyn tried to force me to call 9-1-1 or get someone to take me to the ER, I resisted. I didn’t want to become “that guy.” Ted walked into my house, took one look at me, said, “Your skin is gray. I’m calling 9-1-1 and I don’t care if you get so angry you never speak to me again.”

Less than 20 minutes later, I was on a gurney in the trauma room at the local ER, my wife by my side, when I heard the female doctor say, “Code. He’s having a heart attack right now.” She said to my wife, “You’ll need to leave because in a minute this room is going to be filled with people who need to be here.”

It turns out I experienced what doctors call the “widowmaker”; upwards of 85% of people who have one don’t survive. And if it hadn’t been for Ted, I’d have been at home, alone with my wife, when it hit. And I likely wouldn’t have made it either.

So, Ted, I still owe you one, my friend. I wish you Godspeed on your new adventure, with gratitude for all the ways you changed my life and those of people I love. You are a hero.

I’m missing you already.

“Arrival” is an Absolute Must See

Let me start with the bottom line: you must go see the new movie Arrival. In fact, I hereby grant you leave to stop reading this post/review right now so you can get to it soon before it leaves theaters. Arrival is a visual feast that succeeds as a film of triumph on so many levels that it has quickly become my all-time favorite film in its genre.

That’s right, it’s better than Contact, better than Interstellar and, dare I say it?, better than my beloved Avatar. And it made me want to go back and binge-watch those movies just to soak up the incredible spirit of hope each represents for mankind. Maybe I’m feeling a special need for that at this moment in the world’s history.

WARNING! Minor spoiler alerts ahead.

Arrival bundles together in one all-but-overwhelming sensory experience my deepest passions and my most cherished beliefs and teachings.  Its symbolism — from the mysterious arc-based writing of the invading aliens to the egg-shaped craft in which they arrive, from their number (12) to their special “weapon” (or is it a tool?) — Is multilevel and internally consistent.

In so-called “message movies”, the underlying content that wants to be conveyed is generally sufficiently broad, not to say vague, that different people can get different messages from the same movie experience. While there is certainly room for nuance, it most often seems to me that these messages are ones upon which the majority of viewers can agree.

For me, the central theme of the movie, indeed its singular underlying Important Message, is the Essential Unity of All Life.

The most constant character in the movie — apart from linguistics expert Louise Banks (Amy Adams) — is Time. There are two parallel plot lines at work here. One unfolds in linear time, or apparently linear time at least, and deals with the main story flow of the movie. The other quasi-randomly interrupts that flow to offer a completely nonlinear story in which Prof. Banks’ actions are informed by memories of her daughter, who died at a young age of a disease that followed a course of action Prof. Banks predicted. This “intertwingling” of non-parallel, non-linear time frames never becomes difficult to cope with, but it does require paying attention, particularly to the seemingly small events as the story of her daughter unfolds in fits and starts.

Arrival is a strong story of triumph: love over fear, brain over brawn, calm over panic, love over time, oneness over separation, and so many others. It is, in the best sense of the phrase, spiritual but not religious. Particularly noteworthy is the intermixture of mathematics and cosmology, in the persona of Prof. Banks’ physicist colleague, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), who is given nominal charge of the team assigned to trying to find out why the aliens have come to Earth. I found his character to be poorly developed; but he plays a critical role of the alternate timeline, so the director (Denis Villeneuve) can perhaps be forgiven for not finding a way for him to be more interesting and complex.

The writing is crisp, and I found it enjoyable purely as a writer. But I went to this film with my good buddy and ardent film buff Paul Jimerson, and came away with a deeper appreciation for the visual artistic component of the film. Particularly the scenes in which the two main characters encounter the aliens are so excruciatingly minimalist and well drawn that they are practically worth the price of admission in themselves. Paul might say they are.

I would be remiss here if I didn’t make at least a passing comment about the performance of one of my favorite character actors of all time, Forest Whitaker. As the Army colonel in charge of the expedition to the alien craft, he manages to blend authoritarianism and understanding, a need to follow the rules and a curiosity about what happens if he doesn’t. In other words, typical Whitaker.

OK, enough commentary already. Hundreds of people of Artie reviewed this movie, and not sure I’ve got much original to add to what they’ve said. Is often the case, I’m stunned by reviews that did not give this movie high marks for reasons seem to me to be pedestrian and trivial. Still, a great many reviewers saw what I saw, heard what I heard, and saw what I thought. So let’s make a deal. I’ll stop writing if you’ll stop reading and just go watch it.

I’m Going Home Sunday to Continue Healing!

For those of you following the latest Shafer Health Saga, I’ll be returning home to continue the healing process on Sunday morning. The consensus is that I have progressed far faster than expected (Western medical expectations are lower than mine!) and there’s no more to be gained from being treated away from my home.

I am feeling much better than at any time recently and even though the Big Picture remains problematic (IOW, the physical aspect of me is still well below the level of health at which I’d like to be), I have clearly emerged from the most recent critical challenge hardly the worse for wear and much wiser.

I am reminded by Spirit of the vast wealth that is at my fingertips. Friends abound, generosity and compassion embodied in each and every one of them. Even financially, I know that Spirit is in charge and taking care of things thanks in part to the GoFundMe campaign my lovely youngest daughter Heather thought to set up.

I’m doing a lot of thinking and contemplation these days about how I continue to meet my calling, fulfill my mission and advance the state of Enlightenment in myself and those around me. Some changes are clearly going to be necessary, but I don’t see a cessation in the near term. IOW, I’m not done with you yet!

Of course, I remain eager for all affirmative thoughts and prayers you feel moved to share with me as this journey continues.

Trump: Citizen or Taxpayer? Brooks Asks

David Brooks in his NYT column for today entitled,”Trump, Taxes and Citizenship,” offers this insight:

”You can say that a billionaire paying no taxes is fine and legal. But you have to adopt an overall mentality that shuts down a piece of your heart, and most of your moral sentiments.

“That mentality is entirely divorced from the mentality of commonality and citizenship. That mentality has side effects. They may lead toward riches, but they lead away from happiness.”

This is the higher ground of which conservatives and progressives alike speak. This is the level of living and civilization which asks not, “What can I get away with here?” But rather, “How much can I give to this situation?” To the level which seeks the beauty and elegance of cooperation in selflessness rather than the personal reward of material gain, however richly deserved, legally attainable and even justifiable.

Just because you CAN lose $1 billion in a single year and then treat that loss as a long-term investment bucket, SHOULD you? Citizen or taxpayer? Giver or taker?

It’s too bad we won’t take time to reflect seriously on this and related critical questions of State as we follow the frenzied run-up to next month’s potentially world-changing elections.

“Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war” – Julius Caesar

Try this one on for size. I find it a bit too close to home for the United States over the past 15-20 years.

Roman Emperor Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE)

Roman Emperor Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE)

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar. (Julius Caesar)

The Jill Stein-Noam Chomsky Dust-Up: He’s Right, She’s Being a Bit Demagogic

Back in May, the website Democracy Now! published an interview with liberal icon Noam Chomsky in which he opined that if he were living in a swing state and the election was close, he would feel compelled to “hold his nose” and vote for Hillary Clinton. A week or so ago, my candidate of choice, Dr. Joel Stein of the Green Party, took him to task for that suggestion, going so far as to suggest that he was a supporter of the “politics of fear”.

That was a mistake on her part. In fact, it was a mistake on two levels.

First, strategically speaking, he’s absolutely correct. In a swing state whose electoral votes could end up in the hands of Donald Trump as a result of a modest turnout of third-party voters, a vote for Dr. Stein is in fact a vote for Trump. That’s true nowhere else, and I’m not sure there will be any states in the November election where that will be the case. But in the limited circumstances Chomsky describes, he makes the precisely correct choice.

Second, accusing a man of Chomsky’s great political courage and wisdom of essentially being a coward is not a good way to win friends and influence people on the Left. Chomsky, deservedly or not, has a reputation for being a clear thinker who is entirely unafraid to express even the most unpopular viewpoints. I mean, here is a liberal who has repeatedly attacked the centrist Democratic Party that emerged from, in large part, her husband’s administration.

Dr. Stein has committed another faux pas, in my view. Recently she’s begun a strong spate of Hillary-bashing. Taking her campaign negative was a huge error. In the current political climate, one of her biggest draws is her integrity. Her laser focus on the issues — particularly that of the global climate crisis — is a hallmark of her entire political life. To take a side trip in order to level a personal blast at an opponent is out of character for her and feeds into the current American discontent on which she is attempting to capitalize by her third-party candidacy.

Come on, Dr. Stein! Get back on message and on target and stop these silly personal asides which avail you nothing.

Jill’s Star Gets Some Tarnish

I learned three things about Green Party Presidential candidate and presumptive nominee Dr. Jill Stein tonight that I found troubling. She’s still got my support but now I’m a bit more wary of her consistency and her integrity than I was when I woke up this morning.

First, it turns out she appears to be pandering to the uninformed and irrational anti-vaxxers in LaLaLand. She waffled a bit on the issue, finally settling for something like, “I’m a doctor. Of course I support vaccines. But I understand why some parents are concerned.” Bull-puckey, Jill. The whole autism-is-caused-by-vaccines hoax has been thoroughly and completely debunked. If believers in that unscientific conspiracy theory are part of your base, I wonder about  your integrity as a scientist.

Second, she is suggesting quite openly that we shouldn’t be exposing our kids to TV, computers or WiFi signals for health reasons. I know there are psychological reasons to monitor and limit kids’ use of passive screen consumption. But to suggest that LCD displays or WiFi signals are somehow dangerous to health? Seriously? Feels like more pandering to me.

Finally, her selection of a very bright and engaging human rights activist and leader, Ajamu Baraka, as her running mate, strikes me as being ill-advised. Baraka has no experience in government and relatively little in management. Combined with Jill’s paucity of such experience, this gives me pause where, if they could pull off a win in November, we’d be in for four years of demagoguery and arm-waving with very little of her ambitious and progressive agenda having any hope of achievement. If she had recruited someone with real on-the-job experience in legislation or executive administration in government, she’d have bolstered her opportunity. Nothing against Baraka, just a bad strategic choice.

As I said at the outset, I’m still a #JillNotHill kinda guy, but these are warning signs that I’m going to monitor.