OKC is once again threatening the abundance of my urban garden-yard.

Oklahoma City has served me with a code violation and is claiming that I can’t have anything taller than 18 inches between the sidewalk and the street.  This is something new, as in the 16 years I have lived here I have yet to hear this claim.  I also seem to be having a problem finding it in the municipal code.  Not light reading, that’s for sure.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the abundance that Oklahoma City finds so threatening.

15 - 1 (1) 15 - 1 15 - 3 15 - 4

 

Here is a list of the plants in this area:

  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Comfrey
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Oregano
  • Walking Onions
  • Nanking cherries
  • Prairie roses
  • Maximilien sunflowers
  • Liatris
  • Butterfly weed
  • Butterfly bush
  • Yarrow
  • Native sunflowers
  • Scarlett runner bean
  • Loofa vine
  • Morning glories
  • Cannas
  • Delphinium
  • Eupatoria
  • Lambs ears
  • Hollyhocks
  • Prickly pear
  • Hairy vetch
  • White Dutch clover
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Pole beans
  • Alfalfa
  • Daylilies
  • Buffalo currants
  • spearmint
  • Crimson clover

The mayor’s email is mayor@okc.gov if you have an opinion about this.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Collapse, food, garden, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Permaculture | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rejoicing in the Beatification of Msgr Oscar Romero of El Salvador

At the beginning of our Catholic Worker community, July 1999, there was no doubt about its patron. Msgr. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, was chosen because of his fidelity to the Faith — his commitment to the poor — his courage in standing for the Faith even when threatened with violence and death.  However imperfect are our attempts, our goal has always been to follow his holy example to build the Reign of God right here and right now.

The United States is guilty of grave crimes against the people of El Salvador.  Msgr. Romero was assassinated just three weeks after he wrote a letter to President Carter, asking him to not send more guns and munitions to the El Salvadoran army, because . . .

The current ruling Junta, and above all the armed forces and security forces, have unfortunately not demonstrated their capacity to resolve the grave national problems through political practice and structural means. In general, they have only resorted to repressive violence, producing a volume of dead and wounded that is greater than that of recent military regimes whose systematic violation of human rights was condemned by the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights.

The brutal way in which the security forces recently evicted and assassinated the occupants of the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Party despite that the Junta and the government (it would appear) did not authorize that operation is evidence that the Junta and the Christian Democrats do not govern the country, but rather, the political power is in the hands of military men without scruples, who only know how to oppress the people and favor the interests of the Salvadoran oligarchy.

After the assassination of Romero, gunned down during the Offertory of Mass, the violence continued and more than 85,000 people in El Salvador were killed, one million were displaced, and 8,000 went “missing”, over the next decade.

While that civil war ended, the violence continues in the form of gang warfare.  This is not a surprise, given the trauma of the years of civil war.  That much violence sowed the seeds of the bitter harvests we see today.  The murder rate in El Salvador is 68 per 100,000 population — the highest in the world.  The US rate is 4 per 100,000.

So his intercession is greatly needed today.  We give thanks to God for his beatification.  May his example inspire all of us to  repent of our individual and national sins of empire, to stop cooperating with the structures of sin that support violence, greed, and injustice, and to work for reconciliation, peace, and justice in solidarity with all the peoples of the world.

A Prayer to the Blessed Oscar Romero of El Salvador

Blessed Romero,

During a time of grave evil,
you spoke with courage to rebuke the powerful,
pleading with them to cease their violence,
and repent of their murders.
You called upon the rich to end their greed,
to embrace just economic systems,
and to relinquish their power.
In solidarity you comforted the poor,
gave them hope and strength,
and witnessed the crimes against them,
always speaking truth, justice, mercy, and love.

Teach us to understand our complicity with the sins of empire.
Help us end our support for the structures of sin that
bring violence and injustice into the world.
Be our guide as we build structures of justice, mercy, love, and beauty.

O God, who by the preaching and teaching of Oscar Romero
has given us an example of love and fortitude in the face of violence and greed,
grant that we who reverence his life and ministry
may also imitate his fidelity to truth, justice, and peace.
Soon come the promise of Mary,
that all tyrants will be cast down,
the proud scattered,
the lowly exalted,
and the hungry filled with good things.
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Printable version (4 to a page).  This prayer is in the public domain and may be freely copied and shared.

Posted in Catholic, Peace, Social Justice, War and Peace | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Oklahoma continues to eat its seed corn.

The news is in on the Oklahoma state budget: we’re cuttin’ it while we are also drawing down our state’s savings accounts and raiding the unclaimed property fund to avoid even deeper cuts.

Any way you look at it, we are gobbling up our seed corn.  That’s a sign, folks, as clear as if angels of God flew over Oklahoma City blowing trumpets of doom.

Lots of people are working busy as bees.  But somehow the resources for the common good continue to shrink.  The unwillingness of the Legislature to do something simple like postpone their programmed tax cut is rooted in an ideology driven by fear.  Those who have are worried because these days they have less than they used to have.  In such a situation, the common good gets left behind for the wolves to devour.  We’ve seen this in history before and now we see it unfolding in our own lives and neighborhoods.

While the Legislature starves the common good, it continues to reward its friends with generous corporate welfare checks. But here again, there isn’t quite enough to go around. So we’ve seen some entertaining fights among the various Republican special interests over the remaining  loot.  Rural versus urban. Chamber of Commerce versus the Tea Party.  Oil versus wind.  (Wind lost, btw.)

There are a few bits of good news from this session.  There’s been some minor movement on our over-criminalization and over-incarceration problems.  That in itself is a sign of how dire our situation is getting as the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” crowd is getting a dose of reality.  And the legislature reduced the signatures necessary to place a new party on the ballot.

But the bad news is dominant: we continue to gobble up our capital and misallocate our resources.  Something wicked this way comes — the day when the seed corn is gone and our savings are depleted.  That will be an interesting session of the legislature, you bet.

The song the Republican Caucus is singing these days:

This is the way to collapse the state, collapse the state, collapse the state.  This is the way to collapse the state, so early in our history.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Collapse, Economic Prosperity, Financial Crisis, Oklahoma Living | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

An Appeal to Pope Francis

AN APPEAL TO HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

THE WAY OF VIOLENCE IS DEATH

This week rumors fly that you may “endorse” a military crusade against the people of Iraq and Syria. I pray that these rumors originate in the United States propaganda programs and that this is not an option that is being seriously considered by the Holy See. An objection to my comment may be immediately raised that “ISIS is the target, not the people of Syria and Iraq,” but we cannot attack ISIS without attacking the civilian population, so any war on ISIS is also a war on civilians. That’s the way it is with modern war. It serves no useful purpose to pretend otherwise, but accepting the propaganda pretense would serve a nefarious purpose.

From the beginning of its violent crusade against the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has carefully managed public perceptions of its actions. It positioned the United States as a victim of aggression, even though the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan had not attacked the United States. It stated that it was rescuing the peoples of those countries from their “evil governments.” It proclaimed that its actions were just, even though the two primary moral authorities of the time, Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, said otherwise. The United States government wants the perceptions it manages around its objective actions to be considered “without a doubt” as “truth and reality.” But the Catholic Church does not (or should not) rely on “perceptions” cleverly manipulated by a sophisticated propaganda campaign as a basis for moral judgment. Instead, we must look at the objective facts of each situation in light of the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and 2,000 years of Catholic history and theology.

ISIS is today proclaimed as “true evil incarnate,” the same brush used to paint public opinion regarding the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Certainly, ISIS is not on any list of “good guys” in the modern world. But neither is the United States. It is evident, from the objective facts on the ground, that the violence directed against the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two decades has not brought about a better situation. Indeed, the present crisis with ISIS is a direct result of the overwhelming blood lust that the United States and Great Britain unleashed on the region. These wars in one form or another have gone on for two long decades without a moment of peace. Hundreds of thousands of civilians perished in the first decade of those wars (mostly through the consequences of our blockade of the Iraqi civilian economy) (1), and additional hundreds of thousands were killed since 2001, many of those deaths were in the most grisly and painful ways (2).

The United States unleashed this violence for the exact same reason that ISIS does what it does – to instill fear among its intended victims. The United States military leaders bragged about their “shock and awe” doctrine at the time of the invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan (3). We went in with overwhelming force, knowing full well the consequences for the defenseless civilian populations of our attacks on those nations’ technological infrastructure.

We ignore at our mortal peril the role that Western culture plays in the development of ISIS. The organization is much more Western in its orientation than Islamic. This is evident in their barbaric tactics, which derive from Western military war fighting principles. Terrorize your enemy! Kill his women and children! Destroy the fields! Poison the wells! Spread fear everywhere! This is the objective reality of modern military power. It’s what Britain did in India and Ireland and Malaysia and Africa and Afghanistan and the United States did to the people of the Philippines, the Vietnamese, our own Native Americans and Iraq and Afghanistan.

By the age of 18, the average resident of the United States has seen over 200,000 televised acts of violence, incorporating 40,000 murders. A child witnesses 8,000 televised murders before leaving elementary school! (4) Life is cheap in modern mass media. ISIS is throwing back at the West what we teach to the world.

This is not a moral defense of terrorists. It is simply a reflection on the sources of the violence of modern terrorism. If we want to solve a problem, we’d best get to the root of the situation. We could kill all of the ISIS fighters tomorrow and a new threat would arise before they were in their graves, as long as the structures of sin which drive terrorism continue to operate.

The Christians of the Middle East pay a high price for the violence of the West. Before we attacked, the Catholic Church of Iraq begged us to not attack their nation. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. The US Catholic Bishops turned their back on them and praised that war by their exceptionally faint condemnation of it. The bishops proceeded then to go on about their business, which did not include doing anything substantive to defend the rights of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq to life. It is said that one-fourth of the United States military is Catholic, which is one of the reasons why the US Bishops are guilty of material cooperation with the objective evil of unjust war. For a further development of this thesis, see http://www.justpeace.org/warresponse.htm.

Which brings us to the present situation. How can we imagine that there is a military solution to the problem of Islamic radicalism? Modern terrorism is largely a product of Western military, economic, and political domination of Islamic cultures. It is absurd to say that MORE military violence and MORE political domination, will somehow, miraculously, bring about peace, instead of the more likely result of more war, more suffering, more death.

How many children are we willing to burn to death to pursue this chimeric military solution? We cannot say that the number is “zero” because if in fact we endorse military action, then we must accept all of those consequences and that includes burning many children to death in the most cruel, merciless, and barbaric of methods.

What then shall we say about the ancient Christian communities of the Middle East, who appeal to us for help in this time of their most grave need? We must offer them refuge! We must open our borders and our doors to all of them. We – the peoples of the West, the United States and Europe – created the situation that has now put them in such jeopardy. They live precariously in refugee camps and in villages at risk of violence because of our nations’ actions. It is therefore our moral duty to provide them with escape.

Is it a tragedy that these ancient communities must go into a diaspora? Of course, but there is no other alternative that is consistent with the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The time for a better alternative was in 2001 and 2003 and we did not choose the way of peace and justice, but instead went all in for violence, fear, and barbarism. Sow not in furrows of injustice, the Bible says, lest you reap a seven-fold harvest. Behold the fulfillment of this prophecy every day on the evening news!

War is big business in the United States. There are powerful economic and political forces that drive our foreign policy, and nobody makes money on peace, therefore we have so little peace in this modern world. That’s why, knowing the risk these people face, there are few voices in the United States or Britain calling out – “let us airlift these people to safety and give them homes.” Instead, we effectively say, as we said to the European Jews in the 1930s, “We are going to leave you behind for the wolves to devour because that suits our purposes.”

Violence will not pave the way for peace in the Middle East. More violence will only produce more violence. The situation will continue to spiral downward. A decade ago, many of us predicted that there would be no good outcomes from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and we were right. All the promises of the war party turned out to be lies. If the United Nations, instigated by the United States, escalates the American wars in the Middle East to “World Wars,” a decade from now things will be even worse than they are today.

It is never wrong to do what Jesus said: love your enemies!

Pope Francis! Do not lead us back to those dark days of our history when Popes proclaimed crusades for what, at the time, were thought to be righteous reasons but we know, with the clarity only given by hindsight, were evil campaigns of looting and destruction.

This is my appeal to you, Pope Francis, you who have taken upon yourself the mantel of a man of peace. Did Francis of Assisi make war on Islam? No, he did not. In the midst of a Crusade, when everyone was shouting either “Death to the Muslims” or “Kill the infidels”, Francis went to Egypt and preached peace to the Sultan! Lead us in the path of peace, Pope Francis, not into the failed labyrinth of war.

The Blessed Msgr. Oscar Romero said – and I have taken the liberty of universalizing this quote –

“All who are marked by Christ’s baptism, which is Spirit and fire, must be people of eternal hope, they cannot yield to pessimism. Neither must they let an earthly political program exhaust their ideals of eternal glory and triumph. The great hope of all the baptized must stand above all the desperate plans of the earth’s political leaders.”

I pray God’s blessing for you as you discern the signs of these times, and offer these two prayers, one to Msgr. Romero, and the second to Our Lady of Sorrows, to help you in that process. I am,

Your little brother in the Lord,

/sig/

Bob Waldrop
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House
1524 NW 21, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73106 USA
405-200-8155
http://www.justpeace.org

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanctions_against_Iraq

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ORB_survey_of_Iraq_War_casualties

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shock_and_awe

(4) Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Children, violence, and the media: a report for parents and policy makers. September 14, 1999. Accessed 14 June 2006. Previously available at: http://judiciary.senate.gov/oldsite/mediavio.htm .

A PDF copy of this appeal and the prayers may be downloaded at http://www.justpeace.org/francisappeal.pdf . Please print a copy, sign it, and mail it to

His Holiness, Pope Francis
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

A PRAYER to MSGR. OSCAR ROMERO
for the Christian Communities of the Middle East

Blessed Msgr. Oscar Romero,
When you walked among us,
you defended the poor and the powerless.
You spoke the truth of the Gospel to all.
You called the violent to peace,
the arrogant to humility,
the oppressors to justice,
and all to the peace of Christ which passes human understanding.

We come before you today, with hearts of fear,
on behalf of the peoples of the Middle East,
who have suffered grave sins
against justice for many decades.
Pray for all at risk of violence today,
and for those who work for peace and justice.
Help us to discern the signs of these times
so that we speak with your voice of beauty and wisdom
to reprove the ruthless, rebuke the violent,
and defend the widow and the orphan,
so that all who wield violence in this world
will repent of their injustice,
ceasing to do evil, and learning to do good.

O God, who by the example of Oscar Romero of El Salvador,
has given us an example of fortitude in the face of grave danger,
selfless love before greed and aggression,
and a Christ-like response of peace
to bloodthirsty violence and death,
grant that we who reverence his life may imitate his
example of fortitude, wisdom, love, and beauty,
so that we become peacemakers
bringing justice and reconciliation for all.

This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF SORROWS
on behalf of all who will die today because of
war, injustice, economic chaos, and exploitation.

Our Lady of Sorrows,
most holy and afflicted mother of martyrs,
you stood beneath the cross and witnessed the agony of your dying Son.
Look with a mother’s tenderness and pity upon all who will die today because of
war, economic chaos, injustice, and exploitation, especially the children.
Prepare them for the agony, despair, and terror of the violence that is upon them.
Comfort them and hold them close to the bosom of thy Wounded Heart
as they drink deeply of the bitter cup which is forced upon them.
Wipe their tears, calm their fears, welcome them to peace and safety.
Eternal rest grant to them, and may perpetual light shine upon them.

Pray for all who work for peace and justice,
that God will give us strength to stand against the
demons of violence and war that prowl
about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, help the helpless,
strengthen the fearful, comfort the sorrowful,
bring justice to the poor, peace to all nations,
and solidarity among all peoples.

O Christ our God, Lord of Glory,
who blessed us from your Mother’s womb,
have mercy on us and save us.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Posted in Catholic, Collapse, international issues, Middle East, Peace, Social Justice, War and Peace | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The story is not over yet.

This battle is over. But the struggle continues and the story has more to come.

I lost this election.  I received 497 votes, 39.6%.  Meg Salyer received 675 votes, 53.7%.  Dario Alverado received 84 votes, 6.7%.

But. . . there’s more to this story.  All or part of 28 precincts are in Ward 6.

  • 1/3 of Meg’s votes came from one precinct, #204, Heritage Hills and Mesta Park. Not surprising.
  • I carried 13 precincts.
  • Dario + me carried 2 precincts.
  • Dario + me tied Meg in one precinct.  Meg carried 7 precincts.
  • 2 precincts had no votes (they were small portions of precincts that were mostly in other wards).
  • I carried every precinct south of the river except for two, one of which had only two votes.

Meg raised $100,000.  I don’t know if she spent all that or not, but if she did her votes cost her $148 each.

I raised a little less than $5,000. So my votes cost me about $10/each.

I’m not embarrassed by losing against an entrenched incumbent with a $100K war chest.  If I were Meg Salyer, however, I would be embarrassed by the fact that after six years in office, and a hundred grand in campaign money, only 675 out of 77,000 people cared enough about her to get out and vote for her.

Four years ago, about 2200 people voted in this race.  Today only 1,256 voted.

One bright ray of sunshine was that Ed Shadid was re-elected by a comfortable margin with 3 opponents, two of whom raised substantial amounts of money, one of whom outspent him by a large margin.  So there will remain a voice for transparency and justice on the council and a lot can be done with this.

In the meantime, I intend to rest a bit, get ready for Easter, and plot my next organizing moves because if anyone thinks that Ward 6 has heard the last of me, well, that will not be the case. I met a lot of great people who put their faith in me and I promised I would not abandon them after the election.  I intend to go ahead with a survey of the infrastructure of the ward and to start holding a series of town meetings in the area.

So I’m still in the fundraising business, as continuing this organizing campaign will cost some money.  I’m thinking chili and cornbread to start with.

Thanks to everyone who supported me.  Especially David Glover and Sean Cummings and Susan McCann and Ed Shadid plus campaign workers Jon Riley, Terry Craghead, Malcolm Zechariah, and everybody who pitched in their ten or twenty or hundred bucks.  YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

Thanks to everyone who voted for me.

If you didn’t listen to my election day playlist, you should.  There’s more than one story therein.

 

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Campaign News, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Safe Community, Social Justice | Tagged | Leave a comment

A letter to my neighbors in Ward 6.

Dear neighbors,

There’s a city council election coming up on March 3rd. As I drive around Ward 6, I see a lot of “deferred maintenance” situations. I see potholes that have been there for years. Often there’s water seeping, which suggests that there is an underlaying problem with the water pipes that isn’t being addressed. I see neighborhoods that have no curbs and gutters.

I see a police force with the same number of police officers in 2015 that it had in 1995. Yet, our population is up 33%. Overtime is nearly universal. Crime cost me personally more than a thousand dollars in out of pocket costs in 2014. My car was stolen once, and an attempt was made to steal it a second time. Each time I had to replace the steering column and make other repairs because of the vandalism. I hear from my neighbors about thieves following delivery trucks and stealing packages and problems with drivers recklessly speeding through residential neighborhoods running stop signs.

In the next four years Oklahoma City will make major decisions regarding nearly two billion dollars for city projects that will take 20 years to complete. We need a bigger table to ensure that every part of Ward 6 benefits from these decisions. For example. . . there is a Tax Increment Financing district that goes as far south as SW 29th in Ward 6. Of the $85 million spent thus far, $82 million was spent north of the river, and $3 million has been allocated – but not spent yet – south of the river for an OCCC extension in the Capitol Hill area. Obviously, the next MAPs plan should be “MAPs for Neighborhoods.” The continued diversion of property tax money away from the schools contributes to our education problems.

Sure there are lots of exciting things going on in this town, it’s not all doom and gloom. But while some have prospered, others have not, and there are serious questions about the way city tax resources are spent.

Let’s do something about these issues. Call me at 405-200-8155 and tell me what’s happening in your neighborhood. If you need to register to vote, the deadline is February 6th. (I can help you register and/or request an absentee ballot.) You can also visit my website at www.bob4okc.net to learn more about me and how I approach the issues. I am available to speak at meetings in the ward. Starting in February I will be holding “Breakfast with Bob” gatherings in Ward 6 where you could meet me personally at a local restaurant and get to know me. Thanks for this moment of your time. I would be grateful for your vote on March 3rd! Please stay in touch!

Your neighbor for Oklahoma City,

Bob Waldrop

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Campaign News, Economic Prosperity, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Should Bob Waldrop run for Oklahoma City Council Ward 6?

Twenty-one years ago, I moved to Oklahoma City, to the neighborhood where I live now. These are exciting times to live in Oklahoma City, but we also face tremendous challenges. While many have prospered, others have been left behind. The plunge in oil prices may have serious negative economic impacts on the community. Our streets are not as safe as they should and can be. This City continues to have a problem misallocation of resources.

This is why I am contemplating running for Oklahoma City Council.

But the point of that campaign would not be to simply make a point or get some publicity for the good causes I am involved with. It would be to actually get elected.

There is no way that I can out spend my opposition.  But I am betting that I can out-organize them.  The present incumbent won election with 2,000 votes in a ward with a population of 71,000 — 32,700 are Hispanic, 6,000 are African American, and 2,000 are Native American.

Whether I run or not depends entirely on whether people are willing to commit to help me by endorsing my campaign and volunteering their time.  I figure I need 100 volunteers at least to get elected.  The filing period is the last week of January, and the primary election is the first Tuesday of March, so there’s not a lot of time.  If only two candidates file, the winner of the March first Tuesday primary is the new city council member.  If there are more than two candidates, there will be a run-off election April 7.

If you are willing to be involved, email me!  See also my Facebook page.

Here are some of my preliminary thoughts.

Community.

We live in a big city that is composed of smaller villages – our neighborhoods. But there are problems with the fair and equitable distribution of city resources throughout the City. If elected, I pledge to ensure that all areas of Ward 6 will benefit from city resources such as community block grants and bond issues.

Commerce.

Jobs are the heart beat of the Oklahoma City economy. For the past 11 years, as president and one of the founders of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, I have helped nurture many small food and craft businesses. I know first hand what a nightmare the Oklahoma City bureaucracy can be for small businesses trying to get started. Just figuring out how to legally erect a sign for your business is astonishingly complex. I think it’s past time to slash the red tape and for the City to stop hassling job creators!

Commitment.

Special interest groups should not hijack local government and impose their political or economic agendas on everybody. Serving on the City Council requires work and I am prepared to put in the hours to do the job right. Besides attending council meetings, I will meet with Ward 6 residents at regularly scheduled town meetings in the neighborhoods so that everyone’s voice can be heard at city hall.  I am committed to the common good of the entire ward and city.

Concern.

The misallocation of Oklahoma City’s resources is a crisis issue in this election. Funds that should be directed at strengthening our neighborhoods and public safety programs have been diverted to corporate welfare and to satisfy special interests.  As a result, our neighborhoods are not as safe as we can and should be.

Compassion.

City government should treat everyone with even-handed fairness, compassion, and common sense. That isn’t always the case at present when it comes to the workings of Oklahoma City government. We should beware of cutting off our noses to spite our faces with city policies that can have adverse unintended consequences.

 

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Campaign News, Economic Prosperity, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Safe Community, Social Justice | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Why we can’t trust conservative leaders when it comes to poverty.

Recently, an op ed piece in the Washington Times lauded the commitment of the Koch brothers to the poor.  It was authored by John and Carol Saeman,  who are wealthy Catholic philanthropists.  They proceeded to tell us that they also supported the Koch’s Freedom Chambers of Commerce because as far as they were concerned, the Koch brothers were doing more to help the poor than some social justice campaigners who attacked them.

On and on they go about the “free market.”  But never once do they — or the Koch’s for that matter — mention the legal and regulatory barriers to micro enterprise that prevent poor people from starting small, part-time businesses that over time and with work can grow into a full time job that they own. Nobody in the conservative movement seems interested in addressing this issue.  I have said that the reason for their silence is that our economic aristocracy benefits from maintaining a large class of under and unemployed low income workers who are desperate for work at any price.  What’s the point of being an aristocrat if you don’t have serfs?  Which is to say, conservatives don’t actually support free enterprise.  The support a system of economics which is regulated to benefit the economic aristocracy at the expense of the common good.

If poor people were allowed to start microenterprises, then the price of what we call low wage work would rise.  McDonalds and Wal Mart might find themselves forced to offer wages upwards of $15 to $20 an hour with benefits in order to attract workers.

This isn’t going to happen, because we can trust our politicians to look out for the interests of our economic aristocrats, lip service to solidarity notwithstanding.  So they will never support policies that protect the rights of the poor to free enterprise.  The only rights they are willing to concede to the poor is the right to work for a cheap wage.  A man was just killed on the streets of  New York City, for selling single cigarettes!  That’s how far our system is willing to go to protect the economic aristocracy. Do you think that doesn’t send a message to poor people everywhere in this nation?

Whatever form of enterprise the Freedom Chambers of Commerce are promoting, if they aren’t publicly defending the rights of low income people to entrepreneurship by demanding the repeal of the petty federal, state, and local laws and ordinances that effectively criminalize low income microentrepreneurs, then it isn’t “freedom”.  It’s just another defense of rent seeking economic aristocrats who profit from their ability to rig the economy to suppress initiative, eliminate competition and lower wages. What happens every time wages start to rise? The Federal Reserve can be counted upon to rig the economy so that people lose their jobs and the price of labor goes down. Somehow, rising wages is considered an inflationary problem, but a rising stock market (capital value) isn’t. Like I said, we can always count on our economic aristocrats to look out for their own interests.

This is why we shouldn’t trust conservative leaders when they claim that work is the way out of poverty.  They don’t really believe that.  They are just pandering to the crowds. If they really were in solidarity with the poor, they would be marching and organizing in support of the economic rights of low income people.

They are conspicuous by their absence.

For details (to the point of tediousness) about how this economic oppression plays out, see my Open Letter to Paul Ryan, which I wrote during the last presidential campaign.  Yes, I understand that many of these laws and ordinances are local and state issues, over which Congress has no control.  But Paul Ryan,  the Koch brothers, and John and Carol Saeman have bully pulpits and they could be pounding those and demanding economic freedom for the poor as a way out of poverty.

They are conspicuously silent on this issue.

And as we all know, silence is consent.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Catholic, Collapse, Corporation shenanigans, Economic Prosperity, Financial Crisis, Social Justice | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The blunt truth about the present situation.

For irrational reasons, I always experience a surge of hope just before elections. Somehow, I expect something magical to happen.  Maybe all the independents and minor party candidates will win — Congress would be MUCH more interesting and helpful and productive if it was Libertarians and Constitutionalists and Greens and Socialists.

But the blunt truth is that at the present time there is no political solution to our four-fold dilemma — economic irrationality, climate instability, political criminality, and peak oil.

There is no political solution because in the United States our politics do in fact grow from the people.  Because We the People of these United States are greedy, wasteful, narcissistic, and violent, so is our government.

If we want a better government, we have to become a better people.  That means that We the People, as individuals, families, and households, must become less greedy, less wasteful, less narcissistic, and less violent.

I accuse myself first and foremost of complicity with these continental-scale structures of evil. Whatever I have done, has not been enough.  I, personally, Bob Waldrop, must do more to lessen the greed, waste, narcissism, and violence that is embedded in my life and that of my household and in those areas of life where I have some responsibilities.

Because that’s the problem.  It’s not that I stand before the mirror for hours a day admiring my good looks and praising my self.  I don’t wander around drunk and stoned looking to get into fights.

But there is violence, greed, waste, narcissism embedded in my life.  Every gallon of gasoline I pump comes with a cost in blood. Every ounce of packaging I throw away embodies waste.  Etc.

There is a spiritual discipline known as the Examination of Conscience, where, in a somewhat organized way, we review our life to discern our issues — our sins — and to come to an understanding of how we need to amend our “ways and manners of living.” Going forward, I recommend that practice to us all as a matter of political reform, and to assist in that process, I am beginning a blog series whose working title is — “A Secular Examination of the American Conscience”.

We have met the enemy, and he is us.  But we have also met the leaders of our future salvation, and that is also us. Within each one of us is both the Enemy and the Savior and I think it is a fine thing to picture that reality in the traditional form of the little devil sitting on one shoulder, and an angel sitting on the other, whispering in your ear, for that really is what is going on. Voices everywhere call us this way and that way and one of the most important secular and spiritual graces in this post modern, devolutionary world is discernment of “spirits” and of choices.  In a world of a multiplicity of options, the ability to make good, better, and best choices is a practice to be cultivated.

So it comes to pass that at the present time, whatever you do in the ballot box on the various election days, what happens on the other 364 days of the year is of more importance.  Let us learn to vote with our bodies — by what we do and don’t do, by how we spend our money, by where we give our attention — to make the world a better place.

Long ago, Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Everything we do has consequences — for good or for ill. The path towards developing your ability to make the best choices is paved with observation and evaluation that is informed by virtue.  And what is virtue? “The habit of doing good.”  This is  praxis — action informed by contemplation — and it is a way forward into a better future than what we presently see coming at us.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Campaign News, Climate Instability, Collapse, Environmental Sustainability, Financial Crisis, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Safe Community, Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

We have met the enemy, and he is us.

When I heard that organizers were encouraging people to travel to NYC for a climate march, I cringed. The greatest enemy of rational environmental and climate policies is not Senator Inhoff and his ilk. In the words of the immortal Pogo, we have met the enemy , and he is us.

In this day and age, authenticity is the only coin of the realm that is worth much in the public square. By sponsoring this march in NYC, the climate movement did major damage to itself, as noted in this editorial from today’s Oklahoman.

Sometimes I think the problem with our movement begins with the leaders, but then I remember that the leaders of a movement are reflections of those within the movement. Too many of us have a sense of narcissistic entitlement when it comes to hopping on airplanes and flying all over the world, who cares about the cost to the environment.

For several years, I have been exploring the Benedictine vow of stability. I wrote the Abbot of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek last year to apologize for not visiting them for several years. I said words to this effect — “The older I get, the more interesting and valuable the Benedictine emphasis on stability seems to me.” The Abbot wrote back, “I think John Senior would say this is a sign of increasing sanity in your life.” (John Senior being the K-State professor who was instrumental in the formation of the young men who went to France for the summer and ended up staying and becoming monks, and who then came back here in the 1990s to start a traditional Benedictine monastery, one of them being said abbot.

The more that the climate movement practices what it preaches, the more credible it will be. Likewise, the less we practice what we preach, the more hypocritical we will appear in the public square, and the less influence we will have on public policy. If we encourage people to travel across the country, and then leave a trail of trash behind us, we announce to the world that we just aren’t very serious about the situation.

Which is to say. . . everyone should think thrice before they fly anywhere. and if your life is impossible without air travel, then you should redesign your life.

http://newsok.com/scissortales-environmental-double-standard/article/5345946

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Climate Instability, Collapse, Environmental Sustainability, Peak Oil | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment