Thursday, August 18, 2016

Breaking Out Of The Corporate Duopoly

This presidential election year the citizens of the U.S. are faced with two of the most unpopular nominees of the major parties in our nation's history, Hillary "neoliberal warmonger" Clinton and Donald "spoiled bigot" Trump. It is quite a toxic choice for most Americans, many of whom know little or nothing about the Green and Libertarian options, which also exist just outside of the duopoly. And many who do know a bit about Jill Stein and Gary Johnson will still vote out of fear; they will cast their precious ballot for what they view as the lesser evil in order to defeat the greater evil.

The truth with the American corporate duopoly running the U.S. government is that there is precious little separating the two parties. True there are some differences on social issues, such as gay marriage and abortion rights -- both reveal that the days are numbered for the G.O.P. However the Democrats, from the 1990s until recent years, have shifted sharply to the right with a full embrace of neoliberal policies -- favoring privatization of many areas of the public sphere and pursuing programs of austerity. Today's Democrats are 1980s Republicans, and with some issue areas President Obama's administration, particularly the draconian crack down on government whistleblowers and record high deportation rates, are a bit to the right of Reagan's administration.

In 2016, the duopoly's picks are both unabashed neoliberals who are extremely hawkish (Trump actually being a bit more reserved on military interventions), and have both played roles in exporting millions of jobs outside of our nation. Both are now adamantly against comprehensive universal single payer health care (like what the rest of the Western developed world has). And both have revealed their racist leanings ("super-predators," "rapists").

Last night Green Party nominee Jill Stein took the stage at the CNN studio with her running mate veteran human rights activist Ajamu Baraka in a televised town hall. This gave the Green Party a great deal of exposure they very seldom have had. However, Libertarian Gary Johnson has already been given two town hall appearances by CNN. Despite Chris Cuomo's subtle and obnoxious racist badgering of Mr. Baraka and his naysaying of several of Dr. Stein's proposals, the Green duo performed extremely well, and received warm applause from the audience.

Don't expect a third party win this cycle, but there will be extremely significant gains from where they were four years ago (0.99% for Johnson, 0.36% for Stein) -- the time is ripe in our nation's history, job growth remains sluggish, wages are stagnant with more people working longer hours while seeing many of their benefits trimmed (if they are lucky enough to have a job that offer benefits, such as a pension). Americans are people who are fed up and increasingly disgusted by the duopoly and their corporate funders. A couple in depth polls this year show a solid 60% of Americans want a strong third party. As for Stein and Johnson their numbers are definitely looking up.

This is indeed a long term struggle to reshape American politics, but with more and more Americans aware of how our government has been subverted by the billions of dollars of corporate dark money flooding into our presidential, gubernatorial, senate, and congressional races the corporate duopoly as it now exists is endangered. Thirty years -- perhaps even 20 years from now, I predict the Republican Party will cease to exist, and the Democrats will again have faced another Bernie Sanders-type dilemma: Reverse course and return to its FDR/New Deal soul, or continue its betrayal of hardworking Americans in its rightward march. This struggle is just beginning and as Millenials increasingly flirt with -- some already gravitating toward -- the Greens, this progressive party will have an increasingly significant role to play.

For me, I am quite proud to be a Green. It's the party which has been fighting hard for green renewable energy for about four decades, universal single payer and LGBT rights for more than three decades, and marijuana legalization for just as long. I invite my readers to review the party's 10 Key Values, and if you agree with all of them join us! The future has never looked greener.
A leading criticism of the Green Party that needs to be addressed is that we are really not much more than our presidential nominee popping up every four years. This is simply not true, as our party runs candidates at every level of government every single year. This year we have more than 130 Green candidates running. Just to highlight a few -- Joshua Harris running for Baltimore mayor is an African American millennial (and shown some extreme strength with that age group) already deeply involved in the Baltimore community; Arn Menconi running for U.S. Senate from Colorado is a former Democrat who was an Eagle County Commissioner; and Charlotte Pritt running for Governor of West Virginia is a former Democrat who had previously run for governor. Current Green officeholders include Mayor Bruce Delgado of Marina, CA; County Commissioner Art Goodtimes of San Miguel County, CO; Town Meeting Members Frank Gatti and Vincent O'Connor of Amherst, MA; City Council Member Cam Gordon of Minneapolis, MN; Mayor Jim Sullivan of Victory, NY; and City Council Member George Altgelt of Laredo, TX.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

First Amendment on Trial: Our Democracy Spring

Contact: For Immediate Release
Pete Perry, 202-704-3963 July 12, 2016


Democracy Spring Activists Conclude Their First Amendment
Trial, Await Judgement


Washington, DC -- Four activists who took part in Democracy Spring’s week of peaceful protests at the Capitol Building calling for corporate money to be removed from the American political process are waiting a decision in their trial before D.C. Magistrate Judge Diane Lepley.

On Monday, the government prosecutor and the defendants concluded their closing arguments. Lepley scheduled the decision in the case for 9:00 a.m. Friday, July 15, in D.C. Superior Court, Room 116. Defendants Peter Perry of Philadelphia, Manijeh Saba of New Jersey, and Helen Schietinger of Washington, D.C. are defending themselves in court. Defendant Alexander Park of Virginia is being represented by Attorney Mark Goldstone.

The four activists participated in Democracy Spring’s week-long protests on Capitol Hill, resulting in more than 1,400 arrests. This included the largest single protest arrest on the Capitol grounds since the Vietnam War.

“We came to the Capitol Grounds to peacefully petition our government to ban vast amounts of unaccountable corporate dark money flooding our political process,” said pro-se defendant Perry in the defense’s closing argument. “Our intention was never to block or impede anyone, or incommode any entranceway, and we did not. Our intention, as we all testified, was to exercise our First Amendment rights.”

The defendants are being charged with Crowding, Blocking and Incommoding on the Capitol Grounds and Failure to Obey a Lawful Order.

“Too much power is being handed over to the police, we must defend our rights. These rights are enshrined in the Constitution, which I took an oath to protect and uphold when I was granted citizenship 40 years ago,” said pro-se defendant Saba. “I already lived through two dictatorships in Iran, and would not wish that on anyone else. I am committed to defending and protecting our democracy.”

In her opening statement, Schietinger asserted that "the rule prohibiting protests in this traditional public space is an unreasonable and arbitrary violation of our Constitutional right of free speech.” She compared the Democracy Spring sit-ins at the steps of the U.S. Capitol — the People’s House — to the June sit-in by members of Congress in the House of Representatives demanding a vote on gun control. "They actually stopped the business of Congress. They were not arrested. They should not have been arrested. But neither should we.”

Democracy Spring is an organization formed this year from a coalition of citizen groups deeply concerned about the influence of big money in American politics, and committed to making voting more accessible for all citizens. It plans to participate in the protests during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25-29.

Democracy Spring’s current campaign is the Equal Voice for All Declaration, which calls on current members of Congress and candidates for public office at any level of government — from President to City Council — to commit to fight for reform to save our democracy and ensure political equality. The Declaration is a tool to establish public commitments from elected officials or candidates that can be used to demonstrate the breadth of support for reform, educate voters about what candidates to support, and hold candidates-elect accountable to honor their commitment by fighting to pass reform.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Philly Restaurants -- My first two reviews!

Bruno and I are enjoying ourselves as we settle into our new home city. Future posts will cover my recent activism and my life-work at New Jerusalem Now. But this post will touch upon my great love of exploring new restaurants!

OK, so I love walking the bustling streets of Chinatown Philly! What I have noticed is the boba (or bubble) tea phenomena has exploded in popularity. There must be about a dozen establishments here dedicating their focus to this. Also, where else can you find several Internet Cafes within a five block radius without jumping into a time machine and journeying back to the mid to late 1990s? A bit odd. But perhaps I will explore those two types of businesses in future posts. Now back to food. Honestly, I love Chinese food and would not have a problem eating it every day if given the chance!

Pho 20 -- Located up on the northern end of Chinatown Philly is this family run establish with generous hours (unlike many places in the neighborhood, this one actually stays open past 10pm). The summer rolls were delicate, paper thin rice pastry like it should be and the fillings were fresh and extremely tasty. For pho I ordered the beef flank, and it was truly a special experience. The broth was sublime and absolutely pleased the palette as soon as it touched the tongue. The beef seemed fresh and cooked medium, which is just right -- moist, not overly rubbery or dried out.

I can't wait to return to Pho 20. The price was very reasonable, and probably the best summer rolls and pho I have ever had. 234 N. 10th Street, at the corner with Winter Street. Rating 4 Stars

Tom's Dim Sum -- Formerly known as Dim Sum Garden, this establishment is not in a very attractive location. It is across from the Hilton Garden Hotel, where 11th Street is covered, trapping in a lot of exhaust fumes. And on the same block as Jefferson Station for the SEPTA Regional commuter trains. I had seaweed salad, fishball soup, and a vegetable bun for $12.10! The seaweed salad seemed fresh and tasted just as good as any of the same dish I have had at some upscale Japanese restaurants. The fishball soup was delicious, aromatic and intensely favorable broth, the veggie steamed bun was also great, some nice filling featuring among other things minced mushrooms and seitan.

I also look forward to my next trip (will order the scallion pancakes which I was happy to see on the menu) to this little casual place with a modern and very clean decor. 59 N. 11th Street. Rating 3.5 Stars

1 Star is like McDonalds. 4 Stars is the best there is for its cuisine.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

2016! And why I didn't have a post in 2015...

I know it has been a long time since I have written in this blog, I guess some might have written it off as long-dormant, and probably to be forgotten. 2016 will certainly bring changes into my life and more spiritual development. I look forward to the remaining 358 days.

I joined a community house in Syracuse, and tried to make it a Catholic Worker house of hospitality. I faced a lot of disagreements, and the various ideas for a mission, from the individuals involved, were never on the same page. Then there was anger and a lot of frustration. Now there is a lot of uncomfortable silence. There were some personality clashes (I accept my role in that). I am not pointing any fingers. Maybe I was wrong to push my vision. The house here has been many things over its 40 years of existence. But it seems like its longest running mission was being a part of the Central American Sanctuary movement and offering hospitality to that affected community on a family scale for about 10 years (mid-80s to mid-90s). This time around it did not gel and the former occupant, the organizational founder, Jail Ministry, will move its offices back in here this summer (it moved out a year and a half ago).

I will in the short-term be living with my sister and her husband in Philadelphia. Bruno, my most awesome and very loving basset hound, will of course come with me. I will be there during a search for a community to join. I still lean toward a Catholic Worker community, but it does not have to be one. I have been making contacts and tentative plans to visit communities that are dedicated to working with and for the poor in Connecticut, Maryland, and Virginia. Of the three, Connecticut is sort of lowest on my preference list, as I would like to be significantly closer to my parents than I am right now in Syrcause. Their health is not well, particularly my mother.

This move to Philadelphia will happen in six weeks. I am excited about it. Hope to explore the city and get to know and possibly volunteer with Sr. Margaret McKenna. She co-founded and runs the New Jerusalem Community, and she is a well-respected peace and social justice activist.

Currently spending a lot of time with Bruno and reading (right now Francis and Jesus by Bodo). Also praying for continued guidance and inspiration. Already thinking about my next blog entry!

Lastly, I am grateful to all my friends and family who have been supportive of me as I stumble through life, trying to follow God. I also hope that the anger here will subside and we can wish each other well as we part ways.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Visiting communities and the election in DC

On Tuesday, I returned from a 16-day journey to the Midwest to visit two Catholic Worker communities. The first was in Kansas City and the second one was in Davenport, IA, and I must say they are very different. I loved KC and I would probably want to live there if it was on the East Coast. They provide breakfast, showers, laundry services, and free second-hand clothes to homeless folks three times a week. In addition, they have a small urban farm, which includes more than two dozen egg-laying hens, honey bees, fruit trees, okra, bell pepper, and much more! I also think the four regular CW members: Jodi, Eric, Allison, and Lonnie are remarkable people. Davenport on the other hand is small, basically two houses of hospitality for long-term guests run by one amazing CW member, Michael. I will be upfront in saying that I developed quite a crush on Michael, but I think I am growing past that now. For a number of reasons, I don't think Davenport would be a great fit for me over the long-run. I also witnessed a lot of good resources for the homeless in the Quad Cities area, so I think that there are many urban areas with severe unmet needs, and I would be more drawn to those places. Also, there's a lot to be said for living as part of a larger group of f-t Catholic Workers. And, as for my early comment about the East Coast, I think with parents aging and becoming more vulnerable, I do feel called to be within a less than 10-hour drive of them. So with that said, the next two CW communities I will be visiting next month will be on the East Coast, and while not really close to D.C. -- significantly closer than Iowa or Missouri.

It is getting down to election time in D.C., and I have had the great pleasure of volunteering for Eugene Puryear's campaign for City Council. His public positions resonate strongly with my own views powered by my belief system. And the good news is he has a fairly good chance of winning! Early voting begins Monday. And I will be working closely with the camping during these last two weeks! This evening, I did a bit of outreach for Eugene at the mayoral debate at Anacostia High.
Anyhow, check out Eugene's Website. If you are progressive like me, I am sure you will love his candidacy.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Changing my life

I surprised myself to realize just how long it has been since I last wote a blog entry. A lot has changed in my life, but I think even greater change is just around the corner. As I type this long-awaited blog entry at a little after 2 a.m. on September 27, I realize my view of the world, and my life in  particular, continues to evolve. I hope my activism becomes much more proactive, rather than reactive. I also want to embrace my share of responsibility for creating more peace and justice in the world. I grow weary of attending protests and vigils where we seem to be just appealing to "the powers that be" rather than seizing the initiative ourselves.

Furthermore, my spirituality which I often silenced or suppressed, has now truly begun to blossom. I now wish to grow and nourish my relationship with God. To me my activism was never separate from my spirituality. My belief in pursuing justice, doing good, and resisting violence in the world has always been very important to me. The causes I have worked on may be political, but my energy and commitment has always stemmed from my core beliefs. These actions and campaigns have been more than just merely political for me. And I am interested in living in community with others similarly committed.

In 48 hours from now I will be more than half way through a Greyhound bus ride to Kansas City. That will be my first stop on a tour of Catholic Worker communities I will consider joining. I don't believe I have been this excited about anything in my life since my move to Seattle when I was 27. I am listening to a voice inside me, and I feel I am heeding a call. Last winter and into the spring I found intense happiness interacting with some of my homeless neighbors. I have shared food and conversation with them. I feel I have gotten to know two of them. I hope to do this kind of work full-time and build community around it. This is to a large degree what the Catholic Worker movement is all about.

In 2004, when I became intensely involved in the anti-war movement, I was always deeply impressed with the Catholic Workers. Their commitment to nonviolence and building a more just world for those most oppressed and ignored in our midst quickly resonated with me. However, I was supposed to try and succeed at a typical career, after all isn't that what I went to school for? Is it not what my parents expect? But you see, I feel disconnected from God when I only focus on my "career," and I feel it puts greater distance between myself and my brothers and sisters I observe just struggling to simply survive. I feel called to act in a way that may help build just a little bit of justice in the world, or maybe it will only result in lessening the suffering of just a couple brothers and sisters. Either way, I want to be present for those struggling with loneliness, hunger, addiction, homelessness. I want to serve, in some small capacity, the stranger who comes to the door seeking refuge.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Perhaps this intention to serve is just a little bit selfish. I don't want an empty life, I wish for it to have more value than just holding a decent job, being a "good citizen," doing what is "expected" of me and for me. Living God's love is doing/being/living for others. Thank you for reading, and God bless.

Monday, December 30, 2013

End of 2013

2013 was not a great year, but there were a few exciting highlights, such as my great trip to Ecuador. As I expected, I loved this small South American republic. I stayed nearly the whole time in Cuenca (except for the first night in the capital city of Quito), which is rapidly becoming a major haven for ex-pats from the U.S. and Canada. It is a charming small city, about one-third the size of D.C. I can easily see myself retiring here in a city with several museums, where you can buy fresh produce from an amazing farmer's market, and have a three-course lunch for under $3. Where you can relax in a nice park next to a huge cathedral for hours and then wander the streets until you find a quaint cafe where you can have a cafe con tinto for $1.50.

2014 will be a better year. I am sure of it. After seven months of unemployment, next week I will begin a digital archives job in downtown D.C. I also plan to begin yoga regularly and continue to live frugally in order to save some money for my next trip to South America. I am very glad I am getting back into the field I want to continue with (archives), and I am also on the host committee for the Society of American Archivists 2014 Conference, which will be here in my hometown this year.

I won't be as stressed out about bills and transportation costs. I think Bruno and I will continue to be happy. Activism will still be around, but it won't dominate my life. Look forward to more gaming and more healthy living!

Here's a great recipe that went over well for Christmas when I made it... Cranberry & Quinoa Bread!

While I continue to worry about the people of the U.S., I am generally happy with the direction my life is going in. But I think it is terrible, and a crime, that unemployment benefits were suddenly cut off for 1.3 million of my fellow citizens over this past weekend. And I am aware that between 50 and 60 million of my fellow citizens are living in poverty. Meanwhile the richest 1 percent owns more than 40 percent of the wealth. Here's a great data visualization illustrating the wealth inequality. A significant, and revolutionary, change is over due.

Now I am looking forward to ringing in the New Year. And having brunch with my buddy Steve and a couple other friends on 1/1/14! Cheers.