Ironically, he represented Bristol, the same city that Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism represented as a MP. Both were iconoclasts of their day. Ironic - eh?
"Tony Benn explained the world, better than anyone... And he was never, ever willing to accept the role of spectator in the great democratic debate, and the great democratic life, that he sought. We honor him best by asking his questions, and by recognizing that every generation must struggle to win democracy -- and to keep it."
EDITOR'S NOTE: It seems citizens on either side of the US/Canadian border are confronted by crony capitalism. What would Tony Benn do?
After 9/11 public opinion in the USA and much of the world lined up to support doing something about those who perpetrated the killing of over 3000 innocent people in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a lonely field in western Pennsylvania.
Exactly what should be done was open to debate and speculation. Some called for limited action more along the lines of a policing response in Afghanistan to root out al Qaida. Others called for a larger war against jihadists wherever they resided.
The Bush administration took a very aggressive interpretation to declare a war on terrorism from Afghanistan to Iraq. In the years that have passed the sense of "mission accomplished" has morphed into doubt that questions the role of the US as a world cop and doubts about the international community's capacity to step up to the challenge posed by modern terrorism be it in the Middle East, Africa or South Asia. From the hope of the Arab Spring we have come full circle in the carnage of Syria.
The yin and yang of interventionism to isolationism has come full circle. While it's obvious what Putin has in mind for The Crimea, the community of nations (if there is such a thing) aren't sure what to do, if anything beyond symbolic diplomatic moves to levy economic sanctions against Russia. One even wonders if Russia's claim in The Crimea has some legitimacy since the region has been a part of Russia more than not. What would American's think of Mexico reclaiming Texas or New Mexico again?
After over 13 years of the war against terrorism the US and much of the world are war weary and Putin knows this. Nobody has the resolve to rekindle the "Cold War" again, least of all Barack Obama. So as we wait and see what Putin does in The Crimea low expectations are the likely name of the geo-political game. War weariness has led inexorably to a sullen neo-isolationism here at home and abroad. Oh yes, we and the Euros will beat our rhetorical breasts about the Russian bear but it's all sound and fury meaning nothing.
Ironically for me at least, seeing the picture of Russian troops in The Crimea (above) is a type of historical flash back to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. After an initial victory, it all went very bad making Afghanistan Russia's Vietnam. Might history repeat itself in The Crimea? After an initial "occupation" might the Russian bear get what's coming to it - a Pyrrhic victory with bad long term consequences at home and abroad? Who knows, only the "Shadow knows." But history has a nasty habit of repeating itself.
“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
- George Santayana
We in the US should contemplate our own mistakes from 9/11 on... If the 2014 election is framed in the context of the fear of "big government" aka Obamacare, NSA spying, mission creep abroad - then the GOP as the party of isolationism should have a good run in November increasing its majority in the House and possibly taking the Senate. The recent special election contest in Florida is an ill omen for the Democrats and Barack Obama. But a classic low turnout off year election is not a good predictor of what will happen in 2016.
2014 may be the anti-Obama election, 2016 could just as easily be Hillary's year to break the glass ceiling. The yin and yang of politics.
The ghost of Karl Marx is still there because the 21st century looks more and more like the 19th century deja vu all over again! It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Here's a disturbing read on inequality. Read it and weep if you are a progressive. Aside from the validity of the analysis, it puts a fork through the theory that education is the path to ending inequality in capitalist economies.
After 23 years of education reform in Oregon, this delusion should be clear for all to see. The achievement gap is still there, the drop out rate is still rising and family wage jobs are a thing of the past. Who gets the gold in Oregon, the 1%!
60% of Oregon teachers (more than nearly any other state’s teachers) shared that the large class sizes create “significant barriers” to their ability to do their job," especially for low income students. The impact of class sizes on student achievements
The other fork in our heart may be the end of public education as we knew it in the '50s in the USA if Diane Ravitch is correct.
The schools/jobs nexus:
One may wonder how public education is related to ending inequality in the USA. Public education was founded in the late 19th century to be the transition belt for immigrants to the US to break into the middle class or above. It served that purpose well for white ethnic Americans - the Irish, Italians, Jews et al.
Segregation blocked African-Americans from that dream. It took the Civil Rights movement to bring down that barrier. But for each of these groups schools and economic mobility was keyed by the timing of when the opening occurred. The critical historical moment was the post-WW II era. It's been a tougher slog since that golden age.
The pre-computer industrial age of the '50s offered good paying union jobs with benefits which did not require a college education. Now that has all changed and with it has come the pressure to turn schools into "sorting machines" using high stakes testing as the basis for judging who it fit to move on in our economy.
The embrace the false God of education reform since the '80s has been pegged on the assumption that the USA to be competitive must have a "world class work force." The assumption is that only by a testing regime can such a workforce be produced even though the empirical evidence of such doesn't exist.
Friday's unOregonian headlined an article about PPS being sanctioned by the DOE for not having enough hours per year of classroom instruction. What's odd about this is that the Katz reforms back in '91 critiqued measuring quality by "seat time." The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Many jobs today don't require a college degree. Apprenticeships in high school would be a more logical means to move people into the work force but that would require industry to invest their own money in such transitional learning while working collaboratively with local high schools or community colleges.
I'm not saying attending college is a waste of time and money. But it's not the only way to get into the job market. While lifetime incomes for college grads are higher than for non-college grads, if one factors in the significant debt one incurs, $40-100K, this investment looks problematic at best.
If one wants to attend college do it for the right reasons not the wrong reasons. Job security isn't the thing it used to be. A good college education is not preparation for work per se but for life - as an engaged citizen and the many other roles life demands of us all. College is a time for exploration and developing critical thinking skills not job training!
The political class and captains of industry want an education system to do the "big sort" among the working classes (white and blue collar). High stakes testing pushes job training and sorting to the public sector, another hidden subsidy for corporate America. This way they can blame the victims (students, teachers or schools) who don't make the grade.
But the cycle of inequality is perpetuated and deepened. When one hears that Intel has 17,000 workers in Oregon ask yourself where did they come from? Also ask how many of them were educated in Oregon? And ask yourself how many of them are "contract" employees without benefits?
The USA has a multi-tiered class system: management gurus making the big bucks, hi-tech groupies making top salaries with bonuses, the professional classes (teachers, doctors et al) who are increasingly squeezed compared to the past, assembly line workers who come and go, service workers - what Marx termed the "lumpen proletariat."
Barack Obama in designing the "race to the top" has ignored his own unique history as a child of privilege. His biographical narrative is the exception to the rule. The problem is that he's drawing on his own narrative to design an education system which doesn't fit the profile of the average American family in today's economy.
Does Barack have a clue? His girls attend Sidwell Friends School in Bethesda, Maryland - a private school for the rich and famous. They offer an excellent education. But if you can't afford it - and live in DC - good luck! You decide where the "race to the top" is headed: Oppose nomination Ted Mitchell department education
A relentless widening of disparity in wealth
New York Times
"What if inequality were to continue growing years or decades into the future? Say the richest 1 percent of the population amassed a quarter of the nation’s income, up from about a fifth today. What about half? To believe Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics, this future is not just possible. It is likely. In his bracing “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” which hit bookstores on Monday, Professor Piketty provides a fresh and sweeping analysis of the world’s economic history that puts into question many of our core beliefs about the organization of market economies."
PS: for more...
Growing up in Douglas County I learned early about clearcutting on the North Umpqua Forest. It's a dumb way of managing forest habitat. It not only scars the land but it creates erosion issues. There are other alternatives.
As pressure mounts to build homes on steep slopes now within the urban growth boundary in Washington County this problem is going to become a critical challenge which requires mitigation. Leaving these decisions to the market place is a classic example of poor planning and the politics of "self-regarding" interests.
First Bull Mountain, then Cooper Mountain?
"Buying a house on a steep slope, like Bull Mountain, comes with inherent risks, including erosion."
Open Letter to Metro
This article in today's Oregonian/Beaverton Leader (below) illustrates the great success of Tigard's urban forestry program in preventing unnecessary clearing of tree groves before urbanization.
A few years ago, when Metro its local partners were working on the regional Goal 5 plan, the newspapers reported on several land owners clearing their land to avoid Metro regulations.
Land owners sometimes act irrationally, but Tigard's staff has told me that this clearing-before-development strategy can avoid in some cases $500,000 in tree mitigation fees. I think it is clear that value of standing tree groves in cities for stormwater control, erosion prevention, heat island mitigation, habitat, aesthetics, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services exceeds the lumber value of the trees. Cities should not be unintentionally encouraging clearing-before-development with ineffective urban forestry policy.
Tigard's approach of identifying significant tree groves, connecting with landowners, and offering flexible planning standards to avoid clearing is so effective and innovative that they have won a National Planning Excellence Award for a Best Practice Award by the American Planning Association.
All of the cities in Metro could benefit from Tigard's approach. Is there some way that Metro could facilitate such changes through their regional planning activities?
I would be happy to arrange an informational presentation for the Metro Council about Tigard's innovative forestry program that prevents pre-development clearing.
Brian Wegener, Riverkeeper
Advocacy & Communications Manager
11675 SW Hazelbrook Road
Tualatin, OR 97062
Keep up on the public policy decisions that
impact our creeks, wetlands and river.
Read and subscribe to TualatinWatch.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” – Jefferson
In Defence of Grassroots Democratic Politics:
In democratic philosophy there are two competing concepts that in theory and the real world of politics conflict – "self regarding" and "other regarding" politics. The first frames the personal as the political, the second focuses on the wider public interest.
Too often in American politics, the former is the focus to the exclusion of the latter. People get caught up in their own personal political narratives (grievances) that they feel they are alone in their fight against the powers that be and often don't connect with others who are potential allies.
Monday night several of Washington County’s Citizen Participation Organizations (CPOs) co-sponsored an open forum to help people decipher the implications in the county of the passage of HB 4078 which sets the bar for land use planning in the county.
In the meeting people framed questions from their particular circumstances – how will I be affected by HB 4078? It’s a reasonable concern. But HB 4078 will shape us all in the region – regardless of where we live or work – in Portland, the suburbs or rural communities.
Politics is not about ME, it’s about US? Too many of us are understandably invested with the false notion that politics is about some elected leader (Obama or Kitzhaber) saving us! The hero on horseback is deeply embedded in US history starting with George Washington.
But a functioning democracy demands an active citizenry willing to step up not just at election time but all the time.
Protecting The McCall Legacy:
Goal One of Senate Bill 100, the originating act of Oregon’s land use law, specifies that “citizens involvement” is a top priority in land use planning. Unfortunately, Washington County in collusion with Metro violated this goal and so the issue ended in court and then the lap of the legislature.
The "collusion" of self-interested "self-regarding" groups is built into the fabric of local government in the US. The realestate and development lobby is ubiquitous and resourceful in every way. That's why "citizen involvement" is so critical - it's a brake under Oregon's land use laws to unregulated growth within the UGB and beyond.
Planning comissions are notoriously captiives of such a mobilization of economic bias.
In 1973 Governor Tom McCall pointed his finger at the "shameless threat to our environment and to the whole quality of life - unfettered despoiling of the land" [by uncontrolled] suburbanization and secondhome development.
Why is "citizen involvement so important? What is it? As the chair in 1994 of a county task force on citizen participation, which included my good friend and colleague at Pacific, Harold Haynes, we were charged by the county to create a robust citizen participation system. The current CPO system emerged from that study.
The model we wanted to replicate within the context of Washington County was a system like Portland’s nationally recognized neighborhood association system, a robust and powerful vehicle of citizen input. We wanted full-time staffing and logistical support like Portland neighborhoods had from the Office of Neighborhood Associations.
Sadly, as usual for such studies it collected dust more than the county board of commission's attention and in the Brian/Duyck era it had little traction given its downsized role in governance.
At the state level the legislature and LCDC have tried to narrow the scope of "citizen involvement" required by Senate Bill 100 by making the costs of filing appeals very expensive. Fortunately that strategy backfired in the urban/rural reserves confrontation. But expect such "reforms" to be suggested in the 2015 session and be ready to oppose them.
One thing is certain in land use politics - the development industry and its allies will do everything they can to limit the impact of "citizen involvement" for the simple reason, it raises their cost of doing business and ultimately infringes on their profit margins, another "self-regarding" value system.
A Brief History of Citizen Involvement:
The concept of "citizen involvement" has its origins in the civil rights movement as it moved north. The most coherent formulation is found in the Port Huron Statement in 1962 which focused on the concept of “participatory democracy” promulgated by Tom Hayden doing community organizing with SDS among white and black workers in Michigan.
The concept of “citizen involvement” was echoed in the early Great Society programs of LBJ, especially the Model Cities program where the stated goal was to improve inner city communities by empowering their citizens. The term used was “maximum feasible citizen participation.”
Sadly, as the War in Vietnam gobbled up national resources and human lives, LBJ’s war on poverty lost momentum and with it the promise of citizen participation was replaced by pork for big city machines like the Daly machine in Chicago to dole out to its cronies and hacks.
We’ve all learned the hard way you “can’t trust city hall” but you can fight them if you know how!
Hence the unlikely genesis of Portland’s neighborhood association system and Washington County’s CPO system begins in an era when poor and minority people were marginalized by federal government programs like urban renewal and red lining by financial institutions.
African-Americans knew from experience that government can’t be trusted to do the right thing – not at the local level, the state level nor the national level. Only a mobilized citizenry can create the conditions for social justice, hence the Civil Rights movement.
How to Win Against the Odds:
It’s time to realize that legacy of citizen activism applies to ALL of us not just the more vulnerable of us. And many have learned the lesson – women, those with disabilities, vets, Latinos and gays. It’s now wake up time for those of us in the ranks of a marginalized middle class America.
Fortunately, a band of intrepid folks in Washington County led by Save Helvetia were unwilling to get rolled over by the vested interests in the county on land use planning on urban and rural reserves. They used all the tools in their tool book – and won after 4 long years!
The victory was won because they didn’t put their efforts into just one strategy but had a multiple offense – participating in forums on urban/rural reserves, organizing and educating themselves, appealing decisions ultimately to the courts and finally getting the legislature involved.
Caveat: As one who has spent over 40 years watching Oregon’s legislature in action and the last 22 as a “citizen advocate” in the Puzzle Palace, it’s important to understand that citizens can have a powerful affect on the legislators in town halls, driving to Salem or e-maling them.
Yes, we all live busy lives. But your legislator is just an e-mail click away from you! Oregon has the most open system in the USA. Your voice can be heard!
That’s what democracy is all about – using all of the tools in the democratic toolbox. The other key is building relationships, coalitions and alliances with others, 1000 Friends became a major ally with Save Helvetia battling Washington County’s corporate biased power elite.
One hopes the 100 attendees at the excellently organized CPO forum on HB 4078 learned the lesson – this is not the end of the road but a “new beginning” for “maximum feasible participation” or as Jefferson put it - “Eternal vigilance…” Stay tuned in.
The interest groups who derailed the urban/rural reserves process focused on their own “self-regarding” interests with ultimate reckless and wasteful abandon. Those who saw the bigger picture “other regarding” interests – the public good - won the day.
Democracy is a messy process. It’s a marathon not a sprint. And it requires us as citizens to step up despite our busy private lives. As Ben Franklin was asked back in the day – “what have you given us, Ben?” Answer – “a Republic, if you can keep it.”
That rhetorical point still resonates in the 21s century. For whom does the bell of liberty toll, for us all if we are listening!
Note of concern: I saw no minority folks last night. I think the CPO leaderships needs to reach out to all residents of the county - urban, suburban, rural and all demographic groups otherwise you will be viewed as a NIMBY element.