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Synthesis/Regeneration 22   (Spring 2000)

A Green Presidential Primary

Jello Biafra for President

[Jello Biafra is a candidate for the Green Party nomination for US President. ĖEditor]

I am surprised and honored to be drafted as a nominee. I have been an artist/activist since 1978. I was the leader and creative force of pioneering punk band Dead Kennedys. I have owned and operated a small business, Alternative Tentacles Records. We are now celebrating our twentieth anniversary.

I ran for Mayor of San Francisco in 1979, placing fourth out of 10 candidates. I was the main target in the first criminal trial over a record album in American history. The jury deadlocked and the charges were dismissed. This vaulted me into the national media and lecture circuit as a spokesman on civil liberties. I have locked horns with Tipper Gore, Pat Buchanan, Oprah Winfrey, and many Religious Right activists on this issue.

Besides music, I have released five spoken word CD sets that boil down and promote many ideas dear to Greens: human rights, freedom of speech, the Gulf War, the Drug War/Prison-Industrial Complex, globalization and the WTO, and a newer emphasis on how to fight back.

I have been registered Green for many years, and support the Green Key Values and Platform. But how do we implement and sell (Yes, sell. This is Disney-addled America) our key values and programs to the general public?

A few ideas:

Enact a maximum wage. Great idea. When I got it aired on Politically Incorrect I was roundly booed by audience and guests alike. The host told the viewers I was crazy before he even said my name. People assume they are the ones who will be hurt when the big bad government hits the middle class with another evil tax.

So letís be generous: No taxes up to $100,000; after that itís payback time. And emphasize the pay-backófree health care, free education (including amnesty on student loans), free transportation (including air travel), and more.

Revenue will be used for the many costly programs in the Green platform and long overdue public works projects; also vastly increased subsidies for the arts, especially community radio and television; subsidies for independent organic farms, hemp and kenaf farms (to end dependence on paper from forests), and solar and windmill farms to decrease our fossil fuel gluttony.

Urban blight can be further eradicated by legalizing and subsidizing squatters who fix up long-vacant buildings. This has worked well in Europe when given a chance; think of what it could do for places like St. Louis or Richmond, Va. Speed up conversion to electric buses, trucks, a national high-speed rail system; and ,of course, electric cars.

We donít need a flat tax, but a flattening tax, to truly level the playing field. After all, what causes more damage to the planet, drug addiction or wealth addiction? Hopefully the maximum wage will raise enough money to fill the cups of everyone who makes less than $100,000 so weíll all be even. And can we please find a clearer, sexier term than 'single-payer health care' next time itís a ballot initiative?

We must close all hemorrhaging tax loopholes that benefit giant corporations, including organized religion.

Taxpayers should also be given a multiple choice of the 10 or 15 major areas of government to decide what percentage of their tax money goes where. My guess is that education and the environment will go straight up, and the arms race and prison expansion will go straight down.

Abolish the Military. And the CIA, NSA, DIA, DEA, ATF, hopefully the FBI, and disband all SWAT teams. Our biggest national security threat is the environmental destruction of our planet and the arms race. So letís use the defense budget, personnel, and know-how for a new mission: clean up toxic waste, rebuild cities and infrastructure, dismantle all nuclear arms and satellites, and implement worldwide the very environmental and labor practices Third World WTO delegates complained are too costly.

Withdraw from NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. Wealth addicts have gotten carried away; now itís time for rehab. Earlier in our history there were strict laws mandating public hearings and revocations of charters of corporations for misconduct, and restricting directorships to one corporation per person. Letís bring these laws back.

Irradiated and GM (Genetically Mutilated) frankenfood and other products must be labeled. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 should be repealed immediately. And workers should be allowed to elect their bosses.

End the war on drugs. Decriminalize marijuana and illegal narcotics such as heroin, cocaine, and crack. Hard-core addiction is an illness, not a crime. Put users on prescription, and crime will drop dramatically when they donít have to rob and kill people to pay the Mobís high drug prices. Any president or governor can stop the prison-building boom right now by commuting sentences for minor, non-violent drug offenders to time served. Why not pressure them to do it?

The same goes for the death penalty. I have chosen Mumia Abu-Jamal, a noted author, journalist, and activist currently on Death Row in Pennsylvania on questionable charges, as my vice presidential running mate to show why we should join the rest of the civilized world and halt executions forever.

I am an anarchist in my personal life. I try to live my life in a way that I donít need cops or baby-sitters to keep me from infringing on others. But I donít feel we have evolved far enough as a species to make anarchy work in society itself. We still need government to transfer the wealth from those who have too much to those who have too little, to make sure important projects get done, and keep territorial humans from screwing over and killing each other.

So guess what? Iím Tough On Crimeģ, especially when the punishment fits the crime:

End Police Brutality. Make police officers stand for election every four years, voted on by the districts they patrol.

Lower the Voting Age to Five. See youth apathy magically turn around when they know they have a real stake in their future; and get to vote for their school boards, and why not their teachers?

Education Reform. Include a mandatory class on parenting and offer drug and sex education using actual drugs and sex in class. Showing how itís done with an emphasis on sensitivity could do wonders for combating sexism and date rape. Joycelyn Elders is right: teaching masturbation is far more realistic than expecting todayís libidinous teens to bury their heads in abstinence.

Meanwhile, nothing gets bigger laughs at parties than our rigid Drug Czarís TV ads. To put it mildly: they donít work. Students should be able to experiment with drugs in a supervised and controlled setting to learn their limits, not sent blindly off on their own into the risks of hard core addiction.

Election Reform. State and national legislative elections should be switched to a parliamentary system with proportional representation. Campaign time should be limited to six weeks. Anyone campaigning or soliciting bribes, excuse me, contributions, beforehand will be automatically disqualified. Ballots in all elections should include the option of voting None of the Above. If NOTA gets over 50% of the vote, a new election must be held with all new candidates.

I apologize to those who feel I should wage a more aggressive campaign. I did not expect to be nominated, and I am locked in my own battle against globalization that has been a huge strain on my time, emotions, and resources. Former members of my old band are suing me with the expressed intent of wiping out 22 years of work because I wouldnít allow them to put one of our best known songs in a Leviís Dockers TV commercial. Trial begins April 17.

Plus, I voted for Ralph Nader last time, and would gladly vote for him again. Should I have let my name be on the ballot at all? Ever since I ran for mayor, I have proven to be an effective media magnet and lightning rod for protest votes reaching far beyond the underground popularity of my work. On the other hand, should a flamboyant artist and prankster be the main banner-carrier at this point? Or would more progress be made by only running "serious" candidates?

Events in Seattle and around the globe show there are far more people on our side of the fence than we give credit for. What does it say about our country when people are so desperate for an alternative to our one-party state masquerading as a two-party state that theyíll even elect a professional wrestler governor?

In my own small way I try to inspire people to at least start thinking about what they might do and where they would fit in if we actually found ourselves in charge. For all their faults, at least the front line opposition in places like the Czech Republic and South Africa had some idea of how they would actually run things if and when they had the chance. Weíre not there yet. Splitting into two competing Green Parties is just plain childish.

Donít hate the media, become the media. Film-maker Michael Moore is right: we must spend less time arguing and agreeing with each other, and more time reaching out to people who may not appear to agree with us, but often share the same underlying concerns. These issues arenít left versus right, they are the top against the bottom. No one who is down-sized out of a job should be allowed to fall for Pat Buchanan. Putting food on the table is the number one wedge issue of growing concern for everyone.

We need to show the step by step ways each individual can help free themselves from Corporate Feudalism. Condensing and translating the Green Party Platform from lawyerese into English, EspaŮol, etc. would be a big help here.

We must emphasize the importance of voting in local elections, where a smaller group of concerned citizens can make the most difference. Some people not yet weaned from todayís Democratic Party will try to intimidate us, calling us spoilers who siphon away votes, and tip close races to Republicans. I say, "Great!" Letís do it some more. The real spoilers are operatives like Clinton, Gore, and the Democratic Leadership Council, rendering their party indistinguishable from the party of Bu$h, Inc., and thus making the Greens, New Party, and others necessary in the first place.

Imagine what we can do if we gain enough seats in legislatures to influence the balance of power. Imagine what we can do if we get the necessary 5 percent of the vote in this presidential election to gain federal matching funds for 2004. This is all more than possible, even under current election laws.

Join the Green Wedge!

Candidacy webpage at: http://www.greens.org/jellobiafra/

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