Month: December 2017

“Call Me Sluggo”: A Life-long Activist Sheds His Slave Name

by Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman

Originally published by the LA Progressive on December 30, 2017


Enough is enough. Especially when it comes to a name.

Many of you have undoubtedly faced a crisis or two about your own. It can come from anywhere, like changing (or NOT) your family name when getting married. Or dumping the curse of one you never liked.

Famous examples abound. The great Texas-born classical pianist Van Cliburn was in fact Harvey Lavan Cliburn. Lady Gaga is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Kirk Douglas was Issur Danielovitch. Marilyn Monroe came from Norma Jean Mortenson. Tony Curtis had been Bernard Schwartz. John Wayne was Marion Mitchell Morrison.

You get the picture.

When I was born in Boston 72 years ago this New Year’s Eve, my mom made my father promise not to name me “Harvey.” Dad’s father, who’d just passed away, was Herschel. So the “H” was unavoidable. But there were certainly better choices. She never forgave him. Me either.

My middle name is Franklin, as my parents were big FDR fans.  As an historian, I like it for Ben.

But “Harvey”?

The rabbit in the Jimmy Stewart movie was in fact a real-life “Pooka”, a Celtic spirit.

But in light of recent history, now that I’ve moved to Los Angeles, being introduced to new friends comes with “NOT the Hurricane, NOT Weinstein, NO relation to Debbie Schultz.”


So I am shedding my slave name. Instead, where viable, we go with my hippie logo: Sluggo.

That silly moniker originated with a friend who thought I looked like a comic strip character, now long gone from the funny pages. Like me, that Sluggo had a sister Nancy. For more than a decade I lived with it on my communal farm, amidst friends and lovers who never knew my “real” identity.

That silly moniker originated with a friend who thought I looked like a comic strip character, now long gone from the funny pages. Like me, that Sluggo had a sister Nancy. For more than a decade I lived with it on my communal farm, amidst friends and lovers who never knew my “real” identity.

The name’s best feature is that little kids love it. It always morphs into “Swuggo”, prompting an instant smile.

It’s also a decent WTF radio name, quick to say, puzzling, memorable, at home in Solartopia on KPFK and PRN.


It stuck on the hippie farm in part because I was also a baseball player (see photo). Now in my early seventies, I remember myself in my early twenties as being a spectacular athlete. And, of course, the older I get, the better I was.

Ask me after a few more brain cells disappear and I’ll tell you about my Hall of Fame career with the Red Sox, my banner years with the Celtics and my singles championships at Wimbledon and the US Open.

But in the interim, “Harvey Wasserman” will stick around for bylines. “Sluggo” will pop up mysteriously in the middle, when an editor will let it ride.

Like a Pooka, he’ll get ink on random name tags, along with “No Nukes” or “Solartopia”.

He is ALWAYS the only Sluggo in the room. It’s a great ice breaker. And no hurricane, Weinstein or Debbie Schultz.

So how about you? Got a name you HATE? One a parent stuck you with you NEVER forgave them for?

Or one you LOVE but never had the nerve to adopt?

Sure you do. Now take the leap!! You’ll be glad you did.

Just be sure to pick one that makes you smile when kids mis-pronounce it.

Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman

# + # + # + # + # + # + # + # + #+ # + # + # + #


Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman has many grandchildren who call him “Boppa” and/or “Harby.” “Swuggo” will now be added to the mix.

Follow Harvey on Twitter @Solartopia

Hear California Solartopia on KPFK 90.7 fm Los Angeles on Thursdays at 6:30 PM Pacific.


Fighting the Assaults on Net Neutrality and Our Economy

by Harvey Wasserman

originally published by TruthDig

A net neutrality protester near the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)


Let’s all take a moment to savor this great grass-roots U.S. Senate victory in Alabama of Democrat Doug Jones over accused child molester Roy Moore. Let’s also celebrate the victory of the moderate Ralph Northam over the extremist Republican Ed Gillespie to be governor of Virginia, and a possible flip of the Virginia legislature, with the influx of a strong contingent of progressive women.

Breathe deep. Stretch up your arms. Shout for joy.


Now let’s use all that great new energy to fend off Donald Trump’s twin assaults on net neutrality and our core economy.

Losing could leave us blind and impoverished. So don’t even think about it.

On net neutrality, the fight is ongoing and long-term.

On Trump’s tax scam, we have at best a few days.

A mass movement already is in place to save the internet.

Thursday’s vile 3-2 FCC vote to end net neutrality has long been expected. Mass demonstrations, community organizing, court challenges, an attempt at a congressional reversal and much more are in motion.

This is new territory, a fight for control of humankind’s central nervous system. The alternative to winning is brain death.

As for the GOP tax scam, the clock is ticking.

The Senate version passed 51-49 on Dec. 1. The House-Senate reconciliation committee wants a new version rubber-stamped next week. Despite the bill’s immense impact, there’s been a complete lack of public hearings orsane scrutiny.

It’s not likely there’ll be enough Republican votes in the House to stop it.

In the Senate, we need just three.

The likeliest is Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the only Republican to vote no last time. Trump has punked him with a stream of personal insults. Corker is not running for re-election. Like all other potential swing votes, he is no doubt being promised the world to vote yes.

Next might be Maine’s Susan Collins. She voted against gutting Obamacare. Her first yes vote on the tax bill reportedly was based on promises from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that Medicare and Social Security would be protected. But co-perpetrator and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s life mission has been to destroy both. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, among others, proudly proclaims that this will start the process.

Why anyone would believe anything the GOP leadership says is hard to fathom. Maine’s struggling elder community, among others, has displayed great anger, including heated demonstrations at Collins’ office and her public appearances. She must know that if she votes yes again, she will drown forever in an unforgiving grass-roots tsunami.

Arizona’s Jeff Flake has been yet another target of Trump’s venal abuse. Flake dramatically announced he won’t run for re-election. But then he voted for the tax bill. Why?

Arizona’s John McCain did the same. The “Great Maverick” cast the decisive vote to save Obamacare. He’s been undergoing what must be a hugely expensive course of treatment for brain cancer.

This may be among the last votes McCain casts, and it’s likely a death sentence for millions of Americans who can’t afford the kind of health care he’s been getting. Does he care?

Ron Johnson of Wisconsin hinted at opposing the first draft based on its rough treatment of small business. But apparently his good friend Paul Ryan found Johnson’s price.

Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski voted against destroying Obamacare. But she’s ecstatic about this bill’s death sentence for the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, where her biggest donors want to drill for oil and further heat the planet.

Maybe other Republicans can be turned. Trump’s minions surely have scoured every GOP wish list. And they have no intention of waiting for Doug Jones to take his seat.

But somewhere, somehow, amidst the warm glow of the Alabama turn, we must find a way to stop this bill.

Here are just a few reasons why:

● It enacts one of history’s most blatant thefts of essential resources from working- and middle-class Americans to the rich and super-rich. Trump himself would profit.

● It worsens the kind of wealth gap that fed the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed.

● It guts Obamacare, leaving tens of millions without medical coverage while facing needless disease—and possibly death—for themselves and their children.

● It opens the all-out GOP assault on Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, with the impoverishment of millions sure to follow.

● It attacks public education with massive supports for private schools that will profit Trump cronies like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

● It ends teachers’ ability to deduct what they spend on supplies for their students.

● It taxes graduate students’ scholarships, tuition waivers and other essential steps to advanced degrees, slashing what’s left of our professional education system.

● It lets tax-free churches engage in partisan campaigns, allowing mega-rich donors to launder “purchases” of “pious” candidates.

● It slashes support for wind power, solar energy, electric cars and other “Solartopian” advances while funding massive new tax breaks for obsolete, planet-destroying King CONG (coal, oil, nukes and gas).

There’s much, much more.

Trump’s “tax reform” and internet assault are at the cutting edge of a suicidal war being waged by the psychotic rich against the rest of us—and the planet.

We are in Koyaanisqatsi; life out of balance. The center is not holding. Our social and ecological fabric is giving way. Our survival is at stake.

These turning-point elections in Virginia and Alabama give us hope.

Now the gritty substance of the war for our ability to communicate, and for the core of our life support systems, is in a different kind of play.

Like those elections, these are conflicts we cannot afford to lose.

So let’s win. Again.



Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter @Solartopia

Will Jim Crow Strip & Flip the Alabama Senate Race?…Or Will Today’s Major Court Victory Stop that From Happening?

by  Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

DECEMBER 11, 2017

doug v roy


While the whole world watches Tuesday’s Alabama US Senate election, race-based battles behind the scenes could decide the outcome.

They focus on likely stripping of voter rolls to prevent African-Americans from casting their rightful ballots , and flipping the electronic outcome should that prove insufficient.

But election protection activists have just won a major court victory that could make electronically flipping the election more difficult.  An in-depth feature will follow on that tonight.

The national Democratic Party has poured significant resources into this race. We hope it will provide careful scrutiny on whether legitimate citizens are allowed to vote, and on how the votes are actually counted.

In particular, we urge that there be no definitive concession shy of a full recount, and of public hearings on who was allowed the right to vote and who was denied it, including access to regular rather than provisional ballots.

Three key voter access issues include:

  1. The state recently passed legislation making it easier for ex-felons to vote. But critics charge there has been no significant official attempt to actually notify ex-felons of the change. A court has ruled that the state is not obligated to make such an effort ;
  2. The state has imposed strict voter ID laws that could make it harder        for citizens of color to vote. The state has also shut motor vehicle offices in areas where black voters are likely to apply for credentials that would allow them to cast ballots ;
  3. With an intense chilling effect,  Alabama’s Republican secretary of state has threatened felony prosecution against several hundred citizens who may have switched party affiliation in the recent primaries


.There is also significant concern over the nature of the ballot and the potential for a recount.

Election protection activist John Brakey has pointed out that most of the machines currently used in  Alabama can produce an electronic ballot image that is usable for recounts. But in a letter to Brakey, Alabama’s secretary of state said he may not require the use of this feature.

Brakey and others were in court today demanding that the state’s ballots be reliably counted, and that the electronic ballot images be created and preserved for a possible recount.

Brakey reported to the Free Press at 1:18pm on Monday, Dec. 11 that he won a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) in Alabama court to force the Secretary of State to preserve the ballot images.

This is essential since the ballot design in Alabama has been called into question by election integrity activists like Mimi Kennedy. The ballot design lends itself to “overvote” problems. The ballot allows voters to vote a straight party ticket, even though in the vast majority of counties there is only the Roy Moore-Doug Jones special U.S. special election on the ballot.

But the ballot also then allows you to vote for the candidate. If you select the straight party vote and the candidate vote – the machines are likely to read this as an “overvote” and cancel out the vote. The machines can be programmed to not accept an overvote.

The only way to resolve this is to compare the ballots with the ballot images.

This campaign, of course, has been infamously unsettled by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct leveled at the Republican candidate Roy Moore. Moore has been strongly endorsed by “conservative Christians” and by Donald Trump, who is currently accused of sexual assault by some 19 women.

The stakes could hardly be higher. The 52-48 Republican margin in the US Senate would shrink to a single vote should Democrat Doug Jones win the seat. He would also become the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama since Richard Shelby, who switched parties and has recently said Alabama can “do better” than his fellow Republican Roy Moore.

About a quarter of Alabama’s five million citizens are black. Should most of them vote, and have their votes actually counted, they could decide the election.

But Alabama’s long Jim Crow tradition weighs heavily against that happening.

There will likely be an “official” outcome on Tuesday. But who gets that crucial seat may actually turn on a willingness to fight for a fair turnout and to guarantee an accurate vote count.



Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter @Solartopia

Warring Visions of Puerto Rico’s Future

by Harvey Wasserman

Originally published by The Progressive on December 1, 2017

171023-F-AX815-296Blue roofs, temporary blue plastic sheeting, installed on homes damaged by Hurricane Maria, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with FEMA in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Warring visions have now erupted over the energy and economic futures of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Will the islands become a cutting-edge green-powered solartopia for the benefit of their long-time residents? Or a fossil-fueled robber baron playground like Hong Kong or Singapore, set to operate for the profit of outside corporate investors?

On the solartopian side, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed a $146 billion green “Marshall Plan” to rebuild Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as a prosperous, self-sufficient home for the indigenous citizenry. The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Senators Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal and Democratic Representatives Nadia Velazquez and Darren Soto along with Democrat Stacey Plaskett, the Virgin Islands’ non-voting Representative to Congress.

Representative Plaskett has also joined Congressman Ted Lieu, Democrat of California, in co-signing a letter asking that all Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for rebuilding the electric grids of the islands go for solar energy, wind power, and decentralized microgrids.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who famously tangled with Trump over the direction of recovery plans, has said the Sanders-Warren-Lieu approach to rebuilding with green energy provides the blueprint for the “transformation” of the islands to local-controlled self-sufficiency.

The Warren-Sanders bill would give local governments $62 billion for economic development, Medicare/Medicaid parity, and other locally determined needs. It would provide $27 billion more for infrastructure, and $13 billion for FEMA to rebuild the grid “with more modern, resilient technologies” than the coal, oil, and gas burners that powered the islands before Maria.

Solar panels are already pouring in. Even before Maria, Puerto Rico had plans to add 1.5 gigawatts of solar capacity. At least one big solar array largely survived the storm, allowing a local greenhouse to resume business the day after the disaster. A large wind farm on the south side of Puerto Rico also got through, though its impact has been limited by the crippled grid.

After the storm, in consultation with Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rossello, Elon Musk’s Solar City/Tesla donated a solar array that has successfully re-powered San Juan’s Hospital del Nino, making it one of the few hospitals on the island with a reliable source of electricity. As Musk said in a tweet, “The Tesla team has done this [built solar grids] for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too.”

To do more, Tesla announced it would delay the unveiling of its electric-powered tractor-trailer unit to focus on delivering more batteries to Puerto Rico.

The German company Sonnen, which was working pre-Maria with local customers to make the Puerto Rican grid more resilient, has been shipping inpanels, batteries, and micro-grids aimed at making hospitals and emergency facilities self-sufficient. So has the Houston-based Sunnova, which isretaining ownership of the hundreds of panels it has installed, then charging its customers a rate well below what they were paying before the storm hit.

“I am 100 percent backing renewables,” said Governor Rosselló to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “This is an opportunity to make microgrids in Puerto Rico so they can be sustained in different areas.”

But  not everyone shares the vision of a green-powered future. In October, Puerto Rico’s national utility, PREPA, made global headlines with a $300 million grid rebuilding contract given to Whitefish Energy, a two-year-old two-man operation based in Whitefish, Montana.

Whitefish is the hometown of Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose son had worked for the company. When it began shipping in line workers at huge rates, they were showered by locals with rocks and bottles. Finally the contract was voided and PREPA’s president resigned.

More recently, PREPA awarded a $200 million contract to Cobra Acquisitions LLC, a one-year-old subsidiary of Oklahoma-based Mammoth, which is primarily in the oil, gas, and fracking business. Nearly all Puerto Rico’s pre-Maria power came from fossil fuels. Its future plans still include a $400 million liquid gas terminal.

The fossil-fueled vision has strong support among lawmakers like Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, who is backed by the oil and gas industry. Lamborn told a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing in early November that “renewables are great, but to provide that much electricity in that short a time is unrealistic.” Lamborn instead supports natural gas, with a rollback of environmental protections to encourage drilling and imports.

Committee Chair Rob Bishop, Republican of Utah, also the recipient of fossil industry support, has joined Lamborn in opposing an EPA presence that might restrict drilling and imports for a restored fossil-fired grid.

But corporate visions for the islands hardly stop with gas and oil. Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, thinks “Puerto Rico has the potential of being the Hong Kong of the United States, where businesses would flood in there.”

Benjamin Dierker, of the libertarian Foundation for Economic Education, wants an “economic freedom zone” where environmental, minimum wage and other legal requirements would disappear. The “less restricted environment with more available resources would open the doors to investment and real estate development,” he says.

Desmond Lachman, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, alsowants a reduced minimum wage and “corporate-friendly economic reforms” to make Puerto Rico “the Singapore of the Caribbean.”

Amid all of this corporate conniving, the people of Puerto Rico remain in dire straits.

“Food and water are still in short supply,” Joel Segal, a North Carolina activist with strong ties to the island, said in a recent radio interview on my Green Power & Wellness show on “The FEMA people just hand out forms with a phone number to call and a website to consult. People can’t even get tarps to cover what’s left of their homes.”

At least 200,000 citizens have already left Puerto Rico, most headed for Florida.

Residents who have been restoring school buildings and re-starting classes at their own expense are being told by local authorities they must have inspections that never happen and permits that never come. Education activists are afraid that private charter schools will crush the public system, as in New Orleans after Katrina, where only a few public schools remain.

Because land titles have been passed down through generations of the poor, some ancestral residents are not being let back into what’s left of their homes because they can’t officially prove ownership.

“Land prices will plummet,” Segal says. “That will set off an unrestricted corporate rampage” aimed at converting the region to a Trump-style playground of shady financial centers, high-end hotels and mega-casinos for the super-rich.

That’s a future the people of Puerto Rico must avoid — and green energy is one way to do it.

Harvey Wasserman hosts California Solartopia at KPFK-Pacifica, 90.7FM in Los Angeles, and the Green Power & Wellness podcast at He is author or co-author of about 20 books, including Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earthat

Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter @Solartopia

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