Jello Biafra: `Wealth addicts are worse than crack addicts’
The organizers of this weekend’s protest against the Aspen Institute’s 50th anniversary celebration couldn’t have chosen a better contrast to everything the Institute stands for than keynote speaker Jello Biafra.
The 30-something former lead singer and songwriter for The Dead Kennedys, the quintessential ’80s punk band, arrived at the community auditorium at Aspen Elementary School Saturday night with a bang, even if he was an hour late because of a flight delay.
“Everybody repeat after me: F– United Airlines,” he said, raising both fists in the air with his middle finger raised. “F– United Airlines,” 50 or 60 people in the audience shouted back.
Biafra was the headline act at “The People’s Summit on Globalization: Alternatives to a Corporate Vision,” organized by the Carbondale-based group Mountain Folks for Global Justice. The People’s Summit was organized as a protest to the Institute’s four-day symposium titled “Globalization and the Human Condition.”
Dressed in a red-and-black plaid shirt, gray shorts, bright yellow socks with puffy white clouds on them and black leather shoes, Biafra didn’t look anything like the Institute’s keynote speaker, James Wolfensohn. Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, was wearing a double-breasted blue suit Saturday night when he spoke about globalization and poverty to about 300 Institute supporters.
Biafra didn’t sound like Wolfensohn either. The lifelong political activist spent more than two hours lambasting the “one-party state that poses as a two-party state” and urging voters to look closely at the records of Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman.
He opened with a letter to the next President:
“Call off the drug war,” Biafra said, “it’s worse than the drugs. Homeless problem? Give them a home.”
He suggested opening up all the vacant buildings to squatters.
“Balance the budget – tax religion.”
“We have a minimum wage – why not a maximum wage?” he asked, before railing on people like John Elway and Michael Jordan for making fortunes.
Biafra suggested there be no taxes on the first $100,000 of income, and heavy taxes on the rest. “Wealth addiction is way worse than crack addiction,” he said.
He also lit into the electoral system that perpetuates the power of Democrats and Republicans. The solution? “Politicians should be forced to wear the logos of their corporate sponsors on their sleeves and jackets,” he said, “like NASCAR race cars.”
Biafra questioned the First Amendment credentials of Gore and Lieberman by pointing out that both attempted to censor the music industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They even held U.S. Senate hearings about what they perceived to be the malevolent nature of punk and hip hop music. “And guess who Lieberman called as an expert witness? He called himself.”
He also elaborated on his experience with Tipper Gore, who has been a leader in the effort to restrict or eliminate sales of certain types of music to minors – including music he wrote and recorded as a Dead Kennedy. Biafra was particularly bothered by small signs that were passed out at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles last week that read “Tipper Rocks.”
“Tipper does not rock,” he said.
He noted that Clinton and Gore did little to protect the environment over the last eight years, in spite of the vice president’s claim to be an environmentalist. In particular, Biafra criticized the Clinton/Gore administration for allowing Washington state Sen. Slade Gorton to attach a rider to a budget bill that allowed timber companies to resume logging old growth forests.
On the subject of globalization, Biafra said neither major party recognizes what’s really going on. After pointing out that organized labor had stood side by side with environmental and human rights groups, he said, “I hate to drag out an old dusty cliche but I think there’s a class war going on.”
Biafra urged Democrats to vote for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader instead of Gore.
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In 1895, the fad sweeping Aspen for women was to dye their hair red.