1.31.2005

wolves in sheep's clothing

As the left almost-half-of-the-political-spectrum continues the postmortem, I'm getting a sense that we are approaching a very dangerous fork in the road about now. The weasels are learning how to talk the talk. I'm not going to name names because it is still just a very impressionistic feeling I have at this point.

The temptation, as I see it, is to adopt a freshened up version of the same old approaches, and with essentially the same culprits running the show. Robert Axelrod's book, "Evolution of Cooperation," is not a great book, but he does offer some insights that the Left tends to neglect, the main one being the importance of punishing cheap talk.

What strikes me as the most serious failing of the leftist cause of late is its general unwilingness to do what it takes to embrace a truly participatory process. The reason that Bush is in power right now is far less about message than about mobilization.

It's not enough to talk the talk. We have to walk the walk.

Right now that means not buying into smooth talkers who've read enough blogs to know how to sound like they're grassroots. Democracy is not a consumer choice. We need to not follow whatever Pied Piper who comes along and tells us what we want to hear.

1.30.2005

Iraqi Democracy is a Progressive Value

Friends of Democracy is a new web site that's sprung up to cover and document the Iraq election and political efforts. Unabashedly pro-democracy, it offers the antithesis of the insurgency's chaos. It may be a propaganda front, but it's offering a look at Iraq that I haven't seen, including on-the-ground reporting (with photos) of the run-up to the election.

From the vision statement: "By our hands, work, thoughts, sacrifice we will build up the new Iraq.

Our home is open for every friend of democracy and they are many in Iraq.

We are the hope of the rest of peoples which longed for freedom and they are looking with the eye of hope to the Iraqi sample.

Let us show them a shining sample and let us remind them that we are the ones of the first code of laws. Let them share us to work with full efforts to push forward the democracy process in Iraq."

[...]
"We endeavor to link the non governmental organizations (NGO's), students groups, women organizations and the individuals through a network to exchange experience and thoughts to push forward democracy process in Iraq.

We won't be isolated islands from now on.

We are stronger in sharing opinions and exchanging information and experience.

You are not alone, friends of democracy exist all over Iraq and now you are with them in every moment.

Our weapon: the word and free opinion."


If this is a Negroponte psyops job, it's a good one. While the U.S. invasion of Iraq, built on a foundation of brutishness and lies, has created a panoply of tragedies, I am beginning to believe that only through empowering the Iraqi democratic forces will any good ever come of this misadventure. FoD offers a picture of what Iraq might look like should leaders guided by enlightened democracy come to the forefront.

The same sentiment might be offered regarding any resistance movement in any nation. Should the cream rise to the top, then things could work out. The U.S. military and state department can not make this happen. No one knows how to make this happen, but FoD offers a mustard seed of hope.

Like Howard Dean's "You have the power" mantra and recent voyage into the esoteric, "I'm not much of a Zen guy, but I've learned that the best way to gain power is to give it away", the best way forward in this mess'o'potamia lies in struggling to establish a true democracy in Iraq.

I know, I know. There's bodies everywhere. Hatred that will last generations has been birthed. A training camp for budding terrorists has been created. People don't even have basic services like water and electricity. Ba'athists armed with the weapons we didn't secure roam the streets, killing innocents and soldiers alike. U.S. and other "coalition" forces kill insurgents and innocents. Confusion, violence, and uncertainty are running the show, to be sure.

But with world opinion (rightly, in most cases) turned against us, we must find a way to turn power over to forward thinking, energetic Iraqis and then get the hell out of there. It's unlikely that John Negroponte is going to be too happy to do this. It's unlikely that anything but a series of U.S. stooges will preside over Iraq, but if liberals / progressives are going to work for anything in Iraq it ought to be peace, democracy, and true sovereignty.

Here at home, we've got to have our own regime change, and I have the same aspirations for our nation that I have for the Iraqis. I am incensed and outraged at the atrocities being perpetrated with my money and in my name both at home and abroad. We must support any and every true democratic efforts in Iraq, and we must push to create a progressive America here at home.

It's only insurgents, terrorists, George W. Bush and his administration, a comatose media, religious nationalism, the distrust of the world, apathy, and a dozen other things we've got to overcome. Daunted? Me too. To think that freedom and democracy might take hold in Iraq is terrifically naive, but what else will we support and work towards? While cursing every darkness, the left can also light a candle of solidarity with those who aspire to be free.

The P! Editorial Team
is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us
with your comments here: Open
Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles
.
Thank you.

elbow-to-elbow in the trenches

I've been involved in a dialogue with Nanette from the Progressive Focus Center
in the comments section of an earlier post of mine. We've been chatting about how to craft a message that would inspire culturally disparate elements of the Left to show up for each other's battles. I like this concise statement/question with which she concludes one of her entries:

". . . if we combine people power, standing up for one another, effective change (poverty, homelessness, lives, etc), ownership of the process by the people, racial, social and economic justice, sustainable existence (does environment fall under that?), and anything I missed, what concept/theme/narrative do we wind up with?"

1.29.2005

Neo-McCarthyism is alive and well and living in Ohio (among other places)

The Columbus Dispatch reports on a pending bill in the Ohio legislature that would curtail academic freedom in the interest of protecting impressionable young minds from their teachers' insidious left-wing propaganda. Deceptively styled as the "Academic Bill of Rights for Higher Education", the measure targets "instructors who persistently introduce controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to their subject of study and that serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose."

As any of my first-year law students could readily explain at length, this bill is blatantly unconstitutional. Most obviously, the prohibition would infringe on the First Amendment right of free speech. In addition, the operative terms--"persistently", "controversial", etc. -- are impermissibly vague, amounting to a deprivation of due process as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Ohio legislation is based on a model bill being pushed nationwide by "Students for Academic Freedom", a project of aging reactionary crank David Horowitz, who evidently suffers from a neurotic impulse to atone for his youthful indiscretions by engaging in a crusade to stamp out what he imagines to be an academic red menace. Ohio is but the most recent state to consider the measure, which has previously come before the state legislatures in Colorado and Indiana, as well as the U.S. Congress.

(cross-posted from Red Harvest)


-----------------------------------
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

1.28.2005

The Die is Cast

It's occurred to me tonight that no one knows, or can know, the shape of the ripples from Sunday's Iraq election. If someone had asked Europe, an age ago, if they would be willing to slaughter almost the entire indigenous population of North America in order to build modern day U.S.A., would they have assented? Would you?

There's no knowing what garden may grow from this pile of bodies in Iraq. I have been against the action in Iraq since the day Bush began his rumblings, and I believe that our invasion has created as much misery as Saddam's regime while levying an instability unmatched by that spider-holed tyrant. But I won't presume to know what will happen 10, 20, 50 years in the future.

The invasion has set a novel course of events into motion. I don't know what will happen next. But there is a part of me that is hopeful that, ultimately, this will somehow create a circumstance for good. That somehow, despite the deaths of innocents, the grief of families, the destruction of cities, a great good might arise.

So, that's hope for you. I don't trust George W. and his posse any more than I would a hornet in my underwear, but I'm confident that they can't control the future.

Work for peace.

The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

Watch it Buster: Lesbian Episode will Air



Wow! There might be some Liberals left at PBS after all. Postcards from Buster is going forth, lesbian moms and all. Rather than return federal funding, PBS will produce another episode.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who ought to know better, had objected to the content. Apparently she is unaware that there are children with two mommies and that they've got rights, too. Keep in mind that this neo-facist is in charge of your child's education. Way to go, George! Another stellar appointment. The mind reels...

Best quote:
"Spellings was applauded by James Dobson's Focus on the Family, which has criticized the use of the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon character in a video it says promotes homosexuality."

I don't know about you, but I can't wait 'til Dobson finds out Bugs Bunny is a switch-hitter. These people would be funny if they weren't in control of my government.


The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

1.27.2005

Branding, Message, Progressives, and the Kitchen Sink

I'm really interested in the conversations that have been brewing around branding the Progressive Movement, simplifying our message, and creating a vision of the world we want to create. These are all questions I've been grappling with for awhile now.

First, I know that some people bristle at the term "branding." I don't know a different word for it, and I'm not sure if it's important to invent new language simply to take a stand against corporations and capitalism. I'm also probably biased towards using the term since I work in advertising and find it useful.

Second, I think it's possible to be succint without throwing out all your values / beliefs. The US Section of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) did that when we created our new vision and mission statements. Which brings me to another point - the difference between a vision and a mission. My understanding is that a vision statement expresses the world that you want to create; a utopia statement. A mission statement expresses how you expect to get to that world.

By the way, the reason I chose WILPF as my activist home is because I refuse to be a single-issue person. The only way to create a world at peace with justice is to recognize that all people and issues are inter-related. Here's WILPF's vision and mission statements for reference:
Vision Statement
WILPF envisions a transformed world at peace, where there is racial, social, and economic justice for all people everywhere - a world in which:
-- the needs of all people are met in a fair and equitable manner,
-- all people equally participate in making the decisions that affect them,
-- the interconnected web of life is acknowledged and celebrated in diverse ways and communities, and
-- human societies are designed and organized for sustainable existence.

Mission Statement
WILPF members create the peaceful transformation they wish to see in the world by making connections that:
-- provide continuity with the past so that knowledge of historical events and patterns informs current activities for change;
-- create analysis and action that reflect and reinforce each other;
-- link and challenge root causes of oppression, especially racism, sexism, heterosexism, militarism, economic disparity, and political disempowerment; and
-- build and strengthen relationships and movements for justice, peace, and radical democracy among people all over the world.
On another topic, I'm never sure what people mean by populist and progressive. I agreed with the original operating principles of P! and that's why I volunteered to be a contributing editor. I agree with John that there are some bad populists out there and that many progressives don't think it's important to gather popular support for their ideas. I'm hopeful that together, we'll figure out a starting point for our new media activism.


-----------------------------------
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

Star-gazing

Ripped from Third World Traveler, some quotes to keep you warm. A couple of these are especially for my friend and fellow editor, Morgaine . . .
"Americans cannot escape a certain responsibility for what is done in our name around the world. In a democracy, even one as corrupted as ours, ultimate authority rests with the people. We empower the government with our votes, finance it with our taxes, bolster it with our silent acquiescence. If we are passive in the face of America's official actions overseas, we in effect endorse them."
Mark Hertzgaard
*****
"If fascism ever came to the United States, it would be wrapped in an American flag."
Huey Long
*****
" The range of debate between the dominant U.S. [political] parties tends to closely resemble the range of debate within the business class. "
Robert McChesney, author and media critic
*****
"Quite simply, there can be no popular sovereignty without a real belief in the value of government. If government does not assume and carry out public responsibilities, less accountable institutions such as the corporation will do the job in their own self-interest."
Charles Derber, Corporation Nation
*****
"fascism - A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
The American Heritage Dictionary, 1983
*****
"Fascism is on the march today in America. Millionaires are marching to the tune. It will come in this country unless a strong defense is set up by all liberal and progressive forces... A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government, and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. Aboard ship a prominent executive of one of America's largest financial corporations told me point blank that if the progressive trend of the Roosevelt administration continued, he would be ready to take definite action to bring fascism to America."
former ambassador to Germany William Dodd in 1938
*****
"24.9 percent of American children live in poverty, while the proportions in Germany, France and Italy are 8.6, 7.4 and 10.5 percent. And once born on the wrong side of the tracks, Americans are more likely to stay there than their counterparts in Europe. Those born to better-off families are more likely to stay better off. America is developing an aristocracy of the rich and a serfdom of the poor - the inevitable result of a twenty-year erosion of its social contract."
Will Hutton
*****
"If an American is concerned only about his nation, he will not be concerned about the peoples of Asia, Africa, or South America. Is this not why nations engage in the madness of war without the slightest sense of penitence? Is this not why the murder of a citizen of your own nation is a crime, but the murder of citizens of another nation in war is an act of heroic virtue?"
Martin Luther King, Jr.
*****

....................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

1.26.2005

how we got here

There is a fascinating article by Andrei S. Markovits about the history of the Left since 1945 in the current issue of Dissent Magazine. What I really appreciate about the piece is not only the historical perspective it offers, but also that the European experience is included.

He divides these last sixty years into four segments (begun respectively with the end of WWII, 1968, the elections of Reagan and Thatcher, and the fall of the Berlin Wall) and talks about the particular developments during each time segment.

The most important thread traces changes in the role that workers have played. The main story he tells involves factors that have contributed to the unraveling of the historical link between leftist politics and workers. He argues that the Left has never been successful since the late 19th century without its main constituency being workers.

The upshot is that the Left either has to figure out how to realign itself with a revitalized labor movement or find another constituency that makes as much sense as labor always made during most of the twentieth century. Either way, the demographics just don't point to the Left ever being viable with its center of gravity located in the middle class. A leftist movement that does not care about workers and/or the poor doesn't have a chance of accomplishing anything.

One of the subplots in this has to do with how the organizational strategies and cultural patterns of traditional unions have somewhat inhibited advances into new labor arenas: jobs traditionally held by women, unskilled labor, highly educated professions, and international organizing. The implication is that unless these gaps are more adequately dealt with, the whole leftist project is questionable.

The other interesting subplot is the emergence of two issues that have come to define the Leftist identity throughout the world far more than any other issues: anti-Americanism & anti-Zionism.

ACTION ALERT!: No Gonzales

UPDATE 1: twelve Democratic Party Senators, and one Independent, voted against Condi's confirmation. If one or both of your Senators is on the list, contact her/him to let them know you appreciate it. If one or both of Senators is not on the list, contact them and let them know that their vote for the Princess of Darkness means you won't vote for them the next time 'round. Here's a list of "nay" voters (the good guys):
Akaka (D-HI) Bayh (D-IN) Boxer (D-CA) Byrd (D-WV) Dayton (D-MN) Durbin (D-IL)
Harkin (D-IA) Jeffords (I-VT) Kennedy (D-MA) Kerry (D-MA) Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Levin (D-MI) Reed (D-RI)

.............................................
UPDATE 2: all eight Democratic Party members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against Gonzalez nomination to the AG job:
Leahy, VT Kennedy, MA Biden, DE Kohl, WI Feinstein, CA Feingold, WI
Schumer, NY Durbin, IL Edwards, NC

This vote and your phone call to your own Senator should push for open floor debate in the Senate and every single Democrat to vote "nay" on this nomination. Although you may not bother wasting your breath with Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman.

............................................
There's still time to call your Senators and demand that they reject the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for the post of Attorney General. The vote is today. Even WaPo and the NYT are calling for a "no" vote on this fascist creep.

Via Progressive Blog Digest and Daily Kos, here's a clip from a piece you can use to frame your justification when you call:
In January 2002, Gonzales advised the President that the United States Constitution does not apply to his actions as Commander in Chief, and thus the President could declare the Geneva Conventions inoperative. Gonzales's endorsement of the August 2002 Bybee/Yoo Memorandum approved a definition of torture so vague and evasive as to declare it nonexistent. Most shockingly, he has embraced the unacceptable view that the President has the power to ignore the Constitution, laws duly enacted by Congress and International treaties duly ratified by the United States. He has called the Geneva Conventions "quaint."

Legal opinions at the highest level have grave consequences. What were the consequences of Gonzales's actions? The policies for which Gonzales provided a cover of legality - views which he expressly reasserted in his Senate confirmation hearings - inexorably led to abuses that have undermined military discipline and the moral authority our nation once carried. His actions led directly to documented violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and widespread abusive conduct in locales around the world . . .

Also, don't forget to watch the same bunch of cowardly, slick-talkin' morons vote to confirm Condi.

....................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

Alternet Survey about Blogs

Alternet Survey

Alternet is doing a reader survey about how you use blogs. Please go fill it out. The list of blogs up to vote on is the same tired list of the usual suspects, but you have the option of providing links to blogs you visit, and they ask for your five favorite. Don't forget to add P! ( http://newpropop.blogspot.com/ ) What She Said! ( http://whatshesaid.the-goddess.org/ ) and The Goddess (http://the-goddessw.org/blog/ ) to both lists!

1.25.2005

why progressive populist?

I've always been a little leery of populist movements. After all, we tend to hear a lot more about Pat Buchanan and Jesse Ventura being populists than we hear about progressive populists like Jim Hightower. Nonetheless, there is a necessary accountability that comes with having to win popular support. The Democrats are paying the price now for listening more to what pollsters told them than really doing what it takes to earn popular confidence.

Accountability cuts both ways though. In a democracy, it is not enough that the people hold elected officials accountable; we also need to hold each other accountable. The difference between progressive populism and populist movements that are fueled by xenophobia and victimhood is that progressive populists aren't a bunch of whiney-ass losers. It has to do with taking responsibility. In a democracy, the owners of the process are the people. Progressive populism is about doing what it takes to safeguard our investment.

"Society has good reason to fear the Radical. Every shaking advance of mankind toward equality and justice has come from the Radical. He hits, he hurts, he is dangerous. Conservative interests know that while Liberals are most adept at breaking their own necks with their tongues, Radicals are most adept at breaking the necks of Conservatives." Saul Alinsky

FYI-ALERT! Rice Nomination Debate

The full Senate has scheduled nine hours of debate for today on the Condi Rice nomination. It is being carried live on C-SPAN2; Bob Byrd and Barbara Boxer (interesting in both the juxtaposition and the alliteration) are leading the Democrats' rhetorical choreography. As I write, Bill Frist is holding forth.

There will be a period of final debate tomorrow morning before she's handed the job. As always, watch the vote.
....................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

1.24.2005

ACTION ALERT!: Rummy's Ring

Please read Secret unit expands Rumsfeld's domain: Pentagon's new espionage branch delving into CIA territory at MSNBC/WaPo. Then write/call your Senators and Congresspersons. This must be stopped! I'm too upset to even clip-quote the piece.

....................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

1.23.2005

hanging together as the only way of not being hung separately

If there was a single phrase that summed up the power of the 1999 WTO Seattle protest, it would have to be "teamsters and turtles." Yet here we are, over five years later, and I'm not aware of anything having happened in that time that could be perceived as delivering on the promise of finding common cause between organized labor and the environmental movement.

I don't know of a more telling symptom of what's wrong with the Left. As much as I hate to admit it, we truly have become little more than a dysfunctional assortment of special interests. And if that is the best we can do, there's really no point in any of what we say we are about. What we put up with (from each other at least as much as from our enemies) is far too much trouble to go through, only to end up where our current course is leading us.

I don't know who originated the idea that jobs and the environment are a direct tradeoff, but I do know that corporate America has everything to gain from that idea (and conversely, workers and the environment have everything to lose from it). I also know that it is pathetically flaccid and shortsighted of the Left to leave it at that. The one thing we ought to be able to get right is stuff like this.

I'm quite aware that forging a vision of a future that is both prosperous and environmentally sustainable is not as easy as selling your soul for corporate contributions, but (I think it was Harry Truman who said) if you run a republican against a republican, a republican wins every time.

My starting assumption is that the only way anyone running as a progressive ever loses an election is due to a breakdown of competence on some level. It is true that the opposition has a lot more money and infinitely greater appeal to reptilian thinking, but if progressives can't govern in a way that offers a clear benefit to the vast majority of the electorate, there is something very wrong.

Democrats are victims of a self-inflicted wound. By putting the quest for electability ahead of vision, they've ended up with neither.

Granted there is certainly a lot of fathomless stupidity that has taken over huge chunks the electorate (and perhaps always will), but what strikes me as being much more evident is a sublime discernment that has no use for a Democratic party unable to fulfill the only function it will ever have a chance of being any good at--offering a vision of a world made better by means of broad participation.

The voters can't possibly be as stupid as voting the way they did in November most obviously seems to suggest. It's more likely that many of them decided they'd rather vote for candidates who are at least honest enough to say they are on the side of wealthy slimebags than weasels who lack even the courage to admit how totally owned they are by the very special interest that most epitomizes the Republican Party's base constituency, large corporations.

....................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

1.21.2005

death of environmentalism?

I'm struck by how the Left seems to be very sharply divided right now between those who are still clinging to the past and those who are doing what it takes to move on. Some within the Democratic party fold, including moveon.org, don't seem to have learned anything. It is refreshing though to encounter others who are using the experience of being unequivocal outsiders to ask some deep questions not just about what went wrong in November but also how we might radically rethink how to take on the serious challenges that the future will undoubtedly bring. One of the clearest examples of this kind of fearlessly clearheaded thinking is "Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World" (pdf). (via salon.com by way of Nonprofit Online News). This paper deals mainly with the environmentalist movement, but there is clearly much food for thought for everyone on the Left. It is important to remember that the Republicans didn't get control of all three branches of government by taking a centrist path.

Paranoia running deeper . . .

Writing for Dissident Voice today, Mike Whitney's "KGB Chieftain Finds Home at Homeland Security" is a nasty reality check. Excerpts:
Why would Homeland Security hire former Stasi chief Markus Wolfe and former head of the KGB General Yevgeni Primakov?

Is this part of the Bush anti-terror strategy? After all, Wolfe is the man who is credited with building up the feared East German secret police that was responsible for the disappearance and deaths of thousands of citizens. And, Primakov’s record is not any better. As skipper of the KGB he was driving force behind the machinery of state terror; a legacy that still has a chilling affect on many Russians.

Now, apparently, they’ve found a new place to hang their hats at Homeland Security. Or have they? Perhaps, the numerous stories on the internet are just fabrications intended to mislead independent research. That’s certainly one possibility. But, consider this; for those who have followed the activities of the current administration (the torture, the deception, the death squads, the destruction of Falluja) stories like this are difficult to discount. As a matter of fact, the hiring of Primakov and Wolfe seems fairly consistent with the long-term goals of the Bush team.

We already know that there’s a power struggle within the government from the number of top agents who have been jettisoned at the CIA. Why not develop a new Security apparatus under the auspices of a proven loyalist like Michael Chertoff? (the new appointee at Homeland Security) That would require the expertise of a couple of old pros who can help-out with the basics and get the machinery of state repression clanking along? ...

Chilling, nyet?
....................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

I, ddjango, do solemnly pledge . . .

Robert Jensen, for The Progressive Trail, discusses the Counter-Inaugural and A Citizen's Oath of Office for Inauguration 2005. Jensen's piece is excellent and the oath . . . well, just repeat after me:
I do solemnly pledge that I will faithfully execute the office of citizen of the United States, and that I will, to the best of my ability, help create a truly democratic world by (1) going beyond mainstream corporate news media to seek out information about important political, economic, and social issues; (2) engaging fellow citizens, including those who disagree with me, in serious discussion and debate about those issues; (3) committing as much time, energy, and money as possible to help build grassroots political organizations that can pressure politicians to put the interests of people over profit and power; and (4) connecting these efforts to global political and social movements fighting the U.S. empire abroad, where it does the most intense damage. And I will continue to resist corporate control of the world, resist militarism, resist the roll-back of civil rights, and resist illegitimate authority in all its forms.
Now, there's an oath worth taking.
....................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

Housing the Homeless: Spend Less, Do More

From Asheville's Brian Postelle in the Mountain Xpress:

"A plan to get homeless people off the streets and into housing – with no strings attached – got the green light from City Council at its Jan. 11 formal session.

Based on a "housing first" model developed and promoted by national nonprofits dealing with the homeless, the local plan is part of a federal initiative for ending homelessness in America within 10 years."

For those of you wondering where the progressives are, here's some. Asheville, NC has been coming up with different ways to address homelessness. Someone recognized that the city and county are spending oodles of dollars towards programs with only erratic success. So they're trying a novel approach - House the Homeless.

From the Asheville Daily Planet (sorry, no link): "the annual cost of taking care of 37 chronic homeless individuals in the city would be reduced from the present $22,700 per person to $16,000".

Mountain Xpress: "other steps include developing infrastructure to track those in the program, targeting people at high risk of homelessness (such as those leaving prisons or mental-health facilities), and coordinating complementary support services (such as treatment programs) once clients are off the streets."

Daily Planet: "After they are settled in housing, the homeless persons would be eligible for wrap-around support services to help them deal with health and addiction problems".

HUD is helping to support programs like this one, and though it'll make wingnuts' heads explode, it looks like the most affordable, most compassionate, most effective way of directly addressing the homelessness problem in America.

I love this town.
....................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

1.19.2005

Dems Fail Integrity Test Again

Democratic Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee who voted against Condi Rice for Secretary of State: Boxer, Kerry (!!!)

Democratic Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee who voted FOR Condi Rice for Secretary of State: Biden (!), Sarbanes, Dodd, Feingold (!!), Nelson, Obama (!!!)

....................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

1.18.2005

Bread and Circus

Yeah, so Boxer and Biden fashioned a new intestinal exit for Dr No Rice today at the confirmation hearings. So what? Watch the vote.

What is WRONG with these people!?!?

.................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

1.17.2005

toward a vision for a progressive populist movement

We're still hammering out what sort of vision ought to guide this nine-day-old group blog. My bias is that we keep it (the process as well as whatever vision statement we will presumably come up with) as simple as possible. So while I certainly don't want to ride roughshod over any careful consideration of language and details we need to attend to as a group, I would like to just cut to the chase about what I want this to be. One of the great things about blogs is that we can get away with being obnoxiously bold. (And WTF, I'm from Texas.) Nobody especially likes bloviation, but the blogosphere is no place for shrinking violets.

Most of my own views are pretty far to the left. None is so radical though as my belief that the world's poor ought to have a disproportionate share of political power. That is not to say that I'm advocating a simple inversion of the way things are now. My reasoning is based more on logistics than ideology. That is, if I were to imagine a base of support able to produce leadership that would have the greatest likelihood of overcoming the corruption currently running amok in the world right now, it would be a sort of a vast pear-shaped demographic group (larger at the bottom of the economic scale due to a greater proportion of the population in that strata being included). So the reason I say the poor would be disproportionately represented is simply because they would be overrepresented in the voting bloc that would put leaders in office throughout the world. You and I and anyone else could have just as much power as they, but only if we participated in a political process that was specifically designed to include everybody.

I'm not idealistic enough to believe this will ever happen, but I don't think there is anything more worth pushing toward. It's not like we have to achieve it perfectly. I believe that any progress that we make in that direction is an unqualified good. Even if I am a member of the middle class in the richest country in the world and don't really give a damn about the poor, I still stand to gain from this solution for two reasons. First, it's my only chance to be a part of sufficient critical mass to overcome the monopoly on power held now by wealth. And second, greater economic and political participation is a rising tide that lifts all boats.

So everything for me is subordinated to a simple abstraction of my ideal for participatory politics. I am less concerned with forcing a particular agenda upon the greater political corpus than I am in pushing for a reformed political culture that would lead to greater participation. Frankly, I don't want to take on the responsibility of worrying about what is happening to the impoverished and the powerless. I want to work to ensure that participation is at a level whereby a robust culture of social justice has a chance to emerge, and governments and other institutions are forced by active constituencies to be more accountable and responsive. As I've already said, I don't expect perfection, but I do believe in the value of simplicity and clarity when it comes to goals.

This may seem to leave some things out that tend to be pretty important to leftists, like environmentalism and human rights. When I say I subordinate other issues, I don't mean that issues like sustainability and equality aren't important on a primary level. What I'm saying is that the vehicle that is going to get us where we need to be is democracy. We won't even have a chance to address any of the very most important issues without full participation in the process.

And while some may be tempted to take shortcuts and put together coalitions by means of demagoguery and scapegoating, they can't hold a candle to a boldly progressive populism. That means that tolerance is not just a middle class affectation. It is something we have to work very hard to build into the movement because intolerance is probably the single greatest culprit in our common pattern of fragmentation.

I would sum all this up by saying that I have very little interest in batting around the usual liberal themes. The only thing I'm interested in here is further expanding the basis for organizing toward that pear-shaped global coalition I alluded to above. This is the essence of what "progressive populism" means to me. I don't find this singular focus to be confining. It is the animating principle that brings together everything I want to accomplish in this space (and as well in my own blogs).

Some of the themes that I think are particularly relevant are:

solidarity with the poor

sustainable economic development

governance models

grassroots organizing

redefining progressive politics to give greater priority to economic justice

the actual logistics of teaching tolerance and breaking down the cultural barriers that get in the way of a unified progressive movement (especially in counterdistinction to knee jerk bashing of rednecks and Christians)

labor organizing (and not just in traditional industrial settings)

MUST READ-011705: Seymour Hersh on "The Coming Wars"

Clip:
Rumsfeld will become even more important during the second term. In interviews with past and present intelligence and military officials, I was told that the agenda had been determined before the Presidential election, and much of it would be Rumsfeld’s responsibility. The war on terrorism would be expanded, and effectively placed under the Pentagon’s control. The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

The President’s decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books—free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. Under current law, all C.I.A. covert activities overseas must be authorized by a Presidential finding and reported to the Senate and House intelligence committees. (The laws were enacted after a series of scandals in the nineteen-seventies involving C.I.A. domestic spying and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders.) “The Pentagon doesn’t feel obligated to report any of this to Congress,” the former high-level intelligence official said. “They don’t even call it ‘covert ops’—it’s too close to the C.I.A. phrase. In their view, it’s ‘black reconnaissance.’ They’re not even going to tell the cincs”—the regional American military commanders-in-chief. (The Defense Department and the White House did not respond to requests for comment on this story.)....
[read it]

.................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

Inauguration Day Protest

The P! Editorial Team is officially supporting two specific inauguration day protest campaigns:

Not One Damn Dime. A clip from their site:
NOT ONE DAMN DIME DAY

Since our leaders don't have the moral courage to speak out against the war in Iraq, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Damn Dime Day" in America.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day" those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.

During "Not One Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money, and don't use your credit card. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Nor toll/cab/bus or train ride money exchanges. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours . . .
Bush Blackout. Part of the message:
On January 20th, 2005, Millions of People around the World will protest the Inauguration of George W. Bush in one form or another. How will you make your voice heard? BushBlackOut.com is suggesting that you be heard through your silence by blacking out your website or blog for the day and displaying a short message of protest.
On January 20th, P! will be displaying a protest message and will not be interactive.

We also express our support for many of the other organizations promoting collective, non-violent protest activities on that day. Many of them are listed on the websites linked above.

.......................................................................
The P! Editorial Team is currently working on our vision statement. Please help us with your comments here: Open Thread: Help Us Identify Populist, Progressive Principles. Thank you.

Thank You, Dr. King

"I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world. It is not an expression of impractical idealism, but of practical realism. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, love is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. To return hate for hate does nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe. Someone must have sense enough and religion enough to cut off the chain of hate and evil, and this can only be done through love."

"Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured."

Audio Speeches
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.us

1.15.2005

Imperial Aspirations

Months ago The Donald told the U.S. press that there were no plans for a long-term military presence in the New Iraq. Maybe no one told him about the 14 military bases and plans for an enduring communications system to link them?

March 2004: "U.S. engineers are focusing on constructing 14 "enduring bases," long-term encampments for the thousands of American troops expected to serve in Iraq for at least two years. The bases also would be key outposts for Bush administration policy advisers."

January 2005: "As the Bush administration drops hints about withdrawing troops from Iraq as early as this year, the Pentagon is building a permanent military communications system that suggests American soldiers will be in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

The new network, known as Central Iraq Microwave System, will eventually consist of up to 12 communications towers throughout Iraq and fiber-optic cables connecting Camp Victory, located outside of Baghdad, to other coalition bases in the country, according to three sources familiar with the project. The land-based system will replace the tactical communications network the Army and Marines have been using in Iraq. That network relied primarily on satellites and is much easier to dismantle. The contract for the new communications system covering central Iraq, won by Galaxy Scientific Corporation, is worth about $10 million."

As opined by this Hoolie back in November, we're planning on sticking around in that newest hotbed of Jeffersonian democracy. Never mind the talk of a sovereign Iraq. Never mind the murmurings of a pullout. As we near the Iraqi elections, the only questions are (1) Will the election be less legitimate than those of the previous Iraqi administration?; (2) Will U.S. troops continue to be active participants in the battle against insurgents or will they retreat to their permanent bases in anticipation of the next regional military misadventure?

"Mr. Clarridge, who has spent four months in Iraq in the last year and is the former chief of Arab operations for the CIA's clandestine service, added, "People should get realistic and think in terms of our presence being in Iraq for a generation or until democratic stability in the region is reached.""

Well...democratic stability is going to take a long time, don'cha think? Especially with election workers and polling sites already being targeted by an unflagging insurgency / Al Qaeda-in-training. The current administration isn't going to tell us the truth about the plans for the New Iraq, so all we can do is watch their actions. And I don't know if there's enough bloggers in all of blogtopia to do that.

Ms. Musings: Glass Ceilings, Glass Slippers: Extended Comments

Maureen Dowd's recent article called Men Just want Mommy rattled quite a few cages.

In a stunning act of misogyny, a researcher at University of Michigan has made me excessively relieved that I decided to forego U of M in favor of Wayne State, which was known for its outstanding Psych. Department.

My comments at Ms.Musings were as follows:

"What a ridiculous conclusion to draw from that study. It amazes me when women will take such a misogynist position to gain personal favor in their careers. Aside from the fact that we are so obviously conditioned as men to marry down, and as women to take care of others, the study showed not a difference linked to gender, but to entitlement.

Any human would prefer to be served and pampered than to be challenged. We all like having our own way in things. Men have traditionally achieved more because they traditionally had a support system that career women have not. It's easier to excel in your career if you don't have to worry about preparing dinner, clothes to be worn the next day, children to tend, etc. Things only even out when a woman has enough money to hire the services men have traditionally expected to be provided freely and eagerly by a wife. Career women need wives, too. Who doesn't?

We need to re-envision relationships to include support for the primary earner, or make it easier for women who aren't wealthy to work and maintain their homes."


I expand on those comments extensively here.

Must READ! They're Alive!

LETTER TO PRESIDENT BUSH FROM 16 MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

January 12, 2005

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write to urge you to take immediate steps to begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

Although the initial invasion of Iraq may have occurred with minimal troop deaths, the subsequent occupation of the country has been anything but successful. Already more than 1,300 American troops have lost their lives since the war began on March 19, 2003. At least 10,000 American troops have been injured as well, and it is impossible to know exactly how many thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed. Despite the enormity of the war’s casualties, the Iraqi insurgency continues to grow stronger with every passing day.

Iraq is no closer to becoming a stable democracy today than it was two years ago, as evidenced in recent weeks by the daily torrent of insurgent attacks on American forces and Iraqi civilian leaders. On January 4th, insurgents assassinated Ali Haidari, the governor of the Iraqi province that includes Baghdad. Just as devastating to the prospect of democracy, on December 30th, al-Jazeera satellite channel reported that all 700 electoral workers in Mosul quit their posts out of fear of being killed. Two weeks later, on January 10th, the entire 13-member electoral commission in the Anbar province, just west of Baghdad, resigned after being threatened by insurgents. If even Iraqi election officials fear for their lives, how can we possibly expect Iraqi citizens to feel safe going to the polls? How can we continue to put our own troops in harm’s way, the continued targets for Iraq’s thousands of malcontent insurgents?

It has become clear that the existence of more than 130,000 American troops stationed on Iraqi soil is infuriating to the Iraqi people - especially because Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction and did not have a connection to the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 or to the al Qaeda terrorist organization. Indeed, the very presence of Americans in Iraq is a rallying point for dissatisfied people in the Arab world. The events of the last two years have not only intensified the rage of the extremist Muslim terrorists, they have also ignited civil hostilities in Iraq that have made Americans and Iraqis substantially less safe. Therefore, by removing our troops from the country, we will remove the main focus of the insurgents’ rage.

Again, while it may be logistically difficult to immediately remove every American soldier, we urge you to take immediate action to begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. This is the only way to truly support our troops. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Representaives
Lynn Woolsey (CA-06) 202-225-5161
Danny Davis (IL-07) 202-225-5006
Lane Evans (IL-17) 202-225-5905
Sam Farr (CA-17) 202-225-2861
Raul Grijalva (AZ-07) 202-225-2435
Alcee Hastings (FL-23) 202-225-1313
Maurice Hinchey (NY-22) 202-225-6335
Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL-02) 202-225-0773
Dennis Kucinich (OH-10) 202-225-5871
Barbara Lee (CA-09) 202-225-2661
John Lewis (GA-05) 202-225-3801
Jim McDermott (WA-07) 202-225-3106
Grace Napolitano (CA-38) 202-225-5256
Major Owens (NY-11) 202-225-6231
Jose Serrano (NY-16) 202-225-4361
Pete Stark (CA-13) 202-225-5065

1.14.2005

Open Thread-011405: Populist Progressive Principles

We at P! have begun to define our Vision Statement. As part of that process, we want to identify essential key principles for a movement based in populist, progressive principles.

You, our readers, are encouraged to be a vital part of this effort. We want you to take ownership, because P! is ultimately yours. We DO have the power. Now, how do we use it? What do we want to build? If we believe that the governmental and political system is failing us, we can build one that works.

Use the comments section of this post freely. There will be a link to this post on the sidebar to make it easy to find as we move along.

Thanks - have at it!

A reality shot from the heartland

From the Arkansas News Bureau this morning, a clip:
Masters of misdirection
Friday, Jan 14, 2005

By Jack Moseley

Magicians and politicians share one common talent - the ability to deceive you by misdirecting your attention on what is really happening by focusing on the less important. The Bush administration's current rush to privatize Social Security and put this country a couple of trillion dollars deeper in debt is a prime example.

Social Security is not the problem, folks. The real crisis is health care that promises to add another 10 million Americans to the 42 million already without any kind of health insurance at all. The challenge for government is Medicaid and Medicare, not Social Security.

The big threat is that clinics and hospitals, particularly in rural areas, are drowning in a sea of sometimes ridiculous charges for health care that the patients never will be able to pay. This is compounded by the gross overcharging of the patients and insurance companies that can and do pay.

If I make one prediction this year on which I am willing to wager my own money, it is this: The Bush plan to reform Social Security will not happen, even with his clear Republican majority in Congress. Every thinking Republican congressperson recognizes the dangers of allowing Social Security funds from American workers to flow into the stock market, particularly in this less-than-stable time in economic history . . .
[read it]

Let me tell y'all a little story...

about local politics in Eastern KY. As a backdrop, keep in mind that the BBC did a special on the violence prevalent in Kentucky politics in 2002. We’re talking candidates killed, and cars sprayed with gun shots over in Clay County. In this case, I’m going to talk about Knott County. I’m not directly involved with this case, so a lot of this is hearsay, but I believe it to be substantially true.

For many years, Knott county was run by a corrupt crew known around here as the Mountain Mafia. (No relation to La Famiglia - these are home grown crooks.) They were connected right up to Governor Patton, and while money came into the county for various public works projects, nothing ever seemed to get done. Well, the citizens got tired of this and voted them out. Unfortunately, the MM had a friend in the FBI who got the guy we voted for falsely convicted of vote buying. The people who DID buy votes, according to the sworn testimony of the drug-addled witnesses the FBI guy forced to speak under duress, are still at large. Mr. FBI man wasn’t told to investigate them. Since this was a Democratic squabble, the Judge - a Bush appointee - didn’t care to get involved, and was quite anxious to lock up our legally elected official. Oh, and I almost forgot - the “second in command” caught somebody planting drugs in his car, and another man who was charged with vote buying had his house burned while he was incarcerated.

Now, in 2000, I was a delegate to the KY state Democratic convention. I saw votes taken behind closed doors at the county meeting that looked a lot more like a negotiation than counting. I saw all kinds of wheeling and dealing designed to benefit a rich couple who were buddies of then - Governor Patton, including a rules change that allowed the wife to be a national delegate, even though she attended neither the county nor the state convention. I didn’t even stay at the state convention long enough to hear one of the younger Kennedys speak. It was the most disappointing experience of my life.

No one has campaigned in this area since Bill Clinton. I’ve appealed to all kinds of news agencies, near and far, corporate and indy, but no one gives a shit because there aren’t that many votes in this area.

Did I mention that the guy who ran for Senate for the Democrats this time around WROTE the anti-Gay marriage bill in KY?

Now If I weren’t disabled, I might risk my life and run for office, but I am, so that’s out. What would you do if you were me?
I can’t even write a letter to the editor because ... well, don’t get me started on what passes as a newspaper down here.

1.13.2005

the importance of insisting on an activist approach

In a comment to this post by Morgaine, Ravenmn urges the P! group to insist on an activist bias in our approach here. That speaks to the main reason I wanted to be a part of this group project. P! has had a very explicit commitment to taking action, from its very inception.

We are still very new at this and haven't yet found our exact niche, but already there are some threads emerging. From the very start we've been clear about wanting to be a vital catalyst in whatever emerging progressive populist movement might be afoot. By becoming a part of P!, we each acknowledged a commitment to ideals relating to a "power to the people" populism guided by the sort of progressive spirit that fully embraces diversity and that affirms the very best of what it means to be human.

Since we see ourselves as being a part of a movement, a big piece of what we can do is encourage collective action. Morgaine really hit the nail on the head in her post. What progressive populism stands for appeals to the broadest base possible, and that is more than a match for the money of those whom we are up against. There is much work involved in the building of a movement, but one of the most crucial is just creating some "sticky" spaces where people can connect with other like minded travelers, get in sync with each other, work out specific strategies, whatever.

Those who stand to gain from an emerging progressive populist movement are not currently very united. One of the main things that needs to happen is that the movement is going to have to hammer out the sort of vision that can inspire unity among the many who truly belong together. That sort of vision is usually gleaned rather than forced.

Even though we may seem like just another bunch of chattering intellectuals, the most important thing we're doing showing up for duty. We've definitely got our work cut out for us.

MUST READ: MLK-011305

From The Black Commentator and Motion Magazine, clips:

Dr. King Was Not A Dreamer
-Paul Rockwell
Every year, millions of Americans pay tribute to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. We often forget, however, that King was the object of derision when he was alive. At key moments in his quest for civil rights and world peace, the corporate media treated King with hostility. Dr. King's march for open housing in Chicago, when the civil rights movement entered the North, caused a negative, you've-gone-too-far reaction in the Northern press. And Dr. King's stand on peace and international law, especially his support for the self-determination of third world peoples, caused an outcry and backlash in the predominantly white press.

In his prophetic anti-war speech at Riverside Church in 1967 (recorded and filmed for posterity but rarely quoted in today's press) King emphasized four points: 1) that American militarism would destroy the war on poverty, 2) that American jingoism breeds violence, despair, and contempt for law within the United States, 3) the use of people of color to fight against people of color abroad is a "cruel manipulation of the poor," 4) human rights should be measured by one yardstick everywhere . . .

[read it]

Financial Backing

The assumption that Armstrong Williams' payola is only the tip of the radical conservative propaganda iceberg further illustrates how money creates message in today's political landscape.

Tycoons like Rupert Murdoch have unprecendented influence over the minds of Americans, and it's time that progressive groups found financial backing to allow them to eke out a small corner of the message market while doing the grassroots work necessary to implement progressive programs. George Soros, arch-villain as defined by Cornerites and folks who play with little green balls, is loaded and prepared to get behind all sorts of progressive projects. His Open Society Institute "aim[s] to promote open societies by shaping government policy and supporting education, media, public health, and human and women's rights, as well as social, legal, and economic reform. To diminish and prevent the negative consequences of globalization, OSI seeks to foster global open society by increasing collaboration with other nongovernmental organizations, governments, and international institutions."

Soros' support of liberal and progressive 527 organization drew the ire of the power monopolizers and their minions in the run-up to the last election, but he's still on the march. From the Financial Times: "the still-evolving plan, according to one person involved, is “joint investment to build intellectual infrastructure”.

The intention is to provide the left with organisations in Washington that can match the heft of the rightwing think-tanks such as Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. At a state level, the aim is to build what one person called a “deeper progressive bench”."

Soros isn't alone in his efforts, and if you're (heads up, PFC) a progressive organization with a solid mission and competent staff, there's money to be had. "The sums involved are the subject of speculation: one person said he had heard a commitment to spend more than $100m over 15 years, another said at least $25m over five years. Several people said their understanding was that the billionaires had decided to spend more, rather than less, than they did in 2004."

Money isn't the solution to progressives' challenges, but it's a tool that we can't ignore. The gold rush is on.

Here's ONE way to do it

Hacker Steals Secret US-Russian Treaty

MosNews

A hacker who broke into computers belonging to the U.S. Secret Service, obtained a treaty involving Russia.

The U.S. government was quoted by the Associated Press as saying 21-year-old Nicolas Lee Jacobsen obtained an internal Secret Service memorandum and part of a mutual assistance legal treaty with Russia. The documents contained “highly sensitive information pertaining to ongoing criminal cases,” the agency reported, quoting District Court records in Los Angeles.

Jacobsen reportedly broke into the network at least seven months ago. Court records quoted by the agency said the hacker had access to T-Mobile customer information from at least March through October last year. He was detained in October and later released on bail of $25,000 put up by his uncle.

1.12.2005

misguided efforts to ride the tsunami charity wave

I came across this article via this post on the "Cyborg Democracy" blog. I certainly share many of the sentiments in the article and absolutely agree that one of the greatest moral atrocities of our time is global poverty, but calling for a "Global Marshall Plan" gives the impression that we've learned nothing about the challenges of economic development in the last sixty years. Even more importantly, we would be setting ourselves and everybody else up for a huge disappointment. If modeling our efforts on the Marshall Plan were viable, the Bretton Woods institutions would not be the miserable failures they have turned out to be. Whatever we might say about the WTO, the IMF, and the WB, the design flaw goes deeper than the behavior of those particular organizations. Now that the world's eyes are focused on the victims of the tsunami, we do have an opportunity to look deeply into our hearts and search for answers that go beyond relief. But we do a disservice to the cause of economic justice if we lie to ourselves about the true nature of the situation. There are no turnkey solutions to what this window has shown so many murkans for the very first time. The main thing that offering a tidy charity opportunity serves to do is dull the urgency. Sure, people are going to move on anyway, but I don't want to be a part of putting something out there that allows them to feel good about themselves when all they are doing is perpetuating the problem. Doing something is not always better than doing nothing, if doing nothing forces us to stay present. There is no cause I'm more committed to than mitigating global poverty. I don't think it is a hopeless situation, but we have to go about it in a way that has a chance of succeeding.

Information is Everything

        I've been trying to come up with a great topic for my first post, but nothing happened. I did find one central idea though, that I think is the whole point of this project: Information is everything. We are moving from an industrial society to an information society. At the same time, we are seeing the rapid corruption of our information systems: the Bush Administration has infiltrated the media through intimidation(CBS), payola (Armstrong Williams is just the tip of the iceberg), and propaganda (Fox, Sinclair). The only source of news remaining is right here. Blogs. We may not be perfect, we may not be "professionals", but we don't answer to anyone but ourselves and our readers. For all intents and purposes, we are the Free Press in this country right now.

We need to make sure we retain our ability to say what we want. We must oppose any and all attempts by the government to limit or monitor activity on the web. And we have to generate new ideas and get them out there. I watched a debate between the candidates for DNC Chair this weekend, and we're in trouble. Howard Dean has half a clue, which is more than I can say for the other candidates, but that's not enough. There's no one emerging within the current political system who can lead the Progressive Movement. Michael Moore recently said we need to find our "Arnold". Are you kidding me? Arnold got elected because too many people can't distinguish between news and entertainment any more. He's a side effect of our Soma. We don't need another side-effect, we need re-hab.

I had a rather bizarre dream the other night that started out in a theme park for a Science Fiction movie with Adrian Paul and ended with me harassing John Edwards and Howard Dean. I was trying to get them to start a class-action suit on the part of the voters. I've been thinking a lot about the law and the courts these days. Don't we have anti-trust laws any more? Can they be applied to political parties? Let's face it - it isn't even a duopoly. It's two corporate shills dividing the spoils at the expense of the people. How about the RICO statutes? Isn't taking donations from people you have no intention of serving conspiracy to defraud? Surely conspiring to steal federal taxes is a crime. Taxing the poor to benefit the wealthy... wait, that that sounds familiar. How did I wake up in Sherwood Forest? How do you tell the villains without a Scorecard? When are we going to wake up? Are there ways to use the court system to work for us? Has anyone tried?

The rallying cry for the first American Revolution was "no taxation without representation". OK, people, how many of you feel represented? Women are 53% of the population. Are we half of Congress? Do we have 53% of the House of Representatives? Wouldn't that majority seem to give us an edge in a Presidential election? Why have we never had a female President? Why are we unlikely to any time soon? Even if Hillary were to run and win, would she count? I wouldn't exactly say Sandra Day O'Connor adds a feminist flair to the Supreme Court, would you? Does Clarence Thomas represent the average black person's interests? How about our soon-to-be Attorney General? Is he representative of hispanic-Americans? The Right has gotten awfully good at using "Token Torturers" to confuse the issues. Familiar faces make it easy to forget who the real enemy is. WIthout exception, the people in power right now are wealthy. Our system has evolved into one that can't elect a person who is poor. The people making the decisions about our money have, for the most part, never been without money. Social Security means something very different to the wealthy than it does to those who rely on it for their survival. The billions that will be siphoned off to pay brokerage fees under Bush's plan will come directly out of the pockets of people who can barely afford to live as it is. They aren't going to help us change things, because the system works in their favor. They don't want us to have power.

The point I'm dancing around is that this isn't about gender, color, ethnicity or religion. It's about money. They have it. We don't. What we do have is numbers. There are more of us than there are the very wealthy. We can't play their game, so we have to play our own and play it well. That means communication. Coordinated action. A little structure, a lot of energy and as many new ideas as we can generate. I'm beginning to think we need parliamentary representation to assure that everyone has a voice in government. I know that the system of "government by location" is a thing of the past. Communications and transportation have made the concept of local government largely obsolete. Why should I be shut out of the political process because my state is a little more red than blue? Why should my Eastern Kentucky vote mean so much less than an Iowa vote? What's democratic about letting the primary in one state choose my candidate for President?
Why was the only candidate who was for ending the war, cutting the defense budget, universal health care and equal rights for everybody declared to be "unelectable" and given little press coverage even before the primaries?

Any ideas? Talk to me!


Labor Unions: A Cornerstone of Progressive Populism or Corrupt Beyond Repair?

So the Mighty Steelworkers are gobbling up the Paper, Allied Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union. Seems like a good deal from the outside, no? After all, creating the largest manufacturing union in the country would seem to conform with Andy Stern's world view.

[Background info:
NYT article on the merger.
Andy Stern's world view.
Full disclosure: I used to work for Stern, as I was an organizer for SEIU. My last campaign was a dog fight with the Steelworker's ugly stepchild of a union, CHEU.]

A fellow editor suggested that we start a discussion on labor issues, so this is my attempt to get the ball rolling.

Personally, I'm troubled by the corruption that abounds in most unions: Tons of money is spent on overhead and political contributions and unions either spend too much money on servicing their members or too much money organizing new members. (SEIU falls into the latter category; most of their money and resources are spent convincing people to join their union and then they leave most members without adequate support staff to help them bargain their contracts and uphold them.)

And then there's a problem with the fact that most traditional union sectors of the economy are going overseas. As more and more people have white collar employment, unions appear to be less relevant to our society. I personally disagree with that assessment. I think the most powerful unions in the country are government employee unions. They set the gold standard for healthcare, pensions, and time off. Unfortunately, they can also create an environment where it is very difficult to fire someone who isn't doing their job. But, ultimately it's management's responsibility to negotiate a contract that offers clear disciplinary guidelines and it's management's job to enforce the work ethic.

I've had some really interesting life experience with unions. My father ran to be president of his union local (he's a government employee) and my mother is in management (for the same agency). And the stuff I saw while I was a union organizer was heartbreaking (when we lost) and inspiring (when we won). Ultimately, I think the only way to create a worker's movement in this country that is truly progressive and populist is for workers themselves to organize. I think unions have something important to offer America, but I'm just not sure if the leadership of any of the major unions is truly willing to give up control of the movement to the masses.

One final note: I don't think electronic organizing is the future cornerstone of union organizing. Employers spend too much money on fighting unions. The only way to build relationships that last with workers is to meet them face to face and explain how they can better their own lives by forming their own union.

Something worthwhile to vote for

The Semi-Final voting in the Wampum's 3rd Annual Koufax Awards is in progress.

Have you voted yet?? Why the hell not?? Yes it is electronic, but you get a receipt and there are no lines! Let's see if Karl can fuck these up.

Scrutiny Hooligans, the primary blog of one our Contributing Editors, is a candidate in two categories.

There's a rumor going around that Sandy himself was going to hand out the awards, but no one can find his rotator cuff. (No, I'm obviously not above some very sick "humor".)

1.11.2005

Republican Congressman breaks ranks on Iraq!

From the Raleigh, NC area News & Observer this morning:
Coble says it may be time to pull out of Iraq
By DAVID BRACKEN, Staff Writer

Rep. Howard Coble, a Greensboro Republican who supported the invasion of Iraq, said Sunday that it's time to consider withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Coble said mounting casualties in Iraq have led him to say publicly what few political leaders, Democratic or Republican, have been willing to discuss.

"I got fed up with picking up the paper and reading 12 to 15 American soldiers killed," he said. "How many will we lose tomorrow?

In contrast, Congressman Brad Miller, a Raleigh establishment-liberal Democrat, whose district was crawling with Kerry-Edwards bumper-stickered SUVs before the "election", stated publicly that he does NOT support withdrawal.

We Don't Need Another Hero . . .

. . . we need millions of them: each of us.

In the two days since we've started up, my compatriots here already have rung my bell a bunch.

When Screwy first posted the concept he refers to in the previous post, I have to admit that my reaction was something like, "What waste of time." One of the reasons the Right has been so successful in the last 25 years or so is that they've been lock-step united. The Left has always been best at factionilizing (uh . . . is that a word?), rarely missing an opportunity to wage battle against itself, often resembling the two dozen or so large gangs running around in Lebanon during the '80s civil war.

I am convinced that the Democratic Party cannot be "reformed", and am further convinced that even if we could move it to the left, it would be pointless to do so. I believe this for several reasons.

First, political parties in the US exist for one reason only . . . to get candidates elected.

Second, candidates, 99% of the time, are politicians. Politicians have only one job - to get re-elected.

Third, political parties in the US are not just "part of the system", they are the damn system. And the system is counter-democratic!

Those of you that were with me from the beginning of ddjangoWIrE recall that I dutifully started with Kucinich, moved to Dean, then nominally supported Kerry, because he was the only ABB left standing. I even thought of going with Nader, but he couldn't even get on the ticket in my state. Thank God, by the way, because he would be a terrible president.

The title of this piece is "We Don't Need Another Hero". It's a Tina Turner riff, theme song from one of the "Road Warrior" flix (pre-transubstantiated Mel Gibson). The message, of course, is that neither Howard Dean, nor Obama, nor Conyers, nor Barbara lee, nor even the farthest-left-leaning politician is gonna fix one damn thing for us.

Systems theory teaches me that people don't change systems; systems change people. The existing governmental-political-social-economic system will not change, no matter how hard we push. It will adjust, if we push hard enough, but if you push hard enough on one area of a balloon, the adjustment consists of a bubble somewhere else on the surface. Push still harder and the balloon breaks. I've never seen a broken balloon get fixed so it's a balloon again. Have you?

I personally am not interested in trying to fix, adjust, or break the system. And P!, I think, is not about building a new party, or identifying hero-candidates, or raging against the gate. P!, with your involvement, is about building a movement based in unifying progressive, populist principles, personally responsible actions taken with others (each other) toward defined goals.

I've only really just echoed John here . . .
There is nothing so revolutionary as determined and imaginative resilience. I'm not interested in changing the system. Changing the system is a zero sum game. For me, revolution is a recognition that punctuated equilibrium is the best description of the way things evolve. I participate in that by completely showing up--body, mind, and spirit. I don't hide who I am in order to game the system. Frankly, I don't know how the system needs to change. I'm not that smart. What I do know though is that the surest way to corrupt the process is by second guessing what I need to be in order to make things better . . .

. . . I can't speak for anyone but myself. What I can do is insist on everyone being able to speak for herself. I've been around long enough to know that kind of commitment can be maddening, but it is not only a matter of social ethics (not imposing the will of the privileged minority on the rest of the world); it's our only hope. It is going to take all of us somehow pulling together if humanity is going to survive another century.
I am, by the way, going to strongly encourage John to repost here some of his absolutely seminal work from lines in the sand. John speaks to the process of balancing personal insight and responsibility with exercizing rights much better than I ever will (which won't, of course, deter me from beating the same drum, albeit with a different rhythm).

C.J. said
The transformation I want to see is so radical that simply changing our institutions wont create it.
Yes. Period.

We need each other. Over the next few weeks, the P!editorial team will be developing some editorial position statements through our consensus process. Please influence us. Let's get to work. Together. You are your own hero.

1.10.2005

Drunk With Hope

When Howard Dean announced "I will not run for President in 2008, because I feel that if the DNC isn't reformed, no democrat can win." at this weekend's DNC regional meeting in Atlanta he raised the eyebrows of the room. When he later told the state delegates that he would not be able to transform the Democratic Party without their complete support and efforts, the room was leaden. A silent 'Oh he's going into his bit about having the power and all that' floated over the room, conversations about something else threatened to rise. And then everyone moved right along.

I realized then that Howard Dean, whose ideas I've supported, wasn't enough to save/resuscitate the Democratic party. Even if he were to enact change with swagger to match George W. Bush, the winning attitude isn't enough. Historically / Rhetorically the Democrats' agenda of social justice, civil rights, and economic fairness has kept me attracted by a belief that, even if the system is broken, at least I'm on the side that might not screw things up even worse. But when Dean's admonishment about the need for every democrat to pull up stakes and rework the party was received flatly, I discovered for myself what johnharkeygibbs explains in his post below.

While I continue to believe that a burst of energy may inflame the Democratic Party, I also recognize that the evolutionary odds are against it. Every government misdeed, paling when compared to 9/11 in the emotional minds of Americans, is passed over as a widget in a news cycle. The democratic party is locked in a half-hearted rah! session wondering how things got so bad, so fast.

"The challenge of the twenty-first century is how to reframe our thinking about just what it is that we are moving toward. Pessimism has not turned out to be such a great friend to the leftist cause. Obviously we can't go back to believing in naive versions of progress, but neither can we continue to wallow in futility." Too right, john. Though I would add that our abject shock at the behavior of our government in the last four years is often mistaken for pessimism. The problems have been magnified and multiplied since BushCo. got into the foreign policy business.

So, what to do? I Floated A Concept at Scrutiny Hooligans in the wake of the election, "While a strong leader heading the DNC might stem the entropy, it's local politics that will keep the reenergized grassroots vitality alive.

Alabama's Progressive Democrats have the opportunity to provide the electorate with a new approach to Democratic politics. A newly born Green Democratic Party might flourish in urban and liberal areas. A Black Democratic Party might serve to promote the interests of African-Americans. If fractures in the Democratic Party exist, why not take advantage of our diversity?

By adding a descriptor to the Democratic Party name, democrats can remain united as people whose central political interests revolve around social justice, civil liberties, prosperity, and safety. Like spokes on a wheel, the various 'special interest' parties can strengthen the national party if their constituents continue to identify as Democrats."


I would now add that new Parties, local and regional, can reinvigorate democracy with or without the Democratic Party. Local efforts to win school board seats, city council seats, mayoral seats anywhere in America create a culture of empowered democracy. The principles on which progressives run will differ, and that's what local politics is all about.

Should Dean rally the DNC, should Barack Obama become half the man we think he is, should journalism return - then we'll talk about a transformation that might resonate. I will continue to support candidates whose views are closest to my own, no matter their party, but I will also work to create a progressive mentality based on recognizing that the best function of government is to ensure the freedom of its citizens while providing an atmosphere in which people can thrive.

Many aren't waiting for the next Martin Luther King, Jr. to come along in today's politics, they're too busy trying to whip their horses to the finish line first. And whether a great leader emerges in our culture or not, each of us can still go out and do the work we would like to see done.

Let the wave rise and let's find out if it'll float any boats.

freedom, real change, and punctuated equilibria

One of the guiding metaphors of the twentieth century was evolution. For many, the most important thing about evolution was that it was not revolution. So whereas revolution is about sudden and dramatic change, evolution was a nice middle class alternative. It's so gentle, peaceful, incremental. There was a whole worldview that came with it that held that if you just played well with others, like you learned in the kindergarten sandbox, things would work out. It might take some time, but if you bucked the system, you would just be getting in the way of progress. Being a nuisance was no longer about disobeying authority; it was much worse. You were interfering with the natural order of the universe.

Meanwhile, real-life evolutionary scientists were coming up with a different point of view. Some researchers, most notably, Stephen Jay Gould, began to believe, based on empirical evidence, that evolution was not such a tidy, orderly process, but was instead better described by Gould's phrase "punctuated equilibria."

If there is a single takeaway lesson from the twentieth century, it's that there is no such thing as progress. It's not that we needed the whole century to accumulate data in support of that conclusion. The experience of World War One was a real blow to the early twentieth century liberal belief in innate human goodness and began the general mood of pessimism and cynicism that those of us who are alive today have always associated with the intellectual Left.

The challenge of the twenty-first century is how to reframe our thinking about just what it is that we are moving toward. Pessimism has not turned out to be such a great friend to the leftist cause. Obviously we can't go back to believing in naive versions of progress, but neither can we continue to wallow in futility.

In my mind, centrist politics is nothing but a double bind. Social bodies don't evolve incrementally. The only incremental process that happens reliably is erosion. Things fade and decay. If working within the system means forgoing the chance to shake the very foundations from time to time, I want no part of it. Renewal is not incremental. Springtime flowers cannot be logically deduced from the darkness and cold of winter.

There is nothing so revolutionary as determined and imaginative resilience. I'm not interested in changing the system. Changing the system is a zero sum game. For me, revolution is a recognition that punctuated equilibrium is the best description of the way things evolve. I participate in that by completely showing up--body, mind, and spirit. I don't hide who I am in order to game the system. Frankly, I don't know how the system needs to change. I'm not that smart. What I do know though is that the surest way to corrupt the process is by second guessing what I need to be in order to make things better.

Amartya Sen's book, Development as Freedom, eloquently articulates what seems most important to me: people having a voice in matters that affect them. I can't speak for anyone but myself. What I can do is insist on everyone being able to speak for herself. I've been around long enough to know that kind of commitment can be maddening, but it is not only a matter of social ethics (not imposing the will of the privileged minority on the rest of the world); it's our only hope. It is going to take all of us somehow pulling together if humanity is going to survive another century.

NARAL Action Alert-011005 (updated)

From NARAL's Bush v Choice blog this morning (reprinted in full) . . .

Take action: FDA, Round Two!

Most of you already know that the FDA is once again considering making Plan B (emergency contraception) available over-the-counter, after a study showed what we all knew: making EC more accessible "reduce(s) the number of unwanted pregnancies while posing no apparent risk to women." Duh!

So if you haven’t yet, make sure to take action by sending a message to FDA letting them know how important it is for women to have over-the-counter access to emergency contraception. And please—don’t put this off! The deadline for the FDA’s decision is January 20th…
URGENT UPDATE!!

Federal Rape Response Protocol Ignores Emergency Contraception from The New Standard.

Also, friends, there's still time to vote for the Heroes and Zeros of 2004 Awards.