Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Case For Anarchy

The Democratic Activist
Until recently, I'd always regarded anarchism as unworkable "pie in the sky" Polyanna-ism. Nice in theory, but come on ... no laws, no government, no judges, no jails? People would be at each other's throats all the time. Obviously.

Now, after reading a short piece by a good friend of mine, James F. Holwell ... well ... I'm not quite so sure.

My main bone of contention with the entire notion of anarchism, one that inevitably comes up in the course of discussing it's viability as a social model (or even when discussing something far less radical, like democratic socialism), has always been the following:

"From each according to his ability; to each according to his need." In such an ideal society, wouldn't some people "only take and give back nothing?"

Holwell's telling of the true story of his life-changing interaction with Ammon Hennacy (Christian anarchist, Wobbly, and associate editor of The Catholic Worker) on the streets of Manhattan in 1958 has finally provided a satisfactory answer to this question for me.

Here's the story in Holwell's own words:

As a teenager in a Roman Catholic prep school for boys, I learned in some depth about the anti-communist, pro-capitalist culture into which I was born. After prep school I entered a seminary to study for the priesthood in a missionary society. At age 22, having been told I did not have a vocation, I settled into an entry level job at a bank on Wall Street.

It was then that I met Ammon Hennacy.

He came every Tuesday afternoon to the corner outside the bank, selling copies of The Catholic Worker for one cent. I remember sharing with him some of my earliest beliefs; for example, that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg deserved to die in the electric chair because they tried to help those evil Russian Communists. I remember telling him that is is time to bomb Moscow, because peaceful coexistence was a trick, intended to deceive us into nonresistance.

One day I asked Ammon if he and the others with him are "practicing" Catholics; that is, whether they go to Mass and receive Holy Communion. He said Yes, and on a daily basis! With that I judged him guilty of gross desecration of the Sacred Species. I told him he was nothing but a filthy Communist and therefore against God. I grabbed him by the coat collar and was about to punch him out, when he asked me if I would let him put down the papers, so that "After you finish beating me, I'll still be able to sell them."

So what could I do? I let him go. He patiently explained to me that he was far to the left of Communist, because they believe in government and laws. In contrast, he stated that he was an Anarchist, believing that God's laws are "engraved in the hearts of men" [St. Paul] and therefore human laws, and police and soldiers and judges, are all unnecessary and have nothing to do with real justice!

Ammon helped me to see that the traditional churches have supported war as a way to dominate others. The reasons for war are always the same -- to free the money changers to benefit and the weapons makers to amass fortunes based on the blood of others. Ammon saw that the American government and military had turned around from the ideals in the Declaration of Independence. We have become the new King George the 3rd, and people everywhere are asserting their independence from the American Empire.

The corporate leaders, spurred on by their shareholders, put massive profits first, needs of people last. So it is fine that the lives of the working class are destroyed as long as the result is a fatter bottom line.

Regarding the events of 9/11/2001, there is no doubt in my mind that Ammon would have seen through and realized that Muslim hijackers could have been in no way responsible for the demolition of these buildings with about 3000 human beings still trapped inside. It was the usual false-flag tactic that leaders have used for time immemorial to provoke the population into a warlike frenzy.

[Ammon] spoke with reverence about the Sermon on the Mount. He reminded me of the life style of the 1st Century Christians, which he declared to be the only example of true communism that ever existed.

He spoke strongly: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." I asked him whether, in this ideal state, some people would only take and give back nothing. To that he pointed out that it is only when people are not taught to discover their gifts that this can happen. Children would be educated to discover their gifts, not channeled into a packaged curriculum that emphasizes money and de-emphasizes the idea of service. This system compares one with another, rating students according to 'academic excellence.' It is a system whose real aim is ... to turn free spirited children into passive acquiescence and acceptance of the requirements of the corporations and the military establishments.

There is more, and I am ready to be involved with others to look at how these ideals can be practiced in the world of today and tomorrow.

-- James F Holwell

Wouldn't the lazy and greedy take unfair advantage of the freedom inherent in anarchy, rising to positions of dominance and superiority? Doesn't this mean that anarchism is inherently self-destructive and therefore a non-viable pipe dream?

From Holwell's story, above:

... it is only when people are not taught to discover their gifts that this can happen. Children would be educated to discover their gifts, not channeled into a packaged curriculum that emphasizes money and de-emphasizes the idea of service.

"Educated to discover their gifts ..."

We could actually do that. Couldn't we?

If St. Paul is correct that God's laws are engraved in the hearts of men (Romans 2:14-15), then isn't the assertion that "... human laws, and police and soldiers and judges, are all unnecessary and have nothing to do with real justice!" merely the logical extension of that fact, and shouldn't it be possible to actually do that?

Anarchism/pacifism may in fact be the only morally consistent, truly ethical social model. And if that's the case, and if it has any potential at all for viability, shouldn't that then be our goal?

Odd, but true, that if one goes as far left as possible on the political continuum, one gets to the same place as one who goes as far right as possible: no government (decentralized power).

Could it be that the "continuum" of political ideology is non-linear? Circular? Spherical?

In any case, Holwell's story has finally allowed me to view pacifism/anarchism as a potentially viable political alternative, not just a hopelessly naive, delusional, and dangerous exercise in irrational thinking.

Nevertheless, it's hard to picture the pacifism and anarchism advocated by Hennacy and others actually coming to pass in today's world.

But in tomorrow's?

Thank you.

Pass it on.

===

Update:

Click here for an excellent video examining the case for anarchy from anarchists' own mouths.
The Democratic Activist

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Remember the American "middle class?"

The Democratic Activist
John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune, 1/25/10

Remember "middle class?" A home of your own? Health care? College for your kids? Vacations? Sick leave? Retirement with a pension at 65?

Forget it.

In the news today:

---

On Tuesday night's Daily Show, bailout watchdog and financial reform advocate Elizabeth Warren told Jon Stewart that "this is really the moment" that will determine the future of America's middle class -- the system must be fixed or "the game really is over."

Warren, who chairs the Congressional Oversight Panel created to monitor TARP, said: "It is simple. This is America's middle class. We've hacked at it and chipped at it and pulled on it for 30 years now. And now there's no more to do. Either we fix this problem going forward or the game really is over."

In recent months, Warren has repeatedly warned that America's middle class is on the verge of collapse. In an essay for the Huffington Post last December, she raised the possibility: "America without a strong middle class? Unthinkable, but the once-solid foundation is shaking." A few days later, she told MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski "We are at serious risk in America of having 'middle class' no longer synonymous with the old notions of security and solid, but instead meaning living one paycheck to the next, living one bad diagnosis or pink slip away from financial collapse."

Warren has been the TARP oversight chair since November 2008, and Stewart asked her why the system hasn't been fixed yet.

"Well, these guys really do get it." Warren told Stewart -- the CEOs, bankers, and people in power -- "They get it. And they work best behind closed doors." If the decisions are in their hands, she said, "Nothing, nothing will change. You know, I want to turn to these guys sometimes, and I want to say: what part of 'we bailed you out' do you not get? These are people who would not have their jobs because they would not have their companies."

"The chips are all on the table," Warren added. "We are going to write what the American economy looks like for 50 years going forward. And right now the CEOs have any real change bottled up in the Senate."

(Click here to go to the original article.)

---

"Middle class?" How quaint!

Don't be silly. This is America 3.0, the United Corporate States of America.

In this version, new features include: two stratified classes ... one tiny upper class, and one huge lower class for everyone else (the large middle class developed during the 1930's and included in the previous version has been removed); free speech and free elections only for giant corporations and a few billionaires; foreign purchase of U.S. elections and ownership of federal and state offices by terrorists and other enemy nationals (any wealthy individual or group that owns or controls a corporation with a U.S. subsidiary); having to be "nice" and "appropriately deferential" to people just because they're a lot richer than you are (this was borrowed from an earlier program called "Aristocracy" that had fallen out of favor during the last 80 years but was has now returned in the new edition of America 3.0).

Get your copy today!

Actually, OCCOWB (Our Conservative Corporate Overlords and Wealthy Betters) will be mailing you a copy every week (like those pesky AOL disks) for generations to come, quite possibly forever. So don't worry about getting a copy ... you won't be able to avoid it.

You liked America version 2.0 better? 

Sorry, that version is longer available ... and besides, anyone possessing a copy will be detained without charges as an "enemy combatant," disappeared, and waterboarded (which is not torture, because -- as we keep saying -- OCCOWB does not torture) for as long as OCCOWB likes. Check the Terms of Use document; it's in there.

"But ... the Bill of Rights" prohibits such treatment!" you say.

What "Bill of Rights?" THAT was version 1.0. FDR's preservation and expansion of those freedoms, his creation of the conditions in which the American middle class could be born and would prosper, was 2.0. 

THIS is 3.0. Shut up (loud smack across the face). Mind your betters. Now, go to your room ... and you won't be coming out, little mister, until you learn the error of your ways. NO HEALTHCARE for you! Yes, you have to share your bedroom with three other inferior peasant families just like yourselves. And no, you may NOT have a crust of bread.

Thank you.

Pass it on.

(But first, click here, here, and here and take action as if our future depends on it, as it well may.)
The Democratic Activist

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Join me in leaving the abusive, dysfunctional Dumb-o-cratic Party!

The Democratic Activist
Today I did what was for me, just a short while ago, unthinkable. I stopped being a Democrat. Today, I re-registered as a Green.

Like an abused, beaten, tortured spouse, the Left refuses to leave its abuser, fearing for "what might happen." And like the abused spouse, only when she realizes that the risk of NOT leaving is greater than the risk of leaving will she come to her senses and do the only rational, healthy, intelligent thing: leave the person who is beating and bruising her, despite promises and assurances, time after time, that he'll "reform his ways" and "never do it again," that the abuser really loves the beaten spouse, and has her best interest at heart.

I'm gone. The thought of staying has finally become scarier than the thought of leaving.

Isn't it obvious by now? The Democratic Party HATES the Left with a passion, as Rahm Emanuel and so many other Dem leaders have made no real attempt to hide. They sell us liberals and other ordinary Americans out every time: the Patriot Act, The Bankruptcy Bill, The Military Commissions Act, the end of Habeas Corpus in America, torture, no impeachment of war criminals, continuation and expansion of stupid, wasteful military exercises, warrantless wiretapping, executive secrecy and an unaccountable executive branch, the demise of the public option and with it any hope of health care reform, the gutting of climate change legislation that could well mean the unnecessary deaths of billions of people and a functionally dead planet in 50 short years, no real support for dying unions, the list goes on and on – ALL of these things directly enabled (or even wholeheartedly embraced) ... by Democrats!

A great article in today's Huffington Post says it all:

---

The President's steadfast refusal to acknowledge that we have a two-party system, his insistence on making destructive concessions to the same party voters he had sent packing twice in a row in the name of "bipartisanship," and his refusal ever to utter the words "I am a Democrat" and to articulate what that means, are not among his virtues. We have competing ideas in a democracy -- and hence competing parties -- for a reason. To paper them over and pretend they do not exist, particularly when the ideology of one of the parties has proven so devastating to the lives of everyday Americans, is not a virtue. It is an abdication of responsibility.

---

Yes, a civil war within the Dumb-o-cratic Party would probably help Republicans come to power. Unless their own Tea Party faction were to succeed in similarly splitting the Publican Party. And what would be the ultimate result? An ultra-far-right party (the Tea Partiers), a right-wing party (the Republicans), a centrist party (the Democrats), and an actual, honest-to-goodness left-wing party made up of disillusioned liberals no longer willing to be treated like cheap Tuesday night whores by disloyal, lying Dems. Certainly, that wouldn't be so bad ... in fact, I think anyone would agree that such a four party system would be a HUGE, QUANTUM IMPROVEMENT over what we've got now.

The alternative is to continue to allow the corrupt, conservative culture of cruelty, selfishness, self-centeredness, and greed continue to destroy this country. The problem now is not Republicans, not conservative Democrats, but LIBERAL DEMOCRATS who are too afraid to speak the truth (i.e. that the Democratic Party is utterly useless, regards liberals and liberal ideas and policies with disdain and contempt, and will sell us and them out every single time) and act on it (i.e. leave the party, stretch the Overton Window hard to the left, and in so doing open up a shred of hope that this nation might be saved from the threat of corporate plutocracy).

Let the split within the Democratic Party begin. May the recent defeat in Massachusetts of conservative, terminally cautious, faux-Democratic, Obama/Emanuel wishy-washyness be the start of it.

Are you involved in an unhealthy, addictive relationship with the Democratic Party?

Go ahead. You can do this. You've been wanting to do it for a LONG time. 

Just waltz right up to the counter at your local Post Office, and re-register as a member of the Green Party (of some other liberal party ... NOT as an Independent, which would push Dumb-o-crats even further to the right).

Then contact the Democratic National Committee, and tell them, in no uncertain terms, why you did it.

I think you know it's the right thing to do. And I can say from personal experience, just earlier today ... it feels real, real good.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Little guy gets heard, in a big way

he Democratic Activist
People: I'm in USAToday!

A week or so ago, I was interviewed by USAToday Washington Bureau correspondent Mimi Hall last week, representing the liberal blogosphere alongside top national political figures and groups like David Swanson, Frank Luntz, Donna Brazile, Friends of the Earth, and the ACLU.

From Obama's liberal base 'disengaged' – by Mimi Hall, USAToday, 3/10/10:

Regardless, a growing number of liberal groups and activists say they've had enough of Democrats who break their promises or cater to conservatives.

"The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is now in shock," says longtime Democratic activist-turned-blogger Chris Bowland, 52, of Santa Rosa, Calif. "It's very clear the party hates us and has no respect for its base."

Bowland, who this month changed his party registration to the Green Party, says the Democrats are going to pay for it at the polls in November.

"Who is it that shows up to man your phone banks and who goes knocking on your doors? Unions and left-wing activists like me," he says. But Obama has broken his campaign promises and now, "we've had it. I'm done."

Actually, I got six lines in the article, the greatest number devoted to any person interviewed (Brazile also got six lines).

Although Hall misspelled my name (Chris "Bowland"), my statements and point of view on this important issue were accurately reported and got VERY wide coverage, which is what counts (the article attracted 3650 online comments!). It's an excellent short article, and I hope you'll be able to take the time to read it in it's entirety.

Not bad for a random citizen like me ... just a regular guy with a laptop, an opinion, and a commitment.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lynn Woolsey Sells Out

The Democratic Activist
As a former cheerleader for Ms. Woolsey and the Democrats, it hurts deeply to have to say this. But by now, it couldn't be more clear: Lynn Woolsey and the vast, overwhelming majority of Democrats in congress are just NOT committed to liberal principles. Her chief commitment, and theirs, is to currying favor with the corrupt, cowardly, conservative, thumb-sucking leadership of the Dumb-0-cratic Party.

The text of a letter I'm sending today to Congresswoman Woolsey:

---

Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey
263 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515

1/15/2010

Dear Congresswoman Woolsey,

I am a liberal activist, one of many liberal activists in your constituency and throughout American who is appalled by your and the Congressional "Progressive" Caucus's selling out of liberal ideas and policies in order to curry favor with the pro-corporate, conservative leadership of the Democratic Party.

The attached email message I just forwarded supporting Democratic primary challenger Marcy Winograd went out to my list of over 300 liberal activists throughout the country. We are keenly and painfully aware of your betrayal and of the betrayal by other so-called progressive Democrats in Congress of core liberal principles and policies. We are particularly incensed by your and Mr. Grijalva’s jaw-dropping, inexcusable decision as leaders of the “progressive” CPC to abandon your promise to vote against any health care reform bill without a robust public option for health insurance. Selling out one’s base is no way to win elections, Ms. Woolsey. I hope that you realize the terrible damage your behavior might do, not only to America and to Americans, but to the standing of the Democratic Party in the minds of party activists and workers and to your own reelection prospects.

Who’s side are you really on, Ms. Woolsey? The time has come for you and other “progressive” Democrats to decide. Who will it be: will you side with ordinary everyday Americans or with the conservative Democratic Party establishment?

Actions speak louder than words, and although your words are lovely and progressive, your actions and those of other key “liberal” Democrats in congress are, regrettably, regressive and cowardly. We need leaders in the Democratic Party who will respect the liberal base upon which they stand, not turncoats who will say one thing but then lose their spine and principles at the drop of a hat, bowing to conservative pressure as soon as Rahm or Barack or some other party leader tells you to stick it to the Left.

We will not take your betrayal lying down. Many are leaving the party. Those who can stomach remaining as Democrats are supporting liberal challengers and are determined to oppose those faux liberals in congress who say one thing but then do just the opposite -- as you, Ms. Woolsey have done, to your great shame and our great disappointment.

I write a blog called The Democratic Activist (http://thedemocraticactivist.blogspot.com/) and will do my best to publicize your betrayal and fight against you in any election in which you run, unless you come to your senses and decide to remain true to your promises to us (particularly and most urgently to your promise to vote against any health care reform bill without a strong public option). I and other like-minded, outraged liberal activists are committed to removing wimpy, faux-progressive Democrats from office -- including yourself and President Obama, if necessary -- who show by their actions that they despise the liberal activist base largely responsible for their election to office. But is it wise, Ms. Woolsey, for a political party to regard its own base with contempt and disdain? Without our strong and enthusiastic support, who will man the phone banks? Who will knock on doors for weeks on end? Who will send the viral email blasts? Who will get out the vote on election day?

The whole country is watching the disgraceful Democratic capitulation to corporate interests now coming to full fruition, Ms. Woolsey. As I’m sure you’re aware, the American people as a whole, and the liberal base of the Democratic Party in particular, are terribly disappointed in the performance (or lack thereof) of President Obama and of the party recently brought to power on a much ballyhooed promise of “real change.” As a member of the new media, and as a constituent of yours, I would be happy to speak with you personally or with a member of your staff about this, if you would like to arrange a meeting so that we may do so.

Thank you.

Chris Borland
Publisher: The Democratic Activist

---

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A new era of McCarthyism

The Democratic Activist

Wow ... these are actually the guys to whom today's conservative leaders and point men of the Republican party like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz (and even Republican politicians) are so enamored, encouraging, and devoted.

Check out the young teenage kid in the sixth photo with the t-shirt that reads:

"The cure for Obama communism is a new era of McCarthyism."

Yep ... that's just what America needs: a new era of McCartyism!

(And a right-wing military coup to topple the U.S. government, like "Hondurus did it.")

That's conservatism for you.

And don't be fooled, folks. That's exactly what today's Machiavellian right wingers have in mind for America ... only more, worse, and with added sting provided by our un-American legal and mass media information systems that now legitimize corporate unaccountability and government secrecy, indefinite detention, rendition, torture, etc.

Glenn Greenwald points out that this is NOT a new development, however, as the media is currently claiming. The conservative movement has been leading adherents toward exactly this kind of extremely dangerous lunatic fringe ideology for decades, now.

(FYI: It seems that South Carolina's flirtation with reactionary eccentricity certainly didn't begin with Governor Mark Stanford's torrid Argentinean love affair or Congressman Joe Wilson's inability to control his urge to act like a spoiled second grader. Apparently, The Palmetto State has always been a hotbed of off-the-far-right-edge lunacy and antics.)

The left also lies ... but today it's those on the right who tell the VAST VAST MAJORITY of outrageous, made-up, "pants on fire" lies, because to today's American (generally Christian) conservatives, lying (along with all manner of unethical, and unChristian behavior) is simply regarded as a perfectly acceptable and laudable political tactic (just count the few outrageous lies of the left vs. the LEGION outrageous lies of the right at nonpartisan fact-checking site PolitiFact.com).

It's a simple fact: the right wing has freely chosen to become a rotten, immoral, self-aggrandizing, anti-democratic bullying force, caring far more about cultural control, political domination, and selfish self-interest than anything else (and precious little about actual integrity, honor, honesty, or the needs and rights of anyone who disagrees with them).

Bullies generally understand only one thing: a swift, damaging punch to the face. Unfortunately, that's normally the only thing that works to keep them from trampling on others' freedoms.

It's okay to defend one's self. We do need to stand up and strongly put down their violence, hate, cheating, thieving, and lying, and to make a habit of pushing back quickly and powerfully. While we don't have to become like the right wing bullies in order to do so, we musn't EVER be AT ALL reluctant to loudly declare and make clear the corrupt, vile, repulsive, dangerous, and self-centered sickness of their behavior.

As proto-Democrat and liberal fighter Harry Truman said:

"I never give them hell. I just tell the truth, and they think it's hell."

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why are we liberals such losers?

The Democratic Activist
Radio host Angie Coiro asked on air the other why Barack Obama wasn't fighting like he ought to be for a public health insurance option and for real health care reform.

I called her, and told her what I though was the answer to her query:

The reason that Barack Obama doesn't fight is because ... he's a loser, or a liar.

Like most Democrats, Obama doesn't approve of fighting. He's the non-violent type, which means that when confronted with crooked, lying, thieving, morally and ethically bankrupt bullies like those that comprise the core of the current American right wing, he doesn't put up his fists and fight fire with fire. He just doesn't fight. That's not what he does. He's a gentleman. He talks. He reasons. He gives eloquent speeches. He seeks consensus. He naively believes that only nasty, uncouth ruffians (like those on the right) put up their dukes and engage in actual fisticuffs.

Liberals have become so accustomed to being the whipped puppy that even when we have all the cards, even when Democrats have a filibuster-proof senate majority, an overwhelming majority in the House, AND the presidency, we still have this tremendous innate tendency to roll over, cave, compromise ... and lose. We let FOX decide which executive branch appointees get to keep their jobs and which must go. We change good legislation because "the righties are telling mean lies ... and the people believe them!" We accept the specter of a Democratic president continuing and even expanding the draconian neoconservative policies of his Republican predecessor and breaking promise after promise to us, his dutiful left-wing lap dogs. Because, like him, we don't fight. Because we're too good for that. And because (horrors!) we might lose some congressional seats if we did.

Losing is what today's progressive Democrats do. We're really, really good at it. It's who we are ... or, rather, who we've become. We've become so used to losing, in fact, to being the beaten, abused, bullied kid on the school yard, that it's very hard for us to imagine actually winning, anymore. Real victory is not an easy image to form in our minds. We can only really see ourselves losing, or if we're lucky, compromising to the point of losing ... EVEN WHEN WE HAVE ALL THE POWER.

It's called "learned helplessness." Like "battered wife syndrome," the problem is a diseased self-image. The inability to view one's self as worthy of respect, and the accompanying unwillingness to fight even when one really does have the power to do so. We liberals are losers. And that won't change unless and until we wake up, grab ourselves by the balls, squeeze REAL hard, and start swingin' for the damn fences.

I scream at the radio when I hear invertebrate progressives discussing "what we'll do if the public option doesn't pass," how maybe we should be willing to compromise and settle for a triggered (i.e. fake) public option or a neutered "co-op" option, how maybe we shouldn't "make the perfect the enemy of the good."

HELLO?! THE PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS IN THE HOUSE HAS 84 MEMBERS (NOT COUNTING THE MINORITY CAUCUSES) ... THE BLUE DOGS HAVE JUST 54!! WE'VE GOT THE POWER TO STOP ANY BILL WITHOUT A STRONG PUBLIC OPTION!! WE'RE IN CHARGE HERE!! THERE'S NO REASON TO COMPROMISE!! NO REASON TO LOSE!! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?? WE ACTUALLY CAN WIN THIS!!

We could win, that is, if we'd only stand up, take hold of the power we've already got, screw the "political risk," and fight with the actual intention of flattening the opposition.

But that means doing actual harm to the other side, and taking real political chances. Progressives don't do harm, and we certainly don't do risk. Hurt is not what we do. We're opposed to that. We help. We don't fight. We're above all that. We're the nice guys. We're non-violent. We're terminally cautious. We're losers.

Make no mistake, this altercation with the right is a street fight. The way it works is simple: the guy with the stronger determination to HURT the other guy wins. That's it. That's all. Unlike we liberals, the Becks, Limbaughs, Hannitys, O'Reillys, and Palins of the American political scene TOTALLY understand and gleefully embrace this fact.

But we liberals see ourselves as pathetic weaklings who can't prevail, but who might be lucky enough to compromise on our ideals and hang onto a few moldy crumbs carelessly dropped by our right-wing overlords. We lose because we're afraid to risk tearing our precious designer clothes in a real scuffle, finally throwing hard punches squarely into the faces of the bullies who we've allowed to steal our lunch money, depress our spirits, and rape our country all these years. And now, increasingly and ironically, our most critical fights must be with fellow Democrats. Because today, it's the conservative half of the Democratic Party that's become the chief obstacle to progressive reform in America.

There was a day not too long ago when liberals knew exactly how to win. We knew how to message. We knew how to be fiercely loud and proud of liberalism and the hope it represents for humanity. The thought of a bloody nose didn't scare us. We knew how to take a stand on principle, and not take "no" for an answer. We knew about catching garbage from the other side and throwing back twice as much in return. We knew what courage was. We knew how to call crap crap. We once knew how to show up by the hundreds and thousands at town meetings and our own version of "tea bag" protests (Does anyone remember sit-ins? Civil disobedience?). We knew how to filibuster and use congressional rules to our advantage. We knew how to stick to a goal and counter b.s. with ferocity and furor. We welcomed hate from the other side, instead of falling to pieces in the face of it.

I'm sick of all this. I'm fed up with losing. I'm tired of liberal compromise, of cowering and caving to corrupt conservatives. I'm ill from the crushing disappointment that comes from supporting Obama and the other cowards in the Democratic Party establishment who only seem to know how to roll over, take their humiliation, and then ask "May I have another, please?"

Sure, compromise is necessary in the real world of politics. But not habitual, automatic compromise from a position of weakness and resignation which leads only to one defeat after another, or, at best, to a glacially slow pace of reform that we simply cannot afford in this day of global climate change, a severely wounded American democracy, and a dying American middle class.

And of course there are a number of liberals today both prominent and lesser-known who fight like crazy (like Dennis Kucinich, Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher, the folks at BuzzFlash, et al). But they fight in virtual isolation, overwhelmed by right-wing nut cases who seem to come out of the wood work every time Rush says "boo." While tea-bagging right-wingers are holding town hall meetings hostage and monopolizing mainstream media messaging, the most that most of us progressives do is sit at computers writing blog posts like this one. Almost all of us can do more ... a lot more. I can. You can. We all can. We all must.

Most of all ... WE LIBERALS MUST NOT COMPROMISE WHEN WE DO NOT HAVE TO.

The elephant in the living room is our friend. Why are we so afraid to ride him and trample the forces that are devolving America, remaking her as a corrupt, cruel, fear-based, third world nation right before our own eyes?

We don't need to lie. We don't need to be physically violent. We don't need to decide, like the Republican Party has, that the end justifies the means, that winning is ALL that matters, that deliberate deception is a great political tool, that the only ethical obligation is to one's own narrow self-interest, that because might makes right we've got some Darwinian right to dominate and restrict the voices and choices of others.

We don't have to become like the right in order to beat it. We just have to stop being losers.

We don't even really have to give 'em actual hell. ALL WE HAVE TO DO, as Harry Truman, a true liberal fighter, once said, is: "... just tell the truth, and they'll think it's hell."

There are plenty of times and situations in which reason and argument can win the day, when fighting like hungry, brawling cats is rarely if ever necessary to bring about the best possible outcome. 

The American political arena in 2009, however, is not one of them.

Why doesn't Obama fight?

Because up to now ... he's been a loser. Or else he's not the principled liberal that he represented himself to be during the 2008 presidential campaign, the kind of leader our sickened country needs so badly right now.

Are you?

Are we ... as liberal Democrats?

In a couple of short months, the ultimate fate of the public option will probably provide clear answers to these critical questions.
The Democratic Activist

Friday, July 24, 2009

Up to 22,000 Americans die each year from ... lack of health insurance

The Democratic Activist
Can you imagine the sense of emergency there'd be in Washington if seven full-fledged 9-11 attacks happened each and every year, year in and year out?

"What's the rush to enact health care reform?" is the question being asked by Republicans and conservative Democrats.

What's the rush? Are they serious? Seven 9-11 attacks every single year ... and "What's the rush?" is all we get from these so-called people's representatives!

If anyone needed further proof that conservatives in congress care not for the needs of average Americans but rather for the profits of big-time corporations, this calculated, politically-motivated foot-dragging combined with the fact that as many as 22,000 Americans die each and every year from lack of health insurance is that proof.

We need strong health care reform that puts the lives and good health of ordinary citizens ahead of the financial gain of the parasitic private health care industry and a few ultra-wealthy corporate pirates who profit directly, handsomely, and unconscionably from our needless suffering and dying ... and that means a robust, non-profit public health insurance option (known as the"Public Option") that puts the American people first while saving huge amounts of money ($180 billion per year) at the same time!


But conservatives are doing their best to deny the American people their right to real, quality, affordable health care by stalling and delaying health care legislation in Congress and spending $1.4 million each day on lobbyists in an effort to kill the true populist reform that the Public Option represents.

Only by taking the time (just a few minutes) as often as possible to contact our U.S. senators and congressional representatives can we ordinary people hope to beat back this attempt to pay for the obscene profits of private health insurance providers, drug companies, and HMO's with our good health and the lives of up to 22,000 American men, women, and children each and every year.

Here's the toll-free phone number for the Capitol Switchboard in Washington, D.C.:

---

1-800-828-0498.

---

After calling the number above, tell the operator you would like to speak with your two senators and congressional representative (you may be asked for your home state and zip code). Tell each of them that you want congress to stop conservative political shenanigans designed to drag out and ultimately destroy health care reform, and insist that he or she work energetically to see to it that a robust "Public Option" is included in any bill sent to the President Obama for his signature. Make sure each one knows that your vote in the next election could hinge on whether or not he or she does this. Be polite, but firm, as you leave your message with the staff person who will take your call.

You may want to do as I've done, and store the Capitol Switchboard number using the speed dial function of your cell phone, so you can make calls while commuting, waiting in line here or there, etc. Calling every day is not too often!

This is not a game. We're talking about life and death, here ... as many as 22,000 American lives and deaths every single year ... along with the life or death of our nation's economy ... unless real health care reform (and that means inclusion of a strong Public Option) is passed into law as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The conservative ethos in a nutshell

The Democratic Activist
Do you find this as jaw droppingly unbelievable as I do?

We now have a conservative military writer calling for "... censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media."

Military attacks ... on journalists?

In the Journal of International Security Affairs, Ralph Peters wraps the modern conservative ethos into a convenient nutshell for us, and illustrates all by himself better than any defender of American constitutional values ever could one of the main reasons our country is currently in such precarious straits:

The point of all this is simple: Win. In warfare, nothing else matters. If you cannot win clean, win dirty. But win. Our victories are ultimately in humanity's interests, while our failures nourish monsters.

"Win at any cost. Just win, baby. Nothing else matters. Nothing. NOTHING. If you can't win clean, win dirty. We're right, they're wrong. We're good, they're evil. Therefore anything and everything we do is okay.

Glorify the bully. The Rule of Gold, instead of The Golden Rule. Power over principle. Lie, lie big, and lie often. The end justifies the means. I'm BIGGER than you ... so SHUT UP!"

It's the essence of evil, still quite alive and well on the American right ... embraced by all but perhaps one Republican member of congress (Ron Paul), and all but a few dozen congressional Democrats.

There's no question that the same ugly potential exists on the left – but for now the problem is a function of the firmly rooted infection of ultra-nationalism (and barely latent fascism) that's taken over America's right wing.

What's more important to you: the country, or the constitution?

If you answered the former, you've got the virus.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Demand a special prosecutor!

Unbelievably ... America chose to join the cabal of torturing nations

~~~

Do you know the tragic story of the death of Alyssa Peterson, a U.S. interrogator in Iraq and former Mormon missionary who killed herself in Tal Afar on September 15, 2003 after refusing to take part in the torture of U.S. detainees?

From a recent article by Greg Mitchell appearing in The Huffington Post:

Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what we would call torture, [Alyssa] refused, then killed herself a few days later, in September 2003.

"Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed."

The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been "reprimanded" for showing "empathy" for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: "She said that she did not know how to be two people; she ... could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire."

The U.S. military lied about Alyssa's death, and tried for years to cover up the truth and keep even her own parents in the dark about how she died. Eventually, our government was forced to admit the facts about what had happened to Alyssa.

It's an incredible, awful, and heart-wrenching story, particularly for Mormons, particularly right now, as the spotlight of truth finally begins to fully illuminate the abject prevarication, gutless terror, and brutal depravity of the Bush/Cheney torture program and the horrible crimes committed under their orders in the name of all Americans.

Click here and here to read about Alyssa's story.

Critically important is the recently revealed fact that the Bush/Cheney torture program was originated and conducted for a purely political purpose. America's "enhance interrogation program" was not, as we've been deceitfully assured for so long, implemented to "save American lives" and to "prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. soil."

Not at all.

Contrary to the big lie continually fed to us by Bush, Cheney and others in their administration in an attempt to keep knowledge of their brutal, self-serving, truly Machiavellian criminality secret from the country they were supposed to be serving, the recently released report from the Senate Armed Services Committee makes clear that one of the central reasons that the United States began – for the first time in our history – an official policy of torturing prisoners in our custody was to elicit false confessions of a link (any link) between Sadaam Hussein and Al-Qaeda so that President Bush could justify and rally support for his planned invasion of Iraq. Although the CIA had already had already made clear that there was so such link to be found, the Bush/Cheney Administration was desperate and determined to find one, even if it meant relinquishing the power of our moral example in the world, abandoning America's most cherished and central values, and turning our country, the United States of America, the same one that Ronald Reagan called a "shining city on a hill," into a torturing nation, one of the "bad guys," a trampler of the rule of law and of the commandments of common human decency.

How unbelievably, stunningly, and horribly surreal this is. What in the world has happened to us ... that in this country, this America, we're even asking the question "Does torture work?"

Jesse Ventura, Navy Seal and former pro wrestler and governor of Minnesota, a self-described Goldwater conservative, proved the deceitfulness of the Bush/Cheney pro-torture neoconservatives during an interview on May 11, 2009 with Larry King (following are excerpts from the transcript):

[Waterboarding is] drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you're drowning. It is no good, because you – I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney, and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

That's why torture is no good in a court of law, because if you're torturing someone, they are going to tell you what they think you want to hear to stop the torture.

Let me say this: they say it's prevented things by us torturing.

If that's the case, then why haven't we caught bin Laden? Because we got his people ... and if we tortured them, they ought to be able to tell us where he's at. See, it don't work. We haven't captured bin Laden. We haven't done anything.

Torture does not work.


America is the Constitution. Absent the rule of law equally applied to all her citizens, America no longer exists. She is defeated. Dead. Gone. Torturing prisoners is against the law, and those who commit or order such serious crimes must be punished accordingly, if America herself is to survive.

Remember George Washington, who refused to torture British prisoners during our nation's most critical time, our war for independence from England ... even though the British were torturing our own prisoners and the very survival of our newly born country was at stake?

Remember World War Two, when German soldiers fought fiercely just to be captured by the Americans rather than by the Soviets, because they knew the treatment they'd receive as U.S. prisoners would be entirely different than what they would face as Soviet captives?

Remember when we, the U.S.A., were the "good guys?" Although we've never been perfect or without sin as a nation (far from it), we used to value holding the moral high ground and for more than 200 years earned the respect and admiration of the entire world (and the eager cooperation of most of it) for doing so.

If we don't loudly and actively condemn this barbarity and act swiftly and surely to prosecute those who ordered, enabled, or committed torture in our name (remember, some detainees were tortured to death in U.S. custody – a capital crime), we risk no less than the loss of our identity as a nation that stands for, not against, the rule of law.

Manadel al-Jamadi – tortured to death in U.S. custody (Nov. 2003)

From a recent article by Juan Cole:

... Obama is unwittingly allowing the Right to lay the groundwork for permanent move to presidential dictatorship. Obama says he doesn't want to re-litigate the last 8 years. That is frankly disingenuous. The last 8 years was never litigated. And crimes were committed. If they are not addressed, they will become norms, not crimes.

The United States must not torture – because torture is wrong, and because nothing is more profoundly un-American. And because it's illegal. And because it doesn't work. And because it works against us.

Period.

Please join with me and many, many others all across America in calling for serious congressional inquiry and the appointment of a well-funded, independent special prosecutor to investigate and hold accountable all those (from whatever political party) who so flagrantly violated our nation's most fundamental laws and values abrogating torture of detainees:

-

Attorney General Eric Holder
Office of the Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C., 20530

Phone: 202-514-2001, 202-353-1555

Fax: 202-307-6777

Email: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov

-

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Phone: 202-456-1111

Fax: 202-456-2461

Email form: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

-

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist