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President Obama Condemns Bradley Manning’s Contempt for the Rule of Law

7:07 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Obama on Manning: “He Broke the Law”

At a fundraiser for President Barack Obama at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, a group of progressive supporters of Bradley Manning paid tens of thousands of dollars to attend and disrupt the event. Oakland activist Naomi Pitcairn personally paid for tickets so people from her group could attend . The group sang a song with lyrics they wrote expressing their disgust with the way the Obama Administration has responded to Manning’s inhumane treatment.

Someone with the group also managed to confront President Obama on Manning. Obama’s handlers may have been preoccupied because in this clip that runs about a minute Obama opens up about what he thinks about what Manning did.

“People can have philosophical ideas about certain things,” President Obama explains. “But, look, I can’t conduct diplomacy on open source.” He then goes on to add that he has to abide by certain classified information rules or law and if he had released material like Manning did he’d be breaking the law.

Now, here is the remark that deserves the most attention: “We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our decisions about how the laws operate.” He adds, “He broke the law.” Finally, before removing himself from the conversation, he says Manning “dumped” information and “it wasn’t the same thing” as what Daniel Ellsberg did because what Ellsberg leaked “wasn’t classified in the same way.”

First, President Obama says Bradley Manning did it. It is not entirely clear that he did it unless you solely rely on the chat logs published by <em>Wired</em> magazine. Manning is the alleged whistleblower in the case. And, displaying this attitude that he is guilty before he actually is put on trial and convicted may prejudice Manning’s case. In the same way that criminal and civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz suggested former President George W. Bush was prejudicing the legal process against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange when he declared he’s “willfully and repeatedly done great harm” and refused to participate in an event with Assange, Obama was making it hard for Manning to get a fair military trial.

Because consider this: if the Commander-in-Chief openly says a soldier is guilty of a crime, then what are the chance the military hands down a sentence that runs contrary to the Commander-in-Chief?

Second, President Obama’s suggestion that supporters of Manning’s alleged action want the government to have “open source” diplomacy plays to the dominant narrative. Nobody thus far has suggested that all diplomacy be conducted out in the open. Why a number of people support the disclosure of the “Collateral Murder” video, the Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs and the US State Embassy Cables is because of the extent of corruption, human rights abuses, backroom deals, lobbying for US corporations, spying, manipulation of justice, etc.

Finally, the suggestion that the US is a nation of laws and people don’t get to make decisions about how the laws operate demands clarification. He may be right in the sense that the majority of US citizens do not get to make decisions about how laws operate. But, President Obama can make such decisions and has made such decisions. He can wield the power of the unitary executive and outright skirt the law. He can promote a culture of overriding the laws of this country as well.

President Obama can defy a judge’s order, as the San Francisco Chronicle did February 28, 2009, when it filed papers refusing to allow lawyers for an Islamic organization to review classified surveillance documents related to their case. Obama can have his administration file a brief essentially saying, “This decision is committed to the discretion of the Executive Branch and is not subject to judicial review. Moreover, the Court does not have independent power” to grant counsel access to classified information “when the Executive Branch has denied them such access.”

President Obama can continue to allow warrantless wiretapping in the country that explicitly violates laws. He can choose to not oppose the notion that a President can ignore Congressional restrictions on domestic eavesdropping and violate FISA by eavesdropping on US citizens without a warrant.

President Obama can take the US to war in Libya and embrace lawlessness. He can embrace the idea that the President is the “sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs,” continue the “ideology of lawlessness” promoted by former Bush Administration officials like John Yoo and commit to the pursuit of a mission even if Congress chooses to pass a resolution restricting or outright opposing the mission.

President Obama can refuse to follow a court order and not release photos showing torture.

President Obama can choose to not take apart the legal architecture the Bush Administration set up to give them the authority to militarily detain without charge or trial detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

His administration can cite “state secrets” privileges and prevent torture victims from obtaining justice or compensation in US courts. It can push a “targeted killing” program that could potentially be used to kill US citizens suspected of terrorism, without giving attention to the legal questions raised by such a program. It can prevent investigations of officials who likely violated the law by pushing policies of torture and abuse in prisons.

Most importantly, he can have his administration aggressively pursue whistleblowers and fine tune the law so that individuals like Thomas Drake, who allegedly leaked information about waste and incomepetence at the National Security Agency (NSA) and Bradley Manning, become examples of what happens to citizens that choose to act out against government power and expose the system.

Contrary to what he suggests, if he thinks he can manipulate the law like the Bush Administration, than he can probably release classified information selectively to the media like Julian Assange and WikiLeaks has done as well. Former vice president Dick Cheney asserted in 2006 that he could declassify whatever information he wanted because of an executive order that granted the president and him “classification authority.” Chances are the Obama Administration would be willing to suggest this order still gave them the power to release material (if necessary).

Ideally, the US is a nation of laws but in reality it is not. The Executive Branch led by the President of the United States can choose what legal restrictions to abide by and what not to and it can choose what violations of the law to prosecute and what not to prosecute.

Thus, Manning can become a captive of the American system while soldiers who committed the act shown in the “Collateral Murder” video walk free, while the superiors who promote a culture of inhumanity that leads to incidents like what is seen in the “Collateral Murder” video aren’t held accountable and while former Bush Administration officials that engaged in lawless activity go unprosecuted.

You Just Want to Nader Obama (VIDEO)

10:41 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The above represents a conversation I believe many progressives are having as talk of a a primary challenge to Obama in the upcoming 2012 Election increases.

Veterans Lead Civil Resistance Action Against U.S. Wars, Hundreds Risk Arrest

7:32 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Photo: A previous civil resistance action with veterans in front of the White House on March 20, 2010 by messay.com

(updated below)

This morning, on December 16th, military veterans will lead a nonviolent act of civil resistance against the ongoing U.S. wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Led by Veterans for Peace, the organizers expect this to be the largest veteran-led resistance since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

A rally will be held in Lafayette Park. Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame; Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst; Mike Ferner, Veterans for Peace National President; Chris Hedges, author and former New York Times war correspondent; Mike Prysner, Iraq vet and co-founder, March Forward!; Coleen Rowley, former FBI agent and whistleblower who was TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2002; and Dr. Margaret Flowers, Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program will all speak at the rally. They will then join the veterans and risk arrest in an action in front of the White House that is expected to involve nearly one hundred people chaining themselves to the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The action takes place as the International Red Cross warns, “We are entering a new, rather murky phase in the conflict in which the proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to reach the people who need their help.” The Red Cross reports civilian casualties are at high levels. It raises questions about whether Afghanis are able to get proper medical services or whether civilians being held in detention are receiving humane treatment. But, more importantly, it indicates that a war in Afghanistan continues to spiral out of control and bring brutality and horror to an impoverished nation.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Wikileaks Cables: US Arms to Georgia Keep Tensions Between Russia, Georgia High

10:48 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

President Obama and President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev | Photo by poniblog

Cables from the U.S. embassies in Moscow, Russia and Tbilisi, Georgia reveal ever since a five-day war in Georgia, which erupted between Georgians and Russian-backed separatists in August 2008, the U.S. has been carefully assessing the implications of further arming Georgia. This assessment has required the U.S. to pay extra lip service to the idea that it is not arming Georgia for future provocations against Russia. And, the U.S. has had to show restrain and only make transfers Georgia can claim will be used for defense or to help the U.S. fight in Afghanistan and other parts of Eurasia as part of the “war on terror.”

[*For revelations on the August war, see The Guardian's story using details from WikiLeaks cables sent out during the conflict.]

The geopolitical maneuverings are revealed in a June 18, 2009 cable from Moscow titled, “Implications of Rearming Georgia for U.S.-Russian ‘Reset.” The cable summary explains, “A decision to move towards a more robust military relationship with Georgia will imperil our efforts to re-start relations with Russia, if it is not carefully calibrated and deployed. While Medvedev understands the strategic and personal benefits of crafting a productive partnership with the U.S., this impulse is trumped by the GOR’s ‘absolute’ priority placed on expanding Russian influence in the Eurasian neighborhood, preventing NATO enlargement, and demonstrating Russia’s great power status.”

The cable contends “Georgia’s territorial integrity” could be cost if a “lethal military supply relationship with Tbilisi” continues. The cable proposes a strategy of proving to Abkhaz and South Ossetians that autonomy with Tbilisi is better than submission to Russia.” It suggests Georgia work to establish itself as a “democratically vibrant and economically successful model for the region” instead of relying on military arms to gain advantage over Russia. And, further indicating how central Iran is to U.S. foreign policy, it adds that rearming Georgia openly could “lessen Russian restraint on weapons transfers to Iran.”

The flipside of the geopolitical strategy unfolds in another cable from Tbilisi, sent out the day after the previously mentioned cable from Moscow. It indicates the importance of properly adjusting and defining policy toward Georgia and Russia in the region is a result of a U.S.-Georgia Charter Commission on June 22 that will require a discussion over the future of “military cooperation” with Georgia. The cable titled, “The Importance of Continued Military Engagement with Georgia,” provides suggestions for why Georgia should be provided “a modest, transparent defensive capability” by the U.S.

Contending that Russia’s claims that the U.S. is rearming Georgia are based on propaganda, the cable surmises that Russian objections to arming Georgia would contradict U.S. policy in the region and give “Russian disinformation an undeserved voice in U.S. policy formation.” The cable urges the U.S. to not validate Russia’s objections to arming Georgia because it could be seen as a reward for Russia’s aggression in Georgia, “as well as its violation of international law and commitments, encourage a similar stance in Ukraine; and deal a body blow to [U.S.] credibility in Georgia, other Eurasian states, the [U.S.’] western partners – and ultimately Russia itself.”

It justifies two deliveries of “lethal military equipment” by noting they were purchased before the five-day August war and one in particular was for “coalition operations in Afghanistan.” It reveals that the U.S. has agreed to deploy a Georgian battalion for two years in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan, RC-South.

The cable illustrates Georgia’s desire to “rebuild its native defensive capacity, which is currently insufficient to control its own airspace or hinder an invasion from any of its neighbors.” It says Georgia “needs sufficient anti-armor and air defense capability to stall a ground advance” and the “Georgian operational thinking is that if they can defend Tbilisi from occupation for 72 hours, then international pressure will force” any advance “to pause.”

The rationalization for ultimately going ahead with arming Georgia is as follows:

“…The development of this capacity is not solely equipment-based, but it will require the acquisition of new lethal defensive systems. If Georgia does not procure the equipment from the U.S., it will almost surely seek to procure it elsewhere, as it has done in the past. U.S. involvement would help ensure the transparency of the procurement process itself, as well as increase our control over the amount, type and location of the equipment…”

But, more important to the decision is the fact that ultimately Russia has no credibility when opposing a rearming of Georgia:

“…While Russia, as well as the de facto regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, may argue otherwise, it is Russia and its proxy regimes that have dramatically increased the militarization of Georgia over the past year. Russia has introduced at least 3,700 troops into sovereign Georgian territory, as well as heavy military equipment, such as tanks, artillery and anti-aircraft systems, into the area immediately adjacent to the administrative boundaries — in direct violation of the commitments President Medvedev made in the cease-fire agreement. It is Georgia that has lost 14 police officers since the war; kidnappings, cattle thefts, and detentions continue along the boundary, mostly on the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides. Russian helicopters make regular flights along the boundaries, sometimes crossing them, and Russian forces move large numbers of troops and heavy equipment along the boundaries at will…”

The cable from Tbilisi ends with the suggestion that Georgia make “public and/or written commitments about the exclusively defensive nature of its new military programs” and suggests inviting Russia to sign a “non-use of force agreement.” In contrast, the cable from Moscow concludes the U.S. cannot say “yes” to a “significant military relationship with Tbilisi” because Russia will increase tensions in the region and engage in “more active opposition to critical U.S. strategic interests.”

To further contextualize the two cables, on November 20th of this year President Obama met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and pledged to contiue U.S. support for Georgia’s bid to join NATO (which Russia opposes). Saakashvili said President Obama explicitly indicated support for Georgia’s “territorial integrity” and the White House press service said, “The two leaders discussed the Georgian government’s efforts to implement political, economic, and defense reforms and our shared interest in securing democracy, stability, and prosperity in Georgia,” which, because of the cables.”

“Defense reforms,” of course, is a euphemism for arming the country to defend its “territorial integrity,” which means being able to function as a democratic and economic model for other countries in Eurasia. (The cables allow people to understand the meaning of all this diplomatic jargon, which normally just flies over most Americans’ heads because they don’t know what the jargon is referencing. Now, one can know what Obama means by “territorial integrity”; it’s very comparable to the idea of a country having a “right to exist.”)

Overall, what this shows is that both ends are on some level being played against the middle. The U.S. knows its arming of Georgia will bring escalated tensions with Russia, but it can use the support from the country in prosecuting the “war on terror.” The U.S. knows respecting Russia’s wishes to not have the U.S. meddling in the region could be a win for Georgia in the long-term, but the U.S. does not want to be seen as letting Russian interests discredit the validity of U.S. interests in the region. So, the U.S. attempts to argue Russia is using propaganda when it suggests the US is arming Georgia, and the US attempts to convince countries that the military cooperation is purely aimed at helping Georgia defend itself and not wage war against its neighbors.

All this assumes Russia will allow Georgia to defend itself and not see an increase in defenses as a threat. If this were Iran, Israel would be allowed to legitimately argue that escalating defense spending was seen as preparing the country for war. After upping defenses, the country would be able to mount attacks and protect itself from repercussions. So, one can see why the U.S. might be suspected of turning Georgia into a country that will just create more trouble in the region; plus, clearly, U.S. is prepared to use Georgia as a proxy to advance its interests and that makes Russia leery of U.S. involvement.

Restoring Sanity to Our Elections: Are We Managers of Democracy or Citizens?

1:07 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Many of the people who energized support for Barack Obama in 2008 gather at the Lincoln Memorial for the “One Nation Working Together” rally.  by Kevin Gosztola

Our electoral and political system is broken, co-opted by corporate and military interests. That is why we are talking about restoring sanity. That is why we see people, Republican and Democrat, wishing the polarization of politics stops.

A vacuum has grown in American politics thanks to Democratic Party leaders who have abandoned the notion of waging crucial debates and putting forth new ideas. They now instead behave like staff members of a marketing communications or public relations firm. They handle the president’s agenda and message to the people and finesse arguments to justify timidity and spinelessness, which favors the wealthiest three or four percent of Americans and endangers the bottom ninety percent. This also endangers innocent civilians all over the world who continue to fall victim to wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Liberals and progressives who form the base of voters for the Democratic Party have failed to muster the courage to make Democrats bear the consequences of their transformation over the past decades into a corporate party. Upset, instead of offering a different vision, they defend politicians in the party hoping to curb Republican, Tea Party, and free market enterprise organizations who have gone on the offensive.

Choosing to do nothing more than defend the idea of voting or supporting Democrats, failing to fill the vacuum with a language for something other than a society that lauds the individual and loathes the notion that “we are all in this together” is why the Tea Party has enjoyed prominence.

Among people who participate in political discussions, it is increasingly difficult to nuance one’s support for Democratic or Republican politicians. Many think you either must be with one side or the other. This is what America’s two-party system does to its citizens.

Instead of focusing on what actions politicians have taken or failed to take, concerned citizens fight each other and accuse people who dare to vote outside the two parties of being responsible for enabling crimes or dark trends in society. Citizens beat each other into lining up behind one of the two parties, which for at least three elections have dealt with an American population wary of re-electing incumbents.

The two most prominent parties are co-opted by moneyed interests that neutralize our votes, they allow the dominance of money in politics to increase, and instead of breaking away and making reasonable calls for reforms to voting or elections, citizens fret about the possibility of spoilers. They fear being good to themselves and voting their conscience on Election Day.

Fear of “Purism” Bringing America Closer to Ruin

People especially Obama supporters are good and ready to argue a number of things will happen if Republicans are elected. But, how many of these things that are feared are already manifesting themselves in politics, government, or society in America?

One could say the Tea Party will be bad for gay people, but Democrats and President Obama have done very little to shift the consensus on rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in America. Obama has contradicted himself by expressing his view that he is a “fierce advocate” for gays and lesbians and then asserting that he is opposed to same-sex marriage because marriage is between a man and a woman. Even worse, in a legal brief filed in June 2009, Obama’s Justice Department “compared gay unions to incestuous ones and that of an underage girl in the sense that states have the right to not recognize marriages that are legal in other states or countries.” This happened days before the Democratic National Committee was to hit up the LGBT community for cash in a fundraiser featuring Biden (perhaps, he told them to “stop whining” then, too).

President Obama’s Department of Justice continues to obstruct a rescinding or repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That’s as conservative pundits like Bill O’Reilly and John Stossel genuinely or opportunistically express condemnation for the Obama Administration’s continued legal defense of the anti-homosexual military policy.

One could say the Tea Party will ensure that future-eaters continue to reign over America and imperil a world’s population because the Tea Party does not “believe” in the science of global warming. That supposes that Democrats would take steps that would begin to truly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Lawyers with the Environmental Protection Agency, Laurie Williams & Allan Zabel, wrote in the Washington Post on current legislation on the table:

“The House and Senate climate bills are not a first step in the right direction. They would give away valuable rights in cap-and-trade permits and create a trillion-dollar carbon-offsets market that will not lead to needed reductions. Together, the illusion of greenhouse-gas reductions and the creation of powerful lobbies seeking to protect newly created profits in permits and offsets would lock in climate degradation for a decade or more. The near-term opportunity to create an effective international framework would also be lost.”

One could say the Tea Party will privatize Social Security. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has already opened the door for privatization by allowing Alan Simpson to lead a “Catfood Commission” or Deficit Commission to find ways to reduce America’s deficits. Simpson has displayed sharp ignorance about Social Security by promoting the Republican idea that Social Security is going bankrupt and is a burden on government. How could anyone have faith in an Administration’s effort to fight the privatization of Social Security when a man who said Social Security is “a milk cow with 310 million t-i-ts” is involved in putting together policy recommendation that will determine Social Security’s political future?

One could say the Tea Party will put food stamps programs at risk, but Democrats have already cut food stamps. They made cuts to fund education and health care. They chose austerity and cut the social program instead of taking money from defense, which is about 57% of the federal budget and could be significantly reduced.

On jobs and the economy, the top issue in the midterm election, the Tea Party’s gospel of free markets with a twist of Ayn Rand ideology would surely be bad for Americans. The GOP plan would raise the deficit $4 trillion. But, the Democrats are not a guaranteed panacea for fixing unemployment and making the economy work for all Americans instead of just the top 1%.

The Democrats are split on the Bush tax cuts, despite a Moody’s Investors Service report that “U.S. companies are hoarding almost $1 trillion in cash” and “are unlikely to spend on expanding their business and hiring new employees due to continuing uncertainty about the strength of the economy.” Lest you be optimistic about the split, the last time Democrats were this divided the people lost the public option or a Medicare buy-in. Conservative Democrats or Blue Dogs won the battle over what would be in health reform and would likely win the battle over tax cuts.

Finally, Obama supporters greatly fear a government shutdown or impeachment proceedings against Obama. Why the consternation? Democrats should welcome a shutdown. The shutdown Newt Gingrich briefly engaged in back in the 1990s likely contributed to President Clinton’s re-election in 1996. If Republicans displayed their obstructionism even more prominently, it would probably be easy for Democrats to sell themselves to voters in 2012 unless a number of Democrats became involved or complicit in the shutdown to win votes in their districts (not beyond the realm of possibility, many Democrats have run ads against supposed accomplishments of the Obama Administration).

The Democrats should also welcome endless investigations of Obama. What with Birthers, the Tea Party, and the fact that a poll has been released suggesting Bill Clinton is America’s most popular politician, the Democrats could on a daily basis remind Americans of how Republicans engaged in a hunting of President Clinton and stalled change and that is exactly what they are doing now. It would resonate because a significant amount of Americans remember the Clinton Years as being good years compared to the Dubya Years.

And, alas, there is little reason to fret about the possibility of a paralysis of government. Senate Democrats struck a bargain with Senate Republicans to block Obama nominees and prevent President Obama from making any recess appointments while senators were back home campaigning for the midterm elections. This means Republicans and Democrats are willing to either push for or be complicit in the paralysis of government.

Plus, in the run-up to the election, Democrats have failed to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and pass a 9/11 First Responders health care, a small business bill, and a defense supplemental. They also struggled to get jobless benefits extended. All they were able to get through were measures comparable to resolutions commending the University of Southern California men’s tennis team or acts to provide for the issuance of a Multinational Species Conservation Fund Symposium stamp.

Change Takes Time, Give Obama a Chance

Loyal Democrats and Obama supporters call reasoned debunking of fears disloyal, unforgiveable, and even criminal because they argue such thoughts enter the echo chamber of political debate, mesh with reactionary Tea Party outrage toward President Obama and make it harder for President Obama. That notion should be challenged. There is a key difference between the type of criticism offered above and that of the Tea Party, which Democrats are rightfully committed to defeating: it isn’t malicious nonsense based in racism or unfounded fears of socialism.

Also, as Robert Scheer, Truthdig editor-in-chief and journalist, said in a Live Chat earlier this year, criticism of the president would only strengthen the Obama Administration if it came from the grassroots and the people around him had to deliver to the people who vote.

Those who discuss what to do in politics and how to vote in elections are members of the informed citizenry, which Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson understood would be the “true repository of the public will.” People willing to engage each other are those who understand their responsibility toward shaping a political and social culture that will contribute to a society where all people share in setting the agenda and bear the consequences for agendas which jeopardize the wellbeing of the country.

Not just during elections, this citizenry is expected to not leave the most pressing issues untended. It is not to allow suffering or let profit-driven competition-oriented ethics pervert democratic culture. Yet, the nature of elections has us all behaving as pundits, strategists, or managers of democracy.

Saturated with advertising or political party propaganda filtered through print, radio, television, etc, the citizenry or grassroots that the experiment of democracy depends upon to survive begins to think and operate like the very bums it increasingly wishes to see out of power. It lets “electability” get in the way of supporting candidates, a corporate idea that primarily rests upon whether that candidate can raise millions or billions of dollars and demonstrate support from the private sector.

At the nation’s peril, those who most care about this country devalue elections by letting pundits choose the issues that matter. In this election, jobs and the economy became the top issue and how economic problems were framed. What if the framing had been unemployment and privatization? Or corporate power and accountability?

Wars are determined to be unimportant to Americans or unworthy of being a key election issue, a crude victory for the military industrial-complex or war profiteers who sap American taxpayer dollars and continue to waste the blood of US soldiers and civilians for their own gain. Three to four trillion dollars will be expended on Iraq, hundreds if not trillions more on Afghanistan, and, so, the wars are most certainly important and should be a part of any discussion of jobs and the economy.

Another key problem is the catnap the collective takes between elections. The late Howard Zinn understood how a people could truly bring hope and change to a country having seen an inspirational civil rights movement make huge gains in the Fifties and Sixties. In a still relevant article, “Election Madness,” he wrote:

“Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war.

Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”

Corporate executives and business managers are and have been waging direct action. They have foreseen what many of us have thought to be the unexpected and engaged in “crisis management” at the expense of Americans (e.g. the economic crisis of 2008). They have been ready to contain any change that citizens and politicians might deem fit for this country so that their enterprise does not face consequences for misconduct. They have even taken opportunities for change and aggressively turned those opportunities into chances to leverage power over government so they can reap huge financial or monetary advantages in the long run.

They have it easy with a revolving door spinning between their offices and the halls of power. But, that doesn’t mean citizens should go cynical and give up. It doesn’t mean they should let the failures of the Democratic and Republican Parties turn Americans cynical and pessimistic. And, it doesn’t mean it is required that citizens abbreviate or modify their condemnations of government to suit the so-called politics of the possible.

Voting one’s conscience wouldn’t be such a problem if one could point to key movements that are out in force making gains independent from the two political parties in between Election Days. Unfortunately, unions and civil rights organizations have been bought off by Democratic Party operatives and all the Republican Party is interested in is maximizing the efficiency of fake grassroots organizations, which are front groups for corporate and special interests in America.

Conclusion

There’s something insane about American elections, that’s for certain. But, it isn’t the Tea Party. It isn’t that we get candidates like Christine O’Donnell or Alvin Greene. It isn’t even that guys like the “Rent Is Too Damn High” candidate in New York somehow manage to get into debates. It’s the idea that only two candidates are allowed to run against each other and all other candidates, even if they win ballot access, are off limits to voters that is insane.

People who wish to restore sanity: having more than two candidates means society gets more than a party of “no” in power or a party of no ideas in power. It means a third or fourth person can cut through arguments that deepen division and offer input that may lead to democratic consensus necessary for true progress in society.

Open, free and fair multi-party elections won’t come now, but let this election be a teaching moment. Support for a third party alternative in politics is between fifty and sixty percent each time organizations poll Americans. And, surprisingly, Howard Dean has come out in favor of ranked choice voting, something that would do away with winner-take-all elections that have contributed to conflict among liberals or progressives.

Obama may not be able to change the culture or process of politics in Washington, but absent our involvement, we shouldn’t expect him to.

As Stewart said to President Obama, “Are we the people we were waiting for or does it turn out those people are still out there and we don’t have their number?”

There probably are phone calls to be made, but Americans do hold the answers to their future and can continue to push for a society supportive of all people, if they want it.

Truth About Hopeless, Deadly Stalemated War Revealed in Iraq War Logs

11:57 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


U.S. Army Spc. Justin Towe scans his area while on a mission with Iraqi army soldiers from 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division in Al Muradia village, Iraq, March, 13, 2007 by U.S. Military

Iraq War Logs from Wikileaks were made public yesterday and document 109,000 deaths, including 66,000 civilian deaths, of which 15,000 were previously unknown. The more than 390,000 field reports from US military reveal the truth about the Iraq War from 2004 to 2009, which Wikileaks’ Julian Assange hopes will correct attacks "on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which [have] continued on since the war officially concluded."

A press conference convened in London on Saturday, October 23rd, focused on the huge body of evidence that Wikileaks has put into the public domain as a result of the leak (video of the full press conference: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3). It illuminated the Logs, which, like the previously leaked Afghanistan War Logs, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the New York Times were all granted access to so that coverage could be released simultaneously and so that the coverage would provide detailed insight into the reports.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers in the United Kingdom, a firm that has acted on behalf of Iraqis claiming they were tortured or the victim of indiscriminate military attacks, explained how the released evidence can be broken into three key categories:

-Unlawful killings of civilians, indiscriminate attacks or the unjustified use of lethal force against civilians

-Horrendous abuse and torture of Iraqis by the Iraqi National Guard or the Iraqi Police Service

-Torture of Iraqis whilst in UK custody (presumably, whilst in the custody of US and other coalition forces custody as well)

Shiner stated, "Some of the circumstances will be where the UK had a very clear legal responsibility. This may be because the Iraqis died under the effective control of UK forces–under arrest, in vehicles, hospitals or detention facilities." The death likely fall under the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Grand Chamber could take legal action. That, according to Shiner, would be especially likely if the Grand Chamber found that when UK forces have authoritative control of Iraqis the Convention has jurisdiction over their action.

One example of indiscriminate killing given by Shiner involving a little girl in a yellow dress being fired at by a rifleman in a UK tank while she was playing in the street would likely not fall under the Convention. Shiner suggested lawyers might be able to get courts to argue that Common Law in UK could provide some remedy and give credence to launching a judicial inquiry into the legality of all deaths detailed in the Iraq War Logs.

In terms of abuse and torture by Iraqi National Guard or the Iraqi Police Service, Shiner’s statement highlighted a fragmented order ("Frago 242"), which the US and the UK appear to have adopted as a way of excusing them from having to take responsibility for torture or ill-treatment of Iraqis by Iraqi military or security forces. This, according to Shiner, runs "completely contrary to international law" and "it’s well known that there’s an absolute prohibition on torture" and "it may never be used."

"The US and UK forces cannot turn a blind eye on the basis that it wasn’t their soldiers that were doing the torture and that’s what happened," stated Shiner. They have an "international obligation to take action to stop torture" and "that they did not makes them complicit."

As far as torture of Iraqis by US and UK forces goes, Shiner said there appeared to be many instances where Iraqis died in UK custody and were certified as dying of natural causes. None of the deaths had been investigated, many were hooded and abused and his law firm does not accept the Ministry of Defense explanation that these deaths all have an innocent explanation.

Shiner explained hundreds of Iraqis have been complaining for a long time about ill-treatment and torture, often a result of coercive interrogation by UK interrogators in secret facilities run by the Joint Forward Interrogation Team. The evidence of torture would help promote support for a formal inquiry into the detention policy and practice used by forces in southeast Iraq.

Daniel Ellsberg, known for leaking the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, flew from the US to stand in support of Julian Assange and others in the WikiLeaks coalition, which released the reports. He said he had been waiting to see something like this for forty years and suggested that if he was the "most dangerous man in America" than Julian Assange might be, to US officialas, "the most dangerous man in the world."

According to Ellsberg, President Obama has started as many prosecutions for leaks as all previous presidents put together: three prosecutions, Bradley Manning being the latest. That is because, prior to President Obama and President George W. Bush, presidents didn’t think they could use the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers. They thought that using the act to halt whistleblowing would be viewed as unconstitutional and a violation of First Amendment rights. But, after 9/11 and with the current Supreme Court, President Obama has no problem with "mounting a new experiment" to "change the relationship between press and sources." Now, press has to know taking leaked information means risk of prison. (*For more, see Glenn Greenwald’s previous coverage of the Obama Administration’s war on whistleblowers: "What the whistleblower prosecution says about the Obama DOJ").

Up to this point, the US has no Official Secrets Act while the UK does. What might be worth noting is the possibility of some type of Official Secrets Act criminalizing the leaking of information being passed as a way to combat the effectiveness of WikiLeaks in getting the truth about wars into the press and in the hands of millions of people around the world.

Also, Ellsberg made a distinction about the Iraq War that because the justification for invasion by US forces was based on lies the civilian casualties may not only be considered victims of a war of aggression but the non-civilian casualties reported may be victims of a war of aggression because "they were fighting foreign occupiers."

Assange and Shiner both communicated their dissatisfaction with how the press has previously handled not only stories related to WikiLeaks but also stories related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in general.

In response to a question about whether the Iraq War Logs were putting lives at risk and if he was concerned, Assange responded, "I’m worried that the press chooses to credibly report statements like that from the Pentagon. In fact, the Pentagon would not have been able to review our materials in those few hours. It’s simply logistically impossible. And, we also have strong confidence in our redaction process."

Shiner asserted, "Yes, the press are the ones who allow [torture] to be covered up" because the press simply do not run the stories. He added, "You’re obsessed with what we might’ve done in Pakistan or what we might have done in Guantanamo Bay. I say to you, "Wake up and have a look at what is happening at our High Court next month on November 5th about what we actually did. We intend to open that and reveal actual material about the way we interrogated people."

And, Assange concluded that "Iraq is now cool in the public imagination" so this dump is already being received differently than the Afghanistan War Logs.

"The news is already less defensive about what has been revealed," said Assange.

The general tone of news coverage may be less defensive, but the US continues to regard the actions of WikiLeaks as criminal or reckless. Hillary Clinton and a number of military officials condemned the release of the documents. And, the US press has been warned to not produce news coverage of the document dump.

UN special rapporteur Manfred Nowak declared the US has an obligation to investigate torture claims, specifically claims that military handed over Iraqi detainees knowing they might be tortured or killed. One would like to believe Obama would uphold human rights and international law and open an inquiry into what these leaks reveal like several European countries are doing and will do in the coming weeks, but that simply would run contrary to the preemptive attacks on WikiLeaks the Obama Administration and the military have made before even looking over the contents of the dumped documents and the picture of the war the documents reveal.

Currently, the Iraq War Logs, which are available to the entire world, can be viewed individually in their raw form at War Logs or Diary Dig. War Logs is accessible and one can log in and rate each individual report suggesting what reports deserve more investigation and what reports are insignificant. Diary Dig, the location that allows for searches of the documents, is tremendously overloaded and may not be accessible until traffic dies down over the next few days.

Too Late for Democrats or Voters to Do Anything About Corporate Money This Election Cycle

11:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Opportunistic politicians can bathe in excessive amounts of corporate money in this election. That’s, for the most part, thanks to the Citizens United v. FEC decision that has many leaders weary about what campaign financing regulations they can and cannot get away with advocating for. | Photo by elycefeliz

Like a BP oil gusher, foreign money is allegedly flowing into the midterm elections. Heavyweight interests with the muscle to influence legislation to suit their agenda, like the Chamber of Commerce, are at the center of this foreign money gusher putting Republicans over the top in many of the elections where Democratic incumbents are now endangered. Another corporate money gusher, unsurprisingly, is coming as a result of Karl Rove’s and the Koch Brothers’ attempts to influence the outcome of the election.

Think Progress recently revealed some "basic facts" the Chamber is having trouble refuting: it receives foreign sources of funding, the foreign funds go directly into the Chamber’s general 501(c)(6) entity, at least $300,000 has been channeled from foreign companies in India and Bahrain to the account, the foreign sources include foreign state-owned companies, including the State Bank of India and the Bahrain Petroleum Company, the Chamber’s 501(c)(6) entity has been used to launch an unprecedented $75 million partisan attack ad campaign against Democrats.

Rove and another George W. Bush adviser, Ed Gillespie, are behind American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which "raised about $14.5 million in the 30-day period that ended [September 19th]." As Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn wrote, "Under rules liberalized by both the Supreme Court and a federal appellate court, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and corporations." It is "registered with the Federal Election Commission and as such must reveal its donors, but Crossroads GPS is registered only as a nonprofit with the IRS and doesn’t have to disclose its sources of money."

The Koch Brothers influence on the 2010 Election likely began the day after President Obama was inaugurated. Jane Mayer noted in her profile of the Koch Brothers that ran in The New Yorker the Kochs of have been giving money to "’educate’, fund, and organize Tea Party protesters and turn a "private agenda into a mass movement." Their investment has been all about getting "actual people, like voters" to get out there and "provide real ideological power" so the Kochs could "shape and control and channel the populist uprising" against government into the creation of policies to suit their agenda.

When Mayer’s report was published, Koch Industries had led "all other energy companies in political contributions." Also, as noted by Mayer, David Koch was at that point "the biggest individual contributor to the Republican Governors Association, with a million-dollar donation." Mayer also noted that tracking all of the donations by the Kochs "may be untraceable" because "federal tax law permits anonymous personal donations to politically active nonprofit groups."

Kevin Zeese of the Prosperity Agenda explained in his article, "Can Anyone Stop Rove’s Crime Against Democracy While it is in Progress?":

"The wealthy using front groups for secret donations is not new. It is a strategy perfected by a variety groups that [is] on steroids in the post-Citizens United electoral world. The Chamber of Commerce is one of the leaders in this approach where they have focused a great deal in past years on affecting the outcome of state supreme court races. We’ve been highlighting this at StopTheChamber.com. In one case, the courts, after five years of litigation, required disclosure of campaign donors for a Chamber front group. In Citizens for a Strong Ohio the Ohio Elections Commission ruled that a Chamber of Commerce front group that attacked an Ohio Supreme Court Justice was required to disclose its donors under Ohio law. Three courts upheld that decision, and all the corporate donors were named. The Chamber is a major player in this year’s election activity as well"

In the midst of providing support to Democratic candidates struggling in this election, President Obama has recently chosen to bring attention to the flow of foreign money coming from the Chamber. He says of the Chamber, "one of the largest groups paying for these [attack] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations" and "groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections, and they won’t tell you where the money for their ads come from."

Weeks before the election it is obviously too late to do anything about corporate or foreign money and what that money might do to the well being of the Democratic Party as a result. The writing was on the wall after the Citizens United v. FEC decision; it was noted by Think Progress that foreign corporations with U.S.-subsidiaries would likely end up spending unlimited amounts of money on elections to fight agendas that may not be germane to their business’ interests.

In response to the decision, legislation was drafted by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that would have attempted to "curb the influence of foreign corporations and foreign governments following the decision." Corporate political action committees (PACs) and corporate lobbyists representing foreign corporations like the "Organization for International Investment, a trade group representing foreign banks, oil companies, and other foreign corporations operating in the United States," however, stalled the momentum of this legislation. Rep. Van Hollen was able to get the legislation passed through the House in some form on June 24th of this year, but in the final weeks of September, Democratic leaders in the Senate were unable to get the DISCLOSE Act (as the legislation was named) to advance in the Senate.

Keep in mind, the Democratic Party has its own version of the Koch Brothers, George Soros. So, they have found a way to cope with the Republican Party’s increased penchant for letting corporations violate federal election regulations in order to put their Party over the top in elections. Surely, without certain ways of keeping Soros’ donations anonymous, the Democratic Party would be in greater disarray.

Only now when the Democratic Party is under threat from corporate money are Democratic Party leaders like Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine expressing their disapproval over moneyed influences gaming American democracy. Up to this point, a strong response to the Citizens United decision has not been of immediate importance; jobs and the economy has supposedly been the number one issue. Now, the Democrats appear to be publicly admitting how much they underestimated the negative and severe implications this Supreme Court decision would have on elections and they are trying to bring this issue to the attention of voters.

The Democratic Party leadership likely thought the donations would not be a game changer. They felt if they promoted "Third Way" politics and pushed for more centrism and moderate politics in Congress they would inevitably triumph; as the Tea Party frightened Americans more and more, pragmatist politics would help maintain a Democratic majority through the November election.

A misunderstanding of the volatile political climate that now has the pendulum swinging between the Democratic and Republican Parties faster and faster as Americans become more and more impatient with the politics of business as usual—That’s one of a few logical explanations for why the Democrats let this decision fester for so long, for why there will be no political action taken to curb the impacts of the decision before this election.

Another miscalculation is how little President Obama has gone after players like the Koch Brothers. The historical significance of Obama’s failure to defend democracy publicly was highlighted by Frank Rich’s piece on the Rupert Murdoch’s and the Kochs’ influence on politics:

"When wolves of Murdoch’s ingenuity and the Kochs’ stealth have been at the door of our democracy in the past, Democrats have fought back fiercely. Franklin Roosevelt’s triumphant 1936 re-election campaign pummeled the Liberty League as a Republican ally eager to "squeeze the worker dry in his old age and cast him like an orange rind into the refuse pail." When John Kennedy’s patriotism was assailed by Birchers calling for impeachment, he gave a major speech denouncing their "crusades of suspicion."

And Obama? So far, sadly, this question answers itself."

The will to take on corporate money in elections has come late. The answer is now clear: waiting to see what would happen and hoping for the production of some compromise to nullify the detrimental effects of the Citizen United failed. Bargaining with corporate interests to produce a bill that could be amenable to certain special interests and voters got in the way of taking decisive action; it also didn’t make it more likely to pass through Congress either.

Greg Palast saw this coming. He wrote about "Manchurian candidates" running for office after the decision came down.

Unfortunately for Democrats, it’s hard to sympathize with the situation they have put themselves in. Whoever has really held the reins of political strategy from 2008 to now has failed tremendously. Thousands if not millions of Democratic voters in recent months have found themselves victims of attacks on them for remaining energized and engaged in the process of "making Obama" bring the change they think this country needs.

The attacks on citizens willing to act out independently from the Democratic Party to advance real change isn’t really new, but given the nature of Obama’s election, it’s quite revealing of what President Obama really stands for. And as a result of the White House’s involvement in blasting its base and not standing up to corporate money interests, more and more voters are seeking and will seek an alternative to the Democratic Party in this election and its aftermath.

 

VIDEO: Interview w/ Medea Benjamin on Pushing Hard to Get Peace Message Included in “One Nation” Rally

5:58 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODE PINK and "fair trade" advocacy group Global Exchange, talks about the One Nation Working Together rally. She explains what it took for the peace movement to be a part of the organizing committee and what she thinks progressives should do to get their demands for peace and justice acted upon. She also addresses how CODE PINK has been singled out by Jon Stewart as a group contributing to insanity in politics.

One Nation Working Together to Keep the Democrats from Losing the Midterms

10:35 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3056/4597208454_393a1078a5.jpg

Tens of thousands of Americans will gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow to stand for jobs, education, equality, and justice and put forth a distinct alternative to the Tea Party narrative that the media has become captivated by | Photo by wikimediacommons

Organizers of a liberal event called "One Nation Working Together" expect a hundred thousand Americans to gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, October 2nd, to advocate for jobs, education, equality, and justice. One month before the midterm elections, hundreds of organizations–many of them major organizations the Democratic Party needs to help them get-out-the-vote (GOTV) for November–will send a message to Democrats: No matter how much you beat upon the base for raising its voice and offering healthy criticism, progressives will still vote for you.

NAACP President, Ben Jealous, expressed the main concern of the organizers and told the Associated Press, "It’s critical that as we stand there on Oct. 2, that people think about Nov. 2, that they own the fact that what happens on Election Day is up to them"We need people to stand up now, at this key moment in this country, when there’s so much at stake."

There is definitely much at stake. But, as each year progresses, it becomes less and less clear why Americans think they can squeeze any sort of meaningful reform out of a political or electoral system, which continues to be increasingly controlled and influenced by corporate and special interest organizations (most recently, shadowy organizations like American Crossroads that use millions to go after true advocates for the people like Sen. Russ Feingold).

The lead organizers have chosen to organize under the belief that all Americans "deserve a just and fair chance to achieve the American Dream" and America’s "national identity is rooted in the ideal that all people regardless of race, class, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, heritage or ability should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential." That is a belief, one that a number of Americans unfortunately would quibble with.

It is a belief worth defending and entrenching into policy proposals and agenda items that progressives can advocate for and push President Obama and Congress to support. Yet, the coalition says, "One Nation Working Together will chart a bold, pragmatic path toward a more unified, sustainable, prosperous future by building support for these core principles and policy ideals." [emphasis added]

In other words, it seems like the coalition seeks to extend the political culture, which has diminished the capability of the Obama Administration so greatly. It hopes for compromise or consensus to create a way forward when there are certain ideas, like the ones this coalition purports to stand for, that Republicans and Democrats will fashion to suit corporations with boards who will never let shared ideals get in the way of profit. It seems like the coalition wishes to uphold a rationale for tolerance and diversity and apply checks and balances to efforts to make ideas correspond with reality.

Organizations endorsing this event break down into categories: environmental, GLBT, education, unions, college, immigrant rights, and peace and justice. Each of issues-based organization within each category likely has a mission that they wish to achieve. And, each likely understands the importance of attaining certain objectives especially since there are very few among non-profit organizations that would say they are in it for the money.

It is hard to accept that any organizations in any of these categories would be pragmatic in their endeavors especially in these times.

Environmental organizations share a commitment to the preservation of the planet and taking measures to prevent further environmental destruction. They understand the science of global warming and intend to contribute to human efforts to curb the impact global warming. They can never find common ground with those in the Christian Right and those who work for energy corporations or free market enterprise think tanks paid to produce pseudo-science to create support for their conscious destruction of the Earth.

GLBT organizations share a dedication to achieving equality for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. They understand that America’s Constitution does not prohibit them from loving and marrying someone who is the same gender as they are. And, they believe they should enjoy the equality that most Americans especially white Americans have always enjoyed. They can never compromise with military generals that would prevent them from serving in the military or Mormons who would use theology to prevent gay and lesbian couples from having a family.

Education organizations share a pledge to preserve access to education for all Americans. From history, education organizations know public education has been the very system that ensures all Americans get an education. They understand the way to improving education is through enriching public schools and not charter schools or merit-pay proposals that have proven to little to improve the education of students. They can never compromise with for-profit education institutions or Secretary of Arne Duncan and President Obama, whose Race to the Top schemes pit students and teachers against other students and teachers in America.

Union organizations share an allegiance to the workers who are members of their organization. Presumably, those who fill their ranks need them to stand up to Big Banks, fight for moratoriums on foreclosures, health care for all, and living wages for all, preserve the right to collective bargaining, be on the offensive when it comes to expressing the value of unions to a free and democratic society, etc. They cannot compromise with business executives on Wall Street, free market think tanks like the American Enterprise Foundation, or even the officials who work for regulatory agencies and the political leaders who fail to stick up for unions when they are most in need.

College organizations function under the idea that every young American has a right to a college education. They believe that all banks should be able to provide loans to students so students can go to school. They also believe in colleges being affordable. They cannot compromise with banks that refuse to give money to students, political leaders that cut funding to grant programs that help students pay for college, or universities that are more interested in profit than education.

Immigrant rights organizations operate under the notion that they have just as much right to citizenship in the United States as other Americans do. They deserve to be given human rights just like other hard working Americans. They cannot compromise with architects of state and federal laws like SB1070, defenders of ICE raids which tear apart families, and bigots who cling to a brand of nationalism that does not include them.

Finally, peace and justice organizations share the idea that wars should not be prosecuted especially when they involve the investment of money that could be put toward fueling an economy. They especially understand that wars waged on false pretenses, that entail incidents that violate laws and treaties are unacceptable. They cannot compromise with the military-industrial complex, Pentagon leaders and military generals craving victory in the Middle East, or political leaders who haven’t the moral fortitude or courage to end funding for wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan now. They also cannot compromise with agencies, which spy on and seek to infiltrate them, or leaders that support spying and infiltration by agencies like the FBI as they seek to organize.

Pragmatic tactics have been what has dragged this Administration’s approval rating down. It and President Obama’s failure to, as Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Network for Spiritual Progressives pointed out, "consistently speak the truth, tell us and the country what was really happening in the corridors of power and what the constraints are that he was facing," has made it impossible for changes to get through unscathed by obstructionist Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans, lobbyists, and corporate interests.

All Americans hoping this event brings forward new changes or revitalizes the prospect of real change under an Obama Administration should ask leaders of this event what they mean when they use the word "pragmatic." They should ask them to explain what they expect to get out of Democrats and how they expect to get it especially since, recently, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" failed to be repealed, the DREAM Act, a small business bill, and a 9/11 First Responders health care failed to pass and a vote on a climate change bill or middle class tax cuts failed to happen. And, all because the Democratic Party leadership refused to stand up against moneyed interests and be champions for the people.

Organizers have unfortunately been swept up in another election frenzy. It is, therefore, reasonable to re-read the fine words of the late Howard Zinn and commiserate over the fact that we still have yet to "free ourselves from the election madness engulfing the entire society, including the left" and the reality that "we should be taking direct action against the obstacles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

It is an understandable reaction to wonder why organizers are not willing to give Americans who are discontent with this country’s two-party system an outlet for expression. After all, nowhere in the organizers’ list of policy principles is there any mention of advocating for instant run-off voting or other electoral reforms that might make it possible for Americans to vote for what they believe in instead of always voting against individuals in elections.

I will be at the "One Nation" event tomorrow. I intend to post updates, which feature interviews with people. While I am skeptical of the tactics organizers want to use to achieve these ideas, I wholeheartedly support the values and principles that the coalition has come together to support. I am especially pleased to see the economy being connected to peace and justice groups.

I look forward to reaching out to all those who are working to create change from the bottom up and hope to see tens of thousands of people in front of the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow.

A Failure to Bring Hope and Change Will Create an Enthusiasm Gap Every Time

9:44 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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A not very happy looking crowd of Tea Party protesters listening to a Member of Congress. Tea Party protest, March 21, 2010, U.S. House of Representatives. By theqspeaks]

The media’s legitimization of fringe lunatic Terry Jones last week, the man with a history of actions only people sympathetic to the Westboro Baptist Church would support, had one effect that Democrats can be thankful for: it pushed aside talk of an "enthusiasm gap" between the Republican base and the Democratic base, which many think will produce big wins for the GOP in November. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom or meme the media is promoting.

Talk of an "enthusiasm gap" has returned. One recent example from TPM: "The Enthusiasm Gap: How Dispassionate Dems and Fired-Up GOPers Are Defining 2010."

On September 7th, Rachel Maddow said on her show, "The most important national dynamic heading into this year’s elections is the economy. The most important political dynamic is the yawning chasm that is the enthusiasm gap between the Republican base — they’re highly motivated — and the Democratic base, which hasn’t really been motivated at all." Joan Walsh of Salon.com said on "The Ed Show" that same day, there’s "this huge enthusiasm gap" and referenced a Public Policy Polling poll that found in five battleground states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, the Democrats "would be either way ahead or roughly tied if Democrats were turning out in the numbers that they did in 2008. But as of right now, they are not."

The day before, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile said on "The Situation Room," Democrats "have a large enthusiasm gap," but the base consists of people who come to the party, sit around, look, get a drink, and then move. In other words, Brazile contends Democrats have consciously chosen to be inert while Republicans are on the move. That’s a convenient argument for avoiding any discussion on the reality that much of the base is fed up with how failure or, in some cases, refusal to take on corporate and special interests has become a Democratic Party ritual over the past years.

Here’s an incomplete list that reinforces the idea that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party have failed miserably and should not be surprised their base is unexcited: initially failing to organize against Republicans looking to obstruct extensions of unemployment benefits, appointing Petraeus to replace McChrystal in Afghanistan and continuing a war in a country often regarded as "the graveyard of empires," committing to a permanent troop presence in Iraq, contributing to culture which led to the BP oil disaster by indicating renewed support for offshore drilling one month before the disaster, keeping the option of a national public-financed healthcare system off the table as Republicans cried foul about a socialist takeover of healthcare and talked death panels, refusing to advance the minor reform that labor unions have desired, the Employee Free Choice Act (pretty much the only real demand they have had for Obama), continuing the use of rendition, military commissions, or, in some cases, the denial of habeas corpus rights to detainees, refusing to investigate torture or release photos of the abuse that soldiers inflicted on detainees, failing to close Guantanamo, putting the Consumer Financial Protection Agency under the administration of the Federal Reserve and stalling on the appointment of Elizabeth Warren.

De facto Birther Newt Gingrich and other political leaders would like Americans to believe "the radicalism of the Obama team and Pelosi and Reid has, in a strange way, depressed [Democrats] and truly aroused both independents and Republicans in a way that [one] couldn’t have predicted two years ago." But, that ignores the way that the base, which has traditionally given the Democratic Party the energy it needs to win, works.

See, unlike Tea Partiers, who promote a neutered brand of white nationalism ("We’re taking our country back!"), the majority of the Democratic Party’s base lives in what one could call the reality-based world. They normally do not fail to remember that they need to rely on what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch in order to make logical decisions about what to do in the world that surrounds them. They, unlike many, can see a document like a birth certificate posted on the Internet, and lay to rest all notions that the first African-American president of the United States is a Kenyan. On the other hand, Tea Partiers, who are responsible for creating the enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats, do not need their senses. They only need their gut instincts (you know, what George W. Bush relied on to assert Saddam Hussein had WMDs), prejudices and cosmic or religious ideas, which human beings can never really prove or disprove because they are abstract.

Americans who fill the National Mall for "Restoring Honor" or 9/12 Project rallies, those that pay $225 for a meet-and-greet event with Glenn Beck, will explicitly argue Sharia Law is creeping into America and Obama, a Muslim or weak Christian, is helping to make this possible. They will argue a communist or socialist takeover has been unfolding since Obama’s election. Again, these are abstract and especially toxic notions that the Republican Party is lucky to be able to trot out as the 2010 Election approaches. They are pseudo-notions or sociopathic ideas that people who think and read for themselves and pause before speaking will never find reasonable.

The Democratic Party, except for perhaps the ideas that the Democratic Party is responsive to public pressure and in governance Democrats are more than slightly different from Republicans, don’t have celestial or preposterous ideas they can roll out to whip their base into a frenzy. They do, however, have actual facts that prove Republicans are preposterous and harmful to the future of this country. That fear can never match the fear of a Manchurian Muslim President engineering a communist/socialist/fascist takeover that is restarting American civilization at Year Zero, but it can motivate Democratic voters to participate in get out the vote (GOTV) activities that will help produce Democratic Party wins in November.

The problem is the Democratic Party is gradually losing its power to enslave people with their logic that the Republicans are much more evil than them. That idea can only work for so long before people abandon ideals on collective society that push them to vote Democrat and decide to revert to a troglodyte state of mind and vote Republican. It can only work for so long before people resign themselves to the fact that they will try to survive on their own and hope they can perhaps get lower taxes and further remove themselves from feeding the system.

Also, more and more Americans do not want to play the game at all. Politicians are seeing more and more people leave the Democratic Party and even the Republican Party. They are designating themselves as "independents." The media and politicians can attempt to define the politics of "independents," but the most one can say is they are no longer interested in being Democrats or Republicans but still recognize they should vote in elections.

The number of people willing to "dump Obama" is swelling. But, that animosity will likely fail to translate into any meaningful movement (for right now). A combination of messages like, "Give Obama a Chance," "Republicans are way worse," "Progressives willing to sell out the many to have their way right now are no better than Republicans," "Obama was given a catastrophe, now we have half a catastrophe," "Corporate Democrats aren’t generally as evil as Republicans," "Women, non-Christians, minorities, the poor, the sick, and the unemployed will be in for a world of hurt over the next two years if Democrats don’t turn out," and more prevent the organization of a real movement that could produce an alternative to the broken two-party electoral system that continues to fail people especially those in the lower and middle classes.

There’s also this message from Democrats: "Vote for your third party or sit on your hands on Election Day in protest. Then, be sure to acknowledge your share of the responsibility when what we have of health care reform is repealed, taking the leash off of the thieves in the insurance industry." That’s a thinking progressive’s way of giving those who genuinely want a way out of this mess the finger and hoping those whom they likely believe spoiled the election for Al Gore in 2000 will sit down and shut up.

It’s reasonable to doubt whether this "enthusiasm gap" will have the impact pundits, columnists, political strategists and Republican political leaders are suggesting. Although the lack of enthusiasm means less people involved in working directly for candidates to get them elected, members of the Democratic base will ultimately fulfill their contractual obligation as unapologetic Democratic voters and believers in the small bloc of political leaders in Congress who continue to fail to make a real difference in advancing an agenda for hope and change in this country.

This term "enthusiasm gap" will haunt Democrats from now until November. And, they largely deserve to be haunted. The failure of Democrats to argue in favor of taking this country in a decisive and new direction nullified the historic election of Barack Obama. The failure of President Obama to be a truly transformative leader and take on the corporations and special interests ensured the midterm election would be hellacious for Democrats. And, the failure to steadfastly take on the conservative media echo chamber which has won the scalps of former members of the Obama Administration like Van Jones, Shirley Sherrod, and others has helped seal the Party’s fate in November.

What should those who believed in Obama and Democrats in 2008 do? For starters, remember how Democrats in Congress failed to fulfill their mandate and end the Iraq War after winning big in 2006. And then, do some thinking. If you find you are cornered and there’s no way of getting out without a fight, good. You’re one step closer to understanding why Democrats don’t need to give their base anything, really, in order to win elections.