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Democrats, Obama Cave to Corporations Unwilling to Close Tax Loophole to Fund 9/11 Responders’ Healthcare

10:29 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


The first responders and families of those who were first to act show support for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. by TalkMediaNews


Add healthcare for 9/11 responders to a long list of concessions or outright capitulation to corporations that has taken place as a result of Democrats and President Obama being unwilling to take a stand against Republicans fronting for corporate executives and the top 2% in America.

The Associated Press reports the pay mechanism for funding health care for 9/11 responders has been changed to appease Republicans, who branded the original bill for 9/11 responders as something that included a “corporate tax increase.” Instead of closing a tax loophole, the bill will now use fees on “foreign firms that get U.S. government procurement contracts,” “fees on certain firms that rely on H-1B and L-1 visas,” and “fees on travelers who don’t present visa travel documents at U.S. airports,” to finance the bill.

It was too much for President Obama or Democrats to come out and boldly defend a bill that would have “required multinational companies incorporated in tax havens to pay taxes on income earned in the U.S.” It was too much to take this issue and say that corporations should be willing to honor the sacrifices made by 9/11 responders by paying for this bill by closing a tax loophole.

Jon Stewart has artfully skewered Republicans on their traitorous abandonment of 9/11 responders. He has demonstrated through several segments how Republicans should no longer be allowed to exploit 9/11. Their failure to defend 9/11 responders here means they will no longer be credible at all when they call for something to be done in the name of 9/11. But, he hasn’t really pointed out the lack of push from President Obama or Democrats on this (except for in a remark to Mike Huckabee, who appeared on the show right after 9/11 responders appeared on Thursday, December 16th).

Since August this year, President Obama has been, for the most part, silent on healthcare for 9/11 responders. When the bill passed the House, he could have held a press conference like he did when he was moving the recent tax cut deal through Congress. But, he did not use the power of the pulpit he has as president to make a speech calling on the Senate to support the bill for health care for 9/11 responders in its current form.

Only recently did he agree to halt the delay of funding for a research study that would end doubt amongst officials and the media on whether 9/11 responders are actually being diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, and other diseases or disorders because of their service in the aftermath of 9/11. The New York Daily News reported in October, “President Obama has quietly forked over millions to study what’s killing 9/11   responders   – after refusing to pay up earlier this year. City officials had expected to get the cash last spring for an ongoing $12 million program, which includes tracking people in the 9/11 health registry and studying the alarming rates of cancer in Ground Zero workers. Federal bean counters initially held up funding for this year’s $4.9 million outlay, saying they were auditing the effort.

Except for Democrats from New York and other states nearby like New Jersey, there has been little leadership from the Democratic Party on this issue. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi finally got a bill to give health care to 9/11 responders passed in the last week of September. Senator Harry Reid has done very little, it seems, to get the bill passed. It could have been brought to a vote every day, and, each time it failed, statements could have been made by Democrats to show how Republicans were betraying the 9/11 responders.

Media coverage, as Stewart pointed out on his show, has been largely non-existent. In contrast to the “Ground Zero Mosque” story earlier this year, there has been no interest in this story whipped up by media pundits on Fox News or other cable/network news outlets. That does not mean coverage of the 9/11 responders hasn’t briefly taken place on news shows. It means this issue has not been turned into something that echoes around the country until elected officials step up and address the needs of 9/11 responders.

Why might this be? Does this have anything to do with the working or lower class backgrounds of the 9/11 responders seeking assistance?

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson spotlight “unrepresentative democracy” in their recent book, Winner Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. They cite a study by two professors who worked separately at Princeton University, Larry Bartels and Martin Gilens. Bartels and Gilens studied the “correspondence between what politicians do and what their constituents of differing economic backgrounds say they want them to do in opinion polls.”

Bartels’ study found that “wealthier Americans” are more likely to earn responses on issues from politicians in Washington than “less affluent” Americans. Bartels looked “at how closely aligned with voters U.S. senators were on key votes in the late 1980s and early 1990s.” He found a “pretty high degree of congruence between senators’ positions and the opinions of their constituents–at least when those constituents” were in the “top third of the income distribution.” (The study by Bartels also found that when the poorest people supported a policy senators were actually less likely to vote for it.)

Gilens took the investigation to another level and collected “survey questions fielded since the 1980s” that asked people “whether they wanted government policy to change.” He broke the population down into “income groups” and found that when policy changes had a good chance of becoming law, there was a huge amount of support for that change from those at the top. Hacker and Pierson write of the study, “When the opinions of the poor diverged from those of the well-off, the opinions of the poor ceased to have any apparent influence.”

There are virtually no opinion polls in circulation on whether 9/11 responders should get healthcare or not, but one can imagine only a small, small percentage being opposed to such a measure.

What makes this hard for the wealthy or top 2% to support is how it would be paid for. Since the 1970s, business has worked together to protect the interests of all businesses in America and the tax loophole, if closed, would have significantly harmed business (at least if you ask lobbyists for business interests in America).

Would Americans vote “yes” in a poll asking if the closing of a tax loophole for corporations should be used to fund healthcare for 9/11 responders? That would likely show a key division in American society, with forty to sixty percent saying corporations have a duty to American society that would be fulfilled through helping 9/11 responders by closing the loophole or with forty to sixty percent saying political leaders should not play politics with this bill and try to fund it by pushing for a “controversial” end to a loophole for corporations.

As corporations and the rich continue to accrue more subsidies or handouts and more policy change victories from government, there will be less and less funding available for measures, which the majority of Americans would support. At some point, corporations and the rich have to be put in a position where they pay for the freedom, services, and environment they enjoy in America. Otherwise, the lower classes will be asked to make sacrifices to fund measures like this and will be badgered into giving certain “causes” funding out of “charity” and “support.”

The ones who should have been badgered and coerced into funding those whom they privately if not publicly have celebrated are corporate executives, business interests or the top 2%, which pushed Republicans to oppose this bill and who are most capable of sparing some change for 9/11 responders.

The bill will likely pass now that it no longer requires a tax loophole be closed. It wasn’t enough for those at the top to get breaks in the tax cut deal. They had to protect a break they’ve been getting from being taken away because men and women, who responded after 9/11, are dying of cancer and other diseases. And, as with the tax cut deal, those at the top will continue to take and keep what they think they should be able to keep and not give up so long as Democrats especially liberals take minimal action to resist concessions to corporate power.

Julian Assange’s Real Crime: Making It Difficult for America to Wage Superpower

6:02 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


WikiLeaks pledges to continue to fight government secrecy despite persecution by the U.S. and other countries. by R_SH

Political leaders like the tyrannical Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and complicit authoritarian Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have come out in full support of prosecuting the now-captured and arrested Julian Assange under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917. Whether they can do so or not is of no concern to them, and don’t expect that to matter as the press repeats this idea that Assange could be prosecuted.

Sen. Lieberman, Senator John Ensign (R-Nev) and Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) have introduced a bill that would “stop” WikiLeaks and make it “illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants.” The bill known as the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act (SHIELD) would amend the Espionage Act. The main problem with the act is, as Dave Weigel of Slate wrote, “the information being leaked, while embarrassing, hasn’t been highly classified. It’s been secret, or marked “NOFORN,” but it’s not classified.” Thus, it appears the act might currently be ineffective in “stopping” WikiLeaks or future releases of information by any individual, group or organization.

What these senators aim to do is guaranteed to further reduce the protections for journalists and members of the media in this country. It’s guaranteed to further create a political climate where journalists are faced with the possibility of coercive measures if they actually exercise the rights and privileges granted to them by the First Amendment. And, it’s that climate that ensures more and more individuals will leak materials to WikiLeaks instead of media outlets in America, who cannot give their sources guarantees they will be protected under the law.

Sen. Lieberman appeared on the Fox News Channel on December 7th to express his support for not only prosecuting Assange but also examining the culpability of media organizations like the New York Times, which have referenced in the leaked secrets in their news articles.

HOST: Julian Assange has written an editorial that points out or characterizes his organization as an underdog in the media world. And he’s saying that he is a journalist and he’s saying that he’s just providing information out there for the world’s citizens to see. He mentions that organizations like the New York Times have published his information, which you’re classifying as state secrets. So, are other media outlets that have posted what WikiLeaks put out there also culpable on this and could be charged with something?

LIEBERMAN: I have said that I believe the question you are raising is a serious legal question that has to be answered. In other words, this is very sensitive stuff because it gets into America’s First Amendment, but if you go from the initial crime–Private Manning charged with a crime of stealing these classified documents, he gives them to WikiLeaks, I certainly believe WikiLeaks has violated the espionage act. But then what about the news organizations, including the NYT, that accepted it and distributed it? I’m not here to make a final judgment on that. But to me the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department. [emphasis added]

In his appearance, Sen. Lieberman called the release of documents by Assange and WikiLeaks “the most serious violation of the Espionage Act” in America’s history.

Sen. Feinstein, in her editorial published by the Wall Street Journal , wrote, “When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released his latest document trove–more than 250,000 secret State Department cables–he intentionally harmed the U.S. government. The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.”

She claimed the authority to decide whether Assange is or is not a journalist, a power she and nobody in government holds. She promoted the idea that the release has hurt people, when there is absolutely no proof that anyone has been harmed as a result of these leaks. And, she concluded, “As for the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has held that its protections of free speech and freedom of the press are not a green light to abandon the protection of our vital national interests. Just as the First Amendment is not a license to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, it is also not a license to jeopardize national security.”

This is where we get into the real crime that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are guilty of committing. They are guilty of posing a threat to American superpower.

They have made it more difficult to wage a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture false cases for any future wars. They have made it harder to mislead Americans and other citizens of the world to believe a country poses an imminent threat to the United States. They have made it more problematic for America to use illegal detention, torture, and rendition on the world’s citizens when prosecuting the “war on terror.” They have made it more complicated for America to use spying and blackmailing when engaging countries in diplomacy. And, they have made leaders of countries in the world less willing to upset the sensibilities of people whom they govern and lie to them to prevent them from demonstrating their disapproval and outrage for going along with a ruthless superpower.

Political leaders and media pundits are disinforming the public when they talk about prosecuting Assange. Leaders like Sen. Feinstein are cherry-picking portions of a Congressional Research Service report to suit their worldview on what can and cannot be done to “protect” America. Indeed, an October report did claim there exists “ample statutory authority for prosecuting individuals who elicit or disseminate the types of documents at issue, as long as the intent element can be satisfied and potential damage to national security can be demonstrated.” But, as Evan Harper commented on one of Glenn Greenwald’s posts:

“In Feinstein’s WSJ op-ed, she claims “That he is breaking the law and must be stopped from doing more harm is clear. I also believe a prosecution would be successful,” citing a Congressional Research Service report which wrote that “there is ample statutory authority” for such a prosecution. But she very badly cherry-picked the report, which goes on to say:

‘…we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship. To the extent that the investigation implicates any foreign nationals whose conduct occurred entirely overseas, any resulting prosecution may carry foreign policy implications related to the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction.’

Essentially, CRS found that a plausible reading of the Espionage Act, by itself, might find some grounds to charge Assange — but that precedent, the Constitution, and jurisdictional issues all weigh against a successful prosecution. Feinstein was grossly dishonest in eliding this.”

It’s quite telling that they would fall back on the Espionage Act as the tool that could prevent Assange and WikiLeaks from causing more damage to America’s image in the world. The Espionage Act was signed into law by Glenn Beck’s least favorite president, Woodrow Wilson, shortly after America entered World War I. The act was intended to only apply during wartime, but, like many expansions of executive power in recent American history, the act continued to be applied to dissidents who were getting in the way of military recruiting or efforts to prosecute wars.

As Neal Rockwell points out on NYC Indymedia, “Its first major test case was with a Socialist named Charles Schenck, who received a six month sentence for passing out leaflets denouncing the draft, which was upheld by the Supreme Court. There have been a number of high profile Individuals prosecuted or threatened with this law over the years. In 1918, the famed Socialist organizer Eugene Debs was given a ten year sentence for delivering an anti-war speech on the grounds that it obstructed recruitment and the war effort. His sentence was later commuted by Warren Harding in 1921, and he was released after spending thirty two months in prison. The poet E E Cummings spent a few months in jail under the Act, for speaking openly about his lack of hatred for the Germans. The Post Office was also instrumental in using this law, in that it refused to deliver materials which were deemed to violated it, thus suppressing many radical newspapers.”

Julian Assange has brought out the true spirit of America. Visa and MasterCard refuse to process donations to WikiLeaks or Assange. PayPal refuses to allow WikiLeaks to use the service for donations. Amazon censors the Wikileaks website. Tableau opts to prohibit WikiLeaks from using its graphics service for data visualizations. The School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University warns students to refrain from commenting on the leaked diplomatic cables on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter and not post links to the documents if they hope to ever work for the State Department (while at the same time pledging to host World Press Freedom Day in 2011). And, the Obama Administration and the Department of Defense orders hundreds of thousands of federal workers to not view the once secret cables.

The U.S.-led “war on WikiLeaks” has tacitly endorsed censorship of the Internet and taken steps that will move it further away from being an arena where all citizens of the world can act openly without fear of being met by unchecked political power. The crew of WikiLeaks has demonstrated that America is more interested in being a closed, conspiratorial, inefficient and totalitarian country instead of using the document dumps WikiLeaks have brought to the world to become more open and honest in government operations. And, those who have supported, aided or abetted WikiLeaks should be aware of how this all could steamroll into a situation where Americans are increasingly asked to take “loyalty oaths” in order to take jobs or use services on the Internet and face surveillance that will lead to persecution if found to be engaging in suspect political activity (indeed, a new round of witch hunts aimed at “disloyal” Americans is already being mounted by the FBI in this country).

Ask yourself: Will there be an agent at your door asking you, “Are you or are you not working in cooperation with Julian Assange and others associated with WikiLeaks?” And, if so, do we intend to stand up and mobilize and raise our voices high and defend our right to disseminate now-public information and utilize our First Amendment rights without threat of intimidation or criminalization?

Whether Julian Assange is guilty of rape or sexual molestation allegations is for the Swedish courts to decide. If he did in fact commit a crime, he will suffer the consequences. But, the charges increasingly appear to be part of a campaign of political persecution that is being endorsed and sponsored by a nation that wishes revenge on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for daring to challenge American superpower.

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.

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.

O’Donnell’s Victory Renews Her Fight Against the Scourge of Sex in America

1:20 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell’s victory over nine-term Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware’s Republican Senate primary Tuesday night may have been a signal that a significant number of Delaware citizens are willing to support candidates who like to preach to Americans on what they should and should not do sexually.

Prior to her primary victory, there had been much talk about O’Donnell’s history as an advocate for abstinence and a crusader against masturbation. But, if O’Donnell is so anti-masturbation, she shouldn’t be running for office. Doesn’t she know her campaign is stimulating a bunch of dicks and assholes?

Last night MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow played a video of her appearance on MTV’s “Sex in the ‘90s,” which shows exactly what O’Donnell means when she talks about being opposed to rubbing one out every now and then:

O`DONNELL: My name is Christine O`Donnell. I am the president and founder of the SALT. The SALT stands for the Saviors Alliance for Lifting the Truth.

We choose sexual purity in our lives. We have God-given sexual desires. And we need to understand them and preserve them to be used in God`s appropriate context.

We need to address sexuality with young people. And masturbation is part of sexuality. But it is important to discuss this from a moral point of view.

CHRISTINE GEDGAUDAS, MARKETING MANAGER, THE SALT: Masturbation is a selfish act, and it`s a lustful one. And we are to walk with pure hearts, not adulterous lusting hearts.

TODD HITCHCOCK, YOUTH PASTOR: The Bible is clear in the fact that it says that any sexual act outside of the realm of marriage is wrong.

O`DONNELL: The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So, you can`t masturbate without lust.

The reason that you don`t tell them that masturbation is the answer to AIDS and all these other problems that come with sex outside of marriage is because, again, it is not addressing the issue. You`re going to be pleasing each other. And if he already knows what pleases him and he can please himself, then why am in the picture?”

I can’t speak for any man in O’Donnell’s life, but I can say if he does masturbate, he will still want you. Just because the bumper cars are a good time doesn’t mean you won’t want to ride the roller coaster later. And, I wouldn’t worry: God will enjoy every minute that he gets to watch you and your man unleash the sexual desires he gave O’Donnell and her man.

Even more straitlaced, Justin Elliott has put up a post on Salon.com that indicates O’Donnell believed, while in college, coedization of colleges could lead to "orgy rooms":

Dorm life has evolved into a blending of the sexes, from coed buildings to coed floors, coed bathrooms and now even coed rooms.

"What’s next? Orgy rooms? Menage a trois rooms?" asked Christine O’Donnell, spokeswoman for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Wilmington, Del., which publishes a college guide.

All this coedness is outside normal life, said Miss O’Donnell. "Most average American adults don’t use coed bathrooms – if they had the option of a coed bathroom at a public restaurant, they wouldn’t choose it." Coedness "is like a radical agenda forced on college students," she said.

O’Donnell’s commitment to surrendering her life to the will of a Father and her belief that a married person who uses pornography “compromises not just his (or her) purity, but also compromises the spouse’s purity” is just the type of Puritanism that has made sex education in America an utter wreck.

Evangelical Christians like O’Donnell have in recent years promoted the idea teenagers should take “virginity pledges” as a way of purifying American society and fighting moral decay. But, studies have shown that teenagers who take “pledges” are just as likely to have sex. They also were most likely to engage in sex without protection because the faith-based ideologues that defend abstinence-only education programs oppose reality-based sex education that includes education on contraception. [See this latest article on sex-ed posted on Salon.com.]

O’Donnell’s opposition to beating the bishop or, in her case, strumming the banjo may seem like a convenient distraction, but RHRealityCheck has noted how her view has translated into policy. For example, did you know she opposed President Bush’s restrictions on stem-cell research and contended they were not “restrictive enough”?  And, did you know she once argued sex education “would cause [society] to become blasé about sexual predators”?

RHRealityCheck points out

“This last argument is a particularly helpful illumination of the conservative position on sexuality: this aspect of being a human is dirty and shameful and deserving of punishment. Healthy sex or even just sex education is not distinguished from sexual molestation.

This kind of repression and denial is, of course, what gets people into trouble: we’re not really having sex so let’s not use a condom; we weren’t supposed to have sex so let’s abandon the baby in a trash can.”

O’Donnell’s position on spanking the monkey or pearl fishing is not only an attempt to shame people who have no problem with this human activity but also a part of the values voter agenda, the agenda which advocates a ban on same-sex marriage (sometimes even suggesting the criminalization of homosexuality), seeks to prevent women from having a right to choose abortion, and endorses policies that make it difficult to get birth control and/or emergency contraception.

Back in the 1990s, O’Donnell served as a spokesperson for Concerned Women for America, an organization founded by Armageddon fantasist Timothy LaHaye’s wife, Beverly LaHaye. The organization’s mission is to “protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens – first through prayer, then education, then finally by influencing [American] society – thereby reversing the decline in moral values in [America].” They are an organization of literalists who believe the Bible to be the “inerrant Word of God,” and they believe it is their “duty to serve God” to the best of their ability and to “pray for a moral and spiritual revival that will return [America] to the traditional values upon which it was founded.”

Sarah Posner of ReligionDispatches reported this morning, in 1995, O’Donnell claimed integrating women into military institutions crippled “the readiness” of America’s defenses. O’Donnell said, “It’s an honor to be a lady. That’s a beautiful part of womanhood is to be ladylike," and West Point "has had to lower their standards” so that men and women can compete, which has, “reduced the effectiveness of [America’s] military." And, in response to criticism she said, “When you remove the role of the mother, the family is left to crumble,” and blamed declining SAT scores on giving women a role in the military they should not have.

Exactly, how far might this go? What might she tell women about the importance of submission to husbands as a necessary part of maintaining a good family? What would she do if a man she was with didn’t approve of her Christian-feminist advocacy? Would she tell her man God has commanded her to help men find salvation through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and so she has God’s permission to be more than a housewife?

Sociologists Margaret Power and Paolo Baccheta wrote a book, Right-Wing Women: From Conservatives to Extremists, which was an analysis of conservative women and their conduct around the world. In the book they claimed, “One striking feature of a great many right-wing women leaders and full-time activists is their system of double standards. There is a huge gap between how right-wing women…live out their lives as individuals on the one hand, and the subjectivities they propose for other women on the other.”

In other words, she may not go hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but it is unlikely O’Donnell has never gone hitchhiking on the Southern Trail.

Max Blumenthal wrote in his book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party,  “Redemption from a life of sexual sin is the right-wing woman’s business card; it is all the expertise she needs.” This is the “feminism” that emanates from people like O’Donnell and Sarah Palin, who campaign on how they have done right by God and avoided Satanic acts of pure pleasure that godless liberals would have no problem with. Women who have been trained by religious right groups with wives married to bullheaded loons that encourage people to be more aroused by prospects of Armageddon instead of the bodies of women are driven by this fixation on redemption and purity.

There is no evidence that O’Donnell became a fighter against choking the chicken or toggling the bit because she wanted to redeem herself from a teenage life of sexual sin. But, if history is any sort of guide, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that Americans find out before November O’Donnell has posed nude for photos while in the company of an ex-boyfriend or had a homosexual experience with a fellow Concerned Woman of America.

Finally, O’Donnell has been talking about how she won’t give out the location of her house because someone broke in and vandalized it during her 2008 campaign. A paranoid O’Donnell told the conservative Weekly Standard that she believes people are following her and that she has to have a team inspect cars and the bushes. And, she believes these people following her “knock on doors at all hours of the night” and hide in the bushes when she’s at candidate forums.

Honey, nobody is hiding in bushes. The only person or thing during this campaign that is hiding behind any bush is your vagina. Now, take a finger out, shove it into the Victoria’s Secret underwear you don’t want your supporters to know you wear because it would clash with the values you preach, and give the donut a rub. That’s right. Buff the muffin, douse the digits, and do the very thing conservatives love to chant about at conventions: Drill, baby, drill.

Perhaps after engaging in an act that most humans engage in and usually find comforting and relaxing, you will be less stressed and paranoid. And less toxic to America.

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.

Obama Declares Combat Mission in Iraq Over: What Nation Will America “Liberate” and “Rebuild” Next?

8:59 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

President Obama appeared before the American people to formally declare the combat mission was officially over in Iraq. Obama discussed what Iraqis must do now that the U.S. has ended combat operations, re-affirmed America’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan, and ended with a focus on the economy and restoring the middle class in America.

In a much more reverential and eloquent manner (with no bombastic stunt like landing on a military aircraft carrier to lead us into the speech), Obama delivered a “Mission Accomplished” speech. It was an address to the troops to assert and assure them, their families, and those who had little stake in this war that this war was a war worth fighting.

Left out was how President Bush sent troops into a war based on the lies that Iraq posed an imminent threat to this country, how his administration falsely claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and how the administration successfully propagandized and convinced a large portion of the population that Saddam Hussein and others in Iraq played a role in the attacks of 9/11. Instead, Obama discussed the beginning of war by stating: “Seven-and-a-half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq. Much has changed since that night. A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency. Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested.”

Why should it be any surprise that “unity” was tested as a result of an administration that failed to convincingly lie an entire nation into war sell this nation a war because some people used logic, reasoning and asked questions to decide whether to support this military adventure or not and when they discovered the Bush Administration was fabricating a case for war they began to seriously doubt the motives for invading Iraq?

At one point, President Obama appeared to suggest that Americans with grievances toward former President George W. Bush should suspend those grievances. He said he was “mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home.” He admitted he disagreed with Bush on the Iraq War but asserted that “Bush’s support for our troops or his love of country and commitment” to American security was unflinching, which essentially meant liberals or progressives should forgive and possibly forget any sort of criminal or negligent activity Bush participated in that took place as a result of the Iraq War (like the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA agent when her husband, Joseph Wilson, failed to come back with “evidence” to promote the idea that Iraq had WMDs).

Obama explained “there were patriots who supported this war and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women and our hopes for Iraqis` future.” What about the patriots who did not support the wars and found that they could not support the troops because if they did they would essentially be supporting the mission and reinforcing the idea that the war should continue? Those people are probably not to be considered; it’s likely they aren’t to be regarded as Real Americans.

And, Obama said, “The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead. And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda.”

Americans were reminded that President Obama is just as committed to “taking the fight to the extremists” as President Bush was to “fighting the terrorists over there so we didn’t have to fight them here.” How real is this al-Qaeda “threat” really? Why does it seem like President Obama has continued former Vice President Dick Cheney’s “one-percent doctrine”—the idea that if there is a one-percent chance of something happening, that something has to be treated as it will happen? How many of us still fear the al-Qaeda boogeyman and feel that the Homeland Security-complex in this country isn’t good enough to keep us safe? How many believe continued wars are helping to keep al-Qaeda from striking at this country again?

President Obama said now a “transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security” in Iraq will take place. Americans should be weary about this transition; it is likely to not be as welcoming to the Iraqi people as President Obama would like Americans to believe.

If you ask Iraqis like Yanar Mohammed, President of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Iraqis will likely tell you they view the Iraqi security forces to be more oppressive than benevolent. The U.S. trained the Iraqi army to detain Iraqis and carry out many of the tactics U.S. troops used, which consequentially made it difficult to win hearts and minds. 

If you ask Iraqis like Mohammed, freedom of organizing doesn’t exist. Collective bargaining or the privilege to organize and form unions, the freedom to participate in civil society organizations that promote democracy in Iraq—that doesn’t really exist. People who participate in unions or civil society organizations are being harassed, targeted, and, in some cases, banned. And, there is fear of continued repression because, as Human Rights Watch has reported, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki runs a prison in Baghdad where prisoners have been tortured “Abu Ghraib-style.”

In order for America to legitimate the belief that Iraqis “can resolve their differences and police their streets” and “only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders,” there are a number of policies and permissions that the U.S. government granted to corporations and non-governmental organizations that need to be reversed and suspended. There are a number of policies and laws that the U.S. encouraged the Iraqi government to pass that must be repealed and entirely done away with so all Iraqi people can truly enjoy the so-called freedom troops fought to institute in Iraq.

President Obama said in his speech, “We`ve persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people, a belief that, out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibilities. Now it`s time to turn the page.”

The stunning aspect of this was, as Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, said on CNN after the speech, “this was President Obama speaking, not candidate Obama and not Senator Obama’ praising the idea of nation-building in Iraq.” He was praising “the idea of spreading democracy in Iraq” and “conditions-based withdrawal,” which were terms “more associated with the more hawkish elements of the Democratic Party and indeed with President George W. Bush.”

Now, America continues to act under the notion that it is capable of building nations even though it’s success in rebuilding countries like Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc has been dismal at best. The U.S. military and its leaders continue to fight a war that we are led to believe will end in the next couple of years, but it will likely have an ending similar to the end we have seen here with Iraq. Unless neoconservatives along with a band of rogue generals in the U.S. military win influence over Obama, the war will lack a decisive endpoint like this war did.

The exit of combat brigades from Iraq was, as professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the U.S. Army has suggested, an indication that officers came to the conclusion this outcome was likely to be as good as it would get. That’s because, according to Bacevich, the military establishment and foreign policymakers no longer believe in "military solutions." The "officer corps" have resigned themselves to the fact that true victory, in the sense that Americans understand it, is impossible; they accept the fact wars from this point on will be protracted, dirty, costly, and will from now on end in an ambiguous way if they end at all.

Such is the expectation Americans will be asked to have for the Afghanistan War. Americans will be conditioned, as they have been, to accept a permanent presence will remain in Afghanistan after the “combat mission” is over. And why should all troops come home anyway? The military is one of the best jobs programs in the nation. America cannot cut back their use of military forces now or else unemployment in this country would be much worse.

So, the question now is, where to next? How long before another theater of war is opened? The corporations and leaders who run the country will not be content if all of these wars in the “war on terror” have wound down by 2016. They will be tremendously bored. And, if the economy continues to worsen, they will increasingly propose war as a way of rejuvenating the economy.

Iraq should be a lesson not to engage in nation-building. But, it doesn’t appear America will learn it should not attempt to build nations. So, what country will America try to "liberate" and "rebuild" next?

President Obama on Ground Zero Mosque: A Wasted Attempt to Stand Up to Islamophobia?

9:44 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Jingoistic demonstration in Zucotti Park against proposed Islamic Cultural Center a few blocks from Ground Zero. Later, someone garlanded the proposed site with dirty shoes, raw porkchops, and cartoons of the Prophet. by Johnnie Utah

President Barack Obama stepped into the middle of a swirl of prejudicial vitriol and unashamed hatred surrounding the building of an Islamic cultural center several blocks away from Ground Zero.

Appearing at Friday night’s iftar dinner at the White House, held to mark the breaking of the daily Ramadan feast, in a safe space away from Islamophobic politicians and pundits who have been disinforming Americans on the building of a "Ground Zero mosque" for weeks now, Obama declared in a speech:

…Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities — particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure…

 

Obama’s remarks were insightful and courageous and along the lines of comments from New York City’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg just over a week ago. Bloomberg, too, argued "the government has no right whatsoever to deny" the right to those who wish to build a mosque and stated, "if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution."

 

"Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question – should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion?" asked Mayor Bloomberg. "That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another."

 

And, from a place of great reason, to strike a blow to unthinking people who are running around making outlandish claims about Muslims and terror babies and how Islamic people wish to impose Sharia law on America, Bloomberg stated:

"Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values – and play into our enemies’ hands – if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists – and we should not stand for that"

 

 Having people like Mayor Bloomberg to back President Obama up, Obama would be able to hold on to his defense and continue to give this well-reasoned argument to thwart the hatred of Islamophobes across the country as reporters asked him for more remarks on what he said, right?

"I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about. And I think it’s very important, as difficult as some of these issues are, that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about."

 

President Obama’s position at that moment morphed into, in principle, this country should allow the Islamic center to be built, but, I do not know specifically if in this case building a mosque is a wise idea or not. The idea that "commitments to religious freedom must be unshakeable" now appeared to be shakeable if it could be proven one is making unwise decisions related to the exercising of that religious freedom.

 

How would this "backtracking" play in the conservative media echo chamber that has made the Obama Administration yield to any and every message born out of pig-headed phobia?

 

Guests and show hosts promoted this idea on Sunday that, if the cultural center would not be promoting interfaith dialogue (a standard that most Christian or Jewish institutions never have to adhere to), then there’s no way the construction of a mosque should be supported.

 

 Republican Congressman Peter King said on "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" on August 15th, "I think the president, by the way, is trying to have it both ways, because I don’t know of anyone who was saying that Muslims do not have the right to practice their religion, but with rights go responsibilities, and that’s the part of it the president did not comment on.

 

Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said "Fox News Sunday" with Bret Baier, "the president, I think, is right to point out that our traditions do embrace tolerance for religions, all religions" but went on to say the "issue is whether the operation — this facility is really one that is designed to provide interfaith communication, dialogue, to not in some way try to repeal the reality of 9/11, which was an attack by fanatical Muslims against the United States, but to try to find those common ground between all the religious communities."

 

On the same show, Senator John Cornyn, chairman of the Republican Senatorial Committee declared this issue an "election issue" and said what was said is indicative of "the lack of connection between the administration and Washington and folks inside the Beltway and mainstream America. And I think this is what aggravates people so much."

 

ABC’s This Week host Christiane Amanpour and NPR senior news analyst Cokie Roberts accused Obama of "walking back" from statements he made in his speech. And, Liz Cheney was quoted by Mike Allen of Politico, "I guess President Obama was for the mosque before he was against it."

 

Tunku Varadarajan wrote on The Daily Beast, "At first sight, this may seem but a minor alteration in tone, or nuance. But in political terms, it is tectonic, reducing Obama in stature from a brave man, standing tall against the forces of intolerance, to a picayune, insecure trimmer who wishes to be all things to all people, a man who is so unsure of his own principles that he will seek to reinterpret words, just a day after he uttered them."

 

Varadarajan and the aforementioned congressmen are right to talk about how this was never a question of the mosque’s right to be built–at least rhetorically speaking. Amanpour’s comments on Obama "walking back" his comments directly cited a poll of Americans indicating more than sixty percent recognize the right to build the center but, in another poll, more than sixty percent think it’s wrong to build the mosque. So, the tension does not seem to be coming from people who dispute whether Muslims have a right to religious freedom or not–unless you consider this gubernatorial candidate.

 

Unless you consider the people protesting the building of one on Staten Island. Unless you consider the people protesting the building of one in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Unless you consider the people protesting the construction of one in Sheboygan County in Wisconsin. Unless you consider the people protesting the building of one in Temecula, California. Unless you consider the people detailed in Stephen Salisbury’s article "Extremism at Ground Zero (Again)".

 

Contrary to politicians and pundits, this is about the right to religious freedom. From coast to coast Americans do not want Muslims to have private property rights because they have Islamophobia that there is no way of knowing how the mosque will be funded, who will be praying and worshipping at the mosque and what activities/agenda the mosque might support. The only way to alleviate that fear is through leadership and speeches to the American public similar to the one Obama delivered Friday night and the one Mayor Bloomberg delievered over a week ago.

 

This was a teaching moment, an opportunity to stay firm and not back down, a chance to comment on the specific project itself and in doing so defend other projects around the country that have been targeted by Islamophobia in recent years. It would not have been difficult to comment on the "wisdom" in a politically savvy way; all President Obama had to do is watch Jon Stewart take on Ground Zero mosque critics last week in a segment that properly ridiculed opposition to the building of the mosque.

 

But, it appears, as with countless issues, Obama has little moral fortitude to stand up for what’s right. He offers empty platitudes until reverberations or echoes drown out his platitudes and then he stops commenting. He then proceeds to engage in obvious wordsmithing to obfuscate his stance and refuses to give further comments on the problem or issue.

 

President Obama should have just remained silent on the mosque; if he wasn’t going to stand up for the mosque project itself, he should have known he would only be empowering FOX News blowhards and frenzied Americans who fear "in 20 years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.S. to elect the president by themselves" so they can carry out their planned jihad on America.

 

But, given the mostly forgotten fact that he removed two Muslim women at a campaign rally who were going to be sitting behind the podium because his campaign didn’t want women with headscarves to appear with Obama in photographs or on television, we should all not be surprised at Obama’s spinelessness.

As Wall Street Support Shifts from Left to Right, Liberal Pundits Respond to Gibbs’ Attack

6:29 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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Robert Gibbs in studio interview by studio08denver

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs became the spokesperson for Obama Administration contempt toward the left on Tuesday. The display of contempt came in the midst of a nearly 70 percent shift in Wall Street executive donations from Democratic candidates to Republican candidates ahead of the November mid-term elections.

On Tuesday, The Hill published an interview with Gibbs, who said what Obama has done and is doing would never be "good enough" for the "professional left." Gibbs attacked the left for comparing Obama to George W. Bush, suggested, "these people ought to be drug tested" and said they "wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president." He also said they would only "be satisfied when [America has] Canadian healthcare and [America has] eliminated the Pentagon."

Gibbs’ remark revealed a lot about what members of the Obama Administration think of the role of debate and citizen participation in government. And, the implicit apology Gibbs made in the aftermath of his "inartful" comments revealed even more about an administration that believes progressives should take marching orders from this administration or else.

"So we should all, me included, stop fighting each other and arguing about our differences on certain policies," he said, and work together "because we’ve come too far to turn back now," Gibbs said after mentioning he watches a lot of cable television, as if to excuse his remark.

While circumstantial, the best evidence for why Gibbs would feel like uttering the aforementioned remarks is the shift of money from Wall Street to Republicans ahead of the election. Obama was the candidate of Wall Street in the 2008 Election garnering nearly $8 million in campaign contributions from securities and investment industries (nearly double what Republican presidential candidate John McCain garnered). The Democrats earned 57 percent of campaign contributions from securities and investment industries.

The situation compels the Obama Administration especially White House press secretary Gibbs to whip the left and the sections that are most listened to by voters into line not only because money from business interests needs to swing back the other way but because disappointed and disillusioned voters will likely stay home, not donate to Democratic Party campaigns, not make phone calls, and refuse to go door-to-door canvassing prior to Election Day if they do not fall in line.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Day 1 of the United National Peace Conference in Albany, NY

5:58 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

While the Netroots Nation Convention commands the attention of many who are tuned into activism this weekend, there is another gathering of significance that is happening in Albany, NY–the United National Peace Conference.

 

The conference, co-sponsored by 31 different peace and justice organizations, is, as Teresa Gutierrez characterized it, a "visionary event" that is filling a vacuum. Activists have gathered to deliberate and come to a meaningful consensus on what can be done "to end the U.S. wars, occupations, bombing attacks, threats and interventions that are taking place in the Middle East and beyond" and to discuss where the U.S. peace movement is today and where it must go from here.

 

The organizers are united behind the following demands: immediate and total withdrawal of U.S. military forces, mercenaries and contractors from Afghanistan and Iraq; funds for jobs, health care, education, the environment, infrastructure and other human needs; compensation for peoples whose countries have suffered from U.S. attacks and occupation resulting in loss of lives, suffering and massive destruction.

 

The conference began Friday night with a panel discussion called "Strategies and Tactics in the Struggle to End the Empire’s Wars and Occupations."

 

Panelists included: Medea Benjamin (CODEPINK), Michael Eisenscher (National Labor Coordinator of U.S. Labor Against the War), Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report), Chris Gauvreau (Administrative Body, National Assembly to End US Wars and Occupations), Teresa Gutierrez (International Action Center), Kathy Kelly (Voices for Creative Nonviolence), Nada Khader (Palestinian-American and Exec. Director of the Westchester Peace Action Coalition Foundation), Bianca Misse (Graduate Student, UC Berkeley), and Debra Sweet (National Director, World Can’t Wait).

 

Medea Benjamin asked the audience if they had ever been called un-American or unpatriotic for engaging in "antiwar work." She suggested there was a shift going on where that was no longer the attitude. She talked about leaving the halls of Congress to go to a rally where librarians were saying they needed money. She connected that to war and ran back in with a group of activists and, unable to contain themselves, they shouted at Carl Levin for the activity going on in Congress to spend another $30 billion on war and called support for more war funding "downright unpatriotic."

 

Benjamin spoke of the need to find ways to show the peace movement is behind finding money for librarians and for rebuilding the country and that we need to make that message visible through signs that could say things like "End War, Build America." And, closed by calling for "not just ending money for war but also money for empire" by closing the 800-plus bases the US has around the world. And, she said that the movement needed "to make this month really hot for Democrats and Republican politicians."

 

Michael Eisenscher talked of the peace movement’s responsibility "to remove the boot of foreign occupation from the necks of the Iraqi people." He recounted how the newly elected government in Iraq continues to suppress union organizing. For example, he mentioned how the Iraq regime "escalated war [on unions] by banning all foreign travel by union leaders" unless they get approval of the government prior to travel. He mentioned how the Iraqi government has filed charges against two top officers of an oil workers federation that has organized in opposition to the privatization of Iraq’s oil resources. And, he shared how the Ministry of Electricity is engaged in the repression of trade union activity and all forms of cooperation with unions in the workplace.

 

Eisenscher pledged to circulate a letter to Congress asking for opposition to be registered against the Iraq government’s actions against unions (even though this may be happening with the consent of US political leaders). And noted that people suffering aggression need peace movement to be united and that there must be an "effort to find common ground" instead of engaging in "the zealous pursuit of political purity."

 

Glen Ford talked about the culture of resistance that used to make black people the most dependent antiwar demographic in the U.S. Bu, now, with Obama elected, they have become more confused than anybody else. He cited a poll that indicated blacks are now the largest group who believe they are better off than before the recession, which indicates Obama’s presence has served as a "narcotic" for the black population.

 

Ford said, "Breaking the Obama spell is the must do task for a renewed movement for social justice and peace" and added, "There is nothing complicated about it. You simply tell the truth. Obama works for Wall Street and the militarists. That is the truth."

 

Chris Gauvreau highlighted the importance of the April 9th mobilization and talked about utilizing the October 2nd March on Washington being organized for jobs and how the peace movement should utilize it to build the movement. She talked of the value of mass action and how it is possible since hundreds of thousands have shown up to AZ, to march in the National Equality March for LGBT rights, and for immigrant rights in D.C. She encouraged a move away from divisiveness and toward cooperation and encouraged the assembly to stand for political independence and build a movement visibly independent from both major political parties in the country.

 

Teresa Gutierrez talked of the revival of May Day in the country and how immigrant rights could play a role in the building of a peace movement. She condemned the militarization of the border, the breaking up of families by authorities, and the mass incarceration of worker "whose only crime is that they were trying to survive." She highlighted the continued saber-rattling against Iran that the U.S. is engaged in and talked of how the 7,000 troops in Costa Rica are there to challenge the symbol of revolution that is Cuba, the people of Honduras who continue to resist the coup that has been imposed upon them, and the country of Bolivia, which has become a symbol of resistance.

 

Kathy Kelly said it’s "very difficult to find actions commensurate to crimes being committed." But, she explained in many cases members of the peace movement need to continually "displace" themselves from the comforts of the world. They have to get down to the nitty-gritty and update that database, send that press release, make the phone call, etc. And, spoke of how being a peace activists forces you to change your priorities in life.

 

Nadia Khader talked more about immigrants and made the distinction that many of the people being criminalized are not illegal immigrants but rather "economic refugees," who have fled their countries due to trade union policies that have connect to the movement and suggested that leaders who have traditionally enjoyed privilege (whites) "know when to step back" and let those who have internalized racial suppression speak up and share their views in a safe space.

 

Khader urged the movement to take up the issue of Palestine and make it central to the movement. And, she spoke of a resolution the Palestine Solidarity Caucus would be attempting to pass at the assembly.

 

Kevin Martin suggested that the "empire is dying." He said he thought the tide was turning on Afghanistan and on the Palestinian issue especially as more and more boycott, divestment & sanctions (BDS) actions take place. He quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and Pete Seeger in his speech and highlighted the success of peace activists in shutting down an Army Experience Center.

  

Michael McPhearson talked about the past and how the progressive left and peace & antiwar movements had the energy sucked out of them by Obama’s presidential campaign. He said he believed it is now clear the Obama Administration will not bring the change this country needs and that the peace movement needed to work to pull elected officials to the left. He also spoke about a "new left configuration" emerging that likely would take on the new reality that has come about as a result of the Tea Party in this country.

 

Blanca Misse, who had helped to organize on March 4th in a national day of action to defend education, spoke of building a "grassroots activist independent movement for mass action." She talked about shutting down UC Berkeley and unfurling a banner that said, "Money for Jobs and Education, Not for War & Incarceration." She said the movements of the country need to bring their issues together and work with each other and understand this is about the future of generations, the future of children in this country, and about taking on unemployment, foreclosures, lack of public services, the need for union rights and workers’ rights, and, of course, peace.

 

Debra Sweet responded to all the speakers of the night urging them to understand that the Democrats are not the peace movement’s friends because "they know what we think" and "their job is to keep [peace movement] shut up and quiet." She noted the incident with Shirley Sherrod this week and said, "What about if the Democratic Party said look we’re not going to stand for this Tea Party racism? You all come into the streets right now."

 

Sweet cited the escalation of war in Afghanistan and the constant voting for war funding in Congress. She stated, "Democrats are here to channel your anger into meaningless worry about legislation polling and voting what I call bullshit when we ought to be out in the streets" and then unfurled a poster ad that had been published in various print media that read, "Crimes Are Crimes No Matter Who Commits Them," a call to people to consider how Obama’s continuation of Bush policies should be opposed as much as Bush’s war policies were opposed when he was president.

  

There will likely be a debate among peace movement organizers at the assembly on how much of a role the issue of the economy and jobs should play in the organization of future actions supported and led by peace organizations in this country. Also, "political purity" and when to compromise will likely become a contentious issue as well.

 

After two days of deliberation, movement leaders hope to have a resolution that will help set an agenda for the peace movement to move forward and take on the Obama Administration’s continued support and escalation of war.

Here’s a video of Glen Ford speaking on the panel (for more videos, go to MediaSanctuary.TV. (Media Sanctuary will be live streaming from the event all weekend if you would like to hear more about what peace movement leaders and organizers are talking about.) –