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The View from the “Down” Handbasket

By: TarheelDem Tuesday April 16, 2013 1:01 pm

Dave Pollard, author of The Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work on his blog “how to save the world” has what he calls Preparing for Collapse: The New Political Map. It is an interesting taxonomy of the varieties of political animals roaming around in this pre-collapse epoch. (h/t Dicey Troop for the map)

An antique world map

A new "map" visualizing activist groups inspires thoughts of the difficult path ahead.

Forget the old political struggles. The major struggle of ideas right now is between those who think global civilizational collapse is inevitable and those who who think that global civilization either can be or will be reformed and saved. The key difference between the two is whether humans can avoid suffering the collapse. The major struggle in practice is between those who advocate individualistic strategies and those who advocate social strategies.

He treats them in order, and the names of the positions are pretty self-explanatory. Here is the list:

A. Deniers
B. Rapturists
C. Globalists and Shock Doctrine Randians
D. Technotopians, neo-environmentalists, and post-humanists
E. Integrals and reprogrammers
F. Humanists, Occupy movements, metamovements, and human consciousness movements
G. Transition movements and the resilience movement
H. Deep green activists
I. Communitarians
J. Existentialists and dark mountaineers
K. Neo-survivalists

It’s a very helpful map that can be used in several different ways. You can map groups and organizations to the category. You can map authors or current social and political works to the categories. You can map your commitments to the categories. You can map your moods through the day, week, or year to the categories.

One of the recurring questions in comments is what exactly to do, what is the plan, what agency do we have as individuals in the face of the current seemingly ever-worsening crisis. That as it turns out is a difficult question and subject to howls of derision from anyone not currently in the same category as you on the political map. So of course, folks are reluctant to engage in more than another round or two of exploring the awfulness.

One of the places I shop often is a thrift store operated by a rescue mission. The books placed on their freebie shelves are often worth taking. This past week I picked up Mitchell Cohen and Dennis Hale, The New Student Left, an anthology of New Left tracts and articles that was published in 1966 and republished by Beacon Press in 1967. The earliest writing is from 1960; the latest from 1965. And, yes, it of course includes excerpts from the Port Huron Statement of 1962. The following are some excerpts that spoke to me about our current condition and how there are a lot of elements unchanged from 47-53 years ago.

The radical style [in contrast to the dogmatic style], on the other hand, takes as its presupposition Dewey’s claim that we are free to the extent that we know what we are about. Radicalism as style involves penetration of a social problem to its roots, its real causes. Radicalism presumes a willingness to continually press forward the query: Why? Radicalism finds no rest in its conclusions; answers are seen as provisional, to be discarded in the face of new evidence or changed conditions. This is, in one sense, a difficult mental task and, in a more profound moral sense, it represents a serious personal decision to be introspective, to be exposed always to the stinging glare of change, to be willing to reconstruct our social views…In its harshest condensation, radicalism of style demands that we oppose delusions and be free. It demands that we change our life. — Thomas Hayden, “Letter to the New (Young) Left”, 1961

Tom Hayden, when he wrote those words was 22 years old. Can you pardon some of the romanticism that the hard realities of the 1960s knocked away?

Our work is guided by the sense that we may be the last generation in the experiment with living. — The Port Huron Statement, adopted by Students for a Democratic Society, 1962

And yet, here we are alive followed by a new generation with that same sense.

We are citizens before we are partisans. If our immediate success is not built upon friendship, it is bad art. If our community is robustly concerned with the common good, even the immediate success of bad artists will be less likely. But if bad artists should reach high office, our art will have constructed a community that can endure beyond their caprice. Our first concern is with our community. We are needed. We need each other. — Christopher Reiner, “Politics as an Art: The Civic Vision”, 1962

I would argue that at this moment we need to have another discussion about politics as an art. We are forever bring the arts into our expression of politics–from posters to music. What does it mean to consider politics as a performance art–to get beyond the sterility of stale kabuki.

Here is the real contradiction. The bureaucrats hold history as ended. As a result significant parts of the population both on campus and off are dispossessed, and these dispossessed are not about to accept this a-historical point of view. It is out of this the the conflict has occurred with the University bureaucracy and will continue to occur until it is clear that the University can not function.

The things we are asking for in our civil rights protest have a deceptively quaint ring. We are asking for the due process of law. We are asking for our actions to be judged by committees of our peers. We are asking that regulations ought to be considered as arrived at legitimately only from the consensus of the governed. These phrases are all pretty old, but they are not being taken seriously in America today, nor are they being taken seriously on the Berkeley campus. — Mario Savio, “And End to History”, December 1964

Most of the anthology is taken up with documents from the civil rights movement, and especially from the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and SDS’s Economic Research and Action Project. The appendix contains additions in the 1967 edition pertinent to the anti-war movement:


Office Politics: Why did the USAF fund “US Global Defense Posture, 1783-2011″?

By: TarheelDem Tuesday January 15, 2013 6:12 pm

A few days ago a tweet pointed out that the Rand Corporation had released a study, US Global Defense Posture, 1783-2011. Given the upcoming budget controversy about the military budget and the coming end of “combat operations” in Afghanistan, I decided that this might be an interesting read. And it is, in a way. It’s a 146-page summary of the history of the US military’s global deployment over its entire history up through 2011. It is readable and has extensive footnotes and a bibliography.

Pittsburgh offices of RAND

RAND Corporation offices in Pittsburgh. A look at how RAND produced a historical study of American imperialism using taxpayer dollars.

It creates a classification of US military postures.

Since independence, senior officials have developed and at least partially implemented seven distinct and identifiable U.S. global postures:
continental defense (1783–1815), continental defense and commercialism (1815–1898), oceanic posture and surge deployments (1906–1938), hemispheric defense (1938–1941), perimeter defense in depth (1943–1949), consolidated defense in depth (1950–1989), and expeditionary defense in depth (1990–present).

The study uses three factors to classify those periods: the stationing within or outside the continental United States, whether troops are deployed as a garrison force (protection) or as an expeditionary force (power projection), and whether the defense is a perimeter defense or a defense in depth.

Finally, the study offers the following recommendations:

Plan strategically
Think globally
Connect basing efforts inside and outside the contintental United States
Develop a lighter and more agile footprint overseas
Opportunistically expand the US presence abroad in critical regions

Just to position this study in terms of its approach to national security, here is the opening paragraph:

Over the past 220 years, as the United States has matured from a young nation struggling to survive into a global hegemon, its military has experienced a corresponding increase in size and capability, growing from a single Army regiment and a handful of frigates into the preeminent global military force with unmatched land, air, space, and maritime forces.

The author is Stacie L. Pettyjohn and the list of acknowledgements:

I particularly want to acknowledge the assistance of Douglas Feith, Brian Arakelian, Thomas Ehrhard, Lt Gen Christopher Miller, Lt Gen Paul Selva, Maj Gen James Holmes, Col David Fahrenkrug, Col Mark Burns, Lee Alloway, Fernando Manrique, Maj Aaron Clark, Group Captain Dean Andrew, Col Bruno Foussard, Lt Col Peter Garretson, Michael Fitzgerald, Scott Wheeler, James Mitre, Lance Hampton, Andrew Plieninger, Lt Col Russell Davis, Yvonne Kinkaid, Debra Moss, Col James Casey, and James Tobias. Special thanks go to Evan Montgomery for his comments on multiple drafts of this report. I would also like to thank Robert Harkavy and RAND colleagues Michael McNerney and Thomas Szayna for their thorough reviews of the manuscript.

RAND colleagues Stephen Worman, Paula Thornhill, Alan Vick, Andrew Hoehn, Jacob Heim, Jeff Hagen, Karl Mueller, Lynn Davis, Ely Ratner, and Eric Heginbotham provided valuable feedback and suggestions.

Where we started in 1783 was with “the ingrained American revolutionary fear that centrally controlled armed forces represented a threat to freedom at home, combined with the relative security afforded by the Atlantic Ocean, a 3,000-mile wide moat, and the nation’s expanding strategic depth, enabled the United States to rely on a small standing military establishment that would be bolstered by citizen-soldier reinforcements in the event of a war.”

There were a few coastal forts and a string of frontier forts that extended from the Great Lakes to New Orleans manned by 2500. In 1800, the population was 5 million. An equivalent standing force today would be about 160,000. There are 1.4 million active and 1.4 million reserve personnel in the US military today with around 5 million people reaching military age annually. That should put some perspective on what’s required for basic continental defense and our current defense posture. But I digress from discussing the study.

And why the US Air Force spent taxpayer money on the study.

First of all:

Movemental Politics, Institutional Politics, and Electoral Politics

By: TarheelDem Tuesday January 1, 2013 2:44 pm

In making Ryan his running mate, Mitt Romney guaranteed that this election will be about big principles, but he also underscored a little-noted transformation in American politics: Liberals and conservatives have switched sides on the matter of which camp constitutes the party of theory and which is the party of practice. Americans usually reject the party of theory, which is what conservatism has now become.– E.J. Dionne

This is a reflective that resulted from reading Van Jones, Rebuilding the Dream, Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, Jimmy Carter, White House Diary and Chris Hayes, The Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy. That I read them doesn’t mean that I am parroting them.

Jones’s book is superficial but provides some points of engaging the conflict between movemental politics and institutional politics.

Hedges and Sacco describe the situation in the US that has made movemental politics necessary and urgent. Unfortunately, Hedges and Sacco after profiling the situation on the Pine Ridge Reservation, in Camden NJ, in the coal country of West Virginia, and in the migrant farmworker hub of Immolakee FL do not follow up with the devastation that has occurred in suburban America that thought itself immune from the struggles of these other places. Finally, he profiles Occupy Wall Street with as much superficiality as Jones does concerning movemental politics. And he relies on the same activists at Occupy Wall Street that showed up on Colbert and other media coverage of the encampment. They are good at expressing their experiences but what comes out is not the whole story even as viewed through the limited lens of livestreams.

Carter’s diary from his White House years is instructive as to the day-by-day unfolding of events in the White House and how a President perceives those events and what decisions are required of the President. Given Carter’s candor, it is as close to an inside description of the “inside game” that we are likely to get.

Finally, Hayes looks at the assumptions about meritocracy that drove the liberal era in America and how the environment of money gradually corrupted them. Also Hayes examines the idea of merit and social mobility itself in a commendably nuanced argument.

Movemental Politics

Movemental politics is that which shakes up the institutions (and even entire societies) and shifts the terms of political debate. It is the proverbial “street” filled with the opinions of the public and the prodding of activists. It is what institutional politicians want to co-opt or suppress because it is too unpredictable, too critical of institutions, and too dangerous to established interests. It is the barricades of 1848, the secret network of the Underground Railroad, the reformist campaigns of the prohibitionist feminists, the church meetings of the Civil Rights movement, the strikes by the United Mine Workers, the United Farm Workers, and Solidarnosc. It is the hundreds of thousands in the streets opposed to the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. And it is the protests in Mexico City, Spain, Rio+10, #NoNATO, Occupy Wall Street and on and on. It criticizes, it confronts, and it builds alternatives. It is where the left claims to feel comfortable. It is where there are conflicts between various political alternatives. And grassroots debates on grassroots terms.

So what do we know about movemental politics?

Movements appear from nowhere

There might be a sense for decades that there are some serious issues that need to be dealt with and yet not movement appears. There is a common experience among organizers of engaging in endless conversations and persuasion and debates and actions–and nothing happens. All of the discussions about “Where is the revolution?” are the despair of folks who have given much thought and effort and meet with utter indifference to the point that outright opposition would be a step forward. And then, when least expected, a bunch of people rise up and push the issue. And the resonance of their action prompts a cascade of other people to do the same. And the movement ripples out from there. Something happens that is totally unexpected. And catches the guardians of institutional politics flat-footed.

Movements are attractive

When the catalyzing event happens, no one has to motivate people to act or to show up in the street. Sometimes it is spontaneous. Other times a planned event is overwhelmed with a response. The sense of something significant attracts people who might otherwise not leave home or leave their everyday routines. People switch off their TVs and get off their duffs. Like the appearance of a movement, this aspect is also uncontrollable. That is, there is no way that you can market to get the cascading response that occurs. The cascading extends as far and as rapidly as the social media of the time permits communications about the events of the movement.

Movements begin among marginal people and initially represent a minority opinion

Let’s be clear what marginal means in this statement. Movements begin among people who stand in two different worlds that are in conflict. American merchants in the 18th century considered themselves to be English citizens, yet were treated as a foreign colony, like an inhabitant of British India or Hong Kong. Domestic US commerce was colonial commerce. The sit-ins in Greensboro were of African-American college students who were in a segregated society that denied them access to a workers lunch counter. The anti-Vietnam War protests started with college students (especially at elite colleges) who were told that education was important to society but who were being drafted and being killed as soon as they completed that education. The Occupy Wall Street movement started with folks who found that education would not give them a life as good as, let alone better, than that of their parents and who yet were chained to student loans that were forever. When it appeared, the idea of American independence was a minority opinion and remained so until it was gained. The Civil Rights movement was a minority of activists in a sea of people who then and now have to behave according to the notion of white privilege. The labor movement always and still is an minority. The feminist movement remains a minority opinion among women who have gained the right to vote and work in self-motivated proffessional positions. And Occupy Wall Street remains a minority position, especially and surprisingly, among progressives and the left.

Movements have no clear plan but pursue many objectives at once

Everything looks so planned out in hindsight the narrative of the great transformation wrought by the movement is recounted. Large than life figures, grand actions, inevitable victory. When the cascade occurs, it catches the folks who have been working at it for a long time by surprise. The response from the New England countryside to the British occupation of Boston, for example. The many sit-ins that followed Greensboro sit-in. The first draft card burning in the Vietnam War protests. The turnout at Occupy Wall Street on October 1, the day of the Brooklyn Bridge arrests.

And the response to the cascade is the first attempts a real organization. Before there were not enough people to worry about organization; now people are going in all different directions. Correspondence committees were organized across the 13 colonies; a rudimentary postal service was organized for their correspondence; militias were spontaneously organized and began drilling. Or in the 1960s, sit-ins were organized throughout the South to desegregate libraries, swim-in to desegregate public parks, African-American celebrities with a white fan base sat in to desegregate airport restaurants or booked hotel rooms at the “white” hotel. White college students and SNCC joined in Freedom rides on buses; they would insist on being able to eat together at restaurants, wait in the same waiting rooms at bus station. Voter education drives were launched across the South, challenging literacy tests and poll taxes. When the Democratic Party looked the other way, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was organized. Occupy Wall street conducted general assemblies and operated work groups that were self-organized; those dealt with media, sanitation, food, direct action, …..They involved themselves in feeding the homeless, occupying properties about to be foreclosed, conducting street theater at banks and mass rallies in public places–and they camped out 24-7. Now they Walkupy and Chalkupy. Both holding the institutions accountable and converse about the vision for an alternative.

Movements have to be translated into institutions at some point if their objectives of change are to be realized.

The social order, “society”, is institutional. It comprises common habitual patterns of interaction between and among individuals. It defines habitual communication networks that have some hierarchy of privilege of information. It aggregates patterns of status and deference that tend to be lasting. It allows individuals to have expectations of behavior that are generally fulfilled. And for all of history to this point, it has punished extreme deviance (and often much less extreme deviance) from those common expectations. When an Occupy Wall Street encampment debates how to have sanitation, food, safety, and the technological infrastructure taken care of on a continuing basis, a movement is deliberating how to institutionalize its presence in the existing society. When a revolution actually occurs and a movement takes the power of a state, it faces the question of how to institutionalize its principles and prevent the collapse of the social order and a counter-revolution. In order to accomplish this successfully, a movement must have a sufficient understanding of the institutions that they intend to change, ideas about the details of what needs to change, ability to communicate to the folks who understand and work in those institutions, and an understanding of the hazards of institutional capture of the movement. This is an abrupt change in the requirements for success of the movement; few movements make this transition successfully. Some attempt it prematurely and are co-opted; others delay it and finally dissipate as a movement from a perception of failure to have an impact. From the point of view of those within the movement, it is impossible to know with certainty where you are positioned between co-option and dissipation, and this creates a lot of controversy and potential divisions in movements in which everyone acts as if they are certain of their perceptions of the historical moment.

The translation of a movement’s principles into institutions is frequently conflated with a strategy that works inside institutions to accomplish change–the “inside” part of Van Jones’s formulation.

Translation of movement principles into institutions can be from taking over and changing existing institutions or it can be repurposing existing institutions. The strategy of working inside institutions is one of the movement co-opting the institutions instead of the reverse. Because the whole idea of institutions is to have persistent social relationships, a strategy of co-option from the inside runs up against those aspects of the institution that are resistant to change and whose purpose is to maintain the stability of social relationships in the institution. Most inside strategies wilt when movements discover that they are being opposed within the institutions. A signficant remainder find that in maneuvering around this opposition they wind up being co-opted. What appears to be a strategy of less conflict and easy victories turns out to be illusory. That does not mean that it cannot be an effective strategy in some circumstances — as long as the movement is clear about the difficult and maintains awareness of the risks.

Institutional Politics

Institutional politics comprises the persuasion and power relationships that apply to decisions within persistent social relationships. Its the uncomfortable part of meetings, Occupy general assemblies, family life, office operations, teams and so on. Most frequently it goes by the name “office politics”. It has to do with the strategies and tactics by which individuals and factions seek to direct institutions regardless of the formality or hierarchy of the structure of the institution. It is what people dismiss when they dismiss something as “just politics”. Here are some observations that don’t need much explanation to anyone who has ever tried to get something organized.

Over time, networks of communication tend to evolve into hierarchies in order to simplify the number of communication relationships required to get something done.

Part of this is the trimming of communications links because everyone communicating with everyone is cumbersome. Other times it is because it fits someone’s or some group’s principle of “efficiency”. Other times, it’s a deliberate strategy to establish one group in leadership at the expense of others.

Over time, people tend to ascribe authority to people at nodes in the communication network.

You can see this in the blogosphere in the authority of position ascribed to bloggers who run popular blogs or bloggers who attract a large audience. This ascription of authority becomes a halo effect for the treatment of everything written on the blog. And the media seeks out the most popular bloggers, or at least grants them the authority to speak on behalf of some section of the blogosphere. This is the same way that folks were identified as “leaders” of Occupy Wall Street. The ones at the nodes of communication must be who is driving the direction of Occupy Wall Street — even when they weren’t necessarily.

Division of labor tends to become persistent based on interests or skills, or both.

People like to have competent people do stuff. People also like to do stuff they feel competent at doing.

Persistent groups self-organized by interests or skills, or both, add to the complexity of communication.

Folks with necessary technical specialties have to educate folks into the limitations of those specialties and work to have “normal people” feel comfortable with the considerations of those specialties in order to avoid becoming privileged by the necessity of what one does or to encourage folks to challenge what might be unwarranted technical assertions.

Consensus requires wider and wider inclusiveness of information in setting direction.

That is what consensus is, by definition.

Effectiveness in action requires the exclusion of irrelevant actions.

That point should be self-evident.

Small groups develop boundaries that define what is inside their scope and what is outside.

Without outside information, small groups tend toward self-importance and unwarranted universalization of their positions–and action as a faction in conflict with other factions.

Groups become their own symbols

Over time, people ascribe an identity, a set of motives, a character of thought and behavior, and an enduring purpose to the institution itself and independent of the aggregate of the relationships between people associated with the institution. This has the effect of reifying a set of behavioral expectations in a corporate form. Lewis Mumford called this ascription the “myth of the machine”. The institution is now seen instrumentally by those inside its context and by people outside its context (“society at large”).

Awareness of the details of how institutional politics works in a particular institution is an invaluable resource in creating strategies for change, even from outside the institution.

This is what is normally referred to as getting to know the institutional culture.

Even people with formal authority and perceived absolute power have to operate within the limits of institutional politics.

This is what folks often miss about the highly placed folks in an institution, believed to rule at will. And what hubris collapses.

There are always countervailing institutions in society at large to any institution and countervailing factions within any institution to the current way the institution operates.

All institutions work at cross-purposes; the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. No institution is monolithic.

Strategies in institutional politics frame direct tactics in terms of the prevailing self-understanding of the institution — the conventional understanding of its identity, motives, character, and purpose.

These work over against what the institution pretends to be. Consider how Occupy Sandy exposed the privileged assumptions behind disaster relief by the Red Cross.

Strategies in institutional politics frame indirect tactics as influencing personal social networks of people within the institution either with respect to any hierarchy of relationships or against it depending on the strategic objectives and circumstances.

The chain of command is one social network, but not the only one.

The Take-Away

Movemental politics and institutional politics are different in character and the people who are attracted to one or the other have different preferred styles of getting things done, arriving at decisions, and holding accountability. In neither case can a person expect to dictate decisions just because they assert something as necessary or desirable. In movemental politics there is lots of open conflict; institutions suppress conflict and see it emerge over bogus issues.

Electoral Politics

Electoral politics is a hybrid of movemental politics and institutional politics. It’s intent is to keep institutions from becoming rigid and out of touch with reality or to institutionalize a revolution. It provides an institution within which, in principle, movements can surface and become institutionalized as policy. In practice, it is subject to elaborate strategies to prevent the change presented by movements and the upsetting of the status quo. Here are some observations about electoral politics.

The easiest way to sway elections is to buy votes.

In the early days of US elections, a jug of whiskey at the polling place was sufficient, and most all of the Founding Fathers used this method to gain votes of the folks in their districts. So the competition between candidates was often a matter of who had the better whiskey or who was most generous.

What should be a continuous political conversation between elections has been reduced first to a marketing campaign around elections and then to a continuous marketing campaign.

Marketing campaigns are top-down persuasion strategies that make decisions about platforms of positions, promotional strategy, and direct sales (called canvassing) based on research of demographics and wants. They are one-way communications based on persuading people of a pre-established way of thinking about issues.

Election campaigns following a marketing model are candidate-centric and initiated by candidates or parties that recruit and select candidates for their ability to win a specific election.

Consider how political parties currently operate.

Political parties are institutions, not movements.

The fact that political parties not movements is a fact that political parties try to obscure by astrotufing movemental campaigns. And all, yes all, political campaigns in the US and 2012 were run as astroturfed campaigns, enlisting volunteers in recruitment, promotion, persuasion, and facilitating getting out the vote.

A truly movemental electoral campaign would arrive at a large enough consensus to win first and then recruit and vet the candidates from the bottom up on the basis of their ability to deliver the institutional change.

Note that the movement creates and focuses the constituency beforehand and makes it available to a candidate who pledges certain institutional results. The movement retains enough discipline to select another candidate the next time around — and win. That is the fact that holds an elected official to their pledge.

The critical element of the electoral process under a movemental model is the creation of an authentic consensus from the bottom up.

The implication of this is that the issues cannot be pre-loaded or forced or manipulated in the process of arriving at the consensus. There must be honest two-way communication, something that most involved in politics and political action have forgotten how to do because it is more difficult and time-consuming that adopting the marketing model.

In order to create authentic consensus, we as a society must recapture authentic political communication, involving empathy, persuasion, and compromise.

Politics is about communication and arriving at decisions about how a society operates in the short term and the long term. It is about power to the extent that individual people want to exclusively dictate those decisions. Arriving at a consensus means trading power for solidarity in a way that increases everyone’s power and dignity in social action. How to do this to ensure everyone’s power and dignity is challenge in translating movemental politics into institutional politics and in keeping the institutions open to change.

The Take-Away

Elections intend to take the violence out of changes in power. That makes honest-to-goodness elections resulting from movemental politics frightening to the status quo and produces all sorts of institutional constraints to prevent actual change of power from happening or the broadening of the number of people who have actual power through elections. These constraints make institutions rigid and resistent to change so that change, when it comes, tends to be disruptive and violent. What we have seen in the past two years is a global movement to create a political environment in time and space that is of equal importance to the economic environment. And in every country, the authorities defend the tyranny of the economic over time and space. Economic powers define where people can assemble and discuss politics, and economic powers define the time that people have in order to care for civil society. Fixing this imbalance between economic life and political life is an important precondition of fixing all of the problems with electoral politics. There are 168 hours in a week, of which 72 is required individual maintenance time. Balance would imply that of the remaining time, 32 or so hours would be devoted to economic contribution, 32 or so hours would be devoted to cultural contribution, and 32 or so hours would be devoted to political contribution. And enough of the political time must be overlapping across the society to allow the creation of a consensus. Otherwise, “Can we talk.” is met with “I’m too busy.”

And the political contradiction that we face is that the masses of people who must be involved in a global consensus have been forced and manipulated by the current institutions into being “too busy”. It is expected, even if it is neither productive nor healthy.

The Quiet Panic of Zbigniew Brezinski

By: TarheelDem Tuesday June 12, 2012 5:22 am

Zbigniew Brezinski’s new book Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power seeks to address these four questions:

Zbigniew Brzezinski

Zbigniew Brzezinski (Photo: Polish Government / Wikimedia Commons)

1. What are the implications of the changing distribution of global power from the West to the East, and how is it being affected by the new reality of a politically awakened humanity?

2. Why is America’s global appeal waning, what are the symptoms of America’s domestic and international decline, and how did America waste the unique global opportunity offered by the peaceful end of the Cold War? Conversely, what are America’s recuperative strengths and what geopolitical reorientation is necessary to revitalize America’s world role?

3. What would be the likely geopolitical consequence if America declined from its globally pre-eminent position, who would be the almost immediate political victims of such a decline, what effects would it have on the global-scale problems of the twenty-first century, and could China assume America’s central role in world affairs by 2025?

4. Looking beyond 2025, how should a resurgent America define its long-term geopolitical goals, and how could America, with its traditional European allies, seek to engage Turkey and Russia in order to construct an even larger and more vigorous West? Simultaneously, how could America achieve balance in the East between the need for close cooperation with China and the fact that a constructive American role in Asia should be neither exclusively China-centric nor involve dangerous entanglements in Asian conflicts?

You might detect an optimistic note in the way that Brezinski has asked the questions, but reading between the lines what is apparent is that Zbigniew Brezinski is granting that the US imperial adventure launched in the idea of the American Century is over. The US empire with its veneer of the US being first among equals is giving way to a transitional period that is highly risky. And Brezinski is not sure that the US has the domestic politics, economy, or national leadership that can avoid catastrophe. When Brezinski was in the Carter White House, the administration that negotiated the Camp David agreements and brought Deng Xiaoping to Atlanta to finesse the “one China, two systems” cover for China becoming a permanent UN Security Council member–when all this progress happened, it was not supposed to end this way with US power dramatically weakened within a decade.

Report from Chicago Spring: Thank You for Returning My Shoelaces and Belt. Now Can You Please Find My Drivers License and Computer?: My Experience Being Detained Prior to the NATO Summit

By: TarheelDem Thursday June 7, 2012 5:03 am

Well, it's something (photo: Jo Bourne/flickr)

I had returned from attending a book signing by Kevin Gosztola of his book Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning and arrived back at the Halsted El station in Bridgeport, Chicago around 10:00 pm. I took the bus to within five blocks of the apartment that was housing a number of protesters for the upcoming protest of NATO on May 20. When I climbed the back stairs to the second floor apartment, I met two people on the second floor porch I had not seen before. A guy with a black bushy beard introduced himself as Turk and said that the lady in the hoodie with him was his cousin Nadia.

After introducing myself, I went inside and told folks who had been staying there about Kevin’s book signing and sat down at the table. While I was seated at the table, Turk came to chat some more and said his name was Mo and then went to join the other folks in the living room of the apartment.

I was tired and went to sleep in my sleeping bag on the kitchen floor while the others were talking and partying in the front room.

I awoke to the sound of a loud bang near me and the shout of “Police!” As I opened my eyes to see what was going on, I was staring into the muzzle of an automatic handgun held by one officer and a flashlight shining in my face, held by another officer. They ordered me to stand up, and helped me get out of the sleeping bag when I complied. They told me to hold my hands up and spread my legs while they frisked me and then ordered me to put my hands behind my back as they led me by the arm into the living room where the others were standing, legs apart, hands behind their backs, and heads resting against the wall. We were frisked again; the officer who frisked me felt the chest belt of my heart monitor and the strap of my money belt (called in the inventory a “fanny pack”). He searched through the money belt and found my drivers license, Medicare card, senior discount transit IDs, and a CTA 30-day fare card. He took the drivers license and left the rest and left me wearing my money belt.

After everyone had been frisked, we were handcuffed (tightly), led into a bedroom and told to sit down. One of the others chastised the officers saying that they should “be easy on the old guy,” meaning me. The officers brought a chair for me to sit in, facing the others and with my back to the bedroom door. The officers then asked those of us who hadn’t had cell phones on us where they were. I told them that it was in my electronics bag; they found it and a small camera that looked like a cell phone and came back to confirm that they were mine. I identified which was the cell phone and which was the camera.

During this time, someone asked “Where is the warrant?” and someone else asked “What are we being charged with?” An officer replied, “You’ll find out in court.”

Having secured all the cell phones, the officers began dividing the group to transport based on the orders from a commander of the Organized Crime Unit. (I identified his rank as a gold leaf and saw “Organized Crime Unit” on his name plate peeking out from under his “Police” vest. I also noticed that the officers were dressed in black shirts, not the light blue of beat cops in Chicago. They brought those of us who did not have shoes our shoes; the logic for who went first became who had shoes on. I stepped into my shoes, unlaced and the officer leading me by my right arm led me (and supporting my balance) as we slowly went down the back stairs of the building.

Report from Chicago Spring: Reflections on Where the Movement Stands

By: TarheelDem Wednesday May 30, 2012 7:03 pm

Taking it to the streets. (photo: Steve Rhodes/flickr)

There is so much that went down in Chicago between when I arrived on April 28 and when I left on May 24 that this has been a difficult diary to write. I have covered the theater, tensions, and trade-offs in the coalitions (and there were more than one) brought together. I have shown the contrast between the 1% at the NATO Summit and the 99% at the Peoples Summit. I have commented on how the Chicago Principles notion of diversity of tactics separated in time and space created an environment for pushing the envelope of the possible. And I have reported on how the local struggles over budget cuts and deportations shown a light on some of the particular issues that arise out of the continued lavish support of imperial institutions that completed their original purpose a generation ago and continue to be in a self-confessed “identity crisis” even after a “successful” NATO Summit. I have not yet discussed how Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s insistence on this grand international gala of the 1% required the creation of a police state environment in order to carry it off or the near invisibility of the NATO Summit to ordinary Chicagoans. Later for that one.

To understand what happened, recognize that there were at least these things going on. The Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda brought together these existing groups. They held a Peoples Summit on May 12-13 at Occupy Chicago’s space at 500 West Cermak. The NATO-Free World Network for Justice and Peace brought together these existing groups. They held a Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice on May 18-19 at Peoples Church, 941 West Lawrence. Both Coalitions endorsed and participated in the Iraq Veterans Against the War March for Peace and Justice on May 20 from the Petrillo Bandshell in Grant Park to Michigan Avenue and Cermak, where the IVAW held a ceremony to return military medals.

And then there was the Adbusters Tactical Briefing #25, which issued this call:

On May 1, 50,000 people from all over the world will flock to Chicago, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and #OCCUPYCHICAGO for a month. With a bit of luck, we’ll pull off the biggest multinational occupation of a summit meeting the world has ever seen.

And this time around we’re not going to put up with the kind of police repression that happened during the Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago, 1968 … nor will we abide by any phony restrictions the City of Chicago may want to impose on our first amendment rights. We’ll go there with our heads held high and assemble for a month-long people’s summit … we’ll march and chant and sing and shout and exercise our right to tell our elected representatives what we want … the constitution will be our guide.

And when the G8 and NATO meet behind closed doors on May 19, we’ll be ready with our demands: a Robin Hood Tax … a ban on high frequency ‘flash’ trading … a binding climate change accord … a three strikes and you’re out law for corporate criminals … an all out initiative for a nuclear-free Middle East … whatever we decide in our general assemblies and in our global internet brainstorm – we the people will set the agenda for the next few years and demand our leaders carry it out.

And if they don’t listen … if they ignore us and put our demands on the back burner like they’ve done so many times before … then, with Gandhian ferocity, we’ll flashmob the streets, shut down stock exchanges, campuses, corporate headquarters and cities across the globe … we’ll make the price of doing business as usual too much to bear.

Of course, you have to remember that Adbusters are culture jammers. I’m not sure that there was even someone from Adbusters in Chicago, but the fact of their call and their association with the call for Occupy Wall Street caught the attention of the national media. It also put Occupy Chicago on notice that something was going to happen that could very well affect their movement in Chicago.

Occupy Chicago is a nonviolent movement, but the NATO/G8 Summit was anticipated to be a gathering of protesters against corporate globalization, which the corporate media was already characterizing as being an opportunity for property destruction by “violent black bloc anarchists”.

The corporate media was already comparing the upcoming event to the “Battle of Seattle” in 1999 and the police riot by the Chicago Police Department against anti-war protesters at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. And they were casting rookie mayor Rahm Emanuel as the new Richard J. Daley the elder. The 1% clearly wanted the anticipation of violence to diminish the number of people who would march in the permitted protests, especially the major march by the IVAW on May 19 (later changed to May 20 when the NATO Summit dates were changed).

Occupy Chicago conducted a general assembly to determine its position with respect to a major event. The resulting position statement was the Chicago Principles:

Our solidarity will be based on respect for a political diversity within the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice. As individuals and groups, we may choose to engage in a diversity of tactics and plans of action but are committed to treating each other with respect and working towards a common goal of peace and justice.

As we plan our actions and tactics, we will take care to maintain appropriate separations of time and space between divergent tactics.

We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption, limiting our action to “free speech zones,” and violence, or attempts to divide our movement through the conscious creation of divisions regarding tactics, organization, strategies, and alliances.

Any debates or criticisms will stay internal to the movement, avoiding any public or media denunciations of fellow activists and events.

The discussion of a statement of non-violence got very involved with what exactly violence was up against a state that used forcible arrests to evict protesters from tents and people from their homes. When non-violent direct action is construed by the authorities as violence, what exactly would a statement of non-violent permit or prohibit? The result was a very difficult semantic compromise that emphasized the separation in time and space of more risky tactics from less risky tactics.

The first conclusion that one can make about Chicago Spring is that all of the diverse coalition, regardless of the differences in their tactical philosophies, did in fact observe the Chicago Principles, whether from principle or necessity. The second is that the diversity is between permitted and unpermitted events, scheduled and unscheduled events, and planned locations or running maneuvers (“taking the streets”). The third is that the Chicago Police Department’s strategy was to exercise a great deal of restraint at permitted, scheduled events at planned locations (even while they jerked organizers around wit respect to the permits, schedule, and location) and come down with heavy force on unpermitted and unscheduled events and running maneuvers that challenged police control of the space.

This meant that it was the Chicago Police Department and corporate security officers who shut down the businesses and institutions shut down during the protests of the Chicago Spring. Bank security officers locked doors when they saw an organized group of folks attired like the stereotype of a “black bloc” coming toward the door. Boeing had its employees work from home on the day of the Shut Down Boeing protest. In addition, the drama of a police state was visible for a month in the Chicago Loop as CPD bicycle patrols got in shape to outrun protesters and practiced maneuvers, as DHS Federal Protective Services vehicles were parked various places over the Loop. And on the days of the NATO Summit, four CPD officers (looking very bored) were stationed on every El platform out to the nearby residential neighborhoods.

The protests, in short, got sucked into the police-protest Kabuki that the corporate media loves to cover because it ignores the issues that the protesters were raising about what NATO nations are doing to other people and about the whole logic for the continued existence of NATO. And the CPD made sure that it never seriously lost control of the streets.

The coalitions around the two counter-summits were a lot of the same folks who had been in the anti-war and anti-globalization movements for decades. The list of endorsers will provide the distinctions and overlaps between the two events. The events themselves each were two days of speeches, lectures billed as “workshops”, and headliner personalities whose plenary talks were somehow privileged over that of other people. It followed the pattern of leftwing conferences of a couple of generations and eschewed the open discussion patterns of the Occupy movement. Old ideas would be rehashed, old news rehighlighted, old passions stirred up, and old acquaintances brought up to date. No new ideas or tactics. Lefty papers to be distributed, books and buttons to be sold, and long-formulated ideas to be propagandized. Old ideological controversies refought. And folks wondering aloud why there were so few there given the crisis in the country–the perpetual complaint of the left since World War II.

When it came down to it, the actual work of putting together the Peoples Summit and the large May 20 march on McCormick Place was done by a small group of persistent organizers who were struggling with the logistics of dealing with an event that was turning out much larger than they had the practical capability of handling. One need look only at the issues of housing, food, and program between the large events to see how much the organizers scrambled to accommodate growing numbers of activists arriving from the rest of the country.

Early on, one of the counter-summits provided a guide to nearby hotels to folks planning to attend the counter-summit. Forty-five years ago that would have been a routine and adequate response. In 2012, it is economic nonsense. A late message to folks coming suggested a couchsurfing site, as if the thousands of people coming to Chicago could be accommodated at the last minute through the generosity of the couchsurfing movement, especially problematic given the extensive press coverage of the “dangerous people” who were coming to cause trouble in Chicago. Camping is forbidden in the entire City of Chicago, especially camping on the beaches (although the City did tolerate the occupation of a beach at the point at which the housing situation might have become unmanageable). The churches that opened their doors to protesters had hours that excluded overnight sleeping. Adbusters had called to bring a tent, but where was one to pitch it?

The Seeds of Change collective of Food Not Bombs (Food Not NATO) successfully catered the Peoples Summit and Occupy Chicago general assemblies. But they did not have the resources to adequately cater the various convergence spaces set up in advance of the major march on May 20. There were just too many people showing up in that last week. And too few of them were being involved as volunteers enabling the logistics of the protests; that was considered by too many as a responsibility for the Chicago folks.

The idea of outsiders increasing the numbers at protests of local issues was one of the benefits of being in the national spotlight, but programming how that was to occur was another organizational and logistical issue. Chicago has multiple long-term protests of Rahm Emanuel’s austerity budget going on — education, mental health, health care and other city services. These protests are planned locally and independently, involve folks who benefited from the city services, the labor unions representing the staff, and people from the local community. Occupy Chicago tracks them, includes them in a coalition and encourages folks to go build the numbers on the days of protest. A similar relationship exists for the eviction defense movement, the prison reform movement, protests against police brutality, and a variety of issues that affect the Latino community. To involve the increasing number of folks coming in for the NATO protests, the Occupy Chicago coalition kept a calendar of local actions so that there was one action highlighted on each day of the “Week of Action” leading up to the NATO Summit on May 19 and 20. Other groups planned events around the theme of a day’s action — anti-deportation, eviction defense, opposition to tar sands energy development, opposition to closure of schools or mental health clinics to provide teach-ins, films, and discussions about these issues. Several groups published comprehensive calendars of events. As it unfolded, the week of action protests gathered momentum that was capped by the Iraq Veterans against the War march on May 20. And created the basis for a revitalized Occupy Chicago emerging from its winter quarters.

Whenever the conversation about a protest turns to outsiders, the next jump expected is for it to be taken up with a conversation about black blocs coming in. “Black blocs” have become for the Occupy movement and the current round of more conventional protests the current media’s counterpart of the “outside agitators” narrative during the Civil Rights Movement. It has in fact become a red herring that obscures some of the structural facts about the current movements opposing income inequality broadly and and capitalism specifically.

The movement that exists today is not really a mass movement in the sense that the labor, socialist, and communist movements of the 19th and 20th centuries were mass movements. The movement today is a complex network of groups of individuals who can trust each other and a larger fluid movement of people who make certain assumptions about solidarity and trust. Like most networks, there are smaller and larger units of mutual trust. The philosophically anarchist network has given its nomenclature to the movement, regardless of whether groups are philosophically anarchist or not. There are affinity groups of folks who trust each other under almost all circumstances and there are blocs of affinity groups that take on certain tasks within the movement. The most helpful bloc at most protests are the street medics, who provide what amounts to battlefield first aid and triage to protesters who are victims of police brutality. Other blocs act to take public space in a way that others can safely lay claim as the public to their streets, their parks, and their public buildings. As the structure of the movement develops, other blocs will find their niche.

Daniel Edward Massoglia makes this point in his article about the May 20 marches in the Occupied Chicago Tribune:

What isn’t stupid, and is much more interesting, is all the other functions a black bloc may perform, and the almost complete lack of attention paid to them in all but the most sympathetic of sources. As I see it, the essence of a bloc is solidarity. You have solidarity because your neighbor does. You put your ass on the line because no one will leave you behind, because they will grab you if you are taken by police and you will do the same. You are protected in your anonymity, invincible in your mind, and dangerous (to Power) in your daring. There is no fear, no weakness, and no division, and in that is strength.

To modify a truism, “with great power, comes great jubilation.” More often than not, I found the most energetic and enjoyable sections of the marches to be blocs. I experienced few moments more memorable than a mass of people in black spontaneously chanting “Dance for that Anarchy, dance for that Anarchy. Dance for that Anarchy, d-dance for that Anarchy!” We danced! Even my workers’-state-loving self danced. That glee, while devoid of concrete reminders of NATO’s astronomical costs in both dollars and lives ruined, was an essential part of my first summit. I would not and could not imagine it any other way.

At one point on an heavily blocced-up anti-capitalist march, I was asked by a slightly shell-shocked mainstream media reporter: “Do you know where we’re going?” “No,” I responded. “That’s the beauty of it.”

What I wish I’d added: “They’ve slowly taken our liberties away. This, though, they can’t stop.” I wish I’d added it because it’s true, and because it’s maybe the best argument for black blocs. When a march is led by the leaderless, it is unstoppable. Movements without leaders cannot be beheaded; a march with a black bloc is not stopped by one arrest, or ten, and not by the horses charging up the other side of Michigan Ave., either, because there’s probably a group of anarchists holding them off.

Why is it so lively? Is it the simple satisfaction of knowing that your very existence threatens the state? The joy of group cohesion? The exhilarating mixture of danger and unpredictability? Any is a good answer, I think, but the point is: It’s not boring. And while all should feel free to rally and publish until the cows come home, the revolution won’t come with a permit or a printing press—it will come with defiant people who excite until there is no choice but to join. Look at the manifencours in Montreal—when they were told 50 people comprised a riot, they responded, “here’s 500 thousand.”

It can be said, and accurately, that blocs are devoid of politics. This is true, though, only at the most superficial and reactionary level. The signs read red and black instead of “Reinstate Glass Steagall,” yes, but the critique of the broken capitalist system is there, whether or not it is explicitly stated. And why must it be?

It is also not mentioned often enough that blocs are not devoid of compassion. I have read countless lamentations about the violence associated with black blocs, but precious few about the care. Many of those so called “troublemakers,” are the same people protecting marchers or spooning food to released arrestees at 6am. Despite their name, the story is never black and white.

On the morning after the “Fuck the Police” march in Bridgeport, an action reportedly organized by a bloc from outside Chicago who had no idea of the culture of the communities in whose name they were claiming the public pedestrian access to the streets, I saw the smashed plate-glass windows of a community bank in Bridgeport and heard two small businessmen waiting in line wondering why “they hit small businesses.” There was no known association between the two events. Somebody had acted as a smashie. Were they a police provocateur building an excuse for a later string of raids? Were they a random hooligan who just chose a random night to do their thing? Were they a clueless anti-capitalist with no knowledge of what exactly the words “community bank” mean? That was not clear. But they were a smashie. And it is the smashies that draw the attention of the corporate media like shit draws flies. And it is the narrative about the potential of smashies hiding in protests that is used to justify the massive police presence seen by the Chicago Police Department over the duration of the protest. This is the stereotype of “violence.”

A self-professed philosophical anarchist (I have to use that term to make clear his position) argued that the powers that be (his term was “the state”) consider as violent: marching without a permit, not stopping your forward march at a police line, taking public streets currently commanded by vehicles, or even failing to respond to an illegal police order. And your “violence” justifies a policeman “enforcing the law” by hitting you over the head with a billy-club, grabbing you and slamming you to the pavement, or meeting you with a phalanx of a hundred officers with zip-cuffs. The powers that be consider a large group of people marching in the streets without their written permission to be a “riot” regardless of the behavior of those people.

Chicago was and still is seen as a test event for the protests surely to come at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte NC and the Republican National Convention in Tampa FL. That probably is not a helpful view. The powers-that-be will likely use some variation of what they think they learned in Chicago to cope with “the potential for violence” at those conventions. And the media will be widely broadcasting the anticipation of “numbers of violent protesters” or “black blocs” or “the possibility of terrorists hiding among peaceful protesters”.

The Occupy movements in Tampa (and Florida) and Charlotte (and North Carolina) have a lot of work to accomplish in three months if the anticipated protests at the conventions are going to build the momentum for change in the political culture of the US. The logistics challenges themselves are monumental, even in situations without the harassment of bureaucrats and the police. Having enough people to provide a deterrent to police brutality is another issue. In Chicago, organizers could not depend on the presence of organized labor (even in the Mayday March) to swell the numbers and increase safety. There were notable exceptions; National Nurses United conducted the rally for the Robin Hood tax. Neither Florida nor North Carolina are strong labor states.

I must acknowledge the many folks — Walkupiers, the CANG8 folks, street medics, Occupy Chicago, the Mental Health Movement occupiers at Woodlawn and Northwest, the wellness center folks, Seeds for Change, and various individual crusties, punks, and black blockers — who helped this geezer find his way in the complex events surrounding the NATO Summit. And the generosity of my family, local friends, and FDLers who financially enabled this journey. Thank you all.

The Seduction of Technology: A Memorial Day Ramble

By: TarheelDem Sunday May 27, 2012 11:44 am
Memorial Day

(photo: John M. Cropper/flickr)


He was
totally totally totally
in love
with the sky
and he wanted
to fly
so his country said come
you want wings, we’ve got some.

From the sky the earth became a wonder.
not mere real estate to plunder.
and the young man flew, pretending to assault the earth.

to fly, he was so far from where men die.
to focus only on the task
and not the questions earth might ask
of why her lover, her dear son could
drop his wretched load and run.

(today I say theres a new game to play,
with drones in the sky – a target to spy
oh my a gamers delight – such fright)

– craftysue

This Memorial Day we need to remember once again those who were killed by conscription and those who were killed by seduction. A volunteer army in peacetime depends on seduction or on economic pressure in order to recruit youth. The primary factor in the seduction of a military career is the illusion of immortality held by youth, the idea of tempting death but never succumbing. But there is another seduction involved as well — that of shiny things, things that make loud noises, and things that are puzzles. Technology seduces as surely as drones kill.

To be a young patriotic American boy at the beginning of the 1960s was to be fascinated by science and technology, appalled that a society like the Soviet Union existed, and convinced that the United States of that time was the very embodiment of Thomas Jefferson’s, John Adams’s, and James Madison’s hopes and dreams. And to see the astronaut corps as the great American adventure. And to see that as the first step in a career whose pinnacle was being like the cosmologist George Gamow.

There was however one minor step in the career path to the astronaut corps. At that time, all seven Mercury astronauts were military test pilots. You had to enter the military in order to go into outer space. But there was a peacetime draft; you had to enter the military anyway if you were male. What better way than to go to the Air Force Academy (then brand-spanking new), major in physics and astronomy and go to pilot school. Of course it was not to be. I lacked the political connections to get a Congressional appointment and at 108 pounds and 6 feet tall was both too underweight to qualify for the Academy and too tall to ever be a test pilot. But I did get a feel for how the military operates in two years of mandatory ROTC in college. I chose not to take the scholarship and complete the remaining two years to be commissioned as a lieutenant. I chose to transfer to a prestige school that had a degree in international relations because in my naive view there was somewhere a career path to waging peace.

Joe Ruzicka was one of the folks who did complete his ROTC training.

The closest thing to a counter-culture at 1964-1966 Clemson University was the Jabberwocky Coffee House, which was run as a co-op. There was weekly folk music, and it became the place for name musicians to hang out when they were performing in the then cultural desert of Clemson SC. Van Cliburn spent until 3 am one night regaling Jabberwocky customers with ribald jokes. Other musicians would come to jam.

Joe Ruzicka was one of the folks who helped make the Jabberwocky happen. Stereotypes of who does what are so misleading. Joe was no more than an acquaintance to me. But for two years, the Jabberwocky was a cultural home to me.

Joe was a bomb navigator in one of the B-52s that cratered Southeast Asia.

The tragedy is that Joe will be remembered this Memorial Day for the wrong reasons. It is very Lewis Carroll. Jabberwocky indeed.

I do not know his motivations for deciding to enter the Air Force; I just know the zeitgeist and how it affected us.

My experience in an international relations curriculum was that it was designed to train the diplomatic wing of the military industrial complex. My first clue came when I found out the chair of the department was BA US Naval Academy, MS, PhD Naval War College. As the Vietnam War and the resistance to it increased, I moved steadily toward the date of my pre-induction physical. For those not of that generation, the pre-induction physical was the prelude to a letter that began “Greetings” and told you that your friends and neighbors of your locally controlled draft board had decided that you were to be conscripted. If seduction fails, there is conscription.

I was not conscripted either. Even in 1968, the military did not want severely flat-footed conscripts with long and narrow shoe sizes tromping around jungles. Oh the ignominy of never being in the military in America!

We no longer live in quite a techno-frenzied society. The seduction of the military has turned to the traditional sales pitches of instilling discipline, developing leadership skills, and proving yourself. And to the promise of jobs and education.

But the techno-weapon imagination still lives in the stories and games promoted and consumed by youth. And the privatized space program (and its military counterpart) seduces.

And then there are the unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). And dreams of private armies.

The militarist culture pervades American life more than ever.

And yet (from Wikipedia):

Memorial day has its origins in a Decoration Day, which began during the civil war among Freedmen (freed slaves) and other Black American families … as a celebration of both black and white Union soldiers who fought for liberation and justice. Together with teachers and missionaries, Blacks in Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865, which was covered by the New York Tribune and other national papers. The freedmen had cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground, building an enclosure and an arch labeled, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Nearly ten thousand people, mostly freedmen, gathered on May 1 to commemorate the dead. Involved were 3,000 schoolchildren newly enrolled in freedmen’s schools, mutual aid societies, Union troops, and black ministers and white northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field. Today the site is used as Hampton Park. Years later, the celebration would come to be called the “First Decoration Day” in the North.

Lewis Carroll would understand how we turned liberation into jabberwocky.

Report from Chicago Spring: ICE and FTP – On Coalitions and Diversity of Tactics

By: TarheelDem Wednesday May 16, 2012 8:47 am

What is striking about Chicago Spring is the extensive use of coalitions built over the past seven months to increase the impact of a protest. Each protest involves a coalition of national, city-wide, and neighborhood groups contributing to the number of protesters. For the immigrant rights protest against the arbitrary actions of of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and immigration judges who issue deportation orders, a neighborhood church congregation (Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission) called for the action, Occupy Chicago helped boost attendance from folks in town for the protest against NATO with its “week of direct action” prior to the summit, and national organizations like World Can’t Wait turned out their local supporters.

The second thing to notice is what “diversity of tactics” means in practice in Chicago. The basic tactic was a march from Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission of 100 people to the immigration court building at the corner of Van Buren and Canal. Around 75 additional protesters waited for their arrival. Shortly after noon, the arrival looked like this.

ChicagoICEProtest 028

The second tactic was to hold a loud rally and picketing action, beginning with the statement of Father Landaverde about the reasons for the protest: