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McKibben’s Activism: Naiveté or Fealty?

12:24 pm in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

Many here at the Lake went a little (more) crazy when founder and much-admired climate expert Bill McKibben folded on Keystone XL’s Tar Sands pipeline.

After staging a memorable protest outside the White House last fall, McKibben went inside – and has since loudly applauded Barack Obama’s “threats” to veto any legislation that included the approval of the pipeline’s construction, and his rejection this spring of Keystone’s permit for the cross-border section of the oil-queduct.

McKibben has cheered these developments though the only real question is which happens first: Romney’s concession speech or Obama’s approval of Keystone’s re-application to connect the pipeline at the U.S.-Canada line.

A far pithier poser: Is McKibben – whose organization is (for the moment) an ally of the New Progressive Alliance – so new to activism that he’ll believe whatever a Democrat In A Suit tells him? Or has he cashed in his activist chips for a cushy job working for Democrats In Suits?

I hate to call McKibben out publicly… okay, no I don’t.

I tried keeping it private with Cornel West. Didn’t work.

An erstwhile member of the NPA steering committee, West’s comment earlier this year that there are no realistic alternatives to the major parties was more bullshit than I could take. I told him so in an email, and suggested that if he was unwilling to even acknowledge the existence of Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson, he might not be a good fit with the NPA.

West replied with an obtuse reference to perhaps having Stein and/or Anderson on his radio show, righteous upset at my “threatening” tone, and a request that he be removed from the steering committee.

Subsequent emails between us have resulted in nothing more concrete than a pep talk (“Keep up the great work, Brother Anthony Noel”) and scrupulous avoidance of my earnest inquiry as to whether the good doctor is planning to put his money where his mouth has been for lo, these past three years.

So, until we know for sure that Dr. West really wants to create electoral alternatives and agrees that putting off doing it for one more election – because, it is, after all, the most important of our lives! (just like all the others…) – only deepens the crisis, he is listed thus on our steering committee page: Dr. Cornel West

Alas, this tale, and, I fear, Mr. McKibben’s, are object lessons in how highly effective, loudmouthed activists – people who could foment and lead movements which forever banish self-interest and greed from the equation that dictates policymaking – routinely fold up their podiums and head for the hills at the critical moment: Election time.

I’d planned to contact McKibben privately as well, to ask what the hell he’s thinking. Until, that is, I heard him shilling today on Sirius XM Left. (Even for a stalwart hockey fan like me, six weeks of listening to the reactions of the Los Angeles Kings play-by-play guy to the team’s finally winning the Stanley Cup over on XM 92 is about five weeks too many.)

Leveraging this 6,000-plus word article in Rolling Stone, McKibben is promoting 350’s consciousness-raising tour with Naomi Klein. It begins – wait for it – November 7. The day AFTER we (again) elect a greed-enabling corporatist, rather than a people-supporting activist. Regardless which party wins.

And that’s when it (finally) dawned on me: Publicly ambushing say-one-thing-do-another “progressives” is no more unfair to them than what they do to those who have supported them, when they publicly renege on the stated beliefs that garnered them or their organizations our moral – and more tangible – $upport.

(And let me just add, Ms. Klein: You are fast becoming a former heroine of mine, particularly since you hail from Canada and know what’s possible. Think about what you are doing, for chrissakes. Hunter S. Thompson is spinning in his grave.)

Though it surprised me, considering both the network and the show (Ed Schultz), stand-in host Mike Papantonio did a nice job of pressing McKibben, who attempted to push the (bullshit) line that blame for our still-deepening allegiance to fossil fuels has nothing to do with politicians and everything to do with the oil companies themselves.

Papantonio asked McKibben (paraphrasing from memory, here): “If I wanted to figure out who has been responsible for the continued power of the oil companies, who would I go looking for?”

McKibben: “That becomes about vengeance, and that’s really not going to solve the core problem.”

Papantonio: “But surely there are particular lobbyists who have pushed the lie about how we are not even close to climate crisis…”

McKibben: “If you want to use names, use the logos of any of the big fossil fuel companies.”

Translation: It’s not Obama’s fault, nor the lobbyists. The president didn’t have the votes in Congress anyway. (Indeed, McKibben at one point said as much.)

If it isn’t sufficiently telling that McKibben has chosen to delay his tour until the day after the election, ask yourself this: Why would a self-described climate activist not use an election, held at a time that record numbers of Americans are self-identifying as Independents, to help point voters away from the Big-Oil-bought-and-sold “leaders” who have already signaled their intention to perpetuate the climate mess?

I wrote to Dr. West, “You could be America’s Tommy Douglas.”

The same goes for you, Mr. McKibben. And like Dr. West, you have a decision to make. has done some great work, but you are putting it all at risk by kowtowing to this – or any corporate-owned – White House.

And we think you know it.

Thirty-five candidates running for everything from school board to the presidency have followed the lead of and the NPA’s other allies in endorsing the Unified Platform.

Why would you turn your back on them, Bill?

Unless, of course, you’re okay with 350 becoming another MoveOn, or PCCC, or PDA, glad handing Democrats In Suits and taking their money, despite mounting proof that they are not friends – of you or the planet.

Anthony Noel is a facilitator of the New Progressive Alliance.

Challenge 2012: Ending Identity Politics

10:33 am in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

We did it again.

In 2008, the American electorate bit – hook, line and sinker – on the promises of a charismatic orator who promised us everything and has failed not just to deliver, but even to remember what he promised. (Please, those of you who didn’t bite, save your keystrokes. I’m employing the collective “we,” and recognize that not everyone did.)

There’s no doubt: Our electoral process is perfectly – some would argue purposely – poised to place personality above principles.

This is nothing new, of course. If we valued principles and the ability to lead based upon them, we’d have elected a long line of eminently capable, honest leaders. But any objective review of the last thirty years shows that, with perhaps one exception, it’s been all about personality and promises on the campaign trail and – upon election – to Hell with adherence to universally recognized principles of fair play, let alone concern for the basic welfare of those being governed.

From Reagan to Clinton and Bush2 to Obama, we’ve been bamboozled but good. But it goes beyond that. If democracy is really about what we’ve been told – if it really means choosing leaders who will represent the people based on our expressed desires, in order to help us actualize the nation and world we envision – we’ve been far more than just poorly led.

We’ve been RULED.

Like the despots and their people who we have so regularly starved and killed and refused refuge, we – the increasing numbers of Americans who are downtrodden to an extent heretofore unseen since this country’s organization – are starving and dying and being denied refuge and the basic welfare-providing services which any nation calling itself great should be ashamed NOT to offer.

And why?

Because the ruling class has decided – despite clear evidence from those they rule that it is not of concern to them – that the national debt and budget deficit suddenly MATTER.

Even though these were of no concern to our rulers when they decided to go after one more despot.

Even though these remain of no concern to our rulers when they are drawing up “defense” (read: WEAPONS) budgets.

And even though REAL people in REAL streets in this increasingly UNREAL land are losing opportunities for health, education, and personal welfare – each and every day of the week.

What would happen, I wonder, if we began to do democracy as it was meant to be done? If WE picked the issues – and the STANCES on those issues – that WE care about FIRST – then recruited candidates who must pledge to represent us on those issues?

Without corporate money.

Without concern for party affiliation.

Unless and until we have driven a stake through the heart of the political practices that are killing this country – and Identity Politics is at the top of the list – America will never again be a truly great nation.

An effort has coalesced here at MyFDL over the past three months that aims, first and foremost, to hold candidates accountable to issues and principles. Readers like you have named it the “New Progressive Alliance” and identified five irrefutably progressive policy concerns around which we are building the movement. They’ve also developed a list of 10 prospective candidates to challenge Barack Obama in the 2012 primary and run as true progressives in the general. Beyond the 10 you’ll find at that link, other prospects include Cindy Sheehan, Jan Schakowsky, Joe Stiglitz, Patrick Fitzgerald, and Raul Grijalva.

Volunteers are stepping up, giving whatever time they can to spread the word and organize the effort in their individual states, and I invite you to join us. If you agree Identity Politics is at the root of what ails us, and you are ready to take positive action in waking people up and offering a real alternative, I hope you’ll contact me. Please write Anthony Noel at admin_at_themalcontent_dot_com.


Our Electeds: Only As Progressive As Their Last Votes (or) Why the Right is Winning

10:54 am in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

I had a little conversation with Chuckie Corra over on his recent diary, and I’m sharing and expanding on it here because it goes to the heart of the failure of this Congress and, more broadly, the Democratic Party.

Chuckie wrote that Russ Feingold’s loss Tuesday was the most tragic. I commented that Feingold got exactly what he deserved in light of his collapse on a Public Option, and Chuckie replied: “I was disappointed about the Public Option as well, but I don’t let that mar his tenure as a senator.”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly why the Right is winning.

Imagine, say, Jim DeMint, one of the looniest strongest Righties in the Senate, suddenly capitulating on Abortion; saying it’s fine, it’s great, there’s nothing wrong with it. Do you really think he’d be re-elected? It’s just one issue. But it’s a HALLMARK issue.

By going along with the crowd that said, “We have to give Obama a win at any cost,” Feingold did the exact same thing, but from the Lefty point of view.

If we on the Left don’t begin judging the performance of those who SAY they represent us based on their commitment to our core beliefs – and universal health care is NOTHING if not a core progressive belief – we are going to keep getting dusted by the Right, which has no problem judging and electing (or running out of town on a rail) its own, by doing the same thing.

The reason there is no strong voice for the Left at the national level in this country is because the party that is supposed to represent the Left gives leeway to those who stray from hallmark Lefty principles, while the one that represents the Right kicks those who stray from hallmark Righty principles to the curb, and takes them back – maybe – only after an appropriate display of remorse and self-flagellation.

Do I want to believe Russ is still a strong progressive? Of course. But the most recent event we have in either proving or disproving that is this: Russ had the same power Lieberman did to block the health care bill and he refused to use it.

Do I agree that he MIGHT be a great leader of a new progressive movement, and even hope he will emerge as such? Yes. But I’m taking nothing on faith with these people any longer. The proof is in their actions, and their actions need to become a bunch more Lefty if they’re going to get my support.

No matter how much the considerate-of-all-points-of-view, kumbaya-singing Clintonian liberals may refuse to admit it, our senators and congressmen are only as progressive as their latest votes. Until we adopt that stance, the Democratic Party will continue the rightward shift Clinton set in motion. And even if the party were to implode tomorrow (one can only hope…), whatever replaces it will implode as well, if it too proves unwilling to adopt the same stance.