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Thompson Knew in ’72

12:21 pm in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

Hunter S. Thompson in sunglasses & Hawaiian shirt

It’s a mistake to focus on Hunter Thompson’s debauchery while ignoring his political wisdom.

Go to GoodReads, search on Hunter S. Thompson, and you’ll get first-page results like this:

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’

And this:

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

Thanks to quotes like those, the efforts of Bill Murray, Johnny Depp, and Garry Trudeau — and the fact that Thompson was every bit as wild as they portrayed him — his name will probably forever conjure Raoul Duke, the outsize self-portrait he wove in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — a.k.a. “Uncle Duke” in Trudeau’s Doonesbury.

But remembering Thompson only as a Ralph Steadman caricature is a mistake. Immeasurably more important — more even than that “expensive little twister rising up from the Great Red Shark” — is Thompson’s gift for keen social and political analysis. In a single presidential election, he taught us more about who controls America than the combined work of all those who pounded the same beat for entire lifetimes.

Nonetheless, since stumbling upon Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas shortly after its publication, I — like legions of others — had been most enamored of Thompson’s scathing wit; most engaged by his Sixties sentimentalism; most vicariously thrilled (right!) by his dedication to mind-altering substances — and, as a writer, wholly envious of his ability to smite even the jumbo-est mumbo-ers in 10 words or less.

There’s not much of that Thompson I haven’t read, along with his (more or less) straight reporting (Hell’s Angels), fiction (The Rum Diary), and the vast collection of letters and essays he banged out on his IBM Selectric.

The excellence of it all should have convinced me years ago, but until two recent, ridiculously long experiences “in the system” (as the air travel monopoly now calls it), and for reasons I’ve resigned myself to never fully knowing – Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, which I now consider Thompson’s masterwork, was a blip on the radar I chose to ignore.


Maybe its half-borrowed, ungainly title had me thinking it was an attempt to capitalize on the success of that other Fear and Loathing.


Maybe it was the age of the story itself.


Or maybe, rather than ignored, I avoided Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 for the same reason others have: The depression I knew reading it would cause, thanks to the story’s already-known, fateful ending.

Whatever the reasons, not reading it until now was a mistake.

Read the rest of this entry →

UPDATE 3: Last Call for Nominations

12:28 pm in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

UPDATE 3: Friday, 11/12, 3:50 a.m. Eastern This thread timed out Thursday afternoon. The final diary on which you can beat the nomination deadline, titled “Saturday Midnight Approaches!” will post Friday morning.

UPDATE 2: Thursday, 11/11, 5:15 a.m. Eastern Cindy Sheehan replied to the e-mail mentioned in Update 1 below (clarifying FDL policy) with the following, which briefly answered another mail I’d sent sounding her out on the possibility of running:

“Many states (including California) have ‘sore losers’ rules where one has to be registered the party he/she wants to run in at least 13 months before elections and I totally agree that we need a left party (worker’s) that would be the goal of a campaign.”

This is good information, of course, which I see not as a deterrent to our effort but quite the opposite: A unifying factor, helping make this a true “peoples’” movement. Here’s why:

Say we nominate Candidate X on the understanding that s/he will run in all the Democratic primaries based on our platform. Then say they lose the nomination (as expected). Because Candidate X ran as a Democrat, the “sore loser” rule (which I’ll henceforth refer to as the “status quo preservation” rule!) prevents them from registering as an Independent timely enough to run in the General. But we don’t want Candidate X; we want a PARTY that will not compromise on the ISSUES we care about. So throughout primary season, while we and Candidate X are campaigning hard on our ISSUES, Candidate Y is trailing along behind, getting signatures to run ON THOSE SAME ISSUES in the General, as an Independent. Should Candidate X happen to win the Party nomination, great! If s/he doesn’t, fine. We’re covered! And either way, we already know who will be paired on the ticket!

This is exactly what’s needed to ensure that ISSUES remain the prime focus of our effort. It also dovetails nicely with both our near-term goal of “supercharging” either the birth of a new Lefty party or the return of the Democratic Party to Lefty principles, and long-term goal of building a movement that places ISSUES above the usual popularity/charisma/lowest-common-denominator election bullshit.

Cindy and I will be in touch again when she’s back in the states. In the meantime, hats off to her once more for her support and encourgement!

UPDATE 1: (Wednesday afternoon, 11/10) As I noted in the comments to this diary yesterday, I e-mailed Cindy Sheehan about a report circulating in the UK of an impending presidential run by her as a Socialist. Ms. Sheehan replied:

“The report is only partially correct-there are some socialist parties in the US asking me to run for prez–but not in a primary.”

The U.K. report says nothing about a primary, so it’s possible Ms. Sheehan conflated it and the link I provided her to this diary (thus her “not in a primary” comment). Nonetheless, it’s important to note how Ms. Sheehan closed her reply:

“I support what you do and I hope you are successful.”

And then she asked that I call her “Cindy.”

Thanks Ms. Sheehan Cindy – for all you do!

(Note: I’ve made Rayne aware of this exchange and, at Rayne’s request, have sent a second note to Ms. Sheehan making clear that the effort detailed on this diary is NOT the work of FDL staff or ownership. I mention this because as we reach out to potential nominees, we will want to be sure to include this caveat. Thanks, all.)

Last Friday I posted a diary calling for nominations of a primary challenger to President Barack Obama in 2012. In just over a day and a half, it drew more than 300 comments from at least 52 separate voices. It followed a pre-midterms diary by jeffroby which resulted in a long, initial list of potential challengers.

I know some here do not see the sense in primarying the president on the Democratic ticket. The time is now, they say, to take another step down the long road of building a true and lasting third party, one that will represent those of us on the Left without compromise – let alone by starting in the center and moving right, the modus operandi of the Democratic Party for the past 30 years.

Besides, they argue, Obama is sure to win the Democratic Party nomination, so why fight it? And if he doesn’t run, some other primed-for-compromise DINO will take his place. Since we no longer believe in the party, why waste time playing by their rules when losing is assured, before we even start?

Well for one thing, because we’re not playing by the party’s rules. We’re playing by the rules of our electoral system as it now functions.

Under that system, primary season is a candidate’s best opportunity to build a following and garner the support – and signatures, and votes – that will land him or her on the general election ballot as an independent. That the Greens and other parties haven’t yet recognized this fact and used it to their advantage is beyond me. A full primary election campaign within an existing party which lasts, in all its contentious glory, right through the convention is by far the surest route to ballot access.

And then there’s messaging.

A Lefty candidate can most easily distinguish her or himself as being to the left of the president – and the presently captive Democratic Party – by running head-to-head against that president and party. An independent primary campaign beginning with an announcement that so-and-so will run will garner about as much attention in our duopoly-advancing media as does a needle in the average haystack, regardless of who the challenger may be – and that’s before you start to even think about messaging. Conversely, an early announcement that the sitting president will be challenged for his own party’s nomination will be many things – derided, laughed at, called unpatriotic (and these just from Democrats…) – but ignored will not be one of those things.

We will face the oft-repeated criticism that primary challenges always result in a loss for the incumbent and his party. As if this incumbent and party has been the least bit concerned with giving its base even one win, let alone the fact that “always” (i.e., conventional wisdom) is a fast-disappearing cactus in the rearview mirror of the Internet age.

We will be chastised as trying to split – or worse, destroy – the Democratic Party; as if FDR would even the recognize the Democratic Party as it exists today, and would not himself applaud its replacement with a party that truly represents the Left. Even the “split” argument holds no water, for after every instance of Democratic Party “leadership” gone awry, more registered Democrats wonder what the hell their national leaders are thinking. The party is already split. It’s time to make it official, and to cut that argument off at the knees.

We will be threatened by those who call themselves staunch party loyalists but who, like those leading the teabaggers, are merely playing the party faithful with demagoguery and false promises in order to enrich themselves and the others who actually control the national party: Its corporate benefactors.

Each of these is, to me, simply one more great reason to primary this president, and more importantly, this party. Doing so is the logical first step in our struggle against the pervasive thinking of Democratic Party leaders who refuse to stand up for the things for which Democrats are supposed to stand. After our candidate has lost the party’s nomination, as he or she surely will, we will be properly positioned to take the next step: the Independent candidacy of the same person, though not just of one man or woman. The candidacy of a movement.

No rallying ‘round the victor at the Democratic National Convention this time, kids. This time, whomever the Democrats put up, the victor will be an enemy to true progressive principles, because that’s what the Democrats themselves have proved to be.

The Process Going Forward

This diary is your last chance to add nominees before we open the process to preferential voting.

I had originally intended to close the nominations this Thursday (11/11), but very frankly, as I linked these names to their Wikipedia entries, it made clear how much research there is to do, and prompted more possible nominees in my mind (Jon Turley, Van Jones, and Geoffrey Canada) so I figure it might for you as well. So, let’s give ourselves through Saturday midnight (Pacific time). Now is not the time to rush things unnecessarily.

I’ll spend Sunday compiling a final list with any additions that will go up Monday (11/15) titled, “Here Are Your Nominees.” Commenters will be encouraged to make whatever arguments they like for their favored nominee(s).

I’ll then post the final list next Wednesday (11/17) titled, “Time to Vote: Pick Your Top Ten Primary Challengers.” It will include brief instructions asking readers to follow a specific voting format, free of additional comment, in order to make tabulation as easy and error-free as possible. Voting will close Thursday 11/18 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific. (If folks want to try to sway the votes of others that’s fine, but I’d ask you do so on a separate diary of your own. With everyone listing 10 preferences, additional/superfluous comments on the “Time To Vote” diary will only complicate the tabulation process.)

A Few Important Notes

Throughout this process, please bookmark these diaries for easy access, and to aid in your research. Please also recommend this and each upcoming diary, so they’ll stay prominently linked in both MyFDL and on the site’s main page. This will help ensure maximum participation by the entire FDL community, including those who don’t necessarily frequent MyFDL.

Some have said it’s time for a separate website for this effort. I disagree. Transacting our business here at FDL is a win-win for both FDL and the effort. For one thing, I don’t want to be seen as driving traffic away from Jane’s site. The political process in this country is ripe for change, and I think FDL is in the vanguard of that change. I’m not willing to essentially “close” this effort off at a separate site. The more transparent, the more public, and the more open we can show it as being from the very start, the less attention will be paid to the inevitable attacks from Democratic Party robots.

The nominee list as it now stands is below. Each nominee’s name is linked to their Wikipedia entry for your convenience, but don’t take that as the final word. Use the Internet for all its worth. (Nominees whose names are struck are not eligible due to their place of birth, and those whose birthplaces were not clear via a quick Internet search are so noted.)

Please comment with any additional nominees(s) you like that are not already listed, and PLEASE NOTE that LINKS to information ABOUT people WILL NOT CONSTITUTE a nomination. You must actually place the name in nomination within your comment.

Again, nominations close Saturday midnight, Pacific time. Please remember to recommend this post so it remains prominent! Thanks, all.

The List

Al Franken
Al Gore
Alan Grayson
Alexander Cockburn
Amy Klobuchar
Andrew Bacevich
Andrew Cuomo
Andrew Romanoff
Arianna Huffington
Brian Schweitzer
Ben Affleck
Bernie Sanders
William K. Black
Bill McKibben
Bill Moyers
Bill Richardson
Brad Birkenfeld (Information on Birkenfeld’s place of birth is not readily accessible)
Cenk Uygar
Cindy Sheehan
Cynthia McKinney
Dahr Jamail
David Corn
David Sirota
Dawn Johnsen
Dean Baker (Information on Baker’s place of birth is not readily accessible)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Dennis Kucinich
Dick Durbin
Don Siegelman
Donna Edwards
Dylan Ratigan
Eliot Spitzer
Elizabeth Edwards
Elizabeth Warren
Geoffrey Canada
George Clooney
George Miller
George J. Mitchell
Glenn Greenwald
Henry Waxman
Howard Dean
James Galbraith (Information on Galbraith’s place of birth is not readily accessible)
Jim Hightower
Jan Schakowsky
Jane Hamsher
Jeff Merkley
Jerrold Nadler
Jerry Brown
Jesse Ventura
Jill Stein
Joe Wilson
John Aravosis (Confirmation of Aravosis’s place of birth, listed in several places online as “America,” is not readily available)
John R. Talbott (Information on Talbott’s place of birth is not readily accessible)
Jon Stewart
Jon Hamm
Jonathan Turley (Information on Turley’s place of birth is not readily accessible)
Joseph Stiglitz
Keith Olbermann
Lewis Black
Matt Taibbi (Information on Galbraith’s place of birth is not readily accessible)
Maurice Hinchey
Michael Moore
Mike Gravel
Nancy Pelosi
Patrick Fitzgerald
Paul Craig Roberts
Paul Krugman
Peter DeFazio
Rachel Maddow
Ralph Nader
Raul Grijalva
Richard Trumka
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Robert Reich
Ron Paul
Russ Feingold
Sheldon Whitehouse
Sherrod Brown
Shirley Sherrod
Stephen Colbert
Susan Sarandon
Tammy Baldwin
Tom Udall
Valerie Plame
Van Jones
Warren Mosler (no Wikipedia entry)
Yves Smith (no Wikipedia entry)

Once more: Don’t forget to “recommend” this post! Thanks again.

What’s Next? This…

7:54 am in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

My wife got home from work around 9 last night, and as she wandered back to the man cave, she called, “We’ve lost the House, what’s up with the Senate?”

Then, as she rounded the corner into the room, “Oh… you’re not watching.”

On the screen instead was an episode of “The West Wing.”

I began watching my DVD collection of the series about a week ago, as pure escapism. For all its critical acclaim, the government it portrays has never existed and never will in this country, and the sooner we face that fact, the quicker we might make some real progress.

Much examination of “what went wrong” will be “covered” in the mainstream media over the coming days. In truth, it will be coverage of the Democratic party’s establishment pretending to examine “what went wrong.” That’s the script. That’s the procedure. That’s what the people expect to see, and the MSM will by God give it to them.

We already know, of course. We knew before the polls even opened. Some put on a good show of pretending that the losses would not occur, that a “November Surprise” might be in the offing. Such traditional, delusional partisan displays are as much a part of the problems plaguing the Democrats as is the party’s leadership.

So, to quote Jed Bartlet: “What’s next?”

My hope is that this result will at last allow us to forego the illusory narratives of “time in the wilderness” and “self examination.” That today, we’ve awakened the Democratic Party to the fact that it can’t please all the people even some of the time, and it needs to stop trying. Instead, it must doggedly, unapologetically, and uncompromisingly begin pleasing the Leftist base. The result will be that those who identify as the least bit Left will secretly admire the party for it and want to be a part of it – even as they tell their conservative friends, “Well, I’m certainly not THAT left wing, but…”

This is what the Right has done to a fare-thee-well for the past 30 years, and what the Democrats did in their glory days. If they don’t start doing it again, right now, at this moment, on the heels of this confirmation that it’s what they should have been doing all along, the Democratic Party’s rightward shift – for “drift” is too weak a word – will not just continue, but gather steam.

As many of you know, I posted a petition before the midterms urging people to take a pledge, to vote against the incumbent Democrats who so thoroughly sold out the Left base over the past two years. That petition garnered enough support to give me hope that the will exists among Democrats and Lefty Independents to keep sufficient pressure on the Party that it will purge itself of the old guard which continues leading it down the wrong path. I have added text to the petition stating that need, and stating our willingness to primary this president if it doesn’t happen. I encourage you to join in the effort by adding your signature here, and urging your friends and associates to do the same.


“Retaking Our Party” – A User’s Guide

11:17 am in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

Tomorrow, the first of a three-part series will appear exclusively here at The Seminal. Called Retaking Our Party: One, Two, Three, the parts will follow on consecutive days, concluding Tuesday.

I offer this user’s guide in advance of tomorrow’s series debut, with two goals in mind: (a) To establish in advance my intent in writing the series, and (b) To help maximize your time efficiency in reading, commenting on, and enacting the strategy the series lays out – all of which I sincerely hope you will consider doing.

If I had to write an overall mission statement for the project, it would be:

To set true lefties in this country on a strategic course of action encompassing the next three national elections, aimed at the Democratic Party’s rebirth through re-commitment to the core beliefs which have been at worst abandoned and at best negotiated into meaninglessness by the erstwhile progressive and lesser-of-two-evils leadership of the party at the national level.

Or, more succinctly:

To set in motion an energetic, determined progressive initiative to purge all DINOs from the Democratic Party, and keep them out.

Much has been written and commented on here at FDL in recent months conveying the broadly held belief that the Democratic Party, at the national level, is a corporate-owned, co-opted organization which no longer represents the Left.

Re-Taking Our Party: One, Two, Three begins with "From Whence I Came," unearthing what led to one man’s lifelong dedication to activism and dissent. Part Two, "How We Got Here," is an ambitious aggregation of much of the recent discourse at FDL – crucial insight on current progressive thought, preparing the reader for Part Three: "A Three-Election Strategy," detailing a path for re-establishing true progressivism as the overarching tenet of Democratic Party principle and practice at the national level.

As a guide to those who follow the series – who I hope will choose to actively participate in Retaking Our Party – I ask only the following:

(1) A fully opened mind. Not merely "open," but opened – an eagerness to try new tactics, since repeating what we’ve done for the past 30 years has clearly failed, and continuing to do it whilst expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

(2) A belief in Margaret Mead’s dictum that "… a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." – and the will to act on it.

(3) A willingness to fully assimilate all of the aggregated diaries and comments in Part Two, "How We Got Here." It’s a lot of reading, but my hope is to bolster resistance to repeating points already made as the discussion has unfolded. These selected diaries are being highlighted purposely, for all to consider as we move forward. Let’s not get bogged down. It’s time for positive action.

Do you agree that the national Democratic Party’s evolution into a corporate-owned entity can be largely attributed to the practice of voting Democratic first and asking questions later?

Do you believe this evolution has led to a veritable one-party system, from which progressive thought and action has been fully excised?

Are you a true activist, seriously interested in re-establishing the American Left – or do you merely pretend to be one, on your computer?

If you are ready to take concrete steps toward returning progressivism to the prominence it warrants, I hope you’ll read and act on Re-Taking Our Party: One, Two, Three – tomorrow through Tuesday, here at The Seminal.

Thanks very much for your interest.

Are We as Brave as the Burmese?

12:39 am in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel


The value systems of those with access to power and of those far removed from such access cannot be the same. The viewpoint of the privileged is unlike that of the underprivileged.

- Aung San Suu Kyi

Want to stir up a hornet’s nest? Just suggest boycotting an election – say, the upcoming midterms – to any dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.

Since doing so the other day in some comments here, I’ve been noodling around with the idea of explaining – in terms so simple even a DNC Chair could understand them – why not voting this November may be the Left’s last, best hope for wresting back control of the Democratic party; back, from those who believe its salvation lies in placating and even kowtowing not to the whims of the mainstream GOP – which at this point is merely the other branch of our One-Party System – but to lunatic fringe Righties cast in the Joe McCarthy mold.

Clearly, our Democratic demogogues – frightened by the bluster of those who packed last year’s town-hall health care forums and packed heat at public rallies for Dick’s Armey (the so-called “Tea Party”) – believe (1) the “movement” of a few fundie nutjobs renders the 2008 elections meaningless, and/or (2) what really matters is how much privilege their offices can buy them.

These beliefs mean it’s them – not the fundie nutjobs – who are the real threat to any hope of true, progressive change in this country. Whether motivated by mayhem or money, I believe they are either too cowardly or greedy – or both – to hold any seat representing we who would move us forward. If true progressives are unwilling to finally and unapologetically embrace this truth and kick these frauds to the curb in order to reclaim what should be their party, our nation’s retrograde motion will continue – and accelerate.

As it happens, I’ve run across something that fulfills my stated criteria: Even a DNC Chair can understand it.

Linked here, here and here are stories about bravery. About a people – and one very brave woman, Aung San Suu Kyi – who understand that citizens begin wresting power from the few who leverage it to their own advantage by stating in no uncertain terms an unwillingness to continue playing the minority’s little ballot game; by not giving the few something to point to – namely, votes – as confirmation that things must not be that bad, since people are still “having their say.”

The Burmese people’s long-held disgust at not being heard should sound familiar to any long-term member of this country’s Democratic party and the too-far-Left-for-the-party Independents without whose support Barack Obama would not be occupying the White House today.

The Burmese understand that the fight for real democracy, a democracy whose leading edge blazes a swath which accomodates not just the majority’s moderates but its more avid adherents as well, demands using every tool at one’s disposal. Only then will the majority’s voice be heard and heeded by the well-armed minority so intent on silencing it. In Burma, that minority is armed with guns and tanks. In this country, its weapons of choice – for now, at least – are public relations firms and rubes from Alaska.

At what point will we on the Left stop swooning before a hijacked party that supports our beliefs in word only, and only to garner our vote at that? A party that relegates those beliefs to the auction block the moment a few CEOs begin clearing their throats?

A midterm election loss would be a small price to pay for winning back the Democratic party, known for so long – too, too long ago – in both word and deed as “The Party of the People.”

By announcing, supporting, and following through on a voting boycott this November, Democrats and lefty Independents could achieve a wholesale housecleaning. We could succeed where once-progressive but now acquiescent voices in Congress have failed, forcing Barack Obama to get out his veto pen and, with each stroke, rebuild the vigor, discontent, and dedication to the interests of working men and women which the Democratic party has lacked for more than a generation.

A boycott would have to be blatantly intentional; planned, announced, promoted and phone-banked. A final, all-out trial by fire for Obama. Objectives stated without compromise.

For starters, Mr. Obama must understand why it is happening: Because he has failed to lead based on his 2008 stump speech. And to have even a hope of keeping his job in 2012, he must begin doing so.

Then, on November 3, the massive Democratic loss still stinging, he must fire Rahm Emanuel. Tim Keane. Robert Gibbs. Tim Geithner. They are replaced by Russ Feingold, Dennis Kucinich, Al Franken, and Elizabeth Warren respectively. And Warren’s counsel – alone – determines who will head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

If Larry Summers has a problem with any of this, he can hit the fucking pike, too.

On November 4, Mr. Obama addresses Congress. In the five-minute speech – two minutes is better – he creates by executive order a public works program which mirrors the WPA – but in 2010 proportion to FDR’s 1935 model. He blunty states that a vote against funding it is a vote against putting Americans back to work. And while he’s at it, he announces the end of DADT, and demands legislation outlawing corporate personhood, in similarly blunt fashion: “Refusal to do so will make quite clear whether you work for real people or phony ones… and, I’ll venture, subject you to the same kind of popular revolt my party has just undergone.”

This is the housecleaning for which the Democratic party’s clueless, privileged establishment – by virtue of ineptness and panphobia – has begged far too long, and the midterm elections of a presidency that has proved DINO up to this point are the perfect opportunity to do it. If it sounds too last-ditch to you, you clearly haven’t been paying any attention during the past two years.

The Burmese people pursue full voice in the face of guns and tanks. If we, the American Left, are too cowardly to stare down even our own party, PR firms and dim Northern Lights will be no match for us in 2012.

It’s time to take out the trash.

Cross-posted at The Malcontent.

[Graphic: Composite of AungSanSuuKyi (source: Gilberto Viciedo via Flickr)]