Progressive Calendar 07.01.07
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Sun, 1 Jul 2007 23:41:24 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   07.01.07

1. Vs Israel?       7.03 8am
2. Vs Israel?       7.03 5pm
3. Peace/Cuba       7.03 6pm
4. Somalia/salon    7.03 6:30pm
5. Impeach          7.03 7pm

6. IRV/StP/parade   7.04 9:30am
7. Dissent/KFAI     7.04 11am
8. Bridge vigil     7.04 5pm
9. Indy/Philly      7.04 Philadelphia PA

10. NWN4P New Hope  7.05 4:30pm
11. Eagan vigil     7.05 4:30pm
12. Northtown vigil 7.05 5pm
13. Iraqi/bomb/art  7.05 5pm

14. HJ Cummins  - What vacation?
15. Ralph Nader - Move over Oprah! / summer reading
16. David Green - Freedom ain't for free

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From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Vs Israel? 7.03 8am

Revered Minneapolis Television Network (MTN 17) viewers:

"Our World In Depth" cablecasts weekly on MTN Channel 17.  Households with
basic cable can watch.  "Our World In Depth" is on Saturday at 9 pm and
the following Tuesday at 8 am (as well as other times).

7/3 "Is Criticism of Israel Anti-Semitic: An Evening with Norman
Finkelstein".  Part 2.


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From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Vs Israel? 7.03 5pm

Dear St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN 15) viewers:

"Our World In Depth" cablecasts at 5 pm and midnight each Tuesday and 10
am each Wednesday in St. Paul.  All households with basic cable can watch.

7/3 and 7/4 "Is Criticism of Israel Anti-Semitic: An Evening with Norman
Finkelstein".  Part 2.


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From: Minnesota Cuba Committee <mncuba [at] usfamily.net>
Subject: Peace/Cuba 7.03 6pm

18th U.S.-CUBA PASTORS FOR PEACE FRIENDSHIPMENT
TUESDAY,  JULY 3rd
6:00 PM
St. Albert the Great Church
2836 33rd Avenue South, Minneapolis

$10.00 admission includes Cuban plate
(No one turned away for lack of funds.)

Speakers Include:
.      Caravan Leaders
.      Ralph Kaehler -Cuba Trade Advocate
.      Local political leaders
.      Antonio Rosell - past Caravanista

Additional offerings:
.      Cuban plate by Victor Valens
.      Best Mojitos in Town
.      LIVE Cuban music !

Whose Freedom?
The US government continues to intensify threats against Cuba and
restricts US citizens from traveling to the island. They continually deny
entry into the US to Cuban artists, musicians, writers, and students. Two
hundred people, a dozen painted school buses and 50 tons of school
supplies and medicines will bust through the blockade this summer for the
18th time. Feel the power of collective action and learn the truth about
Cuba. Consider joining the Caravan this summer and help end this inhumane
embargo !

Sponsors
Minnesota Cuba Committee, Hands Off Venezuela Committee,
Witness for Peace - Upper Midwest, Resource Center of the Americas

For more information: (612) 529-0510
MNCuba [at] usfamily.net , http://groups.msn.com/MinnesotaCubaCommittee ,
www.ifconews.org


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From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Somalia/salon 7.03 6:30pm

An Evening on Somalia with Mohammed Hassan

Tuesday, July 3, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Madhatter's Tea House 943 West 7th
Street, St. Paul. Mohamed Hassam of Somali Peace and Justice and World
Hope will educate us about the humanitarian crisis in his country, Somalia
and in the Horn of Africa. The situation is dire. A good will offering
will be taken to send to Somalia as the people are suffering terribly.
Salons are free but donations appreciated for program and treats. FFI:
Call 651-227-3228.

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From: Impeach <lists [at] impeachforpeace.org>
Subject: Impeach [the SOB] 7.03 7pm

~ Impeach for Peace - http://ImpeachforPeace.org

Our weekly meeting location has changed.  We still meet Tuesdays at 7:00
p.m.  But now we meet at:
Joe's Garage (Restaurant along Loring Park)
1610 Harmon Pl
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 904-1163

New energy has been pumped into the impeachment movement as 7 cosponsors
have signed onto Kucinich's House Resolution 333 calling for the
impeachment of Cheney.  Also, John Conyers (the head of the committee
responsible for writing up articles of impeachment, and who currently is
in possesion of H.Res. 333) has voiced his support for the impeachment
movement.  Come help us finish the job!


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From: PRO826 [at] aol.com
Subject: IRV/StP/parade 7.04 9:30am

Summer Fun With IRV:
We only have until August 1 to get the 3,000 more signatures that are
needed for the Better Ballot Campaign to put Instant Runoff Voting on the
ballot in November.  Fortunately, the campaign team believes that IRV
supporters love a summer parade.  Grab your friends, family of all ages,
neighbors and your clipboard (we have 'em if you need one) and join us at
any of the petitioning events
<http://www.fairvotemn.org//stpaul/petitionevents>  on the calendar, but
especially at the following community parades and festivals:

Wednesday, July 4, 10 am, St. Anthony Park 60th Annual 4th of July Parade
<http://www.sapcc.org/events/Fourth_of_july.php> , from Luther Place down
Como to Langford, followed by speeches, activities and music at Langford
Park. Meet at Finnish Bistro at Como and Carter at 9:30 am.


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From: Andy Driscoll <andy [at] driscollgroup.com>
Subject: Dissent/KFAI 7.04 11am

Truth to Tells weekly edition beginning July 4th at 11:00AM will focus on
the status and effectiveness of the local Peace & Justice movement and
feature local peace activists Marie Braun of WAMM, Dick Bernard, president
of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, and Joe Schwartzberg of Citizens
for Global Solutions. Joining us by phone will be playwright, commentator,
writer Syl Jones. An All-American discussion about dissent on Independence
Day.


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From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Bridge vigil 7.04 5pm

PEACE VIGIL: Peace is Patriotic

Wednesday 7/4 @ 5 pm, Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Peace Bridge. Join with
others to say "No to war and occupation!" The war and military occupation
of Iraq have resulted in the deaths of more than 3,425 American soldiers
and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Continuing the occupation can only
lead to more bloodshed, increased insecurity, and little hope for Iraqis
to be able to reassert control over their lives and their government.
This weekly vigil, and other vigils in the Twin Cities, provide the
opportunity for the people in the community to participate in an important
ongoing act of public resistance to war, occupation, and empire. FFI: Twin
Cities Peace Campaign-Focus on Iraq at 612-522-1861 or WAMM at
612-522-1861


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From: greenpartymike <ollamhfaery [at] earthlink.net>
Subject: Indy/Philly 7.04 Philadelphia PA

An invitation to the:
PHILADELPHIA EMERGENCY ANTI-WAR CONVENTION
Independence Center, Philadelphia, PA
JULY 4, 2007, Starting 1 PM

In the spirit of our Declaration of Independence, join activist
organizations throughout the country to collaborate and forge common
strategies and actions. As our forefathers of this nation did, we too must
face tyranny, this time from the collusion of government, big business,
media, and religion.

We convene to form a strategic alliance with peace, pro-impeachment, civil
liberties, 9/11 Truth, and other groups to develop a comprehensive
strategy and implement actions to deal with this emergency.

Together we can eliminate the common root cause of our separate activist
concerns. During this time of urgency, petty differences or past
transgressions diminish as the need for each other increase, we need each
other now. Through this union we can access the only power feared by this
corrupt alliance - the power of community.

The convention will be inclusive as each delegate will have the floor to
describe their organization, primary concerns, strategies and actions they
propose. These strategies and actions will be part of further discussions.
There will be time for deliberation and participation in break-out groups.
Other activities include showing documentaries that support your cause at
a separate theater for delegates and general public.

This is also a media opportunity as already we have received national
coverage through our radio ads. The entire event will be simulcast
globally through the internet as well as filmed. Come and be part of
history.

Register: describe your organization, and number attending, email:
Paulnrg [at] aol.com Collaborate: send your suggestions on agenda and events
for the available eight hours. Network with other activist groups and
expand your influence. Access the power of community that will bring
needed change.

Events begin at 1 PM on July 4
Located at Independence Center, 6th and Market St., Philadelphia. Endorsed
By: World Can't Wait, Temple University Anti-War, Northeast 9/11 Truth,
Green Party of Vermont, Green Party of Pennsylvania, Green Party of
Minnesota, Peace Action-Delaware Valley, Philadelphia Regional Anti-War
Network, Students for a Democratic Society- Delaware Valley

Contacts:
Paul Deslauriers email; paulnrg [at] aol.com  Phone: 413-232-7888
Bruce Marshall email: brmas [at] earthlink.net  Phone: 802-767-6079


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From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at] comcast.net>
Subject: NWN4P New Hope 7.05 4:30pm

NWN4P-New Hope demonstration every Thursday 4:30 to 6 PM at the corner of
Winnetka and 42nd.  You may park near Walgreens or in the larger lot near
McDonalds; we will be on all four corners.  Bring your own or use our
signs.


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From: Greg and Sue Skog <skograce [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 7.05 4:30pm

CANDLELIGHT PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest
corner of Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs
and candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends
south of the river speaking out against war.


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From: EKalamboki [at] aol.com
Subject: Northtown vigil 7.05 5pm

NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy
10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine.

Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View,
New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park,
Fridley, and Coon Rapids.  We'll have extra signs.

For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or
email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at] aol.com.


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From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Iraqi/bomb/art 7.05 5pm

Thursday, 7/5, 5 to 8 pm, public exhibition of Iraqi book art, created as
the US bombing took place in 2003,Mpls Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall,
downtown Mpls.  (Private groups showings welcomed through 7/31.)
320-260-1709.


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Subject: What vacation?
By H.J. Cummins, Star Tribune
June 30, 2007

What vacation? We've gotten away from getting away

It's summertime, and the livin' isn't so easy for one in four U.S.
workers who get no paid days off.

Schools are out. Skies are blue. Beaches beckon.
It's vacation time.

But for many Americans, even getting July 4th off will be difficult.

The United States ranks dead last among 21 of the world's richest
countries when it comes to guaranteed days off, according to a new study
titled "No-Vacation Nation," by the Center for Economic and Policy
Research in Washington.

While other countries guarantee time off from jobs - Finland 39 days a
year, Canada 18 and Japan 10 - U.S. law gives workers a right to zero
days off, even for holidays.

Several countries, including Switzerland and Australia, have laws
forbidding workers from cashing out time off for an extra paycheck or two.
The countries require workers to take their time off - partly to protect
against pressure from bosses to stay at their posts.

In the absence of any government mandate, about one in four working
Americans get no paid vacations or holidays, according to several
estimates, including the new report. On average, U.S. workers get nine
paid vacation days and six holidays a year, the report said. Take Back
Your Time, a national group based in Seattle whose name explains itself,
wants Congress to mandate a minimum of three weeks' paid vacation
annually. It is shopping the proposal around now and vowing to make
vacation policies an issue in next year's presidential race.

"Most of the studies show people need about two weeks in one block a
year for benefits like preventing heart disease and such," said the
group's national coordinator, John de Graaf. "It can't be the odd day
here and there, because that day is usually spent catching up with
things, not really winding down."

Indeed, the value of time off has been well-documented. In a study
released in December, Air New Zealand used NASA-developed machinery
to study the effects of down time on volunteer passengers from Los
Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand - including brain, eye, muscle and
heart monitoring from two days before and two days after their trips.
The travelers got three times more deep, rejuvenating sleep after a
vacation. Their before-and-after measures improved an average of
nearly 25 percent.

Seven years without vacation

De Graaf talked about one hotel clerk who told him her vacation time had
just been canceled for the seventh year in a row, because the hotel was
too busy to spare her. That's why he wants the government to require
vacation time.

"That's the only way it's been shown to happen," he said.

Not surprisingly, business groups oppose such a law.

If the government forces employers to give paid time off they'll just have
to cover that cost by shorting something else - like maybe cutting pay,
said James Sherk, a labor policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a
conservative think tank in Washington.

"That's the government saying, 'You really don't need that money you're
earning, you really need time off,' " he said. "I'm more of the belief
that workers should have the choice."

The notion of guaranteed time off brought a range of reactions from
residents around the Twin Cities.

Myles Borden, a maintenance engineer at the Airport Marriott in
Minneapolis, likes the mandate proposal. Still in his first year at the
hotel, Borden gets two weeks' vacation, he said. He and his wife have six
children, and the many days off that he gets have to cover family needs,
leaving very few for fun, he said.

Charles Davis, a local computer contractor, also supports mandating more
vacation. "I think it would be healthy for the country," he said.

A rare three weeks

Wyn Douglas is taking a three-week trip to Canada's Northwest Territories
this month - after graduating with a master's degree from the University
of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and before he begins
job hunting.

"I certainly don't expect to have another opportunity to take three weeks
to do whatever I like for a long time, if ever again," Douglas said.

He's a believer in the benefits of work breaks, and he pointed out that
some Americans have only themselves to blame for overwork.

In fact, surveys indicate that 40 percent to 50 percent of Americans
don't use all the vacation they have.

Still, mandating it, for him, goes too far. "I would prefer this works
itself out between the employer and the employee," Douglas said.

Mike Gaynor, a marketing manager for U.S. Bank who gets and uses four
weeks vacation a year, agreed.

"I'm not big on government mandates really," he said.

At the Clique salon in Minneapolis, hair stylist Resa Clay is basically
self-employed so she arranges her customer appointments around trips.
Despite her freedom, she favors mandating paid vacations - because her
friends with office and retail jobs often lack the vacation time to go
with her.

"It affects a lot of people I hang out with," Clay said, "and that's all
they complain about."

Staff writer Cari Tuna contributed to this report. H.J. Cummins -
612-673-4671 - hcummins [at] startribune.com

© 2007 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.


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Move Over Oprah!
Summer Reading
By RALPH NADER
CounterPunch
June 30 / July 1, 2007

1. A Handful of Straw Blowing in the Wind by Thelma Doak (About Times
Publishing, 2007).

She reached her 104th birthday, remembering her life in the dust bowls of
the nineteen thirties, of seeing the Wright brothers and their flying
machine at the Oklahoma State Fair in 1912 and much more served with
wisdom, humor and the family passions of decency.

2. FoodFight: The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill by Daniel Imhoff
with a Foreword by Michael Pollan (University of California Press, 2007).

This is a beautifully laid out, gripping tutorial of a book about the
effects of industrial agriculture, The Farm Bill, about to be rewritten in
Congress, and corporate domination of food policy that affects your
health, environment, tax dollars, consumer dollars and rural America-plus,
much, much more graphically portrayed.

3. Nation of Secrets by Ted Gup (Doubleday, 2007).

A former Washington Post reporter shows how our democracy and "the
American Way of Life," is damaged by Government secrecy. His book is
alarming but still an understatement, as our nearly 40 year old Freedom of
Information Clearinghouse and its many court cases can attest (Please see:
http://www.citizen.org/litigation/freeinfo/). And then there is corporate
secrecy-which I hope will be Ted Gup's next book.

4. Blackwater-The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, by
Jeremy Scahill (Nation Books, 2007).

Speaking of corporate secrecy, this kind comes with a government cloak and
presages the next stage of the corporate state-that worried both Franklin
Delano Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.

5. The Declaration of Independence-A Global History by David Armitage
(Harvard University Press, 2007).

This Harvard history professor writes about our Declaration of
Independence "through the eyes of the rest of the world" in those early
and subsequent years. Yale constitutional law professor, Charles Black
accorded the Declaration momentous juridical importance prior to and after
our Constitution of 1787. This manifesto deserves reading by students and
adults alike. The Declaration is greatly under-noticed. Recently, I sent a
parchment copy to 25 Eagles Scouts and urged them to place in on their
bedroom wall, if possible. Not one of these Scouts bothered to respond
with a thank you or a comment or two. Would they have been so indifferent
had they received a Simpsons poster?

6. State of the World-2007 (Worldwatch Institute, 2007)

The latest Worldwatch report draws on the Institute's global network to
confront urban problems with amazing fresh reports of sustainable
responses. Did you know that in Rizhao, China, a city of 3 million people,
99 percent of households in the central districts use solar water heaters
and more than 60,000 greenhouses are heated by solar panels. This book
does describe the terrible poverty and perils of cities around the world
but retains for the reader a framework of what is being done and what
could be done.

7. Sue the Doctor and Win! By Lewis Laska, J.D., Ph.D. (Farmacon Press,
2007)

The title sounds alarmist until you learn from official and academic
studies that nearly 100,000 people die each year from medical malpractice
in hospitals, plus hundreds of thousands of casualties, and a huge toll of
fatalities and sickness from hospital-induced infections. The vast
majority of victims or next of kin file /no claims whatsoever/. Five
percent of physicians account for nearly 40 percent of the harm but only a
few are disciplined by the state medical regulatory agencies. This book
includes a large amount of information people need to know to achieve
deterrence, prevention, as well as compensatory justice for these most
helpless and trusting patients.

8. Building Powerful Community Organizations by Michael Jacoby Brown (Long
Haul Press, 2007).

Is there a more important book given our weakening democratic society
bullied by concentrated corporate power and their control of government?
This is the book for you whenever you want to go after a persistent
injustice or you want to solve a problem and make your community whistle
with happiness. Whether on the beach or at a mountain retreat this summer,
you will find this book full of organizing truths and detailed advances in
practical democratic action.

9. Nanotechnology-Risk, Ethics and Law edited by Geoffrey Hunt and Michael
Mehta (Earthscan, 2007). The latest volume, in a series of Science in
Society produced by the James Martin Institute at Oxford University,
provides an excellent overview for interested citizens-and we better get
up to speed on this portentous, unregulated, largely invisible
technology-as nanotechnology moves swiftly into consumer and other
commercial products and begins what editor Hunt calls "the journey of
finding its space within the social imaginary."

10. Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court by Atty. Ralph Warner (Nolo
Press, 2006). Everybody has complaints about being ripped off by some
seller, but few know how practical and accessible small claims courts are
to win justice from the rascals. This is as clear a roadmap about how
/you/ can prepare your case, win in court and collect your money. You
don't need a lawyer. These courts are greatly underused by consumers.

Ralph Nader is the author of The Seventeen Traditions


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Freedom Ain't for Free
The Founding Fathers Never Met Dick Cheney
By DAVID MICHAEL GREEN
CounterPunch
June 29, 2007

Jefferson once famously offered that, "The tree of liberty must be
refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants".

I am just enough of a bleeding-heart Pollyanna to hope that there are
periods when real reform can be achieved without sacrifice on that scale,
and just enough of a realist to know that there are then those other
moments in history.

It's difficult to see which we're in now, but I suspect we'll have a
pretty good idea within a year or two. Americans are sickened by the
policies and the character of their leadership, such as it is. That much
is now as clear and free of obstruction as is the space between George
Bush's ears. But what follows from there is far less apparent. Are these
same Americans prepared to make even the smallest of sacrifices, let alone
give the blood Jefferson thought necessary, for the purposes of restoring
the freedom and democracy they read about in their ninth grade civics
texts? And with conservatives in ever-expanding numbers now joining the
ranks of those disgusted with BushCo, could the country even agree on
remedies for the current malaise, even if we can all concur on what we
don't want?

The central insight of the Founders was that woven into human nature, for
at least enough people to give the rest of us worry, is an insatiable will
to power. Unmitigated, unchallenged, really powerful power. While Western
societies may have spent half a century or so lulled into believing that
that gene had finally and expensively been excised from human DNA once and
for all, we are nowadays daily and sadly reminded of the eternal
prescience of Jefferson, Madison and their generation.

They, of course, never met Dick Cheney. But they would recognize him
instantly. If the man weren't so dangerous he would be hilariously
laughable. His latest claim justifying his complete secrecy, his complete
lack of oversight, and his completely unchecked power is that the vice
presidency isn't actually an executive branch office (except, of course,
when it is claiming executive privilege to guarantee secrecy, lack of
oversight and unchecked power). I mean, I don't even know where to start
satirizing that one. It's just such an amazingly absurd assertion. If
Cheney claimed that he wasn't actually a human being, and therefore not
subject to the laws of the land, it would be hardly less preposterous. In
fact, given the absolute absence of humanity found anywhere in the
vicinity of this creature, it would be rather more believable than the
insane notion that the vice presidency isn't part of the executive branch.

Okay. Let's just get it out there, then. This is the guy for whom the
Founders wrote the constitution. This is the man who would be king.

I'm quite sure most Americans have never really given it any thought, but
the Constitution is really a pretty bizarre document absent this unspoken
premise which provides for its conceptual foundation - that humans are
dangerous power-seeking animals. The core attribute of the Constitution is
that it spreads power out at every opportunity, from the checking and
balancing of separate branches of government, to the power-sharing between
the states and Washington embodied in its federalism, to the limitations
on governmental power spelled out in the Bill of Rights. It is a governing
system designed to produce stasis, out of fear of the pernicious products
of action. It sacrifices a plethora of possible achievements in governance
in order to prevent the worst of them.

And even so it can fail, especially in time of crisis, real or
manufactured. And particularly when under assault by those who, while
wrapping themselves in the glory and legitimacy of the Founders at every
turn, seek to unravel the very essence of their greatest accomplishment.

Such is our historical moment. American democracy has been in a virtual
free fall, and the problems it now faces are myriad. These challenges
extend well beyond the current occupants of the White House, though the
provenance of many of them can be traced to the same murky swamp from out
of which evolutionary biology's attempt at humor gone freakishly awry, aka
Bush and Cheney, once crawled.

It is worth considering some of these sources of our current affliction,
each in turn, working our way toward the most fundamental of them. Which,
not coincidentally, is also the only place where any genuine hope for
redemption lies.

We can begin at the inner-most circle of Hell, with Bush and Cheney and
all those like them. Life in America would not necessarily be all
sweetness and light were there not a predatory kleptocracy in Washington
with control over every scrap of governmental authority it can possibly
acquire, but it sure would be less disastrous, and less precipitously
catastrophic, were this not the case.

It's crucial to understand the magnitude of the condition we're in as a
result of just this single factor. America is virtually an occupied
country. Does that strike you as hyperbolic, perhaps ridiculously so? It's
easy to forget, and we are massively discouraged from realizing, that just
because an individual is president (or vice president, or senator, or
Supreme Court justice), that such a person might not have the interests of
the country at heart. The current regime can bungle spectacularly, but
they are not fundamentally bunglers, and it is therefore easy to mistake
them for something other than what they are. In fact, they are ruthlessly
efficient at what they care about.

If a government can plunge a country into penury in order to enrich an
elite economic class, if it can propagate an immense campaign of deceit in
order to launch a prodigiously violent war, if it can usurp the powers of
government at every turn - if it can do all these things, what difference
does it make if it is foreign or domestic? If we feel any better being
exploited by the Kennebunkport mafia than, say, the Kremlin mafia, it is
only because we've been well trained in nationalist bunk to go along with
our civics bunk. The only difference between the Russians invading
Washington to imperil our lives, limbs and wealth, and the Cheneys doing
the same thing, is that the former would require translators when they'd
bark out the command to "Bend over!"

But this kleptocracy is not, of course, the only injurious political
condition now debilitating American democracy. In fact, it is exacerbated
by, and arguably even impossible without, the coincident presence of the
others. But this criminal conspiracy is nevertheless currently at the
heart of the ruination now being visited upon the country, and the first
order of business is to remove it. By which I mean not just the Bush
presidency, but the entirety of the regressive project.

Surely a second cause of our political woes has been Congress,
specifically the GOP members who controlled it for most of the Bush years.
They've proved repeatedly that institutional bulwarks against tyranny are
only as good the people who occupy the institutions. The very same people
who love to laugh at the naivete of liberals and mock the utility of their
beloved treaties abroad 'prove' the point by abdicating their
responsibilities at home and turning the Constitution into just so much
faded parchment. One might think that even Republican members of Congress
would have a certain interest in defending the institutional prerogatives
of their branch of government, but I can hardly remember any time they
showed such wisdom. Rather, they backed Bush even as he mocked them and
gutted their powers at every opportunity. If the United States Congress
insists on being run over repeatedly by an executive freight train gone
off the tracks, it should not be surprised to find itself about as
consequential as was the Soviet Congress of People's Deputies. Eh,
comrades? Nor should it be chagrined. We'll handle that part.

Then there's the matter of the opposition party. Who, you're wondering?
Yeah, exactly. Probably the only thing that keeps the alleged leadership
of the Democratic Party alive is that somebody wired around their
embarrassment circuits. Otherwise I expect they'd all be hurling
themselves into the Potomac from the highest bridge in the District. I
know I would be if I had their record. But then I wouldn't have their
record. Even with all the trappings of office, I'd rather be a good ditch
digger than a lousy Speaker of the House. I expect I'd struggle harder to
dig a nice straight ditch than Pelosi or Reid have to save lives in Iraq.
All this matters because the public expects and needs leadership in
articulating an alternative vision to that of the reigning government,
especially when that regime is evil, lusting for power at every turn, and
not the least bit dissuaded from using every nefarious technique and every
deceit large or small in order to get what it wants. There should be a
serious limit to this dependency on leaders, but let's face it, most
citizens don't have the time, resources and information access that
members of Congress have. It's not impossible for the public to understand
the intricacies of Bush's Medicare Part D scam, for instance, or the
alternatives to that policy. It's just harder in the absence of a loyal
opposition doing its job in leading the way.

A fourth source of our current dismal political condition is a media which
has gone native so badly it makes obsequiousness look like a virtue. For
someone who came of political age in the Watergate era, the last few years
have been a jaw-dropping astonishment. Today's mainstream media is
virtually unrecognizable from just a generation earlier, and it often
wasn't so very great back then. Two anecdotal stories say all that needs
to be said on this subject. The first is the near complete absence of
coverage in the mainstream media of the Downing Street Memos when they
emerged, a bombshell which I have argued is almost without question the
second biggest news story since the Berlin Wall came down (9/11 being
number one, and there is much to suggest that that one has also been
treated to somewhat less than sufficient investigative attention). The New
York Times actually did better than other outlets, just by virtue of
mentioning it at all. They covered these leaked memos from the angle of
the British election of the time, however. Confronted by an angry
blogosphere about why these documents that reveal the lies of the Iraq war
weren't translated into screaming four-inch headlines on the front page,
their editors mumbled something about how the foreign desk and the
national desk never quite connected with each other. Uh-huh. Sure, I
believe that. As I said, this was one of the better bits of coverage.
Elsewhere it was never mentioned at all.

Then there was more or less the entirety of 'news' 'coverage' leading up
to the war, and during most of it. The stories of media failures to
question assumptions about the administration's propaganda are already
legion. What is becoming increasingly apparent is the degree to which the
media was complicit in creating the 'news'- and not just Fox or the
Washington Times, either. I heard Josh Rushing, former Marine Corps media
liaison officer, on the radio this week discussing his new book. He
described how 'war correspondents' would come to him during 'briefings',
and quite literally ask, "What points do you want us to get across today?"
(And apparently he names names in the book.) Could there be a bigger
sell-out than that, a bigger abdication of fundamental responsibility?
Even in the absence of the other factors enumerated here, it is difficult
to imagine anything approaching a robust democracy in any polity where the
conduits of information are owned and maintained by supplicants rather
than scrutinizers. Heads-up news media hacks: Thomas Jefferson has plans
for your blood.

I would certainly also add to the list of what ails American politics both
an educational system and a political culture that consistently fail to
build an army of the sort of keepers-of-the-flame necessary to anything
which is meant to remotely resemble rule by the people. I don't know if
there was conspiratorial project to dumb down the American educational
system to the point where its products are incapable of thinking
critically about politics (after all, arrogant and insular Americans have
long been notorious for their ignorance of history, other cultures, and
even geography), but it wouldn't surprise me if there was. Certainly that
has happened, and intentionally, in the public sphere, where one
corrosively inane idea after another has been successfully marketed by the
vast right-wing conspiracy upon a gullible public. It's hard to know where
to start, but two of the most sinister and malefic of these are the
laughably absurd notion of a liberal-biased media (you know, the ones
covering the Iraq war), and the even more damaging Reagan mantra that
"Government is not the solution. Government is the problem."

Of course, lurking behind many of the items on this laundry list is one in
particular, the endlessly voracious gluttony of the crapulent class, the
pathological pursuit of superfluous wealth by elites already drowning in
shamefully obscene piles of lucre. What massive insecurities can drive
those already owning two yachts to favor killing a school lunches program
in order to buy a third? What can push them even to the point of
destroying the infrastructural goose laying the golden eggs, to save a
couple of nickels on taxes? Will they be able to buy enough air
conditioners to mollify their children who inherit from them not only
great riches, but a one-and-only planet careering toward inhabitability?
Better hope the kids aren't quite as selfish as Mom and Dad, or the latter
might have to use that small army of Blackwater pinkertons to protect them
from more than just the surly hoi polloi assembled beyond the walls of the
estate. Of course, being the Me Children of the Me Generation (these
things escalate geometrically), more likely is that the kids will be even
more poorly disposed than the parents, who may find themselves one day
personally mourning the loss of the munificent state they dismantled in
the name of short-term greed. Good luck putting that large, egg-like
creature back together.

So, if the question is "What's eating American politics"?, the answer is
manifold. Is it possible to have cancer of the heart? It would seem so,
given the predators now running American government. Their mission, of
course, is simply to bleed the state dry of every valuable they can get
their hands on and deliver those items to their rightful owners, the
already fantastically privileged. They have coopted everything and nearly
everyone who might serve as a barrier to their plundering, including the
media, the political opposition, the educational system, the institutions
of government and the very culture itself. The cards have been
dramatically stacked in their favor, but we haven't even gotten yet to the
single factor most responsible for our predicament.

A garden left untended will grow weeds. A child left to his or her own
devices will become the human equivalent. What ever possessed Americans to
allow themselves to believe a political system is any different? Not only
is public indifference to politics the single most consequential factor of
all of those which ail this political system, its inverse is probably the
only possible remedy. Sure, it would be nice to have a Congress, or a
Democratic Party, or a media that singularly or collectively decided to
actually do their job. But the likelihood of that happening is remote in
the absence of an engaged public. Moreover, the likelihood of it mattering
under such conditions is also quite slim. There's just no avoiding it.
Public participation in politics is the sine qua non of democracy and good
governance, the requisite that both trumps and enables all the other
significant factors.

But we're pretty far from that today. The American people are essentially
phoning it in. The signs are everywhere, and they are grim. It's not just
that we barely vote at the fifty percent turnout level for presidential
election years (and more like one-third for mid-term congressional
elections). That's a depressing measure of participation for any
democracy, to be sure, but what is most troubling is the degree to which
the public simply pays less than minimal attention to politics and
government. Even those who are bothering to vote are often doing so with a
level of engagement that could subject them to a lawsuit for negligence in
other contexts. This is drive-thru politics. Pay at the first window, get
your cheeseburger at the second, move on down the road.

It's not that we're intellectually incapable, either. Americans keep
exhaustive amounts of data in their heads about sports, celebrities,
frighteningly banal television shows and all manner of other distractions.
There's plenty of storage capacity on their human hard drives, though a
purge of all that useless information wouldn't hurt, nor would running a
subsequent defrag to unclutter all that messy space be such a bad idea.
But the point is that we could all become quite expert and sophisticated
consumers of political information if we chose to.

But, of course, that is the worst nightmare of the political class,
especially the rabid right, whose level of support is altogether inversely
related to the degree of information and sophistication a voter possesses.
If you're dumb, a phrase like "We're fighting them over there so we don't
have to fight them here" sounds plausible. If you don't pay attention, you
wouldn't realize that there are different kinds of Muslims (and they don't
necessarily all get along), and thus that attacking just any old Middle
East country in response to 9/11 isn't necessarily a great idea. If you're
all wrapped up in baseball box scores instead of knowing a bit about
public policy, you'll believe that the pathetic little tax cut George Bush
threw in your direction to buy you off was a good thing for both you and
the country. If you're devoting a lot of time to following Paris Hilton's
travails, you'll be uneducated enough to believe that global warming is a
fraud.

I will give the American public some credit. They now loathe George W.
Bush, and that is crucial. Which is why it pains me so much that it took
them six years to figure out what was transparently obvious all along.
More importantly, though, I am quite convinced that they despise Bush for
- if not the wrong reasons - then at least not the most significant
reasons one should. That is, they seem to have him figured for a bungler,
a village idiot, and somebody who is less than truthful on minor issues
like war, civil liberties and the Constitution. The depravity of the Bush
administration runs far deeper, however. It is essentially an invading
force which twice seized office illegally, has arrogated to itself
monarchical authorities while in power, and uses all these for the purpose
of bilking the public of its possessions. I doubt that many Americans -
even among the seventy percent who think he's a lousy president - fully
understand this.

I think it also needs to be said that, at some level, there is much that
is off-putting about politics, particularly the way it has come to be
practiced in America in recent decades. Who can blame the public for
thinking that politicians are a sleazy bunch in general? They are! Who can
blame people for thinking that far too many politicians are more
interested in advancing their careers or lining their pockets than in
being good stewards of the American polity during their tenure? Who can
blame them for tuning out insipid thirty-second television ads that fairly
scream out their disdain for anyone dumb enough to listen to them? And who
could blame the public for wondering whether there's any substantial
difference between the party of Tweedledee and the party of Tweedledum?

But which of these are the chicken, and which the egg? Would any of this
occur if the titular owners of American government were more vigilant
about maintaining their property? I doubt it. The last thing a politician
facing a discriminating voting public would want would be to demean them
with insultingly insipid campaign tactics. It's a worn-out maxim but
nevertheless true: People get the government they deserve. If we require
more and better political discourse, no politician could afford to deliver
anything less and hope to be successful.

People ask all the time, "What can we do?" At the risk of offering a too
vague response, the simple answer - I would say fundamentally the only
viable answer - is for us to be more responsible owners of our government,
to actively encourage everyone we know to do the same, and to seek to
establish such behavior as a moral norm in the society. Any parent who
allowed their child to play in a busy street would be subjected to the
worst kind of opprobrium (not to mention probably losing custody of the
child) - and rightly so. Why then should we be allowed to let our
government to play in the street? Especially if the reason for doing so is
our simple laziness. Awful things will happen. Awful things are already
happening.

The great irony of this is that the cost of not paying attention is almost
always infinitely higher than it would be to do the thing the right way in
the first place. Too much for comfort, we're like the child who in
fighting to avoid doing his homework expends ten times more energy than
the homework itself would require. If Americans had any idea of the costs
the Bush administration has saddled upon them, for the worst of reasons,
they'd go ballistic. They'd be enraged at a thief stealing their money,
and yet he's done just that while they were sitting on the couch. They'd
flip out at someone wrecking their living space, and yet Bush had done
precisely that while they were watching that Seinfeld rerun for the fourth
time - you know, the one about masturbation. They'd get red in the face at
somebody wrecking their reputation, and yet Bush shredded theirs before
halftime was even over.

The truth is that we are essentially political adolescents in America.
It's not entirely clear that giving us our participatory driver's licenses
is such a good idea. We really don't seem very responsible, and it's not
like the ship of state we're driving is some national moped that wouldn't
do much damage to anyone besides the rider and the odd pedestrian in the
wrong place at the wrong time. The United States is the QEII of vehicular
metaphors. It's the Saturn V, man. It's the freakin' Death Star. It's
capable of enormous damage if piloted by a bunch of "Party on, Garth!"
teenagers with an attention span barely suited for playing Doom II, and
all the gravitas of a Cheech and Chong movie. This is not a theoretical
proposition. Probably a million completely innocent Iraqi civilians are
dead now, while the tweener called the American public was busy rocking
out to Korn instead of watching the road.

Americans have, I fear, grown intellectually lazy and fearful (which
itself can often be another form of lazy). Just like we want a bunch of
illegal immigrants to wash our car or bus or restaurant tables, so we
want a government on the cheap and easy (which will also sometimes make
lots of silly noises about illegal immigrants). We wouldn't dream of
having somebody else choose our dinner for us, and yet we have delegated
our futures - often our very lives - to some of the lowliest critters
walking the planet, without much more than the slightest oversight. In
fact, we don't even seem to care much when the folks we've hired to do the
oversight don't bother to do that.

So we fund our schools through lotteries 'cause that lowers our tax bill.
And we commit our children's future earnings by borrowing to spend today,
again to avoid paying our share in taxes. And we give the president a
blank check for fighting whatever war he wants 'cause thinking about
whether an invasion is justified takes time and energy. And we drive
Hummers 'cause ... well, I don't actually know why any fool would drive a
Hummer. But surely it's not because he's carefully thought through the
implications of environmental destruction.

I'm quite sure that the same Americans who would assure you of what solid
patriots they are were just like George Bush in not knowing on the eve of
the Iraq invasion, that, for instance, there are Sunni and Shiite Muslims,
and that there is no shortage of historical tension between them. How can
you put a magnetic ribbon on the back of your car, but not take the
slightest bit of time to learn some basic facts about the living and dying
hell to which your tax dollars and your votes are committing American
troops? Bush's case for the war, even based on what we knew then, fell
apart with the slightest application of knowledge and thought. But people
don't want to learn and they don't want to think, because it can be
difficult. It's far easier to be anesthetized by yet another episode of
Desperate Housewives.

The solution to all this begins with accountability. So much of what
passes for politics in America today is only possible because of the style
of our discourse, and because of the absence of sustained questioning of
members of our political class. George W. Bush had to avoid at all costs
any meeting with Cindy Sheehan, let alone a public one, for the simple
reason that he knew she would not be deterred from asking the difficult,
probing and sustained questions that would immediately expose the lies
surrounding his Iraq adventure. The media is equally capable of asking
these questions, but refuses any sort of serious grilling of presidents or
members of Congress (unless, of course, they're Democrats). We need to
reinvent the rituals of American politics so that candidates and
officeholders will not get our votes unless they can defend their ideas
against prolonged critical inquiry, and we need to demand with our remote
controls that our media provide us with that.

I'm more hopeful than I have been for a generation that young people get
this. The New York Times is reporting this week that younger Americans are
thinking about politics in ways we haven't seen for a very long time.
Fifty-eight percent of that cohort said they are paying attention to the
presidential race today, more than a year before election day. In the 2004
cycle- an election of pretty intense engagement relative to those which
preceded it - only thirty-five percent were following the presidential
race at the equivalent time in the campaign. That is a huge difference,
the likes of which you don't often see in polling on any question or
attitude. And what is more, not surprisingly, these 18 to 29 year-olds
have more progressive views than their elders on a raft of issues, as well
as very negative views of the Republican Party, which has probably lost
them for life. I say this is not surprising - not because it vindicates my
own personal politics - but because of the relationship between
information and ideology discussed above. Time and again, regressive
politics simply fall apart under any sort of thoughtful examination. The
more engaged you are, the less Republican, as these young folks are
proving.

There are other reasons to be hopeful as well. Who could not be excited by
the group of high school Presidential Scholars - including, I'm proud to
say, the daughter of two of my colleagues - who hand-delivered a letter to
George Bush demanding that he stop torturing in their name, and in doing
so thereby demonstrated a wisdom, patriotism and courage most Americans
twice or three times their age would envy if they were smart enough to
recognize it for the wonderful act it was?

All in all, it has in fact been the public these last years that has been
the (unhurried) vanguard when it comes to confronting the atrocities of
Bush and his band of regressives, while the institutional actors in the
system have repeatedly failed in just about everything but drawing their
paychecks (thank goodness for direct deposit, eh?). They continue to do so
today. The only reason a do-nothing new Congress could have come to be so
despised by so many Americans in so short a time is because of their
failure to be responsive on the major issue of our day - Iraq. The public
already gets it, and has done so without much help from a fully coopted
media, either. They look at Congress and wonder what the heck those folks
do all day long up there on that hill, anyhow.

But, notwithstanding these clear signs of life in the comatose patient,
far more needs to be done. Far more. Especially if we are to make the
institutional changes to the foundations of our political culture that are
necessary to avoid returning to this dark, dank place we've haunted of
late.

It may sound ridiculously platitudinous, but the fact is that there is
really no substitute for our hands-on engagement in the governing of our
society and our world. It all comes back to that - Congress, the
Democrats, the media - all of it. The genius of democracy is in its
responsiveness to the public will, and unfortunately that is precisely
what American democracy is doing right now - responding to our collective
indifference. But until Dick Cheney cuts to the chase already and anoints
himself emperor, there's just enough democracy left in America to bring
this thing around. It will require considerable effort, though. We have to
tend to our garden. We have to support the seedlings and purge the weeds.

We cannot, fundamentally, delegate this one. We cannot hire someone to do
our thinking for us. Not, at least, if we expect to be happy with the
results. Not if we want to grow roses instead of weeds.

(Oh, now I get it. That's what the W stands for!)

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra
University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to
his articles (dmg [at] regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time
constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be
found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.


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