Progressive Calandar 08.18.08
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2008 05:47:11 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    08.18.08

1. Local food      8.18 11:30am
2. Peace walk      8.18 6pm RiverFalls WI
3. Palestine/film  8.18 6:30pm
4. Cuba/pastors    8.18 7pm Duluth MN
5. Oxfam action    8.18 7pm

6. What IRV is     8.19 6:30pm
7. Womens potluck  8.19 6:30pm
8. Peace Is/poetry 8.19 7:30pm

9. Ralph Nader    - Barred from presidential debates
10. Tom Burghardt - The high-tech police state takes shape
11. Thomas Frank  - The plot against liberal America

--------1 of 11--------

From: Melvin Giles <peaceful [at] mninter.net>
Subject: Local food 8.18 11:30am

A Solution-Driven Interactive Panel Discussion
Featuring Keynote Lunch Speaker: Will Allen of Growing Power, Milwaukee, WI
Monday August 18th, 11:30am-2:30pm.
M.L. King Center: 270 Kent St. St. Paul, 55102
~ Free Entry & Free Parking ~
Light Lunch, Made from Local Foods!

We would love to have you join us.

Dorii Gbolo, Open Cities Health Center Director, will open the discussion,
framing the connection of healthy food access to individual and community
health, as it relates to preventable diseases for example.

The general discussion will focus on: Working together to build access to
healthy food for all; and exploring how race, class and gender inequality
affect the regional food system.

Map to M.L. King Center: 270 Kent St. St. Paul, MN 55102:
http://maps.google.com/maps?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=s&hl=en&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=king+center--st.+paul,+mn&fb=1&cid=0,0,14546267786216390941&sa=X&oi=local_result&resnum=1&ct=image

No registration needed.

Sarah Jaycocks Ramsey County Master Gardener Program rcmg [at] umn.edu.
651-704-2063


--------2 of 11--------

From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at] comcast.net>
Subject: Peace walk 8.18 6pm RiverFalls WI

River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on
the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from
"Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact:
d.n.holden [at] comcast.net. Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls,
Wisconsin 54022


--------3 of 11--------

From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Palestine/film 8.18 6:30pm

Free WAMM Third Monday Movie and Discussion: "Life in Occupied Palestine"

Monday, August 18, 6:30 p.m. St. Joan of Arc Church, Hospitality Hall,
4537 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis. Overview of the Middle East conflict
with scenes and stories of today from occupied Palestine. Video
presentation by journalist and scholar, Anna Balzer, granddaughter of
Holocaust survivors. Followed by discussion. Sponsored by: the WAMM Third
Monday Movies Committee. FFI: Call WAMM, 612-827-5364.


--------4 of 11--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Cuba/pastors 8.18 7pm Duluth MN

Monday, 8/18, 7 pm, David Moulton reports back on the Pastors for Peace
aid caravan to Cuba, Lafayette Community Center, 3026 Minnesota Ave, Park
Point (near Duluth).  jrkilgour [at] yahoo.com


--------5 of 11--------

From: Oxfam Action Corps - MN <minnesota [at] oxfamactioncorps.org>
Subject: Oxfam action 8.18 7pm

On the 3rd Monday of each month, we gather to plan our nonpartisan
grassroots activities. We've successfully organized events, lobbied
policymakers, and have used sheer creativity to stand up for meaningful
change. Our next meeting is this coming Monday, August 18 at 7pm. We meet
at the unique Common Roots Café (2558 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis).

We'll kick off with a short Frontline World movie on the human
consequences of a warming planet.

Since our last meeting, we connected with hundreds at the Green Jobs Rally
at St. Paul College, the She & Him concert at 1st Ave, and the Urban
Wildland Half Marathon.

Anyone can become an Oxfam Action Corps volunteer. Remember, our entire
team is volunteer organized and driven - the only qualification is a
passion to end suffering. New members join regularly. Stop by this Monday
even if you can only spare a few minutes. We'd love to meet you. You can
contact us at minnesota [at] oxfamactioncorps.org.


--------6 of 11--------

From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net>
Subject: What IRV is  8.19 6:30pm

Tuesday Aug. 19 will be a fun salon.  Dakota Rae from Better Ballots
Initiative (IRV) will present a program that really explains what IRV is.
We will be choosing from different drinks and desserts and ? and then
voting on them so it will make the subject very easy to understand.
Interesting and fun. Thanks, patty

Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon )
are held (unless otherwise noted in advance):
Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Mad Hatter's Tea House,
943 W 7th, St Paul, MN

Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.


--------7 of 11---------

From: jane kirby <spiderkirby [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Womens potluck 8.19 6:30pm

dear friends: please bring your goods and a food or drink to share TUESDAY
August 19th at 6:30.

shelley rohlf is hosting at her home in the lowertown lofts, 255 E.
kellogg blvd. between wall st. and wacouta in downtown st. paul.

please pass the word. women (and children) only, please.

if you are a man and are receiving this, it is because i don't know how to
separate my mail lists, sorry. pass the word to any interested ladies.
thanks. many of you know how we do this. all "leftovers" will be donated
to a local charity. peace.


--------8 of 11---------

From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Peace Is/poetry 8.19 7:30pm

Peace Island Poetry and Prose

Tuesday, August 19, 7:30 p.m. The University Club of St. Paul, 420 Summit
Avenue, St. Paul. Refresh your soul with visions and images of
Peace-Poetry and Prose. Poetry and Prose writers: Phoebe Hanson, Roy
McBride, Freya Manfred, Thomas R. Smith, Lorna Landvik, Bill Tilton, Cass
Dalglish, Frank Kroncke, Coleen Rowley, John Milton, Susu Jeffrey. Bar
open before, during and after the reading. Freewill offering to benefit
the upcoming Peace Island Conference. Presented by: Carol Connolly, Poet
Laureate of St. Paul and IntermediaArts. Dinner (optional) Reservations:
651-222-1751.


--------9 of 11--------

Barred from Presidential Debates
by Ralph Nader
CounterPunch
August 17th, 2008

As you know, Nader/Gonzalez is being blocked from the Presidential
debates.

The corporate controlled, so-called Commission on Presidential Debates
will not let any independent candidate in unless they show 15 percent in a
series of polls in September.

That's no surprise.

What is surprising is the failure of other debates to fill the vacuum.

Part of this is due to Senator Obama's reluctance to engage his opponents.

On May 4, Obama told Tim Russert on Meet the Press that he was willing to
debate with "any of my opponents about what this country means, what makes
it great".

But earlier this month, Obama's campaign manager backed off, saying that
Obama would debate only Senator McCain, and only in the three rigged
debates sponsored by the two parties and paid for by major corporations.

Senator Obama has also refused to participate in a number of other debates
- including the Google debate in New Orleans, the Ft. Hood, Texas debate
that is being organized by veterans groups, and the series of ten town
hall meetings proposed by Senator McCain.

Senator Obama's refusal to participate is a mistake and is costing him in
the polls.

Just yesterday, the Gallup tracking polls put McCain and Obama tied at 44
percent each.

If Obama doesn't agree to more debates, he could end up at the end of a
sentence that starts with Mondale, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry.

With only McCain and Obama on the stage, there will be no debate of key
issues and re-directions important to the majority of the American people.

Just go down the partial list:

Single payer Medicare for all health care  - supported by the majority of
the American people, the majority of doctors and nurses, and just
recently, unanimously, by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Obama says no. McCain says no.

Reversing U.S. policy in the Middle East - Obama says no. McCain says no.

Cut the bloated, wasteful, redundant military budget - Obama says no,
McCain says no. They want a bigger military budget.

Empty the prisons of drug possessors and fill them up with corporate
criminals - Obama says no, McCain says no.

Nader/Gonzalez says yes - to each.

The only way to change this systemic exclusion is for millions of
Americans to become engaged now.

Ralph Nader is the author of The Seventeen Traditions. Read other articles
by Ralph.

This article was posted on Sunday, August 17th, 2008 at 6:00 am and is
filed under "Third" Party, Democracy, Elections.

[Anybody but DemRep for prez and congress. New parties, new politics.
Start now; don't wait until there's nothing left. -ed]


--------10 of 11--------

Operation Sentinel: The High-Tech Police State Takes Shape
by Tom Burghardt
August 17th, 2008
Dissident Voice

Operation Sentinel, a new program unveiled by the New York City Police
Department (NYPD) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), would
encircle Manhattan with thousands of surveillance cameras that photograph
every car or truck entering and exiting the city across its network of
bridges and tunnels.

Information captured by this intrusive project would be stored in a huge
database for an undisclosed period of time. Additionally, a network of
sensors installed at toll plazas would allegedly be able to capable detect
radiological materials that could be used in potential terror plots, the
New York Times reports.

However, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has denounced the
proposal as "an attack on New Yorkers' right to privacy". NYCLU Executive
Director Donna Lieberman lambasted this outrageous proposal saying,

"The NYPD's latest plan to track and monitor the movements of millions of
law-abiding people is an assault on this country's historical respect for
the right to privacy and the freedom to be left alone. That this is
happening without public debate, and that elected officials have had no
opportunity to study this program is even more alarming". ("NYCLU: NYPD
Plan to Track Millions of Law-Abiding People is an Assault on Privacy
Rights," New York Civil Liberties Union, August 12, 2008)

Last month, I reported on a high-tech surveillance system under
development by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
called "Combat Zones That See" (CTS).

The 2003 program was predicated on the notion that once thousands of
digital CCTV networks were installed across occupied or "homeland" cities,
CTS would provide occupying troops - or police - with "motion-pattern
analysis across whole city scales". Based on complex algorithms linked to
the numeric recognition of license plate numbers and scanned-in human
profiles, CTS would furnish troops - or cops - real-time, "situational
awareness" of the "battlespace".

Despite repeated attempts by NYCLU to obtain information on Operation
Sentinel, NYPD and DHS have refused to provide any information about their
mega-surveillance system. While all traces of CTS disappeared from DARPA's
website, portions of the program have resurfaced with a vengeance,
courtesy of the NYPD and DHS.

According to New York Times reporter Al Baker,

Data on each vehicle - its time-stamped image, license plate imprint and
radiological signature - would be sent to a command center in Lower
Manhattan, where it would be indexed and stored for at least a month as
part of a broad security plan that emphasizes protecting the city's
financial district, the spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said. If it were not
linked to a suspicious vehicle or a law enforcement investigation, it
would be eliminated, he said. ("City Would Photograph Every Vehicle
Entering Manhattan and Sniff Out Radiation," The New York Times, August
12, 2008)

While preventing terrorists from detonating a radiological dirty bomb or a
nuclear device in Manhattan - or anywhere else for that matter - is
certainly a salutary government function, the misuse of such a system for
illegal surveillance of the citizenry cannot be ruled out in advance nor
dismissed out of hand as mere paranoia.

In addition to civil liberties concerns - no small matter after all, given
the repressive nature of NYPD and DHS' Operation Sentinel's grandiose
scheme bank on technological systems which do not exist.

The Times dryly notes, the proposed plan "relies on integrating layers of
technologies, some that are still being perfected". In other words, the
program is rife with potential abuse by enterprising security contractors,
many with documented histories of promising much, delivering little and
with substantial cost overruns borne by the public.

The department currently deploys portable radiation vehicles known as
TRACS, or Tactical Radiation Acquisition and Characterization System,
which the Times claims can detect radiological agents such as cesium and
cobalt, and differentiate "between dangerous ones and ones used in
products like smoke detectors or medical devices".

However, as I reported in June, another system under development, the
"Advanced Spectroscopic Portal" or ASP, allegedly a more "advanced" system
than those currently used, failed, as do today's systems, to differentiate
between the components of a radiological dirty bomb and natural radiation
emitters such as kitty litter, ceramics and bananas!

As I noted, the ASP program is already tens of millions of dollars above
the original estimate provided by Raytheon, other contractors and DHS. Why
therefore, would any sane person believe that the system currently under
consideration would be anymore functional or cost effective? Unless that
is, Operation Sentinel's real purpose is to enhance an already-formidable
surveillance state.

NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and his staff have been "urging the
creation of a London-style surveillance system for the financial district
that relies on license plate readers, movable roadblocks and 3,000 public
and private security cameras below Canal Street, all linked to a
coordination center at 55 Broadway. Known as the Lower Manhattan Security
Initiative, the center is to open in September," according to the Times.

NYPD spokesperson Paul J. Browne "could not say, when the program
[Operation Sentinel] would be completed," though "the Lower Manhattan
Initiative is expected to be in place by 2010". Since 2007, NYPD have been
using CTS-type CCTV systems to read license plates linked to databases for
(unspecified) "intelligence purposes".

And if the illegal handling of the 2004 Republican National Convention
protests are an indication of Operation Sentinel's intended purpose, New
York City residents' outrage with the proposal are fully justified.

The Times revealed their own proclivities on this score when they
prominently featured the "analysis" of so-called "terrorism expert,"
Steven Emerson, the executive director of the Washington-D.C.-based
Investigative Project on Terrorism, a right-wing think-tank with close
ties to the Bush administration and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

When civil libertarians (unnamed by the "newspaper of record") voiced
concerns over the intrusive nature of Operation Sentinel and the Lower
Manhattan Security Initiative, Emerson dismissed their apprehensions out
of hand,

"It is one tool of ensuring that if there is somebody on a terrorist watch
list or someone driving erratically, or if a pattern develops that raises
suspicions, it gives them an opportunity to investigate further and - if
need be - track down the drivers or the passengers," he said. "The bottom
line is they can't frisk everybody coming into Manhattan; they cannot wand
everyone, as they do at airports. This is a passive collection of data
that is not as personally invasive as what they do at airports".

An Islamophobe with a long record of blaming Muslims and the left for
every act of terrorism under the sun, Emerson demonstrated his bona fides
in 1995 when he claimed that "Arab terrorists" were responsible for the
horrific bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma
City.

The blast claimed 168 lives, including 19 children in a daycare center
while wounding hundreds of others. Attentive readers may recall that the
Murrah building bombing was in fact, carried out by a neo-Nazi gang linked
to Timothy McVeigh and the Aryan Republican Army.

While Emerson claims Operation Sentinel is "a passive collection of data,"
as the American Civil Liberties Union reports, there are currently more
than one million names in an FBI-administered database known as the
Terrorist Screening Center. Such an unwieldy monstrosity is hardly a
tightly-focused list of potential "threats"!

But let's be clear: Operation Sentinel, and a host of other programs
cooked-up by Bush regime war criminals and their corporatist allies is
another sordid scheme to keep Americans terrorized, while destroying our
civil liberties under cover of "homeland security".

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay
Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage
and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military
"Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press. Read other articles
by Tom, or visit Tom's website.

This article was posted on Sunday, August 17th, 2008 at 6:00 am and is
filed under Civil Liberties, Espionage, Police. ShareThis


--------11 of 11--------

The Plot Against Liberal America
by Thomas Frank
Common Dreams
Published on Sunday, August 17, 2008 by The New Statesman

The most cherished dream of conservative Washington is that liberalism can
somehow be defeated, finally and irreversibly, in the way that armies are
beaten and pests are exterminated. Electoral victories by Republicans are
just part of the story. The larger vision is of a future in which
liberalism is physically barred from the control room - of an "end of
history" in which taxes and onerous regulation will never be allowed to
threaten the fortunes private individuals make for themselves. This is the
longing behind the former White House aide Karl Rove's talk of "permanent
majority" and, 20 years previously, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's
declaration to the Republican convention that it's "the job of all
revolutions to make permanent their gains".

When I first moved to contemplate this peculiar utopian vision, I was
struck by its apparent futility. What I did not understand was that
beating liberal ideas was not the goal. The Washington conservatives aim
to make liberalism irrelevant not by debating, but by erasing it. Building
a majority coalition has always been a part of the programme, and
conservatives have enjoyed remarkable success at it for more than 30
years. But winning elections was not a bid for permanence by itself. It
was only a means.

The end was capturing the state, and using it to destroy liberalism as a
practical alternative. The pattern was set by Margaret Thatcher, who used
state power of the heaviest-handed sort to implant permanently the
anti-state ideology.

"Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul," she said,
echoing Stalin. In the 34 years before she became prime minister, Britain
rode a see-saw of nationalisation, privatisation and renationalisation;
Thatcher set out to end the game for good. Her plan for privatising
council housing was designed not only to enthrone the market, but to
encourage an ownership mentality and "change the soul" of an entire class
of voters. When she sold off nationally owned industries, she took steps
to ensure that workers received shares at below-market rates, leading
hopefully to the same soul transformation. Her brutal suppression of the
miners' strike in 1984 showed what now awaited those who resisted the new
order. As a Business Week reporter summarised it in 1987: "She sees her
mission as nothing less than eradicating Labour Party socialism as a
political alternative".

In their own pursuit of the free-market utopia, America's right-wingers
did not have as far to travel as their British cousins, and they have
never needed to use their state power so ruthlessly. But the pattern is
the same: scatter the left's constituencies, hack open the liberal state
and reward friendly businesses with the loot.

Grover Norquist, one of the most influential conservatives in Washington
and the "field marshal of the Bush plan", according to the Nation
magazine, has been most blunt about using the power of the state "to crush
the structures of the left". He has outlined the plan countless times in
countless venues: the liberal movement is supported by a number of
"pillars", each of which can be toppled by conservatives when in power.
Among Norquist's suggestions has been the undermining of defence lawyers -
who in the US give millions of dollars to liberal causes - with measures
"potentially costing [them] billions of dollars of lost income".
Conservatives could also "crush labour unions as a political entity" by
forcing unions to get annual written approval from every member before
spending union funds on political activities. His coup de grace is that
the Democratic Party in its entirety would become "a dead man walking"
with the privatisation of social security.

Much of this programme has already been accomplished, if not on the
precise terms Norquist suggested. The shimmering dream of privatising
social security, though, remains the great unreachable right-wing prize,
and the right persists in the campaign, regardless of the measure's
unpopularity or the number of political careers it costs. President Bush
announced privatisation to be his top priority on the day after his
re-election in 2004, although he had not emphasised this issue during the
campaign. He proceeded to chase it deep into the land of political
unpopularity, a region from which he never really returned.

He did this because the potential rewards of privatising social security
justify any political cost. At one stroke, it would both de-fund the
operations of government and utterly reconfigure the way Americans
interact with the state. It would be irreversible, too; the "transition
costs" in any scheme to convert social security are so vast that no
country can consider incurring them twice. Once the deal has been done and
the trillions of dollars that pass through social security have been
diverted from the US Treasury to stocks in private companies, the effects
would be locked in for good. First, there would be an immediate flood of
money into Wall Street; second, there would be an equivalent flow of money
out of government accounts, immediately propelling the federal deficit up
into the stratosphere and de-funding a huge part of the federal activity.

Business elites

The overall effect for the nation's politics would be to elevate for ever
the rationale of the financial markets over such vague liberalisms as "the
common good" and "the public interest". The practical results of such a
titanic redirection of the state are easy to predict, given the persistent
political demands of Wall Street: low wage growth, even weaker labour
organisations, a free hand for management in downsizing, in polluting, and
so on.

The longing for permanent victory over liberalism is not unique to the
west. In country after country, business elites have come up with
ingenious ways to limit the public's political choices. One of the most
effective of these has been massive public debt. Naomi Klein has pointed
out, in case after case, that the burden of debt has forced democratic
countries to accept a laissez-faire system that they find deeply
distasteful. Regardless of who borrowed the money, these debts must be
repaid - and repaying them, in turn, means that a nation must agree to
restructure its economy the way bankers bid: by deregulating, privatising
and cutting spending.

Republicans have ridden to power again and again promising balanced
budgets - government debt was "mortgaging our future", Ronald Reagan
admonished in his inaugural address - but once in office they proceed,
with a combination of tax cuts and spending increases, to inflate the
federal deficit to levels far beyond those reached by their supposedly
open-handed liberal rivals. The formal justification is one of the
all-time great hoaxes. By cutting taxes, it is said, you will unleash such
economic growth that federal revenues will actually increase, so all the
additional government spending will be paid for.

Even the theory's proponents don't really believe it. David Stockman, the
libertarian budget director of the first Reagan administration, did the
maths in 1980 and realised it would not rescue the government; it would
wreck the government. This is the point where most people would walk away.
Instead, Stockman decided it had medicinal value. He realised that with
their government brought to the brink of fiscal collapse, the liberals
would either have to acquiesce in the reconfiguration of the state or else
see the country destroyed. Stockman was candid about this: the left would
"have to dismantle [the government's] bloated, wasteful, and unjust
spending enterprises - or risk national ruin".

This is government-by-sabotage: deficits were a way to smash a liberal
state. The Reagan deficits did precisely this. When Reagan took over in
1981, he inherited an annual deficit of $59bn and a national debt of
$914bn; by the time he and his successor George Bush had finished their
work, they had quintupled the deficit and pumped the debt up to more than
$3trn. Bill Clinton called the deficit "Stockman's Revenge" - and it
dominated all other topics within his administration's economic teams.
With the chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan himself speaking
of "financial catastrophe" unless steps were taken to control Reagan's
deficit, Clinton was soon a convert. He got tough with the federal
workforce.

So-called virtues

George W Bush proceeded to plunge the budget into deficit again. Indeed,
after seeing how the Reagan deficit had forced Clinton's hand, it would
have been foolish for a conservative not to spend his way back into the
hole as rapidly as possible. "It's perfectly fine for them to waste
money," says Robert Reich, a former labour secretary to Bill Clinton,
summarising the conservative viewpoint. "If the public thinks government
is wasteful, that's fine. That reduces public faith in government, which
is precisely what the Republicans want".

In 1964, the political theorist James Burnham diagnosed liberalism as "the
ideology of western suicide". What Burnham meant by this was that
liberalism's so-called virtues - its openness and its insistence on equal
rights for everyone - made it vulnerable to any party that refuses to play
by the rules. The "suicide" that all of this was meant to describe was
liberalism's inevitable destruction at the hands of communism, a movement
in whose ranks Burnham had once marched himself. But his theory seems more
accurately to describe the stratagems of its fans on the American right.
And the correct term for the disasters that have disabled the liberal
state is not suicide, but vandalism. Loot the Treasury, dynamite the dam,
take a crowbar to the monument and throw a wrench into the gears. Slam the
locomotive into reverse, toss something heavy on the throttle, and jump
for it.

Mainstream American political commentary customarily assumes that the two
political parties do whatever they do as mirror images of each other; that
if one is guilty of some misstep, the other is equally culpable. But there
is no symmetry. Liberalism, as we know it, arose out of a compromise
between left-wing social movements and business interests. It depends on
the efficient functioning of certain organs of the state; it does not call
for all-out war on private industry.

Conservatism, on the other hand, speaks not of compromise, but of removing
its adversaries from the field altogether. While no one dreams of sawing
off those branches of the state that protect conservatism's constituents -
the military, the police, legal privileges granted to corporations -
conservatives openly fantasise about doing away with the bits of "big
government" that serve liberal ends. While de-funding the left is the
north star of the conservative project, there is no comparable campaign to
"de-fund the right"; indeed, it would be difficult to imagine one.

"Over the past 30 years, American politics has become more money-centred
at exactly the same time that American society has grown more unequal,"
the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have written. The
resources and organisational heft of the well-off and hyper-conservative
have exploded. But the organisational resources of middle-income Americans
. . . have atrophied. The resulting inequality has greatly benefited the
Republican Party while drawing it closer to its most affluent and extreme
supporters".

In this sense, conservative Washington is a botch that keeps on working,
constructing an imbalance that will tilt our politics rightward for years,
a plutocracy that will stand, regardless of who wins the next few
elections. And as American inequality widens, the clout of money will only
grow more powerful.

As I write this, the lobbyist-fuelled conservative boom of the past ten
years is being supplanted by a distinct conservative bust: like the
real-estate speculators who are dumping properties all over the country,
conservative senators and representatives are heading for the revolving
door in record numbers.

Plutocracy

The Democrats who have taken their place are an improvement, certainly,
but for the party's more entrepreneurial leaders electoral success in 2006
was merely an opportunity to accelerate their own courtship of
Washington's lobbyists, think-tanks and pressure groups staked out on K
Street. Democratic leaders have proved themselves the Republicans' equals
in circumvention of campaign finance laws.

Throwing the rascals out is no longer enough. The problem is structural;
it is inscribed on the map; it glows from the illuminated logos on the
contractors' office buildings; it is built into the systems of governance
themselves. A friend of mine summarised this concisely as we were lunching
in one of those restaurants where the suits and the soldiers get together.
Sweeping his hand so as to take in our fellow diners and all the
contractors' offices beyond, he said, "So you think all of this is just
going to go away if Obama gets in?" This whole economy, all these profits?

He's right, of course; maybe even righter than he realised. It would be
nice if electing Democrats was all that was required to resuscitate the
America that the right flattened, but it will take far more than that. A
century ago, an epidemic of public theft persisted, despite a long string
of reformers in the White House, Republicans and Democrats, each promising
to clean the place up. Nothing worked, and for this simple reason:
democracy cannot work when wealth is distributed as lopsidedly as theirs
was - and as ours is. The inevitable consequence of plutocracy, then and
now, is bought government.

[So if we want democracy we have to take away most of the wealth from the
wealthy. I'm for it. We defend ourselves and counter our enemies or we've
had it. -ed]

This is an edited extract from Thomas Frank's "The Wrecking Crew",
published this month by Harvill Secker (14.99)

 Thomas Frank, 2008


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   - David Shove             shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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                          vote third party
                           for president
                           for congress
                          now and forever





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