|Progressive Calendar 08.09.10||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2010 01:23:53 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 08.09.10 1. Mpls school board 8.09 9am 2. DNC march permits 8.09 12noon 3. Peace walk 8.09 6pm RiverFalls WI 4. Stranger/neighbor 8.10 9am 5. Holistic health 8.10 6:30pm 6. Ellen Hodgson Brown - What a government can do with its own bank 7. Billy Wharton - Hawkins campaign hits 15,000 as Cuomo sweats 8. David Michael Green - What is to be done(?) --------1 of x-------- From: TruthToTell <andydriscoll [at] truthtotell.org> Subject: Mpls school board 8.09 9am Tune in every Monday 9:00am to 10:00am on KFAI TTT MON. AUG 9: PRIMARY FOCUS 2010: AT-LARGE MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOL BOARD SEATS-KFAI FM 90.3, 106.7, OR STREAMED @KFAI.ORG IS THERE A MORE THANKLESS JOB†than sitting on a local board of education? Worse - an urban school board, with its multiple issues of funding, student achievement, teacher contracts, charter schools, parent involvement - or lack of it, volatile management and lingering desegregation requirements? It's powers are limited, the compensation meager, the polarization inevitable. Despite the ever-pressing - and for many, seemingly irresolvable - burdens school board members face day in and day out, despite the rapid burnout rate of board members, the refusal by teachers' unions to back beleaguered incumbents - parents, education activists,†and just plain concerned citizens continue to jump into the fray - perhaps believing that they will be the ones to make the difference between failure and success. This year will be first†for a†new†Minneapolis Board of Education configuration†passed in 2008 requiring†nine instead of seven†members, six of which are district-based, the other three at-large. The seat terms are staggered, so that, in 2010, voters will elect the†three even-numbered district members and†two of three at-large†members. The districts follow the†same geographic boundaries as those of the Minneapolis Park Board. (The remaining seats - one at-large and the three odd-numbered district office seekers will be filled in 2012). An irrefutable indicator of just how frustrating it can be to serve on the Minneapolis school board and, perhaps, a dislike for this new system of representation, just one of the four eligible (now all at-large) incumbents is seeking reelection -†Theartrice (T.) Williams. All other eligible incumbents have declined to run, and one - former board chair¬†Pam Costain†- has already resigned. Too few candidates filed for of the District seats to need primaries; but ten candidates filed for the two at-large positions. (Shirlynn LaChapelle†is not campaigning.) In a rather nasty convention, the DFL refused to re-endorse T. Williams, perhaps, in part, because the Minneapolis Teachers Federation also refused to endorse him, primarily because of some re-organization votes he and most of his current colleagues cast and the union opposed. The DFL did endorse newcomer¬†Richard Mammen. The Teachers endorsed Mammen as well as Northsider¬†Steven Lasley. For this final week's coverage of races less covered, at least in broadcast media,¬†TTT's ANDY DRISCOLL†hosts a conversation among the six most viable of the ten on the ballot. GUESTS: (in alphabetical order): CHANDA SMITH BAKER http://www.chandaforschoolboard.org/about.php REBECCA GAGNON http://sites.google.com/site/rebeccagagnon2010/biography STEVEN LASLEY http://www.stevelasley.com/ RICHARD MAMMEN http://richardmammen.org/About.html MOHAMUD NOOR http://noorforschools.org/Home.php THEARTRICE http://www.twilliamsforschools.org/ --------2 of x-------- From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at] gmail.com> Subject: DNC march permits 8.09 12noon Peace and justice movement applying for permits to march on the Democratic National Convention March route to be announced at Monday press conference: 12 noon, Monday, August 9, in front of the Minneapolis City Hall. Leaders of the Twin Cities peace and justice movement will announce the route of a massive anti-war march that will take place if the Democratic National Convention is held in Minneapolis. The announcement will take place at a press conference at 12:00 noon, Monday, August 9, in front of the Minneapolis City Hall. Immediately after the press conference, activists will file for a permit for the march. Meredith Aby of the Anti-War Committee states, "We want city government to grant us permits for an anti-war march on the opening day of the Democratic National Convention. We are against the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and we are going to put out that message in a big way at the DNC." Many of the organizations that organized the anti-war protests at the Republican National Convention in 2008 are joining this effort, including the Anti-War Committee, Women Against Military Madness, the Welfare Rights Committee and others. "We are not going to put up with the city of Minneapolis dragging their feet on granting us permits for a march at the DNC. We went through that with the 2008 RNC march permits in Saint Paul, and we will not accept something like that a second time. Under the slogan 'Money for human needs, not for war,' we will take thousands of protesters to the Metrodome if the DNC is held here," said Deb Konechne of the Welfare Rights Committee. --------3 of x-------- From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at] comcast.net> Subject: Peace walk 8.09 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 --------4 of x-------- From: Resource Center of the Americas <noreply [at] americas.org> Subject: Stranger/neighbor 8.10 9am Stranger to Neighbor Training Tuesday August 10, 2010, 9 am - 5 pm Gain the knowledge-base and skill set to become an interfaith leader on immigration. This training is open to staff and volunteers from local immigration organizations, religious leaders, and student groups. Participants will be prepared for interfaith leadership in the following areas: * Religious Pluralism 101 - Introduction to interfaith cooperation * "The Changing Face of America"; - A brief history of immigration in the US * Exploration of many sacred texts around immigration, and how different traditions are responding to the needs of immigrants now * Storytelling around "welcoming the stranger" * Mobilize and sustaining an interfaith and immigration movement * "Changing the conversation" - Engaging the media Participants will receive a Stranger to Neighbor curriculum resource at the end of the training, and will have the ability to join the Stranger to Neighbor group on Interfaith Youth Corp's Bridge-Builders network, an online social forum of 3,000 young interfaith leaders across the United States that will provide additional resources for the future interfaith and immigration work of the participants. This training is presented by the Interfaith Youth Corps, in partnership with the Minnesota Council of Churches. Location Minnesota Church Center, 122 West Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN. Overflow parking is available at the Plymouth Congregational Church on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Blaisdell Ave South, one block east of the Church Center. Breakfast and lunch will be provided! Registration and Information For further questions contact Gail Anderson at 612-230-3210, or gail.anderson [at] mnchurches.org. To RSVP email Dejan Selimovic at dejan.selimovic [at] mnchurches.org. *The Stranger to Neighbor intensive training is open to people of all ages, though IFYC has a particular interest in working with young people between the ages of 18-26. CONTACT Dejan Selimovic Assistant Organizer Phone Number: (612)-230-4090 www.mnchurches.org --------5 of x-------- From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net> Subject: Holistic health 8.10 6:30pm Tuesday, Aug. 10, Mary Hannahan will be our guest. She is a Holistic Health Coach. She learned her art of nutrition from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and centers her talks around balance in our lives for better health. Her topic will be "Sugar Blues." I am taking a course from her now and it is wonderful to learn new ways of being healthy. And, maybe she may even tell us about her life on an island in northern Irland where she lives for 8 mounts out of the year. 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. --------6 of x-------- What a Government Can Do with Its Own Bank The Remarkable Model of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia by Ellen Hodgson Brown August 6th, 2010 Dissident Voice Virg Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, Michigan, just won the Democratic nomination for governor of his state, making a state-owned Bank of Michigan a real possibility. Bernero is one of at least a dozen candidates promoting that solution to the states' economic woes. It is an innovative idea, with little precedent in the United States. North Dakota, currently the only state owning its own bank, also happens to be the only state sporting a budget surplus, and it has the lowest unemployment rate in the country; but skeptics can write these achievements off to coincidence. More data is needed, and fortunately other precedents are available from other countries. One of the most dramatic is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which operated successfully as a government-owned bank for most of the 20th century, until it was privatized in the 1990s. The Commonwealth Bank's creative founders demonstrated that a government-backed bank can make loans without capital. Denison Miller, the Bank's first Governor, was fond of saying that the Bank did not need capital because "it is backed by the entire wealth and credit of the whole of Australia". The Commonwealth Bank's accomplishments were particularly remarkable considering that for its first eight years, from 1912 to 1920, it did not have the power to issue the national currency - unlike the U.S. Federal Reserve, which acquired that power in 1913. The Commonwealth Bank was thus in the same position as a state of the United States or a member country of the European Union (think Greece), which also lack the power to issue their own currencies. Operating without that power and without startup capital, the Commonwealth Bank funded both massive infrastructure projects and the country's participation in World War I. According to David Kidd, writing in a 2001 article titled "How Money Is Created in Australia": Australia's own government-established Commonwealth Bank achieved some impressive successes while it was "the people's bank", before being crippled by later government decisions and eventually sold. At a time when private banks were demanding 6% interest for loans, the Commonwealth Bank financed Australia's first world war effort from 1914 to 1919 with a loan of $700,000,000 at an interest rate of a fraction of 1%, thus saving Australians some $12 million in bank charges. In 1916 it made funds available in London to purchase 15 cargo steamers to support Australia's growing export trade. Until 1924 the benefits conferred upon the people of Australia by their Bank flowed steadily on. It financed jam and fruit pools to the extent of $3 million, it found $8 million for Australian homes, while to local government bodies, for construction of roads, tramways, harbours, gasworks, electric power plants, etc., it lent $18.72 million. It paid $6.194 million to the Commonwealth Government between December, 1920 and June, 1923 - the profits of its Note Issue Department - while by 1924 it had made on its other business a profit of $9 million, available for redemption of debt. The bank's independently-minded Governor, Sir Denison Miller, used the bank's credit power after the First World War to save Australians from the depression conditions being imposed in other countries. . . . By 1931 amalgamations with other banks made the Commonwealth Bank the largest savings institution in Australia, capturing 60% of the nation's savings. Harnessing the Secret Power of Banking for the Public Good The Commonwealth Bank was able to achieve so much with so little because its first Governor, Denison Miller, and its first and most ardent proponent, King O.Malley, had both been bankers themselves and knew the secret of banking: that banks create the "money" they lend simply by writing accounting entries into the deposit accounts of borrowers. This banking secret was confirmed by a number of early banking insiders. In a 1998 paper titled "Manufacturing Money," Australian economist Mike Mansfield quoted the Rt. Hon. Reginald McKenna, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who told shareholders of the Midland Bank on January 25, 1924, "I am afraid the ordinary citizen will not like to be told that the banks can, and do, create and destroy money. The amount of money in existence varies only with the action of the banks in increasing or decreasing deposits and bank purchases. We know how this is effected. Every loan, overdraft or bank purchase creates a deposit, and every repayment of a loan, overdraft or bank sale destroys a deposit". Dr. Coombs, former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said in an address at Queensland University on September 15, 1954, .[W]hen money is lent by a bank it passes into the hands of the person who borrows it without anybody having less. Whenever a bank lends money there is therefore, an increase in the total amount of money available.. Ralph Hawtrey, Assistant Under Secretary to the British Treasury in the 1930s, wrote in "Trade Depression and the Way Out", "When a bank lends, it creates money out of nothing". In his book The Art of Central Banking, Hawtrey expanded on this statement, writing, "When a bank lends, it creates credit. Against the advance which it enters amongst its assets, there is a deposit entered in its liabilities. But other lenders have not the mystical power of creating the means of payment out of nothing. What they lend must be money that they have acquired through their economic activities". Banks can do what no one else can: "create the means of payment out of nothing". The Commonwealth Bank's far-sighted founders harnessed this guarded banking secret to serve the public interest. The Bank Collapse of 1893 Spawns a New Public Banking Model The Commonwealth Bank was founded under conditions like those prevailing today: the country had just suffered a massive banking collapse. In the 1890s, however, there was no FDIC insurance, no social security, no unemployment insurance to soften the blow. People who thought they were well off suddenly found they had nothing. They could not withdraw their funds, write checks on their accounts, or sell their products or their homes, since there was no money with which to buy them. Desperate people were leaping from bridges or throwing themselves in front of trains. Something had to be done. The response of the Labor government was to pass a bill in 1911 which included a provision for a publicly-owned bank that would be backed by the assets of the government. In a rare move for the time, the bank was to have both savings and general bank business. It was also the first bank in Australia to receive a federal government guarantee. Jack Lang was Australia's Treasurer in the Labor government of 1920-21 and Premier of New South Wales during the Great Depression. A controversial figure, he was relieved of his duties after he repudiated loans owed to the London bankers. In The Great Bust: The Depression of the Thirties (McNamara's Books, Katoomba, 1962), Lang described the Commonwealth Bank's triumphs and tribulations in revealing detail. He wrote: The Labor Party decided that a National Bank, backed with the assets of the Government, would not fail in times of financial stress. It also realised that such a bank would be a guarantee that money would be found for home building and other needs. After the collapse of the building societies, there was a great scarcity of money for such purposes. "Chief advocate of the cause of a Commonwealth Bank was King O'Malley, a colorful Canadian-American . Before coming to Australia, he had worked in a small New York bank, owned by an uncle.. He had been much impressed by the way that his uncle had created credit. A bank could create the credit, and at the same time manufacture the debit to balance it. That was the big discovery of O'Malley's banking career. A born showman, he itched to try it out on a grand scale. He started his political career in South Australia by advocating a State Commercial Bank. In 1901 he went into the first Federal Parliament as a one-man pressure group to establish a Commonwealth Bank, and joined the Labor Party for that purpose. King O'Malley insisted that the Commonwealth Bank had to control the issue of its own notes, but he lost on that point - until 1920, when the Bank did take over the issuance of the national currency, just as the U.S. Federal Reserve was authorized to do in 1913. That was the beginning of the Commonwealth Bank's central bank powers. But even before it had that power, the Bank was able to fund infrastructure and defense on a massive scale, and it did this without startup capital. These achievements were chiefly due to the insights and boldness of the Bank's first Governor, Denison Miller. The other bankers, fearing competition, had thought that by getting one of their own men in as the bank's governor, they could keep it in line. But they had not reckoned on their independent appointee, who saw the opportunity posed by a government-backed bank and set out to make it the finest institution the country had ever known. As Lang tells the story: The first test came when a decision was required regarding the amount of capital needed to start a bank of that kind. Under the Act, the Commonwealth had the right to sell and issue debentures totalling 1 million. Some even thought that amount of capital would be insufficient, having in mind what had happened in 1893.. When Denison Miller heard of it, his reply was that no capital was needed. Miller was wary of going to the politicians for money. He could get by without capital. Like King O'Malley, he knew how banking worked. (This was, of course, before the modern-day capital requirements imposed from abroad by the central banker's bank, the Bank for International Settlements.) Lang continued: Miller was the only employee. He found a small office - and asked the Treasury for an advance of 10,000. That was probably the first and last time that the Commonwealth lent the Bank any money. From then on, it was all in the reverse direction. By January, 1913 [Miller] had completed arrangements to open a bank in each State of the Commonwealth, and also an agency in London.. [O]n January 20th, 1913 he made a speech declaring the new Commonwealth Bank open for business. He said: 'This bank is being started without capital, as none is required at the present time, but it is backed by the entire wealth and credit of the whole of Australia'. In those few simple words was the charter of the Bank, and the creed of Denison Miller, which he never tired of reciting. He promised to provide facilities to expand the natural resources of the country, and it would at all times be a people's bank. "There is little doubt that in time it will be classed as one of the great banks of the world," he added prophetically. . Slowly it began to dawn on the private banks that they may have harbored a viper. They had been so intent on the risks of having to contend with bank socialisation that they didn't realise they had much more to fear from competition by an orthodox banker, with the resources of the country behind him. . One of the first demonstrations of his vigor came when the Melbourne Board of Works went on the market for money to redeem old loans, and also to raise new money. Up to that time, apart from Treasury Bills and advances by their own Savings Banks, Governments had depended on overseas loans from London.. In addition to stiff underwriting charges, they found that the best they could expect would be 1 million at 4 per cent., at 97 1/2 net. They then decided to approach Denison Miller, who had promised to provide special terms for such bodies. He immediately offered to lend them 3 millions at 95 on which the interest rate would be 4 per cent. They immediately clinched the deal. Asked where his very juvenile bank had raised all that money, Miller replied, "On the credit of the nation. It is unlimited". Another major test came in 1914 with the First World War: The first reaction was the risk that people might start rushing to the banks to withdraw their money. The banks realised that they were still vulnerable if that happened. They were still afraid of another Black Friday. There was a hurried meeting of the principal bankers. Some reported that there were signs that a run was already starting. Denison Miller then said that the Commonwealth Bank on behalf of the Commonwealth would support any bank in difficulties.. That was the end of the panic. But it put Miller on the box seat. Now, for the first time, the Commonwealth Bank was taking the lead. It was giving, not taking, orders.. Denison Miller - was virtually in control of the financing of the war. The Government didn't know how it was going to be achieved. Miller did. And so this interesting story continues. Miller died in 1923, and in 1924 the bankers got back in control, throttling the activities of the Commonwealth Bank and preventing it from saving Australians from the ravages of the 1930s Depression. In 1931, the bank board came into conflict with the Labor government of James Scullin. The Bank's chairman refused to expand credit in response to the Great Depression unless the government cut pensions, which Scullin refused to do. Conflict surrounding this issue led to the fall of the government, and to demands from Labor for reform of the bank and more direct government control over monetary policy. The Commonwealth Bank received almost all of the powers of a central bank in emergency legislation passed during World War II, and at the end of the war it used this power to begin a dramatic expansion of the economy. In just five years, it opened hundreds of branches throughout Australia. In 1958 and 1959, the government split the bank, giving the central bank function to the Reserve Bank of Australia, with the Commonwealth Banking Corporation retaining its commercial banking functions. Both banks, however, remained publicly-owned. Eventually, the Commonwealth Bank had branches in every town and suburb; and in the bush, it had an agency in every post office or country store. As the largest bank in the country, it set the rates and set policy, which the others had to follow for fear of losing customers. The Commonwealth Bank was widely perceived to be an insurance policy against abuse by private banks, serving to ensure that everyone had access to equitable banking. It functioned as a wholly owned state bank until the 1990s, when it was privatized. Its focus then changed to maximization of profits, with steady and massive branch and agency closures, staff layoffs, and reduced access to Automated Teller Machines and to cash from supermarket checkouts. It has now become just another part of the banking cartel, but proponents say it was once the lifeblood of the country. Today there is renewed interest in reviving a publicly-owned bank in Australia on the Commonwealth Bank model. The United States and other countries would do well to consider that option too. Any proposed legislation should contain careful checks for accountability. The Commonwealth Bank served Australia brilliantly well for its first 11 years under the stewardship of one honest man, Denison Miller. When he passed away in 1923, the bank was delivered into the hands of a board of businessmen more interested in serving their own interests than the nation's. Legislation would need to be drafted that prevented that from happening again. Special thanks to Peter Myers for reproducing major portions of Jack Lang's book in his weekly newsletter. Ellen Brown is an attorney in Los Angeles and the author of 11 books. In Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free, she shows how a private banking cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. --------7 of x-------- Hawkins Campaign Hits 15,000 as Cuomo Sweats by Billy Wharton August 6th, 2010 Dissident Voicev Somewhere in an office in Albany, a small bead of sweat rolled down the furrowed brow of Andrew Cuomo. He probably just brushed it aside, chalking it up to inefficient air conditioning. Howie Hawkins knows better. That small bit of perspiration was secreted just as a volunteer on the Hawkins for Governor Campaign collected the 15,000th signature to put Howie's name on the ballot this fall. And, if Hawkins has anything to say about it, that single bead will turn into a downpour as his campaign puts the squeeze on Cuomo at the polls. For the last three weeks, a motley crew of volunteers and campaign workers have spread out across New York State, petitions in hand, intent on placing the name Howie Hawkins - Green Party - on the ballot. Restrictive ballot access laws make this a challenge. Not only does the campaign need 15,000 signatures, 25,000 to be safe, from registered voters, these have to come from one-half of the congressional districts in the state. No easy task for an underdog third party. But the campaign has met the mark. Every Tuesday night, the Peace Pentagon in the East Village becomes the drop off point for petitioners from throughout New York City. Veteran activists, socialists, and greens make their way up the creaky stairs, petitions in hand, ready to make their contribution. Informal lessons on New York State geography break out as the petitioners attempt to track down the home cities of their petition signers. What county is Newburgh in? Is Bergen a village or a town? Debates ensue. Tips about good locations to collect signatures are offered. One person went to the Daily Show line. Another appears every morning at the Shakespeare in the Park line. Another prefers the compost pile in Union Square. Why do the volunteers come? Certainly not for the ambiance of the compost pile. Most mention the economic crisis or their disillusionment with the Democratic Party. Cuomo, they say, is the candidate of Wall Street. Bought and sold, prepared to implement the severe budget cuts that have, thus far, been limited by the chaotic ending of the David Paterson regime. The Hawkins campaign, they say, offers an alternative. Where Cuomo discusses how the cuts will be implemented - usually with a "we all have to pitch in" motto - Hawkins discusses the creation of a State Bank. Such a bank, he has stated emphatically, would help to break the stranglehold of Wall Street and lay the foundation for programs such as worker's cooperatives and environmental cleanups. And Hawkins has also discovered a little secret the Democrats have been sitting on for years. The stock transfer tax. It seems that New York State has been collecting a fee for every stock traded on Wall Street. But, after collecting it, they rebate it back to Wall Street! Hawkins announced that the number amounts to $16 billion, larger than the state's budget deficit and large enough to fund all of the public projects mentioned by petitioners at the weekly meetings. Howie wants this money back. These ideas motivate the petitioners. They turn a regular small party campaign into something else - a movement to reclaim New York State for the people. As the Hawkins campaign heads toward the fall elections, 15,000 signatures in hand, Andrew Cuomo would do well to invest in some handkerchiefs. If the spirit of the petitioners translates into the campaign, Howie will have a platform to speak from. And this will put the heat on yet another Wall Street Democrat. Billy Wharton is the editor of The Socialist magazine and the Socialist WebZine. He can be reached at: billyspnyc [at] yahoo.com. Read other articles by Billy, or visit Billy's website. --------8 of x-------- What Is To Be Done(?) by David Michael Green Sunday, August 8, 2010 CommonDreams.org I often receive email from readers which goes something along these lines: "Thank you for your article identifying the problems with American politics and government. But what are the solutions?" I am flattered that anyone would expect me to be able to solve that mystery, while being simultaneously chagrined that I don't think I have very much in the way of good answers. In part that may be because I'm not smart or creative enough to solve that problem, anymore than I'm equipped to cure cancer or discover a unified field theory of physics. But in part it is also because the problem itself (like curing cancer or theorizing physics) is very difficult. The evidence for that is that no other progressive that I'm aware of is offering a serious solution. It's not like we on the left are spending our time these days debating the merits of multiple proposals on the table. Or even one... Consider the magnitude of the problem, to start with. American society and government is, it seems to me, in the worst shape its been in since at least 1932. Unparalleled and unmitigated greed of astonishing proportions has turned the federal government into a feeding trough for special interests, on an epic scale. This has produced what is essentially an economic war on non-elites for the last three decades, which has succeeded in dramatically redistributing wealth upward, so that the US now resembles any good banana republic or feudal society in this regard. More or less all policy decisions during this era have been oriented toward that one goal, certainly including those concerning taxes, subsidies, trade and labor relations, not to mention our uncontrolled military spending and wars. Even so-called welfare state program expansions like Bush's prescription drug plan or Obama's health care initiative are really massive feedbag redistributions of public wealth to corporate actors, dressed up with enough trinkets for the hoi polloi so as to appear that their purpose is to improve the health of real Americans. Moreover, all the traditional bulwarks against this natural tendency for power and wealth concentration to occur have been effectively neutralized, starting with the hijacking of the Democratic Party. Bill Clinton is one of the worst criminals of our time [amen! -ed](and yet many stupid, gaga, celebrity-inebriated Democrats still worship him), in many respects far more guilty of far greater sins than Reagan or Wee Bush. We expect Republicans to lie and to represent the interests of Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce. Clinton, on the other hand, bears more responsibility than anyone for turning the Democratic Party into a more smiley version of just the same thing. [Criminal -ed] Obama is following suit. He is as corporate as it gets. You'll find his constituents in mansions and boardrooms, not in two-bedroom houses across middle America. The upshot is that there is no political party in Washington anymore advocating for the needs and interests of real working people. That was not always the case. From the 1930s through the 1970s, the Democratic Party was a (very imperfect) vehicle for the representation of hundreds of millions of ordinary Americans, and the (very imperfect) policies they put through reflected that. Even Republicans largely went along for the ride back in those days, never seriously seeking to dismantle such programs or radically reorient such policies. The same might be said of the media and other institutions of or related to American governance, such as the courts and universities and even corporate America, in those days a far less pernicious actor than today. The long and short of it is that the political mountain to climb today seems so much larger than in the past. Anyone paying attention to what is happening should have a strong sense of the walls closing in around us, faster and faster. The downsizing of the American middle class may be happening with greater rapidity these last two years, as jobs become scarce and employees are forced to work longer and get paid less, but it is only an acceleration of a process that has been going on full bore for three decades now. And there is no one in Washington today to hear your screams of agony. Why would they? They're the ones who have been doing the torturing. Similarly, the road ahead is difficult because the tactics of resistance employed with mixed success in the past seem almost completely spent today. Does your congresswoman remotely notice when you send a letter about an issue you care about? Yeah, if you're BP or Goldman Sachs. Otherwise, you're about as likely to get their attention as either of those outfits are to be responsible for the damage they've done. How about a march on Washington? Does anyone even notice those anymore? In the 1950s and 1960s they were relatively fresh and drew attention accordingly. Today, you can have the biggest worldwide collection of protest rallies ever, and it will not change a thing. We know that because that is exactly what happened in the run up to the Iraq invasion of 2003. I could be wrong about this, but something tells me that George W. Bush wasn't paying a lot of attention to our raised voices back then. Heck, people don't even notice anymore when gunmen shoot up their workplace and then kill themselves, something that happens with alarming regularity. Why would they notice yet another protest march, especially when they're worrying about keeping a roof over their heads? The sad truth is, it seems to me, that breaking through the wall of indifference today requires either a volume we aren't organized enough to generate, a desperation we haven't gotten to yet, or a creativity that largely eludes us. But, maybe focusing on tactics is part of the problem. Tactics should ideally serve strategy, strategy should in turn serve objectives, objectives should be a product of problem analysis, and analysis should be rooted in theory. It seems to me that we progressives are decent when it comes to identifying objectives - though even here there will certainly be disagreement - but not much else. We can probably agree on such policy propositions as living wage requirements, regulating corporations in the public interest, ending wars or addressing global warming. But discovering the strategy or tactics to make those things happen eludes us, as does perhaps a theory of the deeper nature of our condition. I don't have answers to these questions or solutions to fill in these blanks. But perhaps I can advance the conversation a bit by suggesting that we ought to think first about the nature of the situation we face, certainly before we begin trying to identify problems, or specifying strategies and tactics to address those. It seems to me that there are three major possibilities here, each with its own implications about how to proceed toward fixing the country and what ails us. Each successive possibility implies a greater depth of despair with respect to the condition we're in, and therefore a more radical solution necessary to address that situation. But, that said, none are easy fixes. The first analysis of our national malaise, the one invoking the least pervasive depth of the problem, goes to the question of policy. Here, one could argue that we simply have lousy policymakers making lousy policies. The obvious solution, therefore, is to replace them. Equally obvious, meanwhile, is that the Republican Party is completely hopeless. A best case scenario is that they will continue to represent the aspirations of plutocrats and frightened, stupid, racist, homophobic, ancient middle and working class crackers of the Bible Belt, until that lovely generation becomes irrelevant and disappears. We know that parties can change, especially since the GOP began life as an abolitionist vehicle for the likes of Abraham Lincoln. But we also know that parties can die, as did the Whigs. In the case of the Republicans, the latter is a more likely and probably better outcome. That leaves basically two choices going forward. One would be to launch a viable third party that stood for progressive principles. As noted, third parties do come to power in the United States, so this is clearly not impossible. But the last time it happened was 150 years ago, so it is just as clearly not probable. All the institutional arrangements in American government and politics - most especially our district (often erroneously described as the "first past the post" model) electoral system - are conveniently arrayed to prevent any third party from arising. I've seen (and participated in) numerous attempts in my lifetime to go down this path, including the current Green Party. None have come remotely close to cracking open the system. As evidence of that, consider this: of the 535 people who are now (and, I'm pretty sure, throughout my lifetime) members of Congress, not a single one comes from a third party. Not even one. And not for want of trying either. This record of astonishingly complete failure is a product of a system designed (quite effectively, we must acknowledge) to shut out real choice at all costs. And it works. The other remaining remedy for this first analysis of what ails the country is to take over the Democratic Party. That's a long hard job, but I think it is one that is possible to accomplish. We've seen this happen constantly throughout history, with different cohorts and factions grabbing control of either party, typically by out-hustling their rivals, and with parties morphing in character over time. The Republican Eisenhower/Ford moderates who had owned the party in the post-war years lost control over the last generation or so to the Reagan/Bush corporate hacks masquerading as radical conservatives. The tea party movement is an effort to complete that movement. Pretty much the same thing has happened to the Democratic Party, where Clinton/Obama-style corporate hacks masquerading as New Democrat/Third Way moderates have taken over that party from the Kennedy/Johnson/Mondale-type old school liberals. In short, it can be done. If we think that the problem with America is simply that the wrong people are making the wrong policy choices, then this is, in my judgement, the best remedy to address that condition, and possibly the only one. But what if the problem lies deeper? What if the reason that the wrong people are making the wrong policy decisions is rooted in the corruption of our institutional framework, which is set up to produce precisely those people and precisely those policy decisions? In short, what if the country's campaign finance system is the problem, designed quite purposively to insure that the special interests of the overclass are attended to, and the rest of us ignored or at best placated? What if, therefore, political parties become virtually irrelevant, because each one is as bought-off as the next? There is, of course, massive evidence that this is precisely the case. In the old days, railroad and other robber-barons would simply drop a paper bag full of cash on a congressman's desk and instruct him on how he would be voting. Today, the process is slightly more subtle, but the effect is absolutely the same. Money completely rules American politics, and policy choices are made almost entirely to serve the plutocracy. Those folks invest thousands, in exchange for which they get back billions. Meanwhile, politicians get elected, and later, rich as well. Everybody wins. Except, er, the public, of course. If this is what we judge to be the core problem, then the requisite solution takes the form of campaign finance reform. That is no easy mountain to climb, either, not least because there are quite real freedom of speech issues to be grappled with, along with the entirely bogus ones that would be instantly generated by the Scalia bloc (AKA the deeply regressive majority) of the US Supreme Court to utterly destroy any attempt by Congress at getting money out of politics. Oh, and best of luck getting the people who owe their jobs and perks and riches to the current system to change it in the first place. The solution here is pretty clear - publically financed campaigns - but it would probably necessitate a constitutional amendment to pull it off and make it stick. With the clout and moral authority Obama had in early 2009 he might have been able to do this if he had effectively used the bully pulpit to vociferously make his case to the public, moving them to demand that Congress act and the states ratify. It would have been enormously difficult, but the benefits would be gigantic. Of course, though, he didn't even raise the topic. And the opportunity to do this again is probably lost for another generation or more. But what if the problem of American politics and governance runs even deeper still than the systemic corruption of a campaign finance system that purchases government on the cheap for the wealthiest among us? What if there is an oligarchy that (as James Douglass asserts, regarding JFK) will physically destroy anyone who remotely challenges its authority and its profits? What if any sort of replacement of officials or systemic fix would be entirely superficial and wholly irrelevant to the question of actual governance? What if Eisenhower's warning about the extremely dangerous influence of the military-industrial complex was as prescient as it was ignored? Then, of course, we're into something much deeper altogether. And any sort of contemplated solution becomes a much heavier proposition, likely involving mass public action of some sort and a serious reconfiguration of the country's power structure and system of governance. That's probably a fancy way of saying 'revolution', though there are possibilities of serious change which imply less freighted repercussions than are typically associated with that term. Wholesale reform doesn't necessarily require guillotines or mob violence. Look at the 'velvet revolutions' of Eastern Europe as examples, among others. Another possibility would entail finding ways of splitting the governing class into factions and encouraging them to destroy one another in a civil war - a progressive divide and conquer strategy. Or a perhaps non-violent Gandhian civil disobedience approach for confronting power. There are other conceivable strategies as well, all of which involve wholesale - essentially revolutionary - change, addressing the key question of who governs. So which of these three scenarios of escalating pathology is the correct one? How bad is it? And what, therefore, is required? Many on the left opt for the third analysis, and are indeed contemptuous of anyone whose own assessment comes in anywhere short of that. I am partially sympathetic to that conclusion, but also somewhat dubious because of the simple empirical reality of American history. Conditions were horrid for most Americans prior to the 1930s, and women and gays and minorities were subjected to every form of assault. Then it got a lot better (and in some ways - gay rights, notably - even continues to do so now). A broad and robust middle class was even created where one had not existed before. The distribution of wealth was dramatically changed in a favorable way. Civil rights were pushed substantially forward. Civil liberties were expanded. Environmentalism was born in American politics and in the consciousness of the public. Attitudes changed, policies changed, and the lives of hundreds of millions of us were enormously improved. These are all huge developments that would require utter fictionalized historical revisionism to deny (so, I say, let's not). And, they were the product of politics, leading to better policy. In the last thirty years, moreover, we've been watching a steady reversal of these gains on every front. Again, this is happening because of politics and resulting policy choices. The upshot is that it is hard for me, in the light of these plain historical facts, to see the political system immutable and fixed. To reach that conclusion, one would have to argue either that change never happened, or that it was once possible but no longer is. I don't reject the latter notion out of hand, but neither have I seen evidence for such an argument. My own sense is that the system may be amenable to meaningful reform efforts short of something so dramatic as 1789. It also may not, but it strikes me as worth trying the lesser tumult to see if that works. Revolutions, among other untoward and unwanted consequences, tend to have an unhappy unpredictability to them. The one in Russia in 1917, for example, led pretty directly to Stalin. China's gave the country Mao, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, all in the name of serving the people. Not that you can exactly make revolutions happen on demand, anyhow. In any case, any attempt to seriously divorce money and monied interests from governing choices will be a monumentally uphill battle in its own right, and one which will be fought fiercely. It would also have the unfortunate potential, as similar attempts have shown in recent decades, to simply rearrange the landscape without changing the country's essential power structure. As others have noted before, money in politics is like water rolling downhill. You may be able to block it one place, but it will try very hard to find another way down the mountain, and it will typically succeed. But if I am asked what is my prescription for the reform of American politics, I guess this would be my starting point. Campaign finance reform seems, on the one hand, a mind-numbingly technocratic solution to a fundamentally moral problem, and on the other a wholly inadequate response to our current situation. It may be both. Yet it may be the single key to solving ninety percent of our problems, and also, subsequently, to changing our attitudes and the fundamental relationship we have with our own system of governance. It is also, in its own way, a profoundly moral response to the sickness of our time. It calls for nothing short of public policymaking in the national interest, rather than to satisfy the bottomless greed of special interests. It might, therefore, radically change this country for the better. And though it also might not, it certainly seems to me a worthy starting point toward that end. What is to be done? That is my final answer, Regis. (For now.) 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 (mailto: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. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress for governor now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 Research almost any topic raised here at: CounterPunch http://counterpunch.org Dissident Voice http://dissidentvoice.org Common Dreams http://commondreams.org Once you're there, do a search on your topic, eg obama drones
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