Progressive Calendar 08.09.10
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(?)

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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/


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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.


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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


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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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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