30 August 2007

August 28: Citizens in Action - Gainesville, FL

Jim White sends this youtube link to video of the MoveOn vigil protesting the Iraq occupation. It's a moving example of ordinary citizens speaking out and is accompanied by a haunting musical selection.
Thanks to Jim and
Well Done, Gainseville!

28 August 2007

Reader Responds

[This is overdue. I'm sorry for taking this long to relay the following comments to the site...]

jim white said:

It looks like a major demonstration is planned for September 15 (I know, another Saturday!). Do you have any links for people to get in touch with groups that may be helping various cities to organize group transportation and the like? If not, I'll see what I can find tomorrow.

20 August, 2007 22:04

jim white said:

The September 15 demonstration is sponsored by both ImpeachBush.org and ANSWER. There is a listing of charter buses on the ANSWER site: http://answer.pephost.org/site/PageServer?pagename=S15_transportation.
MoveOn.org is also organizing vigils on August 28 to prepare people for the Petraeus-Crocker report. To find an event in your area check out http://pol.moveon.org/event/events/index.html?action_id=92.

21 August, 2007 18:48

20 August 2007

At Glenn Greenwald's blog today...

in Salon.com, comment section writers have a mini sub-thread going about mass demonstrations. (The actual topic concerns the pro-war bias of foreign policy think-tank analysts.)

Here is my hastily-written contribution (edited - a little - for clarity):

OT: on being in the streets

Diverse Anti-war Protests Largest in DC Since Vietnam
by Benjamin Dangl and Brendan Coyne

Demonstrators from a variety of backgrounds and representing numerous causes came together Saturday by the tens of thousands with a unified message demanding an end to US military involvement in Iraq.

Washington, DC; Sept. 25, 2005 – [...] Estimates of the demonstration’s size ranged from 100,000 to 300,000 protesters. [...]

It's not enough to mass somewhere; something has to happen, a specific, achievable, and measurable goal; otherwise, the resource of a massive presence of souls is squandered. The problem in the example above is that it took place on Saturday, not much different than a picnic family reunion or Independence Day celebration. To be effective today, a disruptive presence mid-week is better. For one hypothetical example, thousands of people assembled peaceably in a way that ties up traffic in a window of time before a major vote in Congress could make the media take notice. The media are much more an integral part of the self-referencing noise machine of political power, industrial, and military interests than they were 40 years ago. That's why it is not enough to just show up en masse. The action has to be planned, timed, and coordinated with the understanding that the target audience is not so much "the American People" as it is the Media and elected/appointed government officials. (Unless I am misreading the poll reporting, "the American People" already want the erosion of Constitutional liberties to abate and already want us out of Iraq.)

I would argue that sustained large scale protests, or even sustained mid-scale protests, especially in DC, would have an effect whether or not they are accurately or extensively covered in the mass media. The simple fact of people assembling again and again -- or staying assembled until their just cause is recognized and public policy action undertaken -- can have a profound effect on those who make public policy.

One off protests almost never work.

But cynical dismissal of Public Protest is even less likely to lead to positive change.

-- Ché Pasa

This rings true.

Repeated actions are another specific tactic that could pierce the wall of obstruction willfully erected by the news media and Congress.

Any successful Direct Actions are components of an organic process which is part of a larger system. The questions we face should not devolve to debates over which tactic is better: blogging or demonstrating. Instead, we ought to deploy all useful tactics simultaneously.

It will probably be most useful to consider a systems approach to asserting the will of We the People as a long-term strategic value (several years), as opposed to thinking in terms of the end of the current Bush Regime as the over-arching time-frame.

If something additional is to happen (other than in the blogosphere, on AirAmerica, in LTEs, via PACs, and in letters to Congress), we really have to start now. A few weeks ago, in response to a similar OT sub-thread about "taking it to the streets" I established a blog site intended to serve as a central communication node (at least as a temporary initial staging area) for brainstorming, planning, and implementing a variety of some additional activist-oriented projects (demonstrations, workshops, boycotts, etc). It's still hovering over there at http://www.AchievingOurCountry.blogspot.com.

I invite anyone inclined to start now. You can't wait for someone else to do it. You have to do it. That is how people power generates.

Gordon Ginsberg

12 August 2007

Where Things Stand Today - Part One!

I'm laughing at myself as I re-read today's post just below.

It's definitely not the post I intended to write (although I do mean every word of it).

I meant to touch on the offenses of the Bush Authoritarian Regime (The White House, Congress, the Courts, the Media, enabling military commanders, wealthy corporations, religious fundamentalists). I meant to note the buzzing through the blogosphere, at AirAmerica talk radio, in editorial pages and over NPR and PBS concerning things like the recent FISA legislation, lies about the Iraq occupation, etc.

And then I meant to show those who are waiting for a massive push-back why it is I believe we are already now actively engaged in the counter-revolution to return the USA to its traditional identity as an open society and a Free Nation. I meant to share my hope, my optimism, my happiness in seeing all around me a continuing surge of resistance to the Regime's shameless and cynical manipulations.

Instead, somehow I "surged" forth the rant below.... which I will let stand.

[I hope the militant tone is not cause for worry. Our country was born in violent revolution, a bloody resistance to tyranny because sometimes there is no other way. That's still true today.]

Here is the main thing I wanted to say: our species is not exempt from the power of a chaotic world, simply by virtue of being human. Life is messy. Our so-called civilization is an organizational social structure of animals - animals with complex brains, but still animals. The injustices we see, and the pain and the loss, the waste and the evil, are all forces that will always be with us.

In the face of that, it's heartening to know that so very many of us are indeed calling and writing, sending checks, standing around with signs, standing up. This too is part of the natural order of things, a restorative force for good, for compassion, for peace, and for justice.

Something is happening, even if it doesn't always seem like it. And it is building.

That's what I wanted to say.

Where Things Stand Today

"Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer. You have only to persevere to save yourselves."
--Winston Churchill
This is what our government has promised:

The United States will occupy Iraq for years to come.

The United States will strike Iran militarily (my guess: early December 2008).

The US Government will continue its assault on Civil Liberties via Executive Orders, legislative bills, and court rulings overly deferential to the State.

Taxes on the middle and lower classes will rise to fund the expanding police state, imperialistic military actions, and maintenance of our failing infrastructure; taxes on the wealthiest will fall still more.

Middle-class Americans will work longer hours to sustain a gradually declining standard of living.

Things can - and probably will - get worse before they get better, only to worsen again.

And yet, ultimately...

As long as we keep on paying attention, as long as we keep on writing to ourselves and each other, as long as we keep on making campaign donations - large or small - to good candidates, as long as we keep on calling and writing to our elected officials (can't really bring myself to say they are "Representatives" as of now), as long as we keep on doing these things and whatever else we individually believe will further the cause of protecting the United States of America from the unpatriotic, fear-mongering, greedy, power-obsessed authoritarian movement currently running ruining our government and our country, there is cause for optimism.

The long-term nature of the fight can't depress our energies; it's not realistic to expect we will fully reverse our country's totalitarian slide within the next election cycle, or two, or three. Please keep in mind: our right-wing enemies and their Tory followers have been gradually laying the foundation of their movement for fifty years. They have established think tanks, consolidated resources from sympathetic corporate benefactors, and insinuated themselves firmly into local, state, and federal legislatures (beginning with school boards and then working on up). They have used shrill hectoring tactics within those legislative bodies to ensconce a judiciary that upholds their agenda. They have bought a shallow insipid news-media culture and then bullied it into relaying authoritarian conservative propaganda, without question and without investigation. It is reasonable then for us to expect to need at least as many decades for the struggle to undo the damage.

We ought to expect setbacks and take them in stride.

We ought to continuously reassess our tactics. For example, I have hewed to an ideal of non-violent civil protest as one way to project our collective voice beyond the barrier of noise, obfuscation, distortion, and outright lies that impede informed good-faith civic debate. Anything other than a dignified, legal, and non-violent action would alienate the people we are trying to reach (that would be Congress, the Courts, and the Media outlets) as well as the majority of U.S. stakeholders who, according the polls, already agree with the Opposition (that would be We the People!). That ideal, however, does not rule out the possibility of employing other means if needed, as conditions change. Here's another altogether different example: the rulers of our country should not expect to start "disappearing" those of us who oppose them without fierce resistance! Here's yet another: they ought not think they can maintain dossiers on freedom-loving patriotic dissenters without attempts to sabotage the warehouses in which those files are stored.

The struggle will never end. It is our right and our duty and our privilege to make the Achieving of Our Country an ongoing adventure. The forces that lead to totalitarian impulses (aka Human Nature) never go away; at best they can be kept temporarily at bay.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
--Winston Churchill

09 August 2007

A Voters' Platform... revised

Karen M proposes a collaborative effort that would culminate in a "Voters Platform" composed of planks crafted by We the People directly, instead of party apparatchiks. I'll let Karen explain (edited from comment posted today):
In the past, the "party" would always come up with the "platform." However, things have already changed by a few degrees, and there is more back-and-forth between candidates (Democrats anyway) and voters. Why not in this, too?

... [We'll] brainstorm first-- online, perhaps with a list of suggestions, but also asking for free-text suggestions, just to indicate any interest in a topic/issue. Once there is a critical mass, have someone or ones refine the list, and then invite people to vote on them in some way...

... maybe by then, some other group who knows how to administer such surveys would step into help.

What do you think?

[Tops on my list is restoring the Constitution.]

From the Comments Area

jim white said:

I'd love to see a return to all political appointments being made on the basis of genuine qualifications rather than ideology. Of course, this must be accompanied with a purge of both political and ostensibly nonpolitical hires during the Bush administration that brought in the current slate of political hacks that currently permeate the government.

14 August, 2007 21:59

karen m said:

Okay, I'll go again.

In the latest thread at GG's blog, I came up with a couple of things new to me.

Along with public financing of presidential elections (maybe others, too?)...

I think it's worth discussing the benefits of replacing the military industrial complex with a non-profit scenario. Surely, it would be more patriotic to produce weaponry and equipment on a cost only basis, thus sharing the sacrifices demanded by war.

[Amended 14 August 2007: During wartime, production ... should be done for the costs of materials and labor only. No profit. There is something obscene about war profiteers benefiting so greatly from the deaths of our soldiers, the grief of their families, not to mention the deaths and casualties of the many, many civilians who are victims, even to our "strategic" air strikes. ]

And... I read a very interesting post at TPMCafe by Mark Schmitt about "transitional justice" as an alternative to impeachment. Go read it for yourself; I think it would make a compelling plank in any candidate's or party's platform, and thus definitely belongs in a voters' platform.

09 August, 2007 21:16

karen m said:

And while I'm thinking about it... I really, really want a candidate who will, if necessary, fight-- for all of us-- to have all of the votes counted correctly. No waffling or caving, etc.

Otherwise, what does any of the rest of it really mean?

09 August, 2007 21:19

gordon said:

  • Close Guantanamo.
  • Clearly annunciate a new legal framework for the arrest, detention/bail, discovery, and trial of suspects - consistent with all pertinent treaties and with all current U. S. statutes.

09 August, 2007 09:56

gordon said:

  • Clearly renounce torture.

09 August, 2007 10:00

gordon said:

I would like to see some new entitlements:

  • affordable comprehensive health care for all
  • safe, effective public schools with a commitment to comprehensive meaningful vocational, professional, or liberal arts tracks according to individual talents and desires.
  • affordable (FREE!?!) post-secondary education (college or job training) for all qualified HS graduates.
12 August, 2007 18:12

07 August 2007

Musings on Marching

No expression of the will of We the People is as moving or as impressive as hundreds of thousands of citizens gathered peaceably to demonstrate commitment to a cause. Think about the Civil Rights and Anti-war demonstrations led by Dr. Martin Luther King. Recall the Tiananmen Square uprising, the strikes of the Solidarity union in Poland. There is something inherently strong, dramatic , noble and awe-inspiring about a citizenry silently standing together in dignified opposition to the State.

There is a March on Washington scheduled for 15 September2007.

It is an anti-war demonstration that will have associated actions for a 7-day period beginning on the 14th. Here is some text from the organizers' site:

A broad spectrum of national groups have united to mobilize for a massive fall anti-war mobilization called the Days of Action. September 15-21 will be a major showdown in Washington, DC at the very moment that the Petraeus Report is released and Congress takes up spending over $100 billion to prolong the war. Launched with a huge March on Washington on September 15, led by veterans who have returned from Iraq, there will be seven days of actions to send a shockwave through Washington and the nation with the reverberating demand: End the War Now!
AirAmerica's Thom Hartmann exemplifies the belief of many: that massive grassroots civil action will take place in the blogosphere, in phone-calls, by email, and talk radio, and that in this new era, demonstrations are not where change will happen. Hartmann has been a part of Leftist activism for a long time, has been a steady, reasonable, compassionate, impassioned presence at AirAmerica, and seems to know his stuff. I find him credible.

Something like the planned September 15th March could work, though, if it is executed in a way that cuts through the shallow biases of most major news media outlets and thereby makes an impression on members of Congress and on the White House. To be effective it will have to look something like the vision posted here. The target audience must be properly understood to be the groups just mentioned , not the American populace at large who are already convinced. This march could get a fair hearing for that American majority message, thus far mostly ignored by the DC chattering classes, the Congress, and the White House.

If the actions devolve into a lawless messy spectacle, the target audience will be alienated and the energy going into the event will be wasted.

I don't have plans to attend, but I will be observing with interest.

Update (20:38): I just saw fine print at the bottom of the march site referencing ANSWER Coalition.

05 August 2007


It's hard to gauge the extent of anger among freedom l0ving Americans over the passage, in both the House and Senate, of bills amending FISA that expand the ability of Our government to perform surveillance on U.S. citizens without obtaining a warrant. One can observe the usual gnashing of teeth, name-calling, and other expressions of disgust on all the usual anti-authoritarian blog sites. Makes me wonder if I'm seeing a pattern here:

We get the bad news.
We wail and clench our fists.
We write brilliant exposes and prescriptions.

And then we settle back down to wait for the next offense by the Bush White House (backed up by a statist/corporatist-stacked Judiciary) and our feckless Congress.

Now, this patter-n of ours is not necessarily as useless as it may appear, and we can look upon this behavior with affection and hope. If each episode raises the temperature of the burn, eventually a critical mass of energy will combust, possibly resulting in - oh, I don't know - action, maybe?

What we are witnessing then, is the continuing gestation of We the People's organic and intrinsic resistance to the gradual imposition of State oppression.

04 August 2007

Backlash to S.1927

In the last (27 July) entry, I acknowledged a process-driven mechanism for political change (as opposed to a street-level people-powered activist uprising) that might be at work within our constitutional system of checks & balances, despite the egregious insults to that Constitution that our own government has perpetrated. It is, therefore, with some amusement (and more than a little chagrin) I note the passing of the FISA amendment bill by the Senate - with the complicity of 16 Democratic members - and the ire it has inflamed among liberals in the blogosphere . As of this writing, no one seemed clear on what the bill does or does not mean. Some serious students of law are trying to parse the thing (see DClaw1 and Mona at Glenn Greenwald's blog and Balkinization for some current comment). It appears that the bill enables more latitude to spy on citizens in the US by way of loopholes in the legislation resulting from ambiguous language. Balkinization provides this link to a draft of the bill, S1927. Among those uncertain about the intent and effects of the amendment are the Senate members themselves!

Prominent blogger Glenn Greenwald, a former Constitutional Law litigator (see link above), has reacted with uncharacteristic emotion (he's been hanging out at YearlyKos in Chicago - could that have influenced his tone?) and his comment section is also afire with condemnation toward Democrats. There is much talk about third-party candidates and about eschewing voting altogether.

These are not useful ideas.

What we patriots must all remember is that any effort to take back our government from the Republican Authoritarians will take time, patience, and the ability to endure many setbacks. We must devise and deploy a multi-pronged approach to the problem, always keeping in mind (and in our collective back pocket) the possibility of mobilizing masses of concerned citizens asserting our rights. Our Tory enemies have worked hard and long (biding their time, being patient, and enduring setbacks) to achieve their power and they will not give it up without a no-holds-barred fight.

We will ultimately succeed; but to do that, we shall have to persevere.