Strategizing Posted by Oaktown Girl, 25 Oct 2007 05:55 am
In the post-9/11 propaganda game, “safe” is even more corrosive to our Constitutional rights and liberties than “War on Terror”. Why? Because it’s insidious.
Contrary to what the corporate media would have you believe, there’s actually a good number of Americans who absolutely understand that a “War on Terror” is not only illogical and impossible, but a hoax designed to consolidate money and power into the hands of a very elite few. By contrast, “safe” actually sounds reasonable on the face of it, and therein lies the danger.
But let’s back up.
A few years ago I, along with many others of a progressive mind set, got excited by the news that Democrats were finally starting to understand the power of language in “framing” issues. It’s a simple concept: be the on who sets the terms of the debate and you’re likely to be the one who wins the debate. At long last, Democrats were finally going to start engaging in the framing battle and quit yielding every talking point on every issue to the GOP.
George Lakoff was leading the way with his insanely popular book that came out in 2004, Don’t Think of an Elephant, which we were assured Democrats were studying assiduously. It didn’t matter if you had quibbles with Layoff’s “nurturing parent” (liberal) vs. “strict father” (conservative) premise. The substance of the book was sound: take control of the language and you take control of the argument.
Thomas Frank’s book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, also came out in 2004. It had a different angle but a similar theme: how Democrats can win back Red State America by changing their ways of communication and messaging. Frank was the darling of progressive talk radio and blogs for about the next two years straight. I know that many Democratic politicians were well aware of Frank’s book because they were asked about it frequently in interviews. Their response to the book was always glowing, and it seemed as though Democrats were finally understanding what the rest of us had understood for years, decades even. The clouds had parted, the Dems were “locked and loaded”, and we were all ready to roll.
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Strategizing Posted by christian h., 05 Oct 2007 04:47 am
The war in Iaq drags on, though opposed by the majority of Americans. Bush is asking for another $200 billion for it and the smaller operation in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Cheney and his allies in- and outside the administration are desperately trying to engineer another war, this time against Iran.
This fall, a number of actions are planned, or have already been implemented. There was a fairly large march and rally, and direct action in Washington, DC on September 15th. Lawmakers offices are being picketed to pressure them into voting “no” on the upcoming supplemental. And on October 27, United for Peace and Justice and other organizations are calling for eleven regional demonstrations against this war, and those being planned. Among the locations are Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago.
The organizers managed to involve an impressive spectrum of groups. I don’t need to rehash here the deep divisions inside the peace and justice movement; but the way it looks, maybe reality has shaken us up a little. The Chicago organizers and endorsers range from progressive segments of the Chicago Democratic Party organization to the radical left, from the Progressive Democrats of America to ANSWER. Labor, church-based groups, anti-racist and immigrant activists and community organizers from all over the Midwest are part of this. The official program concentrates on the war and those who run it, so everyone opposed to the war can attend; but participating groups may of course emphasize broader struggles.
In Chicago, Senators Durbin and Obama have been invited to speak. I don’t know if they will, but I hope so. Not because I can’t wait to hear what they have to tell us; but because it gives us an opportunity to show them where the vast majority of their constituents stand. If they truly oppose war, it may serve to strengthen their resolve; if not, it may show them that they will be held to account.
Let’s turn out, ourselves and our friends, wherever we live and make those Washington elites listen!
One of the metaphors for this summer has been the use of the Bell Curve for describing the inherent properties of each of the tour stops, particularly the qualities of the attendees. Now that may or may not be fair, or accurate for that matter, it was our choice to use it and we (the select group of “professionals” who ventured forth from venue to venue in the quest for the holy grail of production) tended to understand what we meant by our applications of it across the breadth and depth of the western USA.
Thus I offer this assessment of the Big Summer Classic (BSC) weekend held at Camp Zoe (near Eminence), Missouri the first weekend of August 2007:
Given the Bell Curve that represents the quality of an event in relation to the qualities of the people attending, BSC could be categorized as containing only the upper 3% and the lowest 3% of the spectrum of observable and experiential phenomena. There were stunning and amazing moments that represented the very best of what the summer had to offer; there were some of the most heinous and vile of experiences that no human being (or any other species for that matter) should ever have to be in the presence of anywhere anytime. There were brilliant and inspiring people doing good well, and there were some of the stupidest and most idiotic creatures inhabiting human skin.
And that was just a bit of it. Really.
And while I intend to get into more of that in part two, I do want to spend a moment of your reading time discoursing on one of the tragedies that became apparent over the weekend.
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The vast inequality of this new Gilded Age didn’t just happen. Nature didn’t ordain it, the market didn’t require it, and Adam Smith’s invisible hand doesn’t sustain it.What happened is the rich declared class war and spent what it took to win.
Not exactly a new story, of course, but the extraordinary new concentration of wealth and power created a juggernaut that makes it harder and harder for democracy to work for all.
From Bill Moyers on Class in America
About a year ago I heard an interview on Air America with a gentleman plugging something - a book, if memory serves - on labor and the working class. I can’t remember the name of the person being interviewed, so let’s call him Interviewee. Interviewee said something very interesting about the definition of “middle class”. He said that if you can’t afford to be without a job for at least six months, you aren’t middle class.
Whether you agree with this or not, it’s a vitally important concept. Why? Because until we as working people re-embrace (or, perhaps simply embrace) our very status as working people, the divide between the haves and have-nots in this country is going to continue to increase because we won’t be organizing as working people.
For quite some time now, America’s been a place where everyone who’s not flat-out rich or flat-out poor wants to define themselves as middle class. “Working class” has become a term only for the poor, and only for blue collar workers. This is bullshit.
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Affirmative religious support for gay marriage is apparently extraordinarily novel even for educated citizens. This I learned when I engaged a 50-something lawyer from the San Francisco Bay Area over the issue on my flight outbound from Oakland to Boston to participate in a panel entitled: Gay Marriage: Moving from Tolerance to Affirmation. When I told him that I and other panelists, as part of the progressive faith movement, were presenting a Christian pro-gay marriage moral and religious case, his reply was “I didn’t know there could be such a thing.”
This got me to thinking both about the very real and unnecessary divide between religious and secular awareness and of the silence or tacit agreement of even mainstream religions as to the abuse of the civil rights of gay people.
Some political and legal headway has been made. The state of Massachusetts, for instance, has extended the right of gay marriage, yet theological and moral conviction in favor of gay marriage has been largely absent. This was to change in a small but mighty way as, for two hours, in February 2007 in front of a modest audience, six panelists attempted to join consciousness and conviction across ideological and belief traditions and confront Christian-in-name intolerance on its own terms.
Rev. Anne Fowler, from the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, talked about her work within and outside the church as a straight person to support the inclusion of gay people in the institution of marriage. Pam Werntz, a gay Episcopal mininster, related how her own marriage brought her into community with others in a way that she could not have imagined had she not been extended the right to marry. Justin Lee, the founder and executive director of gaychristian.net, an online gay evangelical Christian community, waxed practical about the need for religiously inclined gay citizens to have an ability to connect rather than be alienated from faith.
The other three panelists, Gina Farag, myself (Zeus Yiamouyiannis), and Otis Gaddis, III had coordinated a foundational and progressive moral and religious argument based upon certain observations and premises.
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I have been asked to write something about Marxism today. This, I cannot do; while I consider myself a Marxist-Leninist (of vaguely Trotskyist persuasion), I am far from an expert on Marxist thought. As importantly, tiny as the community of self-identified Marxists in the US may be, the ideological variation is immense.
So this won’t be a What is to be done? post laying out some grand strategy for achieving revolution - I couldn’t really compete with Lenin anyway.
Instead I will do what I can: describe why I consider myself a Marxist, and what that means for my understanding of society as it is now, and for my convictions regarding what action that should be taken, and (as importantly) can be taken in the current situation - in the spirit of unity of theory and practice.
Material Relations of Production and Power
The very basis of Marxism is the identification of power relations in society as economic relations. Power lies with those that own the means of production; in a feudal society, this was arable land; in industrial capitalism, well, industrial capital. Today - that’s up for debate. In any event, the important fact for me is that political power lies with those that control the means of production. This leads me to reject the thesis that liberal capitalist democracy can ever be truly democratic.
Disenchantment with the influence of big business and money in the political process is of course widespread; however, it is an illusion to believe that this problem can be solved in a capitalist society. Only by attaining ownership of the means of production themselves can the people truly govern their own affairs.
Class War 1: Strengthening the Working Class at home.
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“war” ongoing illegal occupation in Iraq continues to be referred to as the “number one issue” among voters. Oh, really?
Perhaps, the occupation is the number one issue gnawed at by the dog of a corporate media we are confronted with on a daily basis. It is also the top issue “debated” by politicians from both the Demo-cans and Republi-crats. Neither of these conditions elevates the occupation to the most important “kitchen table” issue for average Americans.
I say, it’s the economy.
If you can’t buy groceries or pay your bills because your dollars aren’t worth what they used to be…it’s the economy. If you can’t find a decent job, because your industry of choice has realized they can outsource their workforce to a lower priced workforce…it’s the economy. If you can’t fill your tank with gas, because the oil companies are
encouraged allowed to fleece the consumer with unjustified prices at the pump…it’s the economy. If you can’t make your mortgage payment, because your lender is raising your interest rates at the behest of the Federal Reserve…it’s the economy.
So, how is this affecting real American’s, people like you, your mom, my cousin, our friends, their neighbors? Let’s see:
June 12 (Bloomberg) — U.S. foreclosure filings surged 90 percent in May from a year earlier as more homeowners fell behind on their monthly mortgage payments, RealtyTrac Inc. said.
There were 176,137 notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions last month, led by California, Florida and Ohio, the Irvine, California-based seller of foreclosure data said in a report today. The median price for a U.S. home slid 1.8 percent the first three months of 2007 as the housing slump entered its second year, according to the National Association of Realtors. The filings rose 19 percent from April.
A jump in foreclosures at a time of year that traditionally is the busiest for home sales means the slide in prices probably isn’t over, said James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. Typically, more than half of all home sales occur in the April to June period, according to Freddie Mac, the No. 2 mortgage buyer.
“Such strong activity in the midst of the typical spring buying season could foreshadow even higher foreclosure levels later in the year,” Saccacio said in the report. That will add “to the downward pressure on home prices in many areas.”
I, for one, am ready to change the debate. I’m committed to focusing on the issues which really concern and affect all of us. Issues like the economy, jobs, health care, and education. These are some of the components of A.Citizen’s progressive ideals, which he and I and our friends at Drinking Liberally Oakland discuss on a regular basis. You are welcome to join us.
malcontent regularly blogs at Bear Republic Action Group.
By Dr. Free Ride
On Memorial Day, because I really needed to do something beside grade papers for awhile, I decided to go to the nursery to buy some plants. First, though, because the kids (who had the day off from school) were actually entertaining themselves pretty well, I poured myself another coffee and decided to actually read some of the articles in The Nation issue on climate change.
Confronted with the news that jets are evil and carbon offsets probably don’t work as well as one might hope, I decided that there was no way in hell I should be driving (my hybrid) to the nursery. I consulted Google Maps and discovered that the nursery was precisely one mile from my house — a reasonable walk so long as I didn’t get a big bag of manure — and, surprisingly, that the “driving route” Google recommended (not the obvious driving route) would make a really nice walking route, as it skirted a park and followed streets lined with shade trees.
As I readied my wheeled urban grocery cart (sometimes referred to as “the old lady cart”), my six-year-old asked if she could walk with me, even though a mile sounded like a long distance to her. It was a beautiful day, and there was no particular place we had to be later, so I agreed.
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Q: What’s worse than the death of your child?
- A: Your child dying in an unjust faux-patriotic charade of a “war” founded on fear-mongering lies and calculated deception.
Q: What can make your grief over this unbearable loss even worse?
- A: Having the perpetrators of the tragedy use your child’s death as an excuse and justification for the deaths of countless more people’s children.
- A: Being told that by demanding accountability from the people who caused your child’s death, you are dishonoring his life and everything for which he stood.
- A: Having your fitness as a parent and spouse questioned, flayed, dissected, and ultimately dismissed before a national television audience.
There are of course a lot more answers to that second question, and Cindy Sheehan endured all of them with strength and dignity and an unshakable courage. She did not start the anti-Iraq War movement, but she certainly lit a fire under it by forcing it into the pages of newspapers across the country and onto prime-time TV network news. Her stance in Crawford, Texas heightened the visibility (and therefore increased the support) of groups such as Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace (of which Sheehan is a founding member), and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (formerly Operation Truth).What happened there in Crawford gave people across the country a nucleus around which to rally. It finally forced the beginning of a real national discussion (if not a debate, exactly) about the US invasion of Iraq: Why did we go there in the first place, and why the hell are we still there now? Prior to Sheehan being in Crawford, the pundits, the corporate media, and with a few notable exceptions, the politicians, had been successful in seeing to it that this discussion never took place on a national scale.
For all the good that came out of the protest in Crawford, I feel that strategically a golden opportunity was lost.
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It has been an interesting spectator sport watching candidates communicate their faith “approaches” in the political arena. Hillary Clinton seems committed to operating upon faith as a kind of demographic variable to be diplomatically embraced with the help of advisers. John Edwards is fairly typical of the liberal politician: Faith is personal, almost wholly personal, an attribute of both a stout and moral leader and a caring Christian man. No atheism or animosity to religion here, whewww, and none of the nasty side effects of authoritarian, conservative pseudo-Christian warmongering. Edwards is religion in its unthreatening glory– personal, friendly, earnest, and (innocuously?) virtuous. We can all dedicate ourselves to the nobler unifying issues, like healing the economic rift between the “two Americas”.
I won’t discuss the Republican candidates because I find them so sanctimonious, monolithic, and calculating as to be boring and strangely agnostic in their presentations.
Barack Obama, I find to be the most interesting, because his engagement of the action side of faith (organizing communities and confronting the injustice of racism) has presented challenges to the gauzy images that many Americans have come to expect from their religiosity. Patrick DeTemple has already discussed from a ground’s-eye view much about the political side of Obama in a recent post, so I won’t spend too much time there, but Obama serves as an interesting case study of a larger dynamic playing itself out on the political stage, a different kind of “triangulation” in which faith plays a kind of litmus role:
- The negotiation of the dialectical materialist and Marxism-influenced past of the 1960’s, and its own tensions between “opiate of the masses” secularism and liberation theology.
- The desire for a “mainstream” present in which conflicts and hard choices can be fluffed into non-existence or packaged into comfortable simulacra (think of oddly new-age flavored televangelism).
- And the opportunity (and challenges) of a progressive future in which faith might act as a verb, helping us to engage, rather than run from the unknown, and having us come to terms with injustice in the service of a renewed spiritual vision which both embraces diversity and empirical truth and points beyond it.
I recommend the recent front page article in the New York Times on Obama to get a first hand look at this stormy love triangle. Obama was mentored by a scion of the 60’s, Jeremiah Wright, a pastor at Trinity Congregational in Chicago.
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