Posts Tagged ‘elections’

LIFTING THE VEIL

March 28, 2010

 

The Unbearable Lightness of Reform by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship March 27, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

That wickedly satirical Ambrose Bierce described politics as “the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

Bierce vanished to Mexico nearly a hundred years ago — to the relief of the American political class of his day, one assumes — but in an eerie way he was forecasting America’s political culture today. It seems like most efforts to reform a system that’s gone awry — to clean house and make a fresh start — end up benefiting the very people who wrecked it in the first place.

Which is why Bierce, in his classic little book, The Devil’s Dictionary, defined reform as “a thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation.”

Give the victors their due: the bill Obama signed expands coverage to many more people, stops some very ugly and immoral practices by the health insurance industry that should have been stopped long ago, and offers a framework for more change down the road, if there’s any heart or will left to fight for it.

But reformation? Hardly. For all their screaming and gnashing of teeth, the insurance companies still make out like bandits. Millions of new customers, under penalty of law, will be required to buy the companies’ policies, feeding the insatiable greed of their CEO’s and filling the campaign coffers of the politicians they wine and dine. Profits are secure; they don’t have to worry about competition from a public alternative to their cartel, and they can continue to scam us without fear of antitrust action.  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/27-0

Earth ‘Entering New Age of Geological Time’ by Murray Wardrop March 27, 2010 by The Telegraph/UK

The Earth has entered a new age of geological time – the epoch of new man, scientists claim.

Humans have wrought such vast and unprecedented changes on the planet that we may be ushering in a new period of geological history.  It is feared that the damage mankind has inflicted will lead to the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history with thousands of plants and animals being wiped out.

The new epoch, called the Anthropocene – meaning new man – would be the first period of geological time shaped by the action of a single species.  Although the term has been in informal use among scientists for more than a decade, it is now under consideration as an official term.

A new working group of experts has now been established to gather all the evidence which would support recognising it as the successor to the current Holocene epoch. It will consider changes human activities have brought to Earth’s biodiversity and rock structure as well as the impact of factors including pollution and mineral extraction.

It is hoped that within three years, their case will be presented to the International Union of Geological Sciences, which would decide whether the transition to a new epoch has been made. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/03/27

Celebrating (Mourning) a Culture of Lies by Robert Freeman March 28, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

Tomorrow, March 29th, marks the thirty-seventh anniversary of America’s withdrawal from Vietnam. You won’t hear it celebrated in any mainstream media, though it should be. Or more precisely, it should be mourned. Vietnam is the first war America ever lost.

It should be remembered so that we might learn the lessons of that loss. They are many, they are profound, and they could inform so many of our policy decisions today: that withdrawal from immoral wars doesn’t mean the end of civilization as we know it; that even America’s seemingly limitless resources are, in fact, limited; that masses of engaged, moral individuals can constrain the reckless, destructive folly of renegade elites.

Perhaps the most important lesson of Vietnam is that policies based on lies will ultimately fail, for in an open society it is the consent of the governed that is required to sustain major policy initiatives. A government can either earn that consent, or it must forfeit the essence of its democracy. If lying becomes its essential modus operandi, a nation ceases to be a democracy. Rather, it becomes a criminal conspiracy of self-interested insiders donning the trappings of democracy in order to gull the credulous.

It is time to grow out of our materialistic fetishes and begin cultivating the personal and civic maturity we like to fancy we possess, but which we don’t. It is time to grow up and accept the burdens of mature citizenship, among the most important of which are a capacity and a willingness to tell the truth, letting go the comforting but corrosive lies in the confidence that courage mustered now will yield not only greater self respect today but a more sane, a more decent, and a safer society in the future.

It is important that we commemorate Vietnam, both to mourn the objective horror of what it was, but also to redeem our capacity to tell the truth, to ourselves, about ourselves. Only in that way can we begin to reclaim the country and the people we want to imagine ourselves to be.

Robert Freeman writes on economics, history and education. His earlier piece, “Is Iraq Another Vietnam?” was also published on CommonDreams.  He can reached at robertfreeman10@yahoo.com. READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/28-3

Related:  https://johnlegry.wordpress.com/politics-mostly/organized-irresponsibility/

The Rage Is Not About Health Care by Frank Rich March 28, 2010 by The New York Times

THERE were times when last Sunday’s great G.O.P. health care implosion threatened to bring the thrill back to reality television.  On ABC’s “This Week,” a frothing and filibustering Karl Rove all but lost it in a debate with the Obama strategist David Plouffe. A few hours later, the perennially copper-faced Republican leader John Boehner revved up his “Hell no, you can’t!” incantation in the House chamber – instant fodder for a new viral video remixing his rap with will.i.am’s “Yes, we can!” classic from the campaign. Boehner, having previously likened the health care bill to Armageddon, was now so apoplectic you had to wonder if he had just discovered one of its more obscure revenue-generating provisions, a tax on indoor tanning salons.

But the laughs evaporated soon enough. There’s nothing entertaining about watching goons hurl venomous slurs at congressmen like the civil rights hero John Lewis and the openly gay Barney Frank. And as the week dragged on, and reports of death threats and vandalism stretched from Arizona to Kansas to upstate New York, the F.B.I. and the local police had to get into the act to protect members of Congress and their families.

How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far.

After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, some responsible leaders in both parties spoke out to try to put a lid on the resistance and violence. The arch-segregationist Russell of Georgia, concerned about what might happen in his own backyard, declared flatly that the law is “now on the books.” Yet no Republican or conservative leader of stature has taken on Palin, Perry, Boehner or any of the others who have been stoking these fires for a good 17 months now. Last week McCain even endorsed Palin’s “reload” rhetoric.

Are these politicians so frightened of offending anyone in the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base that they would rather fall silent than call out its extremist elements and their enablers? Seemingly so, and if G.O.P. leaders of all stripes, from Romney to Mitch McConnell to Olympia Snowe to Lindsey Graham, are afraid of these forces, that’s the strongest possible indicator that the rest of us have reason to fear them too. Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company.  Frank Rich is a regular columnist for The New York Times.  He is the author of many books, including The Great Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina.  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/28

INTRODUCING WORLD WAR III

Have a Nice World War, Folks by John Pilger March 28, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

Here is news of the Third World War. The United States has invaded Africa. US troops have entered Somalia, extending their war front from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and now the Horn of Africa. In preparation for an attack on Iran, American missiles have been placed in four Persian Gulf states, and “bunker-buster” bombs are said to be arriving at the US base on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

In Gaza, the sick and abandoned population, mostly children, is being entombed behind underground American-supplied walls in order to reinforce a criminal siege. In Latin America, the Obama administration has secured seven bases in Colombia, from which to wage a war of attrition against the popular democracies in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. Meanwhile, the secretary of “defence” Robert Gates complains that “the general [European] public and the political class” are so opposed to war they are an “impediment” to peace. Remember this is the month of the March Hare.

According to an American general, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is not so much a real war as a “war of perception”. Thus, the recent “liberation of the city of Marja” from the Taliban’s “command and control structure” was pure Hollywood. Marja is not a city; there was no Taliban command and control. The heroic liberators killed the usual civilians, poorest of the poor. Otherwise, it was fake. A war of perception is meant to provide fake news for the folks back home, to make a failed colonial adventure seem worthwhile and patriotic, as if The Hurt Locker were real and parades of flag-wrapped coffins through the Wiltshire town of Wooten Basset were not a cynical propaganda exercise.

Norman Mailer once said he believed the United States, in its endless pursuit of war and domination, had entered a “pre-fascist era”. Mailer seemed tentative, as if trying to warn about something even he could not quite define. “Fascism” is not right, for it invokes lazy historical precedents, conjuring yet again the iconography of German and Italian repression. On the other hand, American authoritarianism, as the cultural critic Henry Giroux pointed out recently, is “more nuance, less theatrical, more cunning, less concerned with repressive modes of control than with manipulative modes of consent.”

This is Americanism, the only predatory ideology to deny that it is an ideology. The rise of tentacular corporations that are dictatorships in their own right and of a military that is now a state with the state, set behind the façade of the best democracy 35,000 Washington lobbyists can buy, and a popular culture programmed to divert and stultify, is without precedent. More nuanced perhaps, but the results are both unambiguous and familiar. Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, the senior United Nations officials in Iraq during the American and British-led blockade, are in no doubt they witnessed genocide. They saw no gas chambers. Insidious, undeclared, even presented wittily as enlightenment on the march, the Third World War and its genocide proceeded, human being by human being.

In the coming election campaign in Britain, the candidates will refer to this war only to laud “our boys”. The candidates are almost identical political mummies shrouded in the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes. As Blair demonstrated a mite too eagerly, the British elite loves America because America allows it to barrack and bomb the natives and call itself a “partner”. We should interrupt their fun.

John Pilger was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been a war correspondent, film-maker and playwright. Based in London, he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism’s highest award, that of “Journalist of the Year,” for his work in Vietnam and Cambodia.  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/28-5 

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SAVE THE WORLD TO DO LIST

October 26, 2009

What?

Michael Moore’s Action Plan: 15 Things Every American Can Do Right Now By Michael Moore, MichaelMoore.com.

5 things to demand Obama and Congress to do immediately, 5 things the politicians must hear from us, 5 things we should do to protect ourselves and family.

Friends,

It’s the #1 question I’m constantly asked after people see my movie: “OK — so now what can I do?!”  You want something to do? Well, you’ve come to the right place! ‘Cause I got 15 things you and I can do right now to fight back and try to fix this very broken system.  Here they are:

FIVE THINGS WE DEMAND THE PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS DO IMMEDIATELY:

1.      Declare a moratorium on all home evictions.

2.      Congress must join the civilized world and expand Medicare For All Americans. The bill to make this happen is called H.R. 3200 (but only with Rep. Anthony Weiner’s amendment). You must call AND write your members of Congress and demand its passage, no compromises allowed.

3.      Demand publicly-funded elections and a prohibition on elected officials leaving office and becoming lobbyists. Tell your members of Congress they must support campaign finance bill H.R.1826.

4.      Each of the 50 states must create a state-owned public bank like they have in North Dakota.  Reinstate all the strict pre-Reagan regulations on all commercial banks, investment firms, insurance companies (Click here for some info about the state-owned Bank of North Dakota.)

5.      Save this fragile planet and declare that all the energy resources above and beneath the ground are owned collectively by all of us. (For more on this, here’s a proposal I wrote in December.)

FIVE THINGS WE CAN DO TO MAKE CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT LISTEN TO US:

1.      Each of us must get into the daily habit of taking 5 minutes to make four brief calls: One to the President (202-456-1414), one to your Congressperson (202-224-3121) and one to each of your two Senators (202-224-3121). To find out who represents you, click here.  Trust me, they will listen. If you have another five minutes, click here to send them each an email. And if you really want to drop an anvil on them, send them a snail mail letter!

2.      Take over your local Democratic Party.  When you all become the local Democratic Party, send me a photo of the group and I’ll post it on my website.

3.      Recruit someone to run for office who can win in your local elections next year — or, better yet, consider running for office yourself! Check out examples of regular citizens who got elected.  The list goes on and on — and you should be on it!

4.      Show up. Picket the local branch of a big bank that took the bailout money.  Make some noise, have some fun, get on the local news.

5.      Start your own media.  Start a blog! Start a website.  Tweet your friends and use Facebook. The daily papers are dying.  Fill that void.

FIVE THINGS WE SHOULD DO TO PROTECT OURSELVES AND OUR LOVED ONES UNTIL WE GET THROUGH THIS MESS:

1.      Take your money out of your bank if it took bailout money and place it in a locally-owned bank or, preferably, a credit union.

2.      Get rid of all your credit cards but one — the kind where you have to pay up at the end of the month or you lose your card.

3.      Do not invest in the stock market.  Buy very safe government savings bonds or T-bills. Or just buy your mother some flowers.

4.      Unionize your workplace so that you and your coworkers have a say in how your business is run. Here’s how to do it (more info here).  Turn your business into a worker-owned cooperative. You are not a wage slave.

5.      Take care of yourself and your family.  Turn off the TV and the Blackberry and go for a 30-minute walk every day.

I’m sure there are many other ideas you can come up with on how we can build this movement. Get creative.  And when you act, send me your stories, your photos and your video — and be sure to post your ideas in the comments beneath this letter on my site so they can be shared with millions.

C’mon people — we can do this! I expect nothing less of all of you, my true and trusted fellow travelers!

Yours, Michael Moore

MMFlint@aol.com, MichaelMoore.com

READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/action/143444/michael_moore%27s_action_plan%3A_15_things_every_american_can_do_right_now?page=3

Inter Press Service

American Public More Complacent About Climate Change by Jim Lobe.

WASHINGTON – Less than two months before a key international conference on curbing climate change, a major U.S. poll has found a sharp drop in public concern about global warming.

According to the survey by the Pew Research Centre for the People & the Press, 65 percent of the public believes that warming constitutes either a “very serious” (35 percent) or “somewhat serious” (30 percent) problem, down from 79 percent in July 2006 and from 73 percent just 18 months ago.

The survey also recorded a sharp drop in the percentage of the public that believes that “there is solid evidence the Earth is warming” – down from 71 percent in April, 2008, to 57 percent – and in the percentage that believes global warming is caused primarily by human activity – from 47 percent to 36 percent over the same period.

The survey of 1,500 adult respondents comes was released just six weeks before the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen where the representatives of 192 nations will gather to hash out the basic principles of a treaty to curb global emissions of greenhouse gases that virtually all climate and atmospheric scientists agree constitute the major cause of global warming.  READ MORE:

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/10/23-0

Koi Pond

REPUBLICAN INSURANCE NAZIS

August 9, 2009

It's Not Fascism

ABSTRACT:  Republican Fascists.

EXPERTS SAY:

PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times.

At recent town halls, angry protestors are yelling, “This is America!” to drown out public debate, and threatening democratic members of Congress with lynching for daring to speak the truth about health care.  Some commentators want us to believe that this is just good old civil disobedience.  It is not.

Experts on right-wing culture and politics say we are finally becoming a fascist state.  A fascist American future looms in the very near future if these people are allowed to win — or even hold their ground.

Published on Friday, August 7, 2009 by The New York Times

THE TOWN HALL MOB by Paul Krugman

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/08/07-1

William L. Shirer, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.  Simon & Schuster.

“…Hitler organized a bunch of roughneck war veterans into ‘strong-arm’ squads…These uniformed rowdies… soon took to breaking up [meetings] of other parties.  Hitler told an audience, ‘The National Socialist Movement will in the future ruthlessly prevent – if necessary by force – all meetings or lectures that are likely to distract the minds of our fellow countrymen.’”

Frank Schaeffer, AlterNet: writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

Here’s the emerging American version of the fascist’s formula: combine millions of dollars of lobbyists’ money with embittered troublemakers who have a small army of not terribly bright white angry people (collected over decades through pro-life mass mailing networks) at their beck and call, ever ready to believe any myth or lie circulated by the semi literate and completely and routinely misinformed right wing Evangelical religious underground. Then put his little mob together with the insurance companies’ big bucks. That’s how it works — American Brown Shirts at the ready.  Republican leaders taking insurance industry money and organizing what amounts to roving bands of thugs not only need to be exposed but should also become absolute pariahs.

The Lobbyist-run Groups “Americans for Prosperity ” and “FreedomWorks” Dick Armey-Orchestrated Memo:

Here is a leaked excerpt from the folks organizing the intimidation campaign:

  • Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
  • Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”
  • Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

THE “SCORCHED EARTH POLICY”

Dick Armey and company have been driven mad by their reversal, not just of political fortunes but of seeing that they’ve wasted their lives. They now know they were wrong: about the country, the free market, war for fun and profit, and what the American people really want. They made their best case and were rejected by the American people — and by history. Bush was their man and he turned out to be a fool. So now all the Republican gurus have left is what the defeated Germans of World War Two had: a scorched earth policy. If they can’t win then everyone must go down. Obama must fail! The country must fail!

No, I don’t believe that these people are about to take over the country. No, the sky is not falling. But the Republican Party is. It is now profoundly anti-American.

http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/141833/right-wing_turncoat_gives_the_inside_scoop_on_why_conservatives_are_rampaging_town_halls/

Sara Robinson, AlterNet: Fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future, and a consulting partner with the Cognitive Policy Works in Seattle. One of the few trained social futurists in North America, she has blogged on authoritarian and extremist movements at Orcinus since 2006, and is a founding member of Group News Blog.

What is fascism?

Pre-eminent historian Robert Paxton defines the term as: “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

Fascism unfolds in five stages.

In the first stage, a rural movement emerges to effect some kind of nationalist renewal. They come together to restore a broken social order, always drawing on themes of unity, order, and purity. Reason is rejected in favor of passionate emotion, rooted in the promise of restoring lost national pride by resurrecting the culture’s traditional myths and values, and purging society of the toxic influence of outsiders and intellectuals blamed for current misery.

Modern American conservatism was built on these themes. From “Morning in America” to the Rapture-ready religious right to the white nationalism promoted by the GOP through various racist groups, American proto-fascism offers redemption by promising to restore the innocence of a traditional, white, Christian, male-dominated America. The entire Republican party now openly defines itself along these lines. It is blatantly racist, sexist, repressed, exclusionary, and permanently addicted to the politics of fear and rage. It has no shame, no apologies. These same threads weave through every fascist movement in history.

In the second stage, fascist movements take root, turn into real political parties, and seize their seat at the table of power.  The political base comes from rural, less-educated parts of the country; and offers themselves as informal goon squads organized to intimidate farmworkers on behalf of large landowners. The KKK persecuted black sharecroppers and enforced Jim Crow. The Italian Squadristi and the German Brownshirts broke up farmers’ strikes. These days, GOP-sanctioned anti-immigrant groups make life hell for Hispanic agricultural workers in the US. GOP right-wing goon squads are getting basic training that they may eventually use to intimidate the rest of us.

The second stage also depends on a weak liberal state, whose inadequacies create disorder, decline, or humiliation; and political deadlock because the Right – heir to power but unable to continue to wield it alone – refuses to accept a growing Left as a legitimate governing partner.” Hitler and Mussolini both took power under these same circumstances: “deadlock of constitutional government (produced in part by the polarization that the fascists abetted); conservative leaders who felt threatened by loss of capacity to keep the population under control at a moment of massive popular mobilization; an advancing Left; and conservative leaders who refused to work with that Left and who felt unable to continue to govern against the Left without further reinforcement.”

Sounds eerily like the dire straits Republicans are now in. Though the GOP has been humiliated, rejected, and reduced to rump status by a series of epic national catastrophes mostly of its own making, its leadership can’t even imagine governing cooperatively with the newly mobilized and ascendant Democrats. Lacking legitimate routes back to power, their last hope is to invest the hardcore remainder of their base with an undeserved legitimacy, recruit them as shock troops, and overthrow American democracy by force. If they can’t win elections or policy fights, they’re more than willing to take it to the streets, and seize power by bullying Americans into silence and complicity.

When that unholy alliance is made, the third stage — the transition to full-fledged government fascism — begins.

The third stage: being there

A deliberate, committed institutional partnership is forming between America’s conservative elites and its emerging homegrown brownshirt horde.

The “Teabag Movement” was created out of whole cloth by astroturf groups like Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and Tim Phillips’ Americans for Prosperity, with massive media help from FOX News. The nonsense-issue Birther fracas is openly ratified by congressional Republicans.  Armey professionally-produced a field manual that carefully instructs conservative goon squads in the fine art of disrupting the democratic governing process. Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner applauds and promotes a video of the disruptions and looks forward to “a long, hot August for Democrats in Congress.”

This is the sign we were waiting for — the one that tells us that yes, kids: we are there now. America’s conservative elites have openly thrown in with the country’s legions of discontented far right thugs. They have explicitly deputized them and empowered them to act as their enforcement arm on America’s streets, sanctioning the physical harassment and intimidation of workers, liberals, and public officials who won’t do their political or economic bidding.

This is the catalyzing moment at which honest-to-Hitler fascism begins. It’s also our very last chance to stop it.

The Road Ahead

We’ve arrived. We are now parked on the exact spot where our best experts tell us full-blown fascism is born. Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we’re slowly creeping across the final line beyond which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.

How do we pull back?  That’s my next post.

Published on Sunday, August 9, 2009 by OurFuture.org

FASCIST AMERICA: ARE WE THERE YET? by Sara Robinson

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/08/09-5

READ THE FULL ARTICLES AT THE LINKS PROVIDED

Palintler

HOW TO FIGHT REPUBLICAN INSURANCE NAZIS:

Blood Sacrifice

ABSTRACT:

7 Ways We Can Fight Back Against the Rising Fascist Threat

By Sara Robinson, Campaign for America’s Future
http://www.alternet.org/story/141929/

Writing about fascism for Americans is a fraught business.  A third of the readers dismiss the topic (and the blogger’s sanity); they’ve got their own definition, or anyone who invokes the F-word is a de facto alarmist of questionable credibility.

Another third dismiss it because America has been fascist since (choose one:) 1) 9/11; 2) Reagan; 3) McCarthy; 4) the Civil War; 5) July 4, 1776.  For them, careful analysis and worried warnings are dangerously naive.

The final third engage in thoughtful discussion, including what must be done.

The most insidious part of fascism is that when it’s obvious to everyone that these people are dangerously out of control, it’s too late to do anything about it.  Early warnings are the business of futurists.  We can still change our minds, and spend our future elsewhere, but we are now actively choosing, whether aware of it or not.  Things are happening now that set a course we may be unable to alter.

How do we turn back? A few basic principles:

First: Teabaggers must not win.  When a bully learns that intimidation and threats work, he does more of it.  The longer he goes without penalty, the worse he gets and the harder it is to stop him.  Do nothing, and he takes over.

It only takes a handful of thugs to terrorize people into giving up civil rights, abandoning democracy and doing what they’re told.  The main imperative becomes staying off the goons’ radar.  All enforcers need do is make a horrific example out of “troublemakers” now and then to keep everybody else in line.

With a colossal conservative investment in organizing and directing teabaggers, we’d be stupid to believe that this will go away when Congress returns in September.  Having had a taste of power and publicity, these newly empowered mobs are likely to stick around and see what else they can muck up.

Our choice is stark: knock them back while they’re new, small and not yet entrenched; or later when they have real power to fight, and the cost is higher.

Second: Think nationally, fight locally.  Conservatives run this fight as a national campaign, but the terror that fuels fascism is always intensely, intimately local.  Fascist goon squads recruit from the neighborhood, built on people we know.  Since that’s where they start, that’s where they have to be stopped.  This is why all the best tactics involve community-level action.  Anybody who sits this one out because they assume that folks in D.C. will handle it shouldn’t be surprised when they get “special treatment” from longtime neighbors, or discover their car vandalized.

That’s the next baby step from where we are now; and in some places, it’s already happening.  Winning means getting out and defending community standards and boundaries while they’re still there to be defended.

Third: Use nonviolent resistance — leave heavy lifting and rough enforcement to police.  The only way to stop a bully is to stand up to them, but that doesn’t involve eye-for-an-eye.  If we meet thuggery with thuggery, we lose, because they’re better at, and enjoy it.  The right wing is looking hard to make a case that they’re innocent victims of the “left”.  The Nazis used this kind of victim-blaming to tremendous effect as they built up their party.  We must not give our proto-brownshirts any basis to make the same kind of argument.

It’s about the moral high ground.  Our choices must be consistent with our values.  Standing up for health care reform is important; but before that, we need to stand up for civil discourse and free speech.  We’re defending the rule of law; our best tactic is to use the law.  When people from either side cross the line, it’s time for police and prosecutors to assert that bullying people in a public meeting (or anywhere else) is illegal and will not be tolerated.

Fourth: Make sure media gets the story right.  Teabaggers run out of power if the media turns off their cameras, but this nefariously incited drama is a real ratings-booster.  Left alone, the media (local news in particular) turn these hate and fear mongers into cultural heroes.  The best cure for bad speech is good speech: documented, on YouTube, blogged, spread widely; a coordinated rapid-response letterwriting to local papers; and keeping local reporters well-fed with news of concerned nonpartisan citizens working to keep control of democratic discourse in the face of organized thugs trying to suppress it.  Since the media are watching, make sure they see it all.

Fifth: Support legislators who don’t show fear. The Democratic leadership knows that these noisy, scary people don’t represent the 73 percent of Americans who support health care reform.  The GOP runs the risk of being marginalized as the Party of No, and the Party of Moonbat Crazy.  If you’ve never attended a public meeting, August 2009 is the month to start.  Your congressperson’s Web site probably lists his or her schedule, or a number to call to inquire.

That’s a first step.  Do more.  Write.  Call.  Find out where your local congressional office is, and drop by.  Tell staff how you feel about health care reform, teabaggers, your legislator’s courage.  If they’re stressed, encourage them.  A constituent in the office counts.  One visit or call is good.  More is better.  Contact your representatives at least once a week to support their public service.

Sixth: Shut down the hate talkers.  Teabaggers come straight out of right-wing talk-radio audiences, mainlining raw emotion and toxic misinformation: “death panels!” “kill your granny!” “Join the “resistance!”  Cut off this endless torrent of lies and fearmongering to power down the whole movement.  Basic recipe:

  • Record their shows.
  • Note anything intimidating, threatening, or aimed at inciting violence against a named target.
  • Note every advertiser.
  • Write a polite letter to the CEOs of sponsors, toss in choice quotes and ask if they want their product identified with them.  This works extremely well — and quickly — at local and national levels.

Finally: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.  Conservatives invest a lot of money and effort to build a mass movement aimed at destroying democratic government — and they’re not going to let up as long as Democrats are in control.  This is our new reality — and it comes straight out of Chapter 6 of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.  They intend to keep the outrage junkies high with never-ending, made-up reasons to act out.  Which means that even if we win this round, we must push back against the bullies, over and over, for the next three to seven years.

There are only two outcomes: get very good at spotting and stopping these attempts at a brownshirt takeover the minute they crop up; or they get very good at public intimidation and keep ratcheting it up toward violence and goon rule.

That’s how it’s going to be for the rest of this administration.  The sooner we resign ourselves to the zero-sum nature of this fight, the sooner we can get on with getting good at it.

Sara Robinson is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future and a consulting partner with the Cognitive Policy Works in Seattle. One of the few trained social futurists in North America, she has blogged on authoritarian and extremist movements at Orcinus since 2006, and is a founding member of Group News Blog.

Read the full story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/141929/

Fire Dancer

AVAAZ – “VOICES”

July 16, 2009

This is a very interesting group.  They’re doing a lot of good and significant things for the right reasons, using positive methods. 

ABOUT AVAAZ Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means “voice” in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in Ottawa, London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Buenos Aires, and Geneva.

Dear friends,

Here’s a quick report back on recent campaigning at Avaaz. Our community has grown like wildfire and is becoming really extraordinary — the pace and impact of our advocacy is intense. In just the last 8 weeks, we’ve run 9 major national and global campaigns on issues ranging from climate change to Iran to Guantanamo. Much more remains to be done on all these issues — but together we’re contributing in powerful ways. Here are some highlights from the last 8 weeks:

Brazilian rainforest – Brazilian Avaaz members made 14000 phone calls and sent 30,000 online messages to President Lula’s office in two days(!) and in the 11th hour successfully reversed a law that would hand over much of the Amazon rainforest to agrobusiness for exploitation – this was a major victory on climate change since the Amazon consumes enormous amounts of the greenhouse gasses that are warming the earth.

G8 Summit – last week 130,000 Avaaz members signed a petition in 48 hours calling for the G8 industrial countries to limit global warming to 2 degrees celsius – focusing on shaming 3 countries who were blocking progress. The petition was delivered at the summit to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown (see image at right), along with giant personalized postcards.

Outside the summit, Avaaz members stripped down to green underwear in a humorous theatrical delivery of the campaign’s message that generated substantial media coverage (pictured at right). As Avaaz and partners built pressure in Italy and around the world, the blocking countries relented, and the G8 leaders agreed to the 2 degree goal! However, they failed to agree on specific actions to make the goal a reality — our challenge now is to make sure leaders live up to their rhetorical commitments with a binding global treaty at the UN summit in Copenhagen this December.

Iran Protests – our community rapidly responded to the election crisis in Iran with an opinion poll to gauge the views of ordinary Iranians, a petition to world leaders to withhold recognition of the new President until the crackdown on protests ceased, and a fundraiser to support technology that would allow Iranians to freely access the internet. The rapidly deteriorating security situation has made it difficult to conduct the poll (final word on that coming this week), but the technology fundraiser has raised over a hundred thousand dollars to support the best tools for Iranians to access the internet and communicate freely. The situation in Iran remains uncertain, and we will continue to both support freedom of expression and oppose those who would exploit this crisis to justify military action against Iran.

Japan climate targets – In Japan, we raised the alarm as the Prime Minister Taro Aso was about to choose a damagingly weak climate targets. Funded by small online donations, Avaaz ran a national opinion poll that showed that 63% of Japanese people wanted strong targets, publicized it in the press, in a full page ad in the country’s largest business newspaper, and one in the Aso’s favourite comic book (see right). Internationally, Avaaz ran a front page ad in the Financial Times, and Avaaz members demonstrated and met with Japanese climate negotiators at summits in Paris and Bonn.

At last, the Prime Minister announced a target stronger than polluting industries had urged — but far from strong enough to stop catastrophic climate change. So we redoubled the pressure with a widely-covered international press conference dubbing the Japanese leader “George W. Aso” — comparing him to Bush for holding back progress on climate change.


Free Burma’s political prisoners
– Over 400,000 of us signed a major petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon asking him to make the release of Nobel prize winning political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners his top priority. The petition was delivered in an extended meeting with Moon’s office and in a press conference at the UN in New York. The UN chief issued a strong statement backing the release of Suu Kyi and traveled to Burma to attempt to meet with her, but was rebuffed by Burma’s military junta. International pressure did cause the junta to delay a new show trial to extend Aung San Suu Kyi’s prison sentence, but it will take much more pressure to secure her release.

United States and Torture – A global fundraiser and petition on stopping torture and closing Guantanamo prison allowed Avaaz to secure a giant, 9 story billboard just blocks from the White House in the heart of Washington DC to deliver our message — but at the last minute the company selling the ad space refused, despite members of the US congress offering to help unveil the billboard in a press conference. Avaaz has now secured an alternative option for delivering our edgy message that will have Washington DC buzzing with our call for justice.

UN Climate Summit – At a major summit on climate change in Bonn, Avaaz recruited among members in Germany to help our partners organize a massive 500 person aerial photo spelling out ‘Yes You Can’ as a message to leaders discussing climate targets (see right). It helped raise the profile and urgency of these faltering but urgent talks. Avaaz also sent a 16-person lobbying/activist team to the summit negotiations and members in 10 key countries joined “negotiator tracking teams” that are following and responding to urgent needs to press individual country negotiators at these summits.

Peru – Avaaz arranged with local indigenous and top political allies to deliver a global petition against new laws that would cause massive devastation to the Peruvian rainforest and its people, taking out an ad in the national newspaper (at right). The ad and campaign generated much attention, and the domestic and international pressure worked, for now — the Peruvian congress has revoked the controversial laws!

Israel – As Prime Minister Netanyahu prepared to make a speech responding to Obama’s historic Cairo address and demand that Israel stop illegal settlements of Palestinian land, Avaaz took out a front page ad in a major newspaper – Haaretz – delivering a joint petition from global and Israeli Avaaz members edgily asking Netanyahu to ‘be more like Obama’ and stop the settlements. Netanyahu has so far refused, but we’re helping to build an unprecedented wave of Israeli and global pressure and attention on this issue.

The petitions, fundraisers, rallies, and lobbying campaigns our community is doing are having an incredible impact. Avaaz has grown by 50,000 people a week and is now almost 3.6 million engaged citizens in every country of the world — and we’re truly global – operating in 14 languages our community has 25,000 members in Singapore, 35,000 in South Africa, 130,000 in Italy, 50,000 in Mexico… There hasn’t really been a community like ours before, able to rapidly and effectively mobilize people power all over the world to the greatest needs and concerns of all human beings — it’s a reason for hope.

It’s also an exciting journey — looking forward to taking on the next 8 weeks, and 8 months, and 8 years together!

With hope,
Ricken, Alice, Pascal, Ben, Veronique, Paul, Graziela, Brett, Raluca, Luis, Raj, Milena, Paula, Iain, Taren, Margaret and the whole Avaaz team.

PS – To see some of the highlights of Avaaz campaigning in 2007 and 2008 and leave a comment, click here:
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/report_back_2/

And to check out other recent Avaaz campaigning highlights like our climate victory in Germany, our messages to Obama wall in DC, the delivery of our Swine Flu petition to the WHO, our Green Recovery march at G20 Summit in London, or our support to Tibetan organizations to break the blackout on their communications — visit the Avaaz blog: http://www.avaaz.org/blog/en/.

Click here to learn more about our largest campaigns.

Don’t forget to check out our Facebook and Myspace and Bebo pages! You can also follow Avaaz on Twitter!