I’d rather not entertain current events for a while, and instead tell you a bit more about the Quaker Young Adult gathering I recently attended. Primarily this is because it is supremely depressing to contemplate the oil spill. The beaches on Alabama’s Gulf Coast that I visited every summer as a child and young teen might be forever changed as wave after wave of oil washes ashore. I may return to that at another time, but right now I am avoiding even thinking about it because it hits so close to home. Returning to my original point, there are so many stories to share I hardly know where to begin, but I’ll start with one and go from there.
Jun 03 2010
Apr 29 2010
Originally Posted at SumofChange.com
With a poor economy, new technology offers the ability to create new jobs as well as progression for companies large and small. Combining this with the global need for clean energy creates a viable opportunity for economic alleviation.
To continue our “Green Thursdays”, here are some clips from a panel at the 2010 PA Progressive Summit, held this last January in Harrisburg, PA. Michael Fedor, the Pennsylvania state director for Repower America, and Adam Graber, PennEnvironment, discuss the current job environment and how clean energy “green jobs” are essential for the future for most companies.
In the first video, Fedor (along side Adam Garber) explains the realistic ways green jobs can fix unemployment. Once more green jobs have been established, Fedor in the second video describes the ways green jobs can become green careers. In the final video, Fedor illustrates how to make Pennsylvania the leading green jobs state in the nation.
For more videos from Sum of Change at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit, please go to SumofChange.com/paprog
Apr 28 2010
Cross Posted from SumofChange.com
Also from the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit (paprogressivesummit.com), I’d like to bring you a few videos form a panel simply entitled ‘Marriage Equality’. On this panel, the speakers discussed the benefits, issues, and consequences or allowing homosexual couples marriage rights equal to those of heterosexual ones. The panelists and approached the topic from a variety of angles. Some spoke about the legal issues equality, both in the PA state legislature and in the constitution, others talked about the religious aspects, especially from the Christian and Jewish traditions, and others talked about the moral and human rights aspect of the debate.
The clips below go into many of the arguments against marriage equality and gay marriage and why most of them struggle for validity. The first video, PA state senator Daylin Leach, who sponsored a bill in the PA state legislature in support on marriage equality, goes into many of the arguments against gay marriage that he has heard while debating the bill. As he says, no one has debated him twice, because no one has presented him an argument with any validity. The second video looks at many of the religious issues brought up by the marriage equality debate. Many think that religion has no part of the legal debate over gay marriage and often when religion is invoked, it is done so incorrectly. Finally, the last clip discusses why marriage equality supporters should want legalized gay marriage and not civil unions. Civil unions seem like an acceptable compromise, but really they are impractical and still discriminatory.
For more videos from the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit, go to SumofChange.com/paprog
Mar 31 2010
I’ve been reading A People’s History of the United States over the past year or so, in between everything else I’ve been reading. Since it’s spring break for me, I’ve been getting through a lot of it, and there’s definitely a reason it’s so popular. It’s one of those books that can seriously change the way you think. Just read this excerpt (yeah, it’s long – go check out the book from a library if you don’t want to read it online!) to see what I mean. This passage affected me a lot.
I’d also suggest reading more about the Wobblies (IWW) if you’re interested. Very interesting organization, and Zinn writes a lot about them in this book.
Mar 19 2010
I heart Glenn Greenwald and urge you to read the whole article if you already haven’t.
Has Rahm’s assumption about progressives been vindicated?
For almost a full year, scores of progressive House members vowed — publicly and unequivocally — that they would never support a health care bill without a robust public option. They collectively accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars based on this pledge. Up until a few weeks ago, many progressive opinion leaders — such as Moulitsas, Howard Dean, Keith Olbermann and many others — were insisting that the Senate bill was worse than the status quo and should be defeated. But now? All of those progressives House members are doing exactly what they swore they would never do — vote for a health care bill with no public option — and virtually every progressive opinion leader is not only now supportive of the bill, but vehemently so. In other words, exactly what Rahm said would happen — ignore the progressives, we don’t need to give them anything because they’ll get into line — is exactly what happened. How is that not vindication?
Pretty simple really. No money, no votes. If we all stay home in November, what will they do?
Mar 06 2010
Crossposted at Daily Kos
You don’t get more Establishment than an Ex-President.
Bill Clinton Throws His Support To Blanche Lincoln
In a boost to embattled Dem Senator Blanche Lincoln – and a bit of a blow to primary challenger Bill Halter – fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton is throwing his support to the incumbent Senator, his spokesman confirms to me.
Halter’s entry into the race had kicked off a round of speculation about who Clinton would endorse, given that he hails from the state and remains very popular with Dem primary voters. If Clinton had remained neutral it would have been a big boost to Halter.
Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna tells me, however, that the former President is supporting Lincoln.
“Senator Lincoln asked President Clinton several months ago to support her reelection,” McKenna says. “He said he would, and he does.”
Yes, the Democratic Establishment can kiss my DFH ass.
More below the fold
Jan 21 2010
Recently I have been giving much thought to why Progressives and Democrats can’t seem to accomplish more than the bare minimum regarding desperately needed reform measures, even when they have the luxury of substantial majorities in both public favor and legislative representation. The answer may lie in the prevalence of pointless, unwieldy levels of stratification. With these comes an isolating sense of separation—individual elements of the base often have a problem pulling together with one voice, and, for that matter, do all who would deign to fit underneath the big tent.
To many liberals, life must be overly complicated: specialized committees, committees within committees, identity groups, splinter identity groups from larger ones, rules for the sake of rules, rules set in place when one unforeseen problem creates friction with anyone for whatever reason, exacting policies based on good intentions that soon become headaches for all, and many other examples. It doesn’t have to be this way. Overlap is sometimes a good thing.
As such, the true failing lies in the absolutely ridiculous complexity of how structure ourselves and how we have in many ways forgotten how to communicate with each other. For too long, information and strategies that could be used for the benefit of all have been isolated within specific single-issue oriented groups, each with its own nomenclature and particular phraseology. For too long, so-called experts carrying a briefcase, a PowerPoint slide, and a hefty speaking fee have been employed to enlighten other people of an unknown universe, when with major modification, we could easily understand the intersections and common ground which links us together, not the great unknown that keeps us at arm’s length from each other.
This sort of set up directly reflects the nature of academia, since the merits, weaknesses, and structure of pertinent concepts are hatched there and exhaustively vetted. Just as I have recently discovered that the health care system available to low-income and disabled residents of Washington, DC, was written to be understood and effectively managed by policy wonks and the highly educated, not the poor and under-educated, so do I realize that so many of our grand goals are thwarted when they are neither designed, nor framed so that all might easily comprehend them.
To cite a related example, when I am speaking within Feminist circles, I know that there are certain terms, overarching concepts, and abstract notions that one needs a thorough education, keen mind, and a willingness to research on one’s own time to grasp sufficiently. Much emphasis is given to an everlasting critique of Patriarchy and cultural practices which place women in a subordinate role, and from these comes a thousand deep conversations and leitmotifs. I can speak this language competently, with much practice, I might add, but I often can’t help but wonder if any of these worthwhile ideas and highly involved strategies ever get out to the working class battered housewife or to the sex worker standing on the corner of a bus terminal, prepared for another night of a dangerous way to make a living.
In my own life, part of the reason I have been able to keep my health from being as debilitating as it could be is that I had access through education and relative affluence to know how and where I could do my own research about the condition. Now, years later, I can hold my own with any psychiatrist because I know and understand terms like selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, titration, GABA, dopamine agonist, and efficacy. However, these terms mean absolutely nothing to the average person, who must trust fully in a psychiatrist who then must translate their needs, their symptoms, and their expectations for treatment into a regimen of medications that is inexact even in the best of circumstances.
The likely outcome with anyone diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder is a tremendous amount of constant modifications, some slight, some major, and frequently a need to try an altogether new combination of medications, all of this in the hopes that one will stumble across the proper drugs in the proper proportion, eventually.
We humans are a peculiar breed. In the animal kingdom, one could argue that the average mammal attends to its own more readily and with less reservations than we do. Without romanticizing the primitive, it would seem that no other species on Earth usually has such profound reservations about reaching out to assist others. Though certainly other animals fight within themselves for food, mates, and resources, I often wonder if we are perhaps the most self-absorbed creatures the world has ever known.
We are given the gift, by God or by whichever belief or unbelief you espouse, to have the gift of a very complex, and very advanced organ at our disposal known as the brain. Yet, it seems to me sometimes that this supposed great gift can dispense evil and great suffering as easily as it gives rise to good and with it great gain for all.
As a person of faith, I sometimes wonder if this basic concept is a credible interpretation of the beginning of time as expressed in the Book of Genesis. So long as man and woman weren’t aware of the greater complexity of all things, they lived nakedly, blissfully in paradise. But once temptation arrived in serpent form, suddenly they recognized that reality was not nearly so simplistic and easy to swallow. Christianity and other religions teach that humanity was created in God’s image, and if that is the case, perhaps we are caught in some still unresolved eternal polar tension between our ability to sense and structure things in advanced shades of grey versus our relatively straightforward mammalian biological imperatives and compulsions. Some have even implied that the human condition is imperfect particularly because we have divine elements seeking to function within imperfect organs, namely our brain.
While on the subject, I am reminded St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church. It seems that the church had fallen prey to smooth talk, false teachings, and a distortion of the faith itself. Much of the passage I am about to cite, as you will see, is written quite sarcastically, its target primarily those who deceive others, not those who had been unwittingly deceived.
However, I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by its tricks, so your minds may somehow be lured away from sincere and pure devotion to the Messiah. When someone comes to you telling about another Jesus whom we didn’t tell you about, you’re willing to put up with it. When you receive a spirit that is different from the Spirit you received earlier, you’re also willing to put up with that. When someone tells you good news that is different from the Good News you already accepted, you’re willing to put up with that too.
I do not think I’m inferior in any way to those “super-apostles.” Even though I may be untrained as an orator, I am not so in the field of knowledge. We have made this clear to all of you in every possible way. Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? (Italics mine) I took money from other churches as payment for my work, so that I might be your servant [at no cost to you]. And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise!
Even those who do not believe in a higher power or in Christian terminology can understand the general message here. To get down to the heart of the matter, our own selfish goals, ego, and pride are largely responsible for the complications that separate us from others. When we throw up barriers for whatever reason, we cause others who might use our knowledge and insight as a helpful resource to stumble or to fail outright. The intent initially may not be to isolate information inside very specific spheres of influence or schools of thought, but very soon this is its inevitable end result.
If we were speaking of a purely Christian point of view, we would concede that no believer should be discouraged from taking an active role in the faith, nor turned away from membership in the body as a whole based on any perceived deficiency or lacking of any kind. Sometimes putting walls up is an unconscious decision made out of a desire for protection, sometimes it is a response to feeling unappreciated and discounted by society as a whole, and often it is a reactive measure that replicates itself a thousand times once established. Like some untreated cancerous cell, walls and barriers become duplicated a thousand times over, leading to factionalism within factionalism, specificity within specificity, and minutia within minutia.
The Left has adopted this formula time and time again under the pretense of being sensitive and accommodating to every possible group with a semi-unifying basic agenda. But what this ends up doing is placing the individual concern first, and ignoring the basic humanity that draws us together. The current generation in power embraced post-modernism with open arms, not recognizing that simply denoting a specific circle of influence means also that one ought to get to take the time to understand its core philosophy as part of the bargain.
We can advance LGBT rights, for example, but if we don’t really make an attempt to listen, really listen to LGBT citizens and to their reflections and concerns, we are wasting our time. Recently, a controversy has sprung up within Feminist spaces that criticizes men who make very ill-informed, very glib pronouncements of what the greater movement (and women themselves) needs to do. These forceful pronouncements are almost always set out in condescending fashion, without, of course, truly understanding where women are coming from and without much specific understanding their particular grievances. Some have denoted this as “mansplaining”.
I do know the resolution of this issue ought be a two-way street, since any exchange of information needs both a talker and a hearer. Though some may disagree with me, I also assert that Feminist circles would be wise to modify, but not water-down, nor soften their message to reach maximum exposure with the world outside of it. This might be accomplished by consciously seeking to move away from the complications of heady terminology and abstract discussions. This doesn’t mean voices should be silenced for any reason or that women ought not speak first and speak often in so doing. Nor does this mean that the dialogue must be dumbed down. What it does mean, however, is that that communication requires an equal sense of that which must be said and that which must be comprehended.
I sincerely believe that women’s rights have a relevance and a pertinence which needs to be added to the daily discourse, but I do also know that doing so requires that it keep the extensive cerebration within itself and the cut-and-dry to those outside. But lest one feel like I am picking on Feminists (which I am honestly not), this goes for every single-issue, shared identity, or niche group with liberal sensibilities. Just because we seem to enjoy making things complicated for perverse reasons as yet unknown, doesn’t mean that we should.
The true failing in all of these cases lies in the absolutely ridiculous complexity of how we structure ourselves. To reiterate once more, for too long, information and strategies that could be to the benefit of all has been isolated within specific issue-oriented groups, each with its own nomenclature and particular phraseology. This directly reflects the nature of academia, since these concepts are hatched there and exhaustively vetted. In that profession, segregated subject areas and ultra-specific foci are considered necessities within a field of study to encourage subsequent analysis. However, this particular structure is anathema to greater progress beyond the world of professors, scholars, and students.
Oct 17 2009
Oct 15 2009
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee passed the Baucus health care bill.
What a disappointment. No public health insurance plan. No universal coverage. No real price controls. Billions of taxpayer dollars for insurance companies.
After you take action, please help build the momentum for real health reform by telling 5 friends.
The U.S. health system has left 46 million Americans uninsured.  45,000 people die every year due to lack of insurance.  Insurance companies deny coverage to thousands more when they actually get sick. And insurance is simply too expensive for millions of people and businesses.
The Baucus bill solves none of those problems.
By contrast, Medicare is so efficient that it could insure all Americans for the same amount of money that we now give to private corporations. 
Under such a single-payer system, you still get to choose your doctor… except without a profiteering insurance corporation standing between you and your health care.
Will you ask Congress to support real reform — in terms they can understand?
(1) “Income, poverty and health insurance coverage in the United States: 2008.” Census Bureau, September 10, 2009.
(2) “Harvard study finds nearly 45,000 excess deaths annually linked to lack of health coverage.” Physicians for a National Health Program, September 18, 2009.
(3) “Single payer system cost?” Physicians for a National Health Program.
Sep 12 2009
I never really “chose” to be on the left side of the political spectrum. I just ended up there because the traditional left was more logical than right and center if you come at life from the point-of-view implied in the founding documents of the American Republic (alas, now past). In America the left is really fulfilling the role of conserving the ideas and ideals of the American Revolution. Generally we believe in the rule of law rather than the law of privilege. But most importantly we believe in using principles established during the enlightenment that reason and science should be appealed to in setting public policy. Religion does not work as a foundation for public policy because people differ in religious principles. We, in the West, did not invent reason but we were the first to realize that appeal to reason was the only way to wars like the Thirty-Years War which devasted much of parts of Europe (mainly Germany) much as Afghanistan is devasted now.
Aug 26 2009
Today there will be a lot of looking back at the life of Senator Kennedy. There is a lot to look back upon there can be no doubt. Sen. Kennedy was a human, just like all of us, he had his faults, and he had his high points. What made him special is the time he put in for public service. It was the true idea of Noblesse Oblige. He came from power and wealth. He could have chosen a path where all he did was increase that wealth and live a fat, happy life. Instead he chose public service. He not only chose to serve but put as his guiding principal the idea someone had to stand up for the little man, the working folks of this nation who did not have the same benefits of wealth and family power.
“Originally posted at Squarestate.net“
Aug 02 2009
Right now there’s a big headline at Huffington Post: Senators Who Opposed Bill Received Top Dollar From Tobacco Industry.
If I were to cite similar stories of the corruption of money and its quid pro quo in our nations capital, I would drown this blog. Another big headline has appeared recently: Blue Dog Dems Rake in Health Care Contributions, Protest Exclusion from Debate.
The corruption of our political system is obvious to anyone with a pulse. Yet campaign finance reform isn’t even on the radar in most progressive circles. Why? Well it may have something to do with the delusion that many in the progressive left have been selling for years now.
I went to a book signing with Kos when his first book, Crashing the Gate came out. His big message that afternoon to the 40 or so people in attendance was that we have to be the Democratic party that we want. His big pitch was for everyone in the new netroots revolution to get superactive in their local Democratic parties, become precinct captains, run for local office etc. Others pushing this strategy were Jerome Armstrong, Chris Bowers and a whole slew of bloggers who had gained notoriety online.
The underlying assumption in this strategy is that us Netroots Democrats were somehow, inherently better than the thousands of already existing volunteers, precinct captains and local politicians. And that if we all flooded the party at the grassroots level, donning our orange hats, it would become a party that is a reflection of our Netrootsy betterness. As though our current grassroots Democrats were the problem.
As one who has actually been involved in local Democratic politics for many years, I saw the fallacy of this logic. While it is always better to have more boots on the ground, it is delusional to assume that netroots activists are somehow immune to the same systemic corruptions that plague our party. Again, it’s always good to get involved, but the idea that by us being the Democratic party that we want we can bring about a better party is a fantasy.
The next big delusion being sold by the our netroots leaders was that we can create the party we want by electing better Democrats. This strategy is often referred to as “more and better Dems.” Getting more Dems was the mantra of the Bush years where Republicans controlled Congress and the White House. This was an easy sell – anything to remove power from the most transparently criminal GOP in history.
But after the 2006 midterm elections, and Democrats seized back Congress, the netroots was struck by a hard and cold reality: The Democrats we had worked so hard to put in office were, on such critical issues as economic justice, constitutional rights, investigating the White House and our illegal war in Iraq, not much better than the Republicans we had just defeated. So after one failure after another, and as the policies of the Bush administration continued unimpeded, a new mantra began to emerge: better Dems.
This idea was that the big bloggers would become bundlers of sorts, through their online networks, to raise money for politicians who had the progressive stamp of approval. So in 2006, Actblue for example, an organization founded by Kos and other netroots players, picked 19 candidates to rally around. Most of them lost. But of the ones who won, there’s a pretty good probability that the progressive netroots helped take these races over the finish line. But how has it worked out since? Are these candidates the voices for progressive change that we had hoped? Far from it. On a whole host of issues, from the war in Iraq, to the bankers bailout, to FISA, to the Mortgage cramdown to aid homeowners, these senators have been disappointing at best, and downright traitorous to the cause at worst.
Kos was questioned a while back about these disappointments. His response was more of the same:
Systemic change is a long-term process with lots of setbacks. I have a whole chapter on how you have to take baby steps. Etcetera, etcetera.
He went on to note the conservative movement’s vision and patience. “For them, it was a 30-year process to take control of the government. And had they not been so corrupt and incompetent in running the government, you know, we’d still be playing catch-up. ”
That sounds good – spend the next 30 years building a new progressive party. Except for one problem. It too is a fantasy. The progressive movement is fundamentally different from the conservatives. We want to take money away from big business and the super wealthy. Conservatives want to do the opposite. Take health care for example. The public option would be a trillion dollar loss to the health care business. And while I see no evidence that most progressive see it this way, I can assure you the health care crowd and their proxies in Congress do.
Understanding that almost all of politics is really about money is a subject for another essay. But here let me just point out that the conservative takeover, which actually began 40 years ago, was a deliberate, well coordinated campaign started by corporate leaders who were mortified by liberal gains in the 60s. Google the Powell Memo if you want to know more. But suffice it to say that the path of conservative ascension and any possible progressive rise to power are not the least bit similar. These corporate forces, from the Business Roundtable to the Chamber of Commerce, to countless PR fronts and think tanks, have endless resources, control most of the media, and display a ruthlessness that no good intentioned progressive could match.
Thinking that we could somehow replicate the conservative’s rise to power, without the pocketbooks of the wealthiest corporations on Earth at our disposal, is ridiculous. The only thing we have on our side that can match that kind of spending power is the truth.
But despite the obvious failure, visible every day, to move an inch closer to anything resembling a progressive policies on these most critical issues (economy, national security, wars, constitutional rights), the same crowd is still selling the same prescription. I hate to keep picking on Kos. But he’s front and center on a lot of bad ideas. And on the worst idea of all of them all, he is downright nasty. That is campaign finance reform.
The single worst idea the netroots captains have been selling is that we can overcome the corrupting influence of money by replacing it with small contributions. But Kos and a couple other big netroots bloggers have gone further. They’ve actually attacked campaign finance reformers in broad strokes. It is true, some campaign finance reform proposals are absurd. And Markos and others are right to go after these proposals – such as trying to limit who can make political videos in the age of Youtube.
But they do a disservice by conflating those with really bad ideas about the media’s role in our political process and who should have access to it, and those who just want to make it a crime to bribe a politician. Here is Kos spewing the most nonsensical, misinformed, idiocy I’ve ever read on the issue – excluding Mitch McConnell:
From a Daily Kos entry titled, Scrapping Campaign Finance Reform
Finally, there’s the boneheaded belief that money is inherently evil, and thus getting rid of it is the highest purpose. The problem, of course, isn’t money, it’s the source of the money and the ability of money to corrupt government. That fear is obviously real.
The original solution, embodied by campaign finance efforts, was to eliminate money from politics. It seemed like a noble goal, but over 30 years after first enacted, CFR has been an abject failure. Big money continues to find ways to enter and corrupt the system. The Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech (and it is, no matter how much that may rankle many of you), and as such, drastic restrictions in its political application are limited. I used to be a huge CFR supporter, but it requires ideological rigidity (the likes we see on the Right) to continue pretending that CFR is a valid solution to the problem. Reality has shown, quite clearly, that it simply does not work.
But there is another solution — people-powered campaigns. That $20 or $100 contribution that we send candidates buy us no special access. It doesn’t guarantee that our pork is inserted in the latest appropriations bill. It may make politicians more responsive to us as a community, but responsiveness is not the same as buying our way into the system. Being heard is not the same as using the government to financially reward our private business dealings. (There is no “Bloggers Tax Relief Act of 2008” on the books.)
So one would think that Obama’s millions of small dollar supporters are a good thing — they lessen his dependence on corrupting big-money contributers and has allowed him to swear off PAC contributions and cut lobbyists out of the picture. This financial independence has given him governing independence — no industry or interest group will be able to hold his agenda hostage.
But, and here we go full circle, this financial independence has a cost — millions of regular people are now participating in the process. Organic farmers from Montana and grizzled combat vets and authors from Virginia are winning elections against establishment favorites on the strength of people-powered campaigns. John McCain, best friend to the elite “reformer” community, is under assault from who?
Kos begins with the first absurdity: We’ve tried CFR, and it hasn’t worked. This is only true if your definition of campaign finance reform is to keep allowing our politicians to be bribed, but change the rules every now and then to create the illusion that the problem is being solved. The last round of CFR was the McCain-Feingold Act. Does anyone really believe that that legislation did anything to reduce the corrupting influence of money? I they do, I have a bridge in Alaska to sell them.
He moves directly on to absurdity #2: giving politicians money is “speech” as ruled by the Supreme Court in Buckley vs. Valeo. This ruling has as much credibility as Bush vs. Gore. What kind of speech allows only the wealthy to speak? Free speech as protected by the First Amendment? No. Very expensive speech.
This is as far as I’ve gotten on what was supposed to be part 1. I may or may not finish it.