Category Archives: Uncategorized
The protests of today and tomorrow are mostly to psych ourselves up. When they’re done, we need to start the real work of opposing the new administration on whatever issues carry the most energy for us. They want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act? We want a single-payer, government-supported healthcare system — no need for a middleman, raking in undeserved profits. They want to make voting even harder than it already is? We not only want to make it easier, for all adults, we want to get rid of the Electoral College and initiate a new, more democratic primary system. Etc…
The biggest lesson of Trump’s election is that we need a more democratic electoral and legislative system on all levels of government. See my recent blogpost “How to move forward politically” for more on how this could be done. We don’t have the greatest, most democratic political system ever, as recent articles by international election monitors have demonstrated. It could be much improved. And, though it’s tantamount to heresy to suggest it, we don’t have to follow the Constitution (as sacred as the Bible to most Americans), which was written by the 1% of its day to protect their interests against “mob rule” (democracy). Proportional representation is not only a lot more democratic than the provincial, gerrymandered system we have, it puts the focus on issues rather than personalities. We don’t need any more personalities, especially show-business ones like Reagan and Trump. (We don’t need anymore dynasties either, à la Bush, Clinton, or Obama.) Winner-take-all’s a loser, too. I want my vote to count, even if my #1 choice doesn’t make it.
In short, there’s a lot of work to do, and we need to get started on it.
P.S. Let’s not get bogged down with either/or arguments about strategy and tactics, like “work on this issue in preference to this one,” or criticisms about each other like the ones I saw in my local paper this morning — letters to the editor criticizing the pussy hat phenomenon. We don’t all express ourselves the same way. That’s okay. Drop the judgment, especially when you’re thinking of directing it at someone who’s basically on your side.
Go get ’em, tigers!!
From the online article Two Paths Forward: The path forward is revealed in the rallying cry of the people in the streets: ”Not My President!” This protest slogan is eerily similar to the one used by Spain’s 15-M Movement of indignados who set up anti-establishment general assemblies in May of 2011 and chanted “No Nos Representan!” (“You Don’t Represent Us!”) during their election. Their assembles inspired the birth of Occupy. But when the refusal of the indignados to participate in the election resulted in a shocking victory for Spain’s rightwing, the movement’s activists and supporters quickly internalized an important lesson that American horizontalists must now embrace.
Realizing that new forms of social protest are better equipped to win elections than disrupt elections, many of the indignados transformed themselves into Podemos, a hybrid movement-party that is now winning elections and taking power. A similar story can be told of the Pirate Party in Iceland, or the 5 Star Movement in Italy or the pan-European DiEM25. Focus on the form, not the content, of these hybrid movement-parties for their organizing style is the future of global protest.
Concretely speaking, activists must reorient all efforts around capturing sovereignty. That means looking for places where sovereignty is lightly held and rarely contested, like rural communities. Or targeting sovereign positions of power that are not typically seen as powerful, such as soil and water district boards or port commissions. Protests will remain ineffective as long as there is no movement-party capable of governing locally and nationally.
This is a struggle for sovereignty. The endgame is a horizontalist and populist movement-party that wins elections in multiple countries in order to carry out a unified agenda worldwide. The spark for this planetary electoral movement is bound to emerge from an unexpected place.
It could start from an women-led backlash against the pack of patriarchs governing the globe: Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey, Duterte in the Philippines, Xi in China and now Trump in America. Or maybe activists will start moving into neglected rural cities—low population areas of America—and prepare to sweep city council elections. That is the strategy I’m pursuing in Nehalem, Oregon where I recently ran for mayor. In any case, avoid falling for the exhausting delusion of endless urban protest or the nihilistic fantasy of winning an insurrectionary war.
The difficult path of merging innovative protest, social movements, and electoral parties is the only viable way forward. And with only two years until the next election in America, there is no time to waste.
Every day we find out a little more about Trump’s plans for his first year in office. The announcement yesterday that Stephen Bannon will be his chief advisor hasn’t allayed any of the fears of self-respecting women, blacks, Muslims, and the LGBT community – Bannon, a white (Christian) supremacist who believes women should return to traditional roles, is also anti-immigration, anti-abortion and gay marriage, and anti-Semitic. Though for some reason, an Israeli governmental official who wants to dump the so-called two-state solution for Palestine (that Israel never intended to fulfill) is crowing.
Now, in “Donald Trump’s Great Bait and Switch,” John Cassidy writes in yesterday’s New Yorker magazine that “what’s really going on is something akin to the Oklahoma land grab of 1889, with various factions of the Trump campaign, the Republican Party, and the business lobby fighting over the spoils of the election victory…One interest that will definitely be protected is the Trump business empire. Trump has said that he will hand his businesses over to his children to run while he’s in office, but three of them – Donald, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka – have been named members of the transition team’s new executive committee, as has Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Perhaps because nothing seems shocking anymore, this mingling of family and political interests didn’t provoke much comment when it was announced. But, as my colleague Ryan Lizza pointed out, it represents a ‘massive/unprecedented conflict.’ Imagine the outcry if Hillary Clinton had won the election and then appointed Chelsea Clinton and Donna Shalala, a board member and the president of the Clinton Foundation, to her transition team.
And what of the great leader himself? The Times reported Friday that Trump may dispense with the antiquated notion that the president should spend nearly all his time living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” Apparently, he’d like to spend at least the week-ends in New York or at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. “I don’t know about you,” Cassidy says, “but I missed the bit in Trump’s speeches where he promised to turn the presidency into a part-time commuter job…
The prospect we’re facing is a populist but semi-engaged president who’s less interested in governing than in soaking up adulation at big rallies. (He might hold more of them even though the campaign is over, the Times story said.) Meanwhile, his cronies and members of the permanent establishment will make many of the actual decisions, which will largely benefit the already rich, including the ruling family. Debt will mushroom as El Presidente approves prestige construction projects but not the taxes to pay for them. Meanwhile, skilled propagandists like Bannon will whip up nationalist fervor to keep the masses diverted from what’s really going on.
We’ve seen this movie before, many times. But not here in the United States.”
What I’m trying to say about the 2016 election is that the neoliberal economic and political system – and really the dominant two-party system all the way back in our country’s history – is/are what have produced Donald Trump. Voting for Hillary Clinton because Trump scares you isn’t going to accomplish much for you or our country, because she represents and supports that system 100%. And it will just generate more Trumps the longer it exists.
What will we be getting with Clinton? Obama on steroids. Obama seems like a gentle, peace-loving guy, but he’s been pretty hawkish with immigrants, the drone program, and military and other policies provoking to China. Expect all that to ramp up with Clinton. Think she’ll incorporate some of Sanders’ thinking into her domestic policy? Think again. She allowed some of it into the Democratic Party platform, but party platforms are no indication of what a president will do. A better indication is where she’s been speaking lately, and who to: big donors, Wall Street types, etc.
Finally, and this is my main point, with Clinton and her continuation of the current undemocratic, inequitable system we’ll get more of Trump or more fascist demagogues like him. Many of our fellow Americans have been deluded by political propaganda, both current lies like how many people are on welfare (only 1% receive the classic form of it) and old myths like “equal opportunity.” They’re hurting economically, and believe others are taking it easy on their tax dollars. Actually, this is true, but it isn’t other poor people; it’s the rich and corporations, receiving many government benefits and paying little or no tax.
What will it take to educate these folks? The Sanders campaign was a good start, or would have been had the media given him fair coverage. What would help now? Building a real movement, including Black Lives Matter and Occupy-type activists, left third parties, and more. In terms of the 2016 election, I believe the thing to do is vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, the only person running who supports reasonable and equitable domestic and foreign policies (go to www.gp.org to learn more about its value-based agenda and other candidates, state and local, it’s supporting, and to www.jill2016.com for more on Stein). Obviously, Stein won’t win – for one thing, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is outpacing her in current polls – but votes for her help build the Party and the movement, so it’ll be able to make a better showing next time.
One election isn’t going to make everything all better, and just voting is never enough. But we can start the work of creating a country and a world that works for everyone by voting our values rather than our fears, by thinking long- rather than short-term, and by looking for other activist and respectful consciousness-raising work we can do.
When I tell my friends I wouldn’t vote for Hillary in a million years, they warn me that Donald Trump’s worse, and suggest I vote for the “lesser evil.” First, I stopped doing that years ago on the grounds that I’m not responsible for our atrocious good cop/bad cop electoral system. Second, I live in a state that hasn’t gone Republican in many years, and votes for president are counted by state. Third, as John Pilger wrote yesterday on newmatilda.com, Hillary could be way worse than Trump. And she’s a known quantity – she will do the things listed below. The reason Trump’s scary is that he’s an unknown quantity.
Read the following, and see what you think.
John Pilger: Why Hillary Clinton Is More Dangerous Than Donald Trump
I’ve been filming in the Marshall Islands, and whenever I tell people where I’ve been, they ask where it is. If I offer a clue by referring to “Bikini,” they ask if I mean the swimsuit. Few are aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini Island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 – the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.
Bikini is silent today – mutated and contaminated. Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation, nothing moves, and there are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered “unsafe” on a Geiger counter.
Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called “Bravo.” The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.
On my return journey, I stopped at Honolulu airport and noticed an American magazine called Women’s Health. On the cover was a smiling woman in a bikini, and the headline: “You, too, can have a bikini body.” A few days earlier, in the Marshall Islands, I’d interviewed women who had very different “bikini bodies;” each had suffered life-threatening cancers. And unlike the smiling woman in the magazine, all of them were impoverished: the victims and guinea pigs of a rapacious superpower more dangerous today than ever.
I relate this experience as a warning and to interrupt a distraction that has consumed so many of us. The founder of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, described this phenomenon as “the manipulation of the habits and opinions” of democratic societies. He called it an “invisible government.”
How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.
In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in Prague, pledging to make “the world free from nuclear weapons.” People cheered and cried, and a torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. He was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
It was all fake. He was lying. The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, and more nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone has risen higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion.
A mini nuclear bomb, the B61 Model 12, is planned. General James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of it, “Going smaller [makes using this nuclear] weapon more thinkable.”
In the last 18 months, the greatest build-up of military forces since World War II – led by the United States – is taking place along Russia’s western frontier. Not since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union have foreign troops presented such a demonstrable threat to Russia.
Ukraine – once part of the Soviet Union – has become a CIA theme park. Having orchestrated a coup in Kiev, Washington effectively controls a regime that’s next door and hostile to Russia: a regime literally rotten with Nazis. Prominent parliamentary figures in Ukraine are the political descendants of the notorious OUN and UPA fascists. They openly praise Hitler and call for the persecution and expulsion of the Russian-speaking minority. This is seldom news in the West, or it’s inverted to suppress the truth. In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – next door to Russia – the US is deploying combat troops, tanks, and heavy weapons, an extreme provocation of the world’s second nuclear power.
What makes the prospect of nuclear war even more dangerous is a parallel campaign against China. Seldom a day passes when China isn’t elevated to the status of a “threat.” According to Admiral Harry Harris, the US Pacific commander, China is “building a great wall of sand in the South China Sea.” What he’s referring to is China building airstrips in the Spratly Islands, also claimed by the Philippines ever since Washington pressured and bribed the government in Manila and the Pentagon launched a propaganda campaign called “freedom of navigation.” This means freedom for American warships to patrol and dominate the coastal waters of China. Try to imagine the American reaction if Chinese warships did the same off the coast of California.
In my film “The War You Don’t See,” I interviewed journalists in America and Britain like Dan Rather. All of them said that had journalists and broadcasters done their job and questioned the propaganda that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction; and had the lies of George W. Bush and Tony Blair not been amplified and echoed by journalists, the 2003 invasion of Iraq might not have happened, and hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be alive today.
The propaganda laying the ground for a war against Russia and/or China is no different in principle. To my knowledge, no journalist in the Western “mainstream” asks why China is building airstrips in the South China Sea. The answer ought to be glaringly obvious. The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with ballistic missiles, battle groups, and nuclear bombers. This lethal arc extends from Australia to the Marianas, Marshalls, and Guam, to the Philippines, Thailand, Okinawa, Korea, and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. America is tightening a noose around the neck of China. This isn’t news. Silence by media, war by media.
In 2015, in high secrecy, the US and Australia staged the biggest single air-sea military exercise in recent history, Talisman Sabre. Its aim was to rehearse an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes to cut off China’s access to oil, gas and other vital raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.
In the circus known as the American presidential campaign, Donald Trump is being presented as a lunatic, a fascist. He’s certainly odious; but he’s also a media hate figure, which should arouse our skepticism. Trump’s views on migration are grotesque, but no more grotesque than those of David Cameron. It isn’t Trump who’s the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama.
According to one liberal commentator, Trump’s “unleashing the dark forces of violence” in the United States. Unleashing them? This is the country where toddlers shoot their mothers and the police wage a murderous war against black Americans. This is the country that’s attacked and sought to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed from Asia to the Middle East, causing the deaths and dispossession of millions of people. No other country has such a record of violence. And most of America’s wars – almost all of them against defenseless countries – have been launched by liberal Democratic presidents: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama.
In 1947, a series of National Security Council directives described the paramount aim of American foreign policy as “a world substantially made over in [America’s] own image.” The ideology was messianic Americanism. We were all Americans, or else. Heretics would be converted, subverted, bribed, smeared, or crushed.
Donald Trump’s a symptom of this, but he’s also a maverick. He calls the invasion of Iraq a crime, and doesn’t want to go to war with Russia or China. The danger to the rest of us isn’t Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She’s no maverick – she embodies the resilience and violence of a system whose vaunted “exceptionalism” is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face. As presidential election day draws near, she’ll be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her crimes and lies, just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black president and liberals swallowed his nonsense about “hope.”
In the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons. As Secretary of State under Obama, she participated in the overthrow of the democratic government of Honduras. Her contribution to the destruction of Libya in 2011 was almost gleeful. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was publicly sodomized with a knife – a murder made possible by American logistics – Clinton gloated over his death: “We came, we saw, he died.” One of Clinton’s closest allies is Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State, who’s attacked young women for not supporting “Hillary.” This is the same Madeleine Albright who infamously celebrated on TV the death of half a million Iraqi children as “worth it.”
Among Clinton’s biggest backers are the Israel lobby and the arms companies that fuel the violence in the Middle East. She and her husband have received a fortune from Wall Street. And yet, she’s about to be ordained the women’s candidate, opponent of Trump, the official demon. Her supporters include distinguished feminists like Gloria Steinem.
A generation ago, a post-modern cult now known as “identity politics” stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people from examining the causes and individuals they supported. Self-absorption, a kind of “me-ism”, became the new zeitgeist in privileged western societies, signaling the demise of great collective movements against war, social injustice, inequality, racism, and sexism.
Today, the long sleep may be over. The young are stirring again. The thousands in Britain who supported Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader are part of this awakening, as are those rallying to support Bernie Sanders.
What’s happened to the great tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where’s the courage, imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theater, literature? Where are those who will shatter the silence? Or do we wait until the first nuclear missile is fired?