Jan
19

If a Social Movement Falls Outside of the Media, Are Any Lives Improved?

Tag: Media

When We Fight We Win! is the overly violent and overly optimistic title of a very good new book about recent nonviolent social struggles in the United States for LGBTQ rights, immigrants rights, economic justice, public education, a sustainable environment, and an end to mass incarceration.

My initial response to this book was very different from my considered response.

My initial response to a table of contents like the one in this book is always: Where the hell is war? Don't they know that war eats up all the money that could solve all these problems with ease? Haven't they considered that immigrants are refugees from war? That discrimination and hate feed off war? That the top destroyer of the environment is the military -- which destroys the environment in the process of killing people for oil with which to destroy the environment?! Goddamn it, when did acceptance of mass murder become progressive?!

Then I calm down a bit, wipe the blood off my forehead, pick up the broken dishes, apologize to the owner of the coffee shop, and read the book.

By the end of this book, I was wondering why a completely different topic was missing, or rather, why it wasn't in the headline since its shadow so dominates almost every page. That topic is media reform / media production.

The chapter on LGBTQ rights reminds us of the length and complexity of the struggle, and of how much it has been a struggle of communication. The chapter itself, like the rest of the book, is in fact not so much devoted to analyzing activist strategies as to actually engaging in the strategy of communicating the stories of the relevant people. The book is an act of communication, and such acts are the heart of the activism described.

Accounts of successes are inspiring, even if we harbor doubts that the oligarchy really objects to LGBTQ rights. But the point of the chapter is largely to do what a truly democratic television channel or newspaper or online journal could do: show us what is unfair, make us feel suffering, bring us in on people's struggles for justice, convert us to the cause.

When it comes to the defense of public education, we're dealing with a struggle against vast wealth, and it is mostly a losing struggle, but this book focuses on successes, including in Chicago where Rahm Emanuel got a little too greedy. The lessons learned include the need to organize and build personal relationships, but also the need to communicate through the media and through artwork and by aligning teachers with parents and community in a major struggle for huge goals, not technical details.

With mass incarceration and the environment we see potential in divestment campaigns and, again, the need to build large coalitions. But a big focus is media reform in the piecemeal sense of forcing the worst programing, such as Cops, off the air via public pressure. ColorofChange.org targets prisons by targeting ugly and racist portrayals of black men on television. (Peace groups have done the same with war shows.) Immigrants rights groups have persuaded the Associated Press to stop calling people "illegal."

They've also moved President Obama by standing up to him -- and meeting with him but refusing to shake his hand, refusing to censor outrage -- and by threatening to make news advancing their cause with one of his party's Republican rivals. Longtime organizer Marshall Ganz "advised the activists that their story could be their most potent tool for social change." The media attention given to the Occupy movement is also recorded as a successful tool for social change, and for state-level reforms that have been achieved in housing and lending.

It's not that everything is communications, or the media is all that matters, but the media is hugely important. You can watch Bernie Sanders in 1988 propose that labor unions and progressives pool their money and create media outlets. Apart from some small but significant steps on the internet, that's never really happened. I used to work for the AFL-CIO and lobby it to create media outlets, and it chose to put everything into pitching stories to the corporate media.

Seen any good stories about the struggles of working people in the corporate media lately?

And yet somehow Bernie Sanders, who's had the right positions on media reform for decades, has found his way into what amounts to a massive amount of media attention for someone saying something decent -- a significant percentage even of the media coverage Joe Biden received for not entering the presidential race; Sanders may even reach double figures in time spent belittling him as a percentage of the time spent hyping Donald Trump in the media. That could be worth many millions of dollars.

Bernie Sanders' platform is, of course, the same as the table of contents of When We Fight We Win. He's not communicating much, if anything, about peace as an alternative to war. But he's communicating a similar message to Occupy's about wealth and economic justice. If people actually don't know what Scandinavian countries do, or if people literally can't imagine funding education and retirement rather than billionaires, Bernie could be a single-handed movement for change. At the moment, I think he is.

But to the extent that what people learn is that a movement should be a presidential candidate, and should live or die with that candidate, then they are learning a deeply flawed lesson with great potential for debilitating disappointment and despair.

On all of the topics in When We Fight We Win, Bernie advances the discussion beyond where the usual candidates take it. If the media does to him what I've long assumed it will do, or if -- as I certainly hope -- it doesn't, the question will be the same: how can we seize opportunities to accomplish larger and more lasting steps forward, building on anything that anyone learned from his campaign?

A good place to start is with When We Fight We Win.

Jan
19

Talk Nation Radio: Colin Beavan on How to Be Alive

Tag: Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-colin-beavan-on-how-to-be-alive

Colin Beavan attracted international attention for his year-long lifestyle redesign project and popular book and documentary film, No Impact Man. He has appeared on Nightline, Good Morning America, The Colbert Report, The Montel Williams Show, and NPR, and his story has been featured in news outlets from Time magazine to The New York Times. A sought after speaker by wide-ranging audiences, he also consults with businesses on improving eco-friendly and human-centered practices. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. And his new book is called How to Be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness That Helps the World.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Jan
16

Patrick Henry's Liberty and Obama's Climate Action

Tag: Public Policy

Mainstream acceptable heroes now and lasting long into the future have in common perfect understanding of what should be done, fraudulent pretenses of doing it, and calculating weakness as the true driver of their actions.

Exhibit one from nearby here in Virginia: Patrick Henry. Like Jesus, his story was written up third-hand decades later, with him gone from the earth. While his speeches usually warned of the need to keep the Native Americans on the run and the slaves in slavery (yes, that was part of what the revolution was for and what the Second Amendment was for), we've been handed down a hearsay composite memory of a speech without any such unpleasantries.

In this speech, Henry cries for war, and even in this age of recognizing the barbarous idiocy of choosing war, popular "progressive" history books depict Patrick Henry not as a war monger but as a fortune teller who simply looked into the future and recognized the "necessity" of starting a war earlier than did mere mortals -- or, for that matter, the Canadians who still haven't done it.

In this speech he supposedly stood as if in chains, depicted the U.S. colonial relationship to Britain as one of metaphorical slavery, liberated himself at the end, and declared that he would have liberty or death. But Patrick Henry was not a slave. He was an enslaver of men, women, and children. He opposed abolition and wanted a war to preserve the status quo in the name of "revolution" and "liberty."

How is it that we can respect such a man? Why, because he declared slavery to be evil and understood it as such. He just engaged in it, because, you know, Donald Trump forced him to or something. Here's Henry's actual explanation first-hand in a letter he wrote to a Quaker who was trying to persuade him to free his slaves:

"I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living without them. I will not -- I cannot justify it, however culpable my conduct. I will so far pay my devoir to Virtue, as to own the excellence and rectitude of her precepts, and to lament my want of conformity to them. I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be afforded to abolish this lamentable evil. Everything we can do, is to improve it, if It happens in our day; if not, let us transmit to our descendants, together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot, and an abhorrence of Slavery."

Barack Obama, ender of the ongoing war on Afghanistan, closer of the open prison at Guantanamo, vanquisher of lawless imprisonment standards he legalized, opponent of cruelty and creator of mass drone murders, defender of the poor and champion of the TPP, empowerer of corporate health insurance in the name of health, Constitutional law scholar and wager of unauthorized wars, messenger of economic and racial justice whose presidency saw both worsen dramatically, bringer of transparency through record acts of retribution against whistleblowers, opener of borders via record deportations of children, Barack Obama will be remembered -- is already remembered as if he's finished his term -- as the creator of an agreement that saved the earth's climate.

In reality, Obama blocked serious efforts to protect the climate at Copenhagen and at Paris. He speeded up the process of permitting new pipelines during the Paris meeting. He approved all but one portion of the one pipeline most protested, while weaving a web of pipelines across the country. He brags about a reduction in the use of foreign oil, and people fail to hear the word "foreign" or its implication regarding non-foreign oil. The United States remains far and away per-capita the leading destroyer of the climate. If the United States behaved like the average nation, the climate crisis would vanish, replaced by decades of time in which to switch to sane sustainable practices. But Barack Obama and the United States are "leading the world" to climate salvation. Or so we will remember.

Except that, while you can pass down slavery and hatred of slavery, you cannot pass down climate destruction and hatred of climate destruction, because the climate won't let you. It will render your descendants' home uninhabitable.

Patrick Henry would not free enslaved people because of "the general inconvenience of living without them." Obama will not move away from fossil fuels because "Gas under two bucks a gallon ain't bad."

Weakness. Weakness. Weakness. Nothing more.

But weakness from people who understand their weakness, who are fully aware of it -- and so, we don't mind. It's idiots who don't know any better who bother us.

But should it be that way?

And aren't we all weak? What am I, a saint? Don't I eat non-vegan food for no other reason than that it tastes good? Don't I produce more trash than Colin Beavan ("no impact man")? Doesn't Obama use cheap gasoline as an applause line because lots of people and probably all Congress members will applaud it?

True enough. But I never asked to be a hero. Congress doesn't give me a standing ovation and proclaim me a savior of the climate while I throw away packaging from breakfast or continue to support massive subsidies to fossil fuel corporations. And of course I don't do the latter. On the contrary, I've protested it, been arrested and locked up over it, been banned from Capitol Hill for the good of the country over it.

Most people don't have the power to raise wages or build public transit or otherwise improve lives that see cheap gas as a good thing, or even a microphone from which to mention those possibilities. Can't we hold our heroes to a higher standard?

Or at least acknowledge that they are weak calculating schmucks hoping to blame us and "the times they live in" for their failures?

Jan
14

Hillary, Hypocrisy, and Healthcare

Tag: Health Care

In a video from February 2008, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton passionately denounces candidate Barack Obama for criticizing her healthcare plan and daring to "discredit universal healthcare."

"Since when do Democrats attack each other on universal healthcare?!" Clinton exclaims. Check out this video mashup of Clinton'08 and Clinton '16.

She finds Obama's comments to be "Republican talking points," "the worst kind of politics," and "very reminiscent of the health insurance industry's attacks ... the last time we went after universal healthcare."

That "last time" was a reference to the effort Hillary led during Bill Clinton's presidency. We learned later from the late Senator Paul Wellstone that her focus groups were presented with a single-payer plan and supported it above all others, but that Hillary Clinton rejected that approach.

A single-payer health plan is, of course, the solution long since arrived at by every other major country on earth. It eliminates private health insurance companies, their bureaucracy, their advertising, their CEO salaries, and other overhead. Under such a system, everyone is covered, and the cost is dramatically lowered. Under such a system, many might pay more in taxes, but not as much more as they would save by eliminating their insurance bills, deductibles, and co-pays.

Campaigning as a surrogate for her mom, Chelsea Clinton now claims in words very reminiscent of insurance industry talking points, that "Senator [Bernie] Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, ... dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance. ... I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we'll go back to an era -- before we had the Affordable Care Act -- that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance."

She also claimed, inaccurately, as has her mother, that Sanders' single-payer plan would "empower" Republican governors to eliminate health insurance for low and middle-income Americans. While Sanders' plan, unlike Congressman John Conyers', does involve the states, it does not do what the Clintons are claiming.

Sanders responded, pointing out that the United States is "the only major country on Earth that doesn't guarantee healthcare to all people as a right, and yet we end up spending far more per capita on healthcare as do the people of any other nation."

ABC News asked Hillary Clinton on camera how she could justify her daughter's claims that a truly universal system would strip people of health coverage. Clinton refused to concede the point, and changed topics to make a misleading claim that single-payer would cost more.

It would not.

Under Sanders' proposal, unless you are among the top 5% of income earners, single-payer would reduce your total healthcare costs.

Hillary Clinton has been a leading opponent of single-payer healthcare for decades now. That doesn't give her the right to lie about it. A system of enhanced Medicare for all, which is what single-payer amounts to, does not strip people of Medicare. It expands Medicare so that everyone is covered.

In doing that, single-payer of course replaces Obamacare, an approach originated by Republicans and the right-wing Heritage Foundation in collaboration with health profiteers who would be put out of work and out of the game of election funding if single-payer were established.

In that light, it's worth noting that since 2013, Hillary Clinton has pocketed $2.8 million in exchange for giving 13 speeches to health-profiteering industry groups.

For that kind of money, some people will tell you anything you want to hear.

I've signed this petition and you can to: Hillary, Stop lying about single-payer.

Jan
14

The Actual State of the Union, or FDR's Four Freedoms Become Obama's Four Questions

Tag: Political Ideas

Originally published by Telesur

President Barack Obama used his final State of the Union speech to claim that "America is leading the fight against climate change," while in reality the United States is far and away the worst offender, per capita, in the ongoing mad race to render the earth's climate uninhabitable. We "cut our imports of foreign oil," Obama brags, as if earth cares what flag its pollution belches into the air under. "Gas under two bucks a gallon ain't bad," said the President, wildly missing the mark. Yes, it is bad, if you're trying to preserve a livable planet, not just win cheap applause.

"I'm going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources," said the president. He made no mention of changing the way the U.S. government hands out subsidies to those industries.

The state of U.S. militarism also took a leap into an alternate reality. The President openly (if understatedly) bragged: "We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined." He was open about the global chess board he's playing on: "Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine and Syria — states they see slipping away from their orbit." And, somehow, "surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us." They do? All people of the world? It's just two years since a Gallup poll found the United States widely viewed around the world as the greatest threat to peace. When Russia and China vetoed war on Syria, much of the world wondered why they couldn't have tried to save Libya.

The President claimed that U.S.-created Middle Eastern disasters he helped to exacerbate are "conflicts that date back millennia." He also proposed -- no joke -- "winning" in "destroying" ISIS this year. Hmm. About closing that prison in Guantanamo and ending those wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ... ? After years of taking credit for "ending" the war on Afghanistan, Obama has switched to not mentioning it.

Also gone missing: the U.S. Constitution. "With or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons," said this former "Constitutional law professor," promising presidential war regardless of Congressional action. On Syria, Obama euphemized, "we’re partnering with local forces." Is that what you call them now? He also opposed "calls to carpet bomb civilians" after he led the dropping of over 20,000 bombs on mostly Muslim countries just in the past year.

The supreme value in this speech, as in the presidential debates it mocked, was revenge: "When you come after Americans, we go after you. ... [W]e have long memories, and our reach has no limit."

Remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Four Freedoms? Speech, worship, want, and fear? Obama has now proposed Four Questions. I'm paraphrasing:

1. How do you make a fair economy? (well not by bailing out the bankers and then coming out against them in a speech 7 years too late).

2. How do you make technology work, including on climate change? (what if the solution to climate change involves less technology? what if blaming technology and globalism for a bad economy overlooks the long-forgotten promises of the Employee Free Choice Act and the prize-winning marketing campaign of Obama 2008?)

3. How do you keep America safe and lead the world but not be the world's policeman? (Has the world asked for a leader? Why isn't cooperation an option?)

4. Can our politics reflect what's best in us? (Whatever.)

After seven years of worsening climate, ocean, plutocracy, wars, blowback, surveillance, retribution for whistleblowers, secrecy, presidential power abuses, and drone murders, this is what you've got for us, Mr. President?

The lesson I take away is this: Pay little attention to 2016 campaign promises. Pay great attention to mobilizing the public pressure that has been missing for seven years.

Jan
13

A Virginia State Senator Speaks Truth About Middle East and U.S. Wars

Tag: Peace and War

From the tiny bit I know about him, I wouldn't expect to agree with Virginia state senator Richard Black about the time of day. But here he is blurting out the fact that it is U.S. buddies Saudi Arabia and Turkey fueling ISIS and al Qaeda, along with other forbidden facts -- including how this disaster in Syria began:

Jan
12

A Homeland Is a Country That Allows Domestic Use of Military

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas

Have you seen Dahr Jamail's report on U.S. military plans for war games in Washington state? I'm sure some observers imagine that the military is simply looking for a place to engage in safe and responsible and needed practice in hand-to-hand combat against incoming North Korean nuclear missiles, or perhaps to rehearse a humanitarian invasion of Russia to uphold the fundamental international law against Vladimir Putin's existence.

But if you look over the history of domestic use of the U.S. military -- such as by reading the new book Soldiers on the Home Front: The Domestic Role of the American Military -- it's hard not to wonder whether, from the U.S. military's point of view, at least a side benefit of the coming war game isn't rehearsing for the next time citizens in kayaks interfere with a corporation intent on poisoning the earth's climate with fossil fuels.

Soldiers on the Home Front is almost rah-rah enthusiastic in its support for the U.S. military: "Our task here is to celebrate the U.S. military's profound historical and continuing contribution to domestic tranquility, while at the same time ... ." Yet it tells a story of two centuries of the U.S. military and state militias and the National Guard being used to suppress dissent, eliminate labor rights, deny civil liberties, attack Native Americans, and abuse African Americans. Even the well-known restrictions on military use put into law and often ignored -- such as the Posse Comitatus Act -- were aimed at allowing, not preventing, the abuse of African Americans. The story is one of gradually expanding presidential power, both in written law and in practice, with the latter far outpacing the former.

Some of us are grateful to see restraint in the approach to the men occupying a federal facility in Oregon. But we are horrified by the lack of similar restraint in using the military or militarized police against peaceful protesters in U.S. cities. Police departments as we know them simply did not exist when the U.S. Constitution -- virtually unaltered since -- was cobbled together in an age of muskets, slavery, and genocide. Among the developments that concern me far more than the authors of Soldiers on the Home Front:

Numerous drills and practices, and the locking down of Boston, desensitizing people to the presence of the U.S. military on our streets.

Congress members threatened with martial law if they vote against their oligarchs.

The legalization of lawless military imprisonment without charge or trial for U.S. citizens or anyone else.

The legalization of murder by drone or any other technology of U.S. citizens or anyone else, with arguments that apply within the Homeland just as anywhere else, though we've been told all the murders have been abroad.

Nuclear weapons illegally flown across the country and left unguarded.

Mercenaries on the streets of New Orleans after a hurricane.

Northcom given legal power to illegally act within the United States against the people of the United States.

Fusion centers blurring all lines between military and domestic government violence.

Secret and not-so-secret continuity of government plans that could put martial law in place at the decision of a president or in the absence of a president.

The militarization of the Mexican border.

The gruesome history and future of the attack on the Bonus Army, the bombing of West Virginia, Operation Northwoods, tin soldiers and Nixon coming, and Franklin Roosevelt's actual and Donald Trump's possible internment camps.

The authors of Soldiers on the Home Front claim that we must balance all such dangers with the supposed need for a military to address "storms, earthquakes, cyber attacks ..., bioterrorism." Why must we? None of these threats can be best addressed by people trained and armed to kill and destroy. When only such people have funding and numbers and equipment, they can look preferable to nothing. But what if we had an unarmed, nonviolent green energy brigade taking on the protection of the climate, and non-military police ready to enforce laws in crises, a major new Civilian Conservation Corps trained and equipped and funded to provide emergency services, a computer whiz team dedicated to fending off cyber attacks and preventing their ongoing provocation by U.S. government cyber attackers, a publicly funded healthcare system prepared for health emergencies, and a State Department redirected away from weapons marketing and into a new project of building respectful and cooperative relations with the world?

If the United States were to move from militarism to all of the above, the main problem would be what to do with all of the remaining money.

Jan
11

Talk Nation Radio: Cynthia McKinney's Real State of the Union

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-cynthia-mckinneys-real-state-of-the-union

Cynthia McKinney has served in the Georgia State Legislature and the United States Congress where she voted against NAFTA, opposed the war on Iraq, and introduced the first resolution for the impeachment of George W. Bush.

She didn't leave Congress until Diebold voting machines flipped votes away from her right in front of voters' eyes.

She has been a Green Party candidate for U.S. President.

She recently completed a PhD in Leadership and Change.

Read her dissertation: “El No Murio, El Se Multiplico!” Hugo Chávez : The Leadership and the Legacy on Race

And her books:

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

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