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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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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In the United States it's not actually difficult to find significant funding with which to research new and innovative -- not to say bizarre and absurd -- pursuits, as long as they form part of an overall project of mass murder.
The United States has hundreds of programs at universities, think tanks, and research institutes that claim to devote their attention to “security” and “defense” studies. Yet in almost all of these programs that receive many millions of dollars in Federal funding, the vast majority of research, advocacy and instruction have nothing to do with climate change, the most serious threat to security of our age.
Hence the need for this petition to the U.S. Congress: End federal funding for security and defense programs at universities and think tanks that do not take climate change as their primary subject for research and for instruction. All universities, think tanks and research institutes that claim to be concerned with “security” or “defense” research must devote at least 70% of their resources to work on the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, or lose their eligibility for Federal funding.
This excellent proposal originated with Emanuel Yi Pastreich, Director of The Asia Institute. Other signers, including myself: David Swanson, Director, World Beyond War; John Kiriakou, Associate fellow, Institute for Policy Studies; John Feffer, Director, Foreign Policy in Focus; Norman Solomon, Cofounder, RootsAction.org; Coleen Rowley, Retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel.
Why do we think this is important? Why do we plan to deliver the petition to the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the House Armed Services Committee? Here's why:
In an act of profound intellectual irresponsibility, so-called scholars of "security studies" spend their hours imagining fantastic military scenarios, rather than responding to the incontrovertible threat of climate change which scientists have unanimously identified as a reality.
We cannot waste any more of our tax dollars on security and defense studies that fail to address the primary threat to the well-being of the United States, and of the world.
The time has come to put an end to this insanity. We demand that all programs of defense and security studies in the United States identify in their statement of purpose climate change as the primary security threat to the United States and that they dedicate at least 70% of their budgets to research, teaching and advocacy to the critical topics of mitigation of (primarily) and adaptation to (secondarily) climate change.
Any program that fails to focus on climate change in this manner should lose its status for Federal funding.
Mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change should be the primary concerns for all in security and defense field studies. Obviously other security issues deserve study, but granted the fact that the cost of climate change will run in the trillions of dollars over the next decade, and even more beyond then, we do not have the funds to support programs that are not dedicated to addressing this immediate threat.
I don't know where this will end but every time I write about a book on Bernie Sanders, somebody sends me a larger one. At least my arms are getting stronger from lifting the things. One point is clear to me: if the media ever wanted to catch up on all the coverage of Bernie's campaign that it has foregone, it could do it with a minimum-wage staffer reading aloud from books -- reducing the need to find corporations opposed to oligarchy to buy the advertisements. The reporting is in books, it's just not in newspapers or boob tubes.
The latest is Bernie: A Lifelong Crusade Against Wall Street & Wealth by Darcy G. Richardson. Like the last one was, it is now the most substantial reporting I've seen on Bernie's political career. It also does the most to include the voices of Bernie's critics from the left (see Chapter 1). In addition it, by far, includes the most information on Bernie's foreign policy actions, good and bad, over the decades. The book is a bit too heavy on horse-race coverage of each of Sanders' past elections for my taste, but people who like that stuff will eat it up.
Having written elsewhere today about public diplomacy by towns and cities, I was particularly struck by Richardson's chapter titled "International Diplomacy," which covers, not Bernie's career in Washington, but his time as mayor of Burlington, Vt. It is safe to say that when it comes to foreign policy Bernie was better then than he is now, was better then than any current mayor in the United States, and was better then than possibly any other mayor ever. I say that while continuing to condemn the horrible things he did, including arresting peace activists for demanding conversion of weapons jobs to peaceful ones.
Mayor Bernie denounced the Pentagon budget, explained its local relevance, demanded nuclear disarmament, opposed apartheid in South Africa, and sought to improve U.S.-Soviet relations. "We're spending billions on military," he said, touching on a theme that today he wouldn't prod with a $10 billion screw out of an F-35. "Why can't we take some of that money to pay for thousands of U.S. children to go to the Soviet Union? And, why can't the Soviets take money they're spending on arms and use it to send thousands of Russian children to America?"
Mayor Bernie backed a successful ballot initiative telling the U.S. military to get out of El Salvador. He denounced the U.S. attack on Grenada. The Burlington Board of Alderman voted to encourage trade between Burlington and Nicaragua, in defiance of President Ronald Reagan's embargo. Mayor Bernie accepted an invitation from the Nicaraguan government to visit Nicaragua, where he spoke out against U.S. war mongering, and from which he returned to a speaking tour letting Vermonters know what he's seen and learned. He had also set up a sister city relationship for Burlington with a city in Nicaragua. He led an effort that provided $100,000 in aid to that city.
Again, articulating basic common sense wisdom that he wouldn't come near today for love or the presidency, Mayor Bernie Sanders said, "Instead of invading Nicaragua and spending tremendous amounts of tax dollars on a war there, money which could be much better used at home, it seems to me that it would be worthwhile for us to get to know the people of Nicaragua, understand their problems and concerns, and see how we can transform the present tension-filled relationship into a positive one based on mutual respect." Just try to imagine Senator Sanders saying that about the people of Syria or Iraq.
Richardson's book is of course largely devoted to the topic of taking on Wall Street greed, on which Sanders has been stellar and consistent for years and years. But we do also catch glimpses of Sanders' evolving foreign policy from his opposition to the war on Vietnam (which was more serious than other books have suggested) through to his proposal that Saudi Arabia "get its hands dirty" and kill more people. At the time of the Gulf War, Sanders was far more hawkish than a simple look at his No vote on invasion suggests. He supported the troop build up and the deadly embargo. He backed the NATO bombing in Kosovo. He opposed until very late any efforts to impeach Bush or Cheney.
But on the matter of Wall Street, Sanders has been as good in the past as he was in this week's speech. He warned of the danger of a crash years before it came, and questioned people like Alan Greenspan who brushed all worries aside. He opposed repealing Glass-Steagall. He opposed credit default swap scams. He opposed the appointments of Timothy Geithner and Jack Lew. His "big short" was perhaps to stay in politics until it became clear to all sane people that he'd been right on these matters, as on NAFTA and so much else. His favorite book in college, we learn, was Looking Backward. He found the root of most problems in capitalism. He developed a consistent ideology that makes his growing acceptance of militarism stand out as uniquely opportunistic and false.
By that I most certainly do not mean that he is a candidate for peace strategically pretending to be for war, as many voters told themselves about Barack Obama on even less basis. When Bernie was good on foreign policy he campaigned promising to be good on foreign policy. As his performance worsened, so did his campaign promises. Any elected official can be moved by public pressure, of course, but first he'd have to be elected and then we'd have to move him -- something millions of people have taken a principled stand against even trying with President Obama.
One note in Sanders' defense: Richardson cites a rightwing newspaper article claiming that Bernie and his wife together are in the top 2 percent of income earners. It's worth noting that were that true it would not put them anywhere at all near the top 2 percent in accumulated wealth. It also seems to be an extreme estimate on behalf of the author of a sloppy article. Another source places the Sanders in the top 5 percent in income, while noting how extremely impoverished that leaves them by the standards of the U.S. Senate.
What if the very worst result of George W. Bush's war lies is that people stop taking seriously the danger of actual nuclear weapons actually falling into the hands of actual lunatics? Arguably the very worst result of Woodrow Wilson's lies about German atrocities in World War I was excessive skepticism about reports of Nazi atrocities leading up to and during World War II. The fact is that nuclear weapons are being recklessly maintained, built, developed, tested, and proliferated. The fact is that governments make mistakes, fail, collapse, and engage in evil actions.
By Dick Cheney's calculation, if there was a 1% chance that a pile of ridiculous lies was true, it justified all out war on the world, destabilizing a region, killing and making homeless millions, and birthing radical new terrorist forces. By my calculation, there is a 100% chance that if we continue current nuclear policies, sooner or later, a huge number of people -- quite possibly all people -- will die, many of them with melted skin, eyes hanging out of their sockets, noses burnt off, and screams of bitter envy for those already dead. Surely this justifies some slight action of some sort, apart from more fracking or building internment camps for Muslims.
I say that's my calculation, but the idea actually arises -- one of many -- from my reading of an excellent book called City, Save Thyself! Nuclear Terror and the Urban Ballot. It was written by David Wylie, a former Cambridge, Mass., city councilor who helped initiate the first municipal Commission on Peace and Disarmament, the twenty U.S.-Soviet Sister City alliances, and an urban referendum effort against nuclear weapons.
What if we were to confront real dangers of nuclear apocalypse and climate apocalypse without the fear that produces stupidity, but with smart strategic action aimed at substantive change? That brings me to a second favorite idea from Wylie's book, and what I take to be his central proposal. Democratic people power is the force that can put a halt to the war profiteers and weapons proliferators. Democratic people power can best be created at the level of towns and cities. Towns and cities of the world can together form a federalist structure of global power of the sort that nations will never produce and which the United Nations has fervently resisted since its creation.
Do you live in a town or city in the United States? When you organize, are you able in some small way to influence your local government? Would people in your town be willing to communicate with people in a foreign town, perhaps a largely Muslim foreign town? Would people in your town be interested in a world that reduced and eliminated weapons of mass destruction? Would people in your town appreciate major new resources for education, infrastructure, green energy, and jobs -- resources that would become available with reductions in military spending? Would the people of your city like to tell the people of a foreign nation that, despite many differences and mutual ignorance of each other, you'd prefer not to see the U.S. military bomb them, and you'd in fact like to get to know them better through cultural exchanges and joint action as members of a global security committee?
None of this is far fetched. Cities and towns are in fact where it is entirely possible to get things done. While activist groups focus their efforts on doomed bills in Congress, U.S. cities are taking huge strides on election reform, green energy, education, voting rights, etc. We need to shift our worldviews to properly pursue this course. We need to stop identifying ourselves by the name of a nation, and instead think of ourselves in terms of our towns and the world. There is overwhelming evidence that redirecting political engagement from national advocacy that almost always fails into local advocacy that often works would be less a redirection of a finite amount of civic action and more a generation of vast new quantities of popular democratic work.
Sister and twin cities, Mayors for Peace, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the League of Historical Cities, and other such organizations point to the potential for giving local political strength a broader grip on the world. Communication across distances and languages is growing easier by the minute. Agreement that our communities would be better off not burned to the ground by either bombs or climate chaos is among the easiest and least controversial notions available to be proposed to a diverse group of democratic-spirited representatives from planet earth.
Here in Charlottesville, Virginia, I, as a Charlottesvillian and World Citizen, am pleased to report that our local city council has in recent years passed resolutions against possible wars on various countries, including Iraq and Iran, in favor of conversion to peaceful industries, and against the use of drones. Our city council, like most, routinely informs its state general assembly of its wishes. And the influence of the city's official voice does not end there. Cville's past resolutions on Iraq, military spending, uranium, and other matters have inspired other localities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to raise their voices as well. Some of these resolutions have been directed to the federal government, to which the residents of Charlottesville pay taxes and whose laws the residents of Charlottesville are subject to.
This is how our federalist republic is supposed to work. City council members in Virginia take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states, all across the United States. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rule book for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate.
In 1967 a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey , 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known."
Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc. We are not an island. If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate. If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders. And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for Charlottesville to keep them out.
Wylie's proposal would further empower my city and thousands of other cities, each of which would appoint a representative to a global body. If nations won't protect the climate, cities of the world can nonetheless agree to do so. If nations won't resolve disputes by peaceful means, cities can nonetheless make that happen. If nations won't invest in peaceful industries, cities and towns can nonetheless create programs of economic conversion to industries that provide greater economic benefit while also reducing the chances of violent death by nuclear hell fire.
Wylie's proposal should be read in its entirety in his book, which outlines numerous ways for cities to advance this process, including ways to encourage and recognize world citizens, and to encourage and recognize world cities. Cities can also use referenda, rather than council votes, to give democratic weight and wisdom to their actions. And national politicians who denounce the broken system they are part of can take actions to strengthen the local-level system that still has life in it.
The proposal here is not to risk federal prosecution by secretly negotiating with foreign national governments. Rather the idea is to risk an outbreak of peace and mutual understanding by publicly interacting with local governments from one's own and other parts of the world. This public diplomacy could be truly public in the sense of publishing full video of all of its interactions on the public internet. (An outline for such transparency can be found in the remnants of broken campaign promises from a certain national U.S. political candidate of 2008.)
Wylie's book is a guide to action and includes in it a model letter to your local mayor or city council, a model resolution, a model agenda for a first meeting of a municipal security assembly, and a rich bibliography for deeper understanding of how to make this work. I highly recommend it.