Political Ideas

Mar
26

Liberalism's Communications Problem

Tag: Media, Peace and War, Political Ideas, Public Budgets

Liberals in the United States are relatively educated, yet extremely inarticulate when it comes to Trump, his budget proposal, or the U.S. military.

In a typical email, Moveon.org sent out the message this week that nobody should confirm a Supreme Court nominee until it's determined that Trump is a "legitimate president." Until then, the U.S. military should go on slaughtering families for him? And once he's "legitimate" then a horrible fascist Supreme Court nominee should be approved? And what would it take for Trump to become "legitimate." According to the email, it would take proving that Trump didn't collaborate with Putin to rig the U.S. election. According to the linked video, it would take that plus seeing Trump's tax returns, plus proving that Trump is not violating the foreign emoluments clause. All three demands are given a xenophobic slant.

Mar
21

Mike Signer: Profile in Cowardice

Tag: Political Ideas

A footnote to the City of Charlottesville's courageous passing of a resolution this week asking Congress to move money from the military to human and environmental needs, rather than the reverse, was the cowardly abstention of Mayor Mike Signer from the vote.

I don't always agree with the other four city council members on everything, or even know enough to have an opinion on much of what they do, but they have all repeatedly been willing to stick their necks out for things they apparently care about for moral reasons. Even Council Member Kathy Galvin, who in my view marred Monday's resolution by adding to it some nonsense about U.S. troops fighting to protect you and your rights (even as we're poorer and have fewer rights with every new war started and never ended) believed things had gotten so bad she would vote aye.

(The Council would have passed the resolution 3-0 without the rah-rah-troops bit that garnered Galvin's vote. I asked Council Member Kristin Szakos whether she herself believed that bit, and she said she imagined most of the troops did. By that logic, the City Council should also declare climate change to be a myth and angels to be real.)

Bob Fenwick and Kristin Szakos had the courage and decency to speak against war and military spending, and Wes Bellamy -- who has never been afraid to speak on anything -- publicly challenged the Mayor on his abstention and the apparent hypocrisy in it. Signer had previously declared Charlottesville a "capital of the resistance" to Trump. But when an opportunity arose to ask Congress to resist Trump's agenda, Signer weaseled out of it.

What were Signer's reasons? They were not what he told us. Szakos had explained publicly at Monday's meeting and at the meeting two weeks earlier what the City Council's policy was on passing resolutions on issues larger than Charlottesville. Signer claimed on Monday not to know about that policy. Clearly he hadn't wanted to know about it, or he would have looked into it during the past two weeks. He declared on Monday that passing a resolution on a national issue would open the door to an endless string of them. So he abstained. And then, within five minutes of the 4-0 vote without him, he joined in a 5-0 vote for a different resolution urging Congress to fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development -- a resolution that did not mention the military but opened the very same door that Signer pretended to be in horror of opening.

Signer also said that he objected to a footnote to a clause that had been in a previous version of the resolution. The fact that the clause was no longer in there ought to have eliminated this objection. In addition, the objection was nothing more than Signer's utter failure to comprehend the report in the footnote. This was the already-deleted clause:

"Whereas economists at the University of Massachusetts have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs program."

This was the footnote: "'The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: 2011 Update,' Political Economy Research Institute,https://www.peri.umass.edu/publication/item/449-the-u-s-employment-effects-of-military-and-domestic-spending-priorities-2011-update "

Signer's objection was that military spending does produce some jobs, as if the assertion had been that military jobs are not real. Had Signer bothered to ask for guidance he would have learned that the point, rather, was that military spending produces fewer jobs than tax cuts (as well as many fewer jobs than other types of spending). It's literally worse than nothing economically (as well as morally, pragmatically, etc.).

But if Signer's stated reasons for abstaining were transparent nonsense, what were his real reasons? Why would he blissfully ignore Martin Niemöller's famous quote, read to the Council by Adele Roof?

At first glance, one might say that he was courageously defying public opinion, as if anti-democratic stances are noble. Most of the people in the meeting on Monday stood when I asked for a show of support. National polls show support for the position taken in the resolution.

But Signer, I suspect, has a different constituency from the other City Council Members. And I don't just mean his deference to those who funded his high-end campaign, and whose taxes he is so eager to lower (and those in need be damned). I mean that Signer clearly has ambitions for higher office, and he has them within the terminally corrupted Democratic Party.

The elite in this party milk rhetorical opposition to Trump for all it's worth but would clearly prefer 8 years of Trump to replacing him with anyone resembling Bernie Sanders. The elite in this party and their funders are steadfastly speaking against budget cuts to social programs while refusing to mention even the existence of the U.S. military. This inept "resistance" is what led a Trump fan to stumble into Monday's meeting and declare his opposition to big gummint, despite the fact that Trump's budget proposal proposes the same size government as last year. How would anyone know any different, with the people Signer aspires to join denouncing cuts rather than opposing the moving of money from everything decent and good to the military?

When the Titanic was going down, the band continued to play music, and a handful of political ancestors of our mayor maneuvered to get themselves front-row seats for the concert, contented grins on their faces.

Mar
14

Talk Nation Radio: Ellen Schrecker on McCarthyism Then and Now

Tag: Political Ideas, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talknationradio-20170315

Ellen Schrecker is a retired professor of American history at Yeshiva University and a leading authority on McCarthyism. Her books include Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America and No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism in the Universities. We discuss the history of McCarthyism and its current manifestations.

See: https://www.ellenschrecker.com

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

Mar
01

Resolution Proposed for Charlottesville City Council

Tag: Political Ideas

Endorsed by Charlottesville Veterans For Peace, Charlottesville Amnesty International, World Beyond War, Just World Books, Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club, Candidate for Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Fogel, Charlottesville Democratic Socialists of America, Indivisible Charlottesville, heARTful Action, Together Cville,

Whereas Mayor Mike Signer has declared Charlottesville a capital of resistance to the administration of President Donald Trump.[i]

Feb
28

This Is Not Your Grandparents' Resistance

Tag: Political Ideas

I want to disagree, in part, with a recent recommendation that John Steinbeck's The Moon Is Down be used as a guide to resisting the outrages of the Trump regime. I think you could present the basic plot to an average middle school student today, and they would point out the fundamental flaw quite quickly.

Here's the plot. Nazis armed with machine guns take over a small Norwegian town that has a 12-member army, instantly killing 6, injuring 3, and sending 3 into hiding. The Nazis want all the townsfolk to cooperate, including by working in a coal mine so that coal can be shipped out to help the Nazis in the war, as well as -- of course -- generally providing food, shoveling snow, and keeping things running in the town. The townsfolk bitterly resent the occupation. Yet they generally cooperate in all ways, except when they find opportunities to kill a German soldier or two. They send to England for dynamite with which to blow up bridges. No other resistance tactics even occur to them.

Does something occur to you? Does it occur to you that a mine won't run if the miners all refuse to enter it? The fact that this occurs to a great many people today is the result of intellectual and practical progress. We know now that nonviolent tools are the most likely to succeed. We have models and plans for potential situations. This response -- unthinkable through most of human history -- has almost become common sense today.

In part, that's because of the real history of Norway. A strong case has been made that Norway avoided developing its own brand of Nazism in the 1930s by means of using strikes, boycotts, demonstrations, and nonviolent occupations to democratize its society, rather than the violent approach used in some other countries. Norway also used, not just violence, but largely nonviolent resistance (as well as violence against non-living things, aka sabotage) to resist Nazi occupation.

Leaders of the Norwegian resistance were, appropriately enough, school teachers, who refused to cooperate with a puppet government, and inspired others to do the same. U.S. teachers should be, and in some cases are, leading resistance to Trump's agenda for the United States. So should local and state governments. So should prominent individuals and organizations of all sorts. I think this is what the article linked above has in mind, too, in recommending The Moon Is Down. But that tale needs updating.

Even so, The Moon Is Down, begins to get close to what's needed. It was a controversial book, and is a good book, because it depicts the Nazis occupying Norway as human beings, just as the people obeying orders to yank Muslims off airplanes in the United States today are human beings. Steinbeck depicts foreign occupations as hopeless and dreams of being welcomed with flowers and chocolates as insane -- something the United States has been in desperate need of learning these past 16 years. The Nazis fail to occupy the town in the story not because they are racists or sexists or haven't donated to the Clinton Foundation, but because there is no way to occupy someone else's town successfully, whether or not the people of the town have been "disarmed."

The Moon Is Down makes the powerful point that the victims of war do not excuse the crimes because the crimes are part of a war. After all, most of them have never attended any U.S. university, so they don't know any better. When the Nazi commander orders the mayor to order the killing of one of his citizens for the crime of murdering a German soldier, he asks if they will punish their own troops for the crime of killing six Norwegian soldiers. Murder is murder, after all, even -- I would bet Steinbeck might agree -- when a flying robot is used.

But the idea that today Norwegian villagers occupied by German troops would be wisest to engage in assassination, as opposed to mass non-violent resistance live streamed on the internet, seems hopelessly outdated. If we want to resist strategically, if we want to transform positively, we will have to update our toolkit dramatically. Looking back at how people thought 75 years ago should serve us primarily as an inspiring reminder of how far we've come, and thereby as an indication of how much further we can go in changing the way we think and act. The permanent military state into which Trump now wants to dump 65% of discretionary spending was begun by people who basically didn't know any more about how societies can work than Aristotle knew about evolution. Perhaps we should reconsider our devotion to their manner of resistance -- which is, after all, what the Pentagon believes it is leading.

Feb
20

Ukraine on Fire

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas

I read this article: "A Documentary You’ll Likely Never See," and watched this preview.

So, of course, I wanted to see it.

I got a hold of a copy but am not allowed to share it and have been unable to get any information on where you can learn more, how you can rent it, where it will be screened, etc.

Bit *if* you are ever able to see Ukraine on Fire you should. This is a story about recent events in Ukraine that puts them into the context of Ukraine's history, rejects propaganda, and presents the evidence clearly and concisely. It includes interviews of key figures conducted by Oliver Stone.

To summarize the key points will just sound like lunacy to U.S. media consumers, though a bit of reading or watching this film might help persuade many.

The United States promoted two color revolutions in Ukraine several years apart, taking the side of neo-Nazis, installing handpicked leaders in Kiev and even a former coup leader from Georgia in Odessa. Russia did not invade Ukraine. Just as Russia did not hack the German or U.S. elections. The evidence also suggests that Russia was probably not involved in shooting down that Malaysian airplane, that Ukrainian nationalists did that.

As Russia is being demonized in a new way every week in Washington, knowing truth from lies on Ukraine may be critically important and could just save us. I hope somebody makes a way for you to see this movie.

Feb
15

Which Washington Crimes Matter Most?

Tag: Elections, Peace and War, Political Ideas

Michael Flynn participated in mass murder and destruction in Afghanistan and Iraq, advocated for torture, and manufactured false cases for war against Iran. He and anyone who appointed him to office and kept him there should be removed from and disqualified for public service. (Though I still appreciate his blurting out the obvious regarding the counterproductive results of drone murders.)

Many would say that prosecuting Al Capone for tax fraud was a good move if he couldn't be prosecuted for murder. But what if Al Capone had been funding an orphanage on the side, and the state had prosecuted him for that? Or what if the state hadn't prosecuted him, but a rival gang had taken him out? Are all take-downs of major criminals good ones? Do they all deter the right activities by up-and-coming criminals?

Michael Flynn was not removed by public demand, by representative action in Congress, by public impeachment proceedings, or by criminal prosecution (though that may follow). He was removed by an unaccountable gang of spies and killers, and for the offense of seeking friendlier relations with the world's other major nuclear-armed government.

Feb
14

Racist Warmonger Plans Return to Charlottesville

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas, Race Relations

We chased this guy away once. And Robert E. Lee too.

He's coming back to Charlottesville to insist that we glorify racism and war.

Let's tell him we prefer love and peace.

February 21, 5:30 p.m., City Hall.

Sign up here and share widelyhttps://www.facebook.com/events/1903821353181998

Feb
09

Should California Secede? An Interview with David Swanson

Tag: Political Ideas

On November 21st, California secessionists calling themselves “Yes California” filed papers with the California Secretary of State proposing a November 2018 ballot measure that would ask registered voters whether California should secede from the US and become its own nation. If passed, the measure would strike language from California’s constitution that says the state is “an inseparable part of the United States of America, and the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land.” It would also require a special election in March 2019 for the sole purpose of asking voters whether they’re really sure they want to secede. The measure has been dubbed Calexit after Brexit, which is shorthand for Britain’s vote to withdraw from the European Union. Its author answers a long list of questions about how California’s institutions might adapt on their website yescalifornia.org. I spoke to David Swanson, Executive Director of World Beyond War and one of the first writer-activists to come out in favor of Calexit.

Ann Garrison: David, you saw the Calexit coming back on March 17th when you wrote the essay “Secession, Trump[, and the Avoidability of Civil War” after California Governor Jerry Brown joked about building a wall around California if Trump were elected. Similar movements emerged, most visibly in California and Vermont, after George Bush’s second election, but both quickly faded from media attention. Do you think this is a historical moment in which they might have more staying power?

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