Posts tagged John Kerry

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

(Indirectly via Austro-Athenian Empire 2009-01-25: The Atrocity of Hope.)

Guided by these principles once more we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we’ll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken — you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

— President Barack Hussein Obama (29 January 2009): Inaugural Address

The problem with that is that every day that United States government soldiers spend on beginning to leave, instead of actually leaving — every day that is spent on that responsibly instead of that leaving — every day that is spent in the forging of peace in Afghanistan, rather than in the practicing of it, by withdrawing all United States government soldiers immediately and completely — is another day when innocent Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis will be killed by this Peace President’s army and his policy of gradualism. Another day when yet more innocent people will be killed in the name of prolonging the final end of wars now universally acknowledged as catastrophic failures and stupid mistakes.

Yesterday in Iraq, Barack Obama’s responsibly leaving army blockaded a village, invaded a family home at 2:00 in the morning, and gunned down a mother and father in the bed they shared with their 9 year old daughter. (The girl, besides being orphaned, was also wounded by the gunfire.)

An Iraqi couple was killed in their bed Saturday morning as their daughter slept between them when U.S. forces raided their home.

The U.S. military said that the raid, in the area of Hawija, just west of Kirkuk, was an Iraqi government-approved operation against a wanted man and that the killings were in self-defense. But the family described the slayings of a modest farmer and his wife and the wounding of their daughter by U.S. forces as the three slept.

According to a U.S. military statement, at 2 a.m. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers entered the bedroom where the couple lay and the woman reached under the mattress. The soldiers told her multiple times to show her hands; when she didn’t, they shot her, the statement said.

The woman’s husband, Dhia Hussein Ali, jumped up and physically attacked the soldiers after his wife was shot, the statement said. The soldiers killed him in self-defense, the statement said. The couple’s 9-year-old daughter, Alham, was injured during the attack.

. . .

In the small village where Dhia Hussein Ali lived, his children and his father questioned the reason for the raid. Ali was a modest farmer with a small fish pool where he raised the popular carp eaten in Iraq, they said. The man was a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army.

Omar Dhia Hussein, 14, was in shock Saturday night. He said in a telephone interview that in the morning he’d seen his parents’ bodies side by side in their bed, the sheets covered in blood. The wall was covered with his father’s blood, he said.

At 2 a.m., Omar said, he heard a bang of a percussion grenade. When he opened his eyes he saw American soldiers standing over him in the room where he slept with his two sisters. Except for an Iraqi interpreter there were no Iraqis with the Americans, he said.

The interpreter shouted at the young boy.

You are hiding weapons, Omar recalled the interpreter saying. Where are you hiding the weapons? You are terrorists, you are hiding weapons in that unfinished house. Confess!

Omar began to cry and his sisters wept with him, he said. Then the American soldiers left and he heard gunfire next door. The soldiers carried Omar’s wounded sister from the room and took the remaining four children, including Omar, to his uncle’s home. Outside were at least four U.S. Humvees and two SUVs, Omar said. His grandfather, Hussein Ali, who lives next door saw no Iraqi soldiers, either.

After the Americans left, Omar and his sisters returned to their home with their grandfather. In his parents’ bedroom, Omar said, he saw his father’s body at the very edge of the right side of the bed, motionless and bloody.

His mother lay in the middle of the bed in a pool of her own blood. She’d been shot in the head, the family said.

Calgary Herald (2009-01-24): U.S. military raid kills Iraqi man, woman in their bed

Reporting from Baghdad — U.S. forces killed a couple and wounded their 9-year-old daughter during a raid on their home in northern Iraq early Saturday, U.S. military and Iraqi officials said.

The U.S. military said the man was suspected of being part of the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq, but local officials said he was a retired colonel with no links to insurgent groups.

. . .

People in the village of Alewya, where the couple lived, said the raid involved helicopters and a security cordon that sealed off the village.

— Ned Parker and Saif Hameed, Los Angeles Times (2009-01-25): U.S. troops in Iraq kill couple, wound daughter in raid on home

On Friday, in Afghanistan, Barack Obama’s army forged peace by trooping into Laghman province, surrounding houses in a village, and then launching a raid where they killed 16 civilians — 2 women, 3 children, and 11 men — with gunfire and precision bombs dropped from planes.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticised a US military operation which killed at least 16 people in eastern Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai said most of those killed were civilians, adding that such deadly incidents strengthened Taleban rebels and weakened Afghanistan’s government.

Women and children were among those killed, Mr Karzai said.

The strike was the first controversy in Afghanistan involving US troops since US President Barack Obama took office.

In a statement, the president said two women and three children were among the dead in the attack, which the US said targeted a militant carrying a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

. . .

In response, a US military spokesman said there were plans to jointly investigate the incident with the Afghan government.

Originally the US said all of the dead, including one woman, had been militants who opened fire after its troops surrounded a compound in Mehtar Lam, about 60km (40 miles) east of the capital, Kabul.

. . .

However, officials in Laghman have since said there were civilians among the dead, a viewpoint now backed by the country’s president.

The US military insists that it goes to considerable lengths to avoid civilian casualties.

But the BBC’s Ian Pannell in Kabul says that as the US increases its military presence, it will be increasingly difficult to do so.

— BBC News (2009-01-25): Karzai anger at US strike deaths

On Friday, in Pakistan, Barack Obama’s army forged peace by firing missiles repeatedly into houses in several villages in the Waziristan region. Barack Obama’s missiles killed twenty-two people, about 15 of them civilians and at least 3 of them children. The idea was to help create the conditions for a lasting peace.

PAKISTAN received an early warning of what the era of smart power under President Barack Obama will look like after two remote-controlled US airstrikes killed 22 people at suspected terrorist hideouts in the border area of Waziristan.

There will be no let-up in the military pressure on terrorist groups, US officials warned, as Obama prepares to launch a surge of 30,000 troops in neighbouring Afghanistan. It is part of a tough love policy combining a military crack-down with diplomatic initiatives.

. . .

The airstrikes were authorised under a covert programme approved by Obama, according to a senior US official. It was a dramatic signal in the president’s first week of office that there will be no respite in the hunt for Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Sarah Baxter, The Times (2009-01-25): Obama airstrikes kill 22 in Pakistan

Security officials said the strikes, which saw up to five missiles slam into houses in separate villages, killed seven foreigners — a term that usually means al-Qaeda — but locals also said that three children lost their lives.

Dozens of similar strikes since August on northwest Pakistan, a hotbed of Taleban and al-Qaeda militancy, have sparked angry government criticism of the US, which is targeting the area with missiles launched from unmanned CIA aircraft controlled from operation rooms inside the US.

. . .

Eight people died when missiles hit a compound near Mir Ali, an al-Qaeda hub in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region. Seven more died when hours later two missiles hit a house in Wana, in South Waziristan. Local officials said the target in Wana was a guest house owned by a pro-Taleban tribesman. One said that as well as three children, the tribesman’s relatives were killed in the blast.

— Tim Reid, The Times (2009-01-23): President Obama orders Pakistan drone attacks

Every one of these deaths is blood on Barack Obama’s hands. Every one of these people who were killed, were killed on Barack Obama’s orders and in the name of his war policy. Because Obama wants to wash his hands of the United States government’s war on Iraq and its war on Afghanistan, every day that he delays getting out, completely — delays getting out in the name of exit strategies and central fronts and responsibility — which is to say, delays that happen because he is still convinced that, with the right sort of gradualist policy, he can somehow try to win wars that should never have been fought — is another person who is killed so that Barack Obama, after being elected as a peace candidate, can adopt and prolong the collossal, catastrophic mistakes of a disastrous failure of a predecessor, so that he won’t come off as being soft on national defense.

We who have come here to Washington have come here because we feel we have to be winter soldiers now. We could come back to this country, we could be quiet, we could hold our silence, we could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we feel because of what threatens this country, not the reds, but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out….

. . .

Now we are told that the men who fought there must watch quietly while American lives are lost so that we can exercise the incredible arrogance of Vietnamizing the Vietnamese.

Each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn’t have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we can’t say that we have made a mistake. Someone has to die so that President Nixon won’t be, and these are his words, the first President to lose a war.

We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

— John F. Kerry (23 April 1971), then speaking for Vietnam Veterans Against the War before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

And today, the questions are questions for Barack Obama, the latest in a long and despicable line of men who have served their political ambitions with anti-war promises, and then went on killing so that they could win the peace.

So, Mr. Obama, how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq?

How do you ask a woman to be the last woman to die in Afghanistan?

How do you ask a child to be the last child to die in Pakistan?

How do you ask someone to be the last one to die for a mistake?

See also:

And around we go…

At almost this exact time last year, I wrote this in response to a petitioning campaign by MoveOn.org over proposed cuts to government grants to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Don’t get me wrong. I like PBS and NPR is just about all the radio I ever listen to. The issue here isn’t whether they should face a funding crisis or not; I hope that they don’t. Rather, it’s what you should do in the face of that funding crisis. MoveOn just invested an incredible amount of time, money, and energy into mobilizing a bunch of Progressives to whine about it in Congress and beg for the money back. Meanwhile, instead of signing an online petition, calling my Representative, and e-mailing my friends and colleagues to get them to shake the change cup with me, I shut up and put down a pledge of $10 / month to Detroit Public Television.

Now, if 1,091,509 people in MoveOn’s orbit had done what I did, instead of what they did, then by my calculations PBS and NPR would have $130,981,080 more money for programming in the upcoming year. More importantly, they’d have that $131 million no matter what Congress and the Senate decided to do.

You might claim that not everyone who gets MoveOn e-mails will put down a pledge, but a lot more people will put down a zero-cost signature. You might think that MoveOn just can’t command that kind of money. Well, that strikes me as making excuses: we are talking about the group that just threw tens or hundreds of millions of dollars (depending on the as-yet unreleased budget data for their 501(c)(4) branch) down the tubes for electable John Kerry just last year. But fundraising is tricky, and maybe they wouldn’t make as much as they might hope. But think it about it this way: when you give money directly to people doing good work, the economics of failing to meet your goals are different. Lobbying is, more or less, an all-or-nothing game, with very few chances for gains on the margin. Names on a petition may or may not make a difference; but if they don’t make a difference (and, frankly, it doesn’t look like they made much of one here) then the names and pious hopes that NPR and PBS got out of the campaign aren’t worth the electrons that they’re printed on. But if you don’t hit your targets in direct support, the contributions you did get are money in the bank, no matter what. If only half as many people pledged as signed the petition, well, then PBS and NPR would have $65,490,540 that they didn’t have before. If the average contribution was $30 instead of a $10 / month pledge, they’d would have $32,745,270. Maybe that will save Big Bird and maybe it won’t; but even if it doesn’t it’s a darn sight better and more secure than the nothing that failed petitioning campaigns produce.

There’s a general principles here worth mentioning; it’s a principle the Left used to care about. It’s called direct action, and the longer the Progressive wing of the Left keeps ignoring it — the longer that they spend throwing time and organizing effort down the tubes to beg the government to support the institutions that they like — the longer we are all going to be losers.

— GT 2005-06-25: Shut up and put up

image: a hamster runs on its wheel

Above: Mister Buckles is saving public broadcasting!

Hey, guess what showed up in my inbox last week? Quick! Everybody make a massive public outcry!

From: Noah T. Winer, MoveOn.org Civic Action
To: Charles Johnson
Date: 6/8/2006
Subject: Save NPR and PBS (again)

Everyone expected House Republicans to give up efforts to kill NPR and PBS after a massive public outcry stopped them last year. But they’ve just voted to eliminate funding for NPR and PBS—unbelievably, starting with programs like Sesame Street.

Public broadcasting would lose nearly a quarter of its federal funding this year. Even worse, all funding would be eliminated in two years—threatening one of the last remaining sources of watchdog journalism.

Sign the petition telling Congress to save NPR and PBS again this year …

Here’s what Winer was referring to:

Health research, school aid and social services for the poor would bear budget cuts under a bill approved by a House panel Wednesday. … The House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee approved the bill by a 9-7 party-line vote Wednesday …. The panel’s action also rekindles a battle fought last year over the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The bill would cut by 5 percent previously appropriated funds for the budget year beginning Oct. 1 and eliminate subsidies for educational programs and technological upgrades. The bill also fails to provide future-year funding for public television as is the typical practice.

— Andrew Taylor, The Guardian (2006-06-16): House Panel Cuts Health Research Budget

Four days later, Winer was ecstatic to report:

From: Noah T. Winer, MoveOn.org Civic Action
To: Charles Johnson
Date: 6/12/2006
Subject: Save NPR and PBS (again)

Dear Charles,

I just wanted to share some very cool news with you.

Over the last couple of days, over 300,000 people (including 80,000 who are totally new to MoveOn) have signed on to our petition to save NPR and PBS. That brings the total number of signers to over 1,400,000—making this not only our largest petition ever, but one of the largest petitions anyone’s done.

But the next vote in Congress will be as soon as tomorrow. To stop Congress’ budget cuts, we need to go even bigger: we’re aiming for 1.5 million of us to sign on by tomorrow. Can you join us by adding your name to the petition to protect NPR and PBS? It just takes a minute, but it’ll make a real impact.

The real impact that this made was to send over 1,400,000 copies of the following note to members of Congress:

TO: Your senators and representative
FROM: (Your Name and Email)
SUBJECT: Save NPR and PBS

Dear senators and representative,

(Your personal note)

Congress must save NPR, PBS, and local public stations. We trust them for in-depth news and educational children’s programming. It’s money well spent.

This strong show of public outrage produced the following real impact on June 13:

WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to restore $20 million of proposed cuts in federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides money to local public television and radio stations.

The Bush administration originally proposed to cut about 37% of the federal funding for public broadcasting, and a subcommittee last week proposed a cut of $115 million, or 23%.

A net cut of $95 million, if passed by the House and the Senate, would go into effect Oct. 1. It would result in the elimination of some educational programming, including Ready to Learn, a literacy program, and Ready to Teach, an online resource for teachers, according to a National Public Radio spokesman.

Los Angeles Times (2006-06-14): Smaller Bite Sought Out of Corporation for Public Broadcasting

WASHINGTON (Hollywood Reporter) - The House Appropriations Committee voted on Tuesday to slash funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and refused to fund the service for 2009.

— Brooks Boliek, Reuters (2006-06-14): House panel votes to slash public broadcast funds

Meanwhile, I shut the fuck up and made an annual contribution to my local PBS station at the $40 membership level. If those 1.4 million people in the MoveOn orbit had done what I did, instead of what they did, public broadcasters would now have over $56,000,000 to put in the bank, no matter what Congressional Republicans say or do or think about it. The time, energy, and money wasted on throwing 1.4 million nearly identical notes about money well spent managed to salvage a bit more than a third of that in reductions to the budget cuts, and it leaves PBS and NPR at the mercy of next year’s round of government budgeting. (Oh, but don’t you worry—when that happens I’m sure that MoveOn will mount another massive public outcry to save PBS and NPR again, again.)

We can do this ourselves, so quit begging. Shut up and put up.

Dear Democrats

Rednecks. Hicks. Hillbillies. Dumb crackers. NASCAR Dads. Trailer trash. Joe Sixpack. Economically masochistic culture warrior fundies. Ignorant, beer-swilling, rib-eating, Bible-banging, truck-driving undereducated yokels. Poor white trash. Those people. You know the kind. The ones who are the matter with Kansas.

That’s why the Democrats lost, isn’t it? Because the True Blue are out of touch with working-class America, and because the yokels are too benighted to see that they are actually voting against their own economic interests. Right?

Wrong. Democrats, quit your whining. Quit your hand-wringing over why the working class doesn’t love you anymore. Quit saying things like:

I think the Democrats are not comfortable speaking the language that resonates with many middle-class and poorer voters: moral values, faith. That’s a message that is reassuring to many voters.

Quit blaming working-class America, and quit worrying about how to get poor people to stop electing Right-wing Republican war-mongers. Why? Because poor people don’t elect Republican war-mongers. Rich people do.

Annual Income % Bush Kerry
Under $15,000 8% 36% 63%
$15-$30,000 15% 42% 57%
$30-$50,000 22% 49% 50%
$50,000-$75,000 23% 56% 43%
$75-$100,000 14% 55% 45%
$100-$150,000 11% 57% 42%
$150,000-$200,000 4% 58% 42%
Above $200,000 3% 63% 35%

If the election were held only for people makng $50,000/year or less, John Kerry would have whipped George Bush 55%-45%. In fact, if it were held only for people making $100,000/year or less, John Kerry still would have beaten George Bush, 51%-49%.

No, that’s not just a regional dynamic. No, poor people still don’t elect Republicans in red states. Bush lost the South (49%-50%), the Midwest (44%-56%), and the West (47%-52%) among voters making $50,000/year or less. If only people making $50,000/year or less had voted, John Kerry would have picked up Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, and Virginia, and Louisiana and South Carolina would have been too close to call.

(Election data thanks to CNN Election 2004 Exit Polls.)

So, my dear Blue State Democrats, it wasn’t Joe Sixpack or the American working-class or Bubba down yonder who was responsible for the late unpleasantness. If you want to find someone to blame, don’t blame them, and don’t blame the Democrats for not knowing how to connect with them. If you’re a white dude living in a comfortable suburban neighborhood, blame your neighbors, your boss, and your dad. It’s educated professionals making over $50,000/year who went for Bush, and it was the folks making out with $100,000/year and more who put him over the top. This shouldn’t be surprising—being poor doesn’t mean you’re stupid; people tend to know where their bread is buttered and vote accordingly—yet somehow it has been lost amidst vituperation of the South, masochistic rhetoric about the urgent need for Democrats to slither further to the Right in order to reach middle America, and sadistic rhetoric about the grotesque vices of them there rednecks in Oklahoma and homophobic knuckle-draggers in Wyoming. Fancy that—it’s almost as if Democrats were falling victim to some kind of propaganda or ideology or something.

Here is my modest proposal. For myself, I’m fed up with this crap, so I’m not going to worry too much about it, but if Democrats want to put a roadblock in the way of Bushism then it might behoove them to worry about it some themselves. You just won, convincingly, the working-class vote. You got beat on turnout and disenfranchisement. People making $50,000 / year or less are about 75% of the voting-age population; but they were only 45% of those who were willing and able to vote on November 2. If you want to win, what you have to do is not to slither ever further Right, but rather to energize your base to turn out, and fight back against on-going Republican attempts to purge and suppress their votes. You can do that, not by turning into lite war-mongers, but by having the guts to call Bullshit! on this rich man’s war and poor man’s fight. You can do that, not by trashing feminism and gay liberation, or ignoring them as you just finished doing in 2004, but rather by framing them as part of a comprehensive, populist program, together with some serious talk about class in America. (No, this does not mean that I want Smiley John Edwards as the next candidate.) You can do this, not by capitulating to the Republican’s corporatist pork / warfare program, but by defying it. And you can do this by standing up to make sure that every vote is counted and that the victims of the Republican machine (those working class dudes you want to reach out to so much) actually have an opportunity to vote.

Don’t blame Bubba—but don’t try to pander to the caricature of him that the Republicans want you to buy, either. Try sitting down and having a talk with him over some ribs sometime. You might be surprised to find out how much you agree.

Oh well / Oh hell

I suppose that I’d feel worse about all this except that I never pinned too much hope on electoral politics—let alone lame-o weak-kneed liberals in the first place. It sucks, but we’ll have to find some way to muddle through—even, perhaps, to resist—and we’d have to do that no matter came out on the top of the heap.

By the way, Greg Palast thinks that Ohio and New Mexico were stolen—based on the exit polls and on worries about ballot spoilage. (He predicted that this would be a problem beforehand, and today he argued on Air America that he was right—based on the disparity between exit polls in Ohio and New Mexico.) If this is true, then I hope people will make something of it—and by people I mean you, because Droopy and Smiley Face have already made it painfully obvious they aren’t going to make a fuss. But as for myself, I’m thinking about voter initiatives and ways forward that don’t involve spending my time on these jerks. (The other, more important, parts of the way forward are education and direct action, but since many of us are going to be thinking about defensive voting in various ways, I do think it’s helpful and important to think about smarter ways of going about that.)

In the meantime, I hope that Democrats are thinking long and hard about the arguments that led them to pick electable John Kerry over Howard Dean—and giving themselves a good, hard kick in the ass over it.

The Day After Tomorrow

First of all, John Kerry is a douchebag, but I’m voting for him anyway.

Yes, I know he’s a statist, and a lame-o weak-kneed liberal to boot. Yes, I know that he voted for the authorization of force against Iraq, and that he hasn’t announced any plans to do what any rational and sane person should realize it’s time to do—withdraw immediately and completely. Yes, I know that the process I’m going to be participating in tomorrow has no legitimate authority whatsoever no matter who I vote for—and that strategically, replacing one creepy-looking imperial Executive with another slightly less mad one is no means to long-term change. That sucks, but it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter, because voting is a legitimate form of self-defense and I live in a swing state where a handful of votes may determine whether 17 electoral votes go towards throwing George W. Bush out of the White House or propping up four more years of the same.

Yes, most of the reasons I have for voting for Kerry are purely negative ones. He’s bad on the war, sure—but not nearly as bad as its big fat liar of an architect. Yeah, he’s an unreconstructed statist with a bad record on civil liberties—but not nearly as bad as George W. Bush, who has presided over the largest increase in State bureaucracy and spending since the Great Society, and who believes himself accountable to none save God alone. Sure, his campaign has treated feminists like crap, but, Jesus, it’s not like a second Bush administration is going to bode well for the success of feminist activism. And all of this is important. Given that Kerry is not even worse than Bush (and he’s not), one of the single most important reasons to take the time to get out and vote for Kerry tomorrow (if you’re in a swing state, as I am) is that after everything he’s done, George W. Bush must be thrown out of office. If he’s not punished after all of this, then that means one more blow to the fragile bulwarks remaining for justice and freedom in this country. We have precious few opportunities to pull back the reins on galloping Caesarism, and tomorrow is one of them; there’s no excuse, if you have the chance, not to pull as hard as you can.

And there are a couple of positive reasons to vote for Kerry. First, nearly all of his faults are faults that Bush shares or exceeds. But he is good on abortion; he won’t continue the present gang’s war for control over women’s bodies. Don’t think abortion’s very important? Well, you should; if you don’t think that the right of women—also known as “the majority of the population”—to control their own internal organs, or the use of systematic State violence against women to tread on that right, is a really big deal, well, you had better check your premises. And secondly, Kerry is bad on almost everything else—but a possibility for making things better exists under a Kerry administration that will continue to be vanishingly small in an entrenched, contemptuously secretive, smugly self-satisfied second Bush adminisration.

All that said, we need to remember, as it comes down to the wire, that tomorrow is not the Battle of Armageddon. The world will go on whoever wins, and we will need to figure out what we are going to do—because we are going to face some pretty hefty challenges whether Kerry or Bush is partying at the end of the night (or whether both of them are biting their nails waiting on further legal developments).

So I know what I’m going to be doing tomorrow—voting and then volunteering to go door to door for a few hours before I turn in. And I figure you know what you are going to be doing, too. But here’s the question: what are we going to be doing the day after tomorrow? Come November 3, what can we do that will move things forward whether it’s Bush or Kerry we’re going to have to be dealing with?

For my part, I don’t know entirely, and I’m interested in hearing what y’all think. (Comment away!) But I do know one thing for sure.

I sure am tired of following these assholes.

I’m tired of the two-party duopoly, and I’m tired of incumbents. pinning my hopes on blockheads like Kerry and I’m tired of listening to know-it-all professional blowhards speculate about the color of Kerry’s socks and its impact on undecided Soccer Moms. I know that we are going to need to keep organizing and take the fight to them no matter who wins, but I can’t take federal representative politics much longer and I can’t say that the prospects for meaningful, long-term change through picking between these guys look tremendously bright.

Yeah, Deaniac grassroots politics would help. Sure, we could use instant runoff voting and term limits and lowered ballot access requirements. Fine, I’ll put in my two cents’ worth in favor of building independent parties. I don’t dispute that that would help things a bit. But the more that I think about it the more I think that we (address this to my Libertarian comrades or my Leftist comrades or my Anarchist comrades, whichever you prefer) ought to re-think how we are trying to get things done when we’re working undercover in The System. Because I, for one, am about at the end of my rope.

I’m sure that Kennedy and the rest of the No Treason! crew will take this as as good an opportunity as any to argue that building movements is a dead-end game. I don’t buy that, yet, for a lot of reasons—I suspect that a rigid distinction between volunteer politics and businesses involves some confusions about the nature of the market in a free society, and I have a lot more faith in ordinary people and the historical record of people’s movements. For the time being, at least, I’m more than willing to sign on for political organizing, activism, and evangelism—even working in the belly of the beast, if need be, to help give people some space to breathe and a chance to defend themselves. But not the way we’ve been doing it.

When I go to the polls tomorrow, I won’t just have the chance to pick some idiot or another for federal races. I’ll also have the chance to vote directly on whether or not a number of proposals will be made law. I can do this because Michigan has voter initiatives; and when I vote on an initiative I don’t have to worry about spoilers, parties, trade-offs between candidates, or anything of the sort. It’s a simple up or down and I can make my choices on each issue on the ballot independently—rather than trying to figure out which dude will line up with more of my choices on the whole than the other (and whether that dude can get elected or whether I should vote for someone who’s a bit worse but in a position to win, and…).

Nearly half of the states in this country empower you and I to gather signatures and put laws straight on the ballot without having to lobby legislators or roll logs or hope the least-worst major candidate might consider making a speech about it sometime. Most of us who have been paying attention to voter initiatives have been spending our time fighting them—with good reason, when the initiatives being put out are idiotic stuff such as Amendment 2 in Michigan or Measure 36 in Oregon. But why are we letting these assholes make all the first strikes? We’ve been building a vast network of interlinked volunteers with a do-it-yourself political ethic, from the upsurge of the antiwar movement to United for Peace and Justice to MoveOn and the Dean campaign. So come November 3, how about we start putting those resources to work in the 20-odd states with voter initiatives? (And while we’re at it, bringing them to bear on the state legislature in states that don’t yet have voter initiatives.)

My suggestion would be to focus on campaigns that clearly put the case to the people that the government needs to get its hands out of the till and take its boots from off our necks. Medical marijuana ballot initiatives are a good start—they’ve been extremely popular where introduced and when they win (which they often do) that means one more state in which the federal drug goons have to either get mired down in extremely unpopular campaigns or else just give up. That should be expanded to an effort to roll back the racist War on Drugs more broadly. And here are some other ideas to ponder:

  • Initiatives to curtail corporate welfare—say, for example, abolishing corporate hand-out programs or restricting the power of state and local governments to use eminent domain for corporate development.

  • Death penalty moratorium bills

  • Ending taxes that disproportionately burden people living in poverty—for example, rolling back sales tax on food and other necessities.

  • Resisting the federal warfare State—by passing bills requiring the state government to refuse to comply with the PATRIOT Act, any future draft, or whatever other national security assault on our rights you’d like to single out.

  • Some resources for making it easier when we do have to deal with the party hacks—term limits, recall statutes, lowered ballot access restrictions, instant runoff voting, ….

All of these are simple, practical, incremental changes that would do some good, allow for coalition-building between Leftists, libertarians, and (sometimes, I suppose) small-government conservatives too. We have the resources to mount big door-to-door campaigns, with volunteers and with money raised from supporters; we have the resources to do some real good over the next four years whoever is in office. Better yet, we could start actually talking with each other like rational human beings about issues and whether or not some particular law should be made, instead of dickering over who looks more Presidential and whether Hordak or Smiley Face came off as more of a mindless hack in the latest tete-a-tete.

So, in that spirit, I’m resolving to pitch myself into grassroots politics come November 3. Real grassroots politics—not browbeating the grassroots into supporting some least-worst candidate’s politics, but rather writing letters to the editor, working more with local political organizations. And I’m going to start looking for, and talking about, and acting on, getting some voter initiatives that will make a real move forward on the ballot. I’m tired of following the idiots in the suits; it’s time to take the resources that we’ve got and take our case to the people.

Further reading