Monday, January 31, 2005

Contempt for rule of law in Distict 7

During Scottsdale Republican Rep. David Burnell Smith's campaign for the State House this last election, he illegally overspent his campaign finance limits by "as much as 22% percent".

Candidate Smith signed his application for certification [PDF) with the Clean Election Commission. He knew what the rules were, yet he appears to have purposefully ignored the law. If found in violation of the campaign finance laws of Arizona by illegally overspending campaign funds, the remedy provided by law is his removal from office.

Smith has 10 days to respond to an independent audit report that claims that he did overspend in his finances. A Dec 31, 2004 interview with the East Valley Tribune mentions Smith's belief that "an appointed body of regulators can't remove a duly elected lawmaker from office, even though state voters approved that provision when they passed the Clean Elections initiative in 1998." Apparently, Smith holds Arizona voters in such contempt, he feels he needen't obey our laws.

Smith said:

"Probably no judge in Arizona would do that (remove him from office)," Smith said. "As a lawyer, I think it's unconstitutional. They could destroy the will of the people for mistakes made in campaigns."

This is coming from the Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Commmittee, no less! Unfortunately, David Burnell Smith, though a lawyer by trade, does not know how the law works. He does not get to decide what is constitutional, that decision is up to the Arizona State Supreme Court.

"It seems enormously difficult to think that an unelected, unconfirmed group of political agnostics can simply disenfranchise 44,000 people," said Lee Miller - Smith's attorney (Political pressure building to oust Arizona legislator, The Arizona Republic Jan. 28, 2005 12:00 AM).

None of the 44,000 people who voted in Smith's District will be disenfranchised. Republican Precinct Chairs get to elect a new legislative representative.

What is a 'political agnostic'? I'm guessing it means anyone who isn't so poisoned by political partisanship that they will enforce the law impartially. If so, count me in. I think the rule of law is a concept and a habit worth defending, unlike those who defend Smith's right to a seat that he cheated the system to achieve.

Iraqi Elections: What Comes Next?

With the election returns in Iraq sent to the counting house, it is time to speculate about what the outcome might mean. Certainly, the Administration’s Pollyanna assertion that that the election heralds a new day for Iraq is puerile, as is today’s propaganda from Allawi’s Administration that American troops will be able to pull out in 18 months.

Elections don’t make a democracy. Iraqi factions participated in this election, to the extent that they did, because 17 billion a year in patronage is up for grabs with control of the Iraqi parliament. Also, the framing of the new Iraqi Constitution will be in the hands of the parliament. Those two incentives are too rich to pass up, but that doesn’t mean that the road to a stable or peaceful Iraq is straight and clear.

The problems that Iraq face are grave and will only reveal themselves over time. Those problems include the continuing violent insurrection of Sunnis in the heart of Iraq, which is only going to be accelerated by their electoral disenfranchisement in today’s vote. Turnout in Sunni areas will prove to have been radically lower than the strong turnout in Kurdish and Shiite areas. The Sunni city of Samarra had only 1400 votes cast out of a population of 200,000. Tikriti polling stations were deserted. As Iraq’s future is determined without Sunni interests strongly represented, the resistance will become a separatist movement. The political dynamic this election has set up will exacerbate the factional centripetal forces already tearing Iraq apart. In creating the conditions for a ‘withdrawal with honor’, the Bush Administration has also set the stage for civil war. The Shiites will come ever more into the orbit of Iran, and the Kurds will alienate everyone by their revanchist insistence on self-rule and control over the Kirkuk oil fields.

The formation of a civil society in Iraq able to negotiate a long-term compromise on which to build a new Iraqi state never had a chance to get rolling. The Bush Administration has bred corruption and dependence into the bones of the occupation government. The use of oil revenues, foreign aid, and reconstruction funds has been shielded behind a wall of unaccountability. Bush murdered the habit of honest and effective administration in the cradle when he called off early provincial elections. He has left the settlement of equitable oil revenue sharing and distribution unsettled like a multi-billion dollar football loose in the middle of a scrimmage. Iraqi democracy, having had just one election in the midst of a low-intensity war, lacks the maturity and respect for the rule of law to make the struggle to control that ball anything other than a melee without any rules or standards. Throw into this mix a likely long-term American military presence and a diplomatic mission bent on controlling Iraqi policy with largess, and this is a recipe for political chaos and rampant corruption.

I have little doubt that regardless of conditions in Iraq, Bush will very soon begin to feel serious pressure to withdraw at least some troops from Iraq. The Administration will of course characterize this as a product of a successful transition of primary security responsibilities to the Iraqi government. Nothing will be further from the truth, however.

The violence and conflict will certainly continue, or even intensify, but the Administration will simply attempt to divert the attention of the media and public elsewhere. After all, if American troops aren’t dying, who cares? We will move into an enclave strategy, minimizing the exposure of our forces and pulling out as many personnel as possible. We will only perform standoff and highly asymmetrical combat operations, such as aerial bombing (which we are already deeply engaged in), drone missions, and coordinated air-ground operations against forces the native troops can’t handle. Bush may be able to pull out as many as 100,000 troops in this way. That would leave roughly 50,000 in theatre with an undisclosed (US law does not require it) number of Special Forces (some estimates of current Special Forces deployed in Iraq at over 40,000).

With the casualty rate so reduced, Bush probably thinks he has well into his second term before more substantial reductions are demanded by an increasingly restive American electorate. Sadly, his calculations of the political risks and rewards of an aggressive war in Iraq haven’t been far off thus far and the Iraqi people continue to pay the price for our self-involved complacence and compromise with the war crimes committed in our names.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

AZ Legislative Brief: Cable Operators Trying to Escape Local Taxation

Senate Bill 1229 is coming down the pike. The Senate is holding hearings on it on Feb 2nd. The purpose of the bill is to prohibit local authorities from taxing cable operators, to whom monopolies have been granted, severely restricting local revenues from cable and gutting public interest programming. This represents a serious attack on the range of viewpoint diversity in local media and a betrayal of the bargain these companies made with local governments when they were given their privileged market positions. You should contact your state senator and representatives to let them know you oppose this industry give-away and reduction in the diversity of local media viewpoints.

Here is the legislative research summary of the bill:


Section 622 of the federal Cable Act allows local franchising authorities to charge the cable operator a fee for the right to operate a cable system in that franchise area; however, the franchise fee paid by the cable system cannot be more than five percent of its annual gross revenue. A franchising authority may use the money collected from this fee for any purpose. A cable operator must list any applicable franchise fee as a separate item on the subscriber’s bill. Cities, towns and counties are not required to collect these license fees, but, according to the Arizona Cable Telecommunications Association, the vast majority of cities, towns and counties collect the full five percent.

The franchise or license fee is calculated using the total gross revenues of the cable operator on cable services only (Internet and telephone services are not included). The fee is passed through directly to customers and appears as a line item on their bill. It is paid quarterly by the cable operator to the city, town or county. In addition to franchise or license fees and taxes, cable operators are sometimes required to collect additional fees from customers, known as subscriber fees or public, education or governmental (PEG) fees to support PEG access channels, which are channels provided by the cable operator to the city, town or county for their use and programming.

The federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 exempts a provider of direct-to-home satellite service, also known as direct broadcast satellite service (DBS), from the collection or remittance of any tax or fee imposed by a local taxing jurisdiction.

S.B. 1229 may reduce the revenues collected by cities, towns and counties for cable license fees.


1. Modifies the cable license fee a city or town may charge a cable operator to the lesser of one percent of the cable operator’s gross revenues plus the applicable city or town transaction privilege tax (TPT) rate or five percent of the cable operator’s gross revenues. For a county, the fee is the lesser of one percent plus the highest city or town TPT rate or five percent of the cable operator’s gross revenues.

2. Authorizes a city, town or county and cable operator to agree, in a license, to in-kind payments in exchange for right of way use.

3. Limits the value of the in-kind payments to an amount that is less than or equal to the license fee and any levied or assessed TPT.

4. Prohibits a city, town or county from requiring a cable operator to pay any additional monetary or in-kind license fee, tax, fee or charge related to the use of public right of way for providing cable service over and above the license fee.

5. Allows a city, town or county to levy a TPT on a cable operator. The TPT is required to be offset against the maximum license fee.

6. Prohibits a political subdivision from requiring, as a condition of receiving a cable license, a cable operator to provide additional fees or in-kind services to the political subdivision.

7. Limits in-kind services to complimentary line extensions for cable service, complimentary cable service to governments and schools and channel capacity for up to two free public access channels.

8. Limits the valuation of in-kind services to the actual cost of labor and materials used to provide any complimentary line extensions, the standard commercial charge for any complimentary service and the value of the capacity for each noncommercial public, public safety, educational or governmental channel.

9. Allows cities, towns and counties to require a cable operator to pay the reasonable costs for any damage caused to the public highways provided that the costs are comparable to those required to be paid by telecommunications operators who also use the public highways for the construction, operation and maintenance of their facilities

10. Allows cities, towns and counties to require a cable operator to pay any fees, fines, charges or damages for breach of a cable license.

11. Stipulates that cities, towns and counties do not give up their authority to manage public streets, roads and alleys within their boundaries or to exercise their police powers.

12. Prohibits cities, towns and counties from issuing cable licenses, in areas of the jurisdiction that are actually being served by a cable operator with an existing cable license, with terms or conditions that are more favorable or less burdensome than those in any existing cable license issued by that jurisdiction.

13. Contains a legislative findings clause related to the issuance of licenses by a city, town or county to a cable operator to use public right of way.

14. Exempts existing cable licenses in force on June 30, 2005, from the provisions of this legislation until the license is extended or renewed for a term that begins after December 31, 2006.

15. Limits the definition of “gross revenues” to include cash, credits, property or other consideration received from subscribers of the cable service.

16. Conforms definitions to 47 United States Code § 522.

17. Defines terms.

18. Becomes effective on the general effective date.

Prepared by Senate Research

January 25, 2005

AndyW: The Importance of Labor to Progressives

Chris Bowers makes a good point: Democratic apathy on labor issues- and litmus tests for everything but labor issues- has contributed to the decline of the Democratic Party:

…one of the main reasons Democrats are losing elections is because it is okay to
be pro-environment and anti-labor, it is okay to be pro-Roe and anti-labor, it
is okay to be anti-war and anti-labor, it is okay to be anti-patriot act and
anti-labor, but it is never okay to be pro-labor and anti-any of these other
things. It has literally come to the point where you can be pro-liberal, but
anti-labor, and no one seems to care. We can have millennialist rhetoric about
the abolishment of our rights in so many areas, but never in labor, even though
the erosion of labor rights is far more clear than the erosion of nay of our
other rights.

I’m not sure how one can be “pro-liberal, but anti-labor.” I always thought that ‘pro’ the one implied ‘pro’ the other. But I have seen a lot of Democrats who are "pro-liberal, labor-(shrug)." Big Labor corruption in the 60's and 70's probably turned many progressives off to unions which came to be seen as just another arm of Big Business. But, living in Arizona (a “right-to-work” state) we should be working to strengthen the union movement as well as trying to raise the minimum wage. Without card check, binding arbitration, and a Labor Relations Board that works for Labor not Business we’ll have very few jobs that earn much more than the minimum wage. Without strong Labor rights this state will continue its race to the bottom trying to entice businesses with cheap labor as well as low taxes.

Quite frankly, the leadership of our party, in an alliance with the
Republicans, sold unions down the river for middle-class liberalism. Further,
the massive decline in union membership is directly tied to the massive decline
in the Democratic Party, especially at the grassroots level. For the love of
God, unions were our Left Wing Noise Machine, and we destroyed them to protect
our middle class causes at every turn.
[emphasis mine]

The leadership of the party always took it for granted that labor would always be part of the Democratic coalition. So, without pressure from the grassroots to push labor issues, the Democratic leadership ignored labor in a rush for corporate contributions and in an attempt to dodge the Republican smear that Democrats were ‘slaves to Big Labor.’ Greed and cowardice (the usual DLC motivations) led to the decline of the Party. The party needs to return to the roots of the progressive movement: labor and unions.

…. if we are not pro-labor, and loudly pro-labor, the Democratic Party
will die no matter what Noise Machine or grassroots movement we bring to bear.
Period. It is time for a new litmus test, and quite frankly, as far as I know,
the only candidate for chair who passes that test is Howard Dean.
Howard Dean was the only candidate for president who seemed proud to support unions. He talked about the need to repeal right-to-work laws. He is the only candidate for DNC chair who sees labor rights as essential to a progressive revitalization. At DFA we should be “loudly pro-labor,” working with unions and legislators not only to raise the minimum wage but also to strengthen labor rights for everyone in Arizona.

Strong unions make life better for everyone.

Support labor rights at

Friday, January 28, 2005

Sojourners in Politics

Rev. Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners magazine, was recently interviewed by Terry Gross and by Jon Stewart. I think Rev. Wallace, his magazine (which I have been reading for several months now), and his new book, God's Politics are the cat's pajamas.

In many ways, embracing liberal moral values grounded in the teachings of Jesus Christ are more important to rebuilding a Democratic majority than Lakoff's liguistic stratgems. First, Christian "Good Samaritan" ethics connect with many people's core values in a very powerful way. Second, Conservatives just can't argue with Jesus; quote the Bible and the argument is over. Finally, liberal churches and other religious organizations are a great untapped source of institutional organizational and activist power for liberals. That source of power drove the civil rights movements of the 1960s, and has been somewhat dormant since.

These are some of the reasons I invited Rev. Straatemeir to guest blog here. DFA needs to get some religion, and religion needs to get some DFA activism. I'm strictly secular myself and have a harder time appealing directly to religious sentiment, but I was raised in a Presbyterian family and the values stuck fast. I may not believe the Bible is the literal truth, but there is good deal of wisdom to mine there if one is judicious.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

BrownShirts to the Rescue of the President's Honor in Colorado

Rocky A Denver police officer threatened to arrest a woman for a bumpersticker on her truck that read "Fuck Bush". A miffed citizen first approached the young lady and argued with her about he sticker, then went into the parking lot, and flagged down a cop who actually supported his contention that it was profane and illegal.

The particual issue was settle a generation ago in Cohen v. California. A young man wearing a jacket that read "Fuck the Draft" entered a court building and bruised the sensibilities of the local fussbudgets. Justice Harlan put to rest the notion that the state can outlaw profanity just on the pre-text that someone might be offended with his famous phrase, "One man's profanity is another man's lyric."

So it seems that citizens and peace officers alike are taking into their own hands the power to decide what you or I can belive and say about Mr. Bush, despite established First Amendment law. I feel a strong desire to not only put a sticker on my truck reading "Fuck Bush" but one in addition that reads "Cohen v. CA, 403 U.S. 15".

Update: I thought this such a good idea, I made a bumper sticker for myself that includes both the fuckery and the lawyery. If you would like one, too, you can buy it here.

Polling the Messianic Militarist Revolution

Zogby International has new polling figures out showing that 31% of Americans now say they are 'ashamed that Bush is President', up from 26% a month ago. What happens a year or two from now when that figure goes above 50%?

Bush's job approval is still stuck below 50% and shows a strong regional bias. 59% of voters in the South approve, while Eastern states voters stand at 38%.

In international affairs, 76% of Americans oppose any policy of regime change in Iran. Though it must be said, before the Bush Administration rolled out it scare tactics regarding Iraq, nearly an equivalent percentage opposed military action there. 52% of respondants believe the costs of the Iraq war have not been justified and 55% haven't confidence in America's ability to bring democracy to Iraq, however almost 60% say that the January 30th elections are the best hope for a democratic Iraq.

With even the White House tactitly admitting that the elections will not stop the insurgency, I think we'll see a big collapse in these numbers when people's hopes are most assuredly dashed in the wake of the elections. Bush only gets one bite at this apple, and he's about to choke on it.

America, the Dispensable, and Bush, the Lame Duck

Mike Lind, an analyst at the New America foundation wrote a great commentary, which appeared in the Finanacial Times, on America's increasing irrelevance to the world's future because of the Bush Administration's belligerence and unilateralism. Read the article in which he writes:

"In recent memory, nothing could be done without the US. Today, however, practically all new international institution-building of any long-term importance in global diplomacy and trade occurs without American participation..."

"A decade ago, American triumphalists mocked those who argued that the world was becoming multipolar rather than unipolar. Where was the evidence of balancing against the US? they asked. Today the evidence of foreign cooperation to reduce American primacy is everywhere - from the increasing importance of regional trade blocs that exclude the US to international space projects and military exercises in which the US is conspicuous by its absence."

Even if America petulantly picks up its toys and stalks away to play out its dark little fantasies off in the badlands, the great game goes on. America is no more indespensible to the world than the Soviet Union was. Desptie our pretensions, we need the world far more than the world needs us. We are world's largest debtor, the worlds largest importer, running the largest cumulative trade deficit. Without the rest of world to supply our needs for consumer goods and capital, we would be flat on our faces. The recent massive currency shifts, with the dollar taking a such a pounding against all other world currencies that Saturday Night Live did an oddly topical skit about it, are not a fluke. Foreign central banks are busily reducing their exposure to the dollar by ratcheting down their dollar-denominated reserves. America and her people are getting poorer because of our government's flibbertigibbety policies and we all stand to become radically poorer unless this Administration reigns in its profligate spending, foreign adventurism, and 'screw you' style of diplomacy (a goal not furthered by the tragic confirmation of the cronically failing upwards Ms. Rice).

Corporate profits have increased 39% since 2002 - when denominated in dollars - but have fallen by 8% when denominated in Euros. That level of currency risk is not one that major corporations can or will bear for long. No Administration founded purely on corporate greed can long endure unless that greed is satisfied. Bush may have seemed to many a lion roaring with triumph in his inaugural address, but it was really just the swan song of failed, and increasingly embattled, Administration.

Reagan's second term, won with a landslide, was a complete failure; Bush's second term, won with a notable squeaking sound, will be even worse. I will take bets that by the time Bush leaves office he will have the lowest approval rating of any prior American President, assuming his term doesn't end in some premature fashion. Bush has already failed, he just hasn't seen the fruits of his failure yet. Frist has declared that gutting Social Security will be the Senate's, and by implication the Administration's, top priority this year. Bush is about to prove himself a lame duck on take off when his plans for Social Security crash and burn before ever getting aloft. The AARP has announced its opposition to the Bush proposal, and that's really all she wrote. Bush is losing control of his caucus and has over-reached on an issue for which there never was much of constituency in the GOP, except the most ideologically contaminated. Expect the Administration to quietly change focus and pursue other goals, much as it did in response to the cricket chirps heralding Bush's fabulously ambitious manned mission to Mars proposal.

AZ Legislative Brief: Charter Schools Prosper at the Expense of Public Schools

Drunk with power coming out of national and state elections, the Messianic Militarist wing of the GOP is rolling out its legislative agenda in Arizona, and they are not holding much back. One of the top targets for the GOP is destroying public schools and promoting private ones. A set of bills has been introduced to further that goal.

HB 2378 gives a direct corporate income tax credit of up to 10 million dollars in 2006, scaling up to 50 million a year in 2014, for donations to private schools, or non-profits which provide scholarships to private schools, ONLY for private schools, not for contributions to public schools. This is part of a concerted effort to drain off yet another source of public revenue directly into the coffers of private schools at the expense of public institutions. This attack is coupled to an expansion of the program providing direct individual income tax credits for donations to either public or private schools via concurrently introduced bills in the House (HB 2379) and Senate (S 1081). The attack proceeds under the guise of eliminating the so-called ‘marriage penalty’. Yet these bills first increase the deduction for singles (to $500) and then double it for married couples (to $1000), further eroding the tax base of public schools and redirecting taxpayer money into private schools.

Now, I am not against tax credits to schools. In fact, given the tight-fisted habits of our legislature (Arizona is 48th in K-12 per capita educational spending), I think credits can be a good way to by-pass the shortsighted, anti-education Messianic Militarists who have taken over our state. However, I give my credit to failing or marginal schools in an under-funded area, not to the school across the street from me. Credits tend to go overwhelmingly to schools that really don’t need the added revenue. These tax credits are a sneak attack on public schools, especially those in economically depressed areas that are already under-funded. This manipulation of our tax base to favor private schools is a top priority for the GOP; in fact, diverting more money away from public schools pretty much is the extent of the GOP’s educational policy.

The final prong of this coordinated attack on public schools comes from an unexpected direction. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1010 seeks to place a measure on the 2006 ballot which will require a supermajority (2/3 vote in both houses) in the legislature to authorize or require local taxing authorities to raise additional revenue. This would have wide effect on sub-state taxing authorities, essentially giving the legislature a veto over new revenues for all governmental units in the state. One type of taxing authority that would be subject to this legislative veto would, of course, be local public school districts and the governmental units that fund them. 1010 will result in a minority of the legislature being able to starve public schools of new funding, and don’t believe for a moment that this is accidental: it’s the whole point.

The rhetoric that will be used is tax fairness and limitations. Prop 108, passed in 1992, limited the state government from increasing net revenues without a supermajority vote, and 1010 will be framed as a companion to that popular measure. But 1010 is intended to consolidate complete control of funding for public schools in the state legislature, wherein the public schools can be quietly strangled to death while more and more tax revenues are diverted to private schools via individual and corporate tax credits. The Messianic Militarists are on the march and their first, and most frightening target, is our children’s minds.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

AZ Legislative Brief: HCR 2020 & 2024

We might call it the hundred days from hell. It is time for the 47th Arizona legislature to meet, and I don’t expect much positive news. The slash and burn school of government is firmly in charge of the state legislature, and only the power of the veto pen will keep its worst instincts in check. I’ll be writing a series of articles outlining some of the major and interesting legislation to be considered this session.

Even Napolitano’s mighty pen will prove ineffective against some the referendum revenants that the legislature will be disinterring this session. Two such Concurrent Resolutions, which lead to ballot referendums if passed by a majority of both houses, are today’s subject.

Not content with the voters’ solid defeat of the GOP’s effort to overturn the Clean Elections System, GOP legislators are putting a new red-herring before voters: HCR 2020, which they are likely to call ‘The Family Stabilization Fund.’ In concept, it’s much like stabilizing a Sequoia with a toothpick. This bit of nastiness conceals it’s intent to gut Clean Elections beneath the fig-leaf of putting the fairly paltry amounts that fund elections free of corporate influence into a fund to provide ‘health related’ and ‘educational’ programs to Arizona’s families instead. How touching.

Better is the far more honest effort of HCR 2024 sponsored by Chuck Grey to simply repeal the Clean Elections System. I guess some Republicans really do lack the ability to detect hypocrisy, as one of Concurrent Resolution 2024’s sponsors, Doug Quelland, was elected using the $39,156 provided him by the Clean Elections Commission. But the fun doesn’t stop there! Of those who sponsored the idea of stripping Clean Elections of funds in favor of ‘Family Stabilization,’ Ray Barnes took $35,827.28, Steve Yarbrough took $18,095, and Lucy Mason took $28,300.

Here’s a suggestion, perhaps these fine public servants should pay the citizens of Arizona back out of their own pockets before they put their names on bills seeking to destroy the very system that put them in office. Better yet, maybe they ought to listen to voters who spoke quite clearly in the last election that we like Clean Elections and we intend to keep them, instead of wasting taxpayer money and time, forcing us to say it again and again. The last thing we need is legislators who prove themselves incapable of listening to voters.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Counter-Inaugual Address Provided by Amnesty International

If you were as disgusted as I by Bush's constant abuse of the words 'freedom,' 'democracy,' and 'liberty' in his inaugural inanity, then Amnesty International's letter to Bush on the occassion of his second inauguration will give specific shape to your outrage. The complete hypocrisy of that farce at the capital was apparent to the whole world, though not, apparently, to our own media, who are too chickenshit to call a criminal a criminal, and covered the events of the past few days as if they were some sort of royal coronation. In fact the media's references to 'dynasty,' 'regal,' and 'closest thing to American royalty' were so thick and fast, I nearly choked on my own Jacobin bile. I am so not looking forward to the fawning the press will sink to if JEB runs in 2008.

Others are attending counter-inaugural parties and festivals, but I can't bring myself to do it. I can't celibrate. I can't spit in the wind. I'm too disgusted for my own country. It feels to much like joining hands around the burned-out hulk of the Reichstag and singing Kum-bi-ya. Bucking up in the face adversity is fine, but I won't whistle while the barbarians shit on the Constitution and rape lady liberty in the streets. Don't get me wrong; I don't judge those who feel that they should show the flag to demonstrate we're not beaten, I would just prefer to brood and entertain dark revenge fantasies that I cannot write here without a visit from the Secret Service.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A Time for Leaving... Iraq that is.

A window of opportunity is opening as conservatives begin to realize that American security and Iraqi stability depend on a prompt handover. 58% of Americans now disapprove of Bush's Iraq policy. Many sensible, reality-based conservatives among them. Read William Polk's article in The American Conservative on our options in Iraq in which he settles upon disengagement and rapid exit as the most sensible option.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

What MLK means to DFA

Martin’s life was a wildfire streaking across the American landscape. His hypnotic voice was a paean to America’s soul, and his faith in her values shone like a beacon fire on a storm-tossed shore to a nation lost at sea. His passionate leadership established a standard and a legend that still outshines all who followed where he led. In his tragically short years, he gave hope to those who endured generations of oppression and degradation. Standing at the head of an army united by resolve and hope, he led with wisdom instead of a sword. Few have ever lived life so fully or used their brief time so selflessly. In the annals of history few have achieved such well-deserved acclaim, for few have lived their principles so well.

The impulse to see Martin as a larger than life, protean figure is magnified by the growing distance of time. Some have called Martin America’s Gandhi. The comparison is apt in many ways. Both worked to free a people from the oppression of an imperialistic order. They both fought the tyranny of racism and class divisions. Both led with spiritual vigor and fought injustice with ethical judo. Both recognized that nothing exposed injustice so clearly as non-violent resistance. Both realized that the bonds of an unjust political order could not be broken without overthrowing an iniquitous and cruel economic order. Both were hated as passionately as they were loved. And both ended their lives as martyrs to a political project whose promise remains unfulfilled.

Yet Gandhi seems an ethereal being, untouched by the passions and concerns of men. His legendary asceticism and self-discipline – to the point of nearly starving himself to death for his cause – sets him so far apart from the ordinary clade of men, that to aspire to be like Gandhi is to aspire to sainthood; it verges on hubris. But Martin, outside the glare of the public eye, was not a perfect man. He was a sinful man, often a weak man; and for that we must be grateful. Beneath the veneer of his legend beats the heart of flawed and decidedly unsaintly man, much like ourselves.

Martin was no saint in homespun and spectacles. He was just a person like you or me. No better, certainly, and in some ways, maybe worse. Yet this flawed and fleshly being produced an extraordinary effect on the world. Despite not being a saint, Martin was able to change the world and inspire a nation. The legacy Martin left us is even more extraordinary because it was left by one like us. But Martin’s legacy is not an achievement; it is a work in progress to which each of us must add our part.

Though he was just a man, Martin was able to climb his mountain. Why can’t we do likewise? Martin’s life tells us that we can. We may not be Gandhis, but we too can have a dream. And if we have the courage to share that dream, and live that dream, we too can inspire our fellow citizens. Inside each of us is the self-same spark that in Martin became a mighty blaze.

David Brin on the Real Culture War

Science fiction writer, astronomer, and cultural critic, David Brin, writes of the real culture war in a multi-layered and perceptive essay that calls upon the Left to be as critical of ourselves and our impulses as we are of the Right. He believes that the key to success is aproaching those now outside our coalition with love, understanding, optimism in the liberal project, and the right storyline.

Brin attempts with some success to explode the continued relevancy of the Right-Left spectrum in contemporary politics. Indeed, Brin explodes several of the myths surrounding the recent unpleasantness, including the idea that "morality" played any significant role in the election. Brin concludes that the real issue is modernity itself and how we are going to deal with a century of rapid change which will likely determine whether or not our civilization will survive. Will we look forward with optimism tempered by open critique (Enlightenment), or pine for a simpler time and a pre-ordained end, suppressing open dialog with rigid heirarchies (Romanticism)? High stakes, indeed...

Monday, January 17, 2005

Rev. Gerry: What happened to our movement?

My dear friends and colleagues,

The article below is a great discussion of the strategic legacies left us by Rev. Dr. King. The bottom line is that “No imperialist system was ever dismantled through electoral politics within the aggressor country.” And “ that it is almost impossible to change the political power structure without attacking the economic power structure as well.” Forget “politics,” let’s talk “movement.” I hope you read it.

But this letter is to you and I hope you will consider it deeply.

I want you to know that I am extremely disappointed in the progressive Tucson community which, with one or two exceptions, and you know who you are, was conspicuous by its complete absence at all of the MLK public celebrations.

I had a great time. I met many interesting people, including a well respected black community elder who is considering running for governor in 2010, the chair of a high school mentorship program, another who is running a college scholarship program, a very energized Chavez activist, a union activist within the teachers and classified employees unions in a school district. There were small business owners. Gospel singers. NAACP leadership. Urban League leadership. Black Chamber of Commerce leadership. Ministers. Youth leaders. Writers. Students. Economic development leaders. Neighborhood center leaders. Teachers. Civil servants. Laborers. Health care advocates. Veterans. Families. Young people. Music, food, laughter, hugs, loads of love.

But I think maybe I know why some of the most segregated activities in town are the seas of white faces in meetings of so-called “progressives.” I am frankly very embarrassed. Honestly folks, could there be racism lurking in progressive hearts?

How on earth can you expect us to succeed without each and every one of us becoming personally involved in the black and hispanic communities? I can’t believe I have to tell you that building trust is on US ( Need I mention that we anglos are the oppressors?), and that building trust involves hanging out, being on the scene not just once, but over and over, so that finally we can walk together and plan together and build movements together and succeed together. It isn’t about inviting a token black or hispanic speaker to a conference, it’s about getting to know the people, finding out all the interesting things they are up to, (some of which are the same interesting things you are up to) discovering what they hold sacred, having fun, breaking bread, building relationships, getting yourself invited to their meetings, and inviting them to partner with us and getting the people to the conference not just a speaker. And no it isn’t all that easy, they have good reason not to trust us especially since it is the CBC which is providing leadership for progressive issues and is STILL where the courage lies and we are the students, folks, not the leaders here. I can’t believe we would willingly cut ourselves off from 50 years of hard experience. We need to study with them, join with them, not the other way around. I truly believe that either we succeed together or we fail utterly, and it seems we don’t even need to wait for Karl Rove to play “Divide and Conquer,” we have done it to ourselves.

I think I have the answer to the other question that has been deeply bothering me. Why there is no more social movement. Why we now have 2 corporate political parties. Why we have an electoral process that defrauds us of our most basic right in a democracy – the right to vote. Why we have so few union jobs. Why the minimum wage is not a living wage. Why we permit a media that doesn’t report the news. Why no one is really speaking up about this unspeakable war of aggression in Iraq? Why there are more black young men in prison (10 million) than in the university. Why we may lose our right as women to control our bodies, why we sit back and watch as our schools and our teachers are attacked and unfunded, why our GLBT brothers and sisters can be picked off and separated out, and why our health care and our social network for old age and disability up for the highest bidder, why our globe is warming, our species are disappearing, our old growth forests are being logged, our wild horses rounded up and slaughtered. Why prop 200 passed with hardly breaking a sweat. On and on. There simply is no significant “movement” to oppose any of this. We abandoned it.

Did you know that Rosa Parks was not just some tired seamstress, but that her courageous action was a deliberate plan by a long-time NAACP activist and that she was selected because there was nothing in her history that could drag her –or the movement- down? And that all would have been for naught were it not for the bus boycott that was organized overnight? Before the internet. People sat in and were beaten up and arrested, people marched mile after weary mile and were derided, stalked, beaten, and murdered - black people and white people and brown people - in our own lifetimes if you’re my age, or in your parents’ lifetime if you are younger, for the rights we now squander for an extra day off or not having to get to know someone who looks and thinks and worships differently than we do. This happened in the civil rights movement. In the farmworkers movement. In the peace movement. In the womens suffrage movement. We must think of the “movement” as sanitized, romantic history and not a living part of life today’s events – because they are not. As a result we are losing ground everywhere we look, and it scares me, to tell the truth.

Maybe it isn’t that we lack courage to put it all on the line again so much as that we don’t have a moral leg to stand on, to be courageous from. We’ll give money. Donate food to the food bank. Recycle. Sign e-petitions. Hold house parties. Read books. Write letters to the editor. Table at the Peace Fair. Make phone calls during a political campaign. Even tutor underprivileged students. We just won’t mix with people who aren’t like us.

We’ll have another chance and another and another, but time is running short. The Chavez march and celebration comes in April, the Juneteenth festival is in June. Let’s find other chances to join with communities of color and publicize them widely. I do hope that each time more and more of us will make the choice to step outside our social comfort zone and participate in our fabulous community. This is personal. It is important. It is much bigger than any political party or specific interest group. And we need you to take an active part. In peace, gerry
Rev. Gerry Straatemeier, MSW
Co-chair, Gandhi/King Season for Nonviolence, S. AZ

“... We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy…for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.” MLK

Beyond elections
Dr. King's teachings on strategy and tactics
By Paul Rockwell Online Journal Guest Writer

January 14, 2005— According to Arundhati Roy, "There is no discussion taking place in the world today that is more crucial than the debate about strategies of resistance."

There is no greater strategist in American history, no teacher more relevant to our post-election malaise, than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King was more than a moral visionary; he was a creative tactician. All of us-especially leaders of the peace movement-have much to learn from King's teachings on strategy and tactics.

In the late 1950s a major change took place within the civil rights community, a shift from representative government to direct action democracy. When the young Black movement broke away from the confines of electoral politics, society began to change...." [More]

Friday, January 14, 2005

Teleconference With Dean: Supporting Dean for DNC Chairman

I sat in on a teleconference with Dean last night. He wants us all to know that we should let the chairmen of our own state parties who we want to be Chairman of the DNC. If you haven't already expressed your opinion in other ways, tell Jim Pederson who you want to be DNC Chairman. It only takes a minute, and every bit of imput is being carefully weighed by our DNC voters. Be upbeat, polite, and tell your own story. The stories of how Dean has affected you and your invovlement with the Democratic party are the most effective in moving decisionmakers.

Dean also says that the opinion of labor leaders are critical now and will be decisive. If you personally know people in the labor movement, especially in leadership, but also in the rank and file, now is the time to reach out to them. Not with spam and rhetoric, but personally, with phone calls, face-to-face, and handwritten notes.

Letters to the editor supporting Dean for Chairman, and telling how his campaign has affected you, may also be helpful according to Dean. Keep in under 200 words, or less, and be positive.

Show Love for the Donkey

The symbol of the Democratic party is the donkey, as we all know. But few know why.

The donkey first become associated with the Democratic Party when our first populist President Andrew Jackson ran for president in 1828, his opponents tried to label him a "jackass" for his populist views and his slogan, "Let the people rule." Jackson, however, turned ridicule into an advantage by using the donkey on his campaign posters.

The first time the donkey was used in a political cartoon to represent the Democratic party, it was also in conjunction with Jackson. Although by 1837 Jackson was retired, he still thought of himself as the Party's leader and was shown trying to get the donkey (the party, figuratively) to go where he wanted it to go. The cartoon was titled "A Modern Baalim and his Ass".

This is an allusion to a Biblical story in which the donkey becomes the only creature other than man to which God grants the gift of speech. The story of Baalim and his Ass is at Numbers 22:22. Here is an illuminating portion of that story:

When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick.

And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?"

Then Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now."

The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?" And he said, "No."

Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground.

The angel of the Lord said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me.

"But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live."

Now isn’t ironic that the donkey is beaten by Baalim for trying to save his life from dangers he is deluded into misapprehending? Yes, I’d have to say that the donkey is ever more an appropriate mascot of the Democratic party. The people may abuse us, cast us out of power, and heap derision upon us, but we remain faithful servents of the public interest none-the-less, trying to strip the scales from the public's eyes and guide them away from danger.

Unfortunately, the abuse of donkeys isn’t always metaphorical, nor electorial, nor are the donkeys always symbolic. There are real donkeys, gentle and patient creatures, who are sorely in need of aid.

Donkeys are regualrly abused on farms, ranches, side shows, and traveling attractions. Hundreds of wild donkeys are in danger of being slaughtered by the Bureau of Land Management. The life some donkeys endure will literally bring tears to your eyes. Fortunately, Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue is dedicated to helping these animals escape their torturers and live a life free from fear and pain.

Show your love for the donkey, symbol of the democratic values we cherish, by helping a real one find a loving home today.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Reframing Shop: Compensation Caps

Here is a rewrite of an earlier editorial length article I wrote on the subject of 'tort reform.' In the prior version (use the Google box to search the site for 'tort' if you want to see that version), I stayed within the framing of those seeking to limit the liability of doctors and insurers. By challenging the frame, I think the argument becomes more powerful. The facts don't struggle against the frame, they support it. Rhetorical figures become more powerful and invested with clearer values. Excercies like these prove the worth of Lakoff's toobox.

The medical malpractice (med-mal) insurance industry, some politicians, and even some misguided doctors, have of late been misleading the public about the efficacy of caps on med-mal awards, a.k.a. ‘tort reform,’ to contain healthcare costs. These people have generated a deluge of coordinated letters to editor and public relations events in Arizona recently. They are telling the public that med-mal awards are driving the high inflation rates in the health care sector we’ve seen over the past several years. But the truth is that their so-called ‘tort reform’ is just a free ride for insurers and incompetent doctors on the backs of seriously injured patients.

‘Tort Reform’ is really nothing more than arbitrary compensation caps protecting doctors who harm or kill their patients and the companies who insure them. Policy makers actually interested in reforming the torts process would advocate for ways to remove non-meritorious claims from the system, not for placing a strict limit on the compensation a jury can award to victims of malpractice. The cost of caring for a child paralyzed or otherwise disabled for a lifetime by malpractice can run into the millions, yet these so-called ‘reformers’ want to cap all awards at a low level, regardless of the facts of the case. That’s not justice, that’s risk management, and it’s not what our court system is based upon. Why is a legislator, who may be getting campaign contributions from the insurance industry, better qualified to put a price on a lifetime of pain than a fellow citizen who is disinterested but knows the facts of the case?

Exploiting consumers’ understandable concern about the affordability of healthcare, compensation cap advocates mislead the public into supporting the curtailment of their own right to full compensation for all damages due to malpractice. But it is high rates of inflation in healthcare costs generally that cause inflation of med-mal premiums, not the other way around; prescribing compensation caps to contain healthcare costs is like trying to make the tail wag the dog.

Although premiums for med-mal insurance have risen sharply in the past few years, this increase is not due to an ‘explosion’ in settlements and jury awarded compensation to victims of medical malpractice. In fact, the increase in med-mal payments conforms closely to the overall rate of medical inflation.

Increasing premiums are actually the product of the current poor investment environment. Because med-mal insurance companies depend on financial investments for the bulk of their profits, premiums for med-mal insurance have historically risen sharply in response to economic downturns. When interest rates and the equity markets are down, insurers increase premiums to preserve industry profitability. Current calls for compensation caps are reminiscent of those heard during prior recessions.

Nor do Med-mal torts constitute a significant share of healthcare costs. Even with recent inflation, the average doctor’s premiums are less than 4% of his revenues, and malpractice claims amount to only 1/2 of 1% of total healthcare costs. The average claim is a modest $140,000, and the average settlement is just under $30,000. Less than 5% of awards top one million dollars (and about 3/4 of those are reduced by the courts to an average of $250,000). These averages are already well below most suggested compensation cap limits.

Few injuries even make it into the court system. Only 1 in 8 injuries due to malpractice are ever filed, and more than 3/4 of filed claims are dismissed. The existing legal system, and peoples' natural reluctance to sue doctors, winnows out the vast majority of claims already. We can do a better job of ensuring that frivolous suits do not go forward by vetting cases independently before they are filed, and having higher standards for med-mal lawyers. But arbitrary compensation caps will not eliminate nuisance suits; they will only harm the victims of malpractice.

Some claim that the savings realized by elimination of incentives for physicians to practice ‘defensive medicine’ justify compensation caps. But the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has found no statistically significant difference in per capita healthcare spending between states with and without limits on malpractice awards. Defensive medicine costs are illusory.

To reduce the number and expense of med-mal claims, the most sensible approach is to improve the quality of healthcare, not to arbitrarily limit the payments to people who have suffered terrible injuries. Properly compensating victims according to objective juries’ awards isn’t causing a crisis in malpractice insurance; the ultimate cause is the breakdown of self-regulation in the medical profession.

It is a very small number of incompetent doctors who cause the public a disproportionate amount of the suffering and expense malpractice causes. Fewer than 5% of doctors are responsible for more than 50% of all med-mal claims, but, of the roughly 5,000 doctors nationally who have paid four or more med-mal awards, fewer than 15% have ever been disciplined by their state boards. Physicians need to more stringently police their own, and force med-mal insurers to rate doctors by their experience and track record, so that good doctors aren’t in the same risk pool with incompetents who are regularly harming their patients, as is now the case.

Compensation caps are not a workable solution to the problems of our health care system. Several states already have caps on non-economic damages in med-mal cases, including Texas, California, Florida, Missouri, and Nevada. Given that some of our most populous states have caps, one would think that this might have some effect on med-mal premiums nationally or at least within those states, but states with caps have continued to see their premiums go up, even as compensation to victims has gone down.

Successful health care cost containment will come from comprehensive reform in how we deliver health care services, not compensation caps. Nations who deliver health care more universally, use more preventive care, and who reduce the administrative costs through a national insurance system, realize per capita savings of 25% or more compared to our system. Compensation cap advocates cannot credibly claim anything even approaching such a significant savings. If we are going to decide to place the burden of cost containment so heavily on the shoulders of those maimed and crippled by malpractice, shouldn’t we at least be able to demonstrate savings greater than those available by any other means?

Reforms are certainly needed where high med-mal premiums are driving some physicians out of vital, high-risk specialties, such as surgery or obstetrics, but compensation caps don’t address the real problems of these specialized market segments. Government reinsurance assistance, carefully considered legislative reform of physician liability in problem specialties, expert pre-litigation review boards, and other creative, targeted approaches will produce real, and fair, results. Compensation caps are a cure far worse than the disease they are purported to cure; doctors call such nostrums snake oil.

Compensation caps are nothing but a means of helping insurance companies cushion their business cycles, not a means of containing the run-away costs of our health care system. Compensation caps are more pork for big insurance at the expense of severely injured victims.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Are Civil Rights Protected by Direct Democracy?

This landed in my in-box from a ConLaw professor in New York:

I'm researching a book (titled America's Struggle over Same-Sex Marriage) and currently am in Oregon conducting interviews with participants in the Measure 36 campaign, one of the 13 ballot referenda last year placing one-man-one-woman limitations on the definition of marriage in state constitutions.

Yesterday, I met with someone affiliated with the Oregon Family Council who criticized the decision last March by the Multnomah County (Portland) Commissioners extending marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The process, and not the substance, of their actions was the target of his lament, stating that the commissioners had not acted openly in making the policy choice and had not invited public participation. He then said, "The people are smart enough, fair enough, and wise enough to make important social policy decisions."

Later in the interview, he expanded on the thought: "A well run initiative campaign by the gay community listing, say, the top 20 rights of marriage (intestate succession; visiting each other in the hospital; making medical-care decisions; etc.) might have worked. They should have taken it to the people and said, 'Prove to us that you're not biased against homosexuals. Prove your basic decency and fairness. Look at these rights and acknowledge that they're appropriate for us to have.' I think such a campaign would have done very, very well in Oregon."

I then asked him if he could provide examples from American history of statewide referenda that had the effect of expanding the rights of a disadvantaged minority. He could not.

I have further interviews scheduled with supporters of Measure 36 and ask your help: Are there instances of initiatives or referenda in the United States where voters indeed expanded the rights of minorities (racial, ethnic, disabled, etc.)? My (superficial) knowledge is that they've only had the effect of contracting rights.

It is an interesting question. I looked back into our own state's history in answer to that query and the result, while mixed, was suprisingly positive. On the whole, I'd say when faced with fairly unadorned and clear incursions into minority and personal rights, voters do tend to reject them more often than not. Their record is far from perfect, however, and it often takes many years for a final position on an issue to be clarified.

Measures arguably limiting minority, or general rights:

1918- Reinstating Death Penalty -
limits right of convicts not to be killed by state - passed

1946- "right to work" -
limiting the ability to organize labor by restricting closed shops (though some would see this, as the title implies, as a right not have to join a union to work. As union members are materially better off, this seems a dubious right at best) - passed

1948- Limits on Workmen's Compensation -
limiting the recovery of workers injured or disabled on the job - passed

1950 - Segregation of schools -
Limiting ability of minorities to attend schools of their choice - failed

1986 & 1994- tort reform -
limiting right to recover damages for injuries in court - failed

1992 - abortion -
limiting the right of women to control reproduction and bodies - failed

1998 - cockfighting -
restricts the right to engage in cockfighting sport - passed (One can credibly argue that this measure protects the rights of... well, cocks... and is not an imposition on any recognized right of persons. Fair enough, but I'm marking it red anyhow. I don't think it proper than cocks be number among minorities.)

Measures arguably expanding minority, or general rights:

1914- Alien rights-
non-citizens right of employment - passed

1916- Death Penalty Abolishment -
right of convicted criminals not to be killed by state - passed

1916 & 1918 - Workmen's Compensation -
right to be compensated for disabling injuries at work - failed

1944- welfare -
annuities for the disabled and blind to be free of abject poverty - failed

1964 - Reapportionment of school funds -
right to equal educational funding - passed (though admittedly this is better in concept than execution in the hands of our legislature...)

1982 - Motor Voter -
right to register to vote when applying for driver's license and thus, demonstrably, to have more opportunities to participate in the political proces - passed

1996 - Drug reform -
decriminalizes victimless crimes of substance possession - passed (gutted through a variety of means, however)

1998- Initiative and Referedum Protection -
protects the right of direct democracy against state government - passed

2000 - health care for working parents -
expanded the right to basic health care to working parents - passed

Campaign finance reform is either an expansion of collective rights to an uncorrupted democracy, or a limitation of the wealthy minority's right to corrupt democracy, depending on how you look at it; I suppose you could just call it toss up, but I call it a huge victory. Also ambiguous is how Prohibition might be counted, which both came and went by initiative; I call it a wash. Perhaps someday the 'War on Drugs' can also be called a wash.

This brief, and probably incomplete, survey shows a lot more green than red. When faced with choices the expand rights, equality, freedom, and dignity, voters do tend to do the right thing. There are lamentable exceptions. How are these explained? I tend to hope that they are symptoms of successful campaigns of misinformation and Orwellian language (Right to Work being an example), or of a mass hysteria regarding the unknown and unfamiliar which will ameliorate given time and education (gay rights and the threatened internment of Muslims of South Asian descent being the most troubling current examples).

I could hardly be an advocate of 'Strong Democracy' and more direct participation in governance by American voters were I to believe the American people to be reliably small-minded and cruel. If I have any criticism of Howard Dean, it is that he has often seemed too critical of direct democratic institutions. However, Dean's concern stems more from how the system can be abused than discomfort with the process itself.

I believe that the beneficence of initiatives and referenda depends on who is presenting their agenda most cogently and clearly to the voters via those direct democracy channels; too seldom is it progressives and activists. DFA should aim to change that. Americans tend to agree with our values, our priorities, and our goals, we just have to work on the presentation and the organization to get our message out reliably and undistorted. Direct democracy may be he last bastion of mass issues policitics, and we had best becomes its master, lest conservatives use it to master us.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Inching Toward the End Zone

Republican Congressman Howard Coble, an ally of Bush, calls for withdrawal from Iraq citing his dispair over the Administration ever demonstrating an effective post-occupation strategy. He voted for the invasion, and still believes it was the right decision. Yet his comments put him in a small but growing minority of Republican lawmakers who think the US should withdraw from Iraq, including those 6 GOP lawmakers who voted against the resolution under which Bush claimed the authority to invade Iraq.

Of such small and incremental progress are new coalitions made. It is a small nudge in the right direction. If Progressives lean hard on the face-saving and pragmatic lever of poor planning and worse post-invasion execution, we can pry more and more key people out of the coalition that is keeping us in Iraq. Surely, for every Coble there are ten or twenty others who quietly harbor the same concerns. Our goal is for them to cease their silent doubting and make evident their concerns.

I know the desire to demonize Bush and all those who voted for military action, repudiating the invasion entirely, is strong; I share it entirely. But refraining from recriminations and instead decrying the cost our troops are paying for the Administration's incompetence and a lack of strategic goals is the best means to growing a consensus for a speedier withdrawal.

Once we are out of Iraq, or the political decision to leave has been made, there will be ample time for the judgment of history on Bush's adventure in Iraq. We face four years in which the chances for a change of leadership is vanishingly small, and no re-election awaits. Our tactics must fit the environment. Bush can only be stopped from accomplishing his goals by Democrats sticking together and getting conscientious members of the GOP to join with us. That doesn't mean collaboration, nor logrolling, nor appeasement; that way lies irrelevance. Democrats must stand on our principles and make those principles attractive to real conservatives.

The cost of this war in dead and greiviously wounded soldiers mounts daily. The many thousands of dead and newly desperate Iraqi civilians promise a generation of strife and reprisals. The barbaric acts ordered and executed in our names affront the dignity and self-image of Americans more every day. With such a legacy of woe, compounded by the damage he's done to our domestic finance and social conhesion, history is not likely to be kind the drunken, born-again, ne'er-do-well scion of the Bush clan. We know he's the worst President ever, we needen't make that our chief argument against his works, or rub our opponents noses in it, however. Our only reward will be spite.

We had best let history make the judgement on Iraq, and on Bush, and just focus on getting our troops out of harms way as soon as we are able.

Good Sign, Wrong Place

It is always good to see government thinking ahead and staying current with what constituents want. In this case they want free wireless internet broadband. Tempe's first system, at the downtown Tempe Beach Park, has just come online. Where is Tucson's? Where is the proposal for Tucson's roll-out of hot spots? There are many areas that the private sector cannot economically serve where wireless would none-the-less enhance learning, productivity, convenience, commerce, and quality of life.

Tempe's achievement comes as a partnership between ASU and Tempe. Arizona State University President Michael Crow proclaimed that this is a step toward making Tempe a leading "knowledge" city, calling it, "a place where living, learning and working can go on anywhere at anytime and at any location without any hindrance or encumbrance."

Republican Hugh Hallman, who is partnering with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon to try to pass a tax bribe moritorium, deserves credit for understanding the importance of ASU and the knowledge economy to his community's future. It's obvious to most that UofA is central to Tucson's future growth and prosperity; even Mayor Cheerleader gets that much. Our task as progressives is to lay out a compelling vision of what to do about it.

Dean Announces Official Bid for DNC Chair

Dear Michael,

I wanted to write to you first because you have been a real leader and a crucial part of all of our work.

As I have traveled across our country, I have talked to thousands of people who are working for change in their own communities about the power of politics to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others. Every group I have spoken to, I encouraged them to stand up for what they believe and to get involved in the electoral process -- because the only sure way to make difference is to step up and run for office yourself.

Today, I'm announcing my candidacy for the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic Party needs a vibrant, forward-thinking, long-term presence in every single state and we must be willing to contest every race at every level. We will only win when we show up and fight for the issues important to all of us.

Another integral part of our strategy must be cultivating the party's grassroots. Our long term success depends on all of us taking an active role in our party and in the political process, by volunteering, going door to door and taking the Democratic message into every community, and by organizing at the local level. After all, new ideas and new leaders don't come from consultants; they come from communities.

As important as organization is, it alone can no longer win us elections. Offering a new choice means making Democrats the party of reform -- reforming America's financial situation, reforming our electoral process, reforming health care, reforming education and putting morality back in our foreign policy. The Democratic Party will not win elections or build a lasting majority solely by changing its rhetoric, nor will we win by adopting the other side's positions. We must say what we mean -- and mean real change when we say it.

But most of all, together, we have to rebuild the American community. We will never succeed by treating our nation as a collection of separate regions or separate groups. There are no red states or blues states, only American states. And we must talk to the people in all of these states as members of one community.

That word -- 'values' -- has lately become a codeword for appeasement of the right-wing fringe. But when political calculations make us soften our opposition to bigotry, or sign on to policies that add to the burden of ordinary Americans, we have abandoned our true values.

We cannot let that happen. And we cannot just mouth the words. Our party must speak plainly and our agenda must clearly reflect the socially progressive, fiscally responsible values that bring our party -- and the vast majority of Americans -- together.

All of this will require both national perspective and local experience. I know what it's like to lead hands-on at the state level and I know what it's like to run for national office.

With your help, this past election season, Democracy for America, already started creating the kind of organization the Democratic Party can be. This past election cycle, we endorsed over 100 candidates at all levels of government -- from school board to U.S. Senate. We contributed almost a million dollars to nearly 750 candidates around the country and raised millions of dollars for many more candidates.

Together, we helped elect a Democratic governor in Montana, a Democratic mayor of Salt Lake County, Utah and an African American woman to the bench in Alabama. Fifteen of the candidates we endorsed had never run for office before -- and won.

I also have experience building and managing a local party organization. My career started as Democratic Party chair in Chittenden County, Vermont. I then ran successful campaigns: for state legislature, lieutenant governor and then governor. In my 11-year tenure as governor, I balanced the state's budget every year.

I served as chair of both the National Governors' Association and the Democratic Governors' Association (DGA). And as chair of the DGA, I helped recruit nearly 20 governors that won -- even in states like Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi.

All of these experiences have only reaffirmed what I know to be true. There is only one party that speaks to the hopes and dreams of all Americans. It is the party you have already given so much to. It is the Democratic Party.

We can win elections only by standing up for what we believe.

Thank you and I look forward to listening to your concerns in the weeks ahead.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

Ed.- Give 'em hell, Howard! Or, as he likes to say, tell them the truth and they'll just think it's hell...

On MLK day, rededicate your dreams

My dear friends and colleagues,

I am inviting you to see MLK day not as a day off from ordinary responsibilities, but as a day to rededicate yourself to your dreams of peace and justice, in solidarity with others of like mind.

In preparation for the MLK festivities this weekend, I offer MLK's own passionate words, from April 1967, to remind us of his continuing relevance and leadership in today's circumstances. He led the way in asking for a real manifestation of American values, values of compassion, of peace, of equality, of unity, and of social and economic justice. He was a man of peace. He was cut down in his prime and we are left to carry forward the torch of peace into the future.

"I come to this platform to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation... for those who... mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I (say)... In 1957 when (we) formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that... America's soul can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over (through war)."

I hope to see you Sunday at 5pm at the Interfaith service at Catalina Methodist Church, and Monday, 8am, at the march from the U to Reid Park, and the celebration all day there. Bring organizational banners, friends, family, and colleagues.

Let us march proudly and confidently, as nonviolent warriors for the cause of peace and for the new day dawning of liberty and justice for all peoples. Let us speak together that day of our dreams that the America we love shall stand once again in the world as a shining beacon of light, knowing that all men and women everywhere are created equal. And let us there put our minds together as to how we shall bring these dreams into being, for a world that works for everyone.

In peace,
Rev. Gerry Straatemeier, MSW
Co-chair, Gandhi-King Season for nonviolence
Tucson, AZ

Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam
Delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
April 1967 At Manhattan's Riverside Church

OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask. And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorage, leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle we, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor - both black and white - through the Poverty Program. Then came the build-up in Vietnam, and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political play thing of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the young black men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years - especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action. But, they asked, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.

For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a Civil Rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed from the shackles they still wear.

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read "Vietnam." It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the "brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant or all men, for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved His enemies so fully that He died for hem? What then can I say to the Viet Cong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death, or must I not share with hem my life?

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its re-conquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision, we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some communists. For the peasants, this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to re-colonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting 80 per cent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will to do so.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while, the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy, and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers destroy their precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least 20 casualties from American firepower for each Viet Cong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building?

Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call "fortified hamlets." The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts'? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the NLF, that strangely anonymous group we call VC or communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the North" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem, and charge them with violence while we pour new weapons of death into their land?

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than 25 per cent communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them, the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant.

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and non-violence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know of his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded at Geneva to give up, as a temporary measure, the land they controlled between the 13th and 17th parallels. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also, it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the President claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North. Perhaps only his sense of humor and irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than 8000 miles from its shores.

At this point, I should make it clear that while I have tried here to give a voice to the voiceless of Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for our troops must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam and the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently, one of them wrote these words: "Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the hearts of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It' will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony, and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of her people.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing the war to a halt. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmare:

1. End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

2. Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

3. Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military build-up in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

4. Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.

5. Set a date on which we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the NLF. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, in this country if necessary.

Meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than 70 students at my own Alma Mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy, and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. We will be marching and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. The need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. With such activity in mind, the words of John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look easily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: " This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from re-ordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are the days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take: offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wombs of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to add just to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

Posted by David Ehrenstein on January 19, 2004 08:41 AM | on TrackBack

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