Archive for December, 2009

Moving the Progressive Agenda in the Democratic Party

December 20, 2009

If we’re disappointed in the direction of recent events, progressives should take heart and double down on efforts to bring about change by working within the Democratic Party.

First, consider that it was NOT ALL Democrats who have given in to corporate greed in both the health care and financial reforms.  In fact MOST have not and the platform for the Democratic Party called for universal health care.  And we are going to get SOME reforms that WILL help millions of people.  It’s NOT enough, but it’s NOT nothing.

Second, unlike the situation when Republicans were in the bare majority but had support of some key Democrats, today with Democrats having a nominal super majority, there are NO progressive Republicans assisting with their agenda.  About 40+ Democratic Senators and 200+ Democratic Congress Members are progressive.  Clearly the problem is that there are a sufficient number of corporatist Democrats who wield inordinate power.

Third, some members of Obama’s staff and cabinet are enthralled to the corporatists, but not all are; and he will move more progressive if we the people make him do so.

Fourth, this trend toward corporate control of the government has been going on for 30 years; we should not be so naïve to assume we can change the trend of the entire society in a few months or a year.

Finally,  because the mass media is corporate-owned, there is little support for facts and ideas that support progressive goals.  Today we have one major media outlet that is entirely devoted to the corporate agenda, Faux News.  This means we need to make changes in the media and maximize use of the internet for rational, fact-based, and effective political change.

Instead of throwing the entire Democratic Congress or Obama under the bus, we progressives should be:

  1. Boosting support for those Democrats and Independents like Bernie Sanders who stood with the people
  2. Identifying progressive Democrats to run against the corporatist Dems in the primaries and support those challengers
  3. Identifying progressive Democrats to run for the currently Republican seats of Congress and support them
  4. Maintaining the pressure on Obama to take progressive options and change his staff and cabinet to more progressives.  There’s a way of telling him what we want without demonizing him and tagging him with labels like “sellout.”  And
  5. Boosting progressive media of all kinds; maximize use of the internet.

To be sure, the corporatists really like to hear progressives attacking the Democrats or Obama and saying they’re not going to turn out and vote in 2010 or 2012, or advocating third parties, rallies in the street, “kill the bill,” etc.  The corporate banksters are well aware that the Republican Party has self-destructed.  Now they want to see the same happen to Democrats because the ONLY effective control on corporate power can be a government controlled by and beholding to the people.  They WANT to so fracture American society that the government can pose NO restraint upon them whatsoever.

I say resist the urge to fracture the Democratic Party and demonize Democrats.  Be smart.  Be effective.  Draw together progressives for effective action in the only political party that has a prayer of moving government in a more progressive direction. (It does take a major political party to get anything done.)  With Obama in the lead, Democrats already have budged the agenda a bit in these past 11 months; reinforcing that is our best hope of becoming the change we all seek.

Responding to Anti-government Ranting

December 10, 2009

Though written for a West Texas audience, readers can readily adapt this to their own locality.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

–Mark Twain

There is history behind why some today express disdain for the federal government.  I’ll save that history for later but say here that a cruel joke has been played upon many Americans of moderate means.  They’ve been persuaded to think, talk and act politically against their own best interests, all to benefit controlling big banking, corporate and Wall Street interests.

Those interests I call “the banksters” want you to believe that your federal government can’t do anything right and is only bent on violating your rights, invading your privacy, taking away your guns, demolishing your religion and taxing you to death.  Funded and misinformed by the banksters, pundits and political mouthpieces doggedly sing this tune to make the lie become truth if only repeated often enough.  They do this because the only possible effective restraint on predatory capitalism would be the federal government; they want you to weaken your government or redirect it’s mission for their financial gain.

Let’s consider the accuracy of anti-government claims.  The US government is the foundation upon which our American society is built.  We’re lucky as residents of this country in that our social foundation was well thought out and crafted to withstand the test of time.  Perhaps the only thing that can bring it down is our own lack of understanding about it.  (These days we’re skating perilously close to that cliff.)

The government was established by adoption of the US Constitution with its purposes expressed in the Preamble to the Constitution.  It’s just one sentence but arguably the most important “mission statement” of modern times. With editorial assistance, the text as written is displayed for clarity:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to

form a more perfect Union,

establish Justice,

insure domestic Tranquility,

provide for the common defence,

promote the general Welfare,

and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,

do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

While the meaning of some purpose statements can be debated, some are crystal clear.  The rest of the Constitution, including Amendments, directs the organization and actions of the government to serve those basic six purposes. With the inclusion of the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution (The Bill of Rights) the focus of this government and society clearly is on PEOPLE, those living at the time of adoption and their posterity (that’s us).  Any way you cut it, this society was organized as a “we” society in which we collectively look after and care for each other.  (And nowhere in this mission statement will you find mandates to preserve the profits of multi-national corporations.)

So, how well is the federal government addressing its mission statement?  Specifically, how is it enhancing the lives of those of us here in the wilds of West Texas?  We weren’t part of the original organization, but we wisely got ourselves adopted in 1845.  Since then, we’ve given the countless lives and vast personal and material resources to our government.  We have invested heavily, yet some are blind to all we receive in return.

Speaking of only one purpose, to “promote the general Welfare,” here’s just some of what we return to ourselves via our federal government:  Big Bend National Park, McDonald Observatory, NASA, Sul Ross State University (student grants, loans and program funding), AMTRAK; our non-commercial, public radio (Marfa Public Radio) and TV systems; food and drug safety systems including FDA and USDA (which also assists agriculture development); the federal highway system that conveys everything to and fro; money and regulation of our banking and commerce systems; transportation safety; disease and injury control; emergency response in disasters; environmental protection through research funding and regulation of pollution; employment assistance and occupational safety; housing assistance including construction funding, lending, regulation and support; the National Weather Service; and assistance to small businesses.

I left some biggies for last:  Social Security is a federal disability insurance and retirement system that provides basic income for many of our citizens who contributed to it and might otherwise be destitute.   TANF provides temporary assistance to needy families.   Medicare is a federal single-payer health care assurance system for those 65 and older.  Medicaid is the same for low-income folks (funded 50/50 by the Feds and the states).  Tricare serves military families and retirees.  And the State Children’s Health Insurance Program with joint federal/state funding covers care for uninsured children. These health care assurance (funding) systems are ALL federal programs, but many are operated by private insurance companies as contractors for the government.  Unlike for-profit health insurance, however, these programs focus on caring for people not making profit; overhead is low and client satisfaction is high.  The actual care is provided by our superior, mostly private professionals, hospitals and clinics. The VA health care system provides our veterans with health care both at government-run facilities and indirectly through payments to private doctors and pharmacies.  To those who consider health insurance reform intrusive, note that the government, at our request, is already deeply involved in health care financing and it works quite well.

“We the People” insisted that these services be provided.  It’s more efficient to provide them collectively and no one else does what the government will do.  Individual services may not be provided to our satisfaction, but if they are not, we have recourse.  They belong to us!  Consider too that these endeavors not only benefit West Texans, they also provide jobs for friends and neighbors.  And each of these endeavors creates demand for other goods and services provided by our local businesses.  If, as it now seems, we avoid a full-blown depression, we have this safety-net, this purpose to thank:  “…to promote the general Welfare.”

Those attacking the federal government “know for sure” some things that “just ain’t so.”  Believing what they say could get us all in deep trouble.

The President’s Afghanistan Strategy

December 2, 2009

I was adamant that we get out of Afghanistan, but Obama has convinced me that his way of doing just that is the best of no good alternatives.  I think a lot of progressives may have had wax in their ears – all they heard in the speech was the boosting of troops. What I heard said up front was “to bring this war to a successful conclusion.”  I don’t know how successful it will be; but there’s a better chance of it being relatively more successful with the temporary boost in troops, prior to withdrawal.

I listened to the speech again and made an outline of what he said.  He was right in going back over the history of the Afghanistan war and making a clear distinction between it and Iraq and between it and Vietnam.  I supported the war in Afghanistan and most of the country did as well – most of the world did. We went in there with the full backing of Congress, NATO and the UN.  And then George Bush dropped the ball.  Now, in our thinking Iraq and Afghanistan are all confused together.

Regardless of my belief that al-Queda was coddled and promoted by the US under the table, and encouraged and left unrestrained from attacking us, the fact is that THEY did do the dirty work on 9/11.  Go back and remember that they attacked us before 9/11 too, and Bill Clinton made attempts to decapitate them.  Bush pulled back investigation and preemption of terrorism in order to boost his globalist agenda (Iraq) and to give legitimacy to his stolen Presidency.  All that is true, but the al-Queda brand of extremist violence was a threat then and will be in the future if we don’t take action to further erode it in its main pocket of control.

And he correctly pointed out, pretty much without resorting to the constant “threat” “terror” fear tactics of Bush Inc, that recent attempts to attack us by extremists based in the area HAVE been disrupted.  And it is obvious that al-Queda would love to get hold of some nuke material in Pakistan.

I also think that many progressives also had wax in their ears when Obama listed his 3 objectives in the speech:
1) Military strategy to break Taliban momentum, strengthen Afghanistan’s security forces.  This with our NATO allies.  Begin withdrawal July 2011.  It’s not as if all problems will be solved at that time.  It’s more like he’s saying “go do all you can do to get it as good as possible by that time.”  That is motivating.  And I think the Karsai regime is on notice to get their ducks in a row before the American military leaves.
2) Civilian strategy with the UN to combat corruption, boost things like agricultural development.  (i.e., nation building)  Work with UN.  This doesn’t appear to have a deadline of July 2011 and it should be open-ended. (Please see Secretary of State Clinton’s testimony before congress at  <>
3) Pakistan strategy.  They are most at danger from extremism, and opinion has now shifted against the Taliban.  They’ve got the nukes we’re worried about.  This also does not appear to be time limited.

Why are so many of us not listening to all of the objectives?  Number Two at least has been something I’ve been claiming in my emails to Obama that he should be doing.  And that is said with the realization that some military may be needed for security for non-military personnel to do their job.  Objectives 2 and 3 make crystal clear the difference between Barack Obama and George W Bush, for whom military action was the cure for everything.  Did we progressives not even listen to the last part of Obama’s speech?  He talked openly about the financial cost – when did Bush ever do that?  He talked about how our involvement can’t be open ended because we need to turn to work at home.  And he reminded us that the US does not seek world domination or claim the resources of other countries as our own.  How different from Bush was that?

And I don’t see many other alternatives Obama had because of the Bush ineptitude.  I think a wholesale removal of troops from Afghanistan would be, as he termed it for Iraq and Afghanistan, irresponsible.  You just don’t do military withdrawal that way.  Where would it leave our non-military personnel?  We’d  have to give up on that too and that’s would be a shame.  So, what he’s chosen to do is give the troops some assistance to see what they can do to help our security there and they’ve got a time line to meet some objectives.  Can we really expect that they could do as well with the current force of 70,000 as they could with 100,000?  If we left the level where it is, as he said, it might be longer before we could extricate ourselves from there.  And if we can improve the security situation it will help the non-military people who might remain to help Afghanistan.

Finally, all this is consistent with what Barack Obama said during the campaign, that he was going to focus on Afghanistan and get the job done there.  This seems to be a reasonable way to try to do it.  Obama seems to be taking a calculated risk to his Presidency here.  I don’t think he would do that without good reasons.  I think we should “trust but verify” him on this.  The anti-war protest should continue to keep on the pressure, but I won’t be joining them until July 2011 comes around and Obama is nowhere near doing what he said.