Articles, excerpts Jan 11 to 26, 2015

Worldview – contrast

Can Science Explain the Rage, Reality-Denying and Distorted Thinking Patterns of Tea Party Radicals? Posted by: Josh Kilburn  January 17, 2015 Liberals place a high value on mitigating harm towards others, while conservatives don’t really care, and they’re more worried that someone is going to cheat welfare, cheat disability insurance, or cheat SNAP, to get something they “don’t deserve.”  

Environmental crisis

In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth By Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 16, 2015 Pair of new studies show how various forms of human activity, driven by a flawed economic system and vast consumption, is laying waste to Earth’s natural systems. The conclusion that the world’s dominant economic model—a globalized form of neoliberal capitalism, largely based on international trade and fueled by extracting and consuming natural resources—is the driving force behind planetary destruction will not come as a shock, but the model’s detailed description of how this has worked since the middle of the 20th century makes a more substantial case than many previous attempts. Humanity’s rapacious growth and accelerated energy needs over the last generation—particularly fed by an economic system that demands increasing levels of consumption and inputs of natural resources—are fast driving planetary systems towards their breaking point, according to a new pair of related studies. “It is difficult to overestimate the scale and speed of change. In a single lifetime humanity has become a geological force at the planetary-scale.” —Prof. Will Steffen  

‘Doomsday Clock’ Ticks Forward: Climate Change, Nuclear Weapons Push Humanity Closer Towards Global Catastrophe By Andrea Germanos, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 22, 2015 Runaway climate change and the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons have pushed the world closer towards irreversible catastrophe, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Thursday, as the group pushed the symbolic Doomsday Clock forward to three minutes before midnight.

Mourning Our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process By Dahr Jamail, Truthout, January 20, 2015

Generational justice

The Most Entitled Generation Isn’t Millennials. It’s Baby Boomers By Ross Pomeroy & William Handke – January 8, 2015 For the first time in America’s history, an entire generation of her citizens is poorer, more indebted, and less employed than the preceding generations. That generation is the Millennials – our generation…

America

Is This Country Crazy? Inquiring Minds Elsewhere Want to Know It’s past time to wake up, America, and look around By Ann Jones, TomDispatch, posted on alternet.org,  January 11, 2015

Culture wars

Culture wars, old and new by E.J. Dionne, New York Times, Jan 25, 2015

Corporations

The Corporate Strategy to Win The War Against Grassroots Activists: Stratfor’s Strategies By Steve Horn, www.mintpressnews.com, July 29, 2013

Economic justice – race

Black Wealth Matters by Chuck Collins, January 11, 2015 Truth-out,  For generations, white households have enjoyed far greater access to wealth and security than their black counterparts…As protesters march through our cities to remind us that black lives matter, grievances about our racially fractured society extend far beyond flashpoints over police violence…. you have to look at wealth and net worth — that is, what people own minus what they owe…The racial wealth gap has persisted for decades. It widened following the Great Recession….“It is time for all of us to tell each other the truth,” Dr. King wrote in 1967, “about who and what have brought the Negro to the condition of deprivation against which he struggles today.”

Capitalism

Don’t Buy the Hype: 20 Years of Data Reveals ‘Free Trade’ Fallacies By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 15, 2015  Fast-tracked international trade deals have led to exploding U.S. trade deficits, soaring food imports into the U.S., increased off-shoring of American jobs, and an “unprecedented rise in income inequality,” according to new data released Thursday by the watchdog group Public Citizen.

In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth By Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 16, 2015 Pair of new studies show how various forms of human activity, driven by a flawed economic system and vast consumption, is laying waste to Earth’s natural systems

Inequality

Super Bowl for the Rich: Upper-Class 91, Middle-Class 9 By Paul Buchheit, Common Dreams, January 26, 2015…Making money is all a game to the super-rich—redistribution toward the top, trickle-down delusions, tax avoidance, and even, for some of them, dabbling in criminal activities…$2 of every $5 owned today was created in the last five years, most of it from the financial markets, and almost all of it going to the richest 10%… People with stocks are happy, but the news is a lot different for middle America, which has seen its pay drop a stunning 23 percent since 2009, and its median wealth plummet by about 40 percent… Even though corporate profits are at their highest level in 85 years, corporations aren’t pumping it back into the economy. Instead they’re holding it. S&P companies last year spent an incredible 95% of their profits on stock buybacks to enrich executives and shareholders.  Meanwhile, as the rest of us dutifully pay our taxes, we get blind-sided by wealthy individuals and corporations who defer their taxes, stash income in tax havens, enjoy a special capital gains tax rate, invest their money in tax-free foundations, or simply don’t pay. Boeing, Ford, Chevron, Citigroup, Verizon, JP Morgan, and General Motors, with a combined income last year of $74 billion, paid no taxes, and instead received a combined refund of nearly $2 billion…

Richest 1% Percent To Have More Than Rest of Humanity Combined By Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 19, 2015  New Oxfam report shows the scale of global inequality is ‘simply staggering’ In less than two years, if current trends continued unchecked, the richest 1% percent of people on the planet will own at least half of the world’s wealth. That’s the conclusion of a new report from Oxfam International, released Monday, which states that the rate of global inequality is not only morally obscene, but an existential threat to the economies of the world and the very survival of the planet. Alongside climate change, Oxfam says that spiraling disparity between the super-rich and everyone else, is brewing disaster for humanity as a whole.

Communications

Bring back the Fairness Doctrine, repealed during the Reagan area, to bring parity and responsible reporting back to our airwaves so that we have a better-informed citizenry casting better-informed votes., Big Ideas Project, December 2014 

History

Americans Should Embrace Their Radical History by Harvey J. Kaye, Campaign for America’s Future Blog, BillMoyers.com, October 8, 2014

Democracy

No. Sorry. You’re Not a ‘Constitutional Conservative’ By Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, January 15, 2015 The central belief of the men who spearheaded the constitution was that only a strong central government could make America great and strong and thus safe….the constitution, the aims, beliefs and goals of the constitution-makers are the polar opposite of what the Rand Paul types and Tea Partiers believe

Searching for Radical Democracy in the Ruins of Capitalism’s Economic Depravity -interview with Henry Giroux By Chuck Mertz, truth-out.org January 17, 2015 The future demands a new political consciousness. We can’t just wait for neoliberal economics to tear apart society and then build from scratch.

Military-industrial complex

We Are a Chickenhawk Nation, Blindly Worshiping the Military; Wasting Enormous Amounts on Useless Military Hardware by Allegra Kirkland / AlterNet, January 9, 2015  

We Are a Chickenhawk Nation, Blindly Worshiping the Military; Wasting Enormous Amounts on Useless Military Hardware A new fleet of F-35 fighter jets will cost the equivalent of the entire Iraq war. By Allegra Kirkland / AlterNet, January 9, 2015  It’s common knowledge that the U.S. devotes more money to our defense budget than any other industrialized nation. But just how much we spend is remarkable. This year, we’re on track to spend over $1 trillion on national security, after factoring in nuclear weapons funding, military pensions and “overseas contingency funds,” in addition to the Pentagon’s $580 billion operating budget. In total, this figure accounts for about 4 percent of the United States’ income—double what most other countries spend.

Politics

The Empty Center: Challenge and Opportunity for Progressives by Robert Borosage, Campaign for America’s Future Blog, January 15, 2015

In U.S., New Record 43% Are Political Independents by Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup Poll, January 2015 n

The root of U.S. political paralysis is intolerance By Clive Crook, Bloomberg News, Jan 26, 2015

Democrats

As Top Democrats Embrace a Robin Hood Tax, It’s Time for Activists to Go Big by John Nichols, The Nation, posted on Progressive Democrats of America, January 12, 2015  Americans who are serious about addressing income inequality have long recognized that the United States needs a Robin Hood Tax—a charge on financial transactions proposed by campaigners who have argued since the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 that “banks, hedge funds and the rest of the financial sector should pay their fair share to clear up the mess they helped create.”

Money in politics

250 Years of Campaigns, Cash and Corruption By Asawin Suebsaeng, Andy Kroll, and Aaron Ross, Mother Jones, Aug. 9, 2012

Right wing’s unholy alliance

The Angry Right’s Secret Playbook Confessions of a former conservative blowhard. By Edwin Lyngar / Salon, posted on Alternet.org January 12, 2015 

 Neoconservatives

Walter Berns, Whose Ideas Fueled Neoconservative Movement, Dies at 95 By SAM ROBERTS JAN. 14, 2015  

Right wing extremism

You call these “moderates”?! How the far right hopes to fool America (again) By Heather Digby Parton,  Salon.com,, Jan 15, 2015         

Message machine

Forget Lobbyists: Big Business Wants To Control American Minds, Not Just Their Lawmakers By Erin Quinn, Center for Public Integrity, posted on Common Dreams, January 15, 2015 When Washington, D.C.’s biggest trade associations want to wield influence, they often put far more of their money into advertising and public relations, according to a new Center for Public Integrity investigation…37 percent, went toward advertising, public relations and marketing services, more than any other category. The second-highest total…20 percent of the total, was directed toward legal, lobbying and government affairs. By industry sector, the biggest clients of PR, marketing and ad services were energy and natural resources associations. The public relations industry is on a growth tear while the number of federally registered lobbyists is actually shrinking. Public relations work, unlike lobbying, is not subject to federal disclosure rules, and PR and advertising campaigns can potentially influence a broader group of people.

How Did Conservatives Convince the Public to Think Differently About Government?

Part III of a three-part series exploring how conservatives took their worldview to the streets, undermining long-held views about government and society. Click here to read part I, “What We Can Learn from Conservatives About Winning in Politics,” and part II, “Learning from How Conservatives Push Their Cultural Worldview.”

By Sara Robinson / Blog for Our Future, March 14, 2008

The conservative worldview has succeeded so wildly — and is still holding such tenacious sway over the ways Americans approach their current stack of problems — because the conservatives started out 30 years ago with a focused plan that put promoting their model of reality at the center of every other action. Over the past two posts, I’ve been mining the specific strategies that early planners like Paul Weyrich used to advance the conservative worldview, in the hope that we might gain some insight that will help us engage them directly on this deepest, most important territory.

Progressives will not be able to implement their vision of the future until we’re able to supplant the conservative worldview with our own. We won’t win until we take control of the discourse, offer Americans new ways to make meaning and evaluate and prioritize events, and get them to abandon conservative assumptions about how reality works.

I’d like to thank Bruce Wilson at Talk2Actionagain for turning me onto Eric Huebeck’s 2001 document that summarized, updated, and refocused the original Weyrich strategies. In this final piece, we’ll look some of the specific ways the conservatives structured their campaign to take their worldview to the streets, and ultimately replaced long-held democratic assumptions about government, economics, and society with the deadly and wrong-headed assumptions that now drive the thinking of the entire nation.

Capture Cultural Institutions
Thanks to David Brock, Joe Conason, Chris Mooney, Michelle Goldberg, and many others, more and more of us are becoming aware of the ways that conservatives have quietly moved in to take over almost every public and private institution in America. From churches to university faculties to public broadcasting to the Boy Scouts, the vast network of institutions that once taught people how to live in a liberal democracy and reinforced those values across society has been shredded to the point where it no longer functions. In its place is a new network of institutions — some of them operating within the co-opted shells of the old ones, others brand new — that reinforce the conservative worldview at every turn.

This takeover of the very insitutional fabric of the nation was a central part of the conservative plan from the very beginning. Weyrich understood that to change the discourse, you had to capture and control the institutions that were most directly responsible for promoting and sustaining it. And the rising conservatives pursued that goal with a vengeance.

The basic strategy was to build parallel organizations that shadowed the official ones until they could legitimately assume power within their domains. In some cases these were national institutes, professional organizations, formal committees and expert policy groups; in others, they were simply ad hoc groups of conservative citizens who showed up at all the meetings, studied the domain, wrote letters, and eventually became expert in all the same topics and issues the official authorities dealt with. Either way, over the course of a decade or two, there was hardly an influential institution in America that wasn’t operating without a gaggle of conservatives standing by to criticize every decision and thwart every attempt at action.

In some cases, such as government agencies, these self-appointed shadow officials hung around long enough, and demonstrated enough interest and expertise, that they eventually eased themselves into official positions from which they began to enact the conservative agenda. They joined public boards, got themselves appointed to commissions, and inflitrated local offices. In cases where they couldn’t directly take over, they set themselves up as the determined and loyal opposition, acting as political leg weights that hobbled and slowed down every aspect of goverment business for decades on end as they looked for opportunities to press their issues and impose their will. The official policymakers still held sway, but the constant resistance made them far less effective. In time, people would get frustrated with the inaction, and look for other leaders to get the job done. Too often, the people who’d created the resistance in the first place were the first ones tapped to take over.

Massive funding put up by conservative foundations also gave the movement clout over the country’s great non-profits, from which they insinuated themselves into research, health care, social services, education, and the arts. Pressure from investors, advertisers, and avid letter-writers narrowed the range of acceptable narratives in every kind of media. Shadow “professional” groups were established to challenge the basic Enlightenment-era premises of law, medicine, banking, teaching, pharmacy, and other essential professions.

All of this effort was in the service of one goal — to take over these institutions and eventually use them to promote conservative values and worldview. They understood that when you control these institutions, you control the culture — and ultimately, you will also control the very discourse by which everyone inside the culture interprets reality. We’re coming up against the success of this strategy every time a Federalist Society judge comes up for confirmation, every time a hospital refuses to perform abortions, every time the police commission gets a brutality complaint and looks the other way, and every time we try to get a birth control prescription filled.

Huebeck was very clear that none of this about “reform.” He wrote: “We will not reform existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity.” The conservatives knew that of all the various fronts in the war for American hearts and minds, seizing control of the country’s institutional core was is the one that mattered most.

And, unfortunately, we liberals left them to it. Throughout the 1960s, the Boomers had been challenging the authority of the old institutions, which they (often rightly) found stultifying, socially confining, and too often downright criminal. But there was a serious downside to this. When they abandoned the field, they left foundational American institutions (which had been dominated by GI-era rationalists from both parties) wide open for right-wing takeover — and the result is our lives are now dominated by the authority emanating from a new establishment that is far more stultifying, restrictive, and criminal that the 1960s rebels could have ever imagined.

It’s becoming obvious to more and more of us that we will not win until we start taking these institutions back. We’ve made a good start at creating progressive media networks, organizing our own political infrastructure, and defending education at all levels from conservative incursions. We’re having our say in the marketplace, particularly when it comes to agriculture and low-emissions vehicles. Science is not going gently into the ideological good night.

But it’s all just drops in the bottom of a large and leaking bucket. There are vast sectors in which the takeover proceeds unchallenged — and will remain so until we come back with the same pervasive intensity they brought to the job. We need thousands of those same small cadres of dedicated people who make it their business to target one institution, study it, become expert in it, and eventually mount a public challenge to its authority or move in and take it over. We need local MoveOn groups providing those scoutmasters, and local progressive churches taking strong stands against religious right school boards, and teams of local letter-writers who keep our issues on the op-ed pages of the weekly paper. We need professional organizations in every field that stand up to the ideologues and restore the rule of reason. We need to be as pervasive a presence in the life of conservative institutions as they have been in liberal ones.

It took them over 20 years to effect this takeover, so we also need to expect to be in this one for the long haul.

Don’t Trust the Democratic Party
Huebeck noted ruefully that movement conservatives “shot ourselves in the foot by expecting too much from the Republican Party.” It’s a feeling that’s becoming all too familiar to progressives assessing their relationship with the Democrats.

We’re tempted to forget that Progressives are not necessarily Democrats, any more than movement conservatives were necessarily Republicans. In each case, they are a separate movement that often finds its interests in consonance with those of a certain political party. But in both cases, they stand to lose tremendous amounts of power if they allow themselves to become co-opted and turned into an appendage of that party.

In the end, many conservatives — especially the religious right — lost track of that boundary, and forgot to consider their interests apart from the party. Without enough daylight between the two entities, it was easy for the GOP to start taking their Evangelical base for granted. With every passing election, it seemed, the party relied more and more on the religious conservatives for organization, money, and votes — and gave them less and less in return. This year, the conservative churches are in full fury over this betrayal. If the GOP loses, Evangelical disappointment will be at the heart of their defeat.

This is a special problem during election season, while progressives and the party work especially closely together to take back the White House and ensure a Democratic Congress. But, even as we fight the good fight together, progressives need to remember they are not us; and we are not them. Our movement must never forget that its an an entity apart from the Democratic party, with different interests and expectations of a different future. If we allow ourselves to be co-opted by the party, and are diverted into channeling all of our actions into activities that further the Democrats instead of our own progressive agenda, we’ll very quickly end up in the same place Evangelical conservatives are in right now — used, abused, and tossed aside.

It’s basic physics: Holding ourselves at a little more distance gives us extra leverage, forces them to work a little harder for our votes, and ultimately gives us more power to create the changes we seek.

Invest in our own members; grow our own leaders
Political leaders of all stripes like to expand their territory and hoard their power. Weyrich understood that personal empire-building is a selfish indulgence no successful movement can afford — first, because it leads people to put their own interests ahead of the movement, which should never be tolerated; and second, because it stunts the growth of new leaders and inhibits the transmission of leadership skills.

That’s why the early conservatives insisted that leadership should actively seek out leadership talent, nurture it, and groom it to assume power on its own. The more well-trained leaders the movement has, the bigger it can get, the more it can get done, and the faster its agenda will be adopted. Success depends on building a culture in which leaders are evaluated not by how much territory they control, but by the number and quality of new leaders emerging from underneath their wings.

Furthermore, giving people the chance to learn new skills and offering them new opportunities for personal growth is the most powerful way to bond them emotionally, socially, and even economically to the movement. In a time when people aren’t often given the chance to grow to their potential on the job, political work can provide a far more engaging and satisfying outlet for their ambitions. “Every member [must] be given the support to reach his maximum potential,” wrote Huebeck, who also observed that when we raise each others’ personal confidence and skill, it increases the confidence and skill of the movement as a whole.
This was the clause in the plan that launched a thousand wingnut welfare programs, stocked a hundred think tanks, and catapulted countless Young Republicans to positions of real power. But this lesson is far older than that. Earlier progressives understood the role that unions, churches, and civic organizations played in bringing along people who could become local, regional, and eventually national leaders. This isn’t something that happens just inside the Beltway. Finding and grooming emergent talent everybody’s job; and those who do it well have earned their place among our most esteemed leaders.

Ask people to invest in return
Changing the world is not a spectator sport. The early conservatives weren’t afraid to ask their members for incredible investments of time, energy, and money — investments that were essential if their perceived life-or-death struggle for the hearts and minds of America was to be won.

The money, in particular, matters. The conservatives realized that they would need to fund the the early years of their movement themselves until they racked up enough wins to attract foundation support. We progressives are short on corporate white knights; instead, we’ve built our movement on small donations from millions of Americans. Those people are making investments in us — and with every PayPal transfer they send, they are deepening their emotional bonds to our cause.

However, the problem with a lot of progressive fundraising is that it’s too often aimed at winning short-term battles. Pass or defeat this legislation. Win this election. Fund this organization for another year or two. Once that milestone has passed, groups have to conjure a new reason to get people to pony up. Donors figure that the battle’s won, and they can slack off now. Or it wasn’t won, and there’s no point in continuing to give. Either way, it doesn’t take long for donor fatigue to set in.

The conservatives largely avoided that problem by setting out one huge long-range goal that provided the all-in-one justification for an entire lifetime of generous giving. They were in it for nothing less than a total cultural transformation. Every smaller battle was just another step in the long war, which they expected to outlast their lifetimes. The leaders kept up their high expectations that their members would make enormous sacrifices — not just in the early years, but for decades on end until that transformation was complete. Nobody was allowed to slack off — and few wanted to. As the victories racked up and the stakes grew higher, the atmosphere got positively giddy — and the money pile kept getting bigger as people got more and more excited about the movement’s momentum.

We need to remind the progressive donor base that they play the deciding role in a battle that we, too, can expect to be fighting for the rest of our lives — and which will probably be the most important work of all of our lives. As such, we will continue to expect their full support until the job is done. And the more we win, the more we’ll prove that we deserve it.

Think nationally. Organize locally.
The original progressive movements drew on (and helped build up) a vast network of local political gathering places. By the 1920s, there wasn’t a county or town in the nation that didn’t have a permanent progressive hangout — a place where people came together for news, education, organizing, good times, and help when they needed it. Most of these places were union and grange halls; some were civic clubs, Democratic party offices, lodges, churches, pubs, or just some old place the local folks bought and fixed up for their own use.

The collapse of this physical infrastructure is one of the biggest losses we’ve sustained in the conservative attack on American institutions. Even as the country’s last union and grange halls were being emptied out by Republican labor and farm policies, the rising conservative movement was busy building a shadow network of its own. The religious right’s biggest contribution to the cause may have been the ready-made national chain of conservative meeting halls it provided in every small hamlet and burg. Every Evangelical church in the country was a potential nucleus around which a revolutionary cell could form. (Using churches is dicey business, but ministers were taught where the lines were, and the IRS often enough looked the other way. Besides, the broad “cultural transformation” frame meant that a lot of the most important work wasn’t political at all, but rather social and cultural, and therefore entirely appropriate to a church setting.) The GOP money guys still met (as always) at the exclusive downtown and country clubs; but the churches provided a place where conservatives of all classes could gather for social support, education, training, and coordinated local action in service of their revolution.

We’ve suffered mightily by not having that same ubiquitous network of public outposts from which to run our ground game. MoveOn.org has been our biggest boon in re-creating this: it took the lead in using the Internet to help local progressives find each other, and helped them begin to form permanent organizations in remote parts of the country. (Until MoveOn and the Dean meetups brought them together, many rural liberals had spent years believing they were the only ones in town.) The 50-State Strategy is also seeking to correct this, by opening Democratic party offices in as many towns and counties as possible across the country. But, though these are two good starts, we need to stay focused on the task of making sure there isn’t a village in America that doesn’t have a permanent space that progressives can call home. Once we restore our place as an integral part of the country’s physical landscape, becoming a natural and accepted part of its cultural landscape will follow on naturally.

Don’t just talk. ACT.
Huebeck’s definition of political action is pointed and narrow. Action is “1) the subversion of leftist-controlled institutions, or 2) the creation of our own institutions of civil society, whose sole purpose is outreach to, and the conversion of, non-traditionalists.” All action needs to have direct results, and should also deepen the skills of the members who engage in it. And it’s an important way of bonding people to the movement: “Action in the world encourages the identification of the member with, and dedication to the group.”

“For example, we will go to public lectures given by leftists and ask them ‘impolite’ and highly critical questions. We must, of course, be fully prepared beforehand for these sorts of excursions, and we must also be prepared to embarrass ourselves, especially at first,” wrote Huebeck. He also advises local groups to do charity work that will both build esprit de corps and generate good PR. “Bonding with others in one’s generation or society is the means by which values are strengthened and perpetuated. It is vitally important that we bond in such a way that the values perpetuated are our own.”

In other words: Our actions need to be good for the movement’s long-term goal of cultural change; good for the community; good for our group’s reputation; good for our own internal cohesion; and good for us as individuals. It’s an excellent set of criteria, and one that we might want to borrow as a sturdy yardstick for the essential worthiness of every activity we plan.

Concentrate on students and young adults
Conservatives capitalized handsomely on the energy of their youngest members. Weyrich and the rest of the early planners carefully nurtured the small handful of disaffected conservative students remaining on the nation’s campuses. They gave them enormous roles at very young ages, while they still had high enough energy and few enough encumbrances to work crazy hours under insane conditions. They also richly funded conservative college newspapers and journals; granted scholarships to promising students with a conservative bent in law, politics, media, and business; and opened their social and business networks to graduates looking for high-paying work. In a very real sense, they found these kids in their cradles, and promised to look after them to their graves.

They made this investment because they realized that if you get them while they’re young, they’ll stay with you for life. Thirty years later, looking at Washington’s middle-aged conservative True Believers, it’s obvious that this investment in nurturing the party’s most promising young sprouts paid off for them many times over.

We have our moment now, with the vast numbers of young voters who are rushing to the Democrats this election. But the conservative success with an earlier generation of young voters tells us that we need to be very proactive about bringing these kids into the process, giving them some real power and some serious training, and returning their loyalty by attending well to their individual futures using every means available to us. If we want to build a progressive nation that will stand for the next 50 years, it’s not too early to start cultivating solid careers for those who will take over for us when we’re gone.

Be there for each other — especially when the pressure builds
Many of the above strategies — from creating permanent physical structures and solid career paths to establishing reliable internal funding flows — reflects the conservative battlefield mentality. They were determined to be self-sustaining and self-sufficient, beholden to no one in the liberal world. Another piece of this was social independence: Weyrich knew that conservatives had to learn to rely on each other, not the larger culture, for their social and emotional validation.

People creating change take a lot of flak from those profiting handsomely from the status quo. The more you start to win, the stronger and uglier this resistance gets. Movements often crack under this pressure — often when they’re right on the cusp of winning all the marbles, and the opposition is at its most intense.

But the founders of movement conservatism knew that people can withstand almost anything if they have the firm support and acceptance of their peers. They strengthened their followers against this pressure by teaching them not to give two hoots about what the rest of us think. To them, the only people who matter are the ones who believe as they do — the ones they trust to actually have their backs, look after their kids, and throw their bail when the opposition takes out after them with ugly intent.

The changes we seek now will eventually create equally tectonic shifts as we set the country back to right. The money and power is all lined up behind the conservatives; and they’ve already demonstrated their willingness to use it to viciously punish progressives who dare to challenge it.

We will only survive this if we learn to be equally self-sufficient. We cannot care what they think, do, or say about us. We need to make a point of being there for each other when the heat is on, and the cons come after one or another of us, hoping to pick us off. And that kind of defiance comes a lot easier when we make a point of looking to each other for validation, and building bonds of trust that will hold us tightly together when trouble comes.

Don’t Ever Give Up. We’re In This for The Long Haul.
Movement conservatism first started chipping away at the dominant liberal culture in the early 1970s. The strategies in these three articles were largely formulated in the decade that followed; and they’ve been the basic principles governing conservative behavior ever since.

From the very beginning, they realistically viewed their goal of cultural domination as a multi-generational fight. Those who started it didn’t expect to live to see the end of it — and they were right. The people who first plotted strategy and tactics 30 years ago are now passing into death and retirement; their movement is now in the hands of a carefully-nurtured second generation, and a third is already coming of age. The humiliations of the Bush era are sending them back to their local gathering spots to take stock and regroup; but just because they vanish from the scene for a few years, we mustn’t ever delude ourselves that they’ve finally gone away. They will be back — and, no doubt, their comeback will be largely constructed out of these same strategies.

Weyrich and Huebeck warned the faithful about just these kinds of setbacks. “We will not hunker down and wait for the storm to blow over. Our strategy will be to bleed this corrupt culture dry.” They told conservatives that good efforts and good intentions count for nothing, because losing is not an option for them. “The real question is: if the fight is winnable, why have we not won it? If it is not, why are we diverting our efforts elsewhere?”

It’s one last thing to bear in mind, a final challenge from the conservative movement’s master strategists. If the fight is winnable, why have we not won it? If it is not, then why are we diverting our efforts elsewhere? This struggle for America’s heart and soul and mind has gone on from the beginning, and it will never end. Being progressive means committing our entire lives to the work of promoting America’s founding Enlightenment worldview, building a thriving movement that will outlast us, and raising up people who will carry on when we’re gone. As long as conservative culture warriors are out there trying to undermine the very model of reality that defines American democracy, we’re going to need to be out there resisting their incursions and reminding the country why that foundation matters. We, too, are in this for the long haul.

http://www.alternet.org/story/79776/how_did_conservatives_convince_the_public_to_think_differently_about_government

Needed: A progressive Christianity to restore the nation’s civic virtues

By Tom Ehrich, Religion News Service, Washington Post,  November 11, 2014

Election 2014: Something important has just happened. Big money bought an election. Fear prevailed over confidence and loathing over reason. The majority chose not to vote, allowing a passionate minority — older, whiter — to change the balance of power. Attack ads drowned out issues. A broken political system tolerated cheating and bullying.

Most worrisome is the absence of the virtues that enable a democracy to function in a challenging world. Civic-mindedness gave way to clever voter-suppression tactics. Freedom of the press got lost in attack ads and deliberate distortions of reality. Respect for opponents is gone. So too is the search for common ground, competing ideas, confidence in the nation, confidence in government, confidence in the future. Gone, gone, gone.

How could this happen? Several reasons — from intellectual laziness to self-serving leaders. The reason that touches my world is the collapse of progressive Christianity as a teacher of civic virtues.

Progressive Christianity is only one voice on the spectrum of religious opinions. But over the years it has had a large impact in its insistence on honesty, fairness, tolerance and humility. Progressive Christians have fought slavery, racial injustice and oppression of the vulnerable. Our search for truth has allowed room for other truths, other voices — a critical attitude in preserving democracy.

Our voice, however, has gotten weak. Our obsession with sexuality and institutional survival rendered us self-referential and timid. As we fought battles that were too much about us, we left the door open to a tragic re-emergence of racism and practices oppressing the poor.

I know that, individually, many of us are deeply concerned and eager to act. Nothing will change, however, until we speak as a community with a more forceful and coherent voice to the very real issues that people are facing. We know our voice can make a difference. Look at what Christian witness contributed to the call for justice in Ferguson, Mo. Look at the Moral Monday demonstrations in North Carolina.

For that voice to grow, we need to let politics into our pews. Not church politics, which are safe, but national and local politics, which tend to be unsafe. We need, for example, to be asking why racism is suddenly out in the open. We need to ask what our own people have contributed to economic injustice. Jesus spoke truth to power. We have tended to send them pledge cards.

We need to respond with theological and ethical clarity to critical issues, not just discern whether we “like” this or that cause. And certainly not sit back while Bible bullies make outlandish claims about what God wants and loathes.

We need to be forming alliances with minorities, the bruised and marginalized, and with people who want to make a difference, especially young adults. We need to stand for generosity and civility and against the politics of meanness that would suppress votes, deny benefits, punish women and minorities and wink at overzealous police power.

Our national and local politics are awash in money and fear. Gone missing are ideas and solutions, and a sense of confidence. Progressive Christianity needs to call out the destructive forces pursuing oligarchy, even when they sit in our own pews.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/needed-a-progressive-christianity-to-restore-the-

We Need to Advocate Radical Solutions to Systemic Problems

- Interview By Mark Karlin with Robert McChesney, Truthout, January 4, 2015

In this interview, Robert McChesney, author of “Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century,” discusses net neutrality advocacy, how the concentration of capital and media monopolies stifle democracy, and his hopes for a post-capitalist democracy in the United States.

Robert McChesney, a leader in challenging the corporate media’s role in degrading democracy, carries on this fight with Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century. In the book, he makes an urgent and compelling argument for ending communication monopolies and building a post-capitalist democracy that serves people over corporations. You can obtain the book now with a contribution to Truthout by clicking here.

Mark Karlin: In a Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week interview in 2013 about your book, Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy, you reflected profound pessimism about the capture of the internet by large corporations – and the evolution of net consumers into marketing “products.” Is the trend of the co-option of the web by a few large corporations accelerating?

Robert McChesney: Whether the process is accelerating is a difficult question to measure or to answer. That the process exists and that it is the dominant fact about the internet is not controversial. Barring radical policy intervention, the domination of the internet by a handful of gigantic monopolists will continue and remain the order of the day. After Digital Disconnect was published, I had a meeting in October 2013 with Sue Gardner, who was then the person in charge of Wikipedia. Sue told me that it would be impossible for Wikipedia or anything like it to get launched by then, because the system was locked down by the giants and privileged commercial values. I was left with the impression that Wikipedia got in just before the deadline, so to speak.

If economic power is concentrated in a few powerful hands you have the political economy for feudalism, or authoritarianism, not democracy.

What is striking about this corporate monopolization of the internet is that all the wealth and power has gone to a small number of absolutely enormous firms. As we enter 2015, 13 of the 33 most valuable corporations in the United States are internet firms, and nearly all of them enjoy monopolistic market power as economists have traditionally used the term. If you continue to scan down the list there are precious few internet firms to be found. There is not much of a middle class or even an upper-middle class of internet corporations to be found.

This poses a fundamental problem for democracy, though it is one that mainstream commentators and scholars appear reluctant to acknowledge: If economic power is concentrated in a few powerful hands you have the political economy for feudalism, or authoritarianism, not democracy. Concentrated economic power invariably overwhelms the political equality democracy requires, leading to routinized corruption and an end of the rule of law. That is where we are today in the United States.

You were a co-founder with John Nichols of Free Press, the leading citizens’ advocate for net neutrality. Do you have any expectation that the FCC [Federal Communications Commission], headed by a former lobbyist and shill for mass communication corporations, will actually preserve net neutrality – such as it is – by bestowing “common carrier” status on the internet?

Everything structurally points to a pessimistic answer, as your question implies. There are grounds for hope. First, understand that what net neutrality is trying to prevent is the privatization of the internet – its conversion to cable TV – by the handful of behemoths that have created a cartel for internet service provision (ISP), most notably Comcast, Verizon and AT&T. These firms are parasites who enjoy spectacular profitability due to their ability to build on government monopoly licenses and their ownership of politicians and regulators. But the balance of the corporate community has no particular reason to be enthusiastic about eliminating net neutrality.

When people tune out politics, they are not being hip or cool or ironic. They are being played.

It will simply mean that the ISPs will be able to shake them down for more money to have access to their networks. The ISP cartel has tried to buy off or at least neutralize key internet monopolists with varying degrees of success, but they cannot make an especially compelling argument. Corporations like Google are frustrated by the crappy, overpriced service the ISP cartels provide, and it is affecting their business models. So proponents of net neutrality have some important moneyed interests who are sympathetic to their cause. And in American politics today – where democracy in the textbook sense does not exist – that means everything. It is worth noting that in the scores of US cities with municipally owned and operated broadband networks, local businesses form an enthusiastic base of support. They love getting much better service – for them and their customers – at a lower cost.

Second, there is near unanimous public support for net neutrality among those who know what the issue is and what it is about. This is true across the political spectrum. Free Press has led the organizing coalition and the support is simply off the charts. Behind much of the so-called grassroots support for abolishing net neutrality among (the absurdly misnamed) “libertarian” groups on the right or civil rights groups of the left, one can find a direct or indirect payoff from the cartel. So a politician like Barack Obama used his unconditional support for net neutrality as a rallying cry for his presidential campaign in 2007-08. That has put him in an uncomfortable position in view of the cartel’s pressure on the FCC to accede to the cartel’s wishes. But Obama, to his credit, has recently restated his commitment to net neutrality and his support for seeing the internet regulated like a telecommunication industry would be by law. So there are grounds for hope.

Your latest book, Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century: Media, Politics, and the Struggle for Post-Capitalist Democracy, returns – as you almost always do in your writing – to the issue of how the concentration of capital and corporate behemoths stifle democracy. Do you have any expectation – given how the internet offered so much promise of being a tool to invigorate a robust democracy and then was co-opted – that the course of unbridled capitalism can be reversed?

How the tension between really existing capitalism and democracy plays out in the United States is impossible to predict, but it is the definitional issue of our times and will be until it is resolved. Every other issue of note – from militarism and the environment to the quality of our lives and the status of our liberties – runs through it. In the book, I address the pessimism that pervades our times because of the sense that the powers-that-be are all-powerful, and resistance is therefore futile. Although understandable, and a safe position to take, it is also absurdly ahistorical. Humans invariably think that tomorrow will be an extension of today. Change is impossible to anticipate in a precise sense. Then once it happens everyone acts like they saw it coming. What we can do is understand the problems in our system and be prepared to resolve them in a humane and equitable manner when they grow so severe as to create crisis points. We do not have the luxury of giving up, because pessimism is self-fulfilling. And, as I discuss in the book, those in power are obsessed with depoliticizing society because they know we have the numbers on our side and they cannot win a fair fight. When people tune out politics, they are not being hip or cool or ironic. They are being played.

How do two of your chapters, “The US Imperial Triangle and Military Spending” and “The Penal State in an Age of Crisis,” illustrate the degeneration of capitalism in the US?

US capitalism is fundamentally flawed, and has a strong tendency toward stagnation. Left to its own devises, without exogenous factors, the private economy cannot generate sufficient jobs and incomes for full employment. That means low growth rates, rising poverty and growing inequality. Due to popular pressure, government politics can arrest these tendencies, with public works programs, progressive taxation, support for unions and the like. Capitalists generally oppose these measures as an impingement on their prerogatives and their control over the economy. Even in Scandinavia, where working-class victories created a much-admired social democracy (unless you are a FOX News fan), capitalists lie in wait always keen to reverse the victories and turn back the clock. In the United States, military spending became the one form of government stimulus spending that faced no serious opposition from capitalists coming out of World War II, and instead it created an army of corporate supporters: Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex. Militarism is now so hard-wired into really existing capitalism in the United States that the call to reduce it to a level approaching sanity becomes a demand to rethink the entire structure of the economy.

Civilian spending remained constant because a significant portion of what had been social spending was converted to prison spending, which is included in the civilian (non-military) spending category.

Since the 1970s, the far right has come to dominate American politics and both political parties have become more preoccupied with serving large corporations and billionaire investors – and much less concerned with the needs of the general population. In doing research on the matter of whether Obama might launch a new “New Deal” upon his election in 2008, my friend John Bellamy Foster and I wrote an essay that is in the book arguing that the key determinant of a new New Deal will be if the amount of government spending for civilian (non-military) purposes increases as a percentage of GDP above the level it had been stuck at since the New Deal raised it in the late 1930s. We argued that it was highly unlikely because of the strong corporate political pressures that exist, and we have been proven right.

But we were also struck by the fact that civilian spending at all levels of government had not changed much as a percentage of GDP for decades, despite all the right-wing attacks on social spending that have dominated the past three or four decades. How could that be? The answer became clear: Civilian spending remained constant because a significant portion of what had been social spending was converted to prison spending, which is included in the civilian (non-military) spending category. Factoring this in, the actual provision of social services had declined as a percentage of GDP. And now, as with the military, there is a huge private sector that benefits from the prison-industrial complex and lobbies for its expansion at every turn, while no major corporate interests oppose the expansion of prisons.

What does this illustrate about the degeneration of US capitalism? As a system, it requires extensive government spending, but it tends toward military and police spending as the preferred option, and that creates all sorts of spectacular problems for anything remotely close to democracy. This point was well understood by the [constitutional] framers who wanted to eliminate as much as possible the scourge of militarism from coming into existence. As Madison and Jefferson repeatedly wrote, a nation that is permanently at war cannot remain free. Militarism generated secrecy, inequality, corruption and what we would call jingoism that in combination would overwhelm democratic institutions and practices.

Truer words have never been written.

What do you mean by the term “post-capitalist” democracy?

If one believes, as I do, that the evidence points squarely to the conclusion that really existing capitalism is fundamentally flawed and increasingly incompatible with democracy and possibly human existence, then establishing an alternative is of paramount importance. I should qualify this immediately. I use the term “really existing capitalism” to describe what actually exists in the United States (and, to varying degrees, worldwide): massive corporations, unfettered greed, corrupt governance, hollowed-out democracy, endless corporate propaganda, obscene inequality, crumbling physical and social infrastructure, crappy, dead-end jobs and a mindless, narcissistic culture. I do not refer to the PR pabulum spewed by politicians and pundits about free markets, entrepreneurs, upward mobility, meritocracy and the invisible hand. That has as much to do with capitalism in the United States today as paeans to workers democracy did to describing the Soviet experience.

The problem with capitalism is ultimately that it radically increases the productive capacity of society but it keeps control over the wealth in the hands of profit-driven individuals and firms.

Why not call the alternative socialism? Well, I am a socialist and I understand that [socialism] to be a system where the vast wealth of society is controlled democratically and put to social purposes; it is not controlled by a narrow sliver of society to do with as suits them. I think the general Marxist assessment of capitalism’s fatal flaw applies today more than ever: The problem with capitalism is ultimately that it radically increases the productive capacity of society but it keeps control over the wealth in the hands of profit-driven individuals and firms, who control how this potential will be developed to suit their own interests. So it is that the productivity of the average worker is many times greater today than is was 50 years ago. But that increase in productivity has not translated into higher living standards, a shorter working week and/or a huge buildout of the infrastructure. Instead we see living standards in decline, inequality mushrooming and infrastructure in varying states of collapse, while there is a record number of gazillionaires. These are clear signs of an economic system that no longer plays a productive role and needs to be replaced.

But the term socialism begs as many questions as it answers and from my experience tends to get people off-track. I think we have to begin tangible discussions and debates over how to take important aspects of our society where capitalist control is clearly dangerous and inimical to democratic practices and values and eliminate it there. For example, take the profit out of militarism and prisons. No one should have a vested interest in war. Take the profit out of financial speculation, that serves no public good. Take the profit out of energy, if we agree that we have a handful of mega-corporations flossing their teeth with politicians’ underpants while the earth gets flame-broiled like a marshmallow. Let’s create nonprofit, accountable alternatives. The point is to replace profit-driven institutions with democratically run alternatives in key sectors, all the while extending democratic freedoms and practices. I could go on and on.

I have no particular antagonism to small business, and a great deal of respect for the people who launch and run them. I started two concerns in my life, one a for-profit rock magazine in Seattle and another a nonprofit public interest group called Free Press. Both succeeded not by exploiting the labor of its workers as much as exploiting the labor of its owners and management. We worked our butts off. I see small business as an extension of labor as much as an extension of capital. In this sense, I am influenced by Lincoln.

So to me the debate should not concern whether some dude selling falafel sandwiches out of his van near a football game should have his enterprise nationalized. That is idiotic. The debate has to be whether we can afford to have so much of the commanding heights of our economy under the control of billionaires and monopolists who use their immense power to enrich themselves but impoverish the rest of us. Until we start having that debate we will not make much headway on the great problems we face.

Can you expand upon your statement in the book that “many liberals who wish to reform and humanize capitalism are uncomfortable with seemingly radical movements, and often work to distance themselves from them”? What are the implications of such a stance?

One of the ironies of American politics is that an element of the progressive community recoils from what I just said because they fear it will antagonize people in power and limit their effectiveness when, say, Democrats win office. The argument is that we can only argue for positions that are acceptable to the mainstream liberal community or else we will lose our ability to influence policy because we will get cast into the wilderness as certified weirdos. The evidence is now in: that approach does not work.

What was most striking about the Occupy movement was how it instantly changed the discussion – albeit briefly – on inequality. Even the Republicans mouthed pieties that this was a real problem that needs a policy solution. That shows what happens when people take principled positions and stick to them. It also shows what happens when people take to the streets for nonviolent protest. It is why the right to assemble and redress grievances is as important a part of the First Amendment as freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

The paradox is that when there are radicals in the streets raising hell on a principled position, it creates space for the “inside-the-system” crowd to actually get reforms accomplished. The 1960s and early 1970s is a great example of this. But the “inside-the-system” progressive crowd never quite gets that. To some extent it is because they gain their legitimacy by being border policemen, and denigrating those outside the corridors of power as irresponsible and not serious players.

How do you respond to those who argue that revolutionary economic change in the US is not possible because those who earn the minimum wage or are unemployed as a result of capitalist indifference often are ardently pro-capitalist and anti-socialist? This is documented particularly among whites who have only a high school education. What is the disconnect here in getting this demographic to join in systemic economic change that would benefit them?

Neil Postman tells the great story of two priests in a monastery who enjoy smoking every day during their morning prayers. They begin to wonder if this is sacrilegious, so they each wrote to the pope to get his benediction for their daily smoking fest. The first priest gets a letter back from the pope saying it is an insult to the faith to smoke during prayer time. The second priest gets a letter from the pope saying it is wonderful to smoke during prayer time. They looked at the two letters they had sent to the pope. The first priest asked the pope if it was OK to smoke during morning prayers and the pope was aghast in his response. The second priest asked if it was OK to go into a prayer while having a morning smoke. The pope was delighted to see the priest extending his spiritual commitment.

The problems we face are social problems – not individual ones – and require social solutions. That means political movements and activism.

The moral of the story: It is how one asks a question that shapes the type of answer you get. Because many of the best-known pollsters are stuck within a mainstream framework their questions accept and reinforce that framework. So one could probably ask a series of questions of white working-class people on fairness and justice that would make them look amenable to radical social change. These are not the sorts of questions that generally get asked.

It is striking that in recent years a few major pollsters have asked people whether they preferred capitalism or socialism. This would seem a loaded question because Americans know nothing about socialism except that it is a pejorative term to dismiss anyone whose ideas are considered out of bounds. Yet in recent years socialism has been almost as popular across the population as capitalism, and more popular among young Americans. That doesn’t say much about socialism, but it tells us a great deal about what the acceptance of really existing capitalism actually is. And that includes a lot for white working-class people.

This does not diminish the basis of your question, and the series of significant issues it raises, in particular, white supremacy and white racism and the role it plays. There are times that I am optimistic that we have made important headway on this issue and times that I am troubled by the lack of progress. It is a central issue in political organizing. In the book, I have a long chapter on the prison-industrial complex, and it is impossible to understand that phenomenon except through the lens of white racism.

You are a professor of communications at the University of Illinois. Are you seeing increased activism for economic change among the young people you teach and come in contact with?

Not really. There is clearly a willingness to take a harder look at capitalism and be critical of the obvious problems of the economic system today that was largely absent prior to 2008. Even my most conservative students want to get past the PR BS on free markets and understand why their future looks so grim. Students are more open-minded.

But the depoliticization of the past 40 years still weighs like a nightmare on their brains. Students are encouraged to see the world as it is and the solution is an individual solution, not a social one. Being “political” is a sign that someone is not cool and is a weirdo, and God forbid that is the last thing anyone wants to be accused of. This is an issue I write about at some length in the book, because those atop our society regard it as mission critical to keep the nation depoliticized. Their survival depends upon it.

But the problems we face are social problems – not individual ones – and require social solutions. That means political movements and activism. I am optimistic we are moving toward a more political moment as there really is no other credible option.

The book contains a chapter on the 2011 Wisconsin uprising against Scott Walker. What do you say to people who dismiss the historic, massive and lengthy protests in Madison as an anomaly – that the re-election of Scott Walker as governor of the state this year (2014) indicates that the revolt had no long-term impact?

It is too early to know what to make of the Wisconsin uprising, and to dismiss it categorically at this point is absurd. I was at the demonstrations almost every day for six weeks, and I was there as a member of the crowd and not as a “leader.” It was an extraordinary experience. What it taught me was that there is a wellspring of progressive and humane politics in people that is being repressed. The energy, the enthusiasm, the intelligence, the solidarity of the demonstrations was entirely unexpected and almost defies description. (Fortunately it does not, or I could not have written a chapter on it.)

The experience, like Occupy later in the year, raises all sorts of serious questions and issues for organizers going forward. But the idea that the re-election of Scott Walker proves it flopped seems wrong to me, though I can understand the idea. Walker’s victory in the 2012 recall election and then his 2014 re-election has much more to do with: 1) the idiocy of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, which ran incomprehensibly terrible campaigns, especially in 2012; 2) how low voter turnout is crucial to right-wing success – Scott Walker could not win a statewide election in a presidential year when the turnout is closer to 60 percent than 40 percent of adults; 3) money means everything and Scott Walker had unbelievable amounts of it, largely from out-of-state gazillionaires; 4) the absence of journalism means people were increasingly reliant upon asinine TV political ads; and 5) Scott Walker had enough money to flood the airwaves with his propaganda. And it was world-class propaganda.

The importance of media reform in achieving a robust democracy is something you frequently return to. Can you briefly discuss the top three media reform steps that you recommend at the end of the book?

I argue that some of the most brilliant left thinkers of the postwar era moved toward a position that democratizing the media system was central to creating a democratic socialism. I did this research with my buddy Duke Foster because much of it has been ignored or forgotten with the demise of the New Left and the long winter of neoliberalism in the 1970s.

I believe that is still the case, and I believe that communication is an area where there are immediate demands to be developed that can be foundational to a post-capitalist democracy in the United States. I also believe – in fact, I know from personal experience – that each of these issues has the potential for support outside of the political left, even among self-described conservatives. First, let’s eliminate the ISP cartel of Verizon, Comcast and AT&T. Those mega-corporations have divvied up the broadband market and as a result the US pays a fortune for crappy service for broadband, cable, satellite and cell phones. These firms are parasites pure and simple, and play no productive role. There is a magnificent already successful alternative with municipal broadband, and we should have that nationally. These firms – all based on government monopoly franchises and their control of politicians and regulators – have to go. Broadband should be ubiquitous and free.

Ironically, as I motioned before, as radical as this sounds, it is actually a measure that has great appeal to businesses that do not benefit directly from the existence of the cartel. Businesses would love to lower their own costs and also have much better speeds and service for their markets.

What we need is to recognize that journalism is a public good, something society desperately needs but that the market cannot and will not generate in sufficient quantity or quality.

Second, as I also mentioned above, the digital revolution has spawned a dozen or so super-monopolies that dominate not only communication, but capitalism itself. The digital revolution permeates every aspect of the economy. These dozen or so firms simply have too much power for democracy to successfully co-exist with it. It is not just economic power, but political power, that is the concern. This is not simply a left-wing concern. Indeed, it was Henry Simons, Milton Friedman’s mentor at the University of Chicago, who said monopolies were unacceptable, because they destroyed competitive capitalism as well as genuine democracy and the rule of law. The laissez faire champion Simons said if the giants could not be effectively broken into smaller pieces, they should be taken over by the government and run like the post office. I think that is a good way to understand what to do with these giants, especially now that we know the dreadful consequences of their lucrative and secretive marriage with the national security state.

Finally, the resources going toward journalism are in free fall collapse, as the commercial model is evaporating. I have written about this at length for years and will not repeat the analysis here. Nor will I discuss how the absence of journalism produces an existential crisis for any known theory of self-government, and with that the preservation of our freedoms. In a nutshell, advertising provided the lion’s share of support for news media for the past 125 years, and, with the internet, that support has disappeared for the most part. Hence we have maybe 40 percent of the working reporters and editors as we did a generation ago on a per capita basis. It is only going to get worse. (In the book, I have some new research on how Walter Lippmann assessed the last great crisis in journalism almost 100 years ago. It has some important lessons for us.)

What we need is to recognize that journalism is a public good, something society desperately needs but that the market cannot and will not generate in sufficient quantity or quality. We need extensive public support but without government control over who gets the money. That is the great public policy issue we face and a lot is riding on whether we rise to the occasion. The same problem faces every nation on the planet, though each country has somewhat different circumstances.

In the book, I develop an idea that I have written about a good deal in the past, the notion of the $200 voucher. Basically every person over 18 can allocate $200 of government money to any recognized nonprofit news medium of her choice. The core idea comes from Milton Friedman, who accepted that it was necessary to have government funding for education, but did not want to have government-run schools. Friedman’s voucher scheme proved to be a crappy idea for public education, but it is a brilliant idea for news media. You get up to a $40 billion annual subsidy with no government control over who gets the money. Anyone who accepts the vouchers cannot also accept advertising so there is no competition for what little remains of commercial news media. Anything produced as a result of the vouchers must be put online for free immediately and enter the public domain, so anyone can use the work. And people can change their allocation every year so there is tremendous competition to win support.

The idea is becoming increasingly popular. I think it is an idea whose time has come.

Mark Karlin

Mark Karlin is the editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout.  He served as editor and publisher of BuzzFlash for 10 years before joining Truthout in 2010.  BuzzFlash has won four Project Censored Awards. Karlin writes a commentary five days a week for BuzzFlash, as well as articles for Truthout. He also interviews authors and filmmakers whose works are featured in Truthout’s Progressive Picks of the Week.

http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/28294-robert-mcchesney-we-need-to-advocate-radical-solutions-to-systemic-problems

Articles, excerpts Jan 7 to 10, 2015

Worldview – contrast

The Brainwashing Of My Dad’ Exposes Fox, Hate Media & Rush Limbaugh (VIDEO)

Paul Krugman ridicules GOP for believing “facts have a liberal bias” by Elias Isquith, salon.com, Jan 9, 2015

Moral Politics

The Inner Life of Rebellion, On Being with Krista Tippett, 1/10/15  podcast – excerpt The history of rebellion is rife with excess and burnout. But new generations have a distinctive commitment to be reflective and activist at once, to be in service as much as in charge, and to learn from history while bringing very new realities into being. It’s a cross-generational conversation about the inner work of sustainable, resilient social change.

War and/or peace?

What Would Today’s American Insecurity Look Like to Someone From 1963? by Tom Engelhardt, Bill Moyers.com, January 9, 2015 (overview of militarism in US)

“A Clash of Barbarisms”: After Paris Attack, How US Policy in Middle East Helps Fuel Extremism By Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, Democracy Now!, January 9, 2015

Government

Robert Reich 1/10/15 Facebook – Look at the priorities of the new Republican congressional – the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Trans-Pacific Trade agreement, tax cuts for big corporations and the wealthy, rollbacks of Dodd-Frank regulations on Wall Street, cutbacks on Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, and decimating the Affordable Care Act – and connect the dots. Republicans want the public to think the central issue of our time is the size of government. Wrong. The central issue of our time is who government is for. Every one of their initiatives advances big corporations and Wall Street, and worsens or weakens everyone else. Elizabeth Warren is correct: The game is rigged. And the only way to unrig it is through a new progressive movement that includes not only the Democratic base but also any and all Independents and Republicans equally determined to take the economy and democracy back from the axis of Wall Street, K Street, and big corporations. Can we rely on the Democratic Party to lead the way, or will a new third party be necessary?

Science-Denying Troglodyte Ted Cruz to Chair Senate Science Subcommittee Posted by: Bob Cull in Election 2014, Environment, Science November 7, 2014

The right’s wrong idea of governance By E.J. Dionne Jr. Opinion writer, Washington Post, January 7, 2015 …the Republicans’ own measure of success will be out of line not only with President Obama’s priorities but also with what most middle-of-the-road Americans would take as a reasonable test of what it means for government to work…new House rules he [Boehner] and the Republican leadership have concocted. They’re designed to rig the legislative playing field in favor of right-leaning policy…

‘Hostage-Takers’: Republicans Go After Social Security on Very First Day By Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 07, 2015

For the Planet and Future Generations, New Congress May Be Most Dangerous Yet By Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Blog posted on Common Dreams, January 06, 2015

GOP Rule Change in Congress Signals New Dawn for ‘Voodoo Economics’ by Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 07, 2015

Democrats

How Can Democrats Take Back the States? By JOHN GUIDA, NYT, 1-8-15- Not since the Jazz Age have Democrats been in such a poor position in the states. Some worry that it might hurt the party nationally as well.

Progressives Seek Control Of The Democratic Party By Sahil Kapur, Talking Points memo, January 9, 2015

Politics

Robert Reich Facebook 1-8-15 Despite Republican’s predominance in Congress and state legislatures, a dwindling minority of Americans consider themselves Republican. According a new Gallup’s poll released today, 30% say they’re Democrats, 26% Republican, and 43% independent. As a practical matter, though, regardless of official party affiliation, the largest party in America is the party of non-voters. And, increasingly, elections depend on how many of its members temporarily desert this non-voting party and turn out to vote. Suppose, in considering their presidential candidates for 2016, the two official parties asked themselves what candidate would have most appeal to the party of non-voters. Would they choose Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush? If not, who?

Threats to democracy

How Soaring Inequality May Lead the World Down the Path of Fascism By Janet AllonAlterNet , January 2, 2015

Poverty/inequality

Growing Up on Easy Street Has Its Own Dangers By RON LIEBER, New York Times, JAN. 9, 2015

Articles, excerpts Jan 1 to 6, 2015

Worldview – contrast

Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative By Chris Mooney, Mother Jones,    Jul. 15, 2014  Ten years ago, it was wildly controversial to talk about psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Today, it’s becoming hard not to…A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology, and even traits like physiology and genetics….It is a “virtually inescapable conclusion” that the “cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different.”… political conservatives have a “negativity bias,” meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments… the conservative ideology, and especially one of its major facets—centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns—would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology…Granted, there are still many issues yet to be worked out in the science of ideology…All of this matters, of course, because we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble. Out of the rubble just might arise a better way of acting in politics that leads to less dysfunction and less gridlock…thanks to science.

Environment – climate change

For the Planet and Future Generations, New Congress May Be Most Dangerous Yet By Wenonah Hauter  Food & Water Watch Blog, January 06, 2015

House Passes Bill that Prohibits Expert Scientific Advice to the EPA by Beverley Mitchell, 11/20/14 

A Threat to Us All: Millions Buying into Apocalyptic Religion Pose a Direct Threat to Modern Society By Jeffrey Tayler,  Salon, January 4, 2015 http://www.alternet.org/belief/threat-us-all-millions-buying-apocalyptic-religion-pose-direct-threat-modern-society…Rationalistsare assertively making their case because religion, since the Reagan years, has been abandoning the realm of private conscience (where it has every right to be) and intruding itself into national life, with politicians and public figures flaunting their belief, advocating and (passing) legislation that restricts women’s reproductive rights, attempting to impose preposterous fairy tales (think intelligent design) on defenseless children in science classes, and even, in the case of Texas, recasting the Constitution in school textbooks as a document inspired by the Bible.  Abroad, militants pursuing Islamist agendas have been raining death and destruction on entire populations, with religious extremism the main cause of terrorism the world over.  Given the possibility that terrorists may acquire weapons of mass destruction and nuclear states with faith-based conflicts may let fly their missiles, religion may be said to endanger humanity as a wholeNo one who cares about our future can quietly abide the continuing propagation and influence of apocalyptic fables that large numbers of people take seriously and not raise a loud, persistent, even strident cry of alarm… three-fourths of Americans believe the Bible to be the word of God – numbers that, to the shame of the Republic, find reflection in our resolutely anti-science Congress…

War and/or Peace

Our National Security State: A Self-Perpetuating Machine for American Insecurity by Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, January 06, 2015

Generational justice

How Corporations Are Cheating Millions of School Children Out of Billions in Education Funds By Paul Buchheit, AlterNet, January 4, 2015 http://www.alternet.org/education/how-corporations-are-cheating-millions-school-children-out-billions-education-funds?akid=12650.125622.TY0Q8k&rd=1&src=newsletter1029733&t=21

Class wars

How the Wall Street weasels won: Elizabeth Warren, Paul Krugman and the 1 percent’s desperate battle to save themselves Barry Eichengreen, Salon.com,   Jan 4, 2015

Poverty/Inequality

How income inequality harms societies – TED talk by Richard Wilkinson July 2011 http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson

Corporations

The Finance Industry Is Gorging Itself on Your Future—The Trend Lines Will Blow You Away By Les Leopold, AlterNet, December 31, 2014 http://www.alternet.org/economy/finance-industry-gorging-itself-your-future-trend-lines-will-blow-you-away?akid=12650.125622.TY0Q8k&rd=1&src=newsletter1029733&t=3

Stopping the Biggest Corporate Power Grab in Years [Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)]by Arthur Stamoulis, commondreams.org, January 06, 2015 http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/01/06/stopping-biggest-corporate-power-grab-years

Corporate social responsibility

Finding Common Ground Between Progressives and Business Is Essential By Rob Kall, OpEdNews 1/6/2015 http://www.opednews.com/articles/2/Finding-Common-Ground-Betw-by-Rob-Kall-Business-Industry_Corporations-Health-Care_Energy_Money-150106-642.html

Education

How Corporations Are Cheating Millions of School Children Out of Billions in Education Funds By Paul Buchheit, AlterNet, January 4, 2015 http://www.alternet.org/education/how-corporations-are-cheating-millions-school-children-out-billions-education-funds?akid=12650.125622.TY0Q8k&rd=1&src=newsletter1029733&t=21

Right wing message machine

Endless War and the Victory of ‘Perception Management’ By Robert Parry, Consortium News, December 30, 2014 https://consortiumnews.com/2014/12/28/the-victory-of-perception-management/

Nonlinear Warfare – A New System of Political Control (2014) A short film by Adam Curtis - shows the how deliberate undermining of peoples perception of the world, by manipulating the media and civil society, creates confusion and contradiction, undermining any opposition to existing power structures. This strategy has allowed quantitative easing to go almost unnoticed and unchallenged, even though it is the biggest transfer of wealth to the rich in recent documented history.

Political and legislative dynamics 2015 – 2016

Time for the GOP to pitch in By Eugene Robinson Opinion writer, Washington Post, January 5, 2015

10 Dynamics That Will Shape the Next Two Years of American Politics by Joshua Holland, BillMoyers.com, December 30, 2014

New Senate majority leader’s main goal for GOP: Don’t be scary By Paul Kane, Washington Post, January 4, 2015

Government

New GOP Senate chairmen aim to undo Obama policies By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER and DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press, January 3, 2015 8:1  AM h

Right wing extremism

GOP’s Louie Gohmert, wannabe speaker, headlines the House’s latest freak show By Dana Milbank Opinion writer, Washington Post, January 5, 2015

Right wing religious extremism

A Threat to Us All: Millions Buying into Apocalyptic Religion Pose a Direct Threat to Modern Society By Jeffrey Tayler,  Salon, January 4, 2015 Rationalistsare assertively making their case because religion, since the Reagan years, has been abandoning the realm of private conscience (where it has every right to be) and intruding itself into national life, with politicians and public figures flaunting their belief, advocating and (passing) legislation that restricts women’s reproductive rights, attempting to impose preposterous fairy tales (think intelligent design) on defenseless children in science classes, and even, in the case of Texas, recasting the Constitution in school textbooks as a document inspired by the Bible.  Abroad, militants pursuing Islamist agendas have been raining death and destruction on entire populations, with religious extremism the main cause of terrorism the world over.  Given the possibility that terrorists may acquire weapons of mass destruction and nuclear states with faith-based conflicts may let fly their missiles, religion may be said to endanger humanity as a wholeNo one who cares about our future can quietly abide the continuing propagation and influence of apocalyptic fables that large numbers of people take seriously and not raise a loud, persistent, even strident cry of alarm… three-fourths of Americans believe the Bible to be the word of God – numbers that, to the shame of the Republic, find reflection in our resolutely anti-science Congress…

Progressive movement – issues, agenda

Three secrets to revitalizing liberal America – New year, same old problems by Sean McElwee, Salon.com, Jan 4, 2015  2014 was not a good year for the left. Republicans now have a stranglehold on the House, where they control the most seats they’ve had since 1948. That lead will likely last for decades. Democrats didn’t just lose the Senate, they have significantly diminished their chance of regaining it in 2016. Republicans control 31 governorships, as well as 68 of 98 legislative chambers. And of, course, the Democratic party has shown itself to be only nominally liberal, with the current frontrunner for 2016 raising money from Wall Street financiers. The left then has two problems: how to get Democrats winning and how to get Democrats to avoid becoming a party permanently in the callous hands of capital. Currently, much of the hope for a more liberal Democratic party rests on the shoulders of Elizabeth Warren, who is being drafted to run against Hillary Clinton. While Warren is formidable, it was only six years ago that the left laid its hopes for victory on a single individual and found itself sorely disappointed. The left must remember that leaders do not make movements; rather, movements make leaders. Instead of vacillating from one hero to another, the left must create a formidable power base from which to both defeat Republicans and shift Democrats to the left. This will require a three-pronged approach: mass mobilization of the non-voting population, a stable of progressive leaders and a reduction in the influence of money in politics.

New Year’s Resolution for America by Dennis Kucinich, Huffington Post, January 01, 2015 When anyone of us resolves toward self-improvement, it can impact the lives of those we love. How much more impact can we have, if in the new year we work to recreate the future of this country we love, by resolving to take bold steps in a new direction in a new year?…I have seen miracles occur, outcomes change, new directions taken when people courageously strive to challenge a seemingly unshakeable status quo, on matters both personal and public…Today, our nation’s government has been taken over by special interest groups and ideologues, who have rapidly distributed our nation’s wealth upwards, built a national security state to protect its hold on power and wealth, involved America in destructive, unnecessary wars abroad, ignored the escalating violence at home, and broken the laws of our nation with impunity, while punishing those who expose their unlawfulness…1. Ensure a full employment economy by reclaiming control of our money system. 2. Reclaim our right to privacy. 3. Make America a more peaceful place. 4. Transform America’s role in the world; focus on the needs of people here at home. 5. Establish a US Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. 6. Restore our relationship with nature and restore our planet.

Progressive movement – creative and higher level thinking

We Need to Advocate Radical Solutions to Systemic Problems by Robert McChesney – Interview By Mark Karlin, Truthout, January 4, 2015

Progressive movement – inspiration and motivation – trends

Robert Reich’s 2014 Year in Review by BillMoyers.com StaffThis video first appeared at MoveOn.org. January 2, 2015 – As we head into 2015, it’s important to remember how quickly progressive change that seemed radical — if not a crazy pipe dream — at one time, becomes inevitable when enough people make a ruckus!

Progressive vision

Fight for Our Progressive Vision By Bernie Sanders, Common Dreams, December 29, 2014

 

 

Are We Approaching the End of Human History?

by Noam Chomsky, In These Times, posted on BillMoyers.com, September 9, 2014

It is not pleasant to contemplate the thoughts that must be passing through the mind of the Owl of Minerva as the dusk falls and she undertakes the task of interpreting the era of human civilization, which may now be approaching its inglorious end.

“The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.”

The era opened almost 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, stretching from the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates, through Phoenicia on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean to the Nile Valley, and from there to Greece and beyond. What is happening in this region provides painful lessons on the depths to which the species can descend.

The land of the Tigris and Euphrates has been the scene of unspeakable horrors in recent years. The George W. Bush-Tony Blair aggression in 2003, which many Iraqis compared to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, was yet another lethal blow. It destroyed much of what survived the Bill Clinton-driven UN sanctions on Iraq, condemned as “genocidal” by the distinguished diplomats Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who administered them before resigning in protest. Halliday and von Sponeck’s devastating reports received the usual treatment accorded to unwanted facts.

One dreadful consequence of the US-UK invasion is depicted in a New York Times “visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria”: the radical change of Baghdad from mixed neighborhoods in 2003 to today’s sectarian enclaves trapped in bitter hatred. The conflicts ignited by the invasion have spread beyond and are now tearing the entire region to shreds.

Much of the Tigris-Euphrates area is in the hands of ISIS and its self-proclaimed Islamic State, a grim caricature of the extremist form of radical Islam that has its home in Saudi Arabia. Patrick Cockburn, a Middle East correspondent for The Independent and one of the best-informed analysts of ISIS, describes it as “a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn’t believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam.”

Cockburn also points out the contradiction in the Western reaction to the emergence of ISIS: efforts to stem its advance in Iraq along with others to undermine the group’s major opponent in Syria, the brutal Bashar Assad regime. Meanwhile a major barrier to the spread of the ISIS plague to Lebanon is Hezbollah, a hated enemy of the US and its Israeli ally. And to complicate the situation further, the US and Iran now share a justified concern about the rise of the Islamic State, as do others in this highly conflicted region.

Egypt has plunged into some of its darkest days under a military dictatorship that continues to receive US support. Egypt’s fate was not written in the stars. For centuries, alternative paths have been quite feasible, and not infrequently, a heavy imperial hand has barred the way.

After the renewed horrors of the past few weeks it should be unnecessary to comment on what emanates from Jerusalem, in remote history considered a moral center.

Eighty years ago, Martin Heidegger extolled Nazi Germany as providing the best hope for rescuing the glorious civilization of the Greeks from the barbarians of the East and West. Today, German bankers are crushing Greece under an economic regime designed to maintain their wealth and power.

The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.

Putting the Freeze on Global Warming

The report concludes that increasing greenhouse gas emissions risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” over the coming decades. The world is nearing the temperature when loss of the vast ice sheet over Greenland will be unstoppable. Along with melting Antarctic ice, that could raise sea levels to inundate major cities as well as coastal plains.

The era of civilization coincides closely with the geological epoch of the Holocene, beginning over 11,000 years ago. The previous Pleistocene epoch lasted 2.5 million years. Scientists now suggest that a new epoch began about 250 years ago, the Anthropocene, the period when human activity has had a dramatic impact on the physical world. The rate of change of geological epochs is hard to ignore.

One index of human impact is the extinction of species, now estimated to be at about the same rate as it was 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the Earth. That is the presumed cause for the ending of the age of the dinosaurs, which opened the way for small mammals to proliferate, and ultimately modern humans. Today, it is humans who are the asteroid, condemning much of life to extinction.

The IPCC report reaffirms that the “vast majority” of known fuel reserves must be left in the ground to avert intolerable risks to future generations. Meanwhile the major energy corporations make no secret of their goal of exploiting these reserves and discovering new ones.

A day before it ran a summary of the IPCC conclusions, The New York Times reported that huge Midwestern grain stocks are rotting so that the products of the North Dakota oil boom can be shipped by rail to Asia and Europe.

One of the most feared consequences of anthropogenic global warming is the thawing of permafrost regions. A study in Science magazine warns that “even slightly warmer temperatures [less than anticipated in coming years] could start melting permafrost, which in turn threatens to trigger the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gases trapped in ice,” with possible “fatal consequences” for the global climate.

Arundhati Roy suggests that the “most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times” is the Siachen Glacier, where Indian and Pakistani soldiers have killed each other on the highest battlefield in the world. The glacier is now melting and revealing “thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice axes, old boots, tents and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human beings generate” in meaningless conflict. And as the glaciers melt, India and Pakistan face indescribable disaster.

Sad species. Poor Owl.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.

 

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among his recent books are Hegemony or Survival, Failed States, Power Systems, Occupy, and Hopes and Prospects. His latest book, Masters of Mankind, will be published soon by Haymarket Books, which is also reissuing twelve of his classic books in new editions over the coming year. His website is www.chomsky.info.

Organizer in Chief?

by Peter Dreier, first posted on The Huffington Post, posted on BillMoyers.com, 12/13/14

Occasionally, President Barack Obama reminds us that he was once a community organizer.

In his interview Monday night with BET News, Obama said that he had invited some people who have been organizing protests against police misconduct to meet with him at the White House last week.

“Because the old adage, power concedes nothing without a fight — I think that’s true,” Obama said.

Obama was closely paraphrasing a statement by the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass that is well-known among community organizers and activists: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

This is not a phrase that most politicians would be familiar with. Obama probably first heard Douglass’ words during his three years as a community organizer in Chicago during the 1980s. Douglass’ famous one-liner was actually part of a speech he gave on August 3, 1857 in Canandaigua, New York. Civil rights and community organizers rediscovered Douglass’ words in the 1960s and they’ve become a key part of the ideas that young activists imbibe, especially these two paragraphs:

Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

Obama echoed Douglass’ sentiments in several parts of his BET interview. He said that he supported the protests over police killings of unarmed black males so long as they are peaceful.

A country’s conscience sometimes has to be triggered by some inconvenience, because I think a lot of people who saw the Eric Garner video are troubled, even if they haven’t had that same experience themselves. Even if they’re not African-American or Latino,” said Obama.

He noted that the news media and the public, sometimes lose interest in an issue as new topics grab their attention, “so the value of peaceful protests — activism, organizing — is it reminds the society this is not yet done.”

In 1985, at age 23, Obama was hired by the Developing Communities Project, a coalition of churches on Chicago’s South Side, to help empower residents to win improved playgrounds, after-school programs, job training, housing and other concerns affecting a neighborhood hurt by large-scale layoffs from the nearby steel mills and neglect by banks, retail stores and the local government. He knocked on doors and talked to people in their kitchens, living rooms and churches about the problems they faced and why they needed to get involved to change things.

As an organizer, Obama learned the skills of motivating and mobilizing people who had little faith in their ability to make politicians, corporations and other powerful institutions accountable. Obama taught low-income people how to analyze power relations, gain confidence in their own leadership abilities and work together.

For example, he organized tenants in the troubled Altgelt Gardens public housing project to push the city to remove dangerous asbestos in their apartments, a campaign that he acknowledged resulted in only a partial victory. After Obama helped organize a large mass meeting of angry tenants, the city government started to test and seal asbestos in some apartments, but ran out of money to complete the task.

Although he didn’t make community organizing a lifetime career — he left Chicago to attend Harvard Law School — Obama said that his organizing experience had shaped his approach to politics. After law school, Obama returned to Chicago to practice and teach law. But in the mid-1990s, he also began contemplating running for office. In 1995, he told a Chicago newspaper, “What if a politician were to see his job as that of an organizer — as part teacher and part advocate, one who does not sell voters short but who educates them about the real choices before them?”

During his 2008 campaign for president, Obama frequently referred to the three years he spent as a community organizer as “the best education I ever had.” He often referred to the valuable lessons he learned working “in the streets” of Chicago.

“I’ve won some good fights and I’ve also lost some fights, because good intentions are not enough, when not fortified with political will and political power,” echoing Frederick Douglass’ sentiments.

In 2008, Obama enlisted Marshall Ganz, a Harvard professor who is one of the country’s leading organizing theorists and practitioners, to help train organizers and volunteers as a key component of his presidential campaign. Ganz was instrumental in shaping the volunteer training experience.

Many Obama campaign volunteers went through several days of intense training sessions called “Camp Obama.” The sessions were led by Ganz and other experienced organizers, including Mike Kruglik, one of Obama’s organizing mentors in Chicago. Potential field organizers were given an overview of the history of grassroots organizing techniques and the key lessons of campaigns that have succeeded and failed.

During that contest, the Obama campaign drew on community organizing techniques to build an effective grassroots organization that increased registration and turnout among voters, particularly African-Americans and 18 to 29 year olds. Both groups not only voted overwhelmingly for Obama but also came to the polls in relatively high numbers.

Throughout that 2008 campaign, Obama consistently praised the young organizers working on his staff and the role of organizers in American history.

“Nothing in this country worthwhile has ever happened except when somebody somewhere was willing to hope,” Obama said during that first campaign for the White House. “That is how workers won the right to organize against violence and intimidation. That’s how women won the right to vote. That’s how young people traveled south to march and to sit in and to be beaten, and some went to jail and some died for freedom’s cause.” Change comes about, Obama said, by “imagining, and then fighting for, and then working for, what did not seem possible before.”

In town forums and living-room meetings, Obama told audiences that “real change” only comes about from the “bottom up,” but that as president, he can give voice to those organizing in their workplaces, communities and congregations around a positive vision for change. “That’s leadership,” he says.

Many of the organizers who worked on Obama’s first campaign wound up working for Organizing for America (now called Organizing for Action), a White House-led organization that was intended to keep the campaign volunteers involved in issue battles in-between election cycles. OFA has not lived up to its early promise, but many people trained in organizing skills in the first and second Obama campaigns went on to play key roles in other Democratic Party contests for Congress, governor races and various issue campaign.

As soon as Obama won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, and even more since entering the White House, he has been subjected to constant attacks by right-wing talk show hosts and bloggers for his background as a community organizer. They’ve sought to demonize Obama as a “radical” and a “socialist” by linking him to Saul Alinsky, one of the founders of modern community organizing who died at 63 in 1972. Obama never met Alinsky but he was no doubt familiar with his ideas, summarized in two books – Reveille for Radicals (1946) and Rules for Radicals (1971).

Tens of thousands of organizers and activists have been directly or indirectly influenced by Alinsky’s ideas about organizing. Most of them — like the young Barack Obama — have been liberals and progressives, following Alinsky’s instincts to challenge the rich and powerful. The left, however, has no monopoly on using Alinsky’s techniques. After Obama took office in 2009, even as the tea party and conservatives like Glenn Beck attacked Obama for being a radical, they began recommending Alinsky’s books as training tools for building a right-wing movement. Freedom Works, a corporate-funded conservative group started by former Republican congressman Dick Armey, used Rules for Radicals as a primer for its training of tea party activists. One tea party leader explained, “Alinsky’s book is important because there really is no equivalent book for conservatives. There’s no ‘Rules for Counter-Radicals.’”

There are tens of thousands of Americans today who earn a living as organizers for unions, environmental groups, LGBT and women’s rights groups, community organizations, school reform groups and others causes, and millions of people who participate in the meetings, lobbying campaigns, get-out-the-vote efforts and occasional protests that these groups sponsor.

The mainstream media routinely ignores community organizing except when groups engage in dramatic protest, such as the current turmoil in Ferguson and elsewhere. Not a single daily newspaper has a reporter assigned full-time to cover community organizing. Environmental reporters mainly focus on scientific debates or politicians’ maneuverings over legislation, not the grassroots activism that helps turn pollution problems into public issues. Every newspaper has a business section that typically regurgitates the activities of corporate America, but the New York Times is the only major daily newspaper with a full-time reporter covering the labor movement, but last week that reporter, Steve Greenhouse, announced he would soon leave the paper and it isn’t clear whether the Times will replace him on the labor beat.

The editors of most major newspapers and TV networks can probably tell you the name of the CEO of at least one major Wall Street bank or the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but few likely could identify the leaders of the AFL-CIO, SEIU, the Center for Community Change, National Peoples Action, PICO, U.S. Action, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, or the NAACP and few reporters for local papers cover the day-to-day activities of the thousands of groups that mobilize people at work, in their neighborhoods and through their faith-based congregations. Occasionally, a mainstream media outlet will highlight the impressive work of a local grassroots organizing group — such as Greenhouse’s recent profile of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and stories by the Washington Post’s Dina ElBoghdady and the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Light about the growing success of a network of local community groups to pressure banks and Fannie Mae to halt foreclosures and instead renegotiate loans with “underwater” homeowners. But organizers know that if they want to get their campaigns and issues in the news, they usually have disrupt business-as-usual, because otherwise they are invisible to the vast majority of reporters and columnists.

Activists in the environmental, immigrant rights, community organizer and labor movements had hoped that Obama would use the growing network of grassroots organizers to his advantage. They figured that he would understand that protest in the streets, workplaces and neighborhoods would make it easier for the president to achieve his liberal policy agenda. They wanted Obama to follow the example of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who recognized that his ability to push New Deal legislation through Congress depended on the pressure generated by protesters — workers, World War I veterans, the jobless, the homeless and farmers — even though he didn’t always welcome it. They thought that Obama would learn the lessons that Lyndon Johnson learned in the 1960s, when the willingness of civil rights activists to put their bodies on the line against fists and fire hoses shifted public opinion and transformed LBJ from a reluctant advocate to a powerful ally, joining forces with Rev. Martin Luther King and others to get Congress to pass his Great Society plans, such as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

But Obama seemed to abandon his affinity for organizing soon after he entered the White House. He tried to be a consensus-builder, eschewing conflict, even with those in Congress and in corporate boardrooms who pledged not only to defeat his policy agenda but also to undermine his legitimacy as president.

The battle over health care reform in 2009 and 2010 reflected Obama’s ambivalence toward disruptive activism. At first, White House staffers discouraged Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a coalition of labor, consumer and community groups, from mobilizing protests, worried that it would alienate moderate Democrats who had close ties to the drug and insurance industries. But when it appeared that Obama’s signature legislative initiative was going down to embarrassing defeat — due to the rise of the tea party movement and the insurance industry’s unwillingness to broker a deal — Obama undertook a cross-country speaking tour to energize voters to pressure Congress members to vote for reform.

“Let’s seize reform. It’s within our grasp,” Obama implored his audience at Arcadia University outside Philadelphia. He denounced the insurance companies, which “continue to ration care on the basis of who’s sick and who’s healthy.” Forgoing the bipartisan rhetoric that for months had frustrated activists, Obama taunted Republican critics who have stymied reform: “You had 10 years. What happened? What were you doing?”

“I’m kind of fired up,” Obama continued, repeating a phrase he used in his campaign. Then he again appealed for help. “So I need you to knock on doors. Talk to your neighbors. Pick up the phone,” he said.

While Obama was firing up audiences, HCAN — with the White House’s quiet support — organized protests at the offices of leading insurance companies, and even at the homes of top industry executives. The group mounted more than 200 increasingly feisty protest events in 46 states.

It represented an escalation in HCAN’s efforts to spotlight the industry’s outrageous profits, abuse of consumers and outsized political influence. HCAN publicly warned Democrats not to get duped by the industry’s pledges of cooperation, echoing the old union song, “which side are you on? The industry or consumers?” The protests and media attention emboldened the Obama House to treat the industry as a target rather than an ally, reflected in his increasingly aggressive speeches critical of the insurance giants. Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March 2010, although he failed to give HCAN the credit it deserved for salvaging health care reform.

Today’s organizers have mostly been disappointed that Obama has been reluctant to play this “inside/outside” game. Instead, he has often been the target of protests by progressive movements, such as the crusade to stop the Keystone Pipeline and the battle to pass immigrant reform. On both issues, however, these movements have influenced and shifted Obama’s stance. He has indicated his willingness to stop the oil pipeline and he recently issues an executive order protecting at least 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Although he’s been unable to push Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, he recently took the labor movement’s advice to use his executive authority to increase wages for employees of private companies that have federal government contracts.

Every so often, however, Obama seems to remember his activist background and uses it to encourage a new generation to organize for change.

“I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the United States of America a global leader in the fight against climate change,” Obama told students at Georgetown University in June of last year, during a speech announcing his proposal to cut pollution from power plants, expand renewable energy development on public lands and support climate-resilient investments. Noting that big corporations will resist calls to reduce their unhealthy practices, Obama urged the students to “Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.”

The word “divest” was like a dog whistle to campus activists who’ve been pushing their colleges and universities to rid their endowments of stock in companies that are part of the fossil fuel industry. It looked like the former community organizer was embracing the movement to dump stock holdings in order to compel corporations to be more socially responsible?

“‘Invest, divest’ is the most crypto-radical line the president has ever uttered,” tweeted Chris Hayes, host of a news show on MSNBC.

“President Obama’s shout-out to the fossil fuel divestment movement is a huge endorsement for the students on over 300 campuses across the country who are running this campaign,” said Jamie Henn, communications director for 350.org, a key advocacy group for campus divestment. “If the US president supports divestment, surely university presidents should do the same. My Twitter feed absolutely lit up with students tweeting the news, people are pumped.”

Two days later, while visiting Senegal, Obama recalled his first foray into activism.

“My first act of political activism was when I was at Occidental College. As a 19-year-old, I got involved in the anti-apartheid movement back in 1979, 1980, because I was inspired by what was taking place in South Africa.”

Now, another protest movement against racist injustice — triggered by the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the failure of the criminal justice to indict their killers — has propelled Obama to recall his community organizing roots.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.

 

Peter Dreier teaches politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His latest book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).

America’s Obscenely Rich Know Full Well That They Are Destroying America

By Jim Sleeper, AlterNet, December 9, 2014

Excerpt

…more than a few of these writers resigned and these students marched because they’re indignant as citizens. The eerie dislocations of journalism and criminal justice are only the most recent developments since the passage of the USA Patriot Act, the perpetration of the Iraq War, the capitalist predation and regulatory defaults that have thrown millions of Americans out of their homes and jobs, the revelations about Orwellian state and corporate surveillance that have coalesced into a crisis of legitimacy for the American constitutional system and capitalist republic. Hannah Arendt described the importance of “speech acts” in politics, warning against letting words and deeds get so far apart that the words become empty and the deeds become brutal. Consider first today’s journalistic vortex of increasingly empty words…transformation of American news and opinion outlets into what his CEO Guy Vidra calls “vertically integrated digital media companies.” These ventures break down voices of the American republic into market-driven metrics and repurpose them …to maximize profit, not public deliberation…The answer isn’t that they misread what journalism, politics and capitalism in America are becoming. They read it only too well. The answer is that, like so many other young, market-molded Americans, they don’t understand how the perversion of public life by tsunamis of marketing, financing and technological innovation has decontextualized and overwhelmed thoughtful writing, reading and the habits of mind and heart that sustain republican deliberation and institutions. It is impossible to exaggerate the physical as well as moral danger we are in as a result. We’ve been sleepwalking or dancing up the garden path into it. The American republic – and therefore our expectation that we can express controversial political opinions without going to prison – depends on those habits.…their own lives are spun so finely around commodification that they’ve become its creatures. They may crave a token or two of civic credibility…they lack the civic grounding, the nerve ends, the viscera and the body scars that enable most people to distinguish surface gestures from substantive struggles, and bought speech from real political speech…Although we like to think of ourselves as free men and women, many people’s pressing needs and fears prompted a foot-shuffling deference to power…Leadership to interpret and address the crisis of legitimacy that’s upon us will have to come from people who’ve shared their neighbors’ experiences of expediency and dependency and have found the strength and talent to see past the usual snares and delusions. But in a republic, some citizens have to uphold codes of honor and civic loyalty that are strong enough to keep power responsive to social purposes that can’t be met by markets and can’t be bought off or finessed by them. If capitalism becomes predatory and insinuating, citizens’ codes and trust of one another become empty, the stuff of slick videos and click-bait that lead to slavery. And the predators lose their ability to tell the difference: “Few tricks of the unsophisticated intellect are more curious than the naïve psychology of the business man, who ascribes his achievements to his own unaided efforts, in bland unconsciousness of a social order without whose continuous support and vigilant protection he would be as a lamb bleating in the desert.” That was written by the British economic historian R.H. Tawney in May 1926, in the New Republic — whose present owner is bewildered and bleating. But journalism isn’t justice. It would take a lot more disciplined defiance to make prosecutors and police officers bleat, too. From Nathan Hale and Thomas Paine to Jonathan Schell and Edward Snowden, some Americans have always emerged to announce the need and others to lead in breaking ties that had to be broken and framing new understandings and courses of action that had to be tried.

Full text

The tech oligarchs like Chris Hughes understand the direction this country is going in.

Last Friday, as New Republic writers and contributing editors wrenched themselves out of the whirling, digital vortex into which their employer and Facebook fantasist Chris Hughes is plunging the magazine, I witnessed another wrenching departure, at one of the selective university campuses where most New Republic staffers begin their public lives.

Driving through the Yale campus, I got stuck in traffic as hundreds of law students, undergraduates and faculty, holding hands in a disciplined single file, wended their way from the Yale Law School’s imposing gothic towers to the imposing, marble U.S. Courthouse on the New Haven Green several blocks away.

Indignant at the complicity of prosecutors, grand juries and militarized police departments in shielding uniformed murderers of unarmed black men, the marchers were anything but the conformist “zombies,” preening careerists and “entitled little shits” who fill the pages of former New Republic contributing editor William Deresiewicz’s anti-Ivy jeremiad, “Excellent Sheep.” They were citizens, whose existence he’d ignored, as had the New Republic when it ran an excerpt of his book under the headline,“Don’t Send Your Kids to the Ivy League! The Nation’s Top Colleges Are Turning Our Kids Into Zombies.”

It’s not easy for magazine writers and editors to walk off their jobs these days. And it’s risky for law students, preoccupied with obtaining judicial clerkships and law firms’ signing bonuses that might erase their debts, to interrupt their classes and traffic to denounce prosecutors, grand juries and officers of the law.

Yet more than a few of these writers resigned and these students marched because they’re indignant as citizens. The eerie dislocations of journalism and criminal justice are only the most recent developments since the passage of the USA Patriot Act, the perpetration of the Iraq War, the capitalist predation and regulatory defaults that have thrown millions of Americans out of their homes and jobs, the revelations about Orwellian state and corporate surveillance that have coalesced into a crisis of legitimacy for the American constitutional system and capitalist republic.

Hannah Arendt described the importance of “speech acts” in politics, warning against letting words and deeds get so far apart that the words become empty and the deeds become brutal. Consider first today’s journalistic vortex of increasingly empty words.

Deresiewicz tried to sound an alarm in an essay on the corruption of elite liberal education that went viral and prompted him to write “Excellent Sheep.” But his warnings came on more like fireworks than depth charges because they, too, were part of the tsunami of casino-like financing and consumer-groping that drives the New Republic and his publishers at Free Press. The latter crafted the book and its roll-out ”for coronation by the gilded cage’s resident pundits and conscience keepers, who’ll use it to guide the kept through another empty ritual of self-flagellation on their way back to college this fall,” as I put it in a review for Bookforum.

Hughes’ New Republic then celebrated precisely the empty ritual I’d sketched by packaging Deresiewicz’s chapter under that headline, “Don’t Send Your Kids to the Ivy League!” “Excuse me,” I wrote here in response, “but aren’t most editors, staffers, and writers at that faux-contrarian magazine themselves Ivy Leaguers…? Have they all met and pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to dethrone their alma maters? … Or are they playing on the insecurities of 18-year-olds and their parents with yet another of the click-bait headlines and graphics they produce each day to redecorate the cage of their own house-broken hopes?”

Not that the pre-Hughes New Republic was much better. Its political incoherence has been characterized smartly by Corey Robin. Bracing though it could be in debunking politically correct indulgences (not least via my own critiques of black racial demagoguery at the time), its treatment of left-liberals was marinated in resentment, whether in Martin Peretz’s and Paul Berman’s attacks on critics of Israel, Michael Kelly’s loathing of Bill Clinton and the left-leaning “sandalistas” of Vermont, and Peter Beinart’s lambasting of opponents of the Iraq War with a fervor worthy of neoconservative field marshal Bill Kristol. (Beinart reversed course several years ago, after leaving the New Republic.)

And nothing compares with the preening, Cold War-ish orotundities of the magazine’s literary editor, Leon Wieseltier, a brilliant editor who should write only three times a year under his own name, and then with an editor at his elbow, because he’s a cankered horror show of unction and alliterative pomposity with the ethics of a faculty-lounge lizard who holds Washington journalists of upper-middling intelligence in his thrall. By comparison, his editorial counterpart at the magazine, Franklin Foer, author of “How Soccer Explains the World” and would-be scourge of Amazon, is at least anodyne.

The magazine has always struggled to be a voice, or at least a forum, for a “liberalism” that has mostly failed to balance its need for citizens to uphold public virtues and beliefs against its knee-jerk obeisance to every whim and riptide of a go-go capitalism that dissolves civic virtues and republican sovereignty itself. What the New Republic lacks is a civic republicanism rooted in something deeper than politics. Under Peretz, it tried Jewish nationalism. Under Hughes, it has nothing, and his writers, lost as they are, can’t help but feel it.

Other liberal magazines also face this problem as they try to present American life to the well-educated reader who seeks “the most comfortable and least compromising attitude he can assume toward capitalist society without being forced into actual conflict,” as the critic Robert Warshow once put it in an essay about the New Yorker.

Hughes’ new New Republic represents the even scarier transformation of American news and opinion outlets into what his CEO Guy Vidra calls “vertically integrated digital media companies.” These ventures break down voices of the American republic into market-driven metrics and repurpose them – as I suspect even Deresiewicz’s book publishers induced him to do somewhat in writing “Excellent Sheep” – to maximize profit, not public deliberation. (I experienced such pressure from Viking/Penguin Books when I was writing “Liberal Racism.” More blood! More angry words! I gave in only a little.)

It’s also worth noting that Hughes’ husband, Sean Eldridge, 28, tried to eviscerate electoral politics pretty much as Hughes was eviscerating the New Republic when the couple bought two estates in two New York congressional districts while Eldridge decided which one to run in. He then funded economic development initiatives in his chosen district, made slick videos proclaiming his love for the Hudson Valley, and launched politically correct but highly negative ads against the conservative but likable and homegrown Republican incumbent Chris Gibson, who won 65 to 35 percent. That public repudiation of Eldridge’s opportunism was as humiliating as the mass resignations at the New Republic have been for Hughes.

How could these guys and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, creator of the vertically integrated, digital and disastrous First Look Media, have been so blind?

The answer isn’t that they misread what journalism, politics and capitalism in America are becoming. They read it only too well. The answer is that, like so many other young, market-molded Americans, they don’t understand how the perversion of public life by tsunamis of marketing, financing and technological innovation has decontextualized and overwhelmed thoughtful writing, reading and the habits of mind and heart that sustain republican deliberation and institutions.

It is impossible to exaggerate the physical as well as moral danger we are in as a result. We’ve been sleepwalking or dancing up the garden path into it. The American republic – and therefore our expectation that we can express controversial political opinions without going to prison – depends on those habits.

So let’s try to open these men’s eyes to the loss of opportunities and the sickening demoralization they can’t see because their own lives are spun so finely around commodification that they’ve become its creatures. They may crave a token or two of civic credibility — a title like “Publisher of the New Republic” or “Member of Congress.” But they lack the civic grounding, the nerve ends, the viscera and the body scars that enable most people to distinguish surface gestures from substantive struggles, and bought speech from real political speech.

These men’s consuming passions for veneers and the money to sustain them isolates and insulates them from Americans who — like the departed New Republic writers, the voters who rejected Eldridge, and many students and faculty at Yale – have bestirred themselves to challenge riptides that Hughes, Eldridge, Vidra and Omidyar are surfing and even accelerating. Chris Lehmann’s account of Omidyar in In These Times offers a delicious exposition of these surfers. They aren’t as overpowering and irresistible as they seem at first.

An Eldridge campaign video that shows him consulting with citizen-activists in the district he wanted to represent becomes more subtly annoying when one or two of these courted citizens offer testimonials to his hands-on engagement and reliability. Now that he’s unlikely ever again to run for office there, time will tell whether his professed love of the Hudson Valley keeps him funding and working on these economic and other development projects.

Rich misadventurers rush in to fill widening gaps between their wealth and others’ declining fortunes. I saw it in the 1970s while running a newspaper in a beleaguered Brooklyn congressional district represented by multimillionaire Fred Richmond, whose largess kept him in office until his crimes forced his departure.

Although we like to think of ourselves as free men and women, many people’s pressing needs and fears prompted a foot-shuffling deference to power in that district more abject than I’d ever expected.

Richmond, who’d made $40 million (a lot of money in the late 1970s) in the steel industry and then on Wall Street, was old-fashioned enough to crave the legitimacy that might come with prestigious public service. Glimpses I’ve had of Eldridge and Hughes suggest something similarly, almost endearingly old-fashioned in them.

But insinuating oneself into a proprietary posture toward others’ long-term efforts isn’t leadership. Nor is Vidra’s and Omidyar’s arrogance and impatience with underlings. It reminds me of the late Brazilian educator Paolo Freire’s observation, in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” that

“Any attempt to ‘soften’ the power of the oppressor always manifests itself in the form of false generosity. In order to express their ‘generosity,’ the oppressors must perpetuate injustice as well. That is why the dispensers of false generosity become desperate at the slightest threat to its source.”

It’s at this point that the more proximate enemy of the needy and those of us who care about the republic becomes not only a Hughes, an Eldridge or an Omidyar but the criminal-justice system and, with it, tragically, the white working-class men I wrote about here a couple of days ago and won’t address again now.

Leadership to interpret and address the crisis of legitimacy that’s upon us will have to come from people who’ve shared their neighbors’ experiences of expediency and dependency and have found the strength and talent to see past the usual snares and delusions.

Interlopers like Hughes and Omidyar, who try to buy leadership in such circumstances, find themselves nourishing only love-hate, passive-aggressive relationships. As a certain social critic once explained, “Money appears as a disruptive power for the individual and social bonds. It changes vice into virtue, stupidity into intelligence. He who can purchase others’ bravery is brave, though a coward … But if you are not able, by the manifestation of yourself as a loving person, to make yourself a beloved person, your love is impotent, and a misfortune.”

I’m far from claiming there’s no social benefit in the creation of Facebook, in which Hughes was involved, and of eBay, which Omidyar founded. Separating the creators’ massive accumulations from conventional social constraints is part of capitalism’s triumph, a source of its dynamism and innovation.

But in a republic, some citizens have to uphold codes of honor and civic loyalty that are strong enough to keep power responsive to social purposes that can’t be met by markets and can’t be bought off or finessed by them. If capitalism becomes predatory and insinuating, citizens’ codes and trust of one another become empty, the stuff of slick videos and click-bait that lead to slavery.

And the predators lose their ability to tell the difference: “Few tricks of the unsophisticated intellect are more curious than the naïve psychology of the business man, who ascribes his achievements to his own unaided efforts, in bland unconsciousness of a social order without whose continuous support and vigilant protection he would be as a lamb bleating in the desert.”

That was written by the British economic historian R.H. Tawney in May 1926, in the New Republic — whose present owner is bewildered and bleating. But journalism isn’t justice. It would take a lot more disciplined defiance to make prosecutors and police officers bleat, too. From Nathan Hale and Thomas Paine to Jonathan Schell and Edward Snowden, some Americans have always emerged to announce the need and others to lead in breaking ties that had to be broken and framing new understandings and courses of action that had to be tried.

Jim Sleeper is the author of Liberal Racism (1997) and The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York (1990).

http://www.alternet.org/media/americas-obscenely-rich-know-full-well-they-are-destroying-america?akid=12572.125622.5LNNv0&rd=1&src=newsletter1028595&t=11&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Articles and excerpts Nov/Dec 2014

Organizer in Chief? by Peter Dreier, first posted on The Huffington Post, posted on BillMoyers.com, 12/13/14  re: Barack Obama after 2016

Coalition Launches to Lead Global Fight For Open Internet and Digital Democracy By Nadia Prupis, staff writer, Common Dreams, November 26, 2014 – ‘Net neutrality is not an American issue, or a European issue, or an African issue. It is increasingly a global human rights issue.’ – As a movement crystallizes around the future of the Internet, more than 35 human rights and technology organizations from 19 countries have come together as a new coalition to define and protect the idea of ‘net neutrality’ as they lead what they say is a global battle to protect the Open Internet and online freedom. The numerous and diverse groups—coming together as the ‘This Is Net Neutrality’ coalition—released a joint statement (made available in eleven languages) expressing their shared purpose…The open Internet has fostered unprecedented creativity, innovation and access to knowledge and to other kinds of social, economic, cultural, and political opportunities across the globe.

Pope Francis And Other Religious Leaders Sign Declaration Against Modern Slavery By Guilia Belardelli, L’Huffington Post,  12/02/2014,  Empathy, love, respect, equality: these are the common denominators which caused the leaders of the world’s major religions to sign a declaration committed to the elimination of slavery and human trafficking by the year 2020 today at the Vatican..For the first time in history, major Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Christian authorities, along with leaders of the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim religions, met to sign a shared commitment against modern slavery, which is considered a crime against humanity. “We consider any action which does not treat others as equals to be an abhorrent crime,” Pope Francis said. “God is a love that is manifested in every human being; everyone is equal and ought to be afforded the same liberty and dignity.”

Persons, People, and Public Policy by Ron Cebik, Psychotherapist and Teacher, HuffingtonPost.com, 10/20/2013 …The tragic truth is that an angst-driven minority can dominate a well-meaning progressive majority through threats of disrupting the structures designed to maintain a stable social system. The answer to this threat is enough people to maintain a posture of non-anxious reaction to the chaos engendered by the frightened angry minority. The future of American and global well-being is dependent on raising the level of self-aware conscientious independent citizenry who ultimately consider their highest allegiance to be humanity itself.

Chomsky: Elites Have Forced America into a National Psychosis to Keep Us Embroiled in Imperial Wars By Noam Chomsky, AlterNet, December 2, 2014

Why Millions of Christian Evangelicals Oppose Obamacare and Civil Rights By Daniel Silliman, Religion Dispatches, December 8, 2014 

New Evidence That Grandmothers Were Crucial for Human Evolution By Joseph Stromberg, smithsonian.com, October 23, 2012  …grandmothering helped us to develop “a whole array of social capacities that are then the foundation for the evolution of other distinctly human traits, including pair bonding, bigger brains, learning new skills and our tendency for cooperation.”… From an evolutionary perspective, it makes more sense for older females to increase the group’s overall offspring survival rate instead of spending more energy on producing their own….the social relations that go along with grandmothering could have contributed to the larger brains and other traits that distinguish humans…“Grandmothering gave us the kind of upbringing that made us more dependent on each other socially and prone to engage each other’s attention.”...The theory is by no means definitive, but the new mathematical evidence serves as another crucial piece of support for it. This could help anthropologists better understand human evolution—and should give you another reason to go thank your grandmother.

The Real Origins of the Religious Right By RANDALL BALMER, Politico.com, May 27, 2014  They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation. Posted on Facebook by the Christian Left, 12-9-14 with commentary: We’ve been aware of this for some time but we were recently reminded of it. The “Christian” Right was originally brewed up to defend racism parading as “Religious Freedom.” When the founders realized they couldn’t flaunt racism in the open they threw up abortion instead. They would use whatever issue was handy, and they had tried most of them before. Abortion was their golden egg and they ran with it.

Jeb Bush’s Damning Secret History By Joe Conason, AlterNet, December 4, 2014  

Progressives to Dems on Budget Deal: ‘We Will Remember This Betrayal’
by Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, December 12, 2014 – “People are fed up and they are watching for any sign of betrayal. No more backroom deals that help Wall Street, the giant corporations, the 1 percent, the polluters, the fraudsters, the vote-riggers, the haters, the tax-dodgers, the outsourcers, the union busters, the wage-thievers, the pension-cutters and the rest of those who are rigging the system against the rest of us.” Dave Johnson, Campaign for America’s Future

America’s Obscenely Rich Know Full Well That They Are Destroying America By Jim Sleeper, AlterNet, December 9, 2014  …more than a few of these writers resigned and these students marched because they’re indignant as citizens. The eerie dislocations of journalism and criminal justice are only the most recent developments since the passage of the USA Patriot Act, the perpetration of the Iraq War, the capitalist predation and regulatory defaults that have thrown millions of Americans out of their homes and jobs, the revelations about Orwellian state and corporate surveillance that have coalesced into a crisis of legitimacy for the American constitutional system and capitalist republic. Hannah Arendt described the importance of “speech acts” in politics, warning against letting words and deeds get so far apart that the words become empty and the deeds become brutal. Consider first today’s journalistic vortex of increasingly empty words…transformation of American news and opinion outlets into what his CEO Guy Vidra calls “vertically integrated digital media companies.” These ventures break down voices of the American republic into market-driven metrics and repurpose them …to maximize profit, not public deliberation…The answer isn’t that they misread what journalism, politics and capitalism in America are becoming. They read it only too well. The answer is that, like so many other young, market-molded Americans, they don’t understand how the perversion of public life by tsunamis of marketing, financing and technological innovation has decontextualized and overwhelmed thoughtful writing, reading and the habits of mind and heart that sustain republican deliberation and institutions. It is impossible to exaggerate the physical as well as moral danger we are in as a result. We’ve been sleepwalking or dancing up the garden path into it. The American republic – and therefore our expectation that we can express controversial political opinions without going to prison – depends on those habits.…their own lives are spun so finely around commodification that they’ve become its creatures. They may crave a token or two of civic credibility…they lack the civic grounding, the nerve ends, the viscera and the body scars that enable most people to distinguish surface gestures from substantive struggles, and bought speech from real political speech…Although we like to think of ourselves as free men and women, many people’s pressing needs and fears prompted a foot-shuffling deference to power…Leadership to interpret and address the crisis of legitimacy that’s upon us will have to come from people who’ve shared their neighbors’ experiences of expediency and dependency and have found the strength and talent to see past the usual snares and delusions. But in a republic, some citizens have to uphold codes of honor and civic loyalty that are strong enough to keep power responsive to social purposes that can’t be met by markets and can’t be bought off or finessed by them. If capitalism becomes predatory and insinuating, citizens’ codes and trust of one another become empty, the stuff of slick videos and click-bait that lead to slavery. And the predators lose their ability to tell the difference: “Few tricks of the unsophisticated intellect are more curious than the naïve psychology of the business man, who ascribes his achievements to his own unaided efforts, in bland unconsciousness of a social order without whose continuous support and vigilant protection he would be as a lamb bleating in the desert.” That was written by the British economic historian R.H. Tawney in May 1926, in the New Republic — whose present owner is bewildered and bleating. But journalism isn’t justice. It would take a lot more disciplined defiance to make prosecutors and police officers bleat, too. From Nathan Hale and Thomas Paine to Jonathan Schell and Edward Snowden, some Americans have always emerged to announce the need and others to lead in breaking ties that had to be broken and framing new understandings and courses of action that had to be tried.