Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why I Left The Democratic Party...For Now

I took the plunge today and left the Democrats after 38 years.  I got tired of defending a party that would leave doctors and the unemployed high and dry.  I got tired of explaining why the Democrats blew their best chance in decades to use their majorities to finally give us a single payer health plan and gave us some weak regulations of health insurance companies instead.  I got tired of being in a party that folds to a minority party every chance they get despite winning a mandate in 2008 to change the failed policies and damage done by that minority party.

So I left the Democrats....again.

The last time the Democrats upset me enough to leave them was when they voted for the USA PATRIOT Act.  That time I changed my party to the Green Party USA.  That lasted less than a month.  The Greens have some great ideas but they have a huge problem:  they don't want to actually do anything about them, as far as I could see.  They put some candidates on the ballot from time to time but didn't seem to get the energy to campaign for them.  My experience with them was their idea of "action" was to get together, watch some taped documentary, discuss a few books, cluck their tongues about how awful it all was then go home.

The Greens fit in with a term I have -- The Useless Left.  You know them too, especially if you are a progressive.  They're the ones who organize marches, made the word "table" into a verb (Yes, really.  They no longer just sit at tables at some rally handing out literature and selling some buttons and T-shirts.  They are now "tabling.") and are great with the critiques of the political system and culture.  What they aren't so good at is what to do about all those problems.  They are the embodiment of putting the lie to "the truth shall set you free" which doesn't work if there isn't some real, meaningful action behind it.

They ran me back to the Democratic Party, where I worked for candidates that kinda sorta believed as I do until now.

Thanks to something called "fusion voting" passed into law here in Oregon, I started looking around for a new party to help out after the Dems showed themselves barely able to stand upright due to a lack of spine.

The new party I chose is The Working Families Party.  They are the first minor party I've seen that seems to understand what one can do with a minor party.  Most minor parties, at their most successful, put candidates on the ballot that get few votes but sometimes just enough to elect Republicans.  Their real hope is that by running those candidates they will get their ideas aired in the hope that a major party picks up on one or two of them and does something with it.

The WFP, a long-running party in New York thanks to that state's election rules, has passed on the losing candidate approach and has gone straight for the ideas.  Thanks to the new fusion voting system in Oregon, they go after specific legislation by co-nominating progressive candidates that will work to get their ideas into law.  After trying for 38 years to change the Democratic Party back into the party of working people and the  poor from within, I've decided I liked their ideas and to help them build the party into a force that will exert pressure on the Democrats from the outside.

They rarely run candidates so the Democrats will still probably get my vote in November but I feel I will have a club with the WFP to beat them back in line when they get the urge to follow the lure of corporate dollars over the people who elected them. Registering as a member of the party gives them the number of registered voters required by Oregon to have access to the ballot.

Here's where I make my pitch to my fellow Oregonians - especially independent voters and disaffected Democrats - to do as I did.  You wanted an alternative to the major parties, well this one may be our best shot.  

There are two ways to immediately support the Working Families Party.

  1. Change your party affiliation by re-registering to vote - something you can now do online here.
  2. If you do or don't do that, you can donate at least $24.00 or more to make you a dues-paying member of the WFP.  The $24.00 figure is a minimum annual donation.
Don't just sit back and complain about the major parties - do something about them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Helen Thomas Forced To Retire - Look At Who Gets To Stay

Today, 89 year old White House correspondent and columnist Helen Thomas was forced into retirement for saying this....once:

"Thomas told a rabbi at a White House event last week that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and go back to Germany and Poland.'"
A nasty comment without doubt but it comes from someone with no history of anti-semitism in her years covering 10 Presidents or any of her writings as a columnist after she resigned from reporting when cult leader Sun Myung Moon bought United Press International.  She did apologize for her remark and someone her age finally retiring isn't exactly news.  What is news is that it certainly looks like the retirement was forced, with her agent quitting and speeches she was scheduled to deliver being canceled.

There is no defense for what she said.  The only question that remains is why stop with her?

"We just want Jews to be perfected, as they say." --arguing that it would be better if they were all Christians

"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband's deaths so much." -on 9/11 widows who have been critical of the Bush administration

"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity."

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."
All of that came from the mouth and writings of Ann Coulter.  Are there any cries for her to retire and shut up?  Well, a little bit over the years (she was fired by MSNBC, The National Review and various newspapers have dropped her column) but she's still getting paid for speeches, people buy her books, she is a guest on NBC's "Today" show and a regular on Fox Noise.

Then there's the Tea Party Leader, Glenn Beck:

"I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. ... No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out. Is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus -- band -- Do, and I've lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, 'Yeah, I'd kill Michael Moore,' and then I'd see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I'd realize, 'Oh, you wouldn't kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn't choke him to death.' And you know, well, I'm not sure." –responding to the question "What would people do for $50 million?"

"When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh shut up' I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining."

"Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization...And you must silence all dissenting voices. That's what Hitler did. That's what Al Gore, the U.N., and everybody on the global warming bandwagon [are doing]."

"So here you have Barack Obama going in and spending the money on embryonic stem cell research. ... Eugenics. In case you don't know what Eugenics led us to: the Final Solution. A master race! A perfect person. ... The stuff that we are facing is absolutely frightening."
How about him - any condemnations of him from the right?  He off TV now?  Absolutely not.

Then there's this gem from the Leader of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh:

“To some people, banker is a code word for Jewish; and guess who Obama is assaulting? He’s assaulting bankers. He’s assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there’s – if there’s starting to be some buyer’s remorse there.”

Yep, he's still around too.

Well, surely someone of the advanced age of Patrick Buchanan has been put out to pasture for remarks like these:

Buchanan referred to Capitol Hill as "Israeli-occupied territory." (St. Louis Post Dispatch, 10/20/90)

During the Gulf crisis: "There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East -- the Israeli defense ministry and its 'amen corner' in the United States." (McLaughlin Group, 8/26/90)

In a 1977 column, Buchanan said that despite Hitler's anti-Semitic and genocidal tendencies, he was "an individual of great courage.... Hitler's success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path." (Guardian, 1/14/92)

Writing of "group fantasies of martyrdom," Buchanan challenged the historical record that thousands of Jews were gassed to death by diesel exhaust at Treblinka: "Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody." (New Republic, 10/22/90) Buchanan's columns have run in the Liberty Lobby's Spotlight, the German-American National PAC newsletter and other publications that claim Nazi death camps are a Zionist concoction.

Buchanan called for closing the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which prosecuted Nazi war criminals, because it was "running down 70-year-old camp guards." (New York Times, 4/21/87)

Buchanan was vehement in pushing President Reagan -- despite protests -- to visit Germany's Bitburg cemetery, where Nazi SS troops were buried. At a White House meeting, Buchanan reportedly reminded Jewish leaders that they were "Americans first" -- and repeatedly scrawled the phrase "Succumbing to the pressure of the Jews" in his notebook. Buchanan was credited with crafting Ronald Reagan's line that the SS troops buried at Bitburg were "victims just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps." (New York Times, 5/16/85; New Republic, 1/22/96)
No, he's still a regular "analyst" on the progressive and liberal MSNBC news channel.

This isn't about "silencing conservative voices" (and if you consider these people the voices of conservatism, it says a lot about where that movement really is).  It's not about the First Amendment and freedom of speech either - none of them will go to jail for what they say but nothing in the Bill of Rights says certain people have the "right" to be in newspapers or magazines and have programs on TV and radio.

What this is about is that the so-called conservatives dancing about in glee at Helen Thomas being forced into retirement should remember an old saying about people who live in glass houses and what they shouldn't be doing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Republic, If We Can Keep It

People are upset and angry at our government over this disaster in the Gulf.  No political party is particularly well-liked right now as both are seen as more concerned over the well-being of corporate interests during this oil blowout than our land and people. 

I'm not a huge fan of Ralph Nader but I keep remembering one thing he said during his runs for President, namely that voting between the Democrats and the Republicans means the choice is whether we go down on our left knee or right knee before corporate interests. This is what we get for allowing our employees in Congress to be sold to the highest bidder and allowing our country to become the oligarchy it is now.

I do mean we too: too many of us think that once we've voted our job is done. We've been propagandized and indoctrinated into being meek little sheepish followers for too long too.  Let's face it, the idea that the wealthy knows best isn't a monopoly of the right, it directs all of us by varying degrees and we dare not challenge them.   If this oil blowout had happened to most other countries, they wouldn't wringing their hands and sitting at home just watching -- there would be wall to wall demonstrations in the streets DEMANDING this be taken care of NOW. People would be PISSED and out of their houses showing it. What are we doing? Watching TV and saying, "Oh, how awful!"

There was a great editorial caroon I caught a while back about the news of massive demonstrations overseas over what the demonstrators saw as fixed and fradulent elections in Iran.  It mentions those protests over the cartoon, then shows two men's reaction to the stolen election that placed George W. Bush into the White House.  The talk balloons went along the lines of, "Did ya hear about how Bush stole the White House?"  "Yeah, that's awful.  So what are you doing tonight?"

Michael Moore had it right when he pointed out in one of his films that around the world, people demonstrate and agitate so much that their governments are afraid of its people and act so not to upset them. Here it's the reverse -- we hardly ever get out and do something about what we don't like and fear our government. We just hope our government does the right thing, when we can get away from our new cars and HDTVs and think about such things that is.

On this I give the Tea Party credit where credit is due.  Wrongheaded and angry as they are over false stories, they are at least going out of their houses and doing something about their issues.  What kind of impact they are having now is undeniable in that this group of people is now a part of our national discussion, even if they only represent about 2% of the country. 

Besides going out and having demonstrations and such, another thing about the TPers is that they stick to the issues they want to push.  About the only other one that does the same are the pro-immigrant groups.  The left has complained about not getting the same coverage as the Teabaggers since most of the time there have more people at their demonstrations and marches.  Very true.  Their problem is once the left has gathered, it can be hard to tell exactly what they are demonstrating about sometimes.  Having been to a few good-sized demonstrations from the left in the past, I've seen where it started out as opposing the war in Iraq then spread out to include marchers who supported Palestine, Mumia, 9-11 Truthers and all sorts of other things so much so that the original idea for the march got lost in the shuffle.

The message here isn't about who demonstrates and who's more effective at it though.  It is that we don't have to just sit there and take what's happening to our country.  I understand that doing that can be inconvenient at times what with work, family and other things demanding our attention.  However, you don't do any of that ALL of the time.  Take a little time and DO something for your country.  An hour or so may not sound like much but sometimes just that can do a lot.

You don't even have to wait for someone else to organize something for you to do either.  Get a piece of cardboard or whiteboard out, make a sign then find a corner and start waving it at passing cars.  Just that little act can have more impact on people than an entire day's worth of watching the news.  Those people driving by may not remember what some politician said on TV that day, but they will remember you.  Who knows, others may just join in with you.

Now that's being patriotic.