Friday, July 28, 2006

Camp Democracy Taking Shape: Where Were You?

The following is an update from key organizer, David Swanson.

Sunny Miller, from the famous Traprock Peace Center, and I are organizing a series of nonviolence trainings during Camp Democracy...

Where Were You When They Took Your Rights Away?
> By David Swanson
> Can you name the one country on earth where the government can steal
> elections, strip away basic rights, spy on citizens, and launch wars based
> on lies, but where the people do not take over the nation's capital in
> protest?
> If you said the United States, you'll be wrong on September fifth when Camp
> Democracy begins on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
> At long last, Americans are preparing to say "Enough is enough," and to do
> what Ukrainians, Mexicans, or any other people not drugged into acquiescence
> would do when things got this bad: occupy the capital city to demand peace,
> justice, and accountability.
> The goal of the many organizations and individuals working to prepare for
> Camp Democracy is to provide a space for everyone who is fed up with lies
> and criminality to come and demand change. In fact, at the suggestion of
> Cindy Sheehan who will come to Camp Democracy following Camp Casey (Aug. 16
> � Sept. 2 in Crawford, Texas), we're calling it Camp Democracy at Fort Fed
> Up. Our demands will not be for anarchy or disorder, but for a restoration
> of the rule of law. This is a tough-on-crime movement. We just have a
> different notion of who the criminals are. And when we get tough, we use
> nonviolence.
> Camp Democracy will offer training in nonviolent protest, as well as in
> media production, activism, and PR. There will be workshops provided by top
> scholars and activists on a variety of issues � all of them connected by the
> democracy deficit, the shifting of resources against our will to war and
> away from useful endeavors. A schedule of events is posted on the right
> side of the website and we'll be building
> toward the International Day of Peace on September 21, when the Declaration
> of Peace has pledged to begin civil disobedience.
> While we are working hard to provide tents, bathrooms, stages, and necessary
> equipment, to arrange for places to stay and food to eat, and to schedule a
> rich array of educational and inspirational activities, Camp Democracy will
> become whatever the people who take part choose to make it. The effort is
> nonpartisan and will seek to hold Congress Members accountable as well as
> Bush, Cheney, and gang. But one focus of the camp will be impeachment.
> Speakers leading workshops on the subject will include Howard Zinn, Marcus
> Raskin, John Nichols, Dave Lindorff, Barbara Olshansky, and many more.
> This morning I was a guest lecturer at a college course on modern history.
> We spent two hours discussing impeachment, impeachable offenses, and where
> the Bush Administration's actions fit in history. This is where I think
> they fit: as a significant threat to end the oldest democracy on the planet.
> Never before has an American president offered anything close to this
> wide-ranging assault on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the powers
> of the legislative and judicial branches of government.
> Here's a sampling:
> Illegal spying in violation of FISA and the Fourth Amendment, openly
> confessed to, openly promoted in signing statements, known to involve phone
> calls, phone records, internet use, bank records, and observation of legal
> nonviolent activities.
> Illegal detentions in violation of the Fourth Amendment, International law,
> U.S. Law, and a recent Supreme Court ruling.
> Rounding up of thousands of citizens and legal residents for detention or
> deportation.
> Torture, maintenance of secret camps, and extraordinary rendition, in
> violation of the Fourth Amendment, International Law, US Law, and openly
> promoted in signing statement and administration policy papers.
> Illegal war � launched illegally under international law, launched in
> violation of the U.S. Constitution which requires that the Congress declare
> war, and launched on the basis of feloniously misleading Congress and the
> American public.
> Use of a variety of illegal weapons.
> Illegal targeting of civilians, journalists, and hospitals.
> Illegal seizure of another nation's resources.
> Illegal use of funds in Iraq that had been appropriated for Afghanistan.
> Leaking of classified information in order to mislead the Congress and the
> public, and in order to punish truth tellers.
> Leaking of identity of an undercover agent.
> Retribution against whistleblowers.
> Use of signing statements to reverse 750 laws passed by Congress.
> Production of phony news reports at home and abroad.
> Dereliction of duty in neglecting global warming, hurricanes, hunger, AIDS,
> and warnings of 9-11 attacks.
> Facilitating Israel's attacks on Lebanon.
> Obstruction of investigations by Congress, the 9-11 Commission, and Special
> Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.
> Stealing elections.
> When is it enough? When does it become clear that history will view us as
> those who let it all go to waste, as those who sat by as they came for the
> Muslims and then they came for the immigrants and then they came for the
> next group on the list, as those who saw the nation sliding into fascism and
> let it slide� or as those who rose up and resisted and restored what was
> most worth saving in a system of government based on the rule of law?
> The time is now. On the Camp Democracy website you can arrange to share
> cars, vans, busses, trains, or planes, as well as tents or rooms. Please
> plan to join us, and please contribute what you can to help cover expenses.
> Together we can turn everything around. Other people in other nations have
> done so. It's much easier than you think.

Monday, July 24, 2006

PDA Still needs to grow some backbone

This is a followup to my previous post regarding PDA's current ineffectiveness in changing the direction of the Democrats. Two higher-ups within the organization, including the national coordinator, have now told me more than once that PDA will endorse pro-war/corporatist Dems in a general election, even whent here is a progressive/anti-war Green or Independent in the very same election. How can they have any power with party leaders, if they are known to back whoever the party chooses come November. Every single time.

For those dedicated to peace, I offer the Voters Peace Pledge, rather than marching behind the PDA banner in 2006. Here is the link:

Below is what one of these PDA leaders wrote me about their strategy. I am convinced it is a flawed one and will alienate many from the peace movement, although I respect these two men as thoughtful individuals. In communications with PDA board members David Swanson (afterdowningstreet) and Cindy Sheehan, I know they are not in agreement with PDA's strategy on this serious matter.

Joe L. wrote:
Hi Pete,

Tim cc’d me because he knows where I stand on these issues. He also knows I wrote to Kevin Zeese about much of what I’m about to write to you, but unfortunately Kevin attacked me before reading it. I think he called me an agent or an infiltrator or something like that. He actually admitted that he didn’t read it in a later e-mail – I have the entire dialog. I’m not sure he ever read it. You might ask him for a copy.

It’s important to keep in mind that the task ahead of us is enormous and historic. In the larger picture, the reality is that there has never been a peaceful democracy ANYWHERE – not Greece, not Rome, not Egypt (they all had slaves and treated women as chattel.) Possibly in some indigenous cultures that we and others smashed. And now, the US government and military have become the thugs of the biggest and most powerful empire the world has ever seen. It will end, of course, but the question is will it take down most of humanity and the environment when it crashes? I think David Korten’s recent book, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, sums this analysis up quite well.

We need to figure out a way to engineer a major power shift. We need an overwhelming majority. It will take years to accomplish- even though we don’t “have” years. Our political strategy has to reckon with the immensity of the power shift that has to happen. We believe this demands a long-term, very disciplined strategy. We have to visualize the future progressive coalition and employ strategies that build community, build family among them. PDA is, therefore, working to build a national “machine” that can deliver e-mails, calls, visits, money and political pressure in support of a wide range of progressive causes, global, national, regional, and local. As we grow and become more effective, we will be able to “deliver” for our constituencies. It’s admittedly a long-shot. But, in our judgment, it’s somewhat less of a long-shot than a progressive third-party.

I was an active Green in the late 80s and helped create the platform. I do know and understand and support the ten key values. I was part of the majority of Greens at that time who repeatedly rejected forming a political party because of the structural biases against third parties in the US, as opposed to Europe. Recently, last week, I suggested that PDA formally ADOPT the platform last week! My feeling is that PDA is a “Green” organization on the issues and we should explicitly tell people that. If anything, I am a GREEN infiltrator into PDA!

IMHO PDA and the Green Party disagree only on strategy.

Here’s our logic: PDA believes that the best way to get to a point where we can challenge for power is through building an unstoppably large progressive base. To do this, we need to envision who the constituencies of that base are going to be ten years from now and begin to take steps to bring them into communication and cooperation, ultimately building trust and “family” ties that allow us to fight over some things, but to pull together overall. I’m sure Greens agree with this so far. While the corporate Democrats are unlikely to be part of this progressive base, the majority of Democratic voters and activists are. Many of them are already progressive-leaning. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a future progressive majority without them. This appears to be where the Greens and PDA part company strategically: we think that the rank and file Democrats are a vitally important constituency and that our strategy must reflect that. So the question for PDA becomes, how can we build ties to these “future progressive” Democrats while remaining principled progressives, and while continuing to be effective on the wide range of issues we progressives hold near and dear?

Well, first we must “do no harm.” Whether or not you agree that, for example, the Green/Nader effort “cost” Gore the 2000 election, or was merely one of many factors (most of which were under Gore’s control) that “cost” Gore the election, I know that literally thousands of Democratic activists now HATE Ralph Nader and don’t want to hear about anything “Green” because of what happened. Even if you think that this is totally wrong and, for example, Ralph HELPED Gore by pushing him to the left, and people are misunderstanding the situation, it’s indisputable that the progressive third party strategy is inherently divisive in this way. (I personally think that part of the animosity is a transference of blame – many liberal and progressive Democrats don’t want to own up to the fact that they let the Party become totally controlled by the Clinton/DLC crowd and so are looking to blame someone else.) If the goal is building an unstoppably large progressive base, is antagonizing and potentially alienating a large part of it really a good idea? Can we find a better way?

PDA believes that the better way to see Green/progressive stances on the issues become public policy is to build the base within the DP – a party within the party, so to speak, that is NOT controlled by the hacks, and which, in time, will grow to become the majority of the Party.

So, do we support pro-war Democrats in general elections? Yes, but in a way that builds the anti-war movement! We feel our primary responsibility is building a base that will save millions of future lives in other countries who will die if we fail. This will take many years. We are clearly not ready to challenge for power yet. When we lose a primary, if we want people’s help in the future, in future primaries when WE win, we can’t pull a “Lierberman” and threaten to go outside the Party! (What a sniveling bastard he truly is!) We have to come up with a strategy that avoids alienating the rank and file Dems by tipping or threatening to tip the vote to Republicans when we don’t win a primary.

Again, if you think about it, if we really believe that progressive policies benefit the overwhelming majority of people, but we can’t even win a democratic primary, that proves haven’t organized well enough. We’re not ready. We have more work to do. So we USE the general election to keep organizing, building PDA, educating on our issues, even where the nominee disagrees. We educate, organize voters and then work to get out the vote. That way, we build relationships with the Democrats and have at least some semblance of a chance to get them to work for us when WE finally do the work it takes to win the primary. Even conservative Democrats respect us.

The typical response to this is that we will be co-opted or that it can’t be done – the Democratic Party is NOT democratic!

Those who say that the Democratic Party has never been democratic are correct. But those that say it never WILL be democratic are claiming psychic powers (how do YOU feel when your local psychic tells you, “A third party will never succeed!”?) Ultimately, even if it’s not now internally “democratic’ – and it’s certainly not – the Democratic Party will do what the voters demand (although we do have to solve that annoying vote fixing problem first!). To say that this can’t be done is faith-based political analysis. No one knows until it’s tried – and tried well. Sure, others have set out on this course, but to say that because, for example, the Campaign for Economic Democracy or the Rainbow Coalition did not take over the Democratic Party, therefore it’s impossible or not worth trying to do it right is like saying that because the first ten people who tried to climb Everest died, therefore, it’s been proven it’s not possible. (I just made that number up…)

And who is to say who will co-opt whom? The real test will be if we can educate and mobilize millions of people. If we have ten million hard-core progressives each willing to donate or raise $100 in an election cycle, do the math. That’s probably what will be needed: a billion dollars to counteract the corporate duopoly. When their money advantage is neutralized, we can possibly win (and then the tanks roll?). Nothing short of that will work. The question is how to get there.

To say that it’s “impossible” to take over the Democratic Party because of historical precedent is exactly the same as saying that third parties can never seize power and hold it – because history shows that despite multiple efforts, they didn’t succeed.

Our argument with the third party approach is not that it’s impossible, but that it’s not the path of least resistance. The system is rigged to automatically engender opposition on the part of members of the party MOST LIKE the third party. This self-limiting aspect of the American system is structural. No matter how much we wish it weren’t so, we’re still stuck with it until we take power. PDA is in favor of multi-party democracy, instant run-off voting, etc. The problem is, how do we build the power to get there? Clearly, the more of us working together, the more likely we are to succeed. Few liberals or progressives “hate” PDA. It’s an approach that is designed to be, at least in the short run, non-threatening. In the long run, though, we feel it has the best chance of dramatically transforming American politics.

So PDA’s approach is a very long-term, patient, tough-to-implement strategy. It’s not a feel-good, instant gratification approach. It absolutely requires that we work with people whose politics we hate and who we may not like much personally, either. It requires us to strive to find core shared values, ways to make friends, ways to earn respect, ways build relationships.

To paraphrase Forest Gump, “Radical is as radical does.” We are serious about change, and know what we’re up against. We know it will take many years to have a chance to do what needs be done. We’re setting out on that course. We think ours is the path of less resistance toward our mutually shared goal of seeing the Ten Key Values adopted by the majority of Americans and national policies which track the Green Platform.

I hope this helps clarify PDA’s strategy. I am VERY interested in your critique.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Franklin Shelter Closing: D.C.'s Homeless Stuck Between Rock and Hard Place

Taken from a staff editorial of Street Sense, D.C.'s homeless newspaper

Years of uncertainty of the Franklin School shelter at 13th and K Streets, NW, may be approaching a resolution, with the Williams administration signaling that the shelter could be closed by the end of the 2006-2007 winter hypothermia season next spring. But with renovations and other issues at the few remaining downtown shelters, the fate of the 240-plus men who lay their heads at Franklin remains unknown, as does the ultimate arrangement for emergency shelter beds in the downtown D.C. area.

Franklin opened as an emergency shelter four years ago, and rumors of its closing have been circulated almost since it opened. Now the rumors are becoming a reality, and how the and its homeless people got to this point is a perfect example of how not to make decisions.

For over a year, city officials have said they will only close shelters once alternative space is found. But when Randall (School shelter) closed in southwest, no alternative in the area was found.

There are troubling signs that Franklin could end up the same way. The city says that every effort is being made to find alternative space for Franklin's residents. It's good to know they're trying to head off a disaster, but it sounds like too little, too late, considering the difficulty of finding anywhere to put a shelter, even a temporary one, as city officials have often explained.

Last spring we heard about plans to close Franklin and turn the building into a "hip hotel." Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Stanley Jackson has moved ahead on this deal, while city officials responsible for helping homeless people have been playing catch-up. And there is still no plan for replacement beds.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The next big action in town: Camp Democracy

Cindy Sheehan to Move Camp to National Mall
Cindy Sheehan and activists in the growing peace movement plan to move Camp Casey to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., September 8 - 21. The camp on the Mall will carry the name Camp Democracy at Fort Fed Up. Organizers intend the camp to bring together peace activists with activists for social justice, united in demanding a shift of public resources from war to the needs of people. Participants will lobby Congress to end all funding of the occupation of Iraq, and will demand that Congress hold the Bush Administration accountable for the falsehoods that launched the war and the abuses of power here at home that have accompanied it. Camp Democracy is launching an outreach effort to include organizations in the planning of the camp's activities, which are all in the initial stages. Organizations already on board are listed on the website:

Participating organizations and guest experts and celebrities will provide workshops and training sessions on a wide range of issues, as well as on communications, voter registration, nonviolent civil disobedience, lobbying, organizing, media production, and performance arts. Congress Members and congressional candidates will take part. Local elected officials will instruct attendees on participation in local government. Musicians will perform concerts. New films will be shown on a large screen. Participants will acquire useful skills while demanding fundamental change.

Individuals should sign up and plan to come:

And volunteer to help:

Organizations, large and small, should sign up to participate:

Organizations, trainers, speakers, educators, and performers should propose activities that they believe would benefit thousands of citizens who want to work for change:

Internet activists, and anyone with a blog or a website, should post this information and link to the website using this link: