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New Ground 97

November - December, 2004

Contents

  • Why They Lose by Will Kelley
  • Lessons from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising by John Payne
  • Intellectual Property as Thoughtcrime by Steve Weierman
  • The Really Other America by Bob Roman
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman
    Campaign for Better Health Care
    Open University of the Left
    Harry Fleischman
    Citizen Cyborg

  • Why They Lose

    by Will Kelley

    So the Democrats lost again this November. I'm not talking about the loss of the Presidency. Kerry's loss is just a piece of the much bigger defeat suffered by the Democrats in the US Congress and states all around the country. This is the real story. The Democrats learned nothing from their loss in 2002. After that election Baxter Black drew the right inference when he combined Tom Daschle's deer-in-the-headlights look with his later actions. Daschle, said Black, was telling his fellow Democrats, "Stick with me, boys, I'm going down with the ship." Indeed, Daschle was unable to change course even enough for him to keep his seat in the Senate.

    The problem with the Democrats isn't their positions on issues. The Democrats tend to hold the same positions as a majority of Americans. What's more, even though many people who agree with Democratic positions vote Republican at election time, Democrats can still come close to a majority. Yet, except for Clinton, they have been losing ever since Jimmy Carter was refused a second term in 1980, with no sign that the erosion of their electoral base will abate.

    The central problem is that the Democrats don't know how to communicate. First, they don't know how to talk to ordinary people. Worse, though, is that they no longer have the ability to speak plainly even to themselves. The combination is a disaster.

    National level Democrats are rhetorically incompetent. In the most recent election votes could be heard slipping away every time John Kerry said, "I have a program." First, this phrasing draws attention to him rather than the people. Second, though, some 25 years ago neo-conservative Republicans persuaded these same people to translate "program" as "government bureaucracy," and to sneer at bureaucrats. Kerry dug himself a deeper hole every time he used the word. Compare his rhetoric to George W. Bush's. Not only did the Bush administration not eliminate the Department of Education, the way an earlier generation of Republicans tried to, they used it to engineer one of the most massive national interventions in a basic institution that the country has ever seen. But did they call this huge federal initiative a "program?" No. Instead, at a time of profound economic disruption, one when tens of millions of people have been afraid of falling down the socioeconomic ladder, when evangelical churches seemed newly inviting because they offered the promise of salvation, when novels based on the problem of how to find redemption in the End Times became one of the best-selling series in history, the Bush Administration announced its goal: No Child Left Behind. They promised nothing to adults, mind you, those whose actions may have placed them beyond (social and economic) salvation. They did promise, though, that innocent children would not be Left Behind. Thus it was positioned not as a program, but as the substance of hope for our future. In the words of Humpty Dumpty: "There's glory for you!"

    The Democrats will not start winning again until they learn to frame their goals and policies in terms that resonate with central symbols at play in American society. More than fifty years ago Richard Weaver wrote that there are "ultimate terms" in political rhetoric, words that attract images of values with compelling power. Some attract, and he called these "god words," while compellingly repellent words were dubbed "devil words." Republicans pay close attention to the use of both in their rhetoric, but not Democrats. I even heard a Democratic strategist reject Weaver's analysis because the man himself was said to be a strident "conservative." I hate to break it to that worthy strategist, but to reject an analysis on the basis of personal qualities of its author does not work outside self-enclosed organizations such as the Roman Catholic Church, Wahabi clerics, Communist editorialists, and Post-Structuralist graduate seminars. Those who did attend to Weaver's analysis started winning, and by now have swept every state except those with large proportions of people who work in the new sector of communication, information, and finance.

    It will be hard to learn to use political rhetoric in an appropriate way, though, as long as Democratic insiders don't even know how to talk to themselves. Here's a perfect sign of how deep the problem runs: When national Democratic insiders speak, listen for what linguists call the "phony inclusive we." Democratic insiders use "we" to refer reprovingly to "you," the way a mother might say to a child, "We've made a bit of a mess of ourselves." Talk like this might be appropriate if it were restricted to the floor of Congress, where a legislator could make an argument on behalf of the whole, by saying, as Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) did, "We are going backwards."* The problem is that use of the phony inclusive "we" seems to be part of a rite of passage into national Democratic leadership. Insiders use it frequently, suggesting that powerful personalities among the central leadership still believe they have the right to speak as if they governed the country. But they don't, and to act as if they do indicates a profound loss of contact with political reality.

    Constant use of the phony inclusive "we" is profoundly debilitating, because it indicates a Democratic inability to engage their opponents. While it might make sense if they were exhorting a majority to great deeds, use of "we" renders them unintelligible when they, as a minority party, try to criticize others. Just who is being spoken to? Who is being spoken about? Who is responsible for the actions they deplore? When they use the phony inclusive "we" an audience has little or no idea. The talk has been rendered vague and unfocused, while responsibility has been diffused to the point of vanishing. Worse, because the phony inclusive "we" is still "egocentric," to listeners it can sound as if the Democrats are trying to slip something past them.

    This derangement of speech is restricted to Democratic insiders. Republicans, in contrast, have no problem with naming names and making claims. They are perfectly willing to charge that the Democratic Party wants to send the country to wrack and ruin, and the more scathing the sarcasm, the better. It is a strategy that has succeeded ever since Ron Paul ran for Congress in the district south of Houston in the early 1970s. Even now that the Republicans control both houses of Congress and the Presidency, and are consolidating power, they continue to snarl like an angry minority. And the Democrats can be herded like sheep. They don't understand that Republicans don't see them as opponents to be bested, but enemies to be destroyed. They cannot be appeased by the shapeless sounds of Democrats trying to "play well with others."

    Voters, in the meantime, know how to respond. It is rather like the message an angel had St. John send to the church in Laodicea: "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16). Sounds about right. Until the Democrats go through serious internal reform we can expect voters to continue to choke on their words, refuse to swallow, and spit out the candidates even when voters prefer their programs.

     

    * "Senate Gives Gas Guzzlers a Pass," CBS News, July 30, 2003; accessed at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/31/politics/main538846.shtml


    Lessons from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

    by John Payne

    Since the outcome of the election, we've all probably heard friends, peers or leaders telling us not to give up hope. They are telling us that this is just one setback, that we must keep up the fight, and that we will eventually win the struggle for equality and justice. While I agree that the struggle for true justice and equality in this country, and all over the world, indeed goes on, I disagree with the view that our triumph is inevitable. Those of us who have decided to fight for ideas of equality, freedom, and liberty should know that this struggle has no end. There is nothing inevitable about equality overcoming inequality, or justice overcoming injustice. Both positive and negative outcomes are equally likely in a world where human beings are more often seen as numbers and statistics, than as individuals.

    Even if Kerry had won, the struggle would go on. Even if the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan were solved and the Patriot Act were repealed, there would be so much more to do here and around the world. Those of us dedicated to this struggle must realize that there will be no final victory.

    But does this mean that we should stop and give up? Does the set back of November 2nd mean we stop? Of course not. We must pick our battles and fight them where we can. There are no grand slams when it comes to the problems of the world. And those who try to hit them usually go down swinging. We do what we can, not because we will win, but because it is the right thing to do.

    When the members of the Warsaw Ghetto rose up against the Nazis at the end of the World War II, they did so with no real notion of victory. They did not rise up to fight back because they thought it would take down Hitler or the Nazis or make a difference in the war itself. They did it because it was the right thing to do. To paraphrase Camus from his novel The Plague, they were doing their best to save as many people from death and unending separation, and the only logical way to do that was to fight.

    There are some important acknowledgements to be made about this point of view. Even though these actions only seem logical, the individual is still worthy of praise. The very fact that a mindset of logical action exists in a world of inaction and apathy is praiseworthy. When so many people stay home from even the voting booth, it is extraordinary that anyone found it logical to go out battle the apathy. This is how we must see ourselves now. We must remember our small victories even in the corridors of defeat. In the shadow of the election, in the aftermath of the lost battle, we must gather ourselves together and prepare to do our best to save as many as we can.

    The next few days should be spent giving our souls and minds a rest, to take a step back and give ourselves room to breathe. But we must not wait too long. The struggle goes on everyday, whether we fight it or not. We have two years until the midterm elections; two years to strengthen the local connections we have made over this past campaign season, two years to make George W. Bush's second term the most frustrating of his life. I am willing to admit we do not have the "machine" that the Republican Party has. They have been working on theirs for over forty years, building a strong electoral machine on think tanks, certain ideological values, and appeals to a certain way of life. But with the work of forty years on their side, they barely beat us. Imagine what we could do if we tightened our reigns and fought not because we would win, but for the mere principle of fighting.

    But even if we do lose, we will not give up. Fighting for the oppressed and for equality is motive enough, no matter how many defeats we face. So let us all take a short break, but recognize that we will be seeing one another soon when combat continues.

    Editor's note: John Payne is a University of Chicago YDS activist. A version of this article appeared previously in the Chicago Maroon.


    Intellectual Property as Thoughtcrime

    by Stephen Weierman

    In the classic novel 1984, George Orwell created a nightmarish world where thought and education were capital offenses. We now live in a world where information and the sources of information are controlled. Without financial resources or Internet access, it is difficult to find alternative views to the prevailing social order. Many are at the mercy of their local library, which in some towns function as little more than conservative reading rooms. The USA PATRIOT Act leaves some people reluctant to request certain books out of fear that they may be flagged as a potential terrorist.

    All written works are "protected" by US and international copyright laws. While copyright and trademark laws have some merits as safeguards against plagiarism, they are widely abused by big businesses and wealthy estates to keep a strangle hold on classic works. Many such works are a part of our cultural history and should be freely available to all. Small theatre groups who wish to perform classic plays like A Raisin In The Sun or Machinal must request permission from the estates which hold the copyright, in spite of the fact that the writers of these brilliant works have long since passed away. They might have to pay royalties to these estates.

    In some cases, copyrighted works are no longer in print and difficult to find. Copyright then functions as a "memory hole," suppressing works considered "unprofitable" by the corporate publishing houses that own them. For example, the book Socialist Humanism, edited by Erich Fromm, copyright 1965 by Doubleday & Co., Inc., has been out of print since 1966. Even before the PATRIOT Act, people have had difficulty finding or reserving such works at their local libraries.

    At times trademark laws have been used to prevent individuals from publicly criticizing goods and services. Although the Internet has presented itself as an open forum for individuals to share and exchange ideas, anti-cybersquatting laws have provided an obstacle for some activists. Cybersquatting is the practice of reserving a domain name that contains or closely resembles a trademark with the intention of profiting from the ownership of that domain name. A domain name provides a convention for people to access web site. For example, Yahoo's domain name is yahoo.com. If a company holds a trademark on the name Beeblebrox, and someone buys the domain name beeblebrox.com, the trademark holder could sue the individual for ownership of the domain name. Although the Anti-Cybersquatting Law only applies when the intent is to profit, this has not stopped companies from bullying activists and other critics. Unfortunately, many activist web sites opposing the practice of specific companies typically use the name of the company in the domain name. This is a dangerous practice that can result in the shutdown of those sites without reimbursement for the cost of domain-name purchase or services.

    In the midst of this censorship, some individuals have started to use copyright to protect the free exchange of information. Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, wrote the GNU Free Documentation License and Free Software License. These licenses allow individuals and groups to copy and redistribute the software, manuals, and other works produced by the Foundation. The Free Software License also insures access to the source code of a program, which allows programmers to see how the application works and make necessary modifications or bug fixes. The only requirement is that all redistributions and modifications must be made under the same terms. In other words, no one can restrict the rights of others to modify or redistribute. Copies may be distributed gratis or sold royalty-free. In essence, this is an example of using copyright without all rights being reserved. A well-known example of this is the Linux kernel of the GNU/Linux operating system, developed by Linus Torvalds and other programmers. (More information on the GNU/Linux OS is available at www.linux.org.)

    The Free Documentation License has been used by the Marxists' Internet Archive, which provides free access to many Marxist and other leftist works. Unfortunately, they are restricted in what they can publish without violating copyright laws. Many leftist publications and modern translations are under copyright and cannot be reprinted without permission of the author or publisher. While some publishers have taken advantage of the Internet, posting works on the web with copy and print options disabled, this tactic only allows those who have access to a computer to get a "free sample." If activists wish to share the information with others, then they have to pay for hard copies or make unauthorized copies.

    It is understandable that writers expect and at times require compensation for their work. However, in the "GNU Manifesto," Stallman observes: "If anything deserves a reward, it is social contribution. Creativity can be a social contribution, but only so far as society is free to use the results. If programmers deserve to be rewarded for creating innovative programs, by the same token they deserve to be punished if they restrict the use of these programs." Stallman believes that all information and software should be free and open source, and redistribution should never be restricted. (Here "information" refers to that which is in the best interests of all to be publicly available, and does not mean that which would violate anyone's privacy, such as medical records.)

    It would be helpful if such useful information was free to share legally. This is why socialist organizers would be wise to look more closely at the Free Software Foundation and their licenses, especially the Free Documentation License. In this society, socialists must confront the misinformation of corporate media, and the prejudices of the many who suffer from overexposure to this media. The best way to do this is to ensure a wide distribution of information. The Free Documentation License provides a way for this to happen without having mass printing resources. Getting the message out is more important than making all readers pay. With the Free Documentation License, activists can go beyond the tactics used by evangelical Christians by not only making free distributions, but granting others permission to do the same. It is easier to get a free Bible than it is to get a free copy of any book by any socialist, in spite of the fact that many such works are in the public domain. The socialist movement will never gain momentum if socialists do not do their part to evangelize and educate. Making information freely available will greatly help the cause.


    The Really Other America

    by Bob Roman

    The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. New York: The Penguin Press, 2004

    Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when conservatives were largely on the defensive, conservatives spent part of their time studying what their enemies (that's us) were doing, what worked, what could be applied toward building a conservative movement. We should do the same.

    If this seems like an invitation to wade through a sewer of rhetoric and ideological fantasy in search of treasure, this book by two journalists from the Economist is really where you should turn. They pledge in the introduction to avoid the jibes that are commonplace between "the two great political tribes that dominate the American commentariat". And they succeed. Mostly. After all, they are British, if not European, conservatives, the same genus (perhaps!) but a rather different species than American conservatives. And part of their intended audience is indeed Europeans bemused if not horrified by the Bush phenomenon.

    Yet they are journalists. They can certainly synthesize a narrative from a multitude of sources, but they are not particularly good at analysis. And while quotes are documented, statistics frequently are not, leaving the reader wondering about sources and definitions.

    Micklethwait and Wooldridge have divided their book into four parts. The first two, "History" and "Anatomy" will be of most interest to a left audience, as they deal with the construction of conservative hegemony in the States.

    The history of the contemporary conservative movement, as told by Micklethwait and Wooldridge, parallels Sidney Blumenthal's 1986 book The Rise of the Counter-Establishment but with additional material, particularly on the Bush dynasty and the Clinton years, thrown in.

    According to this narrative, the end of the Great Depression found conservatism absent from American politics, never mind academia, except for a few lonely voices howling in a liberal wilderness. Eisenhower was not a conservative, or at best he was a conservative equivalent to Bill Clinton. But just as the Left was beginning to stir in the form of the Civil Rights movement, the Right was also taking form. Then came Barry Goldwater. The campaign was a disaster and it might have remained so, according to the authors, but for the Democratic Party's inexplicable (or at least unexplained) lurch to the "far" left.

    This is at best a half-truth albeit an interesting half-truth. Lefties will instantly think of the McCarthy witch-hunts, the Taft-Hartley Act, the Cold War, the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about when the post-war years are discussed. Despite the stirrings of the Civil Rights movement and cultural phenomenon like the Beats, the 1940s, 1950s, even the early 1960s were a socially conservative time, the Right having won the last round of culture wars in the first three decades of the century. Abortion was illegal; contraceptives often illegal; sex roles and sexuality still very traditional and not often discussed. (In the 1950s when CORE would picket in protest of racial discrimination, skirts and ties were required!) Prohibition may have died, but if Jim Crow was fatally sickened, it wasn't particularly obvious at the time.

    What the Right lacked then was a unified social movement and institutional infrastructure to support and develop the movement's ideological rationalization.

    What The Right Nation doesn't tell you (and to some extent, it's outside the scope of the book) is the degree to which the history of the Right and the Left parallel each other during that mid-century period. Both sides were interested in an ideological realignment of the Republican and Democratic parties. The Democrats did not veer to the left so much as they were driven that way, often against their will, and much the same could be said of the Republican Party. The authors make it sound as if the Democratic Party left the majority of the electorate behind, when in fact the social movements that had supported the Democratic left turn were in a slow but accelerating process of disintegration. The ground essentially disappeared from beneath the Democrats, leaving some penned in safe liberal district ghettos and others scrambling find a way to take advantage of the conservative social movements that were organizing and unifying.

    The details of the historical development of the conservative movement and infrastructure are interesting. There is, for example, the role that the American Enterprise Institute played in the Goldwater campaign, something that gave it credibility at a time when it was still very small (as late as 1969, the Institute had only two resident scholars). Or there is right wing direct mail maven Richard Viguerie's purchase of George Wallace's donor list in 1973. (Wallace's independent run for the Presidency in 1968 ended with many votes and many unpaid bills.)

    Then there is the rise of the Christian right. It had always been with us, but as late as 1976, a majority of Evangelical Christians would still vote Democratic. By the 1970s, white Evangelical Protestant churches had a major twenty year investment in "Christian Academies" where Southern whites had re-segregated their children from the now integrated public schools. In 1978, Carter's IRS began questioning the tax-exempt status of these schools and that started the Evangelical stampede to the Right. The Right Nation is amazingly forthright, though diplomatic, about the role that racism and other chauvinism has played in the construction of the conservative movement.

    But the authors' failure to assess the disintegration of the social movements that drove the Democrats leftward for a while also greatly undermines their discussion of the Clinton years and Bush the Elder's one term. Expect some insight as to how the Right became what it is but not much enlightenment about the Left. This may seem odd, considering the degree to which conservatives have defined themselves by opposition, but the conservatives' "left" has always had a more than slightly imaginary tinge to it.

    The second part of The Right Nation is a discussion of the "anatomy" of the conservative movement as it is today. It covers some of the same material as Blumenthal's book but updated and rather broader in scope; appropriately, as Blumenthal is a brilliant Beltway carp and Micklethwait and Wooldridge are wannabee Alistair Cookes. They begin, appropriately enough, with a discussion of George W. Bush's first term in office. They portray Bush as a Texas export and make a good argument for it but I'm not sure how useful this insight is for the Left.

    The next two chapters discuss the ideological infrastructure of the conservative movement, the grassroots movements it supports, and its funding. There are four observations worth taking home from this.

    First, while the total volume of money spent on conservative "think tanks" and media is fairly considerable, relatively small amounts of money can often make a big difference. "Relatively" is the key word here. In discussing the financial angels of the Right, the authors identify five major players in the last half of the 20th Century. One of them, Richard Mellon Scaife, is estimated to have contributed $620,000,000 in current dollars over 40 years (p 78). That amounts to only about 15.5 million each year, not a lot even when divided among only several causes. But how much do you really need? So some students want to start a conservative college paper and they have a good business plan? Less than a hundred grand will get it off the ground and in return you have an ongoing farm team for future journalists, scholars, graphic artists, politicians as well as yet another outlet for conservative propaganda. When, over a decade ago, the University of Chicago Young Democratic Socialists wanted to start a community magazine (The Digger), Chicago DSA was able to come up with $600: enough for one issue. Such is the virtue of being able to throw money at a problem and the handicap of poverty. Money is something the Left needs take seriously.

    Second, one of the features of the conservative movement documented by Micklethwait and Wooldridge (and in Sydney Blumenthal's The Rise of the Counter-Establishment) is a great investment in "think tanks", institutes, publications, foundations. What neither book mentions but looking at the institutions themselves seems to imply, is that these are not just public policy shops or ideological knife-grinding services, they also seem to be very much in the business of constructing plausible arguments. Rhetoric, if you will. At its worst (so far), this has resulted in a kind of conservative Lysenko-ism. Global warming is a myth. Soil erosion is no great problem. And on, and on, to Tom Tomorrow's parody of it: "Toxic sludge is good for you!"

    My impression is that of most the left or liberal equivalents are much more concerned with public policy rather than the rhetorical or ideological justification of it. This attention to rhetoric is worth emulating if we can find a way to keep it honest.

    Third, it's common enough to hear lefties complain about the "fragmented" Left. In fact, the Right is no different with some important exceptions. The authors begin their discussion of the Right as a movement with a visit to the 2003 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held annually by the American Conservative Union. They start with a quote from the Duke of Wellington upon reviewing his army on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo: "I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy. But, by God, they frighten me." That CPAC meeting drew 4,000 activists, 1,700 of them students. This is larger but similar in scale to the old Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists conferences at their best or the ongoing Socialists Scholars conferences. And like these left equivalents, it's made up of a multitude of "special" or single issue groups, their primary loyalty not to "conservatism" but to their particular cause. As the authors put it:

    "The parallel that springs to mind is, once again, of an army but this time of a medieval army. As king, George W. Bush may place his standard in the center of the line, but most of his troops wear the livery of other causes." (p 174)

    Finally, the authors consider how the Right keeps its troops together. Part of it is a matter of scale:

    "Yet the Right is more cohesive than logic suggests. In part this is a matter of personnel. The same names keep recurring in the world of the Right." (p 195)

    According to the authors, this is true as well on all levels: national, state and local. They do not say so, but it's reasonable to assume that these people not only facilitate communication but money. You can see a certain amount of this interlocking of organizations on the Left as well, and how often have you heard comments about "the usual suspects"? But I suspect the degree of interlocking (particularly between labor and the rest of the Left) could be much better and I suspect we'll also need alternate, additional means of coordination and solidarity.

    Micklethwait and Wooldridge also feel that something more is at work here, "Something even more important than ideology holds the Right together: culture." (p196) This is, they concede, vague, but politically it works out to: "are you one of us or one of them?"

    The Norman Rockwell painting gracing the cover of this book wonderfully illustrates the thesis. It's set in a crowded working class cafeteria. Cigarette butts litter the floor. A cold gray light filters through a grimy, rain streaked window, rendering the outside industrial urban landscape vague. A quaintly dressed grandmother and her grandson, travelling, have just sat down at the last two spots available. They are saying Grace. Two young men have been at that table longer, possibly much longer with one of them nursing a cup of coffee to placate the proprietor. They stare at grandmother and grandson with a defensive curiosity, uncertain how to react. One of them is wearing a cap with a button clipped to it. A union button, perhaps, and maybe it's a political journal the two were sharing until interrupted or maybe it's an utterly trivial publication. They are smoking. Behind the young men, at the left edge of the painting, is an older man in the act of leaving. His face is beat, tired, and prematurely lined with care. He regards the praying couple with a tight smile of some suppressed emotion. In the foreground a stout, balding man with grease permanently embedded in his hands is enjoying a post-meal cigar, newspaper and coffee. He stares at grandmother and child in frank amazement. For surely these two are aliens in this country. But really, this is "the Right Nation's" perception of the other America of the Kerry voters, of the "secular humanists", of baby-killers, of those who are supposed to someday herd Christians into concentration camps. In reality, in such a restaurant two quaint travelers saying Grace would merit a glance not a stare. They would hardly be an incident worthy of comment never mind the moment of small drama illustrated in the painting.

    Being journalists, I don't think Micklethwait and Wooldridge make a strong case for their argument for "culture", but I do think that they are on to something. Culture wars have been a recurring feature of U.S. politics. It's not a matter of political economy versus culture. Being an immigrant nation, ethnicity has typically played a major role in how we work and in who gets what. It's not an either or situation. Politically, culture war has been used strategically, sometimes to maintain control of a potentially chaotic, explosive nation, and sometimes as a wedge to expand popular power (consider the various liberation and civil rights movements of the 1960s).

    If the Left is to stop losing, we certainly need to create a common rhetoric, an ideological framework that will reach across the national divide. We certainly need to grow the institutes where ideas and language are developed and power rehearsed. But ultimately, I think we are a pragmatic people. If people turn away from organizing around their economic interests, it's at least partly because organizing around such interests simply doesn't seem practical. When union density in the private sector has declined to single digits while a majority of Americans still think a union would be a good idea, can you really argue with their judgment?

    Getting rid of Bush might have been a big first step toward changing this. Absent such improvement to our nation, consider giving The Right Nation a read while you're waiting to mount up for the next skirmish. If you have the time and can find it, you might want to read Sidney Blumenthal's The Rise of the Counter-Establishment first. The two books are quite complimentary.


    Other News

    by Bob Roman

    Campaign for Better Health Care

    The Campaign for Better Health Care (CBHC) held its annual meeting on Tuesday, October 26 at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza in Chicago. The two main topics were the implementation of the Health Care Justice Act and I-Save, Illinois' prescription drug reimportation program.

    In some respects, the I-Save program is a public relations project, a band-aide applied to a crisis. But the people who have designed the program are serious about making it work well and work safely. And contrary to press releases from Illinois pharmacists, there is legal recourse if it doesn't. Illinois residents with chronic illness could sometimes (not always!) save considerably. Participants are asked for a list of all the drugs they are taking, and prescriptions are routinely screened for potentially harmful interactions, a feature not found in many domestic drug transactions.

    Implementation of the Health Care Justice Act is getting off to a slow start. Not all the members of the Task Force charged with designing a health care system for Illinois have been appointed nor has any money for the operation of the Task Force been appropriated. CBHC is hoping the latter issue will be addressed during the veto session of the General Assembly in progress as New Ground goes to press.

    To help raise public awareness of the Task Force and its work, CBHC is planning a candlelight vigil outside the Thompson Center at the corner of Randolph and Clark in Chicago on Wednesday, December 15, 5 PM to 7 PM. For more information, contact Molly at 312.913.9449 or molly@cbhconline.org.

    U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky was the featured speaker at the luncheon afterwards. Insurance industry lobbyist Larry Barry was awarded CBHC's annual "Golden Bedpan" award. He wasn't there to accept it.

    Open University of the Left Events

  • Tuesday, December 7th, 7 PM: Taken by Surprise...Again: David Ray Griffin's "The New Pearl Harbor" (questioning 9/11). Harold Taggart, presenter.
  • Thursday, December 16th, 7 PM: Romance Amidst Reaction: Stendahl"s "The Red and the Black." Eric Miller, presenter.
  • Both events are at Acme Art Works, 1741 N. Western Ave., Chicago. A $5 donation is requested but no one turned away.

    Election News

    While the Greens in Rogers Park self-destructed in factionalism that knocked Marc Loveless off the ballot for State Representative, Oak Park's Julie Samuels in the 8th District received a respectable 9% of the vote (20% in suburban precincts). Downstate, the Greens were most active in Champaign County with a number of candidates for county office. Phil Huckelberry running for the 88th District (Normal) as the sole opposition to a Republican incumbent received 16%. In the 115th District (Carbondale) Rich Whitney received 8%. David Cobb, the Green Party Presidential candidate, received fewer votes than Ralph Nader, Libertarian Party or Constitution Party (Christian conservatives) candidates, but the Greens have managed to maintain something of a local base which may serve them well in the future. In particular, the Green Party has served as a vehicle for investigating the Ohio vote anomalies, raising over $100,000 to do so.

    Chicago DSA has donated $100 to blackboxvoting.org, a foundation that has been warning of a falling sky for some months prior to the elections.

    Socialist International affiliate Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) failed to win the 3% minimum to maintain its official party status. Puerto Rico has a system of public financing of official parties, so this is of more than ballot status significance. The State Elections Commission has decided that the PIP may use the public monies it has already received for party operations to collect enough signatures to be reinstated. Other minor parties are objecting.

    Socialist Party USA Presidential candidate Walter Brown was on the ballot in 8 states and received about 10,000 votes. Brown acquired the nominations of a number of state parties as well: United Citizens Party of South Carolina (2,109 votes), Natural Law Party of Delaware (100 votes), Natural Law Party of Michigan (1,449 votes).

    Harry Fleischman

    Harry Fleischman, former National Secretary of the Socialist Party of America, biographer of Norman Thomas, and DSA activist, died on November 7. He was 90 years old.

    Citizen Cyborg

    Chicago DSA expatriate James Hughes has published his first book, Citizen Cyborg. An outgrowth of his professional interest in medical ethics, it's a book discussing "democratic transhumanism". If this sounds esoterically University of Chicago, consider the infant field of genetic therapies, as well as the super-strength and smarter mice biologists have been constructing. It's later than you think. "Dr. J" maintains a web site at http://www.changesurfer.com. Citizen Cyborg is published by Westview Press.


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