Friday, January 11, 2008

Items of Interest

-- Ran across a mention of a June 2007 interview with John Kerry that's interesting in light of the campaign season now upon us. It's an interview of Kerry by the Center for Public Integrity concerning his views of campaign financing, including the 04 campaign.

-- Black Enterprise Endorses Obama for President - Founder, Chairman & Publisher Earl G. Graves states his case for supporting Senator Obama.

-- Jill Zuckman from The Swamp on how JK came to endorse Obama:

The meeting of the minds between Senators Barack Obama and John Kerry took place slowly over the course of the last year, resulting in today's endorsement.

According to a source close to Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee for president, the two senators began getting to know each other with a dinner back in March, several meetings in Kerry's Senate hideaway, and many talks on the phone about the issues of the day.

But the pivotal moment came when Kerry returned from a November trip to Africa. At that point, the senator from Massachusetts told aides what a difference it would make "to have a United States president who could talk to the whole world in a different way."

The men talked often in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses, with Kerry committing to join Obama on the campaign trail at whatever time he and his advisers thought would be the best moment.

Her post also includes the transcript of JK's remarks as prepared for the speech he delivered in Charleston.

-- As far as being an activist and organizer is concerned I thought this background that came out yesterday was interesting.


In the 1930s, Alinsky organized the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago (made famous by Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle on the horrific working conditions in the Union Stock Yards). He went on to found the Industrial Areas Foundation while organizing the Woodlawn neighborhood, which trained leftist organizers and assisted in the founding of community organizations around the country. In Rules for Radicals (his final work, published one year before his death), he addressed the 1960s generation of leftist radicals, outlining his views on organizing for mass power. The documentary, "The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and His Legacy,"[1] claims that "Alinsky championed new ways to organize the poor and powerless that created a backyard revolution in cities across America."
* * *

[2] Alinsky is often credited with laying the foundation for the grassroots political organizing that dominated the 1960s.[3] Later in his life he encouraged stockholders in public corporations to lend their votes to "proxies", who would vote at annual stockholders meetings in favor of social justice. While his grassroots style took hold in American activism, his call to stock holders to share their power with disenfranchised working poor only began to take hold in U.S. progressive circles in the 1990s, when shareholder actions were organized against American corporations.

and this

Alinsky was the subject of Hillary Rodham's senior honors thesis at Wellesley College, "There Is Only The Fight...": An Analysis of the Alinsky Model.[11] Rodham commented on Alinsky's "charm," but rejected grassroots community organizing as outdated. Once Hillary Rodham Clinton became First Lady of the United States, the thesis was suppressed by the White House for fear of being associated too closely with Alinsky's ideas.[12]

Alinsky also had a significant influence on Barack Obama, who is a United States Senator and candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.[11] Obama particularly used Alinsky's techniques while participating in Chicago community organizations in the 1980s.[13]

It appears to me that Obama and Clinton interpret Alinsky in opposite directions making this a fascinating topic.

-- kid oakland posted a diary, the heart and soul of the party, which prompted many thoughtful exchanges yesterday. One which caught my eye was this by Jeffrey Feldman:

I don't think it's about people power. I think it's about participation. And I think there's a very important distinction there that the netroots has been unable to engage.

"People power" is shorthand for participatory democracy--the 1960s theory of government that led to experiments like Jonestown. It's a failed political theory for the most part.

"Participation" (ironically), is shorthand for deliberative democracy--a constitution based theory of government that grew out of the argument between Jefferson and the more conservative participants at constitutional convention. It's our system.

What we want is to repair our deliberative democracy, not to reinvent our democracy. I think people are spinning our wheels in the idea of reinventing things through people-power, when what we want is for the system to work well.

This is one of the most basic distinctions in political theory. I think most netroots folks do not even realize that by voicing their quest for 'people power,' they inadvertently embrace the idea that our constitution based system is unfair--which they do not believe. That's why the Dean movement scared the hell out of people instead of making them excited--because they heard all this 'people power' talk and they thought of the Jacobins, the terror. That is so not what the netroots is about. We are about a healthy, functioning deliberative democracy. Institutions where citizens exchange ideas and feed them up through the system for more effective government. That's what we believe, that's what we work to repair everyday. The key element in that is a functioning free press, which has collapsed in the past ten years.

That's why the Obama campaign succeeds, but the Edwards campaign falters. Obama is the quintessential deliberative messenger. Edwards is the participatory message. Clinton is also deliberative, but in a broken way.

The discussion that ensued was interesting.

-- In the "learn something new every day" category, I ran across this comment.
...At least Bush Sr. realized that it's a hopeless job to try to occupy Iraq. He even wrote a Time Magazine article with Brent Scowcroft about it back in 1998 (since then scrubbed from their site)

While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.


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