Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Russ Feingold for President

When I backpack out west, high in the mountains, every once in a while I arrive at a terrifying moment. A foot path, on a steep slope, is normally exhilarating but safe. But when the slope and ten feet of trail are covered with ice you either turn back for a long journey to your point of origin or you take your chances. Each time I have gone forward, heart pounding and head dizzy, step by step, because with one slip I could slide down hundreds of feet of rocky mountainside and possibly die. I’ve always made it, but it’s been sheer luck that my boots gripped.

America is at such a dangerous point today, one of only a few in all of U.S. history. We have a president who invaded and occupies another country on completely false pretenses, and we let him get away with it. We have a president who has patently violated multiple provisions of the Constitution and Law, and we let him get away with it. We have a president whose phony war on a military tactic, terror, is generating more terror, and he’s getting away with it. We have a president who dared the Iraqi insurgency to “bring it on, “ and they obliged him. And his actions dare his foreign victims and adversaries to hit America in the only place it will really hurt. Here. And he’s getting away with it. Too many Democrats are letting him get away with it. And now most leaders of both the parties are laying the premises for attacks on Iranian territory, which could lead to a general war in the Middle East involving Israel, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. And eventually, New York City, Washington, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and our own Disney World. If “they” get the chance. And when that happens America will shift even farther to the right, the Republican Party will be resurgent, our freedoms will be further curtailed and we will waste hundred of billions more dollars on ever more pervasive security to protect us from …..what we ourselves have created with our foreign policies of aggression, arrogance and double standards selectively applied to “enemies” of the moment which create endless war.

And so with the above in mind, I have sifted through all the evasive language, signals and clues of the presidential candidates looking for one who fully understands this moment in U.S. history, someone whose values, intellect, personality and character have combined to create clearness of thought and wisdom about what needs to be done to turn us back from this disaster. We know the Republican Party is hell bent on charging down the same road, albeit in smarter fashion perhaps. But too many of the Democratic candidates are equivocal. And equivocation leaves too much to chance and it certainly doesn‘t provide the strong leadership that is essential to persuade the American public to seriously change course. There is a great danger that they will stumble accidentally perhaps down the same path the Republicans are taking us. They are certainly not offering a clear, strong alternative to it.

Cleary Hillary Clinton is not this person. Her support, alone among the Democratic candidates, for the Senate resolution designating the Iranian Guard as a terrorist organization and authorizing military action against Iran is just her latest in a long string of offenses, the most egregious of which is probably voting to allow the export of cluster bombs to Israel even after it had dropped four million of them, many many of them indiscriminately in civilian areas of southern Lebanon.

Other candidates haven’t grabbed my imagination. Al Gore clearly needs to be restored to the presidency he won in 2000, but unless the nomination contest deadlocks he’s not going to run. In addition, I’m still not convinced he has the clearness of thought to get us across the ice patch without slipping, though he might. I just read his 2002 speech on “Iraq and the War on Terror.” He was right about Iraq of course, but his speech was full of references to “avenging” 911, of waging the “war on terror” without any discussion of its causes or non-military ways of dealing with it, and of hunting down and killing the co-conspirators of 911, as if it took more than a dozen people to provide logistical support for 20 hijackers most of who certainly did not know the real purpose of the mission given the compartmentalization of all covert actions. He too was buying the neo-con premises that are fueling terror. Maybe he has become enlightened on this count in the past five years, but my quick look at his major speeches and press coverage contained no new comments on the “war on terror” or the emerging war on Iran.

Barack Obama certainly shows promise as one who might lead us back from this abyss. But as I researched his record I kept turning up mixed clues and signals. Many very good things, such as his fiery denunciation almost alone with Al Gore in 2002, of the invasion of Iraq, his subtle signals asserting independence from the right wing warmonger elements of the Israel lobby, if that’s what we call it, his opposition to the Iran Resolution, although he was the only Senator to skip the critical vote, and his recent call for global abolition of nuclear weapons. But amidst all these positive cues I kept coming across “clues of concern”. The essay he wrote this summer for Foreign Affairs was full of mixed cues but its overall tone was one of tough talk and a troubling reference to how we “won” the Cold War, a gross historical falsehood. He’s endorsed by Zbiegniew Brezinkski, Jimmy Carter’s destructive Cold War Warrior. He reminds me a lot of JFK, for good and bad. The Cold War warrior JFK who winked at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which lead to the Missile crisis that nearly killed all of us a year later. The JFK who perpetuated the Cold War and militarization. Not that Obama has not learned some of those mistaken worldview. In the end while I am positive about Obama, I am not inspired.

So I turned to John Edwards, and I see more consistency, less “clues of concern”. Yes, there is the big Black Mark, his vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq. A big black mark. Yet he has vigorously and assertively repudiated his vote and set out a solid plan for disengagement from the disaster that he helped create. But that’s not good enough. Still, his vociferous opposition to the Iran war resolution indicates he has learned. Last May, he became an early advocate of global nuclear weapons abolition. His essay in Foreign Affairs was in clear contrast to Obama’s: while still troubling at times, it was a tone of acknowledgement of the causes of terror tactics and the critical importance of “engagement” with foreign adversaries through trade and diplomacy. These “signals” combined with his many good domestic positions recommend him highly. His courting of labor and working people’s issues and his frequent participation in ACORN events over the years has impressed me. ACORN is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, one of the, if not THE, leading nationwide grassroots group organizing lower and middle income working people to fight for their interests. I was an ACORN organizer for a while. ) And on that note I must mention that Obama was a community organizer in Chicago, to his great credit. Community organizing is one of the greatest vocations of all. It’s up there with teaching and the priesthood.) Thus, from a practical standpoint, I can endorse John Edwards for President. As my pragmatic endorsement. Still, I need someone better.

So as I cast about for someone else, of course I came to Dennis Kucinich. For a Progressive, he’s a no brainer. On every count he meets my criteria for the vision, wisdom, strength and clearness of thought that is capable of leading the American public away form the abyss so I endorse him for President too. I don’t even have to explain why. But we have to be practical. My main, my single problem with Kucinich is that he is a Congressman. By tradition members of the House of Representatives rightly or wrongly are not regarded as serious presidential candidates. No member of the House has been elected President in 150 or so years and that was in a different age. So practically speaking, I endorse Dennis Kucinich for Vice President. Let us hope he runs for the Senate from Ohio, which will position him for a presidential run.

But I’m still left without a true strong visionary inspiring practical leader. And then I realized we need somebody like Kucinich who’s a Senator. And it was obvious: Russell Feingold. Feingold ran an exploratory campaign last year, raised some money, but in the end said he didn’t have the stamina and personality to subject himself and his family to the grueling presidential campaign. We need to draft him. Draft Russ Feingold. He is one of only handful of Progressive leading lights in the Senate. Almost alone he has talked of impeaching Bush and Cheney and has offered a practical resolution to censor him over the illegal warrantless searches. He opposed the Iraq war authorization when Edwards and Hillary voted for it. He opposed NAFTA and CAFTA. He supports state by state federally funded national health insurance. He’s lead the movement for serious campaign finance and lobbying reform. He’s right down the line. But there is one thing that tipped me over. I remembered how Cold War Warrior anti-communist Richard Nixon normalized relations with Communist China and all the talk that only a president with such credential could have done that. And I realized that as a Jew, Russell Feingold might be the only President capable of getting Israel to do what it has to do to restore Middle East peace after these 60 years and knock the main pillar out of the “war on terror” and the rearming of Hezbollah and Hamas and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and Syria, perhaps: withdraw most Jewish settlers from the West Bank and participate in the establishment of a fully independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital and aggressively pursue global abolition of nuclear weapons. Russ Feingold for President. Draft Feingold. And to help carry the swing state of Ohio, Dennis Kucinich for Vice President.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ecuador Demands Military Base in Miami

President Correia (sp?) of Ecuador is demanding that the U.S. allow Ecuador to establish a military base near Miami as a condition for allowing the U.S. to renew its base agreement in Ecuador, its only one in the Western Hemisphere. Cool idea, huh? How would you like a foreign base in Florida? Ecuador could use it for operations against Mexico if they ever have a problem with Mexico, or even strike Canada. They could use it to promote democracy and fight the Mexican drug cartels. Please comment.
# Now you understand why so many people around the world resent the U.S. Empire’s bases flung all over the globe and why some of them resort to terror tactics to force their removal and halt their operations in their regions, such as Bin Laden demanding that the U.S. remove its airbase from Saudi Arabia. Close most of the bases. Terror attacks on us end. That’s how we “win” the “war on terror.” And here’s a question for you to ask Steny Hoyer this weekend and be asking our Congressmembers and Congressional candidates: do you favor closing down many U.S. bases around the world? If so, to what extent?

Libertarian Progressivism

My brand of Progressivism has a strong libertarian streak. I’m Pro Freedom and freedom of expression. I think we Progressives need to change the culture of America, the way the rightwingers have done over the past 30 years. You know, decriminalize “drugs” etc. (Isn’t it interesting how the Democrats have ceded the Freedom issue to the Republicans, which they have perverted — that’s another post). So now I’m outraged that Opa-Locka down here by Miami became one of the first cities in the country to ban sagging pants on public property yesterday. Democratic, African-American Opa-Locka. Florida. Leading the way once again. At least they didn’t criminalize it: “offenders” whose pants do not cover all of their underwear will be “removed” from public property but no one can be fined or arrested. But Tase the resistors, the ones still fighting for their freedom in the American Police State that imprisons more of its citizens per capita than any effing country on Earth.

Personally, I’ve always kind of liked the look, not that what I like or dislike should have any bearing on another person’s freedom of expression. I like artistic people. I especially like the young men showing the tops of their sexy rounded butts. I also like the torn jeans look, especially when the tears are large and in the right places and maybe showing a furry leg. I find it exciting. Adds some pizzazz to a day’s boring forays and errands. Hey, women get to show cleavage. I’m for equal rights. I liked those Muslim breast cancer victims sitting with Laura “Hurricane Corrina” Bush this week in their black whatchamacall thems, faces hidden behind the mesh screens. I thought — they must feel more safe and secure than the rest of us, hidden from society like that. I wonder if they are allowed into banks in their countries. I actually thought about trying it some time. Wouldn’t it be cool to walk around seeing everything but nobody being able to see you? I was outraged when the French banned Muslim head scarves.

I think it’s wrong for egotistical aggressive people to be forcing their lowest common denominator conformity on others. Fuck them. It’s not just wrong, it breeds resentment and anger in our society that spreads and eventually gets expressed in destructive ways and it all eats away at our decaying society. Low pants are associated with thug-gangsterism but the style has gone well beyond that. So Opa-Locka will be disrespecting and humiliating a lot of non-gang people by physically forcing them off the sidewalks and enraging them and alienating them from the society they need to be a part of.

In the 1960s we were being brainwashed by recurring media condemnations of totalitarian Communist Red China, which if we didn’t “contain” with military bases and the Vietnam War, would take over the U.S. — yes, that’s what the stupid rightwingers were actually saying while most Democrats quietly went along then as now. They kept showing photos of the Young Communist Pioneers — scores of them all dressed identically in their gray uniforms in supposed drab martial conformity that had snuffed out all individualism and turned Chinese youth into zombies. And they would do that to us if we didn’t fight them. That’s how they portrayed it. I’m not embellishing. Never mind that our Cub and Boy scouts wore blue martial uniforms. So you can imagine my outrage in the 1990s when our schools imposed totalitarian style Communist conformity on American youth with mandatory uniforms. I oppose that too.

If you want to get into the conformity game, do you really want me to indulge my dislike of business suits and ties? Make them illegal? I’ve worked for a couple of corporations in my life and I did not like it. I prefer non profits and education. (By the way, I’ve been job hunting for seven years now with little luck — that’ll be another post — and after this post do you think I will ever work again? Tee hee.) I hate the phony bullshit role-playing corporate culture and the alternate lives and personalities of corporate people after 5 pm. I find suits and ties laughable. I really do. I hate the way people use suits and ties to give themselves a “legitimacy” that they often don’t deserve. That guy wearing a suit and tie is just as likely, if not more so, to lie and steal from you as that friendly homeless guy lying on the sidewalk outside Starbucks yesterday. They’ll usually use the “system” to do it. Like the Democrat lawyers nixing the caps on their exorbitant fees in the no-fault “reform” this month while the doctors had to take caps because there are far more lawyers in the legislature than doctors. I hate wearing them, except once in a while when I feel like dressing up or weird. Why when I sweep next year’s Netroots Awards in multiple categories I will accept your adulation in torn jeans and sagging pants. Tee hee. You should see me in a suit some time. If you look closely at me you will see how uncomfortable I am and if you nail me for how stupid I look I’ll blush very red and perspire. They look like costumes to me. Something you’d wear to a Halloween party. Can you imagine what Muslims think of them? And they’re so restrictive. The ties choke the neck and most of the time the knot is skewed to one side and looks kind of sloppy and stupid. What idiot came up with the idea to tie a piece of cloth around the neck so as to choke it?

Among the many problems with this ban is it’s yet another example of arbitrary government dictated by the whims of the particular clique in control of a given government. You can’t show underwear. Does that mean the elastic waste band? Tase ‘em. What if half the waste band is showing? Tase the resistors. What about a half inch of the flannel, or even an inch? How ‘bout an inch and a half? Or two? What if the pants are low on one hip but not the other? You know, that fashion statement. Of course it will depend on what you look like. If you’re a 50 year old white man with graying hair the Morals Control Officer will let it slide. But not if you are a 25 year old Black male. Although it might depend on the officer’s mood that day. Stop the oppression. Day 52.

Republican Property Tax Disaster

The Republican legislature’s near total failure to place meaningful property tax reform on the January ballot provides an historic opportunity for Florida progressives to seize the issue, build the movement, bash the Republicans and, possibly, elect more progressive Democrats next fall. This is serious, people. An opportunity like this, and this big, doesn’t come often. It could be the fourth pillar of a realignment in this state on top of the Bush revulsion, the fracturing of the Evangelical movement and the Independent shift of Republican Hispanics. Advice to the Democrats: without endorsing or opposing the ballot measure, start running TV and radio spots slamming the Republicans for not putting real relief on the ballot. Soften them up.

Just look at the deep grave the Republicans have just dug themselves. Don’t you want to shovel the dirt on top of them? It’ll be up to you. By increasing the effective homestead exemption by a paltry $15,000, the average property tax cut they have just proposed is $240, which is no relief for the couple million angry voting Floridians who have bought homes in the past ten years and are paying taxes in the thousands of dollars. More recent buyers are paying in the double digit thousands. The taxes on my modest 1900 sq. ft. home jumped over 50%, $1200, when I bought it in 2000 and crept up another 21% since, while my income …. Well, let’s just say it hasn’t kept pace, and I’m one of the people less affected. The ballot measure DOES NOTHING for first time home buyers (renters), many many of whom are locked out of home ownership because they cannot afford the exorbitant property taxes on current values. The ballot measure perpetuates the grossly unjust disparities in tax rates on identical homes created by the annual 3% Save Our Homes cap, where next door neighbors with similar homes pay tax bills that differ by the thousands. Even the 10% annual cap on non homestead assessment increases is insufficient, having no relation to a business’ revenue. One result of this will be to force businesses such as public marinas to sell to condo developers, worsening the condization of Florida’s disappearing beaches. I mention this because it is common ground between the business and progressive communities and might serve as a source of funding for a progressive ballot initiative, at least from the more progressive elements of the business sector.

And on top of all of this, the ballot measure slices education spending in a range of $80 million to $600 million a year when we ought to be increasing our starving schools by a billion.

The only good feature of the measure, aside from the token tax relief, is that homeowners will be able to transfer their 3% cap exemptions to a new home. They’ll no longer be trapped in their homes, unable even to downsize because the taxes on their new home will be far greater than their capped taxes on their current home. Still, even this is a lot of illusion: it really only benefits long time homeowners who have accrued substantial assessment savings. It does almost nothing for people who have bought homes in the past five years or more.

Tomorrow: why we need to get a progressive tax reform on the November ballot.

A Progressive Tax Reform Initiative

A state’s tax and revenue structure is the single most important issue in its politics. Florida’s skeletal system, pathetic to begin with, has broken down. It needs to be fixed. The Republicans and their decent but weak publicity hound running for President governor have failed to fix it. This creates a golden political opportunity for progressives, and dare I say, Democrats, to show leadership, to use this opportunity to build the progressive movement in this state. How do we do this?

The January property tax ballot measure is a patch on a worn out tire. It’s almost inconsequential whether it passes or not, in the bigger scheme of things. Even if it passes it solves little. The property tax crisis and all our other fiscal problems will continue to fester and probably get worse. There will probably be another billion dollar deficit next year. Too many people are being screwed by the dysfunctional property tax system. Something’s eventually going to give. It can’t go on like this.

The Republicans will make another attempt next year to fix things and we now know the quagmire they will remain in. The legislative Democrats will propose their plan but it will only be the back benchers’ plan. Besides, the Party is too conflicted and influenced by high income organized special interests to offer a populist plan. The issue is heading for the November ballot in what promises to be the big fight of ‘08. The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission will be placing amendments on the November ballot, but nothing good can come from this Jeb Bush-Republican dominated group chaired by Allan Bense, who says that the top concerns are businesses, owners of second homes and investment properties. Rubio is talking about putting something up. An anti-tax right wing radio host in Palm Beach is using his show to organize a petition drive. (Geez, is he giving me an idea?). We progressives have to be a part of that fight. We need to place our own plan on the November ballot. If we don’t offer a competing measure we lose. We remain sight seer bloggers talking about THEIR agenda, bitching and moaning about it and remaining irrelevant.

We need to do this not only to do what is right, not only to become players in state politics, but as an essential organizing strategy of the Florida Progressive movement. With so many of us locked out of electoral politics by local establishment power structures and the campaign finance system, we need to make the initiative process a key part of our strategy. We need to be putting progressive initiatives on every ballot every two years. Maybe most important of all, this will get us organized in a real way. It forces us to organize and build the infrastructure that will extend to the candidate, party, grassroots and media spheres.

We need to form a steering committee to start planning. Now. We need to hash out the kind of tax reform that is both good progressive public policy but also something than can win at the ballot box. I believe the two are the same. We may need to qualify several tax reform initiatives for the ballot. We will need 610,000 signatures by May. I know, I know. It may be too late. The progressive infrastructure in this state is too weak. But we have to start some time. This forces us to get serious and this is an historic opportunity. And you never know. Lightning strikes. Maybe the 12 perfect people will coalesce who can make this happen. That’s all it takes. Including a sugar daddy and mommy.

Tomorrow: a progressive tax reform plan.

2008 Florida Tax Relief and Reform Initiative

Here it is, the initiative Florida progressives should get onto the November ballot. This is critical, people. If we don’t do this, the right wingers will have their budget busting tax-breaks-for-the-well-off on the ballot and win it because we haven’t given the people an alternative.

(P.S: You right wingers out there are going to LOVE this!!! Though I have to admit, you anti-tax people are the sole remaining rational people in the Republican Party. I appreciate your posts).

I base this on basic Progressive principles. A tax system should be
1) based on a person’s ability to pay the tax
2) spread across a broad and diverse tax base
3) generate lots of money, whoopee! To fund an ambitious lite-socialist agenda such as fully funding existing government programs plus universal early education, parent training, park land acquisition and Everglades restoration, living wages and self-help anti poverty and economic development programs (subject to rigorous audits to prevent waste and corruption)
4) moderate the economic predation and inequalities of wealth that occur when large corporations and high-paid professions use their undue economic power to extract excessive amounts of money from lower and middle income people

2008 Florida Tax Relief and Reform Initiative

Section 1: Tangible Property tax.
A) Abolish all taxes on tangible property.

Section 2: Sales tax
A) Reduce state sales tax to 4%
B) End all exemptions to sales tax except for food, prescription drugs and permanent residential rentals
C) Extend sales tax to all non-medical services (B&C=$66 billion/yr)

Section 3: Intangible property tax
A) Reinstitute tax on investments over $1 million/individual abolished by Big Business Henchman, My-Daddy-didn’t -know -what-a-supermarket-price-scanner-was Jeb Bush. ($1.2 billion/yr)
B) Qualified pension plans shall be exempt.

Section 4: Corporate income tax
A) Adjust upward the corporate income tax to maintain revenue neutrality of current corporate contribution to state revenue in wake of property tax abolition
B) Close Jeb “my-mom-kept-calling-it-Hurricane Corrina-cause she doesn‘t care about the news” Bush loopholes and expand base ($1.6 billion/yr)
1) Reinstitute combined reporting
2) Tax S-corps
3) Tax LLCs

Section 5: Establish a graduated personal income tax ranging from 3% to 15% beginning on taxable income of $18,000 on a head of household ($$$$$!!!!)

Section 6: Inheritance tax
A) Recouple state inheritance tax to federal estate tax on estates over $1 million per individual ($1.2 billion/yr)

Section 7: State general revenue reserve fund.
A) The state shall by the end of Governor Mark Weaver’s first term maintain a $12 billion reserve fund (invested in a secure portfolio) to cushion budget shocks during economic/revenue downturns.

Gimme $1 million so I can get this on the ballot!


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Earth to Florida: You Need an Income Tax

This week’s callous budget slashing and the downright laughable property tax “cut-reform” mess merely illustrate what 43 of the United States already know: Florida needs a state income tax, a graduated, progressive income tax. It seems so obvious if you’re not rich like 90% of the people in this state: taxes should be based on one’s ability to pay. It’s doable if you have the political will. Even the most Republican state of all has an income tax (and property taxes to boot): Utah. If I were Governor, I’d go all out to enact an income tax and this week I’d be proposing a budget that increases state spending by a billion dollars, not slashing it one billion. The money would go to phase out property taxes, fund high quality socialized early education for all two, three and four year olds, class size reductions and parent training courses for all high school students and all other imminent parents.

Check out this amazing table of the state income tax rates: www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/
My favorite state is recently Republican Ohio. The second tax rate is mine, the modifications I would submit to the legislature and arm twist, and offer carrots and make deals, and tour the entire state and visit every editorial board and TV and radio station to get passed. The rates are for heads of households on taxable income.
$Zero to $5,000 .68% .5%
$5,000-$10,000 1.36% 1.25%
$10,000-$15,000 2.7% $2.5%
$15,000-$20,000 3.4% $3.25%
$20,000-$40,000 4.08% 4%
$40,000-$80,000 4.76% 5%
$80,000-$100,000 5.44% %6
$100,000-200,000 6.3% 9%
$200,000+ 6.8% 12%

I’d add a 15% bracket for over $300,000, but remember, I’d be abolishing property taxes. Taxes should be based on ability to pay, not the market value of a house or building that has no relation to the owner’s current income or revenue. California had a 13% top bracket for a long time, until the Republicans slashed it to 9.3% when they got power, but it’s still the highest in the nation. Massachusetts taxes capital gains at 12%.An income tax is a no brainer. It’s not debatable. What is debatable is how we enact it in this state. So I hereby announce my second project, The Florida Income Tax Project (my first was The Florida Anti-Terror Project). I’ll be setting up a site. Comment if you are interested in participating in it. It’ll all be obvious. We need to conduct a little research, crunch some numbers, come up with the rationales, talking points, etc. Put together a coalition. Then we launch a public information campaign. We’ll hold panel discussions in each major city, lobby key columnists and meet with editorial boards. We’ll get it done. Now. Utah did. Easy. Day 30.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I Am a Progressive!

Day Two. Okay, I’ll declare it. I’m a Progressive, above all else. And I have concluded from the initial reactions to the question of What is a Progressive? that 1) my thinking is going to evolve on this one, with your help, and 2) I’m going to make this a recurring feature of the 100 Days and the radio show — my definitions of what a Progressive is, and 3) my position is hardening that we need to clearly define what Progressivism is, for that will ground us for all the decisions we will have to make about things, strengthen us as negotiaters with our Moderate and Liberal friends, confront the right wingers, and hold a recognizable banner for the general public to follow, in short, to provide STRONG LEADERSHIP.

What is a Progressive?

Day Three. We really need to define, broadly, what Florida Progressivism is. It’ll clarify our thinking and guide us in our work and choices and which candidates we endorse, perhaps the most important of our choices. If you are not clear what you stand for, you will be seduced by liars, propagandists, careerists, Moderates and media spin, and weakened when you confront Rightwingers. (Isn’t that how we got into Iraq?) So I invite all of you: write out a relatively brief statement of your Progressive principles. Or if you identify yourself more as a Liberal or Moderate, or even a Democrat, define what that means to you. Here’s my rough draft try at this, I’m going for something more specific than the FPC’s statement, but not programmatic, since there can be a lot of legitimate differences on how to execute principles:

Progressivism to me, and as I have understood it over the past 40 years, advocates a society that rejects foreign intervention, coercion and militarism and military “aid” and uses its armed forces only as a last resort against real, emerging imminent threats or to stop genocide. Instead, it seeks resolution of international and transnational conflicts through discussion and respect for the legitimate interests of all parties and foreign economic development aid. This enables the society to focus its resources on broadening its prosperity to ALL of its people. This starts with progressive taxation based on the ability to pay. It embraces lite socialism to provide for the basic needs of society such as postal, education (from pre-school through vocational ed and college), police, fire, emergency management and prevention, housing, transportation infrastructure, targeted economic development to depressed communities and wherever the private sector fails to provide a basic need affordably to all people (that means health insurance and hurricane insurance). Progressivism advocates respect and equality of minorities. It advocates a criminal justice system that protects the individual from false detention, arrest and incarceration or for “moral” crimes and seeks to rehabilitate the truly criminal through education, counseling and humane correction with prison and harsh sentences as a last resort. Progressivism means a truly fair election system in which every person can participate on a financially even footing with an emphasis on grassroots organizing. Progressivism seeks to expand individual freedom from oppressive government and society, while constraining greed, economic predation and the unlimited accumulation of wealth at the expense of most of society. Progressivism truly means Progress, by looking forward to a better and better all inclusive society based on science and rationality as opposed to 14th century thought.

Pretty simple, huh? What do you think?

Identity Politics

Day 4. We’re on a roll, pickin’ up steam, train’s a comin’. My radio show starts 10am Saturday. Tune in. More on that tomorrow. I swear this is all leading somewhere, people. We’re starting out defining who we are. I didn’t expect it to evolve like this. I didn’t know what to expect. But I will soon move into strategy, and then tactics, and go into policy, which is after all determined by identity and strategy.

Words do count. Our political identities are important. Here’s another exercise for you, you should start writing stuff down: how do you identify yourself politically? Post it. Maybe you don’t have an identity, but I find that hard to believe, correct me if I’m wrong. Sure, a few people among us may not have a political identity, and I guess that’s cool. But your not leading. You’re following. And that’s cool too. Follow me. (Tee hee). Just don’t flip to the Dark Side down the road, when the next terror attack hits, or you convert to President Thompson or whatever. You’re in danger.

Progressive doesn’t mean progress because progress is a meaningless term, although that was the original 17th century name of the concept. Everybody wants progress towards their own values. Progress would be a fundamentalist Christian Republic to many Christians; a democratic, U.S.-ruling elite aligned, oil supplying, U.S. military based Iraq to the neo cons, no matter how many hundreds of thousands of people will be killed and maimed,and how many millions refugeed and trillions of dollars wasted to achieve that progress.

Our political identity determines everything, our opinions on issues, the importance of them, what we do, who we support, who we empower. I’m a Progressive first and foremost. Personally, I also consider myself a Liberal, a Democrat, a Green, a Socialist, a civil libertarian, a unionist, a Moderate and a gay libber, but those are the sub identities. Yeah, there’s a lot of overlap between these. Some of you consider yourselves Democrats above all else. That’s your identity. It affects things. One of my gripes about the party people is you’re often partisan, party above all else (here I go again, labeling and stereotyping). But you have a tendency to have a double standard for “bad” behavior if it is committed by a Republican as opposed to a Democrat. Or to oppose every single thing a Republican proposes (granted it’s easy to mistrust them). You get caught up in side shows. Take the primary flap. That’s a side show, at least for a Progressive. I don’t care about it. I’m outside the circular firing squad. I love you all. The primary system broke down this year, and good riddance. I’ve hated it for twenty years. We’re gonna fix it for 2012,I think. We will.

There IS a Progressive political identity, folks. I swear I’m not making it up. There are hundreds of thousands of people around this country who identify as Progressives, first and foremost, a whole community. They don’t consider themselves Liberals. Just ask Scott Maddox, I think, and Kucinich, Jesse Jackson, Feingold, Howard Dean, Jerry Brown, maybe Obama, if you get the chance. We gotta get them down here.

Now you don’t need to name your identity, that’s cool. Better that than say your someone you’re not. But doesn’t it make things easier? In the end, after I talk to and observe you for an hour, I’ll name you. I have limited energy, so I will try to help Progressives get elected, not Liberals or Democrats, and I will advocate Progressive ideas, not Liberal ones or Democratic Party positions (except where they often overlap).

In the end, BEWARE of the labels people attach to themselves. They may not be what they appear. Maybe I’m not really Progressive, after all. Just be clear about your identity.

Out of Afghanistan

Day Seven. I gotta indulge in a national issue before I go into strategy. Besides, we need to be holding Florida’s Congress members and candidates accountable on this, which we aren’t doing. We need to be questioning all our candidates about this, even for the legislature, because some of them will move up to Congress from there. I will no longer support candidates whose worldview perpetuates the worldwide mess we are in. Iraq isn’t the only problem. Alan made an incisive comment on one of my posts. He said Liberals start wars. I could agree, with qualifications. And I’d postulate that at least in theory, Progressives don’t, or at least shouldn’t. You shouldn’t.

What set me off this morning were these paragraphs buried in a McClatchy News Service story: “Tribal insurgents allied with the Taliban and al Qaeda have created a virtually independent Islamic state in much of Pakistan’s tribal belt and repulsed repeated U.S.-supported drives by the Pakistani army to bring the region under control (my italics). At the same time, the Taliban have mounted a ferocious return in Afghanistan. Taliban fighters have taken de facto control of one rural district after the next, moving from their southern heartland toward the Afghan capital. Allied drug lords have produced record crops of opium poppy, fueling corruption and violence. And civilian casualities from the U.S. airstrikes, and anger over Iraq and U.S. support for Israel, have dramatically boosted anti-Americanism and opposition to the government in Kabul. Given the insecurity, violence and anti-U.S. anger — even among moderates – on both sides of the border …..”

I reject the Liberals’ argument that we had to invade and occupy Afghanistan so that Liberals can look strong on defense and as a cover to oppose Iraq. What the F right does the U.S. have occupying foreign countries? And what the F right does the U.S. have bringing the Islamic region in Pakistan “under control”? It’s not our F ing business to be dictating to the world that they can’t have Islamic governments. Let Pakistan deal with its own affairs. If we stopped arming the Afghanistan “government” and the Pakistani military dictatorship, etc., my Secretary of State could reach a nice deal with the Taliban and al Qaeda: we leave you alone, you leave us alone. That’s how you’re strong on defense, Liberals.

Progressives and Liberals

Day Eight. Wow, it’s going to be a long 100 Days of posts! Some of you are asking, “Why are you going on and on making this distinction between Liberals and Progressives? What do you hope to accomplish? It’s a false dichotomy. They’re the same. I’m both.”

Don’t misperceive. I’m not trashing Liberals. Yeah I know it may sound like it, at moments, on fine points, but I’m not. Liberals are family. I’ve just NEVER thought of myself as a Liberal. I’ve always thought of myself as Progressive. Not that I have any animosity toward Liberalism, and at some moments and contexts I call myself a Liberal. I’m making the distinction for several reasons: 1) because it exists, at least among many people, although there is a lot of overlap between the two, even if it doesn’t exist for you personally; 2) I want all of us, including me as I think about all this fascinating stuff, to clarify our identities for the reasons I outlined in Identity Politics; and 3) there’s something that concerns me about Liberalism, as many Progressives define it, even though you personally may not. I’m not going to get into this in this post. My thoughts are still unclear. It’s a feeling, an intuition. There’s something about Liberalism, as some of us see it, that echoes some of the premises and paradigms of the right wingers, or amoral anchorless Centrism. I don’t know. It’ll emerge as a thread during these 100 Days.

To an extent I am making a forced dichotomy, I wouldn’t say a false one, it’s a matter of degree and nuance. Most of what I’ve been saying about Liberalism, many many people who call themselves Progressives would agree with. But you’re also getting a little of my personal take on the differences and yeah it may be a little theatrical and stretching, but I still think I’m touching, if in metaphors, the differences.

But I will say that there is merit in defining Progressivism broadly, as Kenneth and others are doing, and I am committed to a free ranging, honest, CIVIL discussion. But I get nervous about defining it so broadly that it loses a clear identity, that neither we nor the general public who we are trying to provide STRONG clear leadership for can unambiguously explain what we stand for. Maybe I’m emerging as “on the left” of this redefined Progressive movement, but I swear, I consider myself a Moderate. Then again, maybe none of this matters. Maybe I should forget labels and distinctions. We will see.

What do you think?


Day Nine. This is going to be tough for you to read. I apologize, but it’s a tough day. I had hoped this post would come toward the end of the 100 Days, after you understood me more.

You have a choice to make during your four minutes of silence today, four minutes, or at least to start making if it requires you to change course. You have to decide what kind of world you want to live in the next 50 years, that you want your children and grandchildren to live in. You can continue the bogus “war on terror”. You can continue to work for, contribute to and vote for politicians who will perpetuate U.S. military aid and support of authoritarian anti-Islamic regimes across this planet. That is why Al Qaeda attacked you six years ago today and why they will continue to try to attack you. Here. You can continue to pour billions and billions of your tax dollars into your country’s killing Al Qaeda and the dozens of other Islamic militant political movements who are forced to arms by the dictatorships that your country props up. You can watch America continue to slip into more and more of a police state. I learned just this morning that Bush is now turning the spy satellites onto our homeland. Watching you. You can live in more and more fear and watch this country driven farther and farther to the right each time an attack evades the police state security apparatus, of which YOU are a suspect.

Several years ago I had the honor to meet Sen. Ted Kennedy at a meeting of gay rights activists. F gay rights. I asked him why Al Qaeda tried to destroy his capitol and kill him. He said he didn’t know. Or was it he wouldn’t tell? He said we need to investigate it, called for an investigation. I was shocked. You tell me what’s going on. I can, but that’s for another post.

Bruce Hoffman knows. Here’s an amazing paragraph buried in this morning’s paper. You’ll be amazed what truths and insights pop out of the depths of stories written by people who lack the education, or values, or is it intelligence?, to see wholistically and get their thesis right. This one is from an op-ed piece by Hoffman, professor of security studies at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the U.S. Military Academy Combating Terrorism Center.

“…. Al Zawahari is the superior strategist. It was he who, more than a decade ago, defined al Qaeda’s strategy in terms of “far” and “near” enemies. The United States is the “far enemy” whose defeat, he argued, was an essential prerequisite to the elimination of the “near enemy” — the corrupt and authoritarian anti-Islamic regimes in the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia that could not remain in power without U.S. support. All Zawahri’s strategic vision set off the chain of events that led to 9/11.”

So that’s one choice. Or you can work to stop the war on the militant Islamic movements, demand that your party and your candidates and the media and the right wingers stop it. Just stop it. It’s none of my or your business what kind of governments these countries have, regardless of our personal preferences on all sorts of different governments. Worry about your own.

Stop it. And in time …. so much damage has already been done it will take years and years to reverse this, the Islamists will forget about us, you, they will do what they will do in their own countries and have only ‘near enemies’. And if they do come to power here and there, you will no longer be their enemy. You can deal with them the same way we deal with China, or Pakistan, or Egypt (okay, maybe not military aid) or every other country whose government we don’t like.

Peace out.

America's 911 Black Hole

On Tuesday I posted about the refusal of this society to acknowledge the reasons why we were attacked on 911, which has lead you to “go along with” the bogus War on Terror, if not downright cheer it on (and thereby contribute to the public conflation of Iraq and 911). Well, here’s a shocking item from this morning’s wire services: “The Defense Department has censored an audiotape of the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks speaking at a military hearing — cutting out Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s explanation for why Islamic militants waged jihad against the United States. After months of debate (my italics) by several federal agencies, the department released the tape Thursday. Cut from it were 10 minutes of the more than 40-minute closed court session at Guantanamo Bay to determine whether Mohammed should be declared an “enemy combatant” ….. Officials from the CIA, FBI, State Department and others listened to the tape and feared it could be copied and edited by other militants for use as propaganda, officials said. “It was determined that the release of this portion of the spoken words of Khalid Sheik Mohammed would enable enemies of the United States to use it in a way to recruit or encourage future terrorists or terrorists activities,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

Note how release of the ten minutes would also inject critical information into the public policy debate and erode the rationale for the War on Terror. This is also being done to propagandize the American public, to continue YOUR brainwashing by withholding critical facts. I am trying to track down the transcript of the ten minutes, if it is even public. If you can get a hold of it first, post it and send it and your link to me so I can post it here.

I am hereby establishing The Florida Anti-Terror Project (provisional name) to work to stop the phoney War on Terror in Florida. We will pull together the relevant research, meet with editorial boards, hold meetings with our Congressional delegation, you know the bit. We need to inject this overall issue into the Florida Primary. If you get a chance, you need to ask the presidential candidates a very simple question: “Why did Al Qaeda attack us on 911?” You’ll get bullshit (except from Kucinich), but we can examine the nuances, the subtext of their responses for clues on their approach to terror.

I’ll serve as coordinator for now. If this is an issue that you feel strongly about, comment or email me. I’ll be establishing the project site shortly. Stay tuned. Day 12. Things are starting to congeal here.

Thompson Tells Versailles He'll Attack Iran

It just keeps getting worse. Fred, who has “box upon box” of wrongly-illegal Cuban cigars in his office and told the reporter that friends give them to him, told a mob of Cuban exiles and hangers on at Miami’s Versailles mega restaurant-coffee bar-hangout, a den of villany and evil rivaling Moss Isely on Tattoine, that he’ll attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. As I was watching local news Friday evening, Thompson came on. I usually tune out right wingers when they come on the tube. I remember seeing his mouth moving and I was picking up stray words here and there until I heard the word “Iran.” As I went on alert and started to tune in, he was saying something about how he will send combat troops in, or it might have been air strikes. He didn’t say he’d use tactical nukes. I’m trying to verify and will post if I can, but it sounded like combat troops to me. The experts are saying that air strikes won’t knock out Iran’s nuclear facilities since many are undergrounded and exact location may not be known. Strangely, Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo did not include this bombshell in his article on the campaign stop. I have emailed him for clarification but since when do reporters actually respond to their byline email addresses. Breaking news 10am Monday: Caputo just emailed me. Kudos. We’re both working on this. Will keep you posted. Worse yet: I cruised through a bookstore Saturday for the first time in months, looking for stuff to debate some of you guys who are critiquing my posts. There was book after book after book about the evil threat of Iran on the display tables. It was frightening, my heart started pounding right there in the Current Affairs aisle. We’ve got a problem, folks. What are you going to do about it? Day 15.

No-Fault Reform

Part Two: I’m still dazed and confused about No Fault, head’s spinning. But let’s figure it out, come up with a reform plan, a Progressive plan. It should be easy. Start with Progressive values, true, real Progressive values, and then work it out.

Progressive insurance policy should be consumer based. I figure since drivers are paying for the “product”, what’s good for them should be the core of a reform plan. Sure, the interest of all the other parties should be taken into account, but consumer rules. I checked with Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network. He said the Republicans, who dominate the legislature, lean toward stripping rights from consumers. And if you look at the 40 people Crist is “negotiating” with, it’s almost all industry people, only weak consumer representation. AARP is there, FCAN isn’t. So the thing is already stacked.

Our other Progressive values are fair and affordable rates, spreading risk as broadly as we can, and anti-corruption, anti-fraud. And we want personal responsibility. People who recklessly injure someone with an accident should be held accountable. That’s tricky because a lot of accidents are just that: co-incidents by people who are trying to be responsible. So we have to separate recklessness from co-incidents, somehow. And since we are talking about a basic necessity issue here, people’s healthcare, their survival in some cases, we want affordable quality medical care for accident victims. That means we oppose economic predators who would exploit an accident and try to get rich off of it. Are you with me on this? Are you Progressive?

Notice how the above is not what is DRIVING the negotiations with Crist. It’s mostly me, me, me; insurance company profit margins, hospital and doctor profit margins, lawsuits and legal fees for attorneys. Feel sorry for the AARP people, and you.

So let’s sketch our legislation. The core question is “how do we provide medical insurance for people in accidents.” If you’re clear about your values, it’s simple: universal health insurance. Forget PIP and medical payments insurance. BINGO. See you later.

But wait. We don’t have universal health, though thank god we’re moving in that direction, things are looking good, unless Romney wins (don’t count those people out), in which case we need to be working on a Florida universal insurance plan as a backup. Let’s start now, at the least that would help us influence the watered down compromise neo-liberal plans that Hillary-Edwards-Obama are proposing.

So we need a short term fix for October 1st. I say reform No Fault. Here’s how.

Maintain the requirement that drivers buy $10,000 worth of medical personal injury protections for themselves and their passengers regardless of fault.

To enforce personal responsibility, factor medical accident costs into the fines for reckless driving such as excessive speeding, running stop lights, drunk driving, etc. Also, when police determine that a driver is clearly responsible for an accident for reckless driving (I’m not talking about the legitimate mistakes we all make from time to time), the driver should be cited for a hefty fine and free to contest it in Municipal Court. (Poor people should be allowed to work off their fine through community service such as litter pick up crews, etc.). A determination by a Court could also serve as a point on the driver’s insurance record that would factor into higher PIP premiums. All these funds would then be channeled to hospitals and doctors for accident care.

To prevent predatory economic behavior: Make sure that the Insurance Commissioner appointed by CFO Alex Sink only approves reasonable profit margins for PIP premiums. Fighting FCAN was able to secure a couple of good reforms earlier this year: the companies can no longer raise their rates with only retroactive review, and, there is no longer a state arbitration panel that overturn a Commissioner who pseudo-rejects rates, claims he’s pro Consumer, and knows the arbitration panel will overturn him. (However, the reforms expire in two years. Watch this one, Progressives).

Set a fee schedule for accident medical services, an affordable one. “Usual and customary” is unacceptably vague. And institute utilization controls, whatever that is (tee hee). The system is currently rife with unnecessary and expensive procedures used as an excuse to exhaust the full $10,000 of benefits. The leading bill by Sen. Posey (R ) is proposing a cap that is double the current Medicare schedule. Bill Newton of FCAN says that still leaves a gap in indigent health care funding and wonders where the rest of the $350 million shortfall for trauma and emergency rooms will come from. However, I don’t think PIP premiums should be used to fund indigent care. That should be more broadly based, which is why we need universal health care and a state income tax. Your work is cut out for you, Progressives.

Cap attorney fees to prevent exorbitant payouts, pegged to a $150 hourly rate. The plunderous $250 an hour rates attorneys now charge are an outrage that YOU pay through your insurance premiums.

Establish strict licensing and other standards for clinics, such as having to be doctor-owned, in order to qualify for PIP reimbursements. These clinics are an outrageous source of predatory economic fraud. You see their ads on daytime television virtually inviting the unemployed, ill and disabled to fake injury from the slightest accident and collect some money.

More resources to help law enforcement fight fraud.

So there we go! Now watch what comes out of the Crist negotiations and the special session and compare it to what I propose. Then get angry. The moral to this whole story is that we need full public funding of Florida legislative campaigns. Too many legislators have been elected with big special interest money, or legislate in fear of it in their next campaign. All these negotiations smack of a pack of wolves squabbling over the spoils: you, Consumer. Day 18.


No-fault. What a bore, but it’s the #1 issue in the state right now. So let’s try to figure it out. Start from scratch.

On October 1st, for the first time in 36 years, drivers won’t be required to buy $10,000 of medical insurance to cover them and their passengers in an accident regardless of who is at fault. (It’s called PIP, personal injury protection.) Why? Because the auto insurance companies got sick of paying for the fraud or over charging by hospitals, doctors and clinics and personal injury lawyers that occurs with PIP as we know it. Maybe their profit margins are being squeezed these days and they decided it was time to demand a change from the legislature. And they were joined by the personal injury lawyers whose caseload would jump if people had to sue to prove accident fault. Always follow the money. The legislature four years ago tried to do something about this but all the interest groups deadlocked over reforms. And they passed a bill to repeal PIP on Oct. 1st.

Crist backs no-fault reform. He and the legislative leadership are refereeing the interest groups like crazy and it smells to me like there is going to be a special session any day now that’s going to reform and extend No Fault. We’ll see.

What if PIP expires? Let’s figure it out, because right now I’m dazed and confused. Now, if you have an accident, PIP pays your medical. If you’re part of the 80% in Florida who have health insurance, your health insurance will pay your medical after Oct. 1st. That means health insurance is going to go up, $6 per person a month, but maybe it’ll be a draw since you won’t be paying up to $200 a year for PIP. It also means bodily injury liability coverage will go up since the 20% without health insurance may file a claim against your insurance company trying to prove you caused the accident. They’ve already started raising these rates, proactively. So make sure you have bodily injury now.

Now what about the 20% without health insurance who won’t have PIP? They better buy accident medical payments insurance. But a lot of them won’t. A lot of them will be wiped out financially, and the really poor will be treated for free by the hospitals, emergency rooms and doctors. Wait a second. Where are the hospitals gonna get the money to pay for all these people? Oh, now I see why they want PIP. Right now they overcharge PIP cases and use the money to fund their indigent care. You know, the $5 aspirins. They’re gonna lose $350 million without PIP. Right now Florida hospitals are financially sound. Post-fault will eat into their budgets. To compensate, the local governments that fund their indigent care will have to contribute more, cut budgets or raise property taxes, if they can. Trauma centers and indigent care may be cut back. It happened in Colorado when they repealed no-fault in 2003. There was a 400% increase in charity cases. My head is spinning. What’s a Progressive to do? Tomorrow.

Bill Nelson for Vice President

While the Saturday Mark Weaver Show failed to produce a Florida primary endorsement (ran out of time, click in next week for the finale!), in a flash of brilliant revelation, Weaver endorsed Bill Nelson for the second spot on the ticket. Half the job is over. One reason is obvious, given yet another potentially close election in our critical swing state, Nelson could carry the state. But that’s not the reason I have endorsed him, and urge you to too. This is the easy, bloodless way to get him out of the Senate. Nelson has to go and this is the deft way of doing it. Otherwise we face an essential hard battle primary against him in 2012 and that’s too long to wait anyway. Think this out. Crist will appoint Nelson’s replacement, and maybe we should urge Crist to resign with a deal that Prankster Kottkamp appoints him to the seat. Our moderate, rational Crist might have almost the same voting record as Nelson, and perhaps better on some issues. Sure, Crist is Republican, but with the Democrats poised to pick up a handful, if not more, seats next year, he won’t tip control. And we get rid of Nelson. That’s the easy part. The hard part is we need to start talking, organizing and recruiting a STRONG PROGRESSIVE candidate to challenge Senator Crist in ‘12. I’ve kind of liked Scott Maddox, but he disappeared when that Party finance whatever broke. Any ideas on him? Isn’t there a good progressive mayor somewhere in Florida who could run? Start thinking folks!
If you are not aware of Nelson’s ongoing punch-in-our-faces votes on major issues (these aren’t marginal wonky policy issues), see my companion post.

Cluster-Bomb Hillary, Bill Nelson & Senator Mel

Here’s one reason, out of numerous, that we need to get Bill Nelson out of the Senate. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is Jewish by the way, and Sen. Patrick Leahy recently offered an amendment banning the export of cluster bombs manufactured by our Satanic military industrial complex to countries that have used them in civilian areas. These bombs are packed with scores of mini bombs that indiscriminately explode out in all directions for hundreds of feet to kill and maim. A no brainer, right? Wrong. Even Reagan banned the sale of cluster bombs to Israel for six years in the 1980s after it was proven that the Israeli Defense Forces used them in civilian areas during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the U.S. has always required that the bombs not be used in civilian areas as a condition of export. The amendment was trashed 70-30 and effin’ BILL NELSON AND HILLARY CLINTON and SENATOR MEL voted to kill it. (Note that there are consistently 25-30 true Progressives on Senate votes. What are Bill and Hillary doing voting with Martinez on a litmus test issue?).
In the last three days of Likud-Kadima’s invasion of Lebanon last summer the IDF fired over one million cluster bombs into southern Lebanon where 650,000 people live. The purpose was to “saturate the area” as part of Likud-Kadima’s well documented strategy of “collective punishment” of the people of Lebanon as a barbaric means to bring pressure on the Lebanese government to impose Likud-Kadima policy in Lebanon and to destroy Hezbollah military capabilites. Over the 34 day assault the IDF is estimated to have dropped 4 million cluster bomblets with UN officials estimating that one million remained unexploded and can be easily triggered. Researchers from Human Rights Watch reported that the density of cluster bombs in southern Lebanon was higher than in any place they had ever seen. One Israeli solider who helped “flood” the area with the bombs was quoted saying, “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs.” The UN’s under-secretary for humanitarian affairs labeled Kadima-Likud’s actions “completely immoral.”
By the end of the ‘war’, Israel had killed about 750 Lebanese civilians in addition to Hezbollah fighters and damaged or destroyed about 16,000 Lebanese buildings. Hezbollah forces killed 43 Israeli civilians and damaged or destroyed about 300 buildings through indiscriminant rocket and missile attacks (but not cluster bombs) into Israeli towns. I find it interesting, however, that Israel’s barbarism was not as bad as our own U.S. of A’s Truman’s carpet bombing of Dresden and atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaskai. So unless you condemn those actions you cannot condemn Israel’s here.
Almost all of the above well-documented facts are from an essential new book that every Florida Progressive needs to buy ($20 hardcover), highlight and carry around with them to refute any Florida activist or politician or reporter who would ignore this and other unjust policies of the Likud-Kadima government: The Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and codirector of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer Pofessor of International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and academic dean of the Kennedy School from 2002-2006.
Is anyone out there actually thinking of supporting Cluster Bomb Hillary for President? And I don’t want anyone slamming me or critiquing me on the countless other issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This post was solely about cluster bombs. Day 21. Wow, we’re startin’ to draw some Progressive lines in the sand here.

Beyond Same Sex Marriage

Marriage equality is a no brainer and all of us should pitch in at some point to join the fight against the insidious upcoming constitutional amendment to prohibit it in FLA. Donate, but better yet, plan to spend one day (at least) helping out with the canvassing. Trust me it’ll be a hoot. I’ve done it. And you heteros, if you’re lucky, you’ll get called a faggot and other things.
But I’m ready to move beyond gay marriage on two key issues. First, we need statewide curriculum reform that includes objective, science based, ongoing education about affectional orientation and gender in every high school. And secondly, we need local governments to provide a body guard to every gay person who can demonstrate an imminent threat to their safety. Imagine this: a gay couple walking down a Jacksonville street holding hands and so in love that they’re smooching, just like head-over-heels-in-love heteros are known to do. Protected by a body guard with law enforcement powers who will arrest anyone who spits at them, hits them or throws something at them, maybe even tase them in a pinch. And issues them a citation for verbal harrassment or non physical intimidation, which upon conviction requires them to attend 10 hours of scientific education on affectional orientation, INCLUDING ATTENDANCE in group therapy sessions with lots of homosexuals. Tee hee.
You think I’m kidding? Just wear a T-shirt that says “PROUD TO BE HOMO” in giant block print on the front and go for an evening walk on almost any efffin’ street in this state. You can watch the sun set. And then get scared out of your fucking mind. (Email me, I’ll put you on my order list. I’m going to get these silk screened.) I was filling my gas tank at a gas station next to a gay bar one night. A young black man had the cutest puppy, but he was abusing it, kicking it a bit, as if the puppy could understand English when the guy told the dog to stop wandering away. I was already on edge at the stupidity, ignorance and cruelty of this youth who should not have had a pet. But the puppy melted my heart and I spoke to it: “What a cute puppy.” I am not overtly gay, but he yelled out, “That dog hates faggots.” I mention this to illustrate how heteros are often caught in the attacks against homosexuals. This incident called for some sort of intervention.
You may have heard of the Ft. Lauderdale airport incident earlier this year. A skycap got on the airport P.A. system at 1am and announced, “A man who lies with a man as he would a woman will be subject to death.” Apparently the skycap had seen a gay couple arriving from a trip to Chicago. Fortunately for all of us, the two guys fought back. Real American Heros. Let’s put them on a stamp. Waymon Hudson and Anthony Niedwiecki had been apolitical. Now they went public, were all over the TV news and newspapers, started lobbying and everything else we’re all doing. Niedwiecki may run for Oakland Park city commission. Talk to him, you might want to join his campaign. Just make sure he opposes Cluster-Bomb Hillary and Bill Nelson too. Human rights are all linked.
But here’s the kicker: After the TV coverage, Hudson was at the supermarket and a woman asked him if she’d seen him on the news. He said maybe. “She looked me right in the face,” Hudson says, “and said ‘You two deserve what that man said to you.’”
Now isn’t that a death threat? Shouldn’t that beast be hauled in for police questioning at the very least to determine if she is a threat to these two men and anyone else she may mistake for being gay, including you? Just like the police often do when someone threatens someone else? Shouldn’t society send her a signal, a warning, ‘you crossed the line’, you’re on our watch list now.
The next day Hudson was at his gym. When he got back to his car there was a giant note on the windshield scrawled with “fag”. Hudson said he started taking side roads home so nobody could follow him and learn where he lived.
Several days later another woman came up to him at the grocery store and spit in his face. She had a six year old in hand. Why wasn’t she arrested? Isn’t there a law against this?
One thing in particular I find interesting about all this is what thugs, beasts, worse-than-animals some of these anti-gay people are, who are emboldened by their effin’ churches and the cynical Republican Party. It all goes together.
So now dear Progressive. Let’s get to work, organize, lobby, demand our candidates enact curriculum reform and a body guard requirement.
And you right wingers out there, don’t ever call me soft on crime. I’m a tough guy too!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Are You Progressive?

Let it begin. Day One. I swear I’ll keep most of these short and to the essence, although this, as the first, will be one of the longer ones.

I know I should start these 100 days with a post on Labor, but I have to kick this off with a look at The Big Picture: What is a progressive?

The opposition to radical bastardized conservatism is, finally, clearly ascendant, and its leadership, including us, are calling ourselves Progressives. Forget for a moment that the number of Americans identifying themselves as Liberal, not progressive, is at a 35 year high. I suspect that’s because the general public still cannot define what Progressivism is. But I am worried, worried that the Progressive movement as it has existed since its reincarnation in 1968 is being diluted by the flood of people jumping onto the band wagon, and morphing into an amorphous catchall for anything that opposes George and Jeb Bush Republicanism. I could be wrong. Please, comment about this.

The modern Progressive movement developed in 1968 when McCarthy and Robert Kennedy split from the Liberal Democratic Establishment of LBJ and Hubert Humphrey and others who were perpetuating the Vietnam War. (Historical point: American Progressivism emerged in 1912 as an agrarian reaction to urbanization and industrialization in the Republican Party, which splintered into Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party. Robert La Follette carried the banner in 1924 and Henry Wallace in 1948, opposing Truman’s Cold War militarism. The FPC is an inheritor of this historical continuity).

So Progressivism split from Liberalism in 1968, and developed into additional issues. The two were distinctly different. Are they now? Tell me, what is the difference between a Liberal and a Progressive? And which are you? Are you a Progressive merely because Liberalism went out of fashion? Are you merely rebranding Liberalism?

In 1976 I canvassed hundreds upon hundreds of homes for Progressive Tom Hayden for the U.S. Senate in California against Liberal Democrat incumbent John Tunney in the Democratic primary who originally won because he was the son of a famous boxer. Great credentials, huh? I walked the Hispanic working class West side of Santa Barbara, CA. Hayden was the militant anti-Vietnam War protestor who was tried in the Chicago 7 trial of war protestors at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Hayden won a surprising 40% in the primary. Tunney was then defeated by radical right winger Sam Hayakawa. We Progressives blamed Tunney for the loss because he was a Washington D.C. Limousine Liberal who had lost touch with middle and lower class working people.

One last story: from 1976-80 I wrote for a Progressive weekly newspaper in Santa Barbara. We called our paper a Progressive paper, not a liberal paper, because we saw ourselves somewhat to the left of Liberal.

Okay, I’ll start to wrap.

What was the difference between Tom Hayden and our paper, and John Tunney and a Liberal newspaper? And what is the difference today, in my mind?

Liberals tend to be wealthy, or well to do attorneys who cater to an exclusive clientele who can afford $250 an hour for their legal rights, and have lavish lifestyles, homes and haircuts and drink $100 bottles of wine. They don’t understand what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. Or the Liberal is a politician who identifies with the economic interests of these Liberals, advocates for them and is rewarded with the lavish campaign contributions that enable them to run advertising campaigns and win elections. The Clintons are the classic example of this style of Liberalism, and they have much company. Look toward YOUR elected officials. Progressives tend to be middle middle class, working class or lower income. They tend to grassroots politics, unionism, movement politics and the non-profits. Of course there are exceptions.

Liberals accomodate powerful economic interests. Progressives are more willing to challenge them on behalf of middle and lower income people.

Liberals tend to accomodate and compromise with “conservative” interests, be it national security, social issues or civil liberties. Progressives are more willing to challenge these.

Liberals want to tweak our democratic system. Progressives want a major overhaul.

Liberals worry about winning their elections on their tepid platforms and take controversies off the table. Progressives think that upholding the Rule of Law, our Constitution as we have known it for so long, and the separation of powers, is more important, by holding hearings on articles of impeachment of Bush and Cheney as co-defendants.

Liberals support U.S. invasions, though they may no longer initiate them. Progressives oppose ideological right wing wars, from the start.

Liberals have turned against the Invasion of Iraq because we’re losing the occupation. Progressives opposed the war from the start because it is wrong to invade other countries.

Liberals accomodate and compromise with militarism. Progressives want a rollback.

Because of all of the above, Liberals are unsure of their principles since they are conflicted. They apologize when they have said no wrong. They frame their debate on conservative ground. They cannot defend themselves from right wing attack and so they cower in fear and seek to appease right wing politics with their vacilating policies and rhetoric. They cannot take the offensive. They are always waging defense.

My next 99 posts will all flow from today’s post.

Tell us. Are you a Progressive or a Liberal? Or are you a Moderate? Or am I all washed up?

Now let’s get to our picnic. Will you be sipping beer or $30 wine?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I would veto the Rubio property tax disaster

The Rube Goldbergian, patchwork Republican tax reform shell game is shaping up to be a fiscal disaster worse than the property tax crisis that spawned it. We have to fight it. We need to convene a statewide conference of progressives to put together a progressive tax reform initiative for the November 2008 ballot to compete with whatever garbage the Republicans (and dare I say I am worried about what our Democrats) are going to come up with.

The solution to Florida's fiscal crisis is actually very simple, and should be kept so, and need only follow one simple principle: base taxes on people's ability to pay them. That means abolish the property tax and replace it with a progressive state income tax like 43 other states use. And in the coming days I will be blogging about a great model: Ohio.

The current problem of confiscatory property taxation is rooted in the fundamentally flawed and dysfunctional nature of the property tax itself: it is never directly related to people's means to pay it. It eats away at people's income over time (even with the 3% cap) and forces those whose life circumstances change after they have bought a house, in many cases to sell their house and move. That's wrong. It is happening to thousands of Floridians and could happen to any of us next week, month or year: a major illness, a divorce, a layoff or salary cut, especially when the next recession hits.

Our message should be very clear: abolish the property tax. Any discussion of an income tax should always be secondary and quickly turned back to a discussion of the REAL issue: we are proposing, in this order, tax cuts, tax reform and tax fairness while preserving public education and vital local government. I don't want to hear any more talk, especially coming from the Democratic leadership, about how an income tax will never fly in this state. Such talk is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It just takes leadership. If Republican anti-tax states like Utah can enact an income tax, so can we. But its clear that leadership is not going to come from our current Democratic leaderships. That's why we progressives need to step up to the plate and provide that leadership with a statewide conference.