Saturday, November 29, 2008
Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down
By COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press Writer Colleen Long, Associated Press Writer Sat Nov 29, 12:54 am ET
NEW YORK – A Wal-Mart worker was killed Friday when "out-of-control" shoppers desperate for bargains broke down the doors at a 5 a.m. sale. Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers shouted angrily and kept shopping when store officials said they were closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.
At least four other people, including a woman who was eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries, and the store in Valley Stream on Long Island closed for several hours before reopening.
Shoppers stepped over the man on the ground and streamed into the store. When told to leave, they complained that they had been in line since Thursday morning.
Nassau police said about 2,000 people were gathered outside the store doors at the mall about 20 miles east of Manhattan. The impatient crowd knocked the man, identified by police as Jdimytai Damour of Queens, to the ground as he opened the doors, leaving a metal portion of the frame crumpled like an accordion.
"This crowd was out of control," said Nassau police spokesman Lt. Michael Fleming. He described the scene as "utter chaos."
Dozens of store employees trying to fight their way out to help Damour were also getting trampled by the crowd, Fleming said.
Items on sale at the store included a Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV for $798, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28, a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as "The Incredible Hulk" for $9.
Damour, 34, was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead about 6 a.m., police said. The exact cause of death has not been determined.
A 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to a hospital, where she and the baby were reported to be OK, said police Sgt. Anthony Repalone.
Police said criminal charges were possible in the case, but Fleming said it would be difficult to identify individual shoppers. Authorities were reviewing surveillance video.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, Ark., called the incident a "tragic situation" and said the employee came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store.
"The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority," said Dan Fogleman, a company spokesman. "At this point, facts are still being assembled and we are working closely with the Nassau County Police as they investigate what occurred."
Kimberly Cribbs, who witnessed the stampede, said shoppers were acting like "savages."
"When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling 'I've been on line since yesterday morning,'" she said. "They kept shopping."
Shoppers around the country line up early outside stores on the day after Thanksgiving in the annual bargain-hunting ritual known as Black Friday. It got that name because it has historically been the day when stores broke into profitability for the full year.
AP retail writers Anne D'Innocenzio and Mae Anderson and contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Dear President-elect Obama,
Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War congratulate you on your victory, and we admire and respect both Senator John McCain and you for your strong, patriotic dedication and desire to fix the deep problems our country now faces.
We appreciate your inspiring words spoken at Grant Park in Chicago on Tuesday night - words which should give all Americans hope for our future. But we also remember the hope your words gave to many Americans in an August 2007 speech - especially those serving in our military: "Ending this war will be my first priority when I take office. There is no military solution in Iraq. Only Iraq's leaders can settle the grievances at the heart of Iraq's civil war."
Much has changed in our country since that speech, and the prevailing sentiment among Americans is that our faltering economy must now be your first priority. We understand and share their concern, but we believe that our faltering economy cannot be corrected if we continue the costly occupation of Iraq – an immense financial cost which is simply unsustainable. The American people are giving billions of dollars every week to continue an occupation that is draining our wallets, our respect, our security, and the lives of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi men, women, and children.
We fervently ask you to use all possible political and diplomatic pressure to quickly and completely end the occupation of Iraq. Though none of us know what the future will bring, we do know this: our service members are tired of an occupation seemingly without end, and they want to return home to their families.
And when our brave men and women return home, they need to be given full benefits, and adequate healthcare (including mental health) to repair their physical and emotional wounds. They deserve no less, and we as a country owe that care to them.
We also call on you not to ignore the humanitarian crises of enormous proportion that the Iraqi people continue to endure. Over four million Iraqis have been displaced or become refugees since the U.S. invasion of their country. Iraqi deaths are most accurately estimated at over 600,000 people, with many hundreds of thousands more having suffered physical and emotional injuries. The Iraqi people will be coping with the aftermath of our unjustifiable invasion and occupation of their country for generations to come. IVAW believes that it is the duty of our country to pay reparations to the Iraqi people for the damage we have caused to their lives, infrastructure, and culture.
We acknowledge the shift in focus from the war in Iraq to the war in Afghanistan. At the same time, Afghan President Karzai is calling for a change in strategy and Afghan families are mourning the deaths of their loved ones who have been killed in U.S. air strikes. We encourage you to listen to the Afghan people and U.S. veterans of that conflict before making any decision to escalate military force there.
We call on you to end the occupation of Iraq and repair our economy, and by doing so you will demonstrate that a "new dawn of American leadership" has arrived, a "defining moment of change" that will benefit and give hope to all Americans - young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled.
You once said that “change won’t come from the top. Change will come from a mobilized grass roots.” We agree, which is why Iraq Veterans Against the War will continue organizing for an end to the occupation of Iraq, health care and benefits for returning veterans, and reparations for the Iraqi people. We hope that these are areas we can work together with you to address.
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Monday, November 03, 2008
On Eve of Election Day, Is the Nation’s Voting System Ready? Reports of Irregularities Pour in from Across US in Record Early Voting
Election Day is one day away. Tomorrow, tens of millions of Americans will head to the polls. Is the nation’s voting system ready for the unprecedented turnout? In record early voting, more votes have been cast before Election Day than ever before. Already, reports of voting irregularities, long lines, malfunctioning machines and badly managed polling stations are pouring in from across the country. We speak to NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller, author of Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy.
Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media culture and communication at New York University. He is the author of several books, most recently Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008. His previous book is called Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too.
Report on PA voting filed by the American News Project,
AMY GOODMAN: Election Day is one day away. Tomorrow, tens of millions of Americans will head to the polls. Is the nation’s voting system ready for the unprecedented turnout?
Already, more votes have been cast before Election Day than ever before. As of Saturday night, there were some 27 million absentee and early votes in thirty states, according to the Associated Press. But already, reports of voting irregularities, long lines, malfunctioning machines and badly managed polling stations are pouring in from across the country.
Despite documented irregularities, about a quarter of all voters will use electronic machines that offer no paper record to verify their choice was accurately recorded. Voting rights groups have filed lawsuits against election officials in Pennsylvania and Virginia, saying they have not stocked enough paper ballots to prepare for the expected turnout.
In Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, voters have reported using touch-screen machines that have flipped their votes to the wrong candidate or party. Meanwhile, Florida has switched to its third ballot system in the past three election cycles, and glitches associated with the transition have caused confusion at early voting sites.
This all comes in the wake of voter suppression tactics that have seen tens of thousands of voters potentially lose their right to vote. In the battleground state of Colorado, voter rights activists recently won a major victory after state officials agreed to reinstate tens of thousands of people whose names had been removed from the voter rolls.
Mark Crispin Miller is a professor of media culture and communication at New York University. He is the author of several books, most recently Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000–2008. His previous book, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Thanks for having me back, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s start where I haven’t seen much mention, and that is this man, Mike Connell, in Ohio, testifying. Who is he? What is his relevance to the big day, to Election Day tomorrow?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yeah, this event in a courtroom in Columbus may be one of the most important things to happen in this whole election and may be one of the most important things to happen in American history. I mean, this sounds hyperbolic, I know, but it is true.
Mike Connell is—has been named as Karl Rove’s computer guru since 2000. The lawyers in the case refer to Connell as a high-IQ Forrest Gump, because he’s been on the scene of every dubious election we’ve had over the last eight years, starting with Florida 2000.
Now, he has been named by a man named Stephen Spoonamore, S-P-O-O-N-A-M-O-R-E, who’s a very unusual and particularly unimpeachable kind of whistleblower. He’s a conservative Republican; he’s a former McCain supporter. But above all, he is a renowned and highly successful expert at the detection of computer fraud. He works for big banks. He works for foreign governments, the Secret Service. His job is to figure out how computers are used to steal money or information or votes. Well, he’s named a lot of people in the Bush-Cheney election subversion conspiracy. He has worked with them. He knows them personally. And months ago, he named Mike Connell and his company GovTech Solutions as having played a crucial role in the—basically the electronic subversion of the vote in Ohio in 2004. And Spoonamore has actually described the computer architecture that was used to do this.
Now, on the strength of this testimony, the lawyers in the case had the judge issue a subpoena to Mike Connell last week. Connell defied the subpoena; he was in contempt. Late last week, the lawyers filed a motion to compel compliance, and to everyone’s surprise and delight, the judge ordered Connell to appear today and to be deposed for two hours about his role in this longstanding electronic plot, basically, to flip votes towards the Republicans.
Some of this deposition will be sealed, and I have to tell you the part that’ll be sealed. Apparently, Rove has threatened Connell. He told him that if Connell did not take the fall for this whole thing, the Department of Justice would start investigating Connell’s wife Heather for improper lobbying practices. Now, that part of the deposition we’re not going to know the answers to. But what’s astonishing to me—
AMY GOODMAN: Who does she lobby for?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Various politicians and so on. Whether she’s guilty or innocent is beside the point, because, as we know, the Department of Justice is a cudgel in the collective hands of the Bush administration. This would be more selective prosecution.
But what’s really astonishing here is that Karl Rove could make that threat with such impunity. This shut Connell up, and he was, you know, earlier inclined to talk about what was going on. Then he got himself three very expensive Republican attorneys who promised that they would make sure he could not be deposed before Election Day. Well, hallelujah, he’s being deposed before Election Day. And the reason why—
AMY GOODMAN: Today.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Today. The reason why this is so important and the strategy behind the early part of this case all along has been that if we can shine a spotlight on the perpetrators of this kind of fraud before Election Day, make them nervous, make them pull in their horns, distract them, there’s a good chance that they might not try to do what they’re clearly ready to do, because, let me just add, Connell is on the McCain payroll. He’s working for McCain right now, and he specializes in a particular kind of computer architecture whose only purpose, Spoonamore says, is to steal votes.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to two issues. One, how do you know Karl Rove made these threats? That’s a very strong allegation.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, it is a very strong allegation that comes from the lawyers that the lawyers were evidently told by Connell or someone close to him. But this stuff has been on the website of Velvet Revolution. Raw Story has reported it. The media, however, has remained over-focused, of course, on ACORN, which is a nothing story. But let me make clear that the brouhaha over ACORN, right, this orchestrated propaganda drive about ACORN, has many distracting purposes, and one of them, I promise you, is to distract us from this case. This case is an Ohio RICO case. Well, lately, the Republicans filed an Ohio RICO case against ACORN. And I think the purpose—
AMY GOODMAN: RICO, meaning racketeering?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: It’s a racketeering case. Ohio has the strongest racketeering statute in the country. This is one of the reasons why the lawyers decided to go there and do this.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean he specializes in the computer architecture, the internet architecture, that can steal elections?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, it’s a system—if people go to the website for Velvet Revolution, particularly http://www.rovecybergate.com/, they’ll find the documents that Spoonamore has filed describing the setup that’s known as “Man in the Middle.” This happened in Ohio in 2004.
It involves shunting the data that comes from the website for the Secretary of State—I mean, the election returns—taking those election returns as they come to the website in real-time and shunting them to a computer somewhere else. What happened in 2004 was the election returns from Ken Blackwell’s website were shunted to a computer in a basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee, under the control of a very partisan private company to which Connell was connected. The data was shunted to this strange computer in Chattanooga and then directed back to the Secretary of State’s website. As Connell—I mean, sorry, as Spoonamore has said, the only purpose of doing this Man in the Middle thing is to commit crime.
Bev Harris of Black Box Voting has lately reported that there are similar Man in the Middle setups in Colorado, Illinois and Kentucky. So it’s very important that tomorrow, when we’re out there engaging in election protection and working to make the turnout as large as it possibly can be, because the larger the turnout, the harder the theft, people have to be paying very close attention to the numbers. They have to be watching the traffic at different precincts, and so on.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to the issue of voting all over the country. What have—you’re following it very closely. You’re going to be with us Tuesday night for our five-hour broadcast, to be monitoring what’s happening in all the states, especially the key swing battleground states. What have you learned? It’s estimated about a quarter of people have already voted.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yes, an astonishing number of people have voted. And I take that as very good news, not because that necessarily ensures their votes will be safe; I take it as good news because it indicates to me that an awful lot of Americans understand that the voting apparatus that we have out there is untrustworthy, and they’re taking, you know, special steps to see to it that their votes count.
But what we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks is basically a replay, on steroids, if you will, of what we saw in 2004—vote flipping by machines in West Virginia, Texas, Tennessee and Missouri, that we know of. And let me make something clear, Amy. All the flips go in one direction. It’s all from Obama either to McCain or to Cynthia McKinney, as it happens.
We did hear of three people who claimed that their votes were flipped from McCain to Obama in Tennessee. But they’re all related to a Republican official. Their numbers are unlisted. And they told the local newspaper and not the election commission, so I have my doubts about those three cases.
But there have also been, as usual, very long lines in Democratic precincts only. We’re talking about a calculated kind of shortage that magically does not afflict Republican precincts, only Democratic ones.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, now, in these pre-voting, in these long early lines, not all precincts are open, right?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Right, not all precincts. This is something that’s happening in some parts of the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Thirty-one states.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: And I want to make something clear here. Turnout on Election Day, massive turnout, unprecedented turnout, is all-important, because, again, the larger the turnout, the harder the theft. The more people show up at the polls, the better it is, which means that those people who vote early should also go out on Election Day and be physically present at the polls to help to build that national mass.
AMY GOODMAN: Mark Crispin Miller, I want to put off our break for a minute, because I want to play for you a piece from Pennsylvania and then get your comment. Pennsylvania, of course, a key battleground state, many believe could propel either John McCain or Barack Obama into the White House. The American News Project went to Pennsylvania to cover potential voting problems on Election Day. They filed this report.
REPORTER: Most polls suggest the presidential race in Pennsylvania is neck-and-neck, so the vote in Philly could easily determine whether the state goes red or blue. During the primary election on April 22nd, 2008, a strong warning sign of potential November 4th problems emerged when widespread machine breakdowns led to very long lines and lost votes. And with over 200,000 new voters in Philly, voter rights groups are worried that the city is unprepared for the upcoming surge in voting. And unfortunately for voters, the people in charge seem surprisingly unconcerned.
FRED VOIGT, Philadelphia Deputy Commissioner: Forget a long line. A long line is not justification for anything except waiting.
MARGE TARTAGLIONE (D), Chairwoman, Philadelphia Voting Commission: Anybody have anything to say now? Or forever hold their peace.
REPORTER: Your deputy commissioner Fred Voigt told me that “a long line is not justification for anything except waiting.” I was wondering if the commission has any response to that comment.
MARGE TARTAGLIONE: Did you see people waiting for baseball tickets all night long outside? Did you see the line that they wanted a new iPod? They all waited overnight and waited in line. Do you go to the supermarket? You see people waiting in line? They complain, they grumble, some of them. Some of them just talk. So what is the difference?
REPORTER: I’m sorry. Are you comparing voters who possibly have to work during the day to people who are standing in line to get an iPod or a Phillies ticket?
MARGE TARTAGLIONE: Yeah, it’s the same people. Same people. Same people. Come on! You’re mixing apples with—sit down!
ANGEL COLEMAN: It’s a right for every single person. I always vote, ever since I turned eighteen, the first election that I could vote in. It’s very, very important to me to be able to vote. I got to the school. I noticed that there were a lot more cars than in the past when I’ve come to a vote, and I thought, great, you know, there’s more people out voting. But then, when I got to the door, I noticed a couple people walking out, and people were saying that they didn’t get a chance to vote. The line was too long; they couldn’t wait. When I got inside, I definitely saw longer lines of people wanting to vote. And unfortunately, it wasn’t just that there were more people voting; it was that two out of three machines were broken down.
REPORTER: Single mother Angel Coleman has joined the NAACP and a coalition of groups called the Election Reform Network in suing the state of Pennsylvania. They hope to improve access to emergency paper ballots in case machines break down again. The groups argue that long lines amount to a form of voter disenfranchisement, and they note that the response of election officials to the impending crisis has been woefully inadequate.
ANGEL COLEMAN: This is real. This is a real problem. You know, it happened to me, it happened to the people that I saw walking out, it happened to the other people that were testifying in court with me yesterday. So this is a for real problem. This is all happening in Philadelphia to those people, to me. And it is representative of thousands of other people around the country.
MARGE TARTAGLIONE: I don’t want these stories going out there’s going to be long lines. These poor senior citizens are going to pick up the paper and say, “Oh, my god! Do I gotta wait two hours in line on my feet?” Never happened in Philadelphia. I’m tired of this propaganda that they put in, that they put in! Everybody wants a story. It’s going to be my story, the lines are going to be so long. Knock it off! Knock it off! Trying to run a smooth election. You can say what you want about me, I don’t care. Spell my name right.
REPORTER: Just hours after this hearing ended, a federal judge ruled in favor of Angel Coleman and the voters of Pennsylvania, which means that paper ballots will be issued as a backup to faulty machines. Officials like Voigt and Tartaglione are the ones responsible for implementing the court order.
AMY GOODMAN: That report, by American News Project. We’ll be getting reports from them throughout Tuesday night for the five-hour broadcast and Wednesday morning for our expanded two-hour broadcast the morning after. That voice, especially for our radio listeners who didn’t see her identified on the TV broadcast, was that of Marge Tartaglione. She said make sure you “spell my name right.” T-A-R-T-A-G-L-I-O-N-E. She is the chairwoman of the Philadelphia Voting Commission. Mark Crispin Miller, the significance of what she said—people wait all night for baseball tickets, they wait all night to get an iPhone—what’s the problem?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, that kind of contempt, that cavalier attitude towards people voting, and equating voting, which is like a crucial civic function, with waiting in line to get the latest toy, you know, demonstrates how weak a commitment these people have to democracy. I mean, she’s a Democrat, whoopee. All over the country, given how corrupt our political culture is, we have Democrats and Republicans essentially working together against the voters. The problem in Philadelphia with the long lines and so on, we’ve seen this elsewhere in the country. Just yesterday in Georgia, people were waiting over ten hours to vote. So this is something—
AMY GOODMAN: And who this disadvantages? You might say, well, everyone waits on the line.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: No, that’s just it. Here again, as with the vote flips, which go in one direction, the shortages afflict basically one side. They happen in the inner cities. They happen in Hispanic neighborhoods. They happen in college towns. You see? So these people give up; they have to go to work, and so on, and they can’t vote.
AMY GOODMAN: And even if the same—even if people from across the economic spectrum wait on the same line, the issue is, who can wait? If you’re a worker who’s got to get back to work, if you have to work that day, versus if you can take time off.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, that’s absolutely true. I’ve yet to hear, though, of any long lines afflicting, you know, the polling places in the suburbs or small towns, you know, where there’s a lot of Republican voters.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mark Crispin Miller, voter assemblies, what are they?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yeah, crucial, very important. I mean, there’s a lot of things people can do and must do on Election Day to keep this thing from being stolen. They’ve got to make sure they’re registered. They have to know the hotlines: 1-866-OUR-VOTE and 1-866-MY-VOTE-1. If anything happens to you on Election Day, if you’re told you’re not registered when you know you are, when people tell you that, you know—when the machine flips your vote, for example, when you’re intimidated, if there’s a police presence at the polls, if you get disinformation telling you your election day is the next day, anything at all happens, let somebody know. Call those numbers. If there are people from the media there, tell them. If there are Election Protection people there, tell them. But make sure the story gets out, because this is the kind of evidence that has to be gathered and preserved, because on election night, sure as shooting, on the networks they’ll all say, “Well, things went really well today. There were nowhere near as many problems as we thought there were.”
But finally, and most important, in the event something untoward happens and John McCain is right and he wins late at night on Election Day, as he recently said he’s going to do, any kind of an upset like that, people should be prepared to attend voter assemblies. This is something that’s being run by Liberty Tree as part of their pledge for No More Stolen Elections! The website is libertytreefdr.org. The aim here is to organize voter assemblies so that on November 5th people will turn out, nonviolently, convene, discuss what’s going on and press for the proper kinds of investigations.
AMY GOODMAN: And if you voted early, you think you should go back to the polls?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Not to vote, obviously. Even though I’m from Chicago, I don’t recommend that. I think people should go back to the polling places and be visible, be present, be out there. In other words, treat this Election Day not as your opportunity to make a political choice—of course it’s that or should be that; treat Election Day as a day for the assertion of your right to vote. That’s the all-important thing. And show this system that we’re not going to take our disenfranchisement lying down.
AMY GOODMAN: Mark Crispin Miller, I’ll see you right here tomorrow night, Tuesday night, with your computer, monitoring voting around the country. Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media culture and communication at NYU, New York University. Most recent book, Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000–2008.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
What Happens After Election Day?
Memo to Progressives for Obama
By JOSHUA FRANK for CounterPunch
Unless John McCain has a bombshell of a scandal to drop on Barack Obama at the 11th hour, this election is beginning to look like it's in the bag for the Democrats. The Republicans will finally be kicked out of the White House and peace and calm will slowly return to Washington.
At least that's the message reverberating across the progressive landscape these days. One can almost hear a collective sigh of relief. Darth Cheney will be gone. Karl Rove will be forced to recoil, and President Bush can retire in ignorant bliss to his ranch in Crawford.
It is certainly comforting to believe the stars have aligned and progressive values are about to flood the Beltway. Barack Obama has campaigned on "Hope" and "Change" and we all but believe the guy is actually going to deliver on his varied promises.
But believing is what's caused so many to fall victim to Obama fever. You know the signs: they send you emails from MoveOn.org (claiming you're to blame for Obama's fictional loss) and hope-filled rants from Norman Solomon. They talk about Obama as if he's the next messiah, their wardrobe consists of more than two Obama shirts that they'll wear every day leading up to the election. They have a "Change" sign in their window and one in their front yard. It's as if they've become more or less Obama-zombies, just in time for Halloween.
No question the Obama strategists have accomplished what they set out to do. Just look at all they've achieved thus far: antiwar activists have exchanged their slogans for pro-Obama refrains despite the fact that their candidate inflates the alleged threat of Iran, wants to put more troops in Afghanistan and won't pull out of Iraq anytime soon.
Environmentalists have come out for Obama in large numbers, even though he thinks coal can be clean and nuclear energy can be safe. No big deal that he wants to drill baby drill off our coastal shores. At least the guy believes in global warming.
Or take the civil rights champions who have few qualms about his rabid support for FISA and the PATRIOT Act or social justice activists who aren't overly concerned that Obama condones the execution of convicts who have never murdered. Economic progressives, who would be the first to say the economic I.V. pumped into the Wall Street bloodline was hastily passed and rips off tax-payers, are the first to defend Obama's economic platform. No matter he supported the bailout without reservation. No matter his team of economic hit men includes a whole slew of Clintonite neoliberals like Robert Rubin. Obama is still their guy.
All of this wouldn't bother me much if it weren't for the overt hypocrisy so many progressives, and a few radicals, are exhibiting with their blind support for Obama. It's one thing to embrace pragmatic voting and lesser-evilism on the grounds that we don't really live in a true democracy. It's quite another to be excited about the prospect of electing a man who doesn't stand for the issues you do, and is in fact campaigning against them.
What will happen if Obama wins the electorate? Progressive Group Number One seems to believe he'll magically move left once inaugurated and is only running to the right in order to win the election. That position is a non sequitur and not worthy of real discussion as it's based on wishful thinking.
Progressive Group Number Two knows Obama is pretty damn conservative but is planning on voting "strategically," arguing that change comes in baby steps, yet they assure us they'll apply pressure once Obama's elected to get the little toddler strolling. A friend, who happens to be a professor at a large university, recently told me that he plans on coercing Obama by pressuring elected members of congress. He'll be "making a stink" and "scene," he assured me.
What a relief.
"The forces arrayed against far-reaching progressive change are massive and unrelenting. If an Obama victory is declared next week, those forces will be regrouping in front of our eyes -- with right-wing elements looking for backup from corporate and pro-war Democrats," Norman Solomon recently wrote in an article advising progressives to vote against their interests. "How much leverage these forces exercise on an Obama presidency would heavily depend on the extent to which progressives are willing and able to put up a fight."
Does Solomon even understand what it means to "put up a fight"? And what's with the notion that progressives will "apply pressure" once Obama wins? They have no cash and he's already going to receive most of their votes. What are they going to do to pressure him, poke him in his ribs? Cause a stink by farting through the halls of Congress? Obama may actually listen to us if he thought progressives were considering to vote for a guy like Ralph Nader, which is the point Nader seems to be making by campaigning in swing states this week. Nader knows how to put up a real fight, one not mired in hypotheticals and fear-mongering, so he's pressuring Obama where it matters most.
Of course, such a direct confrontation to Obama's backward policies ruffles the slacks of many devout liberals. But that is the point. Progressives are not flush with cash and as we all should know, flashing the almighty buck is usually the best way to grab a politician's attention. But the only thing we have at our immediate disposal now is votes. These crooks need us to get elected. Obama already has the majority of left-wing support shored up despite his resistance to embrace our concerns. Imagine if he had to earn our votes instead of receiving our support without having to do a thing for it?
So let's prepare for what's ahead. Obama may win next Tuesday, but what will happen to the movements that have been sidelined in order to help get the Democrats elected? What will become of the environmental movement after January 20? Will it step up to oppose Obama's quest for nuclear power and clean coal? Will the antiwar movement work to force Obama to take a softer approach toward Iran? Will they stop the troop increase in Afghanistan?
These are but a few of the questions I'd like progressive supporters of Obama to answer. I've yet to hear exactly how they will pressure an Obama administration. In fact, I don't think they will. George W. Bush will be gone and that will be enough for most. Progressives faced a similar confrontation in 1992 when Bill Clinton took office, but without much of a fight we saw neoliberalism take hold in the form of NAFTA and we endured the Telecommunications Act, Welfare Reform, a forest plan written by the logging industry, the dismantling of Glass-Steagall, the Iraq Liberation Act, and much much more.
What makes the Democrats believe that they even deserve our support now? President Bush has indeed been bad, but his most egregious policies were upheld and supported by the majority of Democrats. They gave Bush the green light to whack Saddam while they controlled the Senate. They supported the PATRIOT Act (Obama voted for its reconfirmation), the War on Terror, Bush's increased Pentagon budget, a no-strings Wall Street bailout and two awful Supreme Court confirmations. You may also remember that two years ago we ushered Democrats back into office with the belief that they might actually fight Bush on Iraq. Instead we've had nothing but complicity, with Democrats time and again supporting increased war funds.
I hope I'm not alone in saying that we deserve more than lofty rhetoric about "action" and "hope." We deserve a program for real progressive change -- the kind Democrats and Barack Obama will not bring as long as we give them our unconditional support.
Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the brand new book Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, published by AK Press in July 2008.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org