National Antiwar Group Releases Recap of 2007; Looks Forward to 2008

The national antiwar group United for Peace & Justice has announced a part of its 2008 strategy for challenging the ongoing war in Iraq. Once again, the group is calling for a large anniversary demonstration in Washington DC.

ufpj logo

United for Peace & Justice (UFPJ), arguably the largest antiwar group in the United States, recently released a recap of its 2007 activities and announced new goals for 2008. The announcements, publicized via their mailing list and on their website, suggest that while antiwar groups in West Michigan have been fairly quiet as of late, that there is some energy at the national level.

However, while it is refreshing to see an antiwar group using a forward-thinking strategy, it is unclear if the UFPJ strategy really offers that much to the antiwar movement. In an email titled “2008: Looking Forward to a Critical Year for Peace and Justice,” UFPJ outlined outcomes of a recent meeting by its steering committee (which is made of representatives of member groups around the country). UFPJ boldly declares, “2008 will be a critical year for ending the war and occupation in Iraq, preventing war on Iran and building a massive peace and justice movement strong enough to change the course of this country.” To do this, the antiwar movement must “up the ante pull, out all of the stops and build so much pressure on Washington that the next Congress and president will be forced to finally end the war and occupation in Iraq.” In addition, the group calls for ongoing action to prevent a war with Iran.

UFPJ has announced a three-part strategy for achieving these goals:

“1. UFPJ will focus its efforts to end the war and occupation in Iraq on two of the major pillars that support it, by working to:

– end funding for the war;

– weaken the capacity of the military by supporting counter-recruitment projects, resisters within the military, veterans and military families.

2. The coalition will focus energies on preventing any attacks, including the use of sanctions, on Iran.

3. We will work to strengthen the coalition by inviting new groups to join UFPJ and working with our member groups to help expand their organizing capacity. We will continue to build alliances with other anti-war forces as well as other progressive movements for peace and justice. Doing this work today will lay the foundation for our efforts in the future. As vital as it is to do all we can to bring the troops home from Iraq now, there are other struggles that need our attention, and that means we must build a sustainable movement for peace and justice that will continue and grow into the future.”

The group then goes on to state that while much needs to be decided regarding specifics, the strategy will focus developing new tactics and approaches. This will entail election-cycle specific strategies as well as developing ways to get first time activists involved.

While this is promising, the announcement segues into an announcement that the first three months of the year will be used to build momentum around protests for the fifth anniversary of the war:

“In January we will kick off a 3-month organizing campaign, concentrating on work at the local level, that will help build protest activities around the 5th anniversary in March.

UFPJ is committed to providing major support to Iraq Veterans Against the War and its Winter Soldier activities in Washington, DC, on March 13th-16th. One aspect of our work will be to help local groups plan events that directly link to and amplify the Winter Soldier hearings.

UFPJ will also participate in the planning and organizing for what we hope will be the largest nonviolent civil disobedience action yet against the war in Iraq. We will encourage people to be in Washington, DC, on March 19th to be part of the civil disobedience directly or to assist in support work. Our goal will be to have all 50 states represented in the action.

We will encourage those who are not able to make it Washington on March 19 to organize local actions, with the hope of having at least one protest event in each of the 435 congressional districts around the country on that same day. These actions will vary in character, but they will all be tied to the protest in Washington.”

Unfortunately, this announcement is made without any indication of what type of evaluation of past actions–if any–went into the decision-making. For the past four years, the antiwar movement has held “anniversary” demonstrations commemorating the start of the war, but these protests have done relatively little to force an end to the slaughter in Iraq. It is surprising to see that civil disobedience is on the agenda for the fifth anniversary event, but it does not mention any real–i.e. a target with power to end the war or affect its ability to continue–goals, only that they hope “to have all 50 states represented in the action.” In recent years, when large-scale civil disobedience has been used by the antiwar movement in the context of national mobilizations, it has been purely symbolic–for example, negotiated arrests in front of the White House. While some in the antiwar movement–particularly those doing counter-recruitment (praised by UFPJ earlier in its announcement) or those physically blocking the shipment of military vehicles to Iraq–have used civil disobedience strategically–there is no reason to believe that this is what is being proposed by UFPJ.

Its 2007 “End of the Year Re-Cap” provides further indication that the group may not be making decisions based on strategic considerations or honest and thoughtful reflections on its past actions. The report says that its January 27 actions successfully sent the message “End the war in Iraq, and bring all the troops home,” but there is no indication that anyone was listening. Similarly, while they assert that such mobilizations “strengthen ongoing local organizing efforts,” they offer no proof that this actually happens. In some cities, it no doubt inspires people to organize a bus trip, but it’s hard to say that really qualifies as “organizing” in the sense of building real, local power and movements. It also cites its October 27 rallies held across the United States–the Midwest one was in Chicago–as examples of its work strengthening the antiwar movement. To be sure, those rallies had the potential to strengthen local antiwar movements, even if many–such as Chicago–did not welcome civil disobedience and were closely aligned with the Democrats. However, whatever gains were made in advocating the decentralized strategy will be muted by yet another call for protests in Washington DC. The group also cites its Legislative Action Network as being an example of the positive work that it has done, and indeed its targeting of legislators and specific bills is a strategic choice–far more so than yet another march. There they have run into the problem of a Democratic Party unwilling to end the war.

There is also a potential for further strategic confusion, with 2008 being an election year. None of the likely Democratic Party presidential nominees have promised to end the occupation of Iraq, and like in 2004, this will put the segment of the antiwar movement represented by United for Peace & Justice in a difficult position. In 2004, the antiwar movement largely adopted the “Anybody but Bush” slogan and “organizing” framework, which largely meant blaming the war on the Bush administration and absolving the Democrats of their responsibility. For UFPJ, this meant organizing a march at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in New York City with the slogan “The World Says No to the Bush Agenda” rather than adopting the simple and more direct “U.S. Out of Iraq” or “The World Says No to the Occupation.” In addition to the RNC, UFPJ had a presence at the Democratic National Convention (DNC)–not to seriously confront the Democrats for their complicity in the occupation–but to “educate the candidate, educate the delegates, and… mobilize the public.” However, despite its problems–UFPJ’s 2004 Strategic Plan was light years ahead of what has been disclosed thus far for 2008.

Let’s Get On With It: Milwaukee Anti-RNC Consulta Report Back

This report-back comes out of Milwaukee where a “consulta” meeting was held last month to discuss plans for protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC). It was part of ongoing efforts against the RNC and was just one of many consultas that are occuring all over the country to prepare for both the RNC and the DNC.

rnc protest poster graphic

This report-back comes out of Milwaukee where a “consulta” meeting was held last month to discuss plans for protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC). It was part of ongoing efforts against the RNC and was just one of many consultas that are occuring all over the country to prepare for both the RNC and the DNC.

Let’s Get On With It: Milwaukee Anti-RNC Consulta Report Back

“From November 9th through the 11th 60+ people visited and participated in a Consulta to disrupt/crash/shut down the RNC from locales ranging from Grand Rapids, Michigan to the Twin Cities. The form of the event was informal, with most of the time spent hanging out and getting to know one another, perhaps seeing some of the faces that may be covered the next time we meet.

Friday was check in. MKEtoRNC, the organizers of the Consulta didn’t know how many people to expect would be coming or how much space on our floors and futons would need to be available. Anything from the few of MKEtoRNC participants who organized the event to up to 200 people were expected. Most of the time on Friday was spent waiting around to greet people when they showed up to the Cream City Collectives (infoshop and collective community space). People were given schedules and guides to the city and a place to sleep when they arrived.

On Saturday there were two discussions scheduled on consensus and diversity of tactics. These discussions turned into one as the topics overlapped. People involved asked questions, discussed their motivations and intentions for the RNC in 2008. This made strategizing easier because for those who participated in discussion there was a better understanding of where people were at and this didn’t need to be painfully reached with tangents and misunderstandings while more tactical decisions were being developed. During the discussions a good number of people helped Food Not Bombs prepare and cook a warm meal for everyone. Afterwards people wandered around the neighborhood and met up at a dance party a few blocks away that went rowdy into the wee hours of the night.

On Sunday, we marched to the University nearby black flags unfurled and beating drums even if to inspire only ourselves. Once there we found an empty room rearranged the furniture and began a strategizing session for which the goal was to discuss and develop a strategy building off of the strategy consented upon at the pReNC last September. Plans had been laid out for the first day of the convention and people were made aware of what was decided then and given updated information with a presentation by visiting members of the RNC Welcoming Committee. What were plans for the second day? What fiendish mischief could we dream up? The idea was proposed to create a bear cavalry that would ride against the convention and ransack the city was definitely an exciting idea, but we had to get serious. Everyone agreed to maintain the blockades and attempt to disrupt and hopefully shut down downtown surrounding entry points to the Excel center in downtown St. Paul where the Convention will be held in an effort to prevent delegates from entering and prevent the convention from being a convention at all. If this failed it was agreed to have a plan B, potentially a day of actions against capital.

Afterwards people snaked their way back to the Cream City Collectives said goodbye and got going back to where they came from hopefully taking with them a better idea of how to hunt elephants and growing excitement for a world that does not insult us with a boredom out of our control. Let’s get on with it.”

Missed Votes and the 2008 Democratic Party Candidates

The candidates who are running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and who hold office, are regularly failing to vote on important legislation from trade agreements to the Iraq War. Some of them have missed as many as 34% of the votes this session.

democratic candidates at debate photo

Over the past several months, Media Mouse has noticed a general trend coming from the candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. The trend is that the candidates are often sitting out of votes–both controversial and not. When writing about how Michigan’s Senators have voted on issues, including the Peru Free Trade Agreement, the confirmation of Michael Mukasey as Attorney General, and on Iraq we have noticed that the Democratic Party candidates currently in office–Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and Barack Obama are regularly deciding not to vote on legislation coming before the House or Senate.

In some cases, the percentage of times they are registered as “not voting is strikingly high. Joe Biden has not voted 35.8% of the time, Chris Dodd has not voted 34.4% of the time, Barack Obama has not voted 34.1% of the time , Hillary Clinton has not voted 19% of the time, and Representative Dennis Kucinich has not voted 11.8% of the time. For the Senators running for the Democratic Party nomination, this is enough to place them among those who have missed the most votes.

Clearly, this is problematic as reviewing a candidate’s voting record is an easy way of seeing where they stand on issues. When a legislator chooses not to vote or misses a vote because they are campaigning, it makes it difficult to find out where they stand on issues. By default, voters must either wade through the candidate’s public statements to determine if a reason was given, follow closely any comments in the media, or simply accept what the candidate has said about their position while ignoring their voting record.

In the House and Senate, there are two ways to vote–either for or against a specific piece of legislation. While a legislator can chose not to vote, there are no abstentions and if a legislator chooses not to vote, it does not go on the record as opposing or supporting a specific piece of legislation and the reasons for not voting are not tallied. Consequently, this means that if a legislator is going to support or oppose a piece of legislation, they must make a choice between voting yes or no.

This should be obvious to the candidates running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, as they have all served for several years. Unfortunately, it seems that the Democratic Party candidates are making a deliberate decision not to vote for political reasons. They are either deciding that campaigning is more important or they are attempting to avoid having a recorded position. If they do not have a recorded position, it leaves the option of them being able to say that their position was “misunderstood” or had changed over time. Ultimately, it makes it difficult to know where they stand.

As an example, the vote to confirm Attorney General Mukasey in the Senate is instructive. In response to Mukasey’s unwillingness to condemn the interrogation technique known as “water boarding”–a form of torture via simulated drowning–the four Senators running for the Democratic Party all issued statements opposing his nomination. Biden, Clinton, Dodd, and Obama all said that they would oppose the nomination, yet they all chose not to vote.

Moreover, it has not just been when failing to oppose issues that they claim to oppose, some of them have also failed to support legislation that they claim to support. On the recent vote on the Peru FTA–on which all of four chose not to vote–Clinton and Obama publicly stated their support for the trade agreement yet failed to vote on it. Similarly, Biden and Dodd both said that they were “opposed” to the agreement yet failed to vote against it.

These are only two of many important issues that the Democratic Party candidates have chosen not to vote. Some others include:

The Water Resources Development Act — All of the Senators seeking the Party’s presidential nomination failed to vote on overriding President George W. Bush’s veto of this bill that provides funding for flood control, environmental projects, and other water related projects. Clinton even went so far as to issue a statement hailing the passage of the bill, despite the fact that she did not vote. Dodd issued a similar statement in September.

Support for Injured Service Members Act — With the exception of Joe Biden, the Senators did not vote on this bill designed to expand family and medical leave for people serving in the Armed Forces.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 — All of the Senators chose not to vote on this bill–which included funding for Iraq without a timetable for withdrawal–despite the fact that they have all advocated some form of withdrawal from Iraq.

On numerous judicial nomination votes, the Democratic Party candidates have not voted. This includes votes on Janis Lynn Sammartino, William Lindsay Osteen, and Robert M. Dow, Jr.

Vitter Amdt. No. 3330 – The Democratic Party candidates failed to cast a vote either for or against this amendment that would have prohibited funds being granted to entities providing abortions. The amendment was an appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

This is just a sampling of votes that the candidates have missed, and does not include votes that they have missed individually.

Obama and Edwards Only Candidates to Answer Questionnaire on Government Reform

Yesterday, the Midwest Democracy Network–a nonpartisan alliance of 20 civic and public interest groups in the Midwest–released former U.S. Senator John Edwards’ and U.S. Senator Barrack Obama’s responses to a questionnaire on federal political and government reform issues. The questionnaire was sent to all Democratic and Republican Party presidential candidates, but the two Democrats were the only ones that responded. Regarding the limited participation in their questionnaire, the Midwest Democracy Network issued a statement saying that:

“Unfortunately, the vast majority of the presidential candidates chose not to address voters’ concerns about the health and direction of American democracy. Their silence is disappointing, and, of course, the American people have every reason to feel let down and badly treated.”

In their responses, Edwards and Obama took a number of positions calling for a variety of electoral reforms. Both candidates said that they would strengthen the public financing system for presidential elections and both said that they would be willing to accept public funds for their campaign if their Republican challenger did. They also both support voluntary financing of Congressional races and electronic filing for campaign finance data in Senate races. In addition, the candidates support stronger limits to prevent the so-called “Revolving Door” where administration officials move into lobbying jobs after leaving government. They also both support a variety of reforms designed to make voting easier, more effective, and less corruptible.

Michigan members of the Midwest Democracy Network include Common Cause Michigan, the League of Women Voters, and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Presidential Debates Announced; Debate Process Ignored

On Tuesday, the Grand Rapids Press reported that the schedule for the 2008 presidential debates has been determined. However, the Press failed to report on who sets the debates, who is included in the debates, and who funds them.

On Tuesday, the Grand Rapids Press ran a brief one-paragraph announcement in its “In Brief” section reporting that sites and dates have been chosen for the 2008 presidential debates. According to the article and a press release from the Commission on Presidential Debates, presidential debates will be held at the University of Mississippi on September 26, Belmont University in Tennessee, and Hofstra University in New York. Additionally, a vice presidential debate will be held at Washington University in Missouri.

The Grand Rapids Press–like most newspapers and media outlets that announced the debates–failed to explore the larger question of who sets up the debates. Since 2000, while the Press has run a few articles from wire services and other papers that talk about the debate process, there has been no substantive exploration of the process. Each presidential election year, the debates are setup by an organization called the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) which was formed in 1987. The Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee formed the CPD “to implement joint sponsorship of general election presidential and vice presidential debates” and since forming has hosted all of the presidential debates. Before the 1998 elections, the League of Women Voters organized presidential debates.

While the CPD gives the appearance of being “non-partisan,” it is in reality a bipartisan organization that gives the two major political parties in the United States control over the presidential debates. Many of the key aspects of the debates, from moderators to the participation of third party candidates, are decided behind closed doors by with no transparency. Each year, the two major party candidates agree on secretly negotiated “Memoranda of Understanding” that outline every detail of the debates. These agreements are then given to the CPD who dutifully implements them. This tactic was first used in 1988, when representatives of the Bush and Dukakis campaigns submitted a “Memoranda of Understanding” to the League of Women Voters and the then recently formed Commission on Presidential Debates. The League of Women Voters ultimately withdrew its sponsorship in 1988 because the demands made by the two presidential candidates’ campaigns would have required the League to “help perpetrate a fraud.”

By virtue of it being essentially a vehicle of the Democratic and Republican parties, the CPD has also aided the two major political parties in excluding third party candidates. A 2004 report titled “Deterring Democracy: How the Commission on Presidential Debates Undermines Democracy” shows that the CPD has a history of excluding candidates outside of the two major political parties by either allowing the two major party candidates to decide which–if any–third party candidates are allowed to participate or by setting artificially high thresholds for participation. In 2008, third-party candidates once again will be required to be on enough state ballots to have “a mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority” and be polling at least 15% in national polls by five polling organizations. The 15% threshold is difficult for third parties that are often excluded from the media and has no basis in law, but is instead an arbitrary number determined by the CPD.

In addition to its ties to the Republican and Democratic parties and exclusion of third party candidates, the CPD also has significant corporate ties which critics argue further taint the CPD’s credibility. The two co-chairman of the CPD–Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk–are longtime political activists and chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties respectively. Both have worked as registered lobbyists, with Fahrenkopf being president of the American Gaming Association and Kirk lobbying for German pharmaceutical company Hoechst Marion Roussel.

Beyond Fahrenkopf and Kirk, the CPD’s board of directors consists of nine individuals who have varying connections to partisan politics, corporations, and elite segments of society. The individuals on the CPD’s board include:

Howard Buffett is the son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Buffett is on the boards of Berkshire Hathaway, ConAgra Foods, Lindsay Manufacturing, and Sloan Implement Company and has previously been on the boards of Archer Daniel Midland and Coca-Cola.

John C. Danforth is a former Republican Senator from Missouri. He has a long history in Missouri’s politics and has served as U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Danforth is a partner at Bryan Cave.

Antonia Hernandez is the president of the California Community Foundation. She has been a past president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She is a trustee at the Rockefeller Foundation and is on the board of Golden West Financial Corporation.

Caroline Kennedy is the daughter of John F. Kennedy. She is a director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and an advisor to the Harvard Institute of Politics.

Michael McCurry is a former Clinton administration official who has three decades of experience in Washington DC including press secretary to President Bill Clinton, spokesperson for the Department of State, and director of communications for the Democratic National Committee. He has worked on various Democratic campaigns. He is currently a partner at Public Strategies Washington and is on the boards of a variety of entities ranging from the Center for International Private Enterprise to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. McCurry has been involved in campaigning against “net neutrality.”

Newton N. Minow is a former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member who has been active in Democratic Party politics. He is a Senior Counsel in the law firm Sidley Austin LLP and has been on the corporate boards of Foote, Cone & Belding Communications, Tribune Co., Manpower, Inc., CBS, and Sara Lee Corporation. He has also been on the RAND board and is a life trustee at both Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame.

Dorothy Ridings is the president and CEO of the Council on Foundations. In the past, she was publisher of Knight-Ridder’s Bradenton Herald and served on the boards of the League of Women Voters, the Ford Foundation, and the Benton Foundation.

Alan K. Simpson is a former Republican Senator. He was recently one of the contributors to the Iraq Study Group report and is on the board of Common Good, a tort reform group. He has been on the corporate boards of American Express Funds, Biogen, and PacifiCorp.

H. Patrick Swygert is the president of Howard University. In addition, Swygert is on the boards of Fannie Mae, United Technologies, and the Hartford Financial Services Group. He is also on the Central Intelligence Agency External Advisory Board.

Aside from the corporate interests represented by the CPD’s chairmen and its Advisory Board, the CPD as an entity is sponsored by corporations. The debates have been sponsored by a host of corporations including Anheuser-Busch, Sprint, and AT&T. At times corporate sponsorship has brought direct benefits to the corporations, such as a 1992 contribution from Philip Morris that allowed the company to hang a large banner that was visible during post-debate interviews or Anheuser-Busch being allowed to setup information booths on the floor of the debate in 2000. Moreover, corporations donating to the CPD also are essentially donating to both parties at the same time.

Unfortunately, the Commission on Presidential Debates has received little scrutiny in the corporate media and instead journalists have participated in the debates without asking larger questions about who is allowed to participate, who plans the debates, and who funds them. In recent years, the CPD has been challenged by Ralph Nader who was even denied access to the debates as an attendee in 2000. In 2004, Nader joined with other third party candidates to file a suit calling on the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to decertify the CPD. In addition, activists with the Open Debates organization have charged that the CPD violates FEC and IRS rules. This argument centers on the “Memoranda of Understanding” submitted by the Democratic and Republican Party candidates and implemented by the CPD. By accepting these rules, the group charges that the CPD is violating IRS codes by the fact that it “participates” or “intervenes” on behalf of major party candidates, while it violates FEC rules by allowing corporate contributions and excluding candidates. These challenges are still being litigated.

McCain Coming to West Michigan; Continuing to Support the Occupation of Iraq

Senator and candidate for the Republican Party presidential nomination, John McCain, is visiting West Michigan again. Since Media Mouse last looked at his campaign, McCain has continued to support the occupation of Iraq and advocated for a continued escalation of the war.

photo of john mccain

John McCain, Arizona Senator and candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, will be in the Grand Rapids area on Wednesday for a fundraiser held in between appearances held as part of his so-called “Straight Talk Express” tour. McCain will speak at the Ada home of J. Christopher Beckering of Grubb & Ellis|Paramount who is a member of McCain’s Michigan Finance Team. Beckering has contributed $2,300 to McCain’s campaign and has been identified as a “bundler”–a person who funnels money from multiple people into campaigns by pooling contributions–by Public Citizen.

The last time Media Mouse looked at McCain’s campaign when it visited West Michigan in April of 2007. At that time, McCain had just delivered a major policy speech on Iraq and had recently returned from the country. During his visit to Iraq, McCain staged a media stunt featuring him walking through the supposedly “safe” country. Shortly after his walk was reported in the US media, it came out that his ability to “walk freely” in Baghdad was dependent on an escort of ground troops and air support from the United States military.

Since April, McCain has continued to make his support for the ongoing occupation of Iraq a major issue. Yesterday on McCain’s website, five out of six “In the News” items highlighted McCain’s support for the war. McCain continues to talk about his Iraq policy as being a policy of “No Surrender” and prominently features that text and logo throughout his website and uses it to describe some of his speaking events on Iraq. At the same time, McCain continues to solicit signatures for a “No Surrender” petition that calls on visitors to support General Petraeus’ counter-insurgency strategy by signing to “fight to let this strategy continue to succeed and against a date for surrender.” The petition further describes the Iraq plans of the Democratic presidential candidates as “defeatist.” In the articles linked on the front page of his website, McCain says that “we are succeeding” in Iraq in what he asserts is a “conflict between good and evil, between forces of radical Islamic extremism that is trying to destroy America and everything we believe in,” that things in Iraq are “dramatically better,” and that “if it keeps going like this, you’re going to see Americans coming home in six to seven months.”

On his website, McCain articulates what he terms is a “Strategy for Victory” in Iraq. This strategy includes several components including bolstering the troops on the ground, extending a new counterinsurgency strategy, strengthening the Iraqi armed forces and police, pursuing “political progress,” keeping senior officers in place in Iraq, soliciting international pressure on Syria and Iran, and an effort to “win the homefront.” Interestingly, McCain appears to call for more troops than are present with the current “surge.” McCain asserts that “a precipitous U.S. withdrawal would condemn Iraq to civil war and intervention by its neighbors and energize al Qaeda and other jihadists across the globe” although he offers no evidence to support his assertion. He argues that the United States should “bolster its regional military posture to make clear to Iran our determination to protect our forces in Iraq and to deter Iranian intervention in that country.” Finally, McCain draws connections between 9/11 and the Iraq War and argues that people must understand this to support the war:

“The war in Iraq is at a crossroads and the future of the entire region is at stake – a region that produced the terrorists who attacked America on 9/11 and where much of the world’s energy supplies are located. Success is essential to creating peace in the region, and failure would expose the United States to national security threats for generations. Defeat in the war would lead to much more violence in Iraq, greatly embolden Iran, undermine U.S. allies such as Israel, likely lead to wider conflict, result in a terrorist safe haven in the heart of the Middle East, and gravely damage U.S. credibility throughout the world.”

McCain’s website also prominently features the idea that the Iraq War is about “Fighting Islamic Extremists.” His campaign prominently features a timeline of McCain’s statements on Iraq beginning with an August 2003 appearance on Meet the Press during which McCain called for more military resources in Iraq and concluding with his May 2007 assertion that the war was mismanaged and that mistakes must now be fixed. The majority of the quotes show that McCain advocated for more troops on the ground in Iraq since 2003 and has supported President George W. Bush’s escalation of the war–often called “the surge”–since it was announced in January of 2003. McCain’s page on “the surge–titled “the McCain Surge”–concludes with the sentence “Today, our new counterinsurgency campaign is showing signs of success, and John McCain believes we can still prevail in Iraq if Washington politicians exercise resolve not panic.” Nowhere does McCain explain what is mean by “Islamic Extremists.”

Of course, the most important omission from McCain’s website is any discussion of what the Iraqis want or the effects of the war on Iraqis. There is no mention of the estimated 1.2 million Iraqi civilians that have been killed, the 4.4 million displaced Iraqis or the environmental effects of the war. Moreover, McCain never considers the legality of the war under international law. At the same time, McCain’s positive assessment of the war relies primarily on what he has heard from administration, government, and military sources and ignores debate over whether or not violence has really decreased in Iraq. Similarly, Iraqis who are polled about their attitudes towards the occupation consistently express their wish for the occupation to end.

Organizing for the 2008 RNC Protests: A Report and Reflections

Local folks attended a recent meeting in the Twin Cities planning for protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention. For at least one person attending the meeting, the planning was reminiscent of the energy and hope that followed the 1999 Seattle WTO protests.

Over Labor Day weekend this year, some folks from Grand Rapids made a trip to the Twin Cities to attend the “pReNC,” a meeting organized by the RNC Welcoming Committee to make plans for protests surrounding the 2008 Republican National Convention. What follows is the official report from the meeting issued by the RNC Welcoming Committee, as well as some thoughts and reflections on the planning process as it compares to other recent mass mobilizations. By way of a disclaimer, this piece reflects the thoughts of one local person who attended the meeting and is not meant to influence any of the local organizing which will no doubt follow. Moreover, it’s important to be up front–both the RNC and the DNC will, and indeed should be–protested. Neither is “better” than the other. To that end, visit and for more on organizing against the DNC.

Media Mouse formed in the fall of 1999 following the protests in Seattle that shutdown the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting. While no official count is available, it would probably be safe to assume that thousands of people got involved in hundreds of groups around the country that formed following Seattle. Like many of these groups, Media Mouse formed to work on what could be generally described as opposing neo-liberal economic policies both abroad in the form of undemocratic and imperialist trade agreements such as NAFTA and locally with the outsourcing of jobs to Mexico. Media Mouse also took inspiration from the Indymedia movement ( and was formed with the understanding–learned from the streets of Seattle and rooted in the struggles of the Zapatistas–that the corporate media was not going to report on the burgeoning social movements in an accurate manner.

Like the groups that formed around the country, Media Mouse quickly began working on local issues connected to the large goal of challenging neoliberalism. One of our first actions was a “Rally for Alternative Transit” that protested the shutdown of US-131’s “S-Curve” through downtown Grand Rapids and the routing of traffic onto Division in Grand Rapids’ densely populated Heartside Neighborhood. For us, it was another example of the needs of profit taking precedent over the concerns of people, embodied by the popular slogan of the post-Seattle movements “People over Profit.” This organizing continued locally with a protest held against the World Bank and the IMF in solidarity with demonstrations happening in Washington DC in April of 2000. While Grand Rapids’ event was small–100 people or so–and nothing compared to the militancy of the several hundred person “black bloc” in DC–there were arrests at the unpermitted march and indeed it seems hard to imagine being able to mobilize 100 people for a march against the World Bank in 2007 in GR.

At the risk of being overly nostalgic, the post-Seattle climate was considerably different than now. Without going into the causes of this shift in consciousness–of which numerous causes from 9/11 to burn-out can be analyzed–the post-Seattle period was considerably more exciting. Coming off of what was a clear victory in Seattle–the delay of the WTO Summit and its overall failure–there was an unmistakable sense that direct action and organizing could confront some of the most powerful institutions in the United States. Aside from the aforementioned anti-World Bank march, a protest held outside of a speech by a former World Bank economist in May of 2000 attracted fifty people, no small feat for an event at noon in downtown Grand Rapids.

In the post-Seattle period, it was not uncommon to see people travel great distances to attend the rash of demonstrations held, so it was not a surprise to see people at the World Bank event from Detroit. Similarly, when groups in Detroit and Windsor issued a call to oppose the Organization of American States meeting in June of 2000 thousands showed up to protest the two institutions. While this idea of “summit hopping” ( was justly critiqued within the movement, thousands of activists mobilized to confront a variety of entities including the RNC in Philadelphia, he DNC in Los Angeles, the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue in Cincinnati.

By 2001, Media Mouse made the decision to attend and report (photos, video) on the April 2001 protests ( against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The city had been turned into a veritable fortress, with miles of fencing enclosing the Summit site and the police geared up for a confrontation. On the day before the protests, the police reported on the arrests of a “terrorist” group that allegedly planned to use bombs against the Summit. Despite the rhetoric of the police and the militarization of much of the upper city, within an hour of the first protest beginning, Media Mouse was able to witness demonstrators knock a substantial hole in the fence and surge towards the site of the Summit. Despite being pushed back, repeated attempts on the fence would take place over the two days and nights of protests as protestors engaged in running battles with police. In the end, the demonstration overshadowed the Summit and the FTAA is dead.

Following 9/11, this energy lessened, perhaps understandably so. Many in the movement temporarily shifted their energy to antiwar work, while a debate flourished over the place of militant protest in the post-9/11 climate. However, this did not keep the movement silent for long, in January of 2002 some 10,000 protests attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in New York City to protest against global capitalism.

Media Mouse attended the 2003 protests against the FTAA in Miami, and while several thousand protestors turned out to protest the FTAA meeting, the intense police repression minimized the effectiveness of the protests. Following the FTAA protest in the fall of 2003, there was significant attention placed on the 2004 RNC protest as a chance for “the movement” to steal back its moment. However, the 2004 RNC protests lacked strategy and despite hundreds of thousands of protestors in New York City, little of consequence happened. Media Mouse observed a combination of mass arrests and masses of protestors wandering around without any clear idea where their interests should be focused, a fact that clearly showed that the strategy for the RNC–including a “direct action” day–had failed. Energy was briefly rekindled for the 2005 inauguration protests, but despite an attempt to “crash” the parade route, those protests largely failed as well.

With the so-called “summit” protests, there was always a tension between those who prioritized organizing in their own communities and those who focused on the “summit” meetings. Criticisms can certainly be made–and should be–of the “summit” organizing model, but in thinking about the post-Seattle period, it seems clear that they served an important function in giving inspiration to local organizing efforts and fostered a greater sense of “a movement” than what exists now. Certainly, with Media Mouse coming out of that context, the post-Seattle period to 9/11 was incredibly exciting–with numerous protests planned and a sense that either “we are winning” or that we could win. To be sure, a lot of us–myself included–never really stopped to think about what “winning” meant, but the energy was infectious and thousands of folks got involved–and in many cases–participated in demonstrations and organizing campaigns that seem unheard of in the contemporary political climate. There have been antiwar convergences since 2003, but they have largely been unable to inspire people to action in the manner that the anti-globalization movement did.

Out of this context, I attended the “pReNC” in Minneapolis-St. Paul, in part to avoid the simple tactical failures of the 2004 RNC protests, but also with a desire to rekindle that energy and sense of excitement that I had in the post-Seattle period. Coming out of the “pReNC,” I am quite excited and impressed by the work that has been done thus far. I left the “pReNC” feeling that there is a potential for the RNC to rekindle the energy of the anti-globalization movement and take a step towards building a stronger anti-authoritarian “left” movement in the United States. Aside from the inspiration that always comes from interacting with radicals outside of Grand Rapids, there were a lot of conversations that were far more promising than those proceeding pre-protest discussions in recent years. There was considerable talk of having a clear strategy, and indeed, a clear call to “shut down” the RNC was issued and an overall strategic framework was adopted to facilitate this. Like the best of the post-Seattle protests, people expressed a willingness to learn and be self-critical of previous protests, and the plan for the RNC builds off of recent successes at the G8 in Germany.

Moreover, there was a strong sense that the protests cannot simply be about the RNC, but rather, that they must look forward to the future. In other words, organizing in the Twin Cities and around the country must focus not only on the RNC but using the protests as a tool to involve more people and build a stronger movement. This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the meeting, that there was a willingness to look beyond street protests and look at how we can build hundreds of decentralized and autonomous groups around the country that are capable of acting locally to achieve clear victories.

Reportback: pReNC 2007: Minneapolis-St. Paul 2007 – by the RNC Welcoming Committee

After the months we spent interwebbing, building bikes, sitting through endless meetings and fundraising, the pReNC was finally here. The main meeting space, the Jack Pine Community Center, on Lake Street in South Minneapolis, was buzzing with excitement as folks checked-in, borrowed bikes from our stockpile, and grabbed literature. The kick-off to our weekend gathering was going swimmingly and we hadn’t even had dinner yet. At 5:30pm a group of attendees left to ride in the monthly Critical Mass bikes ride, usually a low key affair in the Cities, begrudgingly tolerated by the PoPo and even ridden in by liberal politicians.

Not this month.

Accounts vary but, basically, over 50 cops from multiple agencies showed up and arrested 16 Adults and three minors- most were held on PC Riot, though a couple adults were tap-charged with disorderly conduct, instead. They used mace, pepper spray and Tasers on dozens of people. And they just happened to have a State Patrol helicopter patrolling in the sky from almost the very beginning of the ride. Many of us feel that the police, knowing that the Critical Mass was being promoted as a kick-off to the pReNC weekend, attacked the ride in order to smear the Welcoming Committee’s image in the larger Twin Cities community, disrupt our conference, and practice for next year. The police of course deny this, and it didn’t work anyway. We recovered instantly- when the first calls of arrests and mace came in to the crew back at the Jack Pine, everyone got on their (A)-game. We found great support in the community (that the cops maced, Tasered and arrested non-pReNC participants and even bystanders didn’t help their cause), and learned some valuable lessons for 2008. Much has been written and analyzed about the August 31st Critical Mass, and we’d encourage people to see our website, TC Indymedia, and rev up the ol’ Google engine for more info.


Welcoming Brunch

An amazing pancake breakfast was served to a small horde of bleary-eyed anarchists, while the welcoming presentation began. The presentation was an informational session to orient the participants for the strategizing session on Sunday. It included info on the pReNC and the registration process for the strategizing session, a rundown of the local RNC protest scene, and some basic convention numbers (i.e., delegates, members of the media and other participants, statistics on economic impact and costs, police expectations). Maps were pored over, detailing points of interest in downtown St. Paul, downtown Minneapolis and everywhere in between, and visuals of specific “weak spots” between downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis were utilized (thanks UA!). The RNC-WC then went on to describe what they have been doing for the past nine months: outreach, fundraising, information gathering, coalition building, planning the pReNC, organizing events and trainings, legal organizing and a little more. After Q&A, registration for the strategy session began.

The Afternoon

After breakfast finished, we broke up and scurried off to workshops such as Protest 101, Security Culture, Shutting Things Down to Open Things Up, Street Art, Street Medics, and Off the Sidewalks and Into the Streets. Workshops, of which only four fell through, were generally well-attended. There was also a much-lauded, guided bus-tour of the Twin Cities, highlighting points of interest for the 2008 RNC, occurring twice during the afternoon.

After cramming our skulls with ludicrous amounts of activist knowledge, we crammed our stomachs with a delicious spaghetti dinner. With our heads and bellies filled to the brim we scampered around town playing night games and practicing our new strategies and skills.


Strategizing Session

The strategizing session began a little after 11:30 am on Sunday with approximately 75 individuals in attendance. It began with report backs from several consultas, and presentations from groups planning around the RNC.

Folks from Unconventional Action talked about the Carolinas Consulta and their ideas on how to take advantage of certain geographic vulnerabilities. Information from this consulta, can be found online at:

Next, a man out of Idaho representing the Beard Theater Troupe, discussed his group’s zany musical production of their play “Nobody for President” which they will be performing at both the DNC and the RNC in 2008. He added the specific message his group is attempting to get across with the play: “The feeling we are trying to generate is that each of us, actors and audience alike, are independent, self-reliant individuals capable of governing ourselves. We are promoting nonviolence and nonparticipation as tactics in the struggle against the state.”

The Seeds of Peace Collective reported on their intentions to help provide food and medical support for the RNC protesters. Some of the collective members will likely move to Minneapolis several months prior to the RNC so they can help lead street medic training.

A representative from the local IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) chapter told us about the potential for the annual GA (general assembly) to be held in the TC as a lead-up to the protests. This would mean around 1,000 folks from “one big fighting union” here and ready to stand strong in resistance to the convention.

Representatives from Students for Democratic Society (SDS) shared their plans to hold strategizing convergences in both Ohio and Connecticut to prepare for the party conventions in Denver and the Twin Cities.

The Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) briefly discussed their main goals for the weekend of protests at the RNC. They want to put their focus on disruption of the convention, hitting the hardest on the first day of the convention when the largest group of protesters will be in attendance. That being said, POG maintains that it is essential to operate under a radical anti-authoritarian framework and not fall under the predominant liberal umbrella of the more mainstream groups.

The RNC Welcoming Committee reiterated its commitment to providing infrastructural support to facilitate successful actions. The RNC-WC is organizing direct action training in late July 2008 with ex-Ruckus Collective folks. One Welcoming Committee member expressed her intentions to coordinate a family-friendly area for radical parents, kids, and people who are unable to be arrested.

Lastly, a contingent of folks from Madison, WI talked about the People’s Convention that they’re going to be holding in early August 2008. Following on the heels of this, they’re planning a two-week bicycle ride from Madison to Minneapolis, visiting different communities along the way and building up momentum before the protest.

It was very inspiring to hear the groups share their ideas with the larger session, many of which were concrete and well on their way to taking form for next year. In working towards these goals, the Welcoming Committee presented some tactics which might help facilitate these outcomes including: forming a temporary autonomous zone (or free state) in the vicinity of convention headquarters; hosting a counter convention; targeting unexpected places; working in a larger allied connection with other left groups both locally and nationally; and communicating the idea that we are an ungovernable mass.

The floor was again opened to discussion from all parties with the “ungovernable mass” slinging ideas at the facilitators faster than they could be written down. In all, the goals from the larger group materialized and seem to fit into four different categories: 1) action-oriented, 2) building allies, 3) post-convention movement-building, and 4) how are we getting our message out. After a break-out of smaller groups, much discussion on specific wording, and deep breathing, the session consensed (with 15 stand asides) on the goals…so here they are: We will eclipse/crash/disrupt/rout/shutdown the RNC, allowing for maximum participation with different zones of safety and encouraging a diversity of tactics. We will get our message out and be the ones to tell our own stories. We are building alliances and networking with local communities. We might not operate under the same set of assumptions, but we have to breathe the same air, and get f#@*ed by the same bureaucrats. It’s time we sat down and talked. We are coordinating with the folks in Denver and stand in solidarity with them. We understand that in a system that offers just two, identically foul, options, shit is bound to hit the fan sooner or later. Let’s turn it on full blast. And…we will create something fresh and lasting. When the last out-of-towners hop that train away from the convention cities, there will be a lingering effect greater than the pepper spray. This is our chance to build truly radical infrastructure, and a movement that offers new and innovative ways of being and doing that inspire even the most disillusioned among us.

Having collectively reached a decision about the goals for the RNC resistance, the strategy session concluded and transitioned into breakout sessions scattered throughout south Minneapolis. These break-out sessions included Action prep, Media, Outreach, Fundraising, Communications and Medical.

Action Breakout

The action breakout focused much of its energy on deciding key targets for the RNC. People all agreed that the first day of the convention should be the largest coordinated day of action. In broad terms, three potential targets were identified: road blockades in St. Paul, the public transportation infrastructure, and bridges over the Mississippi. To this end, a lot of information must be gathered and mapped out. This includes but is not limited to dimensions of roads; physical layout – lanes, poles, railings, etc.; entrance and exits for action scenarios; bathrooms; skyway access; surveillance cameras; proximity to police; etc. In addition to these considerations, it was agreed upon by the breakout that information regarding access to resources (thrift stores, junkyards, construction sites, dumpsters), financial targets and businesses that support the RNC, as well as information about the holding pen/detention facilities, would all be made available by the RNC Welcoming Committee.

Communication Breakout

The communications breakout recognized quickly that there were two distinct needs for communicating: keeping folks at the pReNC in touch, and doing outreach to those not familiar with the Welcoming Committee. In regards to the first goal, several ideas were tossed around including on-line message boards on the Unconventional Action and Welcoming Committee websites and monthly conference calls. It was generally agreed also, that more pReNCesque consultas need to happen before the big show next September. Therefore, there will be a call for regional consultas as well as a sort of pReNC II in May 08 to coincide with the large May Day celebration in Minneapolis. In terms of outreach, the idea of putting together a roadshow was very popular. This would serve as a way for radicals to connect regionally, and for the vision of the Welcoming Committee to reach people outside the Twin Cities. The roadshow is envisioned as a multi-media presentation with maps and ideas that could orient people and engage them in the convention resistance. It might be fun and reach a wider audience if the show was to travel with a multi-genre group of bands. The roadshow is going to be planned over winter, with a tour tentatively set for the spring.

Media Breakout

The media breakout discussed different options for conveying our story. With the ease of access to the internet and the ubiquitous nature of the web, most of the media envisioned could be digital. Building off of the success of G8 TV, it was suggested there be a website devoted to live streaming audio and video. This could have different resolution options and watermark with indymedia. A separate site might feature a picture walk-through of the buildup and protests. It was agreed that our text be translated both for printed documents and the websites. Some sort of creative anti-branding campaign might be useful for promotion. Another idea was a DVD or CD fundraiser involving the CrimethInc. Collective. As with the Welcoming Committee’s media agreement, it was reiterated that whenever dealing with the mass media you need to state that you only represent yourself and not a group. When this is tricky, defer to the Welcoming Committee. The WC’s media statement is available online at

Food and Medical Breakouts

The medical and food breakout was facilitated by Seeds of Peace, a group that provides medical aid and food for large demonstrations. They can be reached at or Seeds representatives shared that they would like to send at least one person to live in Minneapolis around March 1st to establish the group on the ground and begin planning medic trainings in the area. More Seeds of Peace members would likely follow 6-8 weeks before the RNC. Seeds is prepared to coordinate a number of different medic trainings in the two months preceding the RNC, including trainings for healthcare professionals, street medic 101, and a wilderness first responder-esque course with an activist bent. As far as food is concerned, local food activists said that they would focus the next year on building their capacity, finding spaces to cook, and coordinating with other groups nationally to help with food. Seeds of Peace folks shared that they know how to build a temporary outdoor kitchen with the capacity to serve thousands for less than one thousand dollars. Seeds also assured that while they don’t explicitly plan on bottom-lining food, much of their energy will go towards coordinating cooking efforts.

Outreach Breakout

The outreach breakout session focused on community organizing and building broad coalitions between radicals and other community groups. The group brainstormed different ways to communicate and coordinate with other groups as well as which communities to work with. Goals for the outreach efforts are: building long lasting connections based on dialogue and cooperation, involving a diversity of communities, being able to ask for and accept help from other groups without compromising our own missions, and creating an inclusive coalition for people with common interests. Some ways to reach out might be going door to door, supplying liaisons to other groups, holding large open town hall meetings, creating issue-oriented forums to encourage discussion between groups, collaborating with other groups on events, and asking what we can do to help (and mean it). Overall, there was an emphasis on understanding that all people are in different places politically, and these differences have been exploited and used to cultivate division in the past. It is in the best interest of all groups organizing against the RNC to communicate and build relationships to make this sort of division impossible.

The Evening

After a delicious dinner, Roadblock Earth First! out of Bloomington, IN gave an excellent presentation on I-69 (the NAFTA Superhighway) and radical, grassroots resistance to it. More info at:


L(A)bor Day Picnic

To round out a great weekend, we went to St. Paul’s Rice Park for a picnic. Rice Park is conveniently located across from the Saint Paul Hotel, sure to house some VIPs during the RNC, and right behind the Xcel Energy Center. We enjoyed grilled corn and apples, delicious leftover FNB fare blended to resemble a dip, park games, and walking tours of Downtown St. Paul. Some enterprising soul even slipped into the St. Paul Hotel and dropped a banner reading”Bloc by Bloc-Taking it back in 2008″ from the roof!

A good time was had by all, even Commander David J. Korus of the SPPD’s Special Investigations Unit- he was nice enough to come out, introduce himself, and see if we needed anything. At mention of the Critical Mass affair, he assured us that in St. Paul the coppers do things a little bit different than their buddies across the river; asked if the sketchy creepers taking pictures of us picnicking were part of his department, he said, “Yes.” He even posed for our cameras! Golly, thanks, David! Your pretty face is held up on our fridge with a heart-shaped magnet.


As stated previously, folks not swept up by the pigs rocked the jail support throughout the weekend. A lot of people jumped into street medic mode as soon as the cops started macing, pepper spraying and Tasering people, and others hopped on their cell phones to get info to the folks waiting at the Jack Pine, who were ready and waiting for an influx of stunned and scared Massers.

All three minors and two of the adults arrested were out by early Saturday morning. Though we initially feared that the rest would be held till their court appearances the following Wednesday (word to the wise: don’t get arrested Friday night on a holiday weekend), all except one were bonded out before then, most in time to participate in the Strategizing session. At this point, some charges have been dropped and we’re still waiting for the City to decide whether it wants to go forward with others.

In addition to the invaluable work of a few folks within the Welcoming Committee, we owe a lot of thanks to Communities United Against Police Brutality and some awesome local NLGers for jumping on this instantly and continuing to work for a just resolution to a totally unjust situation. A lot of local groups like the Anti-War Committee also came out in support of us, and a few residents from around the site of the fiasco rescued bikes that would have been lost to us otherwise, all of which we’re grateful for.

The biggest lesson learned for next year was the importance of sharing information, accepting help, and delegating tasks, in crisis situations- this is difficult, but something we’ll all be working on for the RNC.

NOTE: If you witnessed the Critical Mass shit go down and didn’t provide a statement to that effect, please consider doing so; it could help immensely with whatever charges end up sticking. If you’re in town, lost your bike at Critical Mass, and still need a way to get around, contact the RNC-WC- we still have bikes that we’re lending out.


After much fanfare, the pReNC’s Joyful Sunshine Security Team feels that the weekend went pretty smoothly. Acknowledging that we probably didn’t catch everything, the vouching/registration system we came up with for the Strat and Breakout sessions seems to have worked well- people were understanding and eager to help us develop stronger security culture practices, and yet the protocol we adopted doesn’t seem to have hindered the productivity of the weekend. We did discover one local police cooperator and expel him from all activities; with only a few other exceptions, the vast majority of guests were able to participate fully.

Lessons learned are: we need to think about and develop a process for dealing with sexual perpetrators who seek to enter our communities- based on past experiences and common sense, we can reasonably expect that this will be a much bigger issue at the RNC than it was at the pReNC; we need to work on spreading out responsibilities more widely, acknowledging security as a full-time commitment for events like this; we need to anticipate and prepare for police attacks more seriously, even in “low-risk” activities like riding your damn bike with some friends on a beautiful Friday evening.


In conclusion, we here in Minneapolis-St. Paul feel that the pReNC was a roaring success. It left the Welcoming Committee with a greater feeling of unity and mutual confidence, and gave us all an opportunity to meet new comrades in person and touch-base with old friends. Most importantly, we collectively developed an exciting framework for anarchist resistance to the 2008 RNC and people from all over the country left with information to distribute at home and utilize for organizing next year’s extravaganza. Watch for a Call to (A)ction coming soon, as well as details about the next convergence (what should we call it?! pReNC II? Almost TheReNC?). In the meantime, check out info about the MKEtoRNC Consulta (, Unconventional Action’s new website (, and please send us feedback on the pReNC, updates on what y’all are up to now, and anything we can do to assist you over the coming months.

With Tides of Revolutionary Goodwill,

Your Welcoming Committee

Ehlers: Country isn’t Divided over Iraq as it was over Vietnam

Over the weekend, Representative Vern Ehlers was briefly cited in an article titled “Michigan Congressmen divided on early departure from Iraq” that was written by Sarah Kellogg of Booth Newspapers. The article is framed in terms of how various analysts–including a political consultant and a university professor–believe that the Iraq War will impact the 2008 elections. While it does point out that Michigan’s Republican representatives support the Bush administration’s request for more troops and time in Iraq and that the state’s Democratic delegation opposes a “hard line” approach of cutting funding for the war, it places little attention on what each member of Congress has said specifically about Iraq.

Ehlers is cited in the article assessing what he believes the impact of the war will be on the 2008 election. Ehlers says that “the country is really divided about the war, but not divided as much as during the Vietnam War” and that he thinks “it will have an impact in the election, but I don’t think anything on the level of Vietnam, unless things get worse again.” It is unclear on what evidence Ehlers is basing his assertion, as polls continue to show significant opposition to the Iraq War while Ehlers himself has been repeatedly targeted by antiwar protestors over the past year. Earlier this year, Ehlers blamed discontent over the war as a reason for his receiving less votes in the 2006 elections than he has in the past.

Grand Rapids Mayoral Candidate Debate Viewable Online

The Grand Rapids mayoral debate that aired on July 17, 2007 on GRTV is available online. The video features candidates George Heartwell, Jackie Miller, James Rinck, and Rick Tormala–taking questions from the television audience.

The Grand Rapids mayoral debate that aired on July 17, 2007 on GRTV is available online. The video–split into a total of 19 parts–features candidates George Heartwell, Jackie Miller, James Rinck, and Rick Tormala–taking questions from the television audience:

Giuliani Addresses Crime, Terrorism, and Immigration at Grand Rapids Campaign Stop

On Thursday, Republican presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke in Grand Rapids. He mentioned September 11 a total of five times in his seventeen-minute speech and pledged to aggressively fight terrorism and undocumented immigration.

photo of rudy giuliani speaking in grand rapids

On Thursday, Republican presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a campaign stop in Grand Rapids. Giuliani attended a private fundraiser held by Marge Byington before delivering a speech to the Police Officers Association of Michigan. Earlier this year, the Police Officers Association of Michigan endorsed Giuliani.

Giuliani’s positions–notably his support for abortion and gay rights–will likely not be terribly popular in conservative West Michigan. On the day he came to Grand Rapids the anti-Giuliani Conservative Declaration of Independence announced that gained 27 additional signatures from Grand Rapids Republicans opposed to Giuliani’s policies. The initiative claims to have substantial support in the early primary states and features former Michigan Christian Coalition activist and current Michigan Republican Party Issues Chairman Tom McMillin in a leadership role.

Despite the controversy in Republican circles over Giuliani’s position on social issues, Giuliani chose not to defend those positions and instead emphasized his toughness on crime. Giuliani mentioned his qualifications as mayor of New York City and as a former prosecutor, while placing considerable emphasis on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In his seventeen-minute speech, Giuliani mentioned the “September 11” five times, with the first mention coming less than two minutes into his speech.

The majority of Giuliani’s speech focused on his development of the “Comstat” program in New York City. Giuliani explained how the program began with a transit police chief keeping crime statistics on napkins and expanded into a strategy that allowed the New York Police Department to base their tactics on “numbers rather than politics.” As the program grew, police officers–the total number of which Giuliani expanded to 41,000 from 32,000–met weekly and officers were assigned to specific areas based on the statistics. He credited the program with a 67% drop in homicides and an 80% drop in automobile thefts along with an overall crime reduction of 56%.

Giuliani proclaimed that the program “revolutionized New York City” and that it was consequently expanded to 23 or 24 additional city departments. He cited a similar program in the corrections department as reducing violence by 90% and mentioned that a Comstat-style program was used for the welfare system. This “JobStat” program was designed to move people from welfare into the workforce and reduced welfare rolls in New York City from 1.1 million when he took office to 648,000 when he left.

Giuliani said that if he were elected president, he would implement a similar program to “secure our borders.” He told the audience “if we did the same thing to our borders as we did with crime in New York City, we could stop people from coming into this country illegally.” A “BorderStat” program, according to Giuliani, would reduce the number of “illegals” coming into the country by moving officers into the areas where undocumented immigrants are crossing. Giuliani also stated that he would accompany the program with more technology on the border and increased training of border patrol agents.

Giuliani also explained how a similar program was implemented in Los Angeles “to measure how effective they [law enforcement officials] are in finding terrorist cells.” The program has been used to find indicators that “terrorist cells are operating in your community.” Giuliani describe terrorism as “the major threat of our generation” and argued that the United States has to aggressively pursue terrorists. Law enforcement officials play a critical role in dealing with terrorism and can be part of a strategy that increases crime-fighting effectiveness while fighting terrorism. Giuliani expressed concern that it was possible to neglect fighting crime while focusing on terrorism.

Giuliani argued that in the 1990s the Clinton administration failed to focus attention the threat from “Islamic terrorism.” He criticized Clinton for failing to respond to a “pattern of behavior” that began in 1993 following the first bombing of the World Trade Center. Giuliani described that bombing as “an act of war” that was treated simply as a crime rather than a terrorist act. He then asserted that police officers would be on the frontline in the fight against terrorism because for the terrorists “this is a war that they would like to carry out in our homes.” He concluded by stating that police officers will play an essential role in this fight against terrorism because they “protect our homes” and that as such they must be treated as equals with the military establishment.