Activists Get Ready for a Summer of Resistance

Numerous national mobilizations are being planned in response to the election and the G8 meeting this summer.

In June, the G-8 summit meeting will be held in Sea Island, Georgia from the 8th to the 10th. Anti-authoritarians are calling for decentralized actions against capitalism throughout the country similar to those that took place in conjunction with a G-8 meeting on June 18th 1999. The June 18th protests are widely recognized as the start of the anti-globalization movement among the white left in North America and it is hoped that the 2004 actions will reinvigorate a largely dormant movement. The call for decentralized actions is a result of the increasing ineffectiveness of mass protests in which local and federal law enforcement successfully criminalize protest while local citizens stay off the streets until the crazy anarchists are out of town. Moreover, by staging local actions, activists can draw connections between the global capitalist order embodied by the G-8 and local examples of neoliberal style privatization. For example, San Francisco’s actions will be coinciding with the BioDev 2004 (an annual biotechnology conference) and will be focusing on corporate control of life and specifically genetic engineering of agriculture.

In Boston from July 26th to the 29th, the Democratic National Convention will be met by protests. In addition to the protests, the Boston Social Forum will be held from the 23rd to the 25th and will offer a chance for activists from around the country to get together and strategize.

After the DNC protests, a group of activists are organizing a 225 mile “mass mobile convergence” between Boston and New York City. The march, based on the Root Cause march that preceded the convergence against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in Miami, will build towards the protests against the Republican National Convention in New York City from August 29 to September 4th. Pre-convention talk from government officials have indicated that security outside of the RNC will be incredibly tight and that “talk of terrorism” may result in the “freedom of assembly” being largely suspended. Nevertheless, media reports have indicated that police and city government officials are expecting nearly a million people to protest outside of the convention.

Both convention protests are part of a nation-wide campaign designed to promote political involvement beyond just voting, encouraging people to instead get involved in politics on a daily basis. The “Don’t Just Vote” campaign was organized to demonstrate that daily organizing and direct action are more effective in achieving social change than voting for one of two largely interchangeable politicians every four years. The campaign, like the decentralized G-8 actions, is designed to promote local organizing over mass convergences in distant cities based on the premise that people are more likely to get involved with local issues than with abstract international issues that may not have a direct bearing on their lives. In addition to the “Don’t Just Vote” campaign, a more cynical electoral campaign called “Vote No One in 2004” is also being organized.

2004 Election to be a Repeat of 2000?

A new report examining voting systems in the United States has identified the potential for possible fraud and disenfranchisement on the level of the 2000 presidential election. Despite an effort by the government to investigate how elections are conducted and a push to upgrade voting technology, there is growing concern that most states will not have new systems in place by the 2004 presidential election. Moreover, federal legislation has demanded that states consider electronic voting options first, despite the well-documented failings of electronic voting machines and potential for abuse. Here in Michigan, despite a relatively successful use of internet voting technology in the Michigan Democratic Party caucus, there were charges of more “traditional” forms of disenfranchisement by way of last minute changes of location and the closing of polling places.

Along with concerns over voting, many Democrats now believe that in order for John Kerry to win, he must become a “centrist” candidate in order to avoid alienating potential voters. Trying to be more Republican than the Republicans has historically been a failure, but many pundits and party officials seem willing to try it again this year. The media has provided plenty of airtime to urge Kerry towards “the center,” yet has failed to address the lies and inaccuracies present in campaign commercials from both major parties. Of course, no comparison of the 2000 and 2004 elections would be complete with mentioning the almost deluge of articles that seek to place blame for the Democrats’ failure on Ralph Nader.

On a related election note, the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) has begun monitoring the local media’s election coverage, as well as keeping track of political ads being run on area television stations.

Condoleezza Rice Testifies Before 9/11 Commission

Condoleezza Rice finally testified before the 9/11 Commission after weeks of stalling by the Bush administration who claimed that she could not testify due to issues of tradition and privilege that supposedly dictated that National Security Advisors do not appear before the legislative branch. The Bush administration’s position, and Rice’s own statement on 60 Minutes, “It is a longstanding principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress,” ignored the fact that national security advisors under both Presidents Clinton and Carter testified publicly before congress.

Her testimony (transcript), considered by many to be a formal rebuttal of the Richard Clarke’s testimony a couple of weeks ago, has already drawn intense scrutiny and criticism. The Center for American Progress has put together a fact sheet titled “Claim vs. Fact: Rice’s Q & A Testimony Before the 9/11 Commission” that looks at what Rice said compared to what has been said by people who have previously testified, and in some cases, compared to what Rice herself has previously stated in public. Their study points out numerous contradictions and errors, and a number of possible lies. People have also raised significant questions about what Rice knew before the attacks on 9/11 and the administration’s policy of regime change in Iraq and how that complicated anti-terrorist measures. While it would be absurd to charge that the administration had specific knowledge of a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center using hijacked airplanes, there have been a number of recent reports stating that the administration had intelligence stating that planes would be used in terrorist attacks and there has been much debate as to whether or not Condoleezza Rice herself had received this information.

Election Notes

The Bush campaign has rolled out a new on-line ad attacking John Kerry for being beholden to special interests. While this is certainly a valid criticism of John Kerry, it is hypocritical in the extreme for the Bush campaign to criticize anyone for taking money from special interests. Interestingly, the Bush ad includes data from, and a picture of, the website for the Center for Public Integrity. CPI does an excellent job in tracking and documenting corporate and political malfeasance and in particular has done a great job in researching who is financially backing the presidential candidates. The Bush ad states that Kerry has taken over $ 600,000 in special interest money, a fact well worth noting. Ironically, on the front page of the IPC site is a study stating that right now Bush has individual donors, such as MNBA and Enron, which have given Bush over $ 600,000 each. See below for a comparison on the top ten career patrons of both Bush and Kerry. For more information on the funding of Presidential candidates, check out CPI�s excellent study The Buying of the President.

While Bush has been running ads regularly on all three Grand Rapids based TV channels, Kerry has yet to air any ads in the West Michigan market. Whether this is due to part of a campaign strategy or a lack of money by Kerry is hard to say. We do know that up to the end of January, the Bush campaign had a daily average raised of $497,832 compared to $104,899 for Kerry. Regardless, the fact that the electoral process requires this level of fundraising raises some very troubling questions about how American democracy works. Candidates that are outside the two party duopoly are frozen out from the process and voters feel that they have to vote for the lesser of two evils. Even Noam Chmosky in a recent interview, begrudgingly endorses voting for Kerry:

My feeling is pretty much the way it was in the year 2000. I admire Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich very much, and insofar as they bring up issues and carry out an educational and organizational function – that’s important, and fine, and I support it.

However, when it comes to the choice between the two factions of the business party, it does sometimes, in this case as in 2000, make a difference. A fraction.

Phil Gaspar provides a counter arguement to Chomsky’s stance of choosing the lesser evil:

Making decisions about the presidential election on the basis of the minute differences between the two major party candidates is ultimately a mug’s game. Whoever wins in November, we’ll need the biggest and most militant social movements on the ground to fight their policies, but when activists get sucked into support for the Democrats the movements are weakened and sometimes destroyed.

Meanwhile, Ralph Nader is running again. Many questions remain about his campaign. Will he get backing from existing third parties such as the Reform or Green parties? Will he even be able to get on the ballots in most states? Regardless of the viability of his campaign, it must be recognized that Nader is not a “spoiler” stealing votes from the Democrats. Nader’s platform is significantly different from the corporate financed Democrats, calling for greater accountability for corporations and an end to corporate-controlled government.

Bush Administration Warned By CIA About Flawed Intelligence

According to recent testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee by CIA Director George Tenet, the Bush administration was warned at numerous points about flaws in the intelligence cited during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

The administration continues to lie to support their policies in Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney was warned once in January by Tenet about incorrectly interpreting intelligence:

  • In a Jan. 22 interview with NPR, Dick Cheney claimed that two truck trailers recovered in Iraq were “conclusive evidence” of a biological weapons program.
  • In a Jan. 9 interview with Rocky Mountain News, Cheney said “there’s overwhelming evidence there was a connection between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi government”–an assertion based on a document prepared by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, although the CIA does not agree with that document’s conclusions. According to Tenet’s testimony, a warning is forthcoming.

One should also not forget the numerous lies by President Bush–an October 7, 2002 statement about “massive stockpiles” of WMD comes to mind, as well as the Africa-Iraq uranium deal that never happened–along with many other false statements before, during, and after the invasion of Iraq.

More Information:

Bush’s Economic Recovery?

Today in Washington, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow organized a protest rally against the loss of jobs to other countries. Among the speakers were two employees at closed Electrolux plant in Greenville spoke. Electrolux has drawn attention for moving 2,700 jobs to Mexico, even prompting Grand Rapids Public Schools Board Member Jim Rink to call for a boycott of Electrolux products.

New economic numbers were released today showing that only 21,000 new jobs were created and the unemployment rate stayed at 5.6% for the second month in a row,with the number of new jobs far below economists’ expected 125,000 new jobs. In January, it was reported that 112,000 new jobs were created, but that number was downgraded today to 97,000. Attentive news watchers should remember that President Bush promised new jobs as a result of his tax cuts this year on his most recent appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press (2.6 million were forecasted), although his administration has since retreated from that statement (source). In 2003, the Bush administration predicted 1.7 million new jobs, but the total number of jobs failed to grow, instead decreasing by 53,000 (source).

Unfortunately, much of the discussion about jobs and the economy in the United States occurs in a vacuum that ignores the complexity of global economics. Politicians rarely discuss the impact of neoliberalism on manufacturing jobs in the United States and it is rare that they talk about the various free trade agreements that are critical components of the neoliberal system. Here in Michigan it is becoming somewhat common to hear talk about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but it is rare to hear about the 879,280 jobs lost as a result of NAFTA (525,000 jobs certified as lost as a direct result of NAFTA) and one never hears of NAFTA�s impact on Mexico. Politicians and the media rarely talk about the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), or the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) although all are important in understanding the reasons for “job loss” in the United States.

Kerry to Take on Bush – Does it Matter?

With Senator John Edwards ending his campaign for the Democratic nomination, Senator John Kerry will be the Democratic Party’s candidate against President George W. Bush. The “Anybody but Bush” folks will no doubt be out in force over the next eight months telling us how great John Kerry is and how the Democratic Party will be a dramatic improvement over the Republicans. Certainly, we do not want President George W. Bush in office, but we need to be realistic about what the Democratic Party will do. We must not forget that this is the same “progressive” party that brought us NAFTA/WTO, “welfare reform,” sanctions that killed 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of 5, and a host of military interventions around the world.

While there are differences between Bush and Kerry–especially on abortion, civil unions for gay people, and the notion of “faith-based” social services–there are many similarities between the two. Kerry voted for the USA PATRIOT Act, he voted for the resolution authorizing the most recent attack on Iraq, and he supported President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” education reforms. He supports the same neoliberal trade policies; he is also a member of society’s elite, and supports an increase in active-duty troops.

“Anybody but Bush” may have a nice ring to it, and indeed it may accurately reflect the sentiments of many, but we need to be cognizant of the Democratic Party’s track record and realize that no matter who wins, progressive movements are going to have to continue fighting. Progressives should not just fall behind Kerry, being content with handing out literature for a candidate they only half-heartedly agree with or registering people to vote. In conjunction with such efforts, we need to be building off the immense amounts of time and energy that will be spent on the effort to beat Bush, channeling the anger many feel towards Bush into a strong progressive movement that can eventually do away with leaders of both political parties.

Some recent articles on differences between Bush and Kerry:

Stop the Presses: George W. Bush Says Something True

At a campaign speech on Monday, President George W. Bush made the following joke:

The Democratic field, Mr. Bush said, is “for tax cuts and against them. For NAFTA and against NAFTA. For the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act. In favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it. And that’s just one senator from Massachusetts.

Sometimes jokes contain a lot of truth…

In keeping up with today’s light-hearted theme, we offer a special tribute to Saddam Hussein called “Thanks for the Memories.” It is a short video about the special relationship between the United States and Saddam Hussein, set to the classic Bing Crosby tune.

Nader Runs Again

Much to the chagrin of the Democratic party hierarchy and the “anyone but Bush” crowd, this weekend Ralph Nader announced his candidacy for President.

Much to the chagrin of the Democratic party hierarchy and the “anyone but Bush” crowd, this weekend Ralph Nader announced his candidacy for President. Unlike in 2000 when we was the Green Party candidate, this time around he will run as an independent. This means Nader will have to gather 64,000 signatures in each state in order to get on the ballot. According to an article in today’s New York Times, the democratic party will “bring lawsuits to knock Mr. Nader off state ballots.”

Once again, Nader is running to spotllight the increasing corporate control of both political parties. His critics claim he is a “spoiler” who is increasing Bush’s chances at getting reelected. In response to Nader’s assertion that there is little difference between the two major parties, this is what Democratic frontrunner John Kerry had to say:

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“That’s what he said with respect to Bush and Gore, and I think it was pretty clear to most Americans that the difference was night and day. “I intend to speak to all Americans. If people want to beat George Bush badly, and that’s what’s at stake here, they’ll see that I’m speaking to concerns that Ralph Nader and other people have.”

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There has been a deluge of stories arguing that Nader’s 2004 candidacy is a “spoiler” one that will cost the Democratic candidate the election, as in 2000 when Gore “lost Florida by only 537 votes.” While some people who would have voted for the Democratic candidate may vote for Nader, covering Nader as a spoiler and blaming him for what happened in Florida in 2000 ignores the much larger story to come out of the 2000 election—widespread voter disenfranchisement when large numbers of voters were “misidentified” as felons. The media should be covering DBT’s disqualification of voters in the 2000 election and Nader’s platform not the fact that Nader “cost Gore the election.” Incidently, some 30,000 votes were cast for third party candidates other than Nader in Florida, but you never hear claims that the Workers World Party’s 1,804 votes cost Gore the election.

So what are the differences between Kerry and the Republicans? According to Alexander Cockburn and Jeffery St. Clair from the online magazine Counterpunch, not much.

“Kerry agrees with Bush about the tax cuts. He agrees with him about the Patriot Act. He agrees with him on trade. He agrees with him on the war. Why change horses, Bush will ask the American people. “I can manage things better,” Kerry will respond. What else can he say? He’s never once, in three senate terms, offered legislation to inconvenience the “special interests” at which he’s lately launched a few pop-gun attacks. “Over the course of his senate career,” writes Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity, “Kerry has not been averse to taking campaign cash from the companies and firms with a direct interest in his work. Since ’95, he raised more than 30 million for his various campaigns, most of it from industries such as finance and telecommunication companies (which are overseen by the senate committees he served) and the law and lobby firms that represent them.” (Kerry: He’s Peaking, Already)

For more on which candidates are beholden to which special interest groups, check out the Center for Public Integrity’s Report Who Bankrolls Bush and his Democratic Rivals?

Attorney General John Ashcroft Sued, Singing Career in the Future?

Attorney General John Ashcroft was sued yesterday by a federal prosecuter who says that the Justice Department has exaggerated its success in “the war on terror” and has hindered prosecutors in the field.

With this latest lawsuit and growing criticism of the USA PATRIOT Act, things are looking bad for Ashcroft, but should he be forced out of Washington, he has other career options. Ashcroft is also a budding singer, having composed a patriotic song called “Let the Eagles Soar.” Perhaps he will be joined by Trent Lott, another washed up politician who was a part of Ashcroft’s Singing Senators musical group. We are fairly confident they could cut into Lee Greenwood’s market share.

We couldn’t make this up: Video of John Ashcroft Singing “Let the Eagles Soar”