Thursday, December 30, 2004

The book progressives are most excited about this year is George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant. Deb Conley organized a well attended book study about it and has had requests to follow up with more groups for those who couldn't attend the first one. Interested? Here's what Deb has to say:
Our first three week book study sessions on the book "Don't Think of an Elephant" is now over and we are moving forward. The study was full to capacity and we had many enthusiastic participants. Senator Joan Bray and her assisatant Kristy Manning were two of the participants. They added a lot to our framing the political issues.
We can be better prepared to frame the progressive values when speaking, writing or communicationg in any way to the public and or politicians. Lakoff's books are teaching us a lot about framing the progressive message and infiltrating the worldview of the staus quo.
We now have three other book studies in the planning stage and many people who are anxious to spread the progressive values message. Our Yahoo group is now up and running and we recently filed the materials that we used for the pilot program on the site. This includes all three session materials and background. Hopefully, having these materials ready for others to use in a study will allow more study time and forgo the numerous hours it took preparing questions and researching materials.
Some of you indicated that you were familiar with Lakoff's work and would be interested in starting a study or just be a part of a group spreading the message and learning more about framing the progressive message . I recall a few of you who indicated that you wanted to be part of the "Show Me Framing" Yahoo group when it was up and running. Let me know if you are still interested, who you are, and include your e-mail address so I can send you an invitation.
Those who want to be added to a list for future studies, or who are already familiar with Lakoff's work and have a desire to be part of a working to re-frame the issues Yahoo Group, they can contact me at:
We prefer that those who want to join in our Yahoo group, read either of Lakoff's books, "Don't Think Of An Elephant", "Moral Politics" or have viewed his video on "How Democrats and Progressives Can Win", and support the content of the material. The people involved in the "show me framing" yahoo group are dedicated to learning more about framing the progressive message, using what they are learning, and assisting others in learning more about framing the progressive moral values.
In Service for Peace and Justice,
Deb Conley

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Much as I oppose the war in Iraq and despise Donald Rumsfeld, I've been considering the fuss over his signature machine irrelevant. His real sin is that he has, in essence, signed the death warrant of 1300 American servicemen--and counting. Not signing those condolence letters is such a minor transgression, in comparison, that the hubbub over it is like accusing the man who wrote out that death warrant of failing to cross the final "t". Who cares? But if his carelessness in this matter finally makes his overall callousness register with Americans, then bravo. Ellen Goodman quoted two parents who now "get it."
"Our loved ones aren't just a number to us," said a New Hampshire mother who lost her 20-year-old son. "He didn't care. In my opinion, he doesn't care about nothing," said a Pennsylvania father who wears his late son's Purple Heart.
Rumsfeld's cavalier attitude about armor for military vehicles and about signing condolence notes would not have surprised the World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon if that British soldier were still around. Sassoon wrote a vivid description of just such officers in "Base Details".
If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I'd live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You'd see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honor. "Poor young chap,"
I'd say--"I used to know his father well;
Yes, we've lost heavily in this last scrap."
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I'd toddle safely home and die--in bed.
To call a deadly battle a "scrap" is not so different from telling soldiers who lack armor for their vehicles that they just have to deal with the army they have, not the one they'd like to have.
It's befuddling how it can take so long for people to recognize the arrogance of those who run this war. And it's disturbing that so many Americans buy, have always bought, whatever patriotic scam the scoundrels in power are currently selling. Their gullibility so often costs them their lives. John Kenneth Galbraith noted wryly that:
"Men must have a fairly elevated motive for getting themselves killed. To die to protect or enhance the wealth, power, or privilege of someone else, the most common reason for conflict over the centuries, lacks beauty." How beautiful is it to die for oil?

Monday, December 27, 2004

From an article in the Saturday Post-Dispatch on Rumsfeld's visit to Iraq, I gleaned the news that at least one serviceman in Iraq still approves of Rumsfeld. Navy Chief Petty Officer Damon Sanders defended the secretary of defense: "I totally believe in him." Whether many others agreed with Sanders is impossible to know because the town hall-style meeting was closed to embedded reporters, open only to compliant reporters who had traveled with Rumsfeld from the States. On his last visit, a soldier had put him on the hot seat with a question about the lack of armor for military vehicles, and apparently Rumsfeld has decided that so much openness is intolerable. Of course, the article stated that it was his aides who had "requested" that other reporters not attend, but if you believe that, you can probably also be convinced that this is a winnable war.
Democracy doesn't thrive when the press is muzzled, when only the reporters who cozy up to those in power have access to information. Rumsfeld doesn't understand that, but his countrymen had better keep it in mind. Instead of worrying about freedom in Iraq--a pipedream anyway--let's concentrate on the freedom of our own press.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

In case you don't get the Post-Dispatch, you wouldn't want to miss Kevin Horrigan's Sunday column about the presidential medal of honor Bush is bestowing on Tommy Franks, George Tenet and Paul Bremer. He doesn't say much you don't already know, but he nails the way this hypocrisy debases the soldiers who've died there. He's eloquent.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

"The Democratic Leadership Council's addiction to contributions from Philip Morris, Texaco, and Merck is proof enough that its "centrism" is really a naked corporate agenda." So says David Sirota in an article in The Nation. He proceeds to list seven major policy areas in which a large majority of Americans agree with progressive positions. In every case, the DNC labels our positions as extreme left wing, mainly because their corporate contributors disapprove of those ideas. Sirota mourns the fact that "now an effort is under way to set this faux 'centrism' in stone" by electing Simon Rosenberg as the new DNC chairman in February. While it is maddening to watch this DNC toadying to corporate interests, it is heartening to see how many Americans are just waiting for a party to actually espouse what we liberals want. Click here to read the article.
There is ongoing discussion on the Change for Missouri site about how best to lobby the representatives of the Missouri Democratic Party who will have a vote on this issue in February. I'll update you on that discussion . . . or you can sign up to receive e-mail from Change for Missouri.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

In an article for The Progressive entitled "Meet Mr. Rogers", Ruth Conniff analyzes progressive intentions to organize longterm along the same lines that the right has used. We'll have to begin, as many of us have bemoaned, by remaking the DNC. Conniff begins by describing our DNC wimps:
In the face of the right's 2004 election victories and shrieking triumphalism, the Democrats picked Harry Reid of Nevada, a pro-life, pro-war, anti-flag-burning buddy of President Bush, to be their leader in the Senate. One of Reid's colleagues, Sen. Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, had this to say about the new minority leader, who is taking over from Karl Rove's drive-by victim Tom Daschle: "When the conservative talk show hosts start saying bad things about Harry Reid, it will be like attacking Mr. Rogers."
This is the Democrats' idea of mounting an opposition to the rightwing takeover of all three branches of the federal government? Let us all unite behind our fearless leader ... Mr. Rogers!
Fortunately, while party leaders are busy putting on their cardigans and practicing their Bible verses in the hopes that the big bullies in Washington won't pick on them, out in the states progressives are organizing.
Many of the independent groups that worked so hard to defeat Bush are now turning their attention to the longer-term battle to take back the country. They are modeling their efforts on what the right did in the 1970s.

Conniff describes ALEC, the right wing organizing juggernaut, as a way of laying out a model for left wing organizers. Click here to read the article.

Here's the second of my June postings about Wal-Mart:

June 24, 2004
Unionizing Wal-Mart is more than just a larger than usual challenge. It's a whole different ballgame, according to the June 28 issue of The Nation. United Food and Commercial Workers wouldn't have a prayer working by itself. Labor leaders know that and are discussing strategies, and several "large unions are launching joint campaigns to organize low-wage workers." But "partly because most people in the labor movement are preoccupied with defeating Bush, such dialogue is proceeding slowly."
As far as particular ideas, one of the first is that international cooperation might be useful to an organizing strategy. "As Andy Stern, just back from China, points out ... 'Wal-Mart is second only to our current President in unpopularity around the world.'" Cross-border solidarity might be helpful here from countries where Wal-Mart has been unionized, like Germany and Japan.
Many in the U.S. labor movement believe we'll have to think outside the box on this knotty problem. Joel Rogers, a longtime social-justice activist and University of Wisconsin political scientist, agrees that the traditional model of organizing--by industry, with a focus on getting a majority vote in each shop, which under the law makes all the workers in that shop part of the union--cannot work for Wal-Mart. Rogers advocates an approach he calls "open-source unionism," in which workers could join unions even if the majority of their co-workers had not yet chosen to do so.... Under this model, employers could not insure that by defeating unions in elections, their workplaces would remain union-free. While these unions would lack collective-bargaining rights, members would receive advice from the union on how to protect their rights during disputes, and help in improving pay and working conditions through collective action. They would also benefit from alliances with community groups and other unions in putting pressure on their employer.
This model has been tried by sweatshop workers in the U.S. and Latin America, not to mention New York City taxi drivers. They've used it "both to agitate for rights on the job and to develop political consciousness and become part of a larger social movement." How useful the strategy would be is hard to predict, but it's worth trying.
In the end, though, unless unions can find a way to threaten the company's profits, they will fail. Asking the public not to shop at Wal-Mart is a losing proposition. Even union members shop there because of the low prices, "making at least 30 percent of union credit-card purchases at the retail giant." The only practicable way to hurt profits would be to convince the progressive community that Wal-Mart is damaging laborers as a whole and costing all of us (for example, the medical care for underpaid workers). "Ultimately the entire progressive movement--not just labor--will have to make the unionization of Wal-Mart a priority."
Tackling this Goliath is an iffy proposition. It's encouraging that labor leaders are talking about this problem and entertaining so many new approaches. Yet as Mike Leonard cautions, in the labor movement, "it's a pretty rare day when we go beyond talking about a new idea, and that's part of the problem." And many workers are not optimistic now. Linda Gruen, who tried for several years to organize her Wal-Mart co-workers, is "not sure we will ever unionize Wal-Mart."
In my May 6th blog, I quoted part of an article from American Prospect that bears on the Wal-Mart question:
Enforcement of the Wagner Act, which allows American workers a free choice to vote in a union, has become a joke. Employers find it cheaper to fire pro-union workers, hire fancy law firms to conduct union-busting campaigns, and pay the very infrequent fine.
One happy exception speaks volumes -- the successful struggle by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees to turn Las Vegas into a union town. Today, the most humble workers in Vegas's hotels -- those who clean the rooms -- are paid middle-class salaries with health benefits and have career opportunities. They are becoming homeowners and starting to live the American dream. The higher labor costs are a drop in the casino bucket.
After all, no inherent economic logic required semi-skilled factory workers to earn middle-class wages.

With so many jobs leaving the country, low wage jobs must be successfully unionized if we are to maintain a middle class.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Labor leaders were waiting for the election to be over before tackling the elephant in their living room--Wal-Mart. Now that they're announcing plans to do battle, let me refer you to a couple of blogs I wrote last June about the Wal-mart problem:

June 23, 2004

Take a gander at a few sentences from the handbook that Wal-Mart distributes to its managers:
Staying union free is a full-time commitment. Unless union prevention is a goal equal to other objectives within an organization, the goal will usually not be attained. The commitment to stay union free must exist at all levels of management--from the Chairperson of the "Board" down to the front-line manager. Therefore, no one in management is immune to carrying his or her "own weight" in the union prevention effort....
Now that Wal-Mart's in the news because of a class action suit on behalf of its female employees, labor needs to go after Goliath. The June 28 issue of The Nation analyzes the need and the prospects.
The need is that Wal-Mart is more than just a "$259 million retail behemoth". The worst part is that it provides "a business model widely imitated by other corporations, especially its competitors." The California grocery strike, as well as our own last fall, went badly for labor. Management claimed that it had to conserve funds in order to be prepared to meet Wal-Mart's prices in case Super Centers opened up nearby. But Linda Gruen, a former Wal-Mart worker now a labor organizer for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), offers a different explanation: "'Greed. Management sees what Wal-Mart gets away with,'" and likes the idea of more profit. Why not? After all, if other businesses can copy the way Wal-Mart treats its 1.2 million employees, they would only have to pay wages of about $8 an hour and provide health plans so stingy that most employees would have to go without or "depend on the government to pay their medical bills."
That's why a consensus among labor leaders is emerging that organizing Wal-Mart workers is an urgent priority--perhaps the most urgent facing a labor movement that is losing density and influence. Asked what it will take to organize Wal-Mart, Al Zack, outgoing assistant director of strategic programs for the UFCW, points to Wal-Mart's stated commitment to remaining "union free." Says Zack, "When the labor movement...matches that commitment, then it will be successful."
It would be difficult to exaggerate the magnitude of this challenge. Wal-Mart's rhetoric is supported by diligent practice.

Managers are taught how to screen potential employees to weed out the union troublemakers of the future. And before anyone is hired, she must sign a paper saying she'll never try to organize a union. That's illegal, but nobody's enforcing the laws against it. Inevitably, of course, some employees do try to organize. When that happens, a "'labor relations team'" is sent out by private plane to the offending store, "often the very day the call comes in." The only successful group ever to organize in the States was in Jacksonville, Texas, in 2000. Ten meatcutters voted 7 to 3 to unionize. Two weeks later, Wal-Mart switched to prepackaged meat and assigned the butchers to other departments.
Wal-Mart realizes that bending the laws this way will create some legal hassles, but the occasional fine has been well worth it. "Until labor laws make violating workers' rights a criminal offense--punishable by sending managers and CEOs to prison...challenges may be fruitless." The company has tried to forestall the creation of any such laws by becoming the number one corporate contributor to politics, with 85% of the money going to Republicans--who owe nothing to labor.
Considering Wednesday morning's headline about the class action suit, Wal-Mart may be in for some protracted and very expensive labor problems. But as determined as they've always been on labor issues, they won't fold easily.
Tomorrow, I'll summarize the various strategies that labor is considering against the world's number one retailer and its prospects for success.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

There's hope for resuscitating the DNC to real progressive values! Check out the lead paragraph for this L.A. Times story:
WASHINGTON — Liberal powerhouse MoveOn has a message for the "professional election losers" who run the Democratic Party: "We bought it, we own it, we're going to take it back."
Now ain't that a sweet piece of news? Here's the link to the rest of it.

I always thought the Cold War was a bunch of hooey. What I didn't realize was that that "war" and the War on Terror have been brought to us courtesy of the same two men: Rumsfeld and Cheney. In an article titled "Hyping Terror for Fun, Profit--and Power", Thom Hartmann summarizes a BBC documentary that lays out the history of how they prevented the Cold war from ending in 1974.

What if there really was no need for much - or even most - of the Cold War? What if, in fact, the Cold War had been kept alive for two decades based on phony WMD threats?
What if, similarly, the War On Terror was largely a scam, and the administration was hyping it to seem larger-than-life? What if our "enemy" represented a real but relatively small threat posed by rogue and criminal groups well outside the mainstream of Islam? What if that hype was done largely to enhance the power, electability, and stature of George W. Bush and Tony Blair?
And what if the world was to discover the most shocking dimensions of these twin deceits - that the same men promulgated them in the 1970s and today?
It happened.
The myth-shattering event took place in England the first three weeks of October, when the BBC aired a three-hour documentary written and produced by Adam Curtis, titled " The Power of Nightmares." If the emails and phone calls many of us in the US received from friends in the UK - and debate in the pages of publications like The Guardian are any indicator, this was a seismic event, one that may have even provoked a hasty meeting between Blair and Bush a few weeks later.
According to this carefully researched and well-vetted BBC documentary, Richard Nixon, following in the steps of his mentor and former boss Dwight D. Eisenhower, believed it was possible to end the Cold War and eliminate fear from the national psyche. The nation need no longer be afraid of communism or the Soviet Union. Nixon worked out a truce with the Soviets, meeting their demands for safety as well as the US needs for security, and then announced to Americans that they need no longer be afraid.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon returned from the Soviet Union with a treaty worked out by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the beginning of a process Kissinger called "détente." On June 1, 1972, Nixon gave a speech in which he said, "Last Friday, in Moscow, we witnessed the beginning of the end of that era which began in 1945. With this step, we have enhanced the security of both nations. We have begun to reduce the level of fear, by reducing the causes of fear-for our two peoples, and for all peoples in the world."
But Nixon left amid scandal and Ford came in, and Ford's Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) and Chief of Staff (Dick Cheney) believed it was intolerable that Americans might no longer be bound by fear. Without fear, how could Americans be manipulated?
Rumsfeld and Cheney began a concerted effort - first secretly and then openly - to undermine Nixon's treaty for peace and to rebuild the state of fear and, thus, reinstate the Cold War.

If you'd like to read the rest, just click here.
I don't suppose PBS would be interested in airing this documentary. Too explosive. After all, the Brits have more freedom of the press than we do. But in the spirit of not being a victim of the abusers in power, I'm going to suggest to MoveOn, Al Franken and DFA that pressure be brought to bear to air the documentary in this country.
Actually, tennis elbow is making typing a problem for me these days. If anyone would be willing to write the organizations I mentioned above, would you please e-mail me at

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I wouldn't want liberals to be as vicious and corrupt as the Repugs, but it's time for us to be strong, even ruthless when necessary. In "The Politics of Victimization", Mel Gilles, who has worked with victims of domestic abuse, draws some parallels between her work and the reaction of many Democrats to the election:
Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the new language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, “Why did they beat me?”
And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.
They will tell you, every single day.

Click here to read the rest of the article.
Even E. J. Dionne, who is far from radical, disdains "get-along-ism". If you didn't see his column in today's Post, here's an excerpt to entice you:
Republicans now pushing Getalongism on the Democrats had no objection when their own party pursued a scorched-earth strategy against the Clinton administration. Remember Bill Clinton's 1993 economic plan that put the United States on the path to budget surpluses? It passed without a single Republican vote. Republicans predicted doom for the economy. In 1994 Republicans went after Democrats who had voted for Clinton's tax increases. They took back the House of Representatives and the Senate, and paid no price when their predictions of catastrophe proved dead wrong.
Remember the 1993-94 battle over Clinton's health care plan? William Kristol, the Republican strategist and editor, wrote a series of memos urging his party to do all it could to block Clinton's plan and not dare think of compromise.
If Clinton got something like universal health coverage, Kristol warned, "it will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will, at the same time, strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government."
Naturally those of us who favored giving all Americans health coverage regretted how much influence Kristol's view had on his party. But can anyone now doubt that as a strategic matter, from his side's point of view, Kristol's shrewd counsel of negativism was proved absolutely right? Republicans stopped health care reform, but Clinton took the blame. A chance to show that progressive government could achieve important objectives was lost.

Click here to read the whole piece.
If you'd rather fight the right than join them, you'll appreciate this cartoon from The Village Voice.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Here's another column from last summer about Thomas Frank:

Monday, July 19, 2004

The New York Times had an op-ed piece Friday by my new literary hero, Thomas Frank, who is the author of What's the Matter with Kansas? Better than anyone else I've read, Frank understands the strategy and the impact of the culture wars, and what he knows is that Republicans rile up their conservative base over social issues that the powerful in the GOP have no intention of changing. This ploy to infuriate the cons against "the liberal elite" increases voter turnout in Red areas. Those folks vote for rich Republicans who just keep making themselves richer, while the good-hearted, unpretentious family values crowd just keep getting poorer, without noticing who's doing it to them. This sleight of hand has been not just working, but succeeding devilishly well.
The gay marriage constitutional amendment is a perfect example, as Frank points out in "Failure Is Not an Option, It's Mandatory":
The issue is all-important; the issue is incapable of being won. Only when the battle is defined this way can it achieve the desired results, have its magical polarizing effect. Only with a proposed constitutional amendment could the legalistic, cavilling Democrats be counted on to vote "no," and only with an offensive so blunt and so sweeping could the universal hostility of the press be secured. Losing is prima facie evidence that the basic conservative claim is true: that the country is run by liberals; that the world is unfair; that the majority is persecuted by a sinister elite. And that therefore you, my red-state friend, had better get out there and vote as if your civilization depended on it.
Click here to read the column.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Whenever I give up on American sanity, I come across another great Molly Ivins op-ed. Here's a snippet (courtesy of

It is both peculiar and chilling to find oneself discussing the problem of American torture. I have considered support of basic human rights and dignity so much a part of our national identity that this feels as strange as though I'd suddenly become Chinese or found Fidel Castro in the refrigerator.