The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.
William Sloane Coffin
PERSONAL REMINISCENCE - Ken Grieser, Seattle
I'll always be grateful to Reverend Coffin for being a seminal influence on my anti-war sensibilities.
I first met him in the summer of 1967, when I was a sixteen-year-old enrolled in Yale Summer High School. The program operated at the campus of the Yale Divinity School, Reverend Coffin's Alma Mater.
At the time, he was Yale University Chaplain, and generating controversy with his opposition to the Vietnam war. He spoke to a group of us in the Student Commons room, amazing us with the depth and breath of his knowledge, but especially with his authoritative, stentorian voice. (He was, after all, a preacher. A friend of his, a Profressor from the University of New Hampshire, deemed him "The best white preacher in America".)
Doing volunteer work - mostly mail handling - with New Haven's anti-war group,"Omega," I remember a good half of the letters I handled being routed to or from Reverend Coffin or Mrs. Coffin. During this same year, Reverend Coffin and Dr. Benjamin Spock collected more than a thousand draft cards from young men at rallies in the area and presented them to Dept. of Justice officials, in Washington. Coffin, Spock and three others were convicted for aiding men to avoid the draft. His conviction was appealed and overturned in 1970.
Coffin continued his activism, fighting against poverty, social injustice, homelessness and for other progressive issues. He even travelled to Iran during the hostage crisis.
This blueblood, Yankee, son of privilege was an inspiration to so many of us. Of course, many questioned his patriotism, to which he'd reply that a true patriot is one who maintains "a lower's quarrel" with his country. Well put, Reverend Bill.
"Patriotism at the expense of another nation is as wicked as racism at the expense of another race. Let us resolve to be patriots always, nationalists never. Let us love our country, but pledge allegiance to the earth and to the flora and fauna and human life that it supports - one planet indivisible, with clean air, soil and water; with liberty, justice and peace for all."
- William Sloane Coffin, as quoted in his obituary in the NY Times,
Last night, my husband and I ventured out to see authors, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga of DailyKos and Jerome Armstrong of My DD) read and discuss their book, "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots & the Rise of People-Powered Politics". We hoped to garner a few good grassroots ideas from the interaction of the authors and those assembled. Cars circled for parking, as we did, identifiable by bumper stickers (Dean, Air America, etc.). The sponsors were SEIU and Drinking Liberally, and the event was held in that church of labor, the Seattle Labor Temple. There is also a bar in the building, so the surprisingly sober talk was punctuated by noises of revelry from below. There was also a nice spread of free food, impressive for a progressive event.
I had learned that DailyKos gets more than a million visitors per day, that traffic has grown by 5-10% per week, that it is about to dwarf the weekday circulation of the New York Times. Combined with the 70 busiest progressive blogs, more people can now be reached than by the DNC (http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/content?oid=31516). The time may be passing when mainstream elements of the party could ignore the blogosphere in favor of highly-paid consultants. Blogs have certainly not faded from the scene, following the 2004 election. Bloggers pushed for Dean to be head of the DNC and now many want to transform the party. These authors certainly fall into that group and advocate for a "vast leftwing conspiracy" to rival the powerful conservative network of think tanks and big donors.
To us, the most interesting aspect of the talk was the Q & A session with local residents. A summary follows. Each Q represents a citizen activist, each A one or both of the authors (paraphrased from notes). The audience was made up of a broad spectrum within the progressive/liberal community, moreso than we expected. This Q/A series represents ordinary citizens and questions you or I might have and relates to political activities we already participate in and how we could expand on them.
Q Why don't we say what we're for rather than what we're against, as a message?
A We had ceded too much of the country to the conservatives. Many run unopposed. Those not in a Democrat or swing state may never hear that we won't take away their guns. Democrats have to show how they are different from Republicans. Conservatives run the big media. We need to be able to counter the propaganda. We have made a start and there may soon be a television alternative, as Air America has been for radio.
Q How do we move Democrat Senators off the dime? What affect will limitations on 527s have?
A Conservatives don't believe in Campaign Finance Reform. 527s would now have similar status to PACs and people could not donate as much s they want. If Democrats have to rely more on small donors, that will get regular people involved again, as has already started to happen. Politicians will respond to the donors. We need to support a new generation of politicians and own them. I am suggesting buying out the politicians. They do not all have to hold the same positions. Ben Nelson represents Nebraska and only votes with the party half the time, but he can be depended on to support Harry Reid. He does not trash the party as, for example, Lieberman does. We need to get enough on our side in Congress to get Subpoena Power.
Q There is too much chatter on the blogs. How do we focus?
A Chatter is ok - it's for educating and motivating and getting more involved. Why no unified message? The Republicans have used "strong defense and family values" since it was successful in getting them in during the 1970s. Democrats still have alot of work to do at the state level, getting up to speed, to have a unified party. That's a long process. Republicans are battling for the "Millennial Generation," those under 28, the next Baby Boom. Rupert Murdoch has bought up "MySpace" where they hang out, and the Republicans can mine the blogs there and market to them. Meanwhile, Democrats are worrying whether to join Feingold's censure. Long-term thinking and structural changes are both needed and then we can win. Even if we regain a majority we will have long-term problems to solve.
Q How can we bring reform without criticism that we are fragmenting the Democratic party?
A We know the party has the right values. The fifty-state strategy was laughed at not long ago, and we were called "political naives." We are finding the opposite perception as we travel the US and the sense that we have nothing left to lose. Democrats are doing well in places like Montana and Colorado. We need to translate this nationally.
A Rove has been successful at mobilizing the right. It's not Bush's incompetence so much as his wrong ideology. We need to build our "brand." There are more Independents than anything else, and they could vote Democratic. The Republicans "framed" well. We chase the center but we need to become something that the center will come to.
Q The grassroots - who will do it? How? Where? When? Could there be a software system - a Google or eBay of organizing campaigns? The Dean phenomenon happened outside the party with MeetUp. Soros gave 40 million to ACT. Why not a sophisticated computer system? (The guy then reveals that he was a former Microsoft wealthy person but not now.)
A People can build it. It's a Brave New World. We just spoke at Microsoft earlier and told people to build the prototype. The money is out there, but don't look to the party. We plan a Leadership Institute next year that can train hundreds of activists.
Q Do we need to ignore our pet issues to gain a majority (eg. gay rights, civil rights etc)
A Conservatives don't talk about issues, but about values. We need to talk about what we all believe in, all over the country -- fairness, investing in our future, like conservatives talk about security and morality. A good example was Hackett, from a conservative district, who was able to approach the gay rights issues with something like "More power to 'em and if you disagree, it's unAmerican." We need to go for Core American Values. Conservatives talk in Code. Gingrich could tell Ralph Reed that the Christian Coalition could have their way once the Republicans were in office, without saying it directly.
Q We're in the Labor Temple, sponsored by a Union. What is the role of labor? Can we also take groups disenfranchised by both parties, according to some, like the disabled, and bring them personally into the party?
A The AFL-CIO split may have been healthy. The unions that left felt the labor pool was shrinking and that handing direct cash to candidates was outmoded. SEIU and others realized that it made more sense to try to increase the member base, get more members - not just dump money into a smaller union base. Halls like this are the Churches of the liberal movement. We need to build a Labor movement, not by blogging but by building unions which provide education to their members. We need to build up from the grassroots, not continue with top-down. The internet then allows disparate individuals to connect. Just talking about a fifty-state strategy has helped it grow.
Q What will the Democratic party look like in ten years?
A Dean is now the DLC chair, blogs have helped. People need to increase involvement at their local level and build them up.
Q Do you believe the election was stolen? (When asked how many in the audience do, approximately two-thirds of the hands go up)
A There were many problems in Ohio besides electronic machines. They were not just theoretical. If you read the Conyers report you know there was voter disenfranchisement.
Q Do you know there is an actual lawsuit in the next county because in our close Gubernatorial election, machine count favored the Republican, paper count which was also kept favored the Democrat?
A Yes, the machines are a piece of shit. Disenfranchising and machines should not be able to steal an election again. Let's also correct our structural problems in the party.
Q In our own county, we had addresses contested - the right to vote, to get the vote counted. Also, what are your thoughts on the media? Why are they so .. bad? What's happened? Thank goodness for the blogosphere. People in pajamas researching amazing stuff. Is there hope? What should we do?
A Republicans are trying to destroy the press because facts do not support the conservative ideology. On the left, we say "do you job." We need evidence. Conservatives are completely rigid on their ideology. Facts need to be reported. The Sunday talk shows are skewed conservative. We need to push them away from that. Look how we got rid of the Washington Post's rightwing nutso blogger? Bloggers can't do it all but we are an exciting supplement. We can't have people out getting scoops in wars and then rushing back to their blogs.
They signed books. I didn't get a book or stand in line, but photographed Kos and at that time thanked him for having Kerry and Carter as bloggers, and he said "better late than never." He also said that JK could possibly be a participant at the national Kos convention in Vegas. As a thanks, here's the book plug.
When Helen Thomas "grilled" President Bush during a recent press conference, I encouraged people to press for a Backbone Award. I don't know if this is in the works or not, but I did read that she got thousands of flowers. The roses kept coming and coming - 108 dozen - until they filled a large conference room to overflowing. They were the brainchild of a (mother-of-two from Utah.)
Helen Thomas asked the question no one has asked so directly: "Why did you want to go to war?". She said, "He could not answer my question. He kept referring to Afghanistan. He never articulated the reasons we're in Iraq. I don't think there's any justification for an unprovoked war against somebody who did nothing against us."
"It sure beats the brickbats," Helen said, referring to hundreds of vitriolic e-mails she's received since last week's encounter with Bush. "Some of them attack you ad hominem and call you a traitor and ask if you've ever been to Iraq," she said. Thomas also received hundreds of supportive emails immediately after she spoke.
According to The Hill, Thomas shared her roses with Hearst bureau chief Chuck Lewis and other colleagues and sent the bulk of them to wounded military personnel at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
Helen had the following note sent to the person who initiated the giving of the roses: "Blessed are the peacemakers. The bounty of beautiful roses from such wonderful people has lifted my heart and will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. Thank you for caring that others may live."
Everyone knows who Helen Thomas is. She has asked questions of presidents since John F. Kennedy was in office and was known for her tagline "Thank you, Mr. President." In researching Helen, I found her to be very controversial and in today's political climate, I think it's because she's one of the only journalists still doing her job.
Helen is a Senior White House Correspondant, born in 1920 in Kentucky, so two years older than my mother, and just as outspoken. Helen grew up in Michigan and attended public schools and Wayne State. She worked at UPI for 57 years and quit when Reverend Moon acquired it. Her customary beats were the White House and the FBI. She has since been a Hearst columnist. Helen went to China with Nixon. She traveled the world with Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton and GW Bush and has covered every Economic Summit. She has written three books.
She is rarely called on by President GW Bush. She has called him "the worst President ever."
* Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President : Wit and Wisdom from the Front Row at the White House (Scribner, 2003) ISBN 0743202260
* Front Row at the White House : My Life and Times (Scribner, 2000) ISBN 0684868091
One million marched to mourn ancient death in Karbala
rejoicing, chanting, dancing and slashing their bodies
frenzied blood ritual homage to Mohammed's grandson
adding prayers that their "liberators" might disappear
The great Communicator in Chief of the "liberators"
was astounded--flabbergasted--and surprised
that Arab Democratic Republicanism is not on the rise
now that faith-based missals have cauterized the air
The great "liberator" has misplaced his copy of the Koran,
his astonished surprise casts an illiterate shadow
over the broken hearts and minds in Iraq and all of Islam
by consistently ignoring the teachings of Mohammed
It's Spring time in Iraq--and flowers are hard to find