ACLU: Airport protests against the Muslim Ban

A note from SF: We are asking that people who have been expecting or are expecting visitors to arrive at SFO from one of the seven countries in yesterday’s executive order – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen – and have not heard from their visitors or have heard that their visitors have been detained or denied entry to please contact the ACLU of Northern California and leave a message at 415-621-2488. We will be checking this voicemail regularly throughout the weekend. Please leave a message slowly and clearly with contact information for the caller as well as the following information about the visitors if possible: id, country of citizenship, form of visa or entry authorization, date and time of arrival, flight number and airline. We stand ready to challenge detentions and denials of entry where possible to do so.

If detained at CA airport under Executive Order call local hotline:

SFO 415-621-2488
LAX 213-977-5245
SAN 619-398-4485

Why Trump’s Inauguration is Not the Beginning of an Era — but the End (by Peter Leyden)

“We are suffering just now from a bad attack of economic pessimism. It is common to hear people say that the epoch of enormous economic progress which characterized the 19th century is over; that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down — at any rate in Great Britain; that a decline in prosperity is more likely than an improvement in the decade which lies ahead of us.

I believe that this is a wildly mistaken interpretation of what is happening to us. We are suffering, not from the rheumatics of old age, but from the growing-pains of over-rapid changes, from the painfulness of readjustment between one economic period and another…”

–John Maynard Keynes, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930)

I spent a good chunk of the holiday break in a cabin with a spectacular view of a bay just off the Pacific Ocean outside the tiny town of Inverness north of San Francisco. It reminds me of the view from the cabin I grew up with in the American heartland, outside the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Looking out over the natural beauty of this amazing country of ours helped me think through the tumultuous past year with a big-picture, more timeless perspective. It helped me get clear about what lies ahead.

The Brexit vote in England and then the election of Donald Trump, those two unexpected but consequential convulsions, are going to bring some big changes, many to be feared, but others to be welcomed. To my mind, both were driven by fear of the future and “a wildly mistaken interpretation of what is happening to us.” Both are going to make for some near-term chaos, but in the end I actually think they are going to accelerate changes that finally need to come.

I did not see Trump coming. I was one of those who could not believe that the America I knew, a country of decent, common-sense people, could elect a person like him. I was despondent on election night and disoriented for weeks. I’ve spent the last couple months listening, reading, thinking, and staying open to what is really happening, and what now needs to be done. On the eve of his inauguration, here’s my positive reframe of what I think is really going on:

Trump Begins The End

Trump is a symptom of something much bigger and more fundamental going on in the world. So are the people behind Brexit in Great Britain. They are not driving the change, they are reacting to the change. They are not showing the way forward, they are making desperate attempts to cling to the past, a past that is gone forever.

The world is in the relatively early stages of an almost inevitable transition to what can be best understood as a new 21st-century civilization. Relatively early — meaning roughly one-third of the way through. And almost inevitable — meaning it can be derailed if we make some catastrophic political choices.

There are three fundamentally different characteristics of this civilization: One, it will be run totally on digital technologies, smarter and smarter, more and more interconnected computers. Two, it will be totally global and operate on a planetary scale. And three, it will have to be sustainable, in its energy usage and its impact on the planet.

All three of these shifts are well underway and can be tracked and explained by pointing to investments, the morphing of the advanced economy, the positioning of leading companies, and just following what innovative people are doing. In many ways, these developments are happening despite what governments do. Governments can make things better, and accelerate changes, or slow down changes, but they can’t stop them at this macro level.

That said, politics can really screw things up. Changes of this magnitude can be very scary. New digital technologies allow totally new ways to do almost everything so they are very disruptive to old industries. The newest developments arriving just now are especially scary — self-driving cars, advanced robots, artificial intelligence. The globalization of everything is unleashing floods of cheap goods as well as waves of migrants.

It’s easy for politicians to whip up public fears against these changes and rally people to go back to the old ways, to make America great again. This is the standard playbook for right-wing nationalism. In the 1930s, when Keynes wrote the prescient passage above, that era’s right wing took those fears and drove a good chunk of the world into fascism and a world war. Today Trump is heading down that path — but he won’t get far.

I think Trump ultimately is going to do America and the world a service by becoming the vehicle that will finally take down right-wing conservative politics for a generation or two. He is getting the entire Republican conservative establishment to buy into his regime. He is creating an administration that is blatantly all about rule by — and for — billionaires, sold out to the oil and carbon industries, and celebrating an out-of-control corporate capitalism. It will be a caricature of conservative policies. In short order he will completely and irrevocably alienate all the growing political constituencies of the 21st century: the Millennial Generation, people of color, educated professionals, women. He’ll eventually do the same for a significant number of more moderate Republicans. And does anyone out there really think Trump will do anything for the white working class that got him elected? Watch as repealing Obamacare blows up in his face.

I think the backlash will be fast and furious. And it won’t just be Trump that goes down — it will be large swaths of conservative Republicans who will be almost helpless to stop Trump or distance themselves from him. They will pay the price for creating the conditions that created him. I think the next 4 to 8 years are going to see a serious sea change in politics — to the left, not the right. The analogy is closer to what happened to the conservative Republicans coming out of the 1930s — they were out of power for the next 50 years.

A Hillary Clinton win would not have brought about that kind of political transformation. She would have ground out some progress through trench warfare and built somewhat on Obama’s legacy— but the Republicans would have locked her down worse than they did with Obama. Hillary would not have been able to finally bring down the conservative movement and its archaic ideology. The conservatives arguably brought a healthy revitalization to Western politics in the Reagan/Thatcher era. But that vitality is long gone and the movement has been running on the same old out-moded ideas for decades now. The world needs to move on.

Hillary would not have been the transformational leader that America needs right now either. We need leadership to help take the world to the next level, making the full transition to digital technologies, reshaping capitalism to rebalance massive inequalities, and making big progress on climate change.

California is the Future

Where do we look for that leadership? Without outsiders taking much notice, California has gone through that political transformation, as usual, early. We were trapped in the polarized politics that paralyzed government in the 1990s and 2000s. We had the high numbers of immigrants who were scapegoated. We had a frustrated electorate elect a Hollywood celebrity with no government experience with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Been there, done that.

Today California is totally run by a new generation of progressive Democrats. Every single state-wide office. Super majorities in both Houses. There are no conservative Republican elected officials to speak of in California right now. The conservative ideology, those policies, are dead.

I’ve long been thumping the idea that California is the future. The San Francisco Bay Area is obviously ground zero for Silicon Valley and tech. It’s about as good a melting pot of global influences as anywhere on the planet. And it’s on the front lip of clean energy and sustainability. So that would be a good place to look for how those three massive 21st-century shifts will play out.

In other words, to use the Keynes framework that started this piece, California is already living in the next economic period — and it’s booming. The next economy is working here — and working for the vast majority. Even the white working class is on board. Trump lost to Hillary in California by 4 million votes.

Now add to that a state and local political environment where progressives have no meaningful opposition and an open field ahead of them. I think we’re going to see an explosion of innovation that roughs out a new way forward for the center-left in America and even has implications for Europe and the world.

My company Reinvent is really fortunate to be in the middle of that swirl of possibilities. We bring together top innovators in deep conversations about how to solve complex challenges — and then make media about the ideas to emerge. We partner with forward-thinking organizations who want to generate new ideas and drive more innovation in a field. We also host What’s Now: San Francisco that each month focuses on the latest developments in one of the many fields exploding in innovation across the region.

Look for innovation to now move into hyper-drive in the realms of government and politics throughout California — and particularly in the San Franicsco Bay Area. I know our company is working on ways to catalyze these kinds of conversations and do our part to reinvent political grand strategy along the lines of what I’ve been laying out here. But there are already many efforts popping up to move this next-generation politics forward.

The Real Beginning is Still Obama

Now it’s possible that this whole analysis I have laid out is wrong. After all, I predicted that Hillary was going to win this last election. (Though who didn’t?) But it’s certainly worth seriously considering a scenario like this. Republicans clapping at Trump’s Inauguration should be very careful about what they wish for. Democrats wringing their hands in anguish should pause too.

Stay open to counter-intuitive, out-of-the-box interpretations. Too few of us did last year. Be ready to make hard choices when unexpected new options open up quickly. We all may be faced with them soon. Brace for the big changes to come. They’re coming.

Most of all, for those who supported President Obama, stay hopeful. I truly believe that the politics and policies that President Obama helped usher in will prevail in the end. In the big-picture view of history, the brief Trump reign will be seen as a difficult but necessary step in the massive transition between one economic period to another.

Obama’s decade of work will be seen, in the decades to come, as the truly enduring foundation. He laid the groundwork for what will certainly become the all-digital, fully global, sustainable civilization of the 21st century.


Join us for NewCo Shift Forum, taking place Feb. 6–9 in San Francisco. We are bringing 400 of the best minds in business, technology, and government together for two days of focused, action-oriented dialog.

  • Go to the profile of Peter Leyden

    Peter Leyden

    Founder & CEO of Reinvent, a media company; Tech & Future Trends Speaker; Author 2 Books; former Wired ME, journalist, politico. Reinvent.net & PeterLeyden.com

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  • “Does a Protest’s Size Matter?” by Zeynep Tufekci (nytimes.com)

    On October 4, 1789, a crowd of women demanding bread for their families gathered other discontented Parisians, including some men, and marched toward Versailles, arriving soaking wet from the rain. They demanded to see “the Baker,” “the Baker’s wife,” and “the Baker’s boy”. The King agreed to meet with some of the women and promised to distribute all the bread in Versailles to the crowd. The arrival of the National Guard on the scene determined to take the King back to Paris complicated things for the King.
    Some of the crowd got into the Queen’s quarters and Marie Antoinette barely escaped by way of a secret passage (still partly intact at the Palace at Versailles) to the King’s room. He agreed to address the people from his balcony. “My friends,” he said, “I will go to Paris with my wife and my children.” It was a fatal mistake. It was the last time the King saw Versailles.

    The Women’s March on Saturday, which took place in cities and towns all across the United States (and around the world), may well have been the largest protest in American history. There were an estimated 3.5 million participants.

    This has to mean something, right?

    After studying protests over the last two decades, I have to deliver some bad news: In the digital age, the size of a protest is no longer a reliable indicator of a movement’s strength. Comparisons to the number of people in previous marches are especially misleading.

    A protest does not have power just because many people get together in one place. Rather, a protest has power insofar as it signals the underlying capacity of the forces it represents.

    Consider an analogy from the natural world: A gazelle will sometimes jump high in the air while grazing, apparently to no end — but it is actually signaling strength. “If I can jump this high,” it communicates to would-be predators, “I can also run very fast. Don’t bother with the chase.”

    Protesters are saying, in effect, “If we can pull this off, imagine what else we can do.”

    But it is much easier to pull off a large protest than it used to be. In the past, a big demonstration required months, if not years, of preparation. The planning for the March on Washington in August 1963, for example, started nine months earlier, in December 1962. The march drew a quarter of a million people, but it represented much more effort, commitment and preparation than would a protest of similar size today. Without Facebook, without Twitter, without email, without cellphones, without crowdfunding, the ability to organize such a march was a fair proxy for the strength and sophistication of the civil rights movement.

    The Women’s March, on the other hand, started with a few Facebook posts and came together in a relatively short amount of time. The organizers no doubt did a lot of work, and the size and the energy of the gathering reflected a remarkable depth of dissent. However, as with all protests today, the march required fewer resources and less time spent on coordination than a comparable protest once did.

    This is one reason that recent large protests have had less effect on policy than many were led to expect. I participated in the antiwar protests of February 2003 — at that point, likely the largest global protest in history, with events in more than 600 cities. I assumed the United States and its allies could not ignore a protest of that size. But President George W. Bush, dismissing the protesters as a “focus group,” indeed proceeded to ignore us, and the Iraq war began soon after. Mr. Bush was right in one way: The protesters failed to transform into an electoral force capable of defeating him in the 2004 election.

    In 2011, I attended the global Occupy protests, which were held in about 1,000 cities in more than 80 countries — again, likely the biggest global protest ever, at that point. Thanks in part to digital technology, those protests, too, had been organized in just a few weeks. I was optimistic that I would soon see political and economic changes in response to this large-scale expression of resistance to economic inequality. I was wrong, then, too.

    Two enormous protests, two disappointing results. Similar sequences of events have played out in other parts of the world.

    This doesn’t mean that protests no longer matter — they do. Nowadays, however, protests should be seen not as the culmination of an organizing effort, but as a first, potential step. A large protest today is less like the March on Washington in 1963 and more like Rosa Parks’s refusal to move to the back of the bus. What used to be an endpoint is now an initial spark.

    More than ever before, the significance of a protest depends on what happens afterward.

    Consider the Tea Party protests of 2009, which also brought out hundreds of thousands of people in cities throughout the United States, and which also were organized with the help of digital communication. Like any other protest, including the Women’s March, these were symbolic expressions of support, and they also functioned as events where like-minded individuals could find one another. But the Tea Party protesters then got to work on a ferociously focused agenda: identifying and supporting primary candidates to challenge Republicans who did not agree with their demands, keeping close tabs on legislation and pressuring politicians who deviated from a Tea Party platform.

    Last Saturday, as I participated in the Women’s March in North Carolina, I marveled at the large turnout and the passion of those who marched. But if those protesters are not exchanging contact information and setting up local strategy meetings, their large numbers are unlikely to translate into the kind of effectiveness the Tea Party supporters had after their protests in 2009.

    The Tea Party, of course, is not the only model for moving forward. But there is no magic power to marching in the streets that, on its own, leads to any other kind of result.

    The march I attended in North Carolina ended with everyone singing along to a song called “Let’s Get to Work.” For today’s protests, more than ever, that’s the right message.

    “George Orwell and the Power of a Well-Placed Lie” by Robert Kuttner (billmoyers.com)

    George Orwell in 1940. (Wikimedia Commons)

    January 25, 2017.  This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

    Last week, I reached for my Philip Roth — his splendid novel, The Plot Against America. This week, I reached for my George Orwell.

    In 1946, as Europe was digging out from the ruin of World War II — a genuine case of mass carnage as opposed to President Donald Trump’s fantasy carnage — Orwell wrote the classic essay on the seductions of propaganda, “Politics and the English Language.”

    Much of the essay, widely assigned in English classes, warns how stale writing leads to sloppy thinking. But the most original part is Orwell’s evisceration of propaganda.

    Long before Trump, the ‘mainstream’ Republican Party made lies a staple of its arsenal, from its lies about Obamacare to its bogus budget numbers to its false contentions of fraudulent voting.

    Combined with his great novel 1984, written in 1949 as a dystopian warning about the way totalitarian practice becomes internalized in totalitarian thinking, these two great works gave us the adjective, “Orwellian.”

    In  1984, we learned the official slogans of the party: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength,” only slight parodies of communism and Nazism.

    “Freedom is Slavery” was not far from the infamous greeting at the gates of Auschwitz, “Arbeit Macht Frei.”

    And “Ignorance is Strength” seems to be Donald Trump’s credo and operating premise — ignorance for both himself and his public.

    Orwell’s target was the prettified euphemism, used mostly by extreme left-wing and right-wing parties and governments. If people could be persuaded to accept the reframing, they might well alter their conception of reality.

    In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell made great sport of pretentious writing and mixed metaphors, such as “The capitalist octopus has sung its swan song.” But he was dead serious about the political point. He wrote:

    Defenseless villages are bombed from the air, their inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called “pacification.” Millions of peasants are robbed of their land and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called “transfer of population.”

    Note that Orwell was writing two full decades before the Vietnam War. Even before the advent of Donald Trump, the misuse of language in our own day has been in many respects more insidious and more corrosive than the plague against which Orwell was warning.

    Orwell’s examples came from either totalitarian governments or far-left and far-right parties in the democracies. In America, a democracy, both major parties have increasingly used Orwellian language ― Republicans far more than Democrats.

    Trump has taken the maneuver to a whole new low. But the earlier Orwellian efforts softened the ground.

    There was a time when most laws had descriptive or technical names, such as the Glass-Steagall Act, the National Labor Relations Act or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Since former President George W. Bush, pieces of legislation have been treated as branding and marketing opportunities.

    After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration hastily assembled a wish list of every overzealous prosecutor and surveillance agent. The initials of the legislation were tortured until they spelled out the U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, or the Patriot Act for short. What patriot could be against the Patriot Act?

    And speaking of torture, that activity, prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, was rebranded as “enhanced interrogation.” Sending American captives off to prisons in allied nations where there were no limits on torture was called a “rendition.” If a document was censored, that was now termed “redacted.” Even the mainstream press, shamefully, has succumbed to that usage.

    As Orwell would have appreciated, “censored” is plain English. Censorship sounds like something we might want to oppose or at least suspect. “Redacted” is a bland, unfamiliar and bureaucratic word that suggests a neutral and presumably defensible process. And the Obama administration found the word just as convenient as Dick Cheney, Bush and company did.

    After the Patriot Act, it became standard procedure for both parties to give laws propagandistic names, though the Republicans were the repeat offenders. One of the worst pieces of bipartisan education legislation ever, later repudiated by both parties because of its overreliance on teach-to-the-test, was called the “No Child Left Behind Act.” Who could be against that?

    Trump’s strategy is to flood the zone — to proliferate so many lies that by the time one lie is rebutted, he has put out several more, and he seems to believe even the lies that contradict previous lies.

    Republican advocates of school vouchers, mindful of the well-established support for public schools, began rebranding them as the more sinister sounding “government schools.” When President George W. Bush sponsored a tax-subsidized drug insurance program run by private insurance companies, he made sure to brand it “Medicare Part D,” since Medicare was a broadly supported public program — even though his drug program was a pure windfall to the drug industry and had nothing whatever to do with Medicare.

    This may seem like small beer, but it is one of several trends on the use of language that has misled and cheapened public discourse ― and laid the ground for Trumpism. At the extreme, the trend feeds the ability of demagogues to persuade citizens that up is down, or black is white.

    Fox News, the most flagrantly biased of the cable channels, pioneered the trend with its slogan, “Fair and Balanced.” As any serious person knows, Fox is a propaganda organ, while the reputable news organs, from The New York Times to NPR, really do make an effort to separate fact from opinion.

    Long before Trump, the “mainstream” Republican Party made lies a staple of its arsenal, from its lies about Obamacare to its bogus budget numbers to its false contentions of fraudulent voting.

    Trump has embellished this technique by lying, then accusing his critics of lying, until the debate is hopelessly scrambled. Trump manufactures phony stories, then accuses the media of “fake news.”

    Adolf Hitler was the first to describe the technique of repeating a lie so often that people would come to believe it. He called it the “Big Lie.”

    Bill Moyers and four historians on the big lie behind the rise of Trump.

    From his denial of climate change to his denial that Obama was born in Hawaii, Trump has dusted off the Big Lie. But then he does the classic Big Liars one better ― by denying the denial.

    As Jonathan Swift wrote in 1710, “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late.” A version misattributed to Mark Twain has it that “a lie is halfway around the world while the truth is putting its boots on.” You get the point.

    Trump’s strategy is to flood the zone — to proliferate so many lies that by the time one lie is rebutted, he has put out several more, and he seems to believe even the lies that contradict previous lies. Ignorance really is Trump’s strength.

    In his Inaugural address, Trump claimed that America is succumbing to a horrible crime wave, when if fact serious crime is at a 30-year low. Republican demonizers of the Affordable Care Act bemoan the high out-of-pocket expenses, when in fact all the Republican replacements would raise deductibles and co-pays. And so on.

    Trump has resurrected the Big Lie. But, pathetically, he also resorts to the Little Lie.

    On his first full day in office, Trump’s main concern was whether his was bigger — his inaugural crowd. Though it was easily verified that Obama’s inaugural had a larger crowd, as did the women’s march the next day after Trump’s show, a livid Trump sent out his press secretary to rail at the press for understating Trump’s size. The press spokesman, Sean Spicer, himself told at least seven easily verifiable lies.

    I am feeling a little better than I did on Inauguration Day, in part because of the good cheer and political resolve modeled at the several women’s marches — but also because you can sense the wheels starting to come off the Trump bus.

    Call it the New Separation of Powers. Trump’s inner circle is a snake pit of intrigue between the likes of Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Trump is at odds with senior members of his own cabinet, who are at odds with each other. Trump’s ad libs, like his abrupt support for universal health coverage, regularly cut the legs out from under his Republican Congress.

    Trump may wish he were a total dictator, but this is still a democracy. Lies can work during campaigns but at some point, when you try to govern, reality has a way of intruding. Eventually, the truth does get its boots on.

    ROBERT KUTTNER

    Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School and a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama’s Challenge (2008) and other books. Follow him on Twitter: @rkuttner.

    Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi: the White House will ‘shut out the press’

    “Local legend ‘Diamond’ Dave mentored Bob Dylan” by Jason Violette

    January 25, 2017 (theguardsman.com)

    Bob Dylan is an American icon and folk paragon who is now the first singer, songwriter to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for literature.

    City College student, poet, philosopher, rambler and Mutiny Radio host “Diamond” Dave Whitaker not only knew Bob Dylan back in the day, but served as a mentor to Dylan.

    “Diamond” Dave Whitaker has evolved in conjunction with San Francisco throughout its history for the last half century. He is a local legend, a cultural curator, and advocate of freethinking whose personality radiates with originality.

    Whitaker first set out for San Francisco in 1957 to be apart of the “Beat” movement, an American social and literary movement centered in the artist communities of San Francisco. Gallivanting through San Francisco’s Little Italy, Whitaker met poets and philosophers such as, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and other social misfits and anarchist.

    Having left the country to go to Israel in 1958, Whitaker returned stateside landing back in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1961. In Minneapolis, Whitaker continued to expand on concepts introduced to him by Kerouac and Ginsberg, nurturing the spirit of the “Beat” generation by encouraging people to play their uniquely styled music.

    Whitaker first met Bob Dylan in 1961 at the University of Minnesota, when mutual friend, Bonnie Beacher, bumped into a “bummed out” Dylan who was wrestling with his life’s journey.

    After Beacher listened to a young Bob Dylan, he said, “I know where you need to be,” and took Dylan to Whitaker’s house. It was in Whitaker’s living room “where music was going on, where talks of radical politics are going on,” said Whitaker, that the two met for the first time.

    Whitaker recalls that it was through his friendship to Dylan that he was first introduced to musician and folk patriarch Woody Guthrie.

    “It was when I gave Dylan, Woody Guthrie’s autobiography ‘Bound For Glory’ a book about riding freight trains, playing picket lines, hobo camps and other dives, that Dylan learned of Guthrie,” Whitaker said. “It changed [Dylan’s] life.”

    After closing his eyes,Whitaker recollected a story of himself and Dylan attempting to locate and speak with Woody Guthrie. He said Dylan located Guthrie at Greystone Park Mental Hospital in New York City.

    “We tried to call [Guthrie] but could not talk to him due to his disease,” Whitaker said Guthrie suffered from Huntington’s disease.

    Whitaker said Dylan hitchhiked from Minnesota to Madison, Wisconsin where he stayed with other folk singers who were brought together by their shared radical ideas. According to Whitaker, Dylan continued to travel to Chicago, Illinois and finally New York City.

    “In those days there was no modern interstate system, and this is back when there was only three main highways, so it took Dylan a few weeks to make it to New York,” Whitaker said.

    A few weeks later Dylan sent Whitaker a postcard, with Guthrie pictured playing a guitar stickered with “this machine kills fascist” on the front, and smoking a cigarette.

    “Do you want to know what the card said,’ Whitaker asked.

    It read: “Dear Dave, I met Woody, He like’s my stuff.  –Bob.”

    I asked Whitaker when was the last time he and Bob Dylan had spoken and if he had any clue as to if and when Dylan would accept the coveted Nobel Peace Prize?

    “It had been years since we’ve spoke, Bob will take his time as he always does and do what he thinks is best,” he said.

     Diamond Dave at his second home, SFCC. Photo by Gabriela Remi
    Diamond Dave at his second home, CCSF. Photo by Gabriela Remi

     

    Political Labels & How to Use Them Correctly: Left, Right, Liberal, & Fascist (by John Laurits)

    Political Labels: Liberal, Conservative, Left, & Right
    Many say that Donald Trump is a fascist, Fox News has repeatedly referred to Barack Obama as a socialist, and, if you read the comments below my articles on Facebook, it won’t take long to find some dingbat claiming that I’m a liberal hack (usually with all-caps, too). All of these political labels, however, are wrong. On most days of the week, Trump preaches nationalism & laissez-faire capitalism (not fascism), Obama promoted neoliberal policies (not socialist  ones), & I am an anarcho-syndicalist hack, not a liberal one. It’s clear what people mean to say, of course — most who say Trump is a “fascist” are really trying to express their concern that he may abuse his presidential powers and, by “socialist,” Fox News was saying they were upset that a Black man was regulating business, which was always Bill O’Reilly’s greatest fear…

    Political Labels

    In these examples, political labels are used in ways that distort their meaning. This is important because, if you & I have different meanings for words like left, right, conservative, liberal, & socialist, it’s hard to communicate our ideas to each other. No one ought to feel bad or be made fun of for mixing up terms or labels and it’s fine to not know the meaning of a word — it happens to all of us and it’s an opportunity to learn! Now, let’s look at the most commonly misunderstood, misapplied, & mixed up political labels….

    Left vs. Right

    National Assembly, Left-Right Political Labels

    The interior of the French National Assembly building at the time of the French Revolution. (Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images)

    Left versus right — the great political divide! This pair of political labels first reared their ugly heads during the French Revolution — in the national assembly, supporters of the king sat on the right side & supporters of the revolution, many of them revolutionary socialists, sat on the left side. Newspapers began to describe the assembly in the terms left & right and it all sort of snowballed from there. By the beginning of the 20th century, those who wanted social reform or greater equality, like socialists & communists, were described as being to the left, while reactionaries & defenders of the current establishments & constitutions were described as being to the right.

    Generally speaking, leftists want to reform how power & wealth is distributed by a society through social, democratic, economic, or revolutionary means and the right defends society’s institutions from idealistic reforms or tries to get rid of previous reforms.

    Liberal & Conservative

    Political Labels, Liberals and Conservatives

    Political Dialogue in the US

    The words, “liberal” (from Latin liber, “free”) & “conservative” (con “together” + servare “to save” = “to keep together” ), can be used to describe the ideas of keeping things as they are & being free to change them. In that sense, they can work similarly to left & right — the word “liberal,” however, is only applied to leftists in the United States. Outside of the US, a liberal is someone who promotes the ideas of liberalism, a political philosophy that emerged during the Enlightenment, influencing the uprisings against the European monarchies.

    As the name suggests, liberalism promoted free speech, freedom of (& from) religion, freedom of the press, & free markets. To achieve this, liberals opposed the absolute power of monarchies, which allowed rulers & noble classes to take away the people’s freedom & property. The liberal solution was that everybody should have rightsequality before the law— meaning that kings & beggars ought to be equally accountable to written laws (like a constitution), instead of the pope or a jerk wearing a crown. When the word is used this way, republicans & democrats are both liberals because both want more-or-less free markets & a constitutional government to protect certain rights.

    This can be confusing for some in the US because a right-wing republican is a liberal, while a leftist advocate of socialism (like me) is not a liberal.

    Fascist vs. Authoritarian

    Fasces, a Fascist Symbol from Ancient Rome

    Fasces, a symbol out of ancient Rome

    I’ve heard many people on both the left & right hurl “fascist” at each other — in fact, the word has been mostly used negatively from the time of World War II. The word itself came from the Italian Fascismo,” derived from the verb “to bundle or bind,” from the Latin “fasces.” A fasces was a bundle of wooden rods, often with an ax included, and a symbol of rulership & collective power in Rome — a single rod can easily be broken but many rods bundled together are impossible to snap. Benito Mussolini & his fascist party used the symbol for their ideology, which promised a return to the glory of the Rome by binding the industrial & social forces together into a militarized, central government, led by a strong leader.

    Scholars are still arguing about the best definition but virtually all of them agree that the fascists were both anti-liberal & anti-socialist — which means that Donald Trump, in particular, is not a fascist. Anti-liberal means anti-capitalist and the fascists had a mostly planned economy, which would horrify the capitalist Trump! The word most people are looking for is “authoritarian.” An authoritarian leader or government demands & enforces the obedience of those below and pretty much any system of government can be authoritarian, including socialist & capitalist ones. The opposite of authoritarian is “libertarian.”

    Words are Important
    & Knowledge is Power

    Words are important — using the right ones can empower us to clearly present our thoughts & ideas for others and, unfortunately, choosing the wrong ones can be the cause of endless arguments over nothing. For example, advocating for “democratic control of the means of production” almost never starts a heated debate, in my experience — talking about “socialism,” however, is pretty much guaranteed to start a heated debate! The amazing part is that these two things are the same! It’s not that people are unwilling to discuss different ideas — it’s just that we sometimes don’t have the same understanding of a word or concept.

    With that in mind, I hope this article can help at least a few of you transform some arguments into good discussions — thanks for reading.

    In solidarity,
    John Laurits

    (JohnLaurits.com)