Here’s something that might surprise you: One of the most powerful weapons we can use against far-right authoritarians like President Donald Trump has its roots in ancient philosophy. In particular, we can draw on the idea of carpe diem, or “seize the day,” a maxim penned by the Roman poet Horace. Let me explain.

Today we are living in an age of global political dissent that we haven’t seen since the 1960s. From the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong in 2014 to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and anti-Putin protests in Russia this year, people have been stepping onto the streets in unprecedented numbers in the past decade.

What unites so many of these social movements is that they embody what I call “carpe diem politics.” This is different from the conventional definition of the phrase, such as in the film Dead Poets Society, which is all about individuals making bold decisions in life. Rather, carpe diem politics involves grassroots movements taking the seize-the-day ideal from the individual up to the collective level to achieve radical change.

Using Horace’s phrase in a political context dates back at least to the Spanish Civil War, when it entered the popular lexicon among Republican forces seizing a revolutionary moment. That interpretation has been carried forward, and now is most associated with one of the best-known environmentalist, social justice bands in the United Kingdom, Seize the Day.

There are three aspects to the idea of carpe diem politics. First, it involves seizing opportunities on a mass scale that otherwise might be lost and disappear forever. Second, spontaneous mobilization cracks open the social order from below. A crucial third element is hedonistic revelry—a carnival spirit with dancing, music, costumes, and other forms of play.

Research I conducted for Carpe Diem: Seizing the Day in a Distracted World reveals that throughout history, effective movements (particularly, though not exclusively, those on the progressive democratic left) have tapped into all three elements. Think of the mass protests that helped bring down the Berlin Wall in 1989. They were seizing a political moment. It was full of spontaneous action and filled with hedonistic exuberance alongside very serious political intent. As historian Padraic Kenney put it, “What started as just a carnival became a revolution.”

The Occupy Movement was part of this tradition. In many cities it was not just the fire of social justice that galvanized protesters—it was also the carnival spirit of mass sing-alongs and dancing flash mobs that helped create and maintain such a strong sense of community.

I believe that protest movements today struggling against the likes of Trump—on issues ranging from climate change to women’s rights and immigration—will be more successful if they can draw on these three elements of carpe diem politics. But they face two key challenges.

First is the danger of mobilization without organization, creating what civil rights activist Angela Davis described in her book Abolition Democracy as “movements modeled after fast food delivery.” It’s not enough to use smart social media strategies to get people to pour spontaneously into the streets. Nothing beats the hard work of face-to-face community organizing (as the “barnstorming” of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign revealed).

Second, movements need to combine their seize-the-day strategies with clear and powerful policy aims. While Occupy had a huge impact inserting inequality into the political conversation, the absence of specific propositions (such as in the slogan “Occupy Everything, Demand Nothing”) was a mistake, in my opinion. Occupy should have learned from the 1970s feminist movement, which campaigned on targeted issues like equal pay and reproductive rights. The lesson for today is obvious: Don’t just oppose Trump; tell us what you’re for.

Despite such challenges, let’s remember there is power in movement. The New Deal, for instance, was not the gift of benign politicians—it was forced on them by a groundswell of public protests by unemployed workers and war veterans, and street marches by starving children, rebelling in the face of the destitution caused by the Depression.

If today’s activists want to make their mark on history, they should celebrate the carnivalesque and ultimately take Horace’s ideal a stage further: less the singular carpe diem and more the plural carpamus diem—let’s seize the day together.

Originally published by Yes!

Socialist ideals now ‘mainstream’, Corbyn tells Labour faithful

© Ben Stansall, AFP | Britain’s main opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn claps after his speech on the final day of the Labour Party conference in Brighton on September 27.


Latest update : 2017-09-27 (France24.com)

Britain’s left-wing opposition leader said Wednesday that the political center ground has shifted and his socialist ideas are “now the political mainstream.”

Wrapping up the Labour Party’s annual conference, Jeremy Corbyn said the party espoused “a new common sense about the direction our country should take,” and had become Britain’s government-in-waiting as the Conservatives were consumed by infighting.

Labour stunned pundits and pollsters in June’s snap election by reducing Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives to a minority administration. The party ran on policies widely derided as expensive and old-fashioned, such as nationalizing railways and public utilities and scrapping university fees.

But they struck a chord with many voters weary after seven years of spending cuts by the Conservative government. Although Labour lost the election, it gained several dozen parliamentary seats, and its membership has grown to almost 600,000 since Corbyn was elected leader in 2015.

Many Labour lawmakers still worry that Corbyn’s socialism is a turn-off to centrist voters. But, to a boisterous reception from delegates, the leader argued that “we are now the political mainstream.”

“Today’s center ground is certainly not where it was 20 or 30 years ago,” Corbyn said. “A new consensus is emerging from the great economic crash and the years of austerity, when people started to find political voice for their hopes for something different and better.”

Labour has lost three successive elections since 2010, but its four-day conference in the seaside city of Brighton was the most optimistic in years.

Corbyn made eye-catching promises including a pay raise for public servants and constraints on private landlords and developers that he said had contributed to “social cleansing” in London.

Corbyn cited June’s fire at public housing block Grenfell Tower, which killed some 80 people, as “a damning indictment of a whole outlook … which has contempt for working-class communities.”

And he derided May’s attempts at global influence, especially her visit to President Donald Trump in Washington soon after his inauguration.

“We must be a candid friend to the United States, now more than ever,” Corbyn said, calling Trump’s bellicose speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week “deeply disturbing.”

“If the special relationship means anything, it must mean that we can say to Washington, that is the wrong way,” he said.


Despite the party’s optimistic mood, Labour remains divided over one of the biggest issues facing Britain: Brexit.

Some members and lawmakers want to push to keep Britain inside the bloc’s single market after Brexit, but Corbyn and his allies are cool to that idea.

Corbyn said Labour would respect voters’ decision to leave the EU, guarantee the rights of 3 million EU citizens living in Britain and “build a new and progressive relationship with Europe” – though the nature of that relationship remains undefined.

Trade unions welcomed Corbyn’s speech, but business groups expressed concern.

Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the speech “will have done little to reassure companies already worried about widespread state intervention, nationalization and the radical increases in taxes and costs they could face under a future Labour government.”


“Important Lessons From Orwell and Churchill for Resisting Authoritarian Rule in Trump’s America” by Steven Rosenfeld

George Orwell (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images) | Winston Churchill (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

This post first appeared at AlterNet.

Thomas Ricks’ book is the latest offering history’s lessons for our dangerous time.

September 27, 2017 (BillMoyers.com)

Donald Trump’s reactionary presidency and Silicon Valley’s spying on online users is pushing the nation and world in dangerous directions comparable to past eras, during which authoritarian rule and totalitarian belief held sway. A handful of writers have urged Americans to heed history’s lessons on resisting tyranny in all of its forms.

One of the most recent is Thomas Ricks, who for the past two decades has been among the most prominent journalists covering the military and war. His newest book compares and contrasts Winston Churchill and George Orwell, tracing how both came to recognize and resist abuses of power and political propaganda to side with individual dignity.

AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld interviewed Ricks, who recounted those lessons and their critical relevance today in an era dominated by fake news politics and predatory high-tech. 

Steven Rosenfeld: Your book, Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom, is remarkable in many ways. You tell how both men shaped the 20th century and remain relevant. You describe how they evolved, held their own against their day’s political conformists and ideologues, both left and right; and how they came to understand how authoritarian and totalitarian regimes operate.

The takeaways are resonate today, whether we’re talking about an executive branch that lies, erases and revises history, or the tech sector that spies on citizens and sells its files. What prompted these men, especially Orwell, to reject herd mentalities in private and in public?

Thomas Ricks: Oddly enough, I suspect for Orwell, it began with his love of personal observation. Even as a child, he loved observing nature, and that continued throughout his life. If you read his diaries, he had a habit of just writing down what he physically sees around him, what he’s thinking about, what he’s hearing people talk about — just basic observation. I think for Orwell, that becomes a point of departure — that human freedom begins with the right to perceive and to trust your own perceptions.

Of course, Orwell as an adult bangs up against Stalinism, which says, “No, we will tell you what to think. If you’re a good member of the Communist Party, you will believe what we tell you to think. We will decide what is right and what is wrong. We will decide what the facts of the matter are.”

That’s where Orwell breaks with Stalinism, but he doesn’t break with the left. He remains a socialist all his life.

SR: That’s what’s so interesting about this, at least in more recent modern America. The political right has lionized Orwell, and not the left, which you point out.

That’s one thing I was trying to do in this book — to kind of recover both these guys for liberalism, and even progressivism. Churchill was not always a conservative, and Orwell was always the socialist. Yet both have been claimed by the American right, in ways that I dislike.


TR: That’s one thing I was trying to do in this book — to kind of recover both these guys for liberalism, and even progressivism. Churchill was not always a conservative, and Orwell was always the socialist. Yet both have been claimed by the American right, in ways that I dislike. I was trying to say [that] Churchill is a more complex political figure than he’s seen as today, and Orwell should be seen properly as a member of the left throughout his life — delivering a leftist critique of Western capitalist democratic society all his life.

SR: When you say you want to recover their legacy for liberalism, what you’re talking about is they both, and particularly Orwell, rejected political ideologues of their day based on personal experience. They came to understand how authoritarian and totalitarian systems work, and how propaganda works. Can you describe that arc?

TR: Sure. Orwell goes into the 1930s a pretty typical leftist of his time. He believes left is good, right is bad. So socialism and communism are good, and capitalism and fascism, bad. Then he goes to Spain late in 1936. There, he has the great political education of his life. He is a member of a small political splinter group fighting in the Spanish Civil War — anarchist Trotskyites. They are part of the left, but they are not mainstream left in Spain.

Now the problem was [that] at the time, Stalin of Russia could not stand the idea of a competing leader of world communism. With Trotsky having been a comrade of Stalin’s, and then [having] fled Russia, what was coming? So the first enemy of Stalin was non-Stalinists on the left — these are the people he really went after. As the Soviet Union became more and more influential in the Spanish Civil War, one of the things it did was use its security apparatus, the NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB. The NKVD runs the security forces, the police and the secret police of the Spanish Republic, the left-wing government. It goes after the non-Stalinist parts of the left in Spain.

Orwell is up fighting on the front against the nationalist-fascists. Then he comes back to Barcelona on leave in May 1937 to see his wife, who was working in Barcelona, and is shocked to find himself getting involved in street fighting with the republican government attacking its own people, his little faction. Then he goes back to the front, fights the fascists and nationalists again, and is shot through the neck. To his amazement, he doesn’t die. The bullet misses the artery, the windpipe and the spine, which is kind of a miraculous thing to have happen. He flees Spain. He doesn’t know it at the time. We know actually, he and his wife were both indicted right about the time they left, by the republican government for treason and Trotskyite deviationism.

He flees Spain, goes home to England, and sits down and reads all the newspapers and all their coverage of the Spanish Civil War. He reads the right-wing newspaper. He’s not surprised they’re lying about what’s going on. But then he picks up the left-wing newspapers, reads all their coverage of the war over the last six months, and he’s shocked to find they’re lying too. He comes away from Spain, and the experience of seeing friends of his killed by a left-wing government, thinking very differently about leftist politics. He decides that fascism and communism are actually pretty close together. They are different manifestations of the same thing. They are right-wing and left-wing manifestations of totalitarianism. He decides the key to freedom begins with personal liberty, with the right of the individual to proceed.

He has his hero in 1984, Winston, say at one point that, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.” Of course, that character in 1984, Winston, is tortured by the government until he sobs [and says] “hold up as many fingers as you like, and I’ll tell you whatever number that is. If you say it’s five fingers, I’ll say it’s five.” Then they say, “No, you don’t just say it, you have to believe it too.” And he was eventually tortured into that.

SR: Right. I’m looking at the front page of today’s New York Times, where it says, “GOP Senators Embrace Plan for Tax Cut that Adds to the Deficit.” It basically said they’re not going to pay attention to what nonpartisan economists say the impact will be. This is erasing the past, in Orwell’s terms, and—

TR: And it’s pissing all over today’s facts. It’s saying, We don’t care about the facts, we are going to let ideology dominate.

SR: Right, and that’s what’s so important about what you have written about, because what readers end up getting is a profile of Churchill, and more so with Orwell, of how an individual can react, and what journalists are supposed to do. Journalists are supposed to recognize the delusions public figures utter and expect people to believe and push back. Individuals are also supposed to ask questions, but it’s hard to break with herd mentalities.

In a really inflamed political situation, in a time of political turmoil, when political parties are changing rapidly, when there’s no solid political ground, when compromise is seen as betrayal, when you have a president who believes only in personal loyalty to himself but doesn’t give it back, by the way — when you have that kind of situation, people who insist on the facts become the enemies of many other people.


TR: And when you do, you’re attacked for doing so. The basic job with journalism is the basic job of anyone of goodwill in a democratic society. It is to perceive the facts, and then act upon them. For the journalists, the act is to write about it. For other people, the act is to act upon them in some other way.

But in a really inflamed political situation, in a time of political turmoil, when political parties are changing rapidly, when there’s no solid political ground, when compromise is seen as betrayal, when you have a president who believes only in personal loyalty to himself but doesn’t give it back, by the way — when you have that kind of situation, people who insist on the facts become the enemies of many other people. It’s an uncomfortable position to be in sometimes. I’m not saying it’s comfortable.

One of the things that’s striking about Orwell and Churchill is both became deeply alienated from their own natural political allies. Churchill spent the 1930s insisting that Nazism is becoming stronger, is becoming a threat. That goes against the policy of his party and of his government, because his conservative party is running the government. For that, he is essentially sent into what he calls the political wilderness for the entire decade of the 1930s. He is shunned. He is mocked. He is seen as really a washed-up old politician who is really no longer relevant.

Orwell, likewise — having stood up and said, look, the left is not always telling the truth about what’s going on in Spain, and we need to be careful here — also ran into problems with his friends and political allies. Some friends told him he was terribly wrong. He actually found it very hard to get published. Animal Farm, his first classic novel, was turned down by multiple publishers. In fact, an official in the British government went to publishers in London and said, we don’t think you should publish this. Orwell didn’t know it at the time, but that official, Peter Smollett, turns out to have been working secretly for the Soviet Union.

SR: Yes. When I was reading this, I found it so resonant today, because we are in a media environment where we are deluged with more opinion than information. At the same time, you have the highest levels of government not earning the trust and allegiance of its citizens, but telling them to do what they’re told. How dangerous do you think this is?

TR: I think we are at an extremely dangerous political moment in American history. In many ways, while the international situation right now reminds me somewhat of the 1930s, the domestic situation in America reminds me a lot of the 1850s. That’s worrisome of course, because the 1850s were followed by the American Civil War.

I’ve actually had a series of conversations with some retired national security officials, some retired military officers, who are increasingly worried that we are heading for some kind of civil war in this country. Not necessarily a big military set piece battle with Gettysburg-type things, but some kind of chronic, sustained political violence — in which violence plays a large role in shaping politics, which was true, by the way, of the 1850s in America, especially in Kansas. But it was also true in the 1930s internationally. I think you could see this from the left as well as the right — chronic political violence, assassinations of judges, nullification juries, state government saying they won’t go along with the federal government. I’m worried that the left will play into this. For example, there’s nothing that the neo-right, the new right, strategists would like more.

It’s a hard time politically. People who insist on the facts are finding themselves unwelcome, even among their own parties, their own natural allies. I think we especially have to pay attention to people who are willing to call out their own sides.


It’s a hard time politically. People who insist on the facts are finding themselves unwelcome, even among their own parties, their own natural allies. I think we especially have to pay attention to people who are willing to call out their own sides. This is the commonality of Churchill and Orwell, but it’s also something you see today with American politics. People who really interest me a lot are the people on the left who are willing to criticize the left, and the people on the right who are willing to criticize the right.

The most interesting political commentary these days I find coming from anti-Trump conservatives, who tend to be classic conservatives. People who believe in rule of law, the Constitution, traditional values and basically American institutions: classic conservatism. Their critique of Trump is that he believes in none of those things. That he is against the rule of the law. He is ignorant of the Constitution, and he attacks institutions like the judiciary. These people say, Trump is not conservative; don’t call him a conservative, he’s a reactionary.

I’m not a conservative myself, and so I find that critique illuminating. It makes me understand Trump in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise. In fact, one of the gripes I have with American journalism these days, American political journalism, is that it keeps on referring to Trump as a conservative. I’m persuaded by reading these writers; a bunch of them at The Atlantic, like David Frum and Eliot Cohen. Some people at The Washington Post, like former Bush speech writer Michael Gerson. Jennifer Rubin, even Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal sometimes, even Charles Krauthammer on Fox sometimes. These people have made it pretty clear that Trump is not a conservative, and I think it’s an error and professional misdeed for political journalists to present Trump as a conservative.

SR: The afterword in the book is almost written in an advisory way, as a swan song to people still practicing journalism. It talks about what’s happened to journalism through a set of lenses Orwell would appreciate — particularly what’s happened with Silicon Valley. Outside the executive branch, you have this giant technological apparatus that’s spying on everybody, creating profiles, selling those mostly to the private sector but also sharing them with governments, and people don’t seem to mind.

When you live in an oligarchy, you are going to have the means of information, as well as the means of production, in the hands of the rich and powerful, who will tell you not to believe your own perceptions. To trust them. So I go back to Orwell saying, you need to begin by trusting your own perceptions. But they can’t just be uninformed perceptions.


TR: No. It’s kind of shocking to me that the major product of Silicon Valley is you and me, the American individual — that they’re mining our lives, literally. I was kind of struck that Orwell as a writer went out and actually, in England, went down to the coal mines to write about the coal miners. What we need today is writers who go down into the mines of Silicon Valley, and write about how our lives are being excavated and exploited as resources by these big new companies; Google, Apple, Microsoft and a score of others.

SR: Having thought about this so much, what would be the takeaways you would want to impart to people who care about representative government, and care about informative media, and care leading their lives with a certain amount of privacy and dignity?

TR: My point of departure is: We no longer live in a democracy in America right now. I believe we live in an oligarchy. When you live in an oligarchy, you are going to have the means of information, as well as the means of production, in the hands of the rich and powerful, who will tell you not to believe your own perceptions. To trust them. So I go back to Orwell saying, you need to begin by trusting your own perceptions. But they can’t just be uninformed perceptions. Both Churchill and Orwell say you need to go and find the facts.

What I try to do in that afterword — which is kind of my journalistic last will and testament, and kind of a pep talk to people like you who are still slaving away in the salt mines of journalism — what I’m trying to do there is say, hang in there. The foundation of Western civilization is what you are doing. Seeking the facts, and observing accurately what is going on. This is why I ended the book by talking about Martin Luther King Jr. and his letter from the Birmingham City Jail, written in 1963. It’s an odd place to go in the book about two Englishmen from the 1930s and ’40s, but I see King as solidly in the tradition of Churchill and Orwell.

When I looked around the American scene, thinking about is there anybody like them today, I thought: No, I really don’t see anybody quite like them today. But Martin Luther King Jr., in retrospect, walked in the footsteps of both Churchill and Orwell. He begins, in his letter from Birmingham Jail, writing very much as Orwell would have. What are the facts of the matter? He answers his question. The fact of the matter is that Birmingham is the most segregated city in America. Why is that? He explores — he says, the civil rights that the federal government tells the Negro he has are not allowed to the Negro citizens of Birmingham. In fact, the apparatus of the state is used to prevent them from exercising those rights.

This is why it’s so brilliant of King to insist on being jailed. He said, all I’m trying to do is exercise the rights my government tells me I have. So when my government puts me in jail for doing that, there is a problem. The problem is not with me. The problem is with the government that is saying out of its mouth, I have these rights. But it’s saying with its arms, no you don’t.

I think he does a beautiful job of saying here are the principles, here are the facts, and how do I apply my principles to those facts? I think it’s something that we all can emulate today, but especially journalists. I would take away, also the warning, it’s not going to make you popular. It’s not something that a lot of people want to hear right now. Nonetheless, it’s the right thing to do in the long run. It is an act of great patriotism to your country, and to your fellow citizens, to write and observe accurately.

SR: Thank you. This is splendid. I really appreciate what you have accomplished in this book and presented here.


Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting (AlterNet Books, 2008), and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016). Follow him on Twitter: @srose14.

Chronicle editorial: “Free speech isn’t free”

Milo Yiannopoulos Photo: Drew Angerer, Getty ImagesPhoto: Drew Angerer, Getty Images.  Milo Yiannopoulos

September 22, 2017

Yes, Milo Yiannopoulos is a vile demagogue. Yes, the student groups inviting him and other right-wing agitators to UC Berkeley sometimes appear willfully incompetent. And, yes, Yiannopoulos and company are trying to provoke outrage and violence from left-wing militants who have been all too willing to oblige, forcing the campus to assume extraordinary security expenses.

None of that, however, alters a public university’s duty to tolerate even regrettable expression. University leaders deserve credit for making that clear in recent weeks and taking pains to accommodate controversial speakers, resisting a chorus of misguided doubts about the value of unfettered speech and Berkeley’s obligation to welcome it.

Yiannopoulos and fellow bigoted blowhard Ann Coulter, whom Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ aptly described as “deeply trivial people,” may be on campus next week — or may not, judging by past cancellations — along with a highly speculative list of other potential guests that includes President Trump’s ousted consigliere, Steve Bannon, for what they’re calling Free Speech Week.  The recently appointed chancellor wisely responded by declaring  Free Speech Year and urging the campus to “respond to hate speech with more speech.”  As she told The Chronicle’s editorial board Thursday, “The price of free speech is the protection of abhorrent and odious speech.”

More at:  http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Editorial-Free-speech-isn-t-free-12219279.php

“Pelosi, Feinstein facing challengers amid protests from their left” by Joe Garofoli

Stephen Jaffe, seeking Nancy Pelosi’s congressional seat, speaks at the Alameda Elks’ Lodge.

September 21, 2017 (SFChronicle.com)

It’s not a good time to be Nancy Pelosi or Dianne Feinstein. After a combined six-plus decades in Washington, they have become “the Man,” at least to a growing number of progressives who see them as embodiments of a Democratic Party taken over by “corporatists.”

Start with how immigration rights activists shouted Pelosi off the stage and called her a “liar” at her own manicured press conference in San Francisco this week, saying she isn’t liberal enough on immigration.

Feinstein’s star is even more tarnished after saying President Trump still had the potential to be a good president, causing progressives to rip her for being less than California-grade resistant to Trump. When the Berkeley IGS Poll last week asked California voters if they would back Feinstein for re-election next year, they responded with a rousing, “meh.” Only 45 percent wanted six more years of DiFi. More alarming for Feinstein: Only 30 percent of those under 30 would vote for her.

So what are the alternatives? Who is stepping up to take on two of the wealthiest members of Congress, women with near-100 percent name recognition?

There is only one place to go to get answers to tough political questions like this: the Elks Club in Alameda.

On a recent evening there, the Alameda Democratic Club hosted a Progressive Candidate Night. The fact that a Bay Area Democratic club held a candidates night solely devoted to progressives more than a year before the next election, and that 100 people showed up on a Wednesday night, tells you something.

It tells you that voters are mad. Not just at Trump but at a system they see as failing them and at the people who have been in power for decades — no matter who they are or what they’ve accomplished. Voters, particularly those Sen. Bernie Sanders inspired to get involved — are mad. And they’re taking it out on the Man.

That money discrepancy is part of the problem for Jaffe, a San Francisco employment lawyer and Sanders acolyte. The first presidential campaign Jaffe remembers was Eisenhower versus Stevenson in 1952. Since then, no candidate has inspired him like Sanders.

After the Vermont independent lost last year’s Democratic primary battle against Hillary Clinton, Jaffe started thinking about what he could do to carry on the senator’s work. So he decided to run for Congress against arguably the most powerful Democrat in the country. Doesn’t matter that he’s never run or held office before — this was about taking a stand against a party gone wrong.

“We are here because we are the true believers. We represent the fundamental core values of the Democratic Party,” Jaffe told the Alameda audience. “I do not adhere to the politics and programs and practices of the people presently in control of the Democratic Party. They are centrists. They are corporatists. And they are elitists.”

The Elks Club filled with applause.

Then Jaffe explained why he was in Alameda on a Wednesday night when the district he wants to represent is across the bay in San Francisco.

“I think my election, with the risk of some immodesty, is the most important Congressional election in the United States,” Jaffe said. “And it’s not because of me … because no one knows who I am.

“It’s because of who my opponent is,” Jaffe said. “My opponent represents the very corporate elitist Democrats who people want to remove.”

One subject that ticks off progressives about Pelosi and Feinstein is how they haven’t supported the “Medicare for All” health care system that Sanders has proposed in the Senate and will be talking about when he visits San Francisco on Friday.

The two elected officials do offer a defense.

“Right now I’m protecting the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi told reporters last week, after Sanders launched his proposal. “None of these things, whether it’s Bernie’s or others, can really prevail unless we protect the Affordable Care Act.”

Feinstein said she is waiting to see how much Sanders’ proposal costs before weighing in.

But c’mon. Aren’t the two who hope to become elected officials tilting at the biggest of Democratic windmills? What kind of prayer do two unknowns with little cash and less name recognition have in taking on two titans of the left?

Not surprisingly, Jaffe and Hildebrand told me they are playing to win. But there’s another reason to run.

“If I can finish a strong second in the primary and take her on one-on-one in the general election, that is going to send a ripple effect across the country to my fellow progressives,” Jaffe said. “It’s going to encourage everybody supporting every progressive: ‘Well, Jaffe is out there and it looks like he’s going to take down Pelosi.’ That sends a great message out there for everybody.”

“Everybody” includes Pelosi and Feinstein. The question is, will they hear the message?

Joe Garofoli is The San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political writer. Email: jgarofoli@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @joegarofoli

Joe Garofoli

Joe Garofoli

Senior Political Writer

Grassroots organizing leads to success in Oakland


Last Tuesday, Oakland City Council approved the $100,000 feasibility study for the Public Bank of Oakland, putting that city on track to create its own Public Bank. The city of Berkeley promised $25,000 toward the cost of the study and the city of Richmond and County of Alameda are likely to contribute as well, along with several private donors, making this a multi-city and community investment.

This large step toward Oakland becoming independent of Wall Street — and toward our PBI goal of five public banks by 2020 — was taken thanks to tireless work by grassroots organization Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland, led by Susan Harman. Harman reminded the City Council before the vote, “We have slain all the dragons you’ve asked us to kill. Support the study now.”

Their advocacy work brought the support of Oakland Council members Dan Kalb and Rebecca Kaplan as well as Mayor of Berkeley Jesse Arrequin. The approved study is scheduled to take ten weeks.

Click here to learn all the steps the Friends group took and the “dragons” they needed to slay to achieve this success.

This week, the Friends organization, as well as Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Rebecca Kaplan, and the Local Clean Energy Alliance, are hosting a public forum in Oakland’s City Council Chambers to hear how Public Banks have sped the development of renewable resources in Germany. Guest is Wolfram Morales, Chief Economist for Sparkasse, the powerful association of local Public Banks in Germany.


“I’ve got news for you.  You can’t remove yourself from politics.  Politics is life. If you’re gay and you want to marry your lover, that’s politics.  Okay?  If you get sick and you want to see a doctor without going bankrupt, that’s politics.  If you want to get a higher education so you can get a job without ending up in a mountain of debt, that’s politics.  If you want to get the pothole fixed in front of your goddamned house, that’s politics.  You want to get the snow plowed?  That’s politics.  You want to fund education?  That’s politics.  You want to stop wars?  That’s politics.  Everything’s politics.  What isn’t politics?  Every position is politics.”


THU, 9/21/2017

The FCC is set on killing net neutrality. But Congress is key. They can stop the FCC and block the bigger threat: ISP-backed bills that would end net neutrality forever. We’re organizing Internet users to meet with members of Congress—in D.C., or locally—and we’re helping to cover travel costs.

Here’s the plan:

On September 26-27 Internet users from across the country will converge on Washington, D.C. to meet directly with their members of Congress, which is by far the most effective way to influence their positions and counter the power of telecom lobbyists and campaign contributions.

First you can attend a training hosted by Public Knowledge that will share years of experience on how to be effective in these meetings. Participants will be paired with a guide to show you where to go on Capitol Hill to participate in meetings with key lawmakers. If you can’t make it to D.C., join us by getting involved locally.

How to Get There

There are limited travel stipends available for people who want to come to D.C. to meet with legislators but need support with a plane or train ticket. Apply here. If enough people sign up in certain metro areas, we will charter buses to transport everyone for free or a small donation. If you’re driving or looking for a ride, check the carpool forum.


Net neutrality is the basic principle that has made the Internet into what it is today. It protects free expression and innovation by preventing ISPs like Verizon and AT&T from controlling what we can see and do online. This means telecoms can’t charge extra fees to access content, slow down apps and services, or engage in censorship.

Right now, the FCC is rushing to dismantle Title II, the legal foundation for net neutrality, and lawmakers who take big money from telecom companies are pushing to pass legislation that would permanently undermine the free and open web. The only thing that can stop them is a coordinated grassroots effort of constituents directly pressuring our members of Congress, who have the power to stop the FCC and vote down bad legislation.


We’re crowdfunding to cover transportation and lodging costs for people who are willing to come meet with their legislators but need some support to make it possible. For every $500 we raise, we’ll be able to cover a flight and hotel for people coming from key districts to meet with lawmakers. For every $100 we raise, we can cover a bus or train for someone coming from outside D.C.

Originally published by Battle for the Net



“Grandpa just grew up when that was the way people thought,” you can imagine a young man saying. It’s an easy way to write off perspectives that don’t align with today’s social norms. In some ways it’s true: issues do come and go with generations. But the recent events in Charlottesville and across the nation are proof that racism in the U.S. is not just a generational issue.

The fact is, photographs and video from the August protests in the Virginia college town don’t portray today’s white nationalists as a bunch of old men. On the contrary, most of the faces are young. How is it that after coming so far in the fight for civil rights, American youth are still drawn to, and compelled by, these tasteless racist ideas?


The white nationalist groups present in the Charlottesville protests didn’t necessarily identify with the KKK. They went by names most Americans have probably never heard before – or, like the alt-Right, not until recently. Among those represented were the Traditional Workers Party and a group called Anti-Communist Action.

None of those names carry overtly racial overtones. That is why, for many who follow these groups, the ambiguous racial and political stances that they take – until one examines their deeper motives – can make it easy to live with the inhumane values they support.


As Buzzfeed’s Joseph Burnstein reports in an investigative piece about the new white nationalism front, “becoming a member of a private mobile group chat for white supremacist teenagers was surprisingly easy.”

The common concern among those who are misled by these groups is that the cultural influence of white, western Europeans is eroding. The internet is a perfect tool to fan the flames of these fabricated conflicts. With no checks in place to confirm factual versus misleading information in these forums, gullible youth who want to identify with a cause are easily taken in with false information that further spurs their involvement in the white nationalist community.

After all, just because information is false doesn’t mean it is poorly packaged. Leaders in the white nationalist community have learned how to effectively create and distribute their hateful propaganda in ways that resonate with young people. Their progress is undeniable. When young people go looking for acceptance, they want to believe what their new friends tell them. And the evolution of today’s racism has given these young adults comfort in believing that they are victims of a nonexistent crime.


A recent NPR interviewee, Christian Picciolini, is a great example of the even bigger issue behind why young people gravitate toward these groups. Picciolini was once a part of a faction like this. Feeling cast out from society, he fell in with a group of Chicago-area skinheads until he realized that the path he had chosen was a wrong one. At 22 years old, he decided to leave the group and work towards educating others who might be attracted to the lifestyle.

The former white supremacist believes that many young people subscribe to these groups for the same reasons he did. With nowhere else to go, they find comfort in the black-and-white world view these groups promote. The group supports a simple set of ideas that, due to their skin color, they can almost never defy.

Statistics show that today’s youth are more depressed and anxiety-ridden than ever before. Proposed reasoning for this varies, from suggestions that social media has caused us to become more isolated, to the argument that our access to mental health care and education is poor.

However, one thing remains clear over time: young people find their purpose primarily through relationships. The young are vulnerable because they demand acceptance. They desire to feel heard, understood and valued.

Picciolini’s belief is that young people gravitate toward hate groups not because of the ideologies, but because of the human needs that these groups can satisfy. Extremist groups, he says, offer members an “identity, community and a sense of purpose. Underneath that fundamental search is something that’s broken — is there abuse or trauma or mental illness or addiction?”

Picciolini also suggests that the Internet age has created a prime opportunity for these groups to reach disenchanted youths. Young people spend so much of their time online, especially if they don’t have friends or communities to interact with in person, which creates a perfect storm of opportunity for hate groups to exploit.


Picciolini also says the fight against racism is tougher than ever because the battle lines have become blurred. White supremacists are no longer easily identified by swastikas and shaved heads. They have learned to blend into their surroundings, gathering strength as an underground movement, and it’s only during events like Charlottesville that people realize how prominent they have become.

It could be argued that the fight for our nation’s moral compass has evolved, eerily, in much the same way as the world’s geopolitical conflicts: where it was once easy to know who the bad guys were, today the enemy hides in plain sight. The only time we feel their presence is during acts of terror when they emerge to intimidate the rest of society.


A spokesman for the fascist group Vanguard America proclaimed, “Every rally we’re going to be more organized, we’re going to have more people, and it’s going to be harder and harder for them to shut us down.” Photographic and video evidencefrom Charlottesville laid plain for the nation what the ranks of these organizations already look like. They emerged from the crowds well organized, and unlike some of the groups they seek to hold down, many members of white nationalist groups are affluent. A sheltered existence makes it easy to adopt extremist views, and by recruiting estranged white males with access to money, hate organizations have created a makeshift PAC for their social campaign.

Donald Trump has been heavily criticized for inviting numerous people viewed as overtly racist – Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, to name a few – into his cabinet. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka went on record to describe the current White House as home to two factions, one of which he called flat-out racist.

Trump’s failure to condemn the actions of white supremacists, in Charlottesville and elsewhere, is precisely what these hate groups expect – and it’s what spurs them to grow further. Among other things, the president is supposed to be a role model. If the most powerful man in the country can’t set an example for American youth, what should we expect of them? The array of young faces at hate-fueled spectacles like Charlottesville is disquieting, though it’s becoming less and less surprising.

A lot of people still assume white supremacist groups are primarily made up of older folks, and that these ideas will eventually die out with the older generation. But if anything, Charlottesville was a wakeup call, as more Americans reached the unsettling realization that this just isn’t true. Racism and intolerance is being seeded in our youth all over the country. Whether by geography, in the online realm, or through other channels, young people present a unique opportunity for extremist groups to reach them. The question Americans everywhere must now ask is: how are we going to respond?

white supremacists, white nationalists, hate groups, Charlottesville violence, neo-Nazis, disaffected youth, rising fascism, Donald Trump



As Bernie Sanders worked to finalize his Medicare-for-All Act of 2017, corporate lobbyists representing the traditional opponents of single-payer health care – including the nation’s major private insurers and drug companies – poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Senate Democrats’ fundraising accounts. Now, many of those lawmakers have refused to sign on to the Medicare bill.

Sanders has faced questions about whether or not the bill would garner solid support among Senate Democrats. So far, 16 Senate Democrats have said they will sponsor the legislation – which the insurance industry slammed after he announced it. A new study from campaign finance watchdog group MapLight found that since 2010, Democratic senators who have refused to sponsor the bill have, during their careers, raised twice as much insurance industry cash as those who support the legislation.

As Republicans took over the White House earlier this year, significant campaign funding for Democratic senators has continued to come from lobbyists. According to federal campaign finance records reviewed by International Business Times, lobbyists, lobbying firms and one other corporate political action committee collectively delivered nearly $2 million in bundled campaign contributions to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the first half of 2017. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, the DSCC’s chairman, was a proponent of the law that requires lobbyists to disclose the contributions they bundle together from donors.

With Sanders and a majority of House Democrats supporting single-payer – and with polls showing rising support for a Medicare-for-all system – lobbyists for major health care industry clients were among the biggest donors to Democrats in the Senate, as they have been in years past. Among those who delivered the most cash to the DSCC in the first half of 2017 were:

• Steve Elmendorf, the former top aide to then-House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. He delivered $130,400 to the DSCC while representing insurance giant UnitedHealth Group Inc. and dialysis conglomerate DaVita Inc.

• Jonathon Jones, the former chief of staff for Sen. Tom Carper, a Finance Committee member has not signed onto the single-payer initiative. He delivered $97,000 to the DSCC while representing insurers Anthem Inc. and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, as well as the trade group Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and drugmakers Amgen Inc., Astellas Pharma Inc., AstraZeneca, Merck & Co. Inc., Novartis, Genentech Inc. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

• Lisa Kontoupes, a former aide to President Bill Clinton and staffer for Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She delivered $77,500 to the DSCC while representing drugmakers Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc..

• David Castagnetti, the former top aide to Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who was accused of blocking a debate over single-payer during the Affordable Care Act deliberations. Castagnetti delivered $64,000 to the DSCC while representing insurers Humana Inc., Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and the parent company of Oscar Health Insurance.

• Jeff Forbes, the former staff director for Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the nation’s healthcare system. He delivered $20,000 to the DSCC while representing the drug industry’s trade association, PhRMA, as well as individual drug companies Abbott Laboratories, Amgen and Genentech.

The principals of major lobbying firms also gave big to Senate Democrats. Tony Podesta, the namesake of the Podesta Group and a top Hillary Clinton bundler, gave $202,476 to the DSCC while representing the American Healthcare Association and Mylan — the controversial maker of the Epipen. Heather Podesta of Podesta + Partners delivered $226,400 to the DSCC while representing Baxter Healthcare and insurer Cigna.

Meanwhile, two lobbying firms’ corporate political action committees gave directly to the DSCC. Brownstein Hyatt Farber’s PAC, for instance, bundled $307,000 for the DSCC while the firm represents Anthem, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and drugmaker Abbvie. Holland & Knight’s Committee For Effective Government bundled $104,650 for the DSCC while representing BlueCross Blue Shield of Minnesota.

Originally published by International Business Times

corporate insurance lobbyists, pharmaceutical industry, healthcare lobbyists, money in politics, Maplight, universal healthcare, single-payer, Medicare for all, Democratic lobbyists, Affordable Care Act
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