Palin Not Ready Now, Or Ever

Two Montreal-based radio hosts pulled a prank so obvious on Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin that I almost felt sorry for her. Almost.

The Masked Avengers, comprising comedians Marc-Antoine Audette and Sebastien Trudel convinced the gullible governor that she was being graced by a personal call from the French premier Nicolas Sarkozy. Not several seconds until after they revealed their prank openly to her did she realize what had happened.

The fake French accent didn’t give it away. Neither did the joke about Sarkozy being able to see Belgium from France, like she can see Russia.

Palin did not realize she was the butt of a joke when “Sarkozy” said he could see her as president. She replied, giggling, “maybe in 8 years.” God help us.

She didn’t get it when he joked about liking hunting and enjoying killing animals – instead she responded by wanting to join him on a working hunt – literally “killing two birds with one stone.”

She didn’t get it when he discussed his wife Carla who is “hot in bed” and jealous that he was having a conversation with Palin. Palin said, “give her a hug from me.” Aww…

But the absolute worst moment was when the the comedian playing Sarkozy joked about liking the “edgy documentary” about Palin’s life – the shameless Hustler porn video, Nailin’ Palin. Palin responded by saying, “good”!

How could a woman who falls for such an obvious prank be ready for the VP post of the wealthiest, most armed country in the world? In six minutes of obvious prank-like comments by a bubbly sounding, fake-accented comedian, she remained star-struck and awed.

How did this woman get to be mayor of a small town, forget about governor of a state, or VP candidate of a major party? She does not even have the brains to lead a PTA chapter in Wasilla.

If this prank is not enough to convince the 43% of voters who support McCain that Palin was the worst possible choice, I don’t know what is.

Even More Republican Hypocrisy – Spending, Earmarks, and Taxes

A nice piece of reporting in USA Today exposes yet another aspect of Republican hypocrisy: with all of McCain’s talk of “reigning in spending,” “cutting taxes,” and “eliminating pork barrel legislation,” it appears as though his running mate has done exactly the opposite during her tenures as mayor of Wasilla and governor of Alaska.

Apparently John McCain lied about Palin not seeking earmarks as governor. In fact Palin “asked Washington for $197 million in earmarks this year, down from $254 million the year before.” As mayor of Wasilla, Palin acquired $27 million in earmarked federal funding – Wasilla had a whopping 5000 residents when Palin was mayor!

On the issue of spending, Palin’s list of expenses make for entertaining reading. According to reporter Ken Dilanian:

As governor, Palin has signed off on $402,000 to study the arctic fox; $154,000 for renovations to three gun clubs and $125,000 for the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, state records show. Her budgets have funded $44,500 to spruce up a ski resort, $75,000 for the Arctic Thunder Air Show and $50,000 to improve a Little League field in the Mat-Su Valley near her hometown of Wasilla.

(Sounds just as bad as spending hundreds of thousands on a planetarium in Chicago, no?)

Palin also increased taxes on oil companies – a laudable act that should be mimicked nationwide, but that is now decried by the McCain-Palin campaign as being antithetical to capitalism, perhaps even socialist (gasp!).

Perhaps McCain should have checked Palin’s record against his own campaign platform before her picked her.

More on Republican Hypocrisy – Sarah Palin’s Outrageous Clothing Bill

palinSomeone needs to remind Sarah Palin that chief on the Republican talking points memo are the words: “reigning in spending.” By now everyone who pays any attention to the news has heard of Palin’s outrageous $150,000 fashion tab at the RNC’s expense (read the sickening breakdown of expenses here). It seems as though her smugness at recent campaign rallies may be tempered with a serious dose of reality: most Americans are not so stupid to see past this one. There are so many angles to this story that I hardly know where to begin…

First, the obvious one: with all the talk of Joe-six packs, and Walmart hockey-moms, Palin’s splurges are hardly becoming of the “every-woman” or “girl-next-door” image the McCain campaign has cultivated. How much can one actually buy at a single spree for $75,000???? The LA Times blog attempted to load up an imaginary shopping cart with a gazillion designer suits and precious jewels on Neiman Marcus’ online store in the exact amount Palin spent. Read the gory details here.

palinSecond, and also plainly obvious: How can the governing of this country and its deep economic crisis be left in the hands of someone with the spending habits of a millionaire? How can anyone who claims to be concerned about the state of the economy justify splurging so much cash on something so frivolous? Granted, it was not on the tax-payer’s tab, but still, the sheer act of dropping SO much money (it would take me 4 years to earn $150,000!!!!) must make one nauseous while families are scrounging pennies to buy baby formula at Wal-mart for their children in these hard times (and, some Republican donors are asking for their money back). This just further points to Republican hypocrisy in light of all the claims made about Barack Obama being too elitist and out of touch with average Americans.

Third, the McCain campaign has made a fuss about Obama’s forsaking of public financing of his campaign (a fact that is actually worth criticizing), but his VP’s fashion expenses are barely legal themselves.

Fourth, the McCain-Palin spokesperson, Tracey Schmitt had the audacity to respond to the findings with the following statement: “With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it’s remarkable that we’re spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses.” Imagine if it was revealed that the DNC had spent over $150,000 on dressing Michelle Obama up! I’m sure the Republicans would put the story aside and instead discuss serious issues. Issues like Bill Ayers, socialism fantasies, Jeremiah Wright, arabic-sounding middle names, and more. Certainly not issues like the US economy and how fat cats made and spent billions while the middle class vaporized. That wouldn’t do. Schmitt had the audacity to add, “It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign.” Yeah right.

Fifth, this story revealed that Palin is indeed the perfect choice for John McCain, who, with his wife owns more homes than he can count and defines “rich” in America as someone making more than $5 million a year.

Sixth, even though some of the $150,000 was spent on Todd Palin and the Palin children, the vast majority of it was to clothe and primp Sarah Palin. What does that say about how the Republican National Committee views its female candidates? Would Palin not have been electable were she to campaign in her more down-to-earth pre-VP garb? The Republicans have banked on Palin’s so-called “hotness factor” and proved it with the willingness to splurge on designer clothing for their model VP, even as they accuse the media of sexism. Peddling Palin in all her primped up glory seems to have worked – within days of her announcement as VP candidate, buttons in various shades of girly pink sporting “hottest VP, coolest state” popped up.

There are still 13 days left before the election. Will more Republican hypocrisies rise to the surface before then? More importantly, will Republican voters start to see the mountains of evidence undermining their party’s representation of average Americans?

Will Republican Hypocrisy Know No Depths?

hypocritesBarack Obama has a cult of celebrity but Sarah Palin’s popularity is legitimate because she’s just “one of us.”

Barack Obama “pals around with terrorists, but John McCain, who has links to a group that supported terrorist death squads in Central America, is above board.

Barack Obama is a “Chicago politician,” with implied ties to the mob, while Sarah Palin’s questionable conduct as Governor, under an ethics investigation for improper abuse of authority, is not relevant.

Barack Obama is not being “forthright” with voters, even though he has written books and has had years of public scrutiny, while Sarah Palin, who burst onto the public scene less than 2 months ago, is completely transparent and trust-worthy.

Barack Obama would be bad for the economy, even though he’s proposing tax cuts to the middle class, while John McCain, who pushed and continues to push deregulation, would somehow strengthen this failing economy.

I suppose desperate poll numbers call for desperate, underhanded measures. But, I think this time Americans won’t fall for the hypocrisy.

Someone Sit Obama Down and Make him Watch ‘Boogieman’!

boogiemanI had the pleasure this morning of interviewing Stefan Forbes on my radio program, Uprising, about his new documentary, Boogieman: The Lee Atwater Story. I had only heard vague mentions of the name Lee Atwater but really had no idea how influential to American political campaigning he was, until I watched the film. This young Republican upstart from South Carolina, wrote the script-book for today’s GOP election tactics. Not surprisingly he was Karl Rove’s mentor.

Coming of political age in the College Republicans, Atwater learned early in life that he enjoyed engineering political wins rather than winning himself. He compared politics to war and decided that winning at all costs was worth it. In that spirit, Atwater spread rumors about people’s personal lives, played to the racism of white working-class Americans, manipulated the media, and even planted lies. All, in order to win an election.

Atwater helped Reagan win election, earning a place in the White House while only in his thirties. Eventually he came to be George H W Bush’s chief campaign strategist, a role that marked the zenith of his career. Engineering a win for an unpopular candidate meant discrediting rival Democrat Michael Dukakis using any means necessary. Including the racist Willie Horton ads.

Eventually his disgraceful behavior and extremely high stress caught up with him. In 1991 Lee Atwater was diagnosed with brain cancer and in the last years of his life was thought to have apologized to his political victims. According to Boogieman film maker Stefan Forbes, this is debatable and in fact Atwater was spinning lies all the way to his grave for political effect.

But think about it for one moment. If the Republican Party needs to resort to such low-down dirty tricks in order to get candidates elected, it follows that they would lose election after election if Americans started to see through them. The party’s platform is so unpopular among ordinary Americans, that they have to be driven by their basest fears into voting Republican. What does this say about so-called Republican values?

Still, Republican strategists like Atwater and Rove would never be able to pull off what they do, without such an easily manipulated and lazy media. The smears only gain traction because they are reported uncritically. When they are retracted it is often too late to matter.

Atwater may be dead but his ugly legacy lives on. Think Florida 2000, Ohio 2004, Valarie Plame, Swiftboat Veterans, and on and on. Even John McCain himself has been a victim of the type of disgusting underhanded political campaigning that Atwater exemplified. During his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, Karl Rove started a rumor that McCain fathered an illegitimate bi-racial daughter – a stain that contributed to his loss in favor of George W Bush. In fact that dark-skinned daughter was adopted by McCain and his wife from Bangladesh. Despite McCain’s vow never to resort to that type of negative political campaigning himself, once his poll numbers started sinking in this year’s election, he shamefully hired a man named Tucker Eskew, a close friend of Atwater who was interviewed extensively in Boogieman, to prepare his running mate Palin for prime-time.

The ghost of Lee Atwater lives on in this year’s presidential election. His colleagues and apprentices have managed to turn the Black, deeply Christian candidate with middle class roots and a background in community organizing, into an elite professorial type who is out of touch with the middle and working classes. Oh, and he’s a closet Muslim too. And he plays the “race-card.” Meanwhile, McCain has been transformed into a God-fearing man of the people, despite his lack of devoutness, despite losing count of the vast number of houses and cars he owns, despite being married to one of America’s wealthiest women who flies around in her own private jet. Shockingly, it is McCain who is portrayed as having become the victim of Obama’s reverse racism.

Near the end of the film Boogieman, a contrite Michael Dukakis reveals the major lesson of his political life – when mud starts slinging, don’t just stay silent and weather the storm: fight back. Trying to “rise above it” as he tried to do during the 1988 race against George H W Bush, Dukakis remained tainted by Atwater’s ghastly smears and lost the election.

Quick, before its too late, someone sit Obama down and force him or his aides to watch Boogieman.

Reflections on the RNC (And, A Resolution to Blog More Frequently)

stepford wivesI recently returned from the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota where I was part of a Pacifica Radio nightly live broadcast. While there it hit me time and again, that I felt completely out of touch with the type of Americans that identify as Republicans. Waiting in line to get into the convention hall, I was surrounded by perfectly coiffured white women in shades of pink, white, and powder blue, teetering on impossibly high heels, and smiling broadly. They sported brightly colored buttons, some with flashing lights, supporting McCain for President. I wondered: Do these folks really support brutal wars? Do they really deny global warming? Do they really want to endlessly consume oil and make corporations rich? Do they really not care about the destruction of the planet? Or the lives of soldiers (forget Iraqis and Afghans – I didn’t even go there)?

I kept being reminded of the film, The Stepford Wives. Maybe all these people are really fake robots, programmed to accept the status quo in favor of the wealthy and elite. Then I realized, no – they are the wealthy and elite.

Obama Intends to Swap One Failed War for Another

Published on Friday, February 29, 2008 by CommonDreams.org

by Sonali Kolhatkar

Lately, in spite of my better judgment, I’ve found myself inflicted with a major case of “Obamania.” I cannot help but be excited at the prospect of a brilliant, younger-than-average, black president who could unite this polarized country against the failed policies of George W Bush. But each time I get optimistic that we are finally on the verge of entering a saner era, Obama makes a terribly foolish statement about the US occupation of Afghanistan.

His latest quip is a prime example: in retaliating against McCain’s attacks on his position on the Iraq war, Obama responded: “I intend to bring [the Iraq war] to an end so that we can actually start going after al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in the hills of Pakistan like we should have been doing in the first place.”

He simply wants to swap one failed war for another: out of Iraq and into Afghanistan.

Obama, who openly says he is a “strong supporter of the war in Afghanistan,” is counting on American ignorance of the fact that since 2001 we have carried out a smaller scale version of the Iraq war in Afghanistan. In fact, in some respects Afghanistan was the testing ground for Iraq. Broaden the war in Afghanistan and you simply export the Iraq debacle to the middle of Asia.

While the scale of the two operations are vastly different, US policies in Afghanistan have shown eerily similar results to Iraq. After what seemed to be a brief period of positive change in the post-Taliban era, Afghanistan has plunged into despair once more. There has been a huge jump in suicide bombings, greater political power for fundamentalist forces, increased oppression of women, an unprecedented boom in opium production, and greater civilian deaths at US/NATO hands.

If Obama intends on pursuing a more constructive policy in Afghanistan than the current one, I’m all for it. Having studied the war in Afghanistan from its inception, I can make several recommendations including: generous funding of indigenous grassroots health, educational, and employment efforts; disarmament of US-backed criminal warlords and a war crimes tribunal to help national healing; protection of journalists and independent members of Parliament, especially women; viable and lucrative alternatives to poppy farming for local poor farmers; and of course the most important one of all: an immediate withdrawal of US/NATO combat troops with a corresponding increase in transitional UN peace-keeping forces (to remain in the country for purely security purposes until a democratic Afghanistan is ready to kick them out too).

These recommendations are not sure-fire but stand a good chance at actually helping ordinary Afghans, ending the reign of impunity enjoyed by the warlords, undermining any base of popular support enjoyed by the Taliban and/or Al Qaeda, and driving fewer people to resort to suicide bombings as a way to end a foreign occupation. Best of all, they can give real democracy a chance – the best antidote to terrorism.

Obama has not suggested any of these types of policies. He has not come even close. Instead he wants to take “the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan” by increasing the troop presence – a change that is already taking place under the Bush administration (3,200 additional troops are headed to Afghanistan this summer).

I’m not saying Americans should not vote for Obama (assuming he ends up winning the Democratic nomination). On the contrary, he and the movement that supports him represents perhaps the most viable hope of ending the Iraq war on the horizon today. What I am suggesting is that Obama’s antiwar supporters ought to be prepared for the sleight-of-hand war-swapping he has planned. They can do that best by starting right now, to hold Obama accountable for his extremely mis-guided position on Afghanistan. They can do that by guiding him firmly toward the more constructive goal of ending that war too, which in the long term will do far more to actually end terrorism.

Sonali Kolhatkar is host of Uprising, a nationally syndicated radio program and co-Director of Afghan Women’s Mission. She is co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence (Seven Stories, 2006).
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It’s Not About Winning the Election-It’s About Winning Our Democracy

Due to illness, Sonali was unable to attend a panel discussion on the US Presidential elections held in the Inland Empire, and asked that this message be read out on her behalf.

I would like to profusely thank Theresa Hernandez for organizing this event and deeply apologize to her and all of you for not being present today.

This year’s presidential election is not going to change everything. If John Kerry wins, it doesn’t mean that the US and the world will face a drastic difference in policies.

This is a reality we have to face. If we don’t face it, we will remain inside our protective cocoons, and do ourselves and the entire world a disservice.

We know what George Bush is all about. I don’t have to tell you the damage he’s done. We also know what John Kerry is about-he’s willing to tell us each time he speaks that he plans on being as war-like as Bush. True, Kerry’s health care plan sounds much better than Bush’s policies on health, but we know that politicians will say anything to get elected. Remember Clinton’s “Universal Health Care” plan?

The main function this election serves is to ratify the status quo. Does that mean that this election is pointless? No-this election should highlight the poor state of our democracy and to remind us how much work there is to be done. If every single one of us has not dedicated a portion of our lives to social justice, we need to start right now. Because, given the trend in this country, our vote, as people who believe in social justice, matters little.

Bush and Kerry are both vying to win over the same constituency-a pro-military, God-fearing, largely white rural middle and working class, in addition to multinational mega-corporations. They are not interested in the anti-war electorate or the urban poor and middle class, especially not those of us who believe that patriotism is an irrational affliction; those of us who believe that the well-being of the world depends on our ability to rein in the US military, coupled with the world’s ability to resist.

If we want to work through the electoral system, our task is to increase the size and might of this latter constituency to such a degree that neither Bush nor Kerry can afford to ignore us. Bush and Kerry know that they cannot ignore multinational corporations if they want a chance of winning. Our goal is to ensure that they cannot ignore progressive forces in this country any longer. The only way to accomplish this is to make our organizing independent of the election cycle. We have to build a movement that can’t be ignored-this is impossible if we work at it only once every four years. Corporations don’t reward politicians once every four years and take a break in between-“corporateering” is an ongoing process whose foundation is strong and whose power is undeniable.

Our power has to be undeniable. We have to expand and strengthen our constituency so that no future candidate, whether running for local office or for president can ever ignore us again. “Get out the Vote” campaigns will do little to mobilize voters unless voters are part of a larger, year-round struggle.

The least of our actions should be to vote. Voting should be to organizing what wearing clean clothes is to maintaining a healthy body.

As I lie here, writing this message on my bed, I am painfully aware of the work required to heal my body. Occaisional quick fixes may result in short term gains, but if I want a long, healthy, pain-free life, I have to devote myself to fixing my body in a variety of ways. Just like we have to work at fixing our democracy in many different ways, whether it’s organizing a union, creating an alternative media, campaigning against the war or against military recruitment in schools, or organizing a panel like this to create dialogue, etc. Doing this type of work all year round and intensifying it every year is a requirement for building a healthy democracy.

We vote simply because we can, but if we vote as we build our democracy, our votes will be that much more meaningful. Voting in isolation is like dressing up a broken body in clean clothes. This is an act that is an obligation that we must fulfil, but which by itself does little to address the deep wounds.

So if we pick a strategy to vote for Kerry, or Nader, or Cobb, let that be only a small part of our larger struggle, because the day after the election, our work will have just begun.

Thank you very much,
Sonali Kolhatkar
19 September 2004

Shattering Illusions: Kerry Doesn’t Need or Want Anti-War Activists

In the first minute of his July 29 Democratic National Convention (DNC) acceptance speech, John Kerry told us that the Democratic party has “one simple purpose: to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.” The Republicans have set the standard by which a US President will be judged, and listening to peace and social justice activists is not one of the desired qualities. Regardless of who gets elected, the two parties tell us, the next president will be a “Commander-in-chief”: tough on terrorism, national security and Homeland Security, and easy on corporations, while paying lip-service to jobs, healthcare, and education. According to Democrats quoted in the New York Times (July 25th 2004), this year’s DNC was designed so that you “think you’re looking at a Republican Convention.” Kerry is reaching out to the same base that Bush is, so this election year there is hardly even the pretense of progressive values coming from the Democratic elites on the podium.

The thousands of people who mobilized four years ago at the Los Angeles DNC to critique the Democrats are a very different crowd from the mainstream or liberal wing of the party that will vote for John Kerry this November. Kerry and the Democratic Party elite do not need the votes of activists ­ they do not constitue a significant or influential voting block like corporations or other Republican constituencies that appear to be the targets of most Kerry campaigning. Furthermore, Kerry and the Party elite do not actually want peace activists to campaign for them, at least not as peace activists. This was demonstrated most tellingly at the DNC where not only was criticism of the war discouraged, but peace activists among the delegates were not allowed to bring literature or clothing that expressed an anti-war stance. Medea Benjamin, who advocates voting for Kerry in swing states, was thrown out of the convention hall after unfurling a banner calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq. Other activists were barred from entering with headscarves that read “Delegates for Peace” and one California delegate with a flyer entitled “No War on Iraq” was prevented from bringing it onto the floor of the convention hall.

Anti-war views were by no means rare at the Convention. Even within the narrow spectrum of the Democratic Party, ninety percent of delegates oppose the war in Iraq (according to a recent CBS/NY Times poll). Their views were barely reflected in the choreographed speeches of their elite “representatives.” Outspoken anti-war Democrat Dennis Kucinich justified ignoring the divide: “we’re going to unite our party to elect John Kerry and then we’re going to continue the debate within the Democratic Party.” (PBS Interview) So, ninety percent of the party’s rank-and-file have to compromise their position on the war to comply with the 10 percent who are represented by the powerful elite of the party. Instead of the party taking a stand based on the majority sentiment, the crucial debate over war has been relegated to internal party discussion, where it will probably fizzle out. Those on the left who advocate blind support for Kerry hand responsibility for the debate over war and occupation to the Democratic Party, whose elites have more in common with Republicans than with their own rank-and-file.

The irresponsible idealism with which the antiwar movement is throwing its support behind a pro-war Bush-like candidate is disturbing. Little attempt is being made by the Party itself to reach out to those who are unregistered or uninterested, but private groups like MoveOn.org and individuals like filmmaker Michael Moore are doing it for them, under the slogan “Anybody But Bush.” The MoveOn Political Action Committee just sent a letter to its members that “hope is on the way” in the guise of John Kerry, parroting Kerry’s own refrain (“help is on the way”) during his DNC acceptance speech. After he wins, MoveOn tells us, “we’ll wake up that morning able to dream big dreams for a country and a world that are once again headed in the right direction.” Unless voters are aware of the problems of backing Kerry for President most will go home after election day, either happy that their candidate won or cynical that their actions had no effect. Being realistic about Kerry’s background may prepare activists to begin organizing now, regardless of who wins, determined to involve themselves in struggle for the long haul, if that’s what it takes.

The constituency that Kerry actually listens to includes those who want the good old days of a glorious America that had “credibility” in the world and could enforce genocidal sanctions on Iraq with a smile. They want the Democratic Party to back a candidate that “appears” to respect international law even as we repeatedly violate it. Kerry voters will include Republicans who are disgusted with the Bush administration’s overt imperialism, choosing instead a stealthy approach to world domination. Kerry would forego Bush’s blatant unilateralism in favor of a more nuanced version. Just like Bush, Kerry would ” never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security,” but he would at least have “the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden.” To Kerry, the US must be feared and respected, “not just feared.”

“We need John Kerry to restore life to the Global War on Terrorism,” said Jimmy Carter on the first day of the DNC. If the war on terrorism needed any more life than Bush gave it in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world is in for a disaster. As we saw by the State Department’s (revised) Patterns of Global Terrorism report, countries subjected to the US “war on terrorism” showed increasing rates of terrorism. If Kerry wanted to address sources of terrorism, he might work to end the US occupation of Iraq and theUS-backed occupation of Palestine. Instead, he is insistent on continuing the brutal legacy of the Clinton era in Iraq and has allied himself unequivocally with Israel. If he becomes President, Kerry will clearly act at least as center-right as Clinton, and maybe worse. His positions on Afghanistan and Cuba are Clintonesque as well.

Carter and others have emphasized Kerry’s tour of duty as a soldier in Vietnam as evidence that “He is a proven defender of national security.” The implicit emphasis is on his blind obedience to US imperial policy. Kerry himself said he learned his values “on that gunboat patrolling the Mekong Delta,” without mentioning his eventual public stand against the war. Rarely is Kerry’s past anti-war activism invoked, except by some anti-war supporters who blindly ignore his more recent pro-war record as Senator.

Knowing that public disenchantment with Bush’s foreign policy will not be enough to elect him (especially since he does not have much that is different to offer), Kerry has decided to highlight domestic issues like jobs, healthcare, and education. Outsourcing is a hot-button issue that Kerry has promised to reduce, despite his vote for NAFTA. Little mention is made of the inherent contradiction between his support of “free trade” and protectionist measures to preserve jobs at home-or the contradiction between wooing organized labor by backing environmental and labor standards in trade agreements, and his support for corporate power. Kerry is unambiguous that his real constituency is Big Business. In an interview with BusinessWeek (August 2nd) Kerry revealed, “I am going to bring Corporate America to the table to say: How do we make you more competitive? How do we get out of your way? Research-and-development tax credits? I’d make them permanent and larger. Manufacturing tax credits? That’s a smart way to help I am 100% in favor of companies going abroad to do business.”

It is true that a small amount of positive change will accompany a Kerry administration­most certainly fewer people will die in the short term. If Kerry wins in November it will definitely be a blow to the ultra-facist Neoconservatives and their allies. But those who are interested in long term radical social change, an admittedly marginal slice of the population, should not waste their time and effort in propping up the Democratic Party elite and their Republican-like agenda. There are plenty of people who are doing that already. Activism should focus on exposing Kerry before he ascends to the White House so that there will be few illusions that the Kerry era will be any better than the Clinton era; and so we can lay the groundwork for opposing Kerry’s policies as soon as possible. Kerry should be put on notice that the rabble-rousers who see through his compromises will not for long indulge in a sigh of relief if he wins. Instead activism ought to focus on constantly pushing the discussion to the left, wresting it from the rightward trend of current political discourse. We should be clear: activists who want serious social change, like those who mobilized 4 years ago to hold Gore and the Democrats accountable, will not find it in backing Kerry.

Sonali Kolhatkar is co-producer and host of Uprising, a morning drive-time radio program on KPFK Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles.

James Ingalls is a staff scientist at the Spitzer Space Telescope Science Center, California Institute of Technology. They both are co-directors of the Afghan Women’s Mission.

How to Stop the War — Demonstrate Against John Kerry

Published on Counterpunch.org on 05/04/04

With the launching of the new fiercely partisan and influential liberal radio network nationwide, Air America, John Kerry seems poised to whisk the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party and could even win simply because he is not Bush.

According to an unnamed former Bush official, “Kerry might wage a more effective war on terror than Bush because he was likely to take a more complex approach, looking at broader threats while coupling military force with “soft power” such as alliance building and a battle for hearts and minds” (Reuters, 05/03/04 “Bush or Kerry, ‘War on Terror’ Unlikely to Change”).

What is the massive anti-war movement in the United States to do when the difference between the two major candidates extends to the use of “soft power”?

While there are certainly some differences between the two candidates and Kerry is likely a shade better than Bush, should we settle for his Bush-like stand on the war? The common Democratic refrain goes like this: “I trust John Kerry to do what’s right for America. After all, his record in Vietnam and the amazing antiwar speech he gave after returning from Vietnam spoke to all the things that need to be done to bring this country back on track. And anyway, I’ll vote for Anybody But Bush”.

But why should we trust our leaders? What role does trust play in a democracy? I trust my family and my friends and even they screw up sometimes and break my trust.

Perhaps we ought to judge Kerry by his more recent speeches rather than what he said 30 years ago when he was an anti-war activist, war veteran, and someone less invested in the current establishment. Kerry whole-heartedly embraces Bush’s “war on terror” as a legitimate concept. We laugh at the simplistic rhetoric of Bush’s “good vs. evil”. But John Kerry calls it “a clash of civilization against chaos”. Bush’s rhetoric may be more religious and emotional, but Kerry’s is just as judgmental and generalized.

Certainly the “war on terror” is not all we should judge candidates by. George Bush’s domestic economic policies have ravaged the poor and middle class. But lest you thought that Kerry’s economics would be kinder and gentler than Bush’s, Warren Buffet, Kerry’s economic advisor downplays any difference between the two saying the election will simply be a “referendum on George Bush”. He even said, “The Kerry campaign is quite unimportant compared to how people feel about Bush when they go into the voting booth”. Consider the presidential poll results which consistently hover around 43-46% for either candidate. Any lead falls within the statistical noise.

If John Kerry wants our votes, John Kerry ought to earn them. By this I mean it is up to us in the anti-war, or pro-justice movements to demonstrate that we weren’t kidding when we marched in the millions against the war in Iraq. It is up to us to send a warning sign to John Kerry or whoever turns up as the alternative to Bush that he has to work to earn our votes. Simply being ABB (Anybody But Bush) does not qualify him.

When ten million people marched against Bush’s war in Iraq last year, he glibly dismissed us as a “focus group” simply because he could: Bush does not need us to get re-elected ­ he already has support of about 40% of the voters. But why should the other 40% hand over our votes to Mr. “Bush-lite” Kerry without a fight? Imagine a march of over a million voters all across the United States, not against the idiot Bush who has not earned the right to be a public servant anyway, but against John Kerry. Imagine hundreds of thousands of voters demanding that Kerry adopt an anti-war and anti-occupation position publicly and fast if he wants any assurance of beating Bush at the polls. Imagine these voters insisting Kerry adopt a progressive agenda on Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, the USA PATRIOT Act, welfare reform, and other life-and-death issues.

This will accomplish two things: it will remind public officials everywhere that voters will not succumb to a “lesser of two evils” approach which often means that candidates need only be a shade better than their incumbent opposition. And, it will remind public officials that once in power, that same constituency will not hesitate to take to the streets again to hold them accountable to their promises.

One only has to look at the recent election in Spain to see this in action. When the Spanish incumbent prime minister, Jose Maria Asnar stood for re-election after defying his people’s wishes, he was promptly ousted and replaced with the socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero whose campaign platform was based on a pullout of troops from Iraq. What’s more, once elected, even more Spaniards than expected turned out for the anti-occupation demonstrations of March 20th, reminding Zapatero that his election was not based on an act of faith ­ he would be held to his promises. As a result, Spain has taught us a lesson in democracy: the electorate determines the actions of its elected representative. The electorate’s relationship to the elected after all, is supposed to be a master-servant relationship. Hence the term “public servant”.

We have to hold Kerry accountable before he gets elected while he is still in the position of having to court voters. Rather than “backing Kerry”, we need to stand in front of him, to remind him who’s boss: the people of the United States of America, not a Democratic presidential candidate who thinks he can mimic an idiot (Bush) and laugh his way into the White House.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and co-producer of Uprising, on KPFK 90.7 fm, Pacifica Radio. She is also the co-Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit working in solidarity with Afghan women.