Playing Spore For Greens

Over the Fourth of July Weekend, my young daughter and I learned how to play the video game Spore together. It’s a wonderfully flexible game, in which players can choose to advance through the levels in a very Green way, making friends and allies and never getting into a fight.

My daughter is only four years old, but she learned one lesson very quickly: Whenever two creatures of the same kind meet, and they like each other, they lay an egg. I would like local Green Party activists to learn the same lesson.

Yesterday, there were meetings of three separate Green Party organizations in Arizona: The Mesa Greens, the Green Party of Pima County and the University of Arizona Campus Greens. Those meetings were great, I’m sure, but the rest of the world won’t have the chance to find out about that, because there were no news reporters present to write about them.

There are two groups of people who share responsibility for that. There’s the mainstream media, yes, which we Green Party members love to complain about. But where was the Green Party media?

Honestly, I don’t think that anyone here at Green Party Watch has the money to fly over to Arizona just in order to report on what happened at those meetings in Arizona yesterday. Besides that, it wouldn’t be a very sustainable use of energy.

Instead, Green Party media is going to have to work the way that Green Party political campaigns do: From the bottom up. In addition to the mainstream media, the Arizona Greens who attended those meetings yesterday share responsibility for the lack of news about their events. Every person in attendance could have acted as a reporter.

It’s like playing Spore: Every time that two Greens meet, they need to lay an egg. They need to write about that meeting, and make news of their activities available to the world. They need to get the news online, so that writers at places like Green Party Watch can write articles here, though they’re not jetting all over the country to gather the information in person.

They need to issue a press release too, and send it to the local mainstream media. When organizations hold meetings, but don’t issue press releases, they’re sending a message to local reporters anyway. The message is that the organization isn’t doing anything newsworthy. If you don’t think that your local Green Party’s meetings involve anything worth writing a press release about, then that’s a good sign that you need to change the way you hold your meetings.

The structure for getting this kind of grassroots reporting is already present. It just needs to be put into action. All three groups that met last night already have their own web sites, places that can include a news page to tell the stories of the Green organizations’ activities, and why they matter. If they’re organized in the right way, each group should have had an official secretary, with the job of ensuring that meeting minutes are taken (even better would be a digital audio recording, excerpts of which could be transcribed and edited into a podcast).

We Greens need to regard every meeting as a crucial campaign event which is designed to persuade people who haven’t joined the Green Party yet that they need to do so. Before the meeting, at the meeting, and after meeting, we need to craft a story that makes people care about the Green Party.

If you never take the trouble to lay an egg, you don’t have much right to complain that you’re not seeing as many new Greens running around as you’d like to.


New Jersey Democrats Not Even Green Enough For the GOP

It’s a sad sign of how unreliable the Democratic Party has become on environmental issues: In New Jersey’s campaign for Governor, the Republican candidate (Christopher Christie) has criticized the Democratic incumbent (Jon Corzine) for not doing enough to promote sustainable energy. An Associated Press article on the subject leads with the headline, Christie wants N.J. to go greener.

Of course, if you really want to go greener in New Jersey, you ought to be supporting the Green Party of New Jersey. Unfortunately, there is no Green Party candidate for Governor of New Jersey this year. However, there is an independent candidate, Chris Daggett, who is a former Commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection.


Grassroots and Grass-Fed Roots In Illinois Politics

Over in Illinois, the Democratic Party is preparing to hold a reception – not even a dinner – that will cost $150 per head.

On July 18, the Illinois Green Party will be holding a fundraising dinner that will cost 25 dollars per plate, with an option for low-income participants to pay an alternative rate of 10 dollars.

Which political party do you think is really representing the interests of the working families of Illinois?


Obama Keeps Bush Torture Memo Mum. Will Progressive Dems Do Anything?

One of the most common arguments against the Green Party comes from within the Democratic Party, in the form of the plea that activist energy ought to be focused on reforming the Democrats from within, rather than challenging them from without. The Democratic Party is a powerful organization, it’s said, and if progressive reformers could take over the party, they could change it and create a great deal of positive change.

I’m familiar with this argument, because I used to make it myself. During my time on the New York State Democratic Committee, I would write earnestly to Greens, urging them to join the Democratic Party, to reform it from within. Obviously, I’ve given up on that idea since.

The main problem that progressives encounter within the Democratic Party is a tremendous pressure to conform, to promote the Party in general, and not to speak out when its politicians support antiprogressive policies, with the idea that if the Democrats could just gain control over government, the Democrats would shake off their temporary concessions, and a progressive agenda would finally benefit.

In 2009, we finally have a federal government that is solidly Democratic. So, we can fairly evaluate now whether the strategy of working within the Democratic Party to reform it can work. We can ask, how progressive are the progressive Democrats?

I ask this question in the context of a growing crisis of secrecy and dishonesty from the Obama Administration on the issue of torture. Earlier this year, President Obama argued that he has the right to suppress lawsuits by people who have been tortured as a result of the U.S. government’s practice of extraordinary rendition. Then, Obama insisted upon violating the Freedom of Information Act in order to keep photographic evidence of torture by the military a secret. Last week, the Obama Administration informed Congress that it opposed legislation to prevent torture by requiring the videotaping of of military interrogations.

Yesterday, Obama added to his protection of torture secrets by delaying the release of a CIA memo that purportedly demonstrates that the intelligence agency informed the Bush White House that its use of torture was profoundly illegal. The Obama White House promised to release the memo yesterday, and people waited, and waited, but the memo never came. This is the third Obama postponement of the memo’s release. These delays are taking place, the Obama Administration says, so that officials have the chance to keep portions of the memo redacted – blacked out.

Why, if the Obama Administration truly opposes torture, is it so consistently working to keep America in the dark about the extent of government torture? Where, if the Democratic Party has any progressive potential at all, are the progressive Democrats?

There is a group of Democratic politicians in Congress who are willing to call themselves progressives. They’re called the Progressive Caucus. There isn’t a single Democrat in the Senate that’s willing to join the caucus, although independent Senator Bernard Sanders from Vermont is a member of the group. In the House of Representatives, there are 75 members of the Progressive Caucus. The Clerk of the House lists 255 Democrats in the House. That makes just 29 percent of Democrats in the House who are willing to organize in the name of progressive reform.

That number is just a count of House Democrats who are willing to even go by the name of “progressive”. The number who are actually willing to reliably act to promote progressive reform is even smaller.

This brings us back to Barack Obama’s repeated delays of the release the CIA torture memo. Given the President’s refusal to let the public know the truth about the crimes of the Bush Administration, it’s up to Congress act. Early this year, Congressman John Conyers introduced H.R. 104, a bill that would establish a “national commission on presidential war powers and civil liberties”, investigating the unconstitutional activities of the Bush Administration, identifying particular crimes for the purpose of prosecution. This commission would have subpoena powers to demand documents like the CIA torture memo currently being withheld by the Obama White House.

Unfortunately, H.R. 104 has been buried by the House Democratic leadership. It’s been sitting in the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties for months – and the Progressive Caucus hasn’t been much help in getting the legislation out of committee. Only 34 out of the 75 members of the caucus have gone to the relatively small trouble of cosponsoring H.R. 104. That’s just 45 percent of the caucus, which is just 29 percent of the Democratic membership of the House.

With the Presidency and Legislative Branch firmly in hand, 2009 is the time when the promises of progressive reform of the Democratic Party is most likely to be fulfilled. Yet, we can see that the group that’s supposed to contain the most progressive members of Congress can’t get the majority of its members to support an investigation of the crimes against the Constitution that took place under George W. Bush. Even Lynn Woolsey, one of the chairs of the Progressive Caucus, hasn’t added her cosponsorship.

This remarkable inaction is a clear sign that the Democratic Party isn’t going to be reformed from within. There are some progressives within the Democratic Party who mean well, but the overwhelming majority of Democrats are either not progressive, or have been co-opted by the Democratic leadership’s campaign of promises that it never intends to keep.

If you want progressive action from a politician, don’t vote for a Democrat. Vote for the Green Party candidate whenever you can.


31 Democrats in Congress Vote For Secret Interrogations

Editor’s note-Jonathan Cook is our newest contributor and I believe this, his first piece, may not have been noticed by many, so I put it back atop the list to be sure others saw it as well.

As the Green Party moves toward the 2010 congressional elections, we should expect most progressives to react with the standard Democratic line of dismissal: “I like what ____ and the Green Party stand for, but they’re just not a credible part of this election.” Of course, credibility in an election is determined by the voters, and if more progressive voters could be convinced to vote for what they actually believe in, rather than what they’ve been duped to believe they must accept in the name of pragmatism, the Green Party and its congressional candidates would be quite credible in many congressional races.

If voters are to consider credibility in an election, we need them to focus on the credibility of ideas first. Voters will be more likely to do so if we can show that Democratic candidates, and the Democratic Party in general, are adopting policy positions that don’t match the Democrats’ progressive promises. In order to accomplish this, we need to become students of the U.S. Congress, keeping close watch on the details of legislative activity on display through the Library of Congress, but rarely reported upon by corporate journalists. Search through the dreck, and you’ll find Democrats in Congress engaging in some truly rotten politics.

For example, last week, 31 Democrats voted against a measure that would prevent torture and other abusive interrogation techniques by requiring the videotaping of all military interrogations, except for tactical interrogations that take place on the battlefield itself, where videotaping equipment is not available. The measure, an amendment to the Defense appropriations bill, was inspired by the Walsh Report issued this January by a Pentagon task force. That task force concluded that video taping interrogations had been successful in civilian law enforcement, would provide more reliable intelligence, and would protect both prisoners and interrogators.

Yet, 31 Democrats in the House of Representatives, listed below, voted against this measure. They followed the right wing argument that any regulation of interrogation is a bad thing that puts us in danger of terrorist attack.

Altmire, Jason
Arcuri, Michael A.
Baird, Brian
Barrow, John
Boren, Dan
Bright, Bobby
Cardoza, Dennis A.
Chandler, Ben
Childers, Travis W.
Costa, Jim
Cuellar, Henry
Davis, Artur
Davis, Lincoln
Dingell, John D.
Donnelly, Joe
Ellsworth, Brad
Gordon, Bart
Griffith, Parker
Holden, Tim
Kilpatrick, Carolyn C.
Kosmas, Suzanne M.
Kratovil, Frank Jr.
Marshall, Jim
Matheson, Jim
Murphy, Christopher S.
Peterson, Collin C.
Ross, Mike
Shuler, Heath
Space, Zachary T.
Taylor, Gene
Teague, Harry

With this one vote, these Democratic U.S. Representatives made themselves vulnerable on many issues to progressive opposition from their own Democratic constituents, as well as from Green Party challengers in 2010. The issues involved include torture, government secrecy, reliable standards of evidence in military tribunals, effective government intelligence, and the dismissal of the military’s own recommendations for reform.

Yet, not one professional journalist has written any article about this legislation, and the 31 Democrats’ votes against it. If the mainstream news media won’t report on antiprogressive Democratic votes like this, how can voters take this behavior into account when they decide how to vote in 2010?

There is an answer to that question: We Greens need to bring them the stories of regressive Democratic acts in Congress that the corporate journalists won’t write about. We can stop accepting the role of victims of the corporate media, and we can challenge it, creating our own media to show why it’s the Democrats, not the Greens, that lack credibility.

It’s this mission that leads me to join the effort here at Green Party Watch, and to offer an independent voice for my own region through Upstate Greens. The elections of 2010 may seem a long time away, but we need to act now to set up the media networks to challenge what surely will be, as before, a roaring silence in the mainstream’s coverage of Green campaigns.