Poem: The Birds

There’s nothing to say now to Eugene Victor Debs or William Jennings Bryan.  No spring under iron wheels and no thaw in the concrete borders of compassion.  No dispersing from the lock-step forms of ill-formed fear, fear of self, of other, fear of washing rain, revealing living oneness, fear of drowning in it.  There’s no green in our window-boxes, no stray cats in alleys and nothing left to feed them. Only fat birds always eating and the statues of our past, the ideal likeness of forgotten shapes and forms, fat birds always eating, bleaching white our skin-toned stories.

When Clark Kent Quit the Daily Planet

“I was taught to believe you could use words to change the course of rivers — that even the darkest secrets would fall under the harsh light of the sun…But facts have been replaced by opinions. Information has been replaced by entertainment. Reporters have become stenographers. I can’t be the only one who’s sick of what passes for the news today.”

Clark Kent, 2012

Scott Lobdell wrote this characterization of America’s most famous reporter, published in the final weeks of the 2012 election.  Superman was speaking here as a progressive; this is not a right-wing screed about fake news.

The point holds though, perhaps now more than ever.  The White House would like to bar reporters who ask questions it doesn’t like, and refuses to condemn the killing of dissident journalists overseas. 

When nothing is true, not even our most basic social mores, I suppose all news can convincingly be cast as fake by people with a vested interest in doing so. 

Part of this is on us.  We have tolerated decades of spin, of being lied to repeatedly by people in power.  Long before Trump, we’d bemoan the truth that all leaders lie, even as we kept electing them.  We’ve been in co-dependent political relationships for the length of the media age.  

Remember when some people thought blogging would save us? Or social media? 

It turns out democracy only works if we participate beyond the bare minimum.  If you’re too busy, too tired, too overworked, too impoverished to be more involved, consider whether the systems that govern your life have made that less or more true.  Then vote accordingly.  That’s a start.




Superman, Mark Twain, and Lawrence Lessig: Congress Is The Light That Never Goes On

Lawrence Lessig and Jimmy Wales at the iCommon...
He hates it when they make him sit with Jimbo at the kids' table.

A few days ago, I posted a link to this piece by Lawrence Lessig.  It’s something of a love letter to Newt Gingrich in which Lessig blames the former Speaker  for most of Washington’s current dysfunction.  According to Lessig, Newt was the architect of the current winner-take-all, reelection obsessed profanities posing as politics.  I’m not entirely convinced by the narrative, which isn’t to say he doesn’t make salient points.

The thing is, some of this goes back to Andrew Jackson.  Most of it goes back to Thomas Hobbes.  It’s been chronicled by Mark Twain and in Action Comics #1 (where we also learn that populist Superman was also an isolationist in the build-up to World War II?  That’s a post-and-a-half).

Has Congress ever worked?  Has it Congress ever been this bad?

But “Venn” Is Just So Fun to Say!

A few days ago, I shared this schematic and called it a “Venn Diagram for the New Revolution.”:

One reader responded thusly:

“except the statement in the middle neither says that the government has too much power nor is part of the tea party opinion pool

conclusion: the author neither understands venn diagrams nor political opinions.”

I’m glad she/he did so, because it brings up an important point I should articulate further:

The daily talking points from the Libertarian Party, which I understand is NOT the Tea Party as such but draws form the same well, tows this line: “corporations have too much power because the government has too much power.” Even though strong elements in the Tea Party believe that limited government inevitably means more real power for corporations (and crazily, they’re okay with that), I do believe that there’s an equally sizable pool that agrees with corresponding parts of OWS on the idea that both corporations and the government have too much power, and that the problem is self-sustaining. Yes, a simple diagram doesn’t get at these nuances. But it’s helpful for people who believe as do I and many readers that powerful constituencies in OWS and the TP could collaborate in meaningful ways.

Americans Elect: Common Ground Between Tea Partiers and Occupiers of Good Will?

Citizens registered as an Independent, Democra...
Image via Wikipedia

Our good friend Chad alerted me to the Americans Elect project a few months ago in a comment here on The Daily Cocca.  Americans Elect aims to by-pass the major parties and nominate a centrist candidate directly on the internet.  I love the concept, and yesterday’s post about the Tea Party and Occupy needing to recognize common ground comes from same anxiety that motivate most third-party pushes on a popular level.  Since the head’s up from Chad, I’ve been getting Americans Elect email updates and have been quietly following their presence on Twitter.  We’ve all learned to be cautious about these kinds of things, and I’m far from saying that Americans Elect will be the vehicle to bring substantive change over the next decade, but it certainly could be one important piece to the puzzle of which Occupy and the Tea Party are clearly a part.

In addition to having an outstanding name, Doyle McManus has a  piece up about Americans Elect in today’s LA Times.  An excerpt:

Americans Elect is a collection of RepublicansDemocrats and independents who say they’re fed up with the polarization that has poisoned American politics. Some of its backers have previously contributed to Obama, Romney or other candidates. Several are fans of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has flirted with the idea of running as a third-party centrist. The group’s central figure is Peter Ackerman, a wealthy investor and former banker who considers himself an independent and who was active four years ago in a similar effort called Unity08.

Chad’s friend Buddy Roemer even gets a shout out.  Chad asked yesterday if I still have hope about 2012 being different.  I said that the election may not be (I hope it is), but the year must be, and the year after that.  We can’t have another 1992 fizzling into another 1996 (at least not politically. I still miss you, The 90’s).  We need to think of efforts like Americans Elect or the drives toward unity between disaffected groups less as “third-party” movements and more as logical responses to the truth that the entrenched parties are ridiculous and don’t really speak for most of us at the national level.  Why is it that in 2011, I have no one to the left of Obama to consider no one in the GOP field besides Ron Paul that’s worth my time?  And why no unity tickets, no great American middle, no options that make real sense to most of us?  Are we free or aren’t we?

Americans Elect should have a presence at every Tea Party event and every Occupation.  I said yesterday that we all need to work together to move beyond the b.s. status quo.  Most of us hate it.  Most of us have grown up hating it.  We’ve allowed ourselves to divorce the faithful execution of our other civic virtues from the basic failure that is our federal government.  We might be good neighbors and community leaders, but as long as we let slash-and-burning sycophants set the national agenda, we enable false choices and division and we give away our power.  Enough of that, already.

I remember learning as a child that Athens had a system of direct democracy, and that one day, maybe one day, with advancements in technology, maybe the US could do the same.   The Tea Party and Occupy are analog versions of this kind of shift.  Is Americans Elect the technical piece that helps us with real change?  Doesn’t that depend on us?