Sunday, May 31, 2009

Free and Equal Elections to sponsor Chicago launch of Amato book

From: Free & Equal Elections is sponsoring the Chicago launch of Theresa Amato’s new book Grand Illusion. The premier will be held at the Union League Club on Thursday, June 4. Amato will also be participating in a forum on Printer’s Row this Sunday.

Amato, who was the campaign manager for Ralph Nader’s 2000 & 2004 Presidential runs, presents a scathing indictment of the current state of ballot access in America in her new book. It recounts the story of the Democratic Party’s attempt to boot Nader out of the 2004 Presidential election, and offers insight into other recent independent and third party campaigns. Amato also lays out specific reform steps that can be taken to improve the state of ballot access in this country.

The book is currently available at Amazon

“Theresa Amato takes the biggest swing–not a jab, but a roundhouse punch–at America’s corrupt electoral system.” –Phil Donahue

“Until you have run, as I did, outside the two major parties, it is impossible to imagine the injustices of the two-party-tilted electoral process. Theresa Amato masterfully exposes the horrors faced by third-party and Independent candidates seeking the chance to compete and provide political choices for the American voter.” –John Anderson, former Independent presidential candidate and chair of the Center for Voting and Democracy

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bicycles-Only ‘Freeway’ Opens In Detroit

by Jebediah Reed


In Motor City, land of disused structures, an overgrown old rail line has been excavated and turned into a spanking new bike thoroughfare. While, technically, it is more a “greenway” than a “freeway,” there are entrance and exit ramps and multiple lanes separated by yellow lines. (Perhaps to make disused auto executives feel comfortable riding on it, now that they have plenty of free time to explore their community?)

The ribbon cutting ceremony, which took place yesterday, fell conveniently into National Bike Week. Though of late the path had already been seeing some action from pedestrians, stroller-pushing parents and, um, “graffiti artists” according to the Detroit Free Press. So the great battle of use vs. abuse is now underway.

The Dequindre Cut, as the route is called, is only 1.2 miles long, but it is seen as an early section of a planned 100-mile network of greenways that might eventually make Detroit less horribly tragic and depressing than it is today–a city defined by “open spaces” instead of “abject abandonment.”

Speaking of, the Free Press article is called “Abandoned rail line ready for bikes, walking.” We wonder: what percentage of Free Press headlines over the past 5 years begin with or include the word “abandoned”? If it weren’t Friday afternoon we might even do a Nexis search.


The Dequindre Cut, before

Photos: Corine Vermeulen-Smith from a larger body of work called ‘Your Town Tomorrow’ See a video at Treehugger

Friday, May 29, 2009

Live Joyfully, Die Joyfully

"Yes, you do choose how long you will live. And yes, you do choose when you will die, either deliberately or by default. You can even choose how you will die. "Does all that sound like far-out fantasy to you? Probably, at least to some of you. "But it is absolutely true! "Friends, the more joyful you are, the more you will flourish. It's that simple. When you're in a state of joy, a state of feeling good, life just flows perfectly. Everything falls into place for you. All you have asked the universe for comes to you. "But more to the real point of this conversation today -- your physical bodies thrive when you are fully aligned with your higher selves. And when you are feeling good mostly, it's impossible for your bodies to fall ill. Or if they do fall ill and you restore yourselves to that place of feeling good, so too will your bodies restore themselves to that natural state of perfect health, balance, and alignment. "It is just that simple. Joy -- feeling good -- is the key, the "secret" to living the life of your dreams. "As long as you are joyful, immersing yourselves in the pleasures and passions of physical life, the longer you will live. "Do you choose how long you will live? Yes! As long as you choose to be joyful, you will live. Even well beyond what your society considers a "normal" life span. "When you begin to lose that sense of joy, you begin to die. "When you finally lose it, you die. "You will die in whatever way "works" for you -- illness, accident, by your own hand, and so on. "Does it have to be that way. No! "You can live in a state of joy and then one day decide you've done it all, had enough of physical life, and simply move on. "You can die in a state of perfect health. Your bodies don't need to deteriorate as you move through the years. You don't need to invent an excuse to die -- accident, illness, or whatever. "You can simply put your bodies in bed, in a state of joy, and go to sleep intending to wake up on the other side. "Dying can be that easy. It's the easiest thing you will ever do. "Live joyfully. Die joyfully." ---

Nonphysical Teachers

Chief Joseph, though John Cali. You can read more of this transcript and others at their website.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ralph Nader Interviewed by Pat Buchanan

The long-time progressive’s pitch to the disenfranchised Right

Pat Buchanan; Ralph Nader The American Conservative Magazine

Ralph Nader recently accepted Pat Buchanan’s invitation to sit down with us and explain why his third-party presidential bid ought to appeal to conservatives disaffected with George W. Bush. We think readers will be interested in the reflections of a man who has been a major figure in American public life for 40 years—and who now finds himself that rarest of birds, a conviction politician.

Pat Buchanan: Let me start off with foreign policy—Iraq and the Middle East. You have seen the polls indicating widespread contempt for the United States abroad. Why do they hate us?

Ralph Nader: First of all, we have been supporting despots, dictators, and oligarchs in all those states for a variety of purposes. We supported Saddam Hussein. He was our anti-Communist dictator until 1990. It’s also cultural; they see corporate culture as abandoning the restraints on personal behavior dictated by their religion and culture. Our corporate pornography and anything-goes values are profoundly offensive to them.

The other thing is that we are supporting the Israeli military regime with billions of dollars and ignoring both the Israeli peace movement, which is very substantial, and the Palestinian peace movement. They see a nuclear-armed Israel that could wipe out the Middle East in a weekend if it wanted to.

They think that we are on their backs, in their house, undermining their desire to overthrow their own tyrants.

PB: Then you would say it is not only Bush who is at fault, but Clinton and Bush and Reagan, all the way back?

RN: The subservience of our congressional and White House puppets to Israeli military policy has been consistent. Until ’91, any dictator who was anti-Communist was our ally.

PB: You used the term “congressional puppets.” Did John Kerry show himself to be a congressional puppet when he voted to give the president a blank check to go to war?

RN: They’re almost all puppets. There are two sets: Congressional puppets and White House puppets. When the chief puppeteer comes to Washington, the puppets prance.

PB: Why do both sets of puppets, support the Sharon/Likud policies in the Middle East rather than the peace movement candidates and leaders in Israel?

RN: That is a good question because the peace movement is broad indeed. They just put 120,000 people in a square in Tel Aviv. They are composed of former government ministers, existing and former members of the Knesset, former generals, former combat veterans, former heads of internal security, people from all backgrounds. It is not any fringe movement.

The answer to your question is that instead of focusing on how to bring a peaceful settlement, both parties concede their independent judgment to the pro-Israeli lobbies in this country because they perceive them as determining the margin in some state elections and as sources of funding. They don’t appear to agree with Tom Friedman, who wrote that memorable phrase, “Ariel Sharon has Arafat under house arrest in Ramallah and Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office.”

Virtually no member of Congress can say that, and so we come to this paradoxical conclusion that there is far more freedom in Israel to discuss this than there is in the United States, which is providing billions of dollars in economic and military assistance.

PB: Let me move on to Iraq. You were opposed to the war, and it now appears that it has become sort of a bloody stalemate. You said you would bring troops out of Iraq within six months. What if the country collapses and becomes a haven for terrorists? Would you send American troops back in to clean it up?

RN: Under my proposal there would be an international peacekeeping force, and the withdrawal would be a smart withdrawal during which there are internationally supervised elections. We would have both military and corporate withdrawal because the Iraqi people see the corporations are beginning to take over their economy, including their oil resources. And we would continue humanitarian assistance until the Iraqi people get on their feet. We would bring to the forefront during the election autonomies for Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi’ites. So this would not be like a withdrawal in Vietnam where we just barely got out with the helicopters.

TAC: You often mention corporations. What is the theory behind this or what are the alternatives to corporate economic power? I presume you are not talking about state ownership or socialism, or perhaps you are �

RN: Well, that is what representative government is for, to counteract the excesses of the monied interests, as Thomas Jefferson said. Because big business realizes that the main countervailing force against their excesses and abuses is government, their goal has been to take over the government, and they do this with money and politics. They do it by putting their top officials at the Pentagon, Treasury, and Federal Reserve, and they do it by providing job opportunities to retiring members of Congress. They have law firms that draft legislation and think-tanks that provide ready-made speeches. They also do it by threatening to leave the country. The quickest way to bring a member of Congress to his or her knees is by shifting industries abroad.

Concentrated corporate power violates many principles of capitalism. For example, under capitalism, owners control their property. Under multinational corporations, the shareholders don’t control their corporation. Under capitalism, if you can’t make the market respond, you sink. Under big business, you don’t go bankrupt; you go to Washington for a bailout. Under capitalism, there is supposed to be freedom of contract. When was the last time you negotiated a contract with banks or auto dealers? They are all fine-print contracts. The law of contracts has been wiped out for 99 percent of contracts that ordinary consumers sign on to. Capitalism is supposed to be based on law and order. Corporations get away with corporate crime, fraud, and abuse. And finally, capitalism is premised on a level playing field; the most meritorious is supposed to win. Tell that to a small inventor or a small business up against McDonald’s or a software programmer up against Microsoft.

Giant multinational corporations have no allegiance to any country or community other than to control them or abandon them. So what we have now is the merger of big business and big government to further subsidize costs or eliminate risks or guarantee profits by our government.

PB: Let’s move to immigration. We stop 1.5 million illegal aliens on our borders each year. One million still get through. There are currently 8-14 million illegal aliens in the United States. The president is mandated under the Constitution to defend the States against foreign invasion, and this certainly seems to constitute that.

RN: As long as our foreign policy supports dictators and oligarchs, you are going to have desperate people moving north over the border.

Part of the problem involves NAFTA. The flood of cheap corn into Mexico has dispossessed over a million Mexican farmers, and, with their families, they either go to the slums or, in their desperation, head north.

In addition, I don’t think the United States should be in the business of brain-draining skilled talent, especially in the Third World, because we are importing in the best engineers, scientists, software people, doctors, entrepreneurs who should be in their countries, building their own countries. We are driving the talent to these shores—

PB: How do we defend these shores?

RN: I don’t believe in giving visas to software people from the Third World when we have got all kinds of unemployed software people here.

Let’s get down to the manual labor. This is the reason the Wall Street Journal is for an open-borders policy: they want a cheap-wage policy. There are two ways to deal with that. One is to raise the minimum wage to the purchasing-power level of 1968—$8 an hour—and then, in another year, raise it to $10 an hour because the economy since 1968 has doubled in production per capita.

PB: Say we went to $10 an hour minimum wage. It is 50 cents an hour in Mexico. Why wouldn’t that cause not 1.5 million, but 3 million to head straight north where they could be making 20 times what they can make minimum wage in Mexico?

RN: Because 14 million Americans are unemployed or part-time employed who want full employment or have given up looking for jobs. The more the minimum wage goes up, the more they will do so-called work that Americans won’t do. They are not going to do it at $5.15 an hour and have another used car, another insurance policy, another repair bill to get to work, but they are much more likely to do it at $10 an hour.

The second is to enforce the law against employers. It is hard to blame desperately poor people who want to feed their families and are willing to work their heads off. You have to start with Washington and Wall Street.

PB: Should illegal aliens be entitled to social-welfare benefits, even though they are not citizens and broke into the country?

RN: I think they should be given all the fair-labor standards and all the rights and benefits of American workers, and if this country doesn’t like that, maybe they will do something about the immigration laws.

PB: Should they be entitled to get driver’s licenses?

RN: Yes, in order to reduce hazards on the highway. If you have people who are driving illegally, there are going to be more crashes, and more people are going to be killed.

PB: The Democrats have picked up on Bush’s amnesty idea and have proposed an amnesty for illegals who have been in the country for five years and who have shown that they have jobs and can support themselves. Would you support the Democratic proposal?

RN: This is very difficult because you are giving a green light to cross the border illegally. I don’t like the idea of legalization because then the question is how do you prevent the next wave and the next? I like the idea of giving workers and children—they are working, they are having their taxes withheld, they are performing a valuable service, even though they are illegally here—of giving them the same benefits of any other workers. If that produces enough outrage to raise the immigration issue to a high level of visibility for public debate, that would be a good thing.

PB: The U.S. population now—primarily due to immigrants and their children coming in—is estimated to grow to over 400 million by mid-century. Would that have an adverse impact on the environment?

RN: We don’t have the absorptive capacity for that many people. Over 32 million came in, in the ’90s, which is the highest in American history.

PB: What would you do about it?

RN: We have to control our immigration. We have to limit the number of people who come into this country illegally.

PB: What level of legal immigration do you think we should have per year?

RN: First of all, we have to say what is the impact on African-Americans and Hispanic Americans in this country in terms of wages of our present stance on immigration? It is a wage-depressing policy, which is why the Chambers of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, Tyson Foods, and the Wall Street Journal like it. The AFL-CIO has no objection to it because they think they can organize the illegal workers—

PB: They switched.

RN: —because they have been so inept at organizing other workers. There is hardly a more complex issue, except on the outside of the issue, the foreign policy, the NAFTA—

PB: I was going to ask you about NAFTA and the WTO—

RN: Sovereignty shredding, you know. The decisions are now in Geneva, bypassing our courts, our regulatory agencies, our legislatures.

PB: I find it amazing that Congress sits there and they get an order from the WTO, and they capitulate. What happened to bristling conservative defiance, “don’t tread on me” patriotism? I think the problem is that a lot of these guys in Congress—I think some of them are basically good guys. But I went up there and was asking about some issue, and they would say things like, “I don’t even know what it is about. My boss tells me �”

RN: Did you hear about my challenge to Senator Hank Brown?

We put a challenge out before WTO was voted in 1995 because we went all over Capitol Hill and had never found any Member of Congress or a staffer who had ever read the proposal. So I said, “I’ll give $10,000 to the favorite charity of any Member of Congress who will sign an affidavit that he or she has read the WTO agreement and will answer 10 questions in public.”

The deadline passed. Nobody. So I extended it a week. A quarter to 5:00 on Friday, the phone rings in our office. It is Hank Brown, and he said, “I don’t want the $10,000 to charity, but I will take you up on it. How much time do I have?” I said, “Take a month.” So he reserves the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the interrogation.

It gets better. The press is all there, and in the witness chair is Hank Brown. We have 12 questions, and he answers every one. They weren’t all simple either. It was really impressive. And I said, “Thank you very much. That was really commendable,” and we start to get up and he says, “Wait. I have something to say.” He says, “You know, I am a free trader, and I voted for NAFTA, but after reading the WTO agreement, I was so appalled by the anti-democratic provisions that I am going to vote against it and urge everyone else to.”

The next day, almost no press. It shows you the bias against anybody who challenges those multinational systems of autocratic governance that we call “trade agreements.” And he didn’t convince one extra senator.

Once when I testified before the House Ways and Means Committee, I had to say some nice things at the beginning, “Mr. Chairman, distinguished Members of the House Ways and Means Committee, it is indeed a pleasure to testify before a committee of Congress that has read this proposed trade agreement,” and the chair looks up and says, “What makes you think we did?”

Let’s put it this way: it is impossible to exaggerate the dereliction of diligence in the Congress.

PB: Can we move on to taxes? Reagan cut the top tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent in terms of personal income taxes. Clinton raised it to 39.6. Bush has cut it back to 35 percent. What do you think is the maximum income-tax rate that should be imposed on wage earners?

RN: Zero under $100,000. Now you got to ask me how I am going to make —

PB: What is the rate above $100,000? What is the top rate?

RN: Then you have a graduated rate. Thirty-five percent, in that range, for the top rate. It comes down to the loopholes. When it was 70 percent, did you ever meet anybody who paid 70 percent?

Now, where would I make it up? This is where the creativity comes in. I would move the incidence of taxation, first, from work to wealth. So I would keep the estate tax, number one.

PB: You restore the estate tax to 55 percent?

RN: That is a little extreme.

PB: That is where Bush has it, 55, and he is cutting it down gradually to zero. What do you think it should be?

RN: Again, 35 percent.

PB: Would this be on all estates?

RN: No. Estates above $10 million.

PB: Ralph, you are not going to raise much money with this tax.

RN: There will still be a tax on smaller estates. I think all estates over, say, $500,000 should pay some tax. The estate tax as a whole raises about $32 billion a year, but the thing is the loopholes. Buffett, as an example, won’t pay because all of it is going to his foundation.

I think we should have a very modest wealth tax. I agree with the founder of the Price Club, who thinks it should be 1 percent.

PB: One percent of your wealth each year would be turned over to the federal government?

RN: Right. Then the third shift is why don’t we tax things we like the least? We should tax polluters. We should tax gambling. We should tax the addictive industries that are costing us so much and luring the young into alcoholism and tobacco and drugs. And we should tax, above all, stock and currency speculation.

PB: A short-term capital gains tax?

RN: Like a sales tax. If you go to a store and buy furniture, you pay 6, 7, or whatever percent. You buy 1,000 shares of General Motors, you don’t pay anything. So what we are doing is taxing food and clothing but not the purchase of stocks, bonds, derivatives, and currency speculation. A quarter-of-a-cent tax will produce hundreds of billions of dollars a year because of the volatility. You remember the days when 3 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange was a big day? Now it is 1.5 billion shares.

The point is this: work should be taxed the least. Then you move to wealth, and then you move to things we do not like. And you will have more than enough to replace the taxes of under $100,000 income and to provide for universal health insurance and decent public transit and to repair the public-works infrastructure.

PB: So you have got a $500 billion deficit now, and the early baby-boomer retirements start in 2008, and by 2012, the whole Clinton-and-Bush generation gets Medicare and Medicaid. These are the biggest payers into these so-called trust funds. They are also going to be the biggest drawers out, and 77 million of them retire in 2030. So how do you balance that budget?

RN: You repeal Bush’s two tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. Then you get out of Iraq, and you cut the waste and the shenanigans out of the military contracting. That would more than take care of the deficit.

PB: You bring the troops home from Europe and Korea and the Balkans?

RN: We are presently defending prosperous nations like Japan, Germany, and England, who are perfectly capable of defending themselves against nonexistent enemies.

PB: Let me move to the social issues. Would you have voted against or in favor of the ban on partial-birth abortion?

RN: I believe in choice. I don’t think government should tell women to have children or not to have children. I am also against feticide. If doctors think it is a fetus, that should be banned. It is a medical decision.

PB: Between the woman and her doctor—

RN: And whoever else, family, clergy.

PB: Should homosexuals have the same right in law to form marriages and receive marriage licenses from the state as men and women?

RN: Yes, and if you had that, you wouldn’t have to use the word “marriage.” The reason “gay marriage” is used is because state laws connect certain benefits with that word. As a lesbian leader was quoted saying in the New York Times a few weeks ago, the issue is not the word “marriage.” The word is “equality.”

PB: Let’s go to politics. If you had not been in the race in 2000, who would have won?

RN: That requires me to be a retrospective clairvoyant. If I wasn’t in a race, would the Democrats have gone all-out to get out the vote in certain states because they were worried about the percentages I was drawing? And if I was not in the race, would Gore have made populist statements day after day—“I am for the people, not the powerful”—which polls showed brought him more votes than if he went to Lieberman’s semantic route?

Having said that, exit polls showed 25 percent of my votes would have gone to Bush, 38 percent would have gone to Gore, and the rest would have stayed home and not voted. A month and a half ago, a poll came from New Hampshire that showed that 8 percent were for me: 9 percent Republicans, 11 percent independents, 4 percent Democrats.

PB: If you hurt Bush more than Gore, why are the Democrats trying to keep you off the ballot?

RN: Because they will forever think that my progressive policies will take more Democrat votes and independent votes than they will take from the other side.

PB: If you got 15 percent of the vote this time, who do you think would be the next president of the United States?

RN: I don’t know how it would break.

PB: Let me ask you about your ballot position because it was around this time that we were wrapping up getting on the ballot in all 50 states. How many ballots are you on right now?

RN: None yet, but we’ll be on more than 43 states, which is the number we had last time. We want to get on them all. The problem is, we haven’t concentrated on the easy states.

TAC: Is there any circumstance in which you can come to an arrangement with Kerry campaign not to run?

RN: The time to drop out is before you drop in. You cannot build a national campaign and get tens of thousands of volunteers working their hearts out and then in October feed the cynicism of American politics by cutting some sort of deal. The answer is no.

PB: What are the reasons a conservative should vote for Ralph Nader?

RN: Well, largely—

PB: Rather than Kerry.


RN: I’m not expecting conservatives to change their minds on certain issues that we disagree on, but if we look at the issues where we have common positions, they reach a level of gravity that would lead conservatives to stop being taken for granted by the corporate Republicans and send them a message by voting for my independent candidacy.

Here are the issues. One, conservatives are furious with the Bush regime because of the fantastic deficits as far as the eye can see. That was a betrayal of Bush’s positions, and it was a reversal of what Bush found when he came to Washington.

Conservatives are very upset about their tax dollars going to corporate welfare kings because that undermines market competition and is a wasted use of their taxes.

Conservatives are upset about the sovereignty-shredding WTO and NAFTA. I wish they had helped us more when we tried to stop them in Congress because, with a modest conservative push, we would have defeated NAFTA because it was narrowly passed. If there was no NAFTA, there wouldn’t have been a WTO.

Conservatives are also very upset with a self-styled conservative president who is encouraging the shipment of whole industries and jobs to a despotic Communist regime in China. That is what I mean by the distinction between corporate Republicans and conservative Republicans.

Next, conservatives, contrary to popular belief, believe in law and order against corporate crime, fraud, and abuse, and they are not satisfied that the Bush administration has done enough.

Conservatives are also upset about the Patriot Act, which they view as big government, privacy-invading, snooping, and excessive surveillance. They are not inaccurate in that respect.

And finally, two other things. They don’t like “Leave No Child Behind” because it is a stupidly conceived federal regulation of local school systems through misguided and very fraudulent multiple-choice testing impositions.

And conservatives are aghast that a born-again Christian president has done nothing about rampant corporate pornography and violence directed to children and separating children from their parents and undermining parental authority.

If you add all of those up, you should have a conservative rebellion against the giant corporation in the White House masquerading as a human being named George W. Bush. Just as progressives have been abandoned by the corporate Democrats and told,”You got nowhere to go other than to stay home or vote for the Democrats,” this is the fate of the authentic conservatives in the Republican Party.

I noticed this a long time ago, Pat. I once said to Bill Bennett, “Would you agree that corporatism is on a collision course with conservative values?” and he said yes.

The impact of giant corporations, commercialism, direct marketing to kids, sidestepping parents, selling them junk food, selling them violence, selling them sex and addictions, selling them the suspension of their socialization process—years ago conservatives spoke out on that, but it was never transformed into a political position. It was always an ethical, religious value position. It is time to take it into the political arena.

PB: Well, it’s a pleasure. Thank you very much for coming over, Ralph.

RN: Thank you very much.

SOURCE: The American Conservative Magazine

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Democrats’ Stockholm Syndrome: DUI, Democrats Under the Influence

It’s more common to describe the Democratic Party as largely living (always exceptions) in obsessive, cowering, self censoring fear of the Right — the abused wife syndrome by which many Dems exist in denial or silent fear of being beaten up politically by the Right. But I think the Stockholm Syndrome makes even more sense. The Democrats are a party “under the influence” of the Right wing, a party held mentally hostage so long by the aggressive, adroit, dominant conservative movement, that they have come to identify with their captors, adopt their paradigms, to think like them and then offer us lite versions of conservatism. The entire political landscape and decades of recent history are littered with the examples. I used to think it was the party leadership and its elected officials, and while they represent a special problem of lowest common denominator politics, and extremely risk adverse personalities who will sell out every progressive cause if there’s the least doubt it might hurt their career, or take the path of least resistance through politics, including campaigns, and won’t do the hard hard work of creating grassroots issue-coalitions and door knocking that could elect them and create the progressive power to back a bold agenda, I’ve realized the syndrome extends down to the tips of the grassroots. Except for the exceptions, the Florida Democratic Party grassroots and to a lesser extent the broader progressive movement, nationally, but especially in Florida, are pathetic.

The most overt symptom of the Democrats’ Stockholm Syndrome is the flight from the “liberal” label to the once-but-no-longer-meaningful “progressive” label. I’m struck when I hear the Director of Americans for Democratic Action dismiss “progressives” as “liberals who don’t have the courage of their own convictions” and blame Michael Dukakis at the top for surrendering in his 1988 campaign. And Ralph Nader says so many liberals are “deserting the liberal ship and swimming over to the progressive ship, you have people calling themselves progressives that make me laugh.” It’s true.

Look at the Democratic Party’s agenda, Florida and national, it’s the same mushy platitudes the party’s been selling since it was kidnapped by the right back in ‘68. It’s great that the party supports public education, but it’s safe, passe, and not enough. Stockholm Syndrome: most of the grassroots probably still think the endless Afghanistan occupation is The Right War. The party is holding its annual Jefferson-Jackson convention this weekend and I doubt there will be a single substantial speech made. When the convention at the least could be passing an Out of Afghanistan Resolution, the Stockholm Syndrome will be at work and the conventioneers will sit through platitudinous speeches. I attended JJ in 2002. I quickly got tired of applauding the platitudes with everyone else. Then I became very uncomfortable sitting there motionless while hundreds of people around me gave thunderous applause to meaningless party cheerleading lines.

We need a politics that actually stands for something other than the Lite Conservative Stockholm Syndrome. The original progressive movement of 1890-1929 brought women’s suffrage, child labor limits, workers’ compensation, open government, minimum wage, the progressive income tax, open primaries and bold limits on corporate power.

What’s the agenda today? There really isn’t one, other than watered down Lite Conservative Stockholm Syndrome, such as health reform that leaves insurance middlemen in complete tact when that is the main barrier, of several, to affordable healthcare. The party is so conflicted and Republicanized that on the rare occasions its outnumbered genuine progressives mount a bold initiative it is gutted by the strong, Republicanized elements in the party.

If the Dems had the bold “progressive” agenda of the 1900s they would be demanding abolition of the electoral college, instant runoff voting in all elections, a progressive income tax in Florida and serious restriction of regressive property taxes, banning construction in the hurricane storm surge zone along the coast (or building codes that require structures to withstand 20 foot bashing waves), serious curbing of coersionary plea bargaining, decriminalization of marijuana, oppose government subsidies of nuclear power, phased increases in the gasoline tax, repeal of cruel and once-unusual sentencing, particularly for puritanical “moral” crimes, full public financing of all elections, gay marriage, before birth parent training and licensing, serious curbing of the American military empire, bases and spending, measured-in-months extrication from Iraq and Afghanistan, demand an end to Israel’s expansionism into Palestinian territory and an end to military aid if it doesn’t and wear “I Love Israel — Inside her 1967 Borders” buttons ) to name a few. Notice how the party’s president, where federally applicable, is doing nothing to advance this agenda. And instead of nominating attorneys and corporate attorneys and bankers and war hawks for office they’d be nominating grassroots community leaders and public interest, social justice and anti-war advocates. Of course there is a party that does all of this: The Florida Green Party.

Rachel Maddow: Indefinite detention? Shame on you… President Obama

Janeane Garofalo on politics, the media, and being a liberal

Citizen Radio interviews comic and activist, Janeane Garofalo, about the media, Republicans, feminism, and what makes her happy. Listen to the interview here.

Topics of discussion include Janeane’s own experience with crazy right-wing protesters, Wanda Sykes, censorship, and being an anti-war voice in the mainstream media. Though she’s a proud liberal, Janeane also has a few harsh words for Barack Obama about his timidity in prosecuting Bush officials for war crimes, and his abandonment of the gay community.

Upcoming guests on Citizen Radio include: Howard Zinn, Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, and Jeremy Scahill.

A transcript of the interview can be found behind the cut and is free for use. Please credit Citizen Radio for the interview.

Follow hosts Allison and Jamie’s Twitters.

Citizen Radio airs every Wednesday on BTR and is available for free on I-Tunes. Archived episodes can be heard here.

Kilstein: What does the word “liberal” mean?

The word liberal is, A: Something to be very proud of, and it is the finest traditions of democracy in this country and any other. In fact, without liberalism, or liberal thinking, we would have none of the things politicians brag about that we have in this country from public schools to public services to social services to voting rights, civil rights, any of these things. That’s from liberal thinking.

Now, about 30 - 35-years ago, right-wingers got it into their mind that they need to make this into a pejorative; they need to turn it into an accusation because all of the social justice issues, all of the empathy that comes along with liberalism flies in the face of Conservative principles, or what Conservative principles have turned into. [Liberal values] are a real obstacle for Conservatism. If people were proud to be liberal - if people utilized the tenants of liberalism, or if it was something that politicians could run on then Conservatism would be completely dead.

Now, it is obviously something that politicians should be proud to call themselves. But because most politicians are cowards, they back down to any bullying no matter how tame the bullying. So now, a large majority of Democrats, and a large majority of political advisers, and media talking heads, are loathe to use the word. Why? Because they’re cowards.

Kilkenny: Why do you think they’re cowards?

Because they’ve been bullied by a right-winger saying - or a moderate, even - saying that you can’t win on it - you can’t run on it. It’s not something that’s good to be. A coward responds to bullying especially in the marketplace of ideas. It’s one thing to back down to someone punching you in the face repeatedly. It’s another thing to back down to somebody using political spin.

So when a news anchor - and I use the word “news” loosely - says something like, ‘Is so-and-so too liberal?’ What the answer should be is ‘that would be a great thing if he, or she, was.’ But no, there’s no people that we could qualify as too liberal anywhere near the halls of power in this country.

Kilstein: [Would Democrats benefit from defining what liberalism means to the public instead of empowering the Republicans by running from the word?]

You’re exactly right. Running from - it’s Joe McCarthy. That stuff has to be nipped in the bud. The average person - the average John and Jane Q. Public tend not to want to rock the boat. That’s unfortunately part of the human condition in any era, in any country. That’s just part of the human conditions, especially if you’re married with children. The last thing you want to do, usually, is rock the boat.

Now, it shouldn’t be considered boat-rocking to tell the truth, to stand up for the truth. Again, “liberal” is something to be proud of. And by the way, and P.S., we’re all socialist. We all are participants of social security, and like I said, the public school system, the public railways, the fire department. When you flush the toilet, do you like it when your poo goes away? Guess what? We’re socialist.

A lot of people don’t even know what Socialism means. They don’t know what liberalism really means. And again, if you want to break it down to basic components, what is a liberal? It means you believe in social justice, gender equality, human rights, it means you care about other people, and about yourself, and about society, and your place in it.

These are all very simple things to be. It takes participating in your own life, but also if most politicians were really, really rugged individualists, or really able to stand up for themselves, and make a good accounting of themselves, they wouldn’t be as high up in the echelons of the people we’re talking about as they are. You have to compromise a hell of a lot along the way to get to the top.

Most journalists, and again I’m using the word very loosely, should not be anywhere near that business. Most of the talking heads, most of the people that calls themselves news anchors, or journalists, should turn in their press cards because they’re not qualified, they don’t have any integrity, they don’t give a shit, basically. So that feeds into this. It’s semantics. It’s all semantics.

Kilkenny/Kilstein: [Journalists are also close to the people who are in power. There's a lot of cronyism in the mainstream media, and they seem preoccupied with maintaining their access to people in power.]

Yeah, a lot of peer pressure. A lot of bad editorial policy. A lot of who’s popular - who’s in, who’s out. It’s like high school…It’s always been that way. If you’re a really good journalist like Amy Goodman, you’re not in the front row [of a White House press conference.] It’s no different than any other crappy high school situation. It’s John Hughes or Cameron Crowe. It’s whatever description of high school peer pressure, or who’s in or who’s out in rock-n’-roll, or who’s in or who’s out in your junior high class. These are still the same high school schmucks who are just grown older, and they’re Twittering each other in the White House press corps. It’s just a bunch of nerds, or bullies, or both. They’re still human beings, and they have all those flaws of human beings.

What politics does shine a big light on is human frailty. I think what Conservatism has shined a light on, also, is human frailty. What does it mean to be a Conservative or a Republican anymore? I’m not quite sure, but it clearly shows you’ve got a lot of frailty. You’ve got a lot of flaws. Now, you’re arrogant as fuck about that, and you’re belligerent, and you have very little self-awareness.

What does it mean to be the type of journalist who kowtows to a Conservative? What does it mean to the type of politician who kowtows to a Conservative? These are all character flaws. It is one big character flaw. And because the truly good movers and shakers we don’t hear about or see very much ’cause you can’t get much done if you’re in the mainstream — You know, until the human condition is perfect, this is going to be an imperfect system.

Kilstein: [And the press tends to mock outsiders like Dennis Kunich so they become a joke.]

Mock and marginalize, yeah. [And they're only a joke] to some. They have to mock Kucinich, right? Because if they don’t, they have to admit what they’re not doing. You have to admit Kucinich is right. Failing that — because they have very little integrity, a lot of these people — they’ve got to mock him. And they’ve got to make George McGovern look like a bozo. Years ago, Emma Goldman: mocked and marginalized, Margaret Sanger: mocked and marginalized.

…Our shitty media is not new. It’s just that you guys are experiencing it now more than before. But it’s always been shit. The mainstream media has always been shit. It is not in the business of delivering news. It is not in the business of informing the electorate. That is not what it does, and if you keep expecting it to do that, you’ll get your heart broken every time.

Luckily, though, we have many more options than our parents or our grandparents. That’s a very good thing. But if we still keep looking to the networks, and the cables, to give us satisfaction — except for MSNBC, occasionally, and PBS, and a lot of good radio out there, and a lot of good political writing if — you’ve got to do your homework. That’s what I meant by ‘it takes work to become a good citizen.’ It takes work to be a good liberal. It takes work to be a good Democrat. And there’s a lot of weak Democrats, but thank God there are some good Democrats.

Kilstein: [Most Americans don't have time to seek out that independent news.]

I agree with you. Most people don’t have time — the time that the three of us have. Plus, we have interest in it, and a lot of people don’t have an interest in it. But I’m sick of that “dumb Americans” rap. I’ve travelled enough to know there are smart people and dumb people everywhere. It’s just easy to point the finger at America, and unfortunately our mainstream media makes it easier. But I’m sick of that “dumb Americans” because as you may or may not discover, anywhere you go you will find lunkheads anywhere.

But what can you do if you don’t have time? Take thirty minutes that you can spread out throughout the day. Download’s news headlines in the morning, print it out, put it in your bag. Get to it throughout the day. If you have the ability to leave the radio on in the background throughout the day, do that. Subscribe to Mother Jones. Subscribe to The Nation. Subscribe to The Progressive. Put it in your backpack. Read it when you can.

People make time for flossing their teeth, they make time for working out, they make time for all kinds of wasteful things on the computer. Taking care of your brain muscle is more important than taking care of a lot of other muscles in your body. It’s the main muscle.

Look for a news source that is not for profit. You look for a news source where there’s no gain for the people in it, like [Democracy Now's] Amy Goodman. She barely makes enough money to live, and she’s beholden to no corporate entity. That’s how I know she’s not lying to me…She does it because she’s compelled to do so. And I know she’s not lying to me. I know she cares about her own life as much as other people’s lives, and she’s a good citizen.

…Order books online. Get a library card. Get a public library card, and read books that you can carry with you at all times so you can get to it when you get to it. But always have a book on you because you never know when nothing is going to happen. Always have a book on you.

Kilkenny: Define “feminism,” and what it means to you.

Feminism and liberalism are the same to me. Feminism, to me, means that you believe in gender equality and social justice issues. Same thing. It’s just that gender equality is something that some people may leave out sometimes. Sometimes, I don’t think people see women’s rights and gay rights as human rights. They seem to ghettoize it as some strange thing, but it’s human rights. I think feminism sort of puts a finer point on that sometimes…If you’re a good liberal, you’re a feminist, and vice versa. So they’re the same thing to me.

Kilstein: [Do you see MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow as the left's version of FOX's Bill O'Reilly, and do you think that the news is becoming ghettoized?]

First of all, [Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow] aren’t counter to Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. [Hannity and O'Reilly] are professional liars. Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann are not liars. Don’t put them as two sides to the same coin. They’re not.FOX News, and their ilk, and their apologists are in the business of disinforming the electorate whether it be for Rupert Murdoch or Pepsi Co, or Monsanto.

Secondly, if you want to call liberal “telling the truth,” good. You do that. I’m proud to have that. That’s fine. There isn’t two sides to every story. It’s not spin, what Rachel Maddow is doing. It’s not spin, what Keith Olbermann is doing. It’s not spin, what Amy Goodman, or Bill Moyers — they are telling you the truth.

Now, does MSNBC break it up into little half hour shows that reflect a similar time span that FOX does for their shows? Yeah, but they’re not the same thing. They’re not doing the same thing. And you know what? I don’t give a shit that Keith Olbermann doesn’t “debate.” There isn’t two sides to every single story. There is a thing called absolute truth. Now, I don’t always love that Keith has the same five people on, and they go, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’ but you know what? It’s his show, and when you have your show, you’ll do it your way.

But I’ve had enough of listening to whatever we call the other side, which is the lie.

Kilkenny: But Amy Goodman and Bill Moyers are very different than Olbermann and Maddow, two pundits on corporate news channels. So Olbermann and Maddow don’t have the same journalistic freedom as Goodman or Moyers.

Right, but Rachel’s not a liar. Ultimately. I hear what you’re saying, but Rachel will never lie to us. If she accidentally gives us misinformation, then she’s been misinformed because she works hard to get to the bottom of it.

Kilstein: [And Maddow did recently called out GE on something, even though GE owns MSNBC]

If you keep your ratings up, you can do whatever the fuck you want. GE doesn’t give a shit. It’s self-censoring. If there are journalists or reporters, who decide to not call out certain things, that’s self-censoring because if they have the ratings, they can do whatever they want.

Then, if somebody steps in and gives them an even harder time, then hopefully they’ll tell anybody who will listen about it, and shame the person into leaving them alone. The way David Letterman would always do. The more GE tried to censor him, the worse it got for GE. I think that you might be creating a problem in your own mind where there need not be one.

A lot of time, people say [about shows like Olbermann's and Maddow's], ‘Oh, just preach to the converted.’ First of all — if it was indeed preaching, which it is not — it’s giving information. Second, what’s wrong with giving information to the converted? Then shut down every church, then shut down every organization, every rotary club, every club you’ve ever joined, every book club you’ve ever been to where like-minded people get together and share ideas.

What I would say the only problem is that mainstream media is still wired for Republicans. It still tends to serve the message of the Republicans, first and foremost, and it tends to never give a Democrat the benefit of the doubt. Whereas Republicans get away with murder — literally. Literally. George [W.] Bush has to destroy the fucking world to get some criticism. And Democrats can’t do jack shit.

Kilstein: [That was demonstrated in the treatment of John Kerry as a pussy during the 2004 Presidential season.]

The media kept feeding into it. Again I want to go back to…the type of people on these buses, and in the press corps, who want access are the pussies. They’re not very good at their job…They’re lazy!

Kilstein: [Does money or popularity and ratings influence the media more? Right now, Obama is popular, so clearly it isn't just popularity and ratings driving the media coverage because they're being critical of liberal values. Is it driven more by money?]

[Republicans] still have more money and clout. It’s been 30 years in the making. After Watergate went down, there was a concerted effort in the think tanks on the right to make sure that there’s not gonna be a lot of Woodwards and Bernsteins running around. And when Dick Cheney, and [Donald] Rumsfeld, and those guys came in with Gerald Ford, and they had this mantra ‘Never Again,’ they didn’t mean a scandal. They meant transparency.

And there has been so much money and time and energy put in to counteract the ’60s, and counteracting the change of the tenor of the country after Watergate…This has been a project in the making, and it’s highly successful because people are easily bullied. Think about in terms if a network gets five angry e-mails from an angry right-winger. They will respond as if 500,000 people - even though they have no idea how much the other people love it. Networks will run and turn tail in two seconds on a sitcom or on a comedy thing. Look at what Wanda Sykes is having to endure. Look at what happened to [Jamie Kilstein] and I with this Ken Pittman nonsense. And last night we did a comedy show, and they had to hire extra security because — what — maybe two assholes called the club last night?

Kilstein: I did a show in Ohio and there were a thousand people in the theater — a thousand people — and 50 people left, and the comedy tour that they booked me on isn’t allowed back. And it’s like, 950 people stayed.

Because bullies make a lot of noise, and if you’ve got a person who’s susceptible to that crap — a lot of people are very weak. A lot of people are very weak.

Kilkenny: I feel like this is a larger theme, though, where Republicans are always saying we have to sacrifice our freedom for more security. Would you rather sacrifice your security for more freedom? Meaning, when they say there might be a threat to America out there, should we always constantly be on the offense, and seek them out, and Ken Pittman may have two little cronies come out and shout during your show, should we have extra “security” in case that happens?

I think you’re conflating two unrelated issues. Are you talking about Ken Pittman or are you talking about terrorism?

Kilkenny: Well, it has to do with security.

It’s not an either, or. You don’t have to give up anything to have more security. You really don’t. If somebody’s doing their job right, and if the government and CIA, and all these hundreds and hundreds of people, whose job it is to work on these national security issues — if they are doing their jobs really well, and if they’re doing the best they can ’cause nobody can do everything, then hopefully you don’t need all this take-off-your-shoes at the airport, and all of this stuff that means nothing anyway at the end of the day. It’s an empty gesture.

Secondly, you’ll never really stop a really determined terrorist. I think a really determined terrorist is going to get you, or a building — whatever they want to do. It doesn’t matter. Now, having said that, when it comes to the ridiculous Ken Pittman nonsense, that is all peer theater for him. He just wanted to get on FOX. He’s a real loser. Like, he’s a real loser. You can see it when you met him…listen to his show. He’s a real low-level schmuck, who wanted to get on-

Kilkenny: [And him aside, there are always these asshole Republicans that will threaten you -- threaten Wanda [Sykes] — and I feel like it’s much more important that you two have the freedom to say whatever you want]

But see, we’re not shooting off our mouth either. They get mad over nothing. Wanda Sykes told a joke. It’s fine. People pretend to get angry. Then the mainstream media pretends people are angry. The average Jon, Jane Q. Public, in the same way they don’t have time to look at the news, they don’t give a shit.

Kilstein: There was a rare, brilliant, honest moment on CNN where Wolf Blitzer had some Democratic strategist in, and Wolf goes, ‘Do you think the joke went too far?’ and the guy goes, ‘Wolf, I saw you laughing!’

Oh thank God! And what did Wolf say?

Kilstein: He just laughed!

See?! That’s what I mean! Going back to what we said: people have to start telling the truth and this will all stop. It will all stop. If more and more people sit in the pundit chair, if you will, and say there’s no story here, let’s stop wasting people’s time; no, there’s no story here. Or say, you infantilize us all by bringing that up. Why are you using these lazy talking points? If people started saying that, or just in the genre of “Wolf, you were laughing,” it ends! It ends right there!

And Keith Olbermann should be ashamed of himself for picking on Wanda Sykes. That was absurd. I love Keith Olbermann, but that was bullshit. And it’s lazy. And Wanda Sykes did nothing wrong, and as soon as people start admitting that, it all goes away…Now, the reason Ken Pittman, who’s probably the only guy who’s mad — we’re literally talking about tens of people here, who pretend to be angry.

Kilstein: I believe everyone in that theater stood up at the end of the show [in Boston where Janeane and Jamie performed during the non-protest led by Ken Pittman] — standing ovation. They were quite happy.

Well, not even that. [The audience] didn’t even know what we were talking about when we complain about the tea-baggers.

Kilstein: That was the funniest part. I was on stage and I had one tea-bagger stab, and I was like ‘Yeah! The place is gonna go nuts!’ I heard one person - I heard [Rob] Riggle laugh in the back, and Allison.

Marc [Maron] kept bringing it up, and it slowly dawned on me that [the audience] doesn’t know what we’re talking about. And that’s what I mean. To you and I, it felt personal because we got ambushed, and then they put it on FOX, and it was on MSNBC, and then for me — like last night, when [the owner of the club] came in and said, ‘We got phone calls.’ Now, that could be one phone call. But people overreact.

Kilstein: It also sucks because it’s like who are you hurting? You’re hurting the scared receptionist. You’re hurting the guy who had to come in and do security. You’re going after comics.

…First of all, they’re not well-informed. Your average right-winger is completely disinformed, and their life is not working. Somehow, something’s wrong. You can’t be a happy, well-adjusted person and be a right-winger. You just can’t. It’s mutually exclusive.

Secondly, you do realize that if they’re not picking on a comic or something, they got nothing. They got nothing. It goes back to — and I’m going to say Republican and Conservative, they call themselves that. They’re not, but they call themselves that, but to be a modern day Republican or Conservative — to be a George [W.] Bush type of Republican or Conservative, to be a [Sean] Hannity type — it’s a character flaw. It’s a character flaw. Or it could also be neurological. I’m not joking at all. Limbic brain: seed of your emotion. Something’s not working, whether it’s your private life or your literal neuroanatomy, something is not working.

Kilstein: When I find myself describing [Conservatism ideology,] I feel like I’m using elementary school rhetoric where I’m like, ‘It’s just fucking mean.’

Kilkenny: It’s selfish. It’s an ideology of selfishness.

Yes, it is.

Kilkenny: You don’t take care of each other, you don’t help the weak –

It’s all about your own.

Kilkenny: Right, “rugged individualism” except when you need help, and then you look to the government.

It’s bootstraps. Bootstraps for people born with great boots and stretchy boot strings, you know what I mean? Really easy bootstraps. All of that stuff — it’s not even relevant because the Conservatism that we thought maybe Barry Goldwater was, or whatever, that doesn’t exist anymore. It is, I think, a neurological issue.

It’s also the part now — big tent party — for racists, or sexists, for homophobes, for closet queens. Whatever, again, is wrong with you. Because a tent full of hate has elastic walls, so it’s a very big tent.

Kilstein: [So what do you make of this talk about bipartisanship and pragmatism where we can't go for Bush official prosecutions because we need Republican votes for healthcare?]

It’s such bullshit. It’s classic just like we gotta pardon Richard Nixon, we can’t prosecute. It’s classic fucking cowardice bullshit, and Obama lets us all down. It’s crap. And you know, if it’s one of those things where they’re protecting some Democrats too — let’s say there’s some Democrats in on the torture thing — then they gotta go down, too. You gotta bring those Democrats down, too. It is fucking political crap. There is no excuse for it.

Now, do I think we need to see pictures — us — on the news? No. But do I think war criminals needs to be prosecuted? Yes. I do not believe that it is in anyone’s interest to see more naked pyramids. I don’t feel like it will do anything but tear us all apart again. Or tear America’s fragile reputation further asunder. But I do think that [the photos] should be in the courts, adjudicated through the courts, the pictures should be shown in the courts. I don’t think anywhere is not aware of what these photos look like. And they will be — if they haven’t been already — leaked, some of them. But I do think it’s illegal what [Obama] is doing, not perusing [the prosecution of Bush officials' crimes].

And this bipartisanship? Fuck it. Bullshit. You cannot bring a tennis racket to a baseball game. These Republicans — again, they call themselves that — now, there may be a handful of moderate Republicans, I’ve heard of them, I think it’s a wonderful idea, it’s adorable. I think it’s like a unicorn. There is no such thing as bipartisanship that’s going to work with the Republican party anymore, or the Conservative movement. They have shown us over the last 30 years that they are not interested in it. They are not willing to do it. They have never reached across the aisle in the last ten years, and Obama does the nation a disservice for trying to be a nice guy about this, and for showing weakness there. I think it’s weak. There’s no reason to think they’ll be pragmatism or bipartisanship from this current incarnation of this Republican party.

Kilkenny: What first inspired you to become politically active? You talk about this a little in your act that your family is not in the same vein as you.

They’re all Republicans. I was always interested in — I was a History major at school. I always had an interest in politics and media. And then in my stand-up — you know, from when I started it enters in, in the way it enters in because it’s part of the fabric of your life. You know, little bits here and there.

But what got me motivated was the stolen election of 2000. Sam Seder and I watched those returns come in, and watched the tragedy unfold and the miscarriage of justice when Antonin Scalia installed [Bush]. And it just got me very, very upset, and more interested in learning about the electoral process, and this, that, and the other.

Then, 9/11 happened and I started volunteering at this warehouse that was providing clean clothes and uncontaminated things to first-responders. And even at the beginning there, right off the bat, they were being — the first-responders were being not given full information on their health care and the toxins — right off the bat.

And then Afghanistan happened, and I was concerned. I mean, I didn’t know enough to know that it was gonna be pulled off so badly, and then I heard about a group called Peaceful Tomorrows that was against [the] Afghanistan [war], which was a very rare, rare thing. And a lot of these were 9/11 families.

Then, of course when Iraq started ramping up. Then it really, really, really did, and I started getting involved — hearing about Air America, and wanting to get involved.

But why did I get involved as a public face of it? Not because I wanted to, believe me. Not because I wanted to. I was asked to by Robert Greenwald, who is the director of Outfoxed, and WALMART, the Wal-mart movie. He had directed me in [Steal This Movie,] a movie about Abbie Hoffman’s life, so I was friends with him. And he had gotten in touch with me a couple times saying, look we are having a great deal of difficulty getting anybody booked on these shows — on these news shows — to speak out against the war, who are actually involved in the military and involved in the government because the assholes, who work at these networks, will only book an actor.

Now, there’s a couple reasons for that: A) They think it’s gonna make for more interesting TV, but mostly it’s to mock and marginalize the anti-war position. They want to put people from the military, from the Pentagon, from the CIA for the pro-war position, and then opposite that, here’s this person from that TV show…so that you, as a viewer, go, ‘Ew! I’m for the war!’

If you flip-flop that, say you had people from the Pentagon — there’s plenty of them from the CIA, Pentagon, who were against Iraq, believe me there were plenty of them…This is way back in 2000. The former head of [the United Nations Special Commission, UNSCOM] was trying to get on to say that they were lying about Iraq. If you had all those people that people could respect against this war, and the only people for it were Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris, what would the public idea be? “EW!” It’s an editorial process, it’s rigged from the beginning, but if the “actor” won’t go on, nobody will say anything, you know what I mean? That’s your only option.

So Robert Greenwald asked myself, and Tim Robbins, and Mike Farrell, and others that I’m forgetting their names now, but don’t mean that disrespectfully. And he said, look, it’s gonna be bad. It’s gonna be bad, but we have to do this, and I didn’t want to do it because I was scared, and I also thought if I’m the person speaking, no one’s gonna listen. And I knew it would be bad. I had no idea how many assholes are out there. I had no idea what was gonna come.

Kilkenny: So what were the immediate ramifications of doing that?

Immediate castigation. Immediate posting of my address and phone number on things like The amount of death threats and hate mail coming in was so much that I had to hire a security person to go through it. And not just coming to me, but they would print where my manger’s office, and phone number, and agent. I had a development deal at ABC at the time — that was printed, who to get in touch with there. That deal was dropped, luckily though because that sitcom sucked. Tour gigs were cancelled…This is hatemail and death threats coming from citizens because you’re trying to tell them that their government is lying to them. I had no idea how fucking stupid and mean that many people could be.

Now, granted, the majority were always very supportive. The majority of citizens I would run into even at that time were very nice at the street level and stuff like that. But the majority of cowards I met in my own peer group — my own family — in my own fellow comedians…I heard a story, I don’t know if this is true — secondhand — that Dennis Miller (just being one) and a couple of other comedians called my manager, Dave Rath, and said, ‘You’ve got to get Janeane off TV, man, she’s embarrassing herself. That’s really unpatriotic.’ And then Dave won’t tell me who some of the other names are. You would be shocked at how many cowards you know in your own peer group, who A) Wouldn’t take a stand, and B) Blindly supported this thing.

A lot of my friendships have not recovered because I got no respect — no respect — for the way they acted, especially at the height of the death threats and the mocking, and FOX News on a regular basis shitting on me, or morning drive guys just shitting on me. And then the glee that Bill O’Reilly would say, ‘And she can’t get a job!’ and ‘She lost her old job!’ And that my own friends, who could have given me a job just to say in their face ‘bullshit, we’re gonna hire her to do this,’ who didn’t.

It really separates the chaff from the wheat in times of war, if you will. You really learn who’s really awesome. And then I got the same thing on the other side. I learned who the great people are. Sean Penn called. Woody Harrelson called. And I’m not just saying that because they’re actors. They called just to say keep it up the good work, I know what it’s like, we’re getting it too. And then just friends from high school, who I hadn’t talked to in years [called] to say the same thing.

So I have to say that the majority of people were great. But the people who were cowards, it’s ridiculous and stupid.

[Kilstein: A lot of those people who were angry with you may have now lost someone in the wars, and all you were saying is that you didn't want people to die.]

Not just die, but I don’t want to be lied to. I don’t want to be fucking lied to, and I don’t like being treated like a chump. And I don’t want to have to pay for this. Literally. Our culture and society will be paying for this for years, years, years, years, years. Not just with money. Emotionally. All the [soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSDs]. All the marriages that will fall apart. All the children that will go unparented. All the social ramifications of this. And then some people spent that time to write hate mail to the Dixie Chicks, or spent that time shitting on peace activists, who stood alone with a sign in the rain in Washington Square Park.

[Kilstein: I think the most heartbreaking example of that is how Cindy Sheehan became a late show punchline.]

It’s embarrassing. And it’s not just this country. It’s human nature. Until human nature is cleansed of frailty, we will always have this. It’s gonna happen again. People thought it couldn’t happen after Vietnam, we couldn’t be lied to like that again, this, that, and the other. It will happen again. Give it time.

[Kilstein: That's the power of reading. I think the majority of people are good, and once they have that knowledge, they'd find it difficult not to act.]

Well, also, what’s the point of living an unexamined life? What is the point? There’s a phrase I just heard recently: If you don’t do politics, politics do you. And it’s true. It’s am more interesting way to live your life, to actually pay attention.

Now, granted, there are a million things going on that we don’t know about, never will know about, and just the scams that we know about are the ones we know about. We’ll never know about a million others that go on behind our backs, and the people that are really in charge we’ll never see their face, we’ll never know their names — the people that really pull the strings, internationally and domestically. We’ve never met them. We’ll never see them.

[Kilstein: Atheists always get a bad rap for being heathens, but do you think religion actually harms humanity because it places the burden of caring for people on God instead of on society?]

It’s not mutually exclusive. You can have God and you can have eternity. Agnosticism is playing it safe in a way, meaning you don’t know whether there is or there isn’t. It’s Pascal’s Wager. You’re gonna hedge your bets that there might be [a God] so that I can go to heaven.

But just because there’s a heaven, and there’s another life beyond that may be a paradise, if you will, doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to help others. Saying that God has a plan is a way to let yourself off the hook. It’s just a way to let yourself off the hook. Also, it’s a way to deal with universal contingency. Universal contingency means that anything can happen at any time. That’s a little too much for some people. It’s too random. If you think about it, we live — say we’re on 23rd street here in New York [City]. Now, what prevents any of us from dying any day from just an idle toss of a rock out a window? Every single day on the streets of Manhattan, how is it that more of us aren’t getting clocked on the head? Think about just children playing. Just think about an accident — an air conditioner falling off [a window sill].

…Now, how to some people deal with that fear? …God. You go, ‘God would not allow me, and my children, to be hit on the head by a rock that somebody else threw. That’s not a part of God’s plan.’ Or, if something happens and that’s how your friend dies, it’s so awful you gotta say, ‘That must have been God’s plan.’ Because that’s the only way to get through it.

Now, I personally don’t have a religion that makes me think that way. I just feel like bad things happen sometimes, good things happen sometimes, nobody’s special enough to avoid that. And that’s just the way it is. I also don’t fear death. I don’t fear mortality…I don’t remember what it was like in my mind before I exited my mother’s womb. I was presentient. There was nothing. There was no consciousness. Then I exited my mother’s womb, and there was consciousness. When I die, I will be post-sentient. There will be no more consciousness. I’m not gonna miss it. I didn’t miss pre-womb, right? I’m not gonna miss post-womb.

…How I deal with my anxieties is through science, or I try to learn about something. Or I just get eaten up by anxiety…Because of God’s plan, I don’t think the homeless thing fits into that because I don’t think people walk past homeless people and think, ‘God has a plan for that homeless guy.’ They either do or don’t give him a dollar, or a quarter.

Kilkenny: Or they blame the homeless person.

Or they blame the homeless person. That’s what a Conservative does. A Conservative blames a homeless person themselves. That’s Conservatism in a nutshell.

[Kilstein: I wonder if they use that anger as a defense mechanism.]

It’s a defense mechanism! It is a defense mechanism against having to feel. Now, I don’t know whether they feel bad or not, but it’s a defense mechanism against having to feel. You just accuse the victim of being somehow responsible for their plight.

…Are some homeless people responsible for their plight? Sure. I don’t know, though. See, I can’t say…until I know for sure. And I don’t always give homeless people money — at all — by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. If a person has a dog or child, I always do because I feel sorry for the dog or the child. But I’m sure plenty of homeless people have gotten themselves into a hell of a mess, but them I’m sure there’s just as many — if not more — who have nothing to do with getting into that mess.

[Kilstein: You're credited with being one of the founders of alternative comedy.]

I’m not. There’s always been “alternative comedy.” It’s just a journalistic construct. I don’t know what alt comedy means. It’s something that happened — this is my recollection of what happened — when Nirvana broke and alt music became what it was called (it used to be called college radio when I was younger,) then it called alt radio, or alt rock. At the time, some journalists started doing articles about some stand-up [comics] in the early ’90s, who were doing stand-up shows that were not in comedy clubs proper, and they were titled alternative comedians.

It just so happened that a couple of the articles were written — that I was included in more than one article. I don’t know what it means. What it means to me is a comedian who is not writing jokes, per say, punchline, punchline, punchline, bang, bang, bang. They’re more of a storyteller, if you will…What they tell is true for the most part, embellished for humorous purposes, but true. It’s a more thoughtful approach to the medium of stand-up comedy. A lot of people use it as a pejorative. A lot of people resent the title, and they’re like, ‘Aw, all that means alt comedy is that they’re not funny’ like I’ve heard people say that all the time. Or ‘they can’t write jokes,’ or blah, blah, blah.

But I certainly didn’t coin the phrase. I certainly didn’t invent it. It was popular in the 1960s, and early ’70s.

[Kilstein: It seems like alt comedy is doing very well right now like with Patton Oswalt and the Comedians of Comedy selling out massive rock clubs.]

Not me. They’re doing much more than me…I can’t count myself among the hot, new– like Tim and Eric and Patton [Oswalt], and Zach Galifianakis, and Mike Birbiglia. These people have — are even more alt. It’s a web presence. They’ve used a whole new medium in a new way whereas in the early ’90s, there were comics who wanted to go outside of the comedy club proper, and they wanted to do shows in venues that were not for comedy traditionally. Now, what’s happening is it’s a whole new wave of comedians who are using new technology to build huge followings. I am not selling out huge venues, and I’m not saying that in a way like ‘[Wah, wah] I’m not selling out huge venues,’ you do me too much credit to put me in the same category as those guys you were mentioning.

Kilstein: What would you say to a comic who is trying to do something different and isn’t getting work in mainstream clubs?

In this current stand-up comedy world that we live in, it’s not like the ’80s and early to mid-’90s where there were so many open mikes, so many venues to do stand-up, so many places to do it that even if you weren’t getting any time in the mainstream clubs, there were places you could get time.

I would say, now, expand your web presence. You post and post, you do whatever it takes to get people to start — whether it be a Youtube video, or you start your own night somewhere. And that’s where you will get time. You will ask a proprietor of some venue, ‘Can I have Tuesday nights? You can have the door.’

Kilstein: Books, music, or comedians that have inspired you to be you.

Howard Zinn books have inspired me to learn about the official story for history. He has been instrumental in me wanting to get more involved in my own history, and the stories that are told to me. And also his biography, You Can’t [Be Neutral] On A Moving Train, that you can’t. That is literally true. And a biography I just read — that I just finished — has been so inspirational to me, Sean Penn’s biography, the authorized biography of Sean Penn. Fascinating and inspirational. I couldn’t put it down. You’ve got to read it. Fantastic.

Music that has inspired me? I don’t know if it’s inspired me to be me, but during the Riot Grrrl era — and I don’t blame those ladies for hating and loathing that term — I’m so sorry, but that DIY girl band era was really inspiring, and also magazines likeBust and Bitch . And Punk Planet, the late Punk Planet…Magazines like Found inspire me in strange ways. SCTV [Second Ciy Television] inspired me unbelievably. SCTV as a kid, Woody Allen as a kid, Albert Brooks when I got older, and George Carlin really, really inspired me, the late Bill Hicks, Paula Poundstone. And then as I got older, more of my contemporaries: Mr. Show with Bob and David, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, and Zach Galifianakis, and Patton Oswalt, and Jamie Kilstein.

Kilkenny: What makes you happy?

Dog-walking. I love walking my dog. When people that I admire, I get to meet them, and they’re as wonderful as I could have ever imagined. Reading makes me very happy, but when I get into a bum book — because I feel obligated to finish it, and so I hate getting stuck in a mediocre book…I will skim…I have to finish it, but then I will not consciously really, really read it anymore. But I do feel obligated to go to the end. Oh, it ruins my day ’cause I know almost immediately I’m in a lemon…by the end of the first chapter, I’ll know this writing style — and a lot of the time with fiction — I love reading fiction.

As much as I love reading factual books, I enjoy more than anything a great fictional read, and I love collections of short stories, and I also love Victorian era novels — just love them. And you must read Pride and Prejudice with Zombies, which just came out. It’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice with zombies. I loved it so much. It’s just a great fictional fluff read, but you’ll enjoy it. It’ll put a little spring in your step.

Arizona Secretary of State Interprets Nader v Brewer Narrowly

From: May 27th, 2009

The Arizona Secretary of State has submitted proposed election law changes to the legislature, including changes concerning the two issues won by Ralph Nader in the 9th circuit last year. The Secretary of State asks the legislature to move the independent presidential candidate petition deadline to only 60 days before the general election, but only for independent presidential candidates. Independent candidates for other office would still need to submit their signatures by early June.

Also, the Secretary of State proposed that only independent presidential petition drives be allowed to use out-of-state circulators. Independent candidates for office other than president, and initiatives, would still be required to use only in-state circulators. Since the state’s entire defense of the residency requirement was that out-of-staters cannot be located if they commit fraud, the Secretary of State’s proposal seems inconsistent. For independent presidential petitions, the proposed amendment says that out-of-staters must register with the Secretary of State before starting work.

Paul Hawken's Commencement Address in Portland

From: posted by Nipun Mehta

Paul Hawken is a friend of CharityFocus, renowned entrepreneur, visionary environmental activist, founder of Wiser Earth and author of many books -- most recently Blessed Unrest.

Last week, he was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by University of Portland, when he delivered this superb commencement address.

Commencement Address to the Class of 2009 University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was "direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful." No pressure there.

Let's begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation... but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades. This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don't poison the water, soil, or air, don't let the earth get overcrowded, and don't touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing. There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn't bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn't afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here's the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don't be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done. When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, "So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world." There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums. You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way. There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity's willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. "One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice," is Mary Oliver's description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world. Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown -- Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood — and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, non-governmental organizations, and companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history. The living world is not "out there" somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can't print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich. The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. And dreams come true. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe, which is exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a "little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven." So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past. Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television. This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn't stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn't ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn't make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.

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