Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 15 Dec 06 05:37
When did you actually write this book, and what changes have happened since then that you would have included?
Heather Wokusch (hlswokusch) Fri 15 Dec 06 10:12
Hi Robert and Sharon! I finished writing the books in September 2006, so the content is quite new. Clearly there have been changes since then, but honestly I wouldn't add much to the books at this point. In Volume 2, an update about the 2006 elections, and that's about it. The main "vision" of The Progressives Handbooks is that an informed and active citizenry can absolutely turn things around and that ten minutes per day can make a difference. As such, the books aren't just litanies of past failures as much as a tying together of repetitive themes so we can more easily identify future offences and then immediately DO something about them. We're on the same wavelength, Howard! I just put out a blog on a similar topic. How can progressives help keep the spotlight on those responsible for the rollbacks? Good question. My first instinct is to say by making sure their congressmembers hold investigations into what went wrong across the board, from Katrina to Bagram. I know I harp on that. Confronting those within the Democratic party who mirror Bush & Co. on critical issues is in order too. In fact,today's blog had this quote from an October 2006 report from the Democratic Leadership Council's Progressive Policy Institute: "America needs a bigger and better military ... Democrats should step forward with a plan to repair the damage, by adding more troops, replenishing depleted stocks of equipment, and reorganizing the force around the new missions of unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency, and civil reconstruction." There seems to be a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party taking place now and any emails, calls, faxes etc. sent to politicians demanding a more progressive stance can't hurt. But anyway, that's a good question. Id like to hear ideas on that too. If the Democrats are complicit? Then so be it. They might change their tune if they realize we are watching carefully. The whole foreign policy issue sure is compelling now, what with Rumsfeld's departure, Rices rejecting talks with Iran and Syria and the new damning evidence that Tony Blair lied to lead his people into war
Heather Wokusch (hlswokusch) Fri 15 Dec 06 13:32
As a side note to what can be done for accountability, FindLaw's John Dean (of Watergate fame) made an interesting argument today: impeach those under Bush/Cheney - "Lowering the aim of an impeachment effort to focus on those who have aided and abetted, or directly engaged in, the commission of high crimes and misdemeanors, would have all the positives, and none of the negatives, of going after Bush and Cheney. It would not be an effort to overturn the 2004 election, but rather to rid the government of those who have participated, along with Bush and Cheney, in abuses and misuses of power; indeed, many among them have actually encouraged Bush and Cheney to undertake the offensive activities."
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 15 Dec 06 14:37
Hmm. Charging generals with war crimes could be interesting. It might push some members of the public into support the army, hate their commander mode, for example. It's all so tragic... but there's a lot to do to clean up this mess.
Heather Wokusch (hlswokusch) Sat 16 Dec 06 01:58
I believe Dean is talking about going after civil officers rather than military generals etc., in order to be sure they don't go on and rise within the ranks of government. Someone like John Yoo, who used to work as legal counsel in the Justice Dept., a.k.a. the "legal architect" of US torture programs, perhaps. Agreed, the war crimes angle is really interesting. I have a section in the book about how not only Bush Jr. and Sr. are complicit, but Clinton also (re. depleted uranium weaponry). Regarding this administration, it's worth looking at the Nuremberg Principles again. For example, Principle VI says that the following are punishable as crimes under international law: (a) Crimes against peace: (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i). (b) War Crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity. (c) Crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime. Sound familiar?
Howard Berkey (howard) Sat 16 Dec 06 02:13
Hi everyone, welcome to the discussion. Shifting a bit towards foreign policy, up above Sharon asks about changes that have occurred since you wrote Volume 2. There's one huge change with a potential dramatic effect on Foreign Policy that coincided with the elections: Rumsfeld. I'm wondering about Heather's thoughts on Rumsfeld's "resignation", and what if anything progressive voters could have done to help hasten the removal of someone in his position. Even the protests of high level generals with threats of and actual resignations did not help, at least in the short term. Democratic congressmen were already pressuring for action, along with a good number of republicans, yet the Bush administration stuck with him far, far too long. What more could John Doe voter have done?
Howard Berkey (howard) Sat 16 Dec 06 02:18
Slipped by Heather herself there; good morning! The interesting thing to me about the war crimes aspect is that it doesn't have to necessarily be US courts that convict. The image of Yoo travelling abroad someday and being apprehended and whisked off to The Hague for trial is an unusual image to say the least.
Heather Wokusch (hlswokusch) Sat 16 Dec 06 05:52
Good morning Howard! In my view there was little that could have been done by "John Doe voter" to hasten Rumsfeld's departure; the midterms sealed that. Typically though, his replacement is almost as questionable Robert Gates is controversial due to his alleged role in the Iran-Contra affair. If I were to include anything new in the Foreign Policy section of The Progressives' Handbook, Volume 2, it would be a comparison of how Congress showed backbone and integrity back in the late 80s and early 90s in seriously questioning Gates' politicizing of intelligence and role in Iran-Contra then rolled over and played dead in 2006. Scandalous. Looking at the whole war crimes issue, it's always interesting to remember that the US is the only country to have been condemned by the International Court of Justice for terrorism ("unlawful use of force"). That was back in the 80s and the ruling was just ignored. Regarding the Hague today, so many EU countries are also complicit in these "extraordinary renditions," secret prisons etc. that I don't think war crimes charges will happen now (i.e. because the Bush administration could threaten to level counter-charges against EU officials) so it will be up to NGOs and legal groups to do the dirty work. A lot of material to work with though!
Howard Berkey (howard) Sat 16 Dec 06 09:13
What do you think about the current war crimes charges brought in Germany last month against Yoo, Gonzales, and others? Posturing? I know it is unlikely they will go anywhere, but it does raise interesting possibilities. What is the public feeling there in Europe? They barely made the news here.
Heather Wokusch (hlswokusch) Sat 16 Dec 06 14:30
That case honestly has not gotten much press over here, but it is interesting. Some background: the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights recently filed a writ in a German court, since courts there have universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity. The charges (involving detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo) are against current/former Bush administration officials and military officers including Rumsfeld, Gonzales, former CIA director Tenet and something like a dozen others. The charges were initially brought in 2004, but dismissed on the grounds that the matter should be handled in the US. Since the Military Commissions Act provided retroactive immunity, however, lawyers argued the charges should be brought again. Honestly, I think it's too much of a hot potato for the German Chancellor Merkel to tolerate for long, but the preliminary proceedings continue. I've heard that they plan to bring similar suits in other countries in the EU too the intent being to shed some light on prisoner abuse and to shame those involved. A story that will be interesting to follow. The public feeling in the EU tends to be, very broadly speaking, that Bush is incompetent and the US is on a path which endangers the world. That's being euphemistic.
Howard Berkey (howard) Sat 16 Dec 06 19:34
Judging by the President's approval rating, that may well be the prevailing domestic opinion as well right now. In your experience, how has public opinion in the EU changed since the mid-term elections?
Heather Wokusch (hlswokusch) Sun 17 Dec 06 00:11
Not at all. People here are focusing on their own politics and vaguely hoping that things improve in the US, but not highly optimistic. It's a wait and see game. There's an area that we tend not to see as foreign policy but really is: the environment. It's one of the chapters in The Progressives' Handbook, Volume 2, and a topic that gets far too little play in the US. The book talks about major rollbacks in US water and air under Bush et al, decreased protections for land and animals as well as some of the tactics used to keep Americans in the dark environmentally. Europeans are often privy to this information (through documentaries, newspaper articles etc.) more than those in the US since stateside environmental woes impact them directly. One example is the current crisis with Austrian ski resorts there's no snow! Unheard of that in mid-December there is no snow here. People are pointing fingers at US foot-dragging on global warming.
Howard Berkey (howard) Sun 17 Dec 06 09:20
Foot-dragging may be too kind a term there, in fact. The recent reports of USGS scientists having their publications screened for policy-threatening positions is pretty amazing: http://www.livescience.com/forcesofnature/061214_ap_usgs_screening.html And, of course, active interference in publications simply because they *might* show a link to global warming is something that the current administration has been faulted for before as well: http://www.livescience.com/forcesofnature/060926_ap_whitehouse_hurricane.html Global warming is an issue that ties in to a whole lot of our culture in sometimes unexpected ways. It is more or less common knowledge that fuel emissions and coal-burning power plants produce a large amount of greenhouse gases; fewer people realize that cattle ranching worldwide produces a similar amount of greenhouse gases. However, it is a problem that can be affected in a positive manner by people even in their day to day lives. For example, even proper tire inflation on autos in the US can make a significant fuel economy difference. There is a lot that can be done about it, and a lot of places to find the information needed to do so. However, there is an institutional force, driven both by this administration and lobbyists in Washington, that seeks to deny, in 2006, that it is even a problem at all. In the "Ten Easy Ways" section of the Environment chapter of Volume 2, you list some ways of keeping tabs on local and national politicians on the environment. However, this is a topic that has an almost religious division of opinion; the right has been engendering an almost blind denial of this as a problem. This is not a partisan issue by nature, although it is being made into a de facto one. How can we fight that?
Heather Wokusch (hlswokusch) Sun 17 Dec 06 11:21
Good question. The topic seems so amorphous that many people don't really comprehend it as a crisis. Only this year, now that skiing holidays have been impacted, is it really hitting home in many EU countries. Al Gore has done an incredible job of spreading the word not sure if you heard about it but every kid in Scotland will have the chance to see An Inconvenient Truth, thanks to a donation from a major windfarm developer. Gore is setting up deals with other countries to do the same. The web site for the book/film offers some great action ideas. Here's an excerpt: (http://www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/) ----------- The average American generates about 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year from personal transportation, home energy use and from the energy used to produce all of the products and services we consume. CALCULATE YOUR PERSONAL IMPACT to see how much CO2 you produce each year. JOIN THE GLOBAL WARMING VIRTUAL MARCH at www.stopglobalwarming.org. You have the power to make a difference. Small changes to your daily routine can add up to big changes in helping to stop global warming. Reduce your impact AT HOME Reduce your impact WHILE ON THE MOVE Help bring about change LOCALLY, NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY Download these 10 SIMPLE TIPS to take with you! After reducing your emissions you can do even more by going "carbon neutral. " By supporting clean renewable energy, you can effectively neutralize your personal CO2 emissions. Your small investment will ensure that for every ton of carbon dioxide you are emitting, a ton of carbon dioxide will not be released into the atmosphere. Go NEUTRAL! Learn about other ways that movies are inspiring people to make a difference at PARTICIPATE. (links to various activities/information are included on the site) --------- In my view it's the same with foreign policy, the environment, education anything. The more we take these negative developments personally, the more likely we will be to fight back
Howard Berkey (howard) Mon 18 Dec 06 07:25
That's a really good point about taking things personally. Regardless of who one voted for, it *is* our government after all. And whatever mess they make is ours to clean up. You mention Al Gore above, and I am glad you did. I have been very surprised by Gore in recent years. Not only has he been doing amazing work, like you mentioned, but he has shown himself to be a very charismatic and persuasive speaker. He's still not up to, say, Clinton in that regard, but the change since his 2000 campaign is amazing. You are (rightly in my opinion) critical of Gore in his handling of the aftermath of 2000 election. In short, what happened? How do you feel about the chances of Gore running again in 2008, which he is being a bit coy about?
Heather Wokusch (hlswokusch) Mon 18 Dec 06 08:59
Big question if Gore will run again. What's your take on that? Certainly he has avid grassroots support (draftgore.com, draftgore2008.org, etc.) and has been putting himself in the spotlight even more after the midterms, but it could also be to rev up support for an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth nominations come out in January. He has support as the guy who was cheated out of 2000, but as you mentioned, many of us are unhappy that he didn't fight harder. My guess is that the Democratic leadership advised against it and so he didn't, but when Kerry did the same thing four years later, it didn't help the party's credibility, to put it mildly. On the Republican side, I expect frontrunners McCain and Giuliani to spend the next two years trying to appeal to economic/social conservatives, yet each appeals to many Democrats as well. That, combined with the ongoing questions regarding voting integrity, does not bode well for the Democrats in 2008, in my view. Maybe I've become jaded
Jamais Cascio, OpenTheFuture.com (cascio) Mon 18 Dec 06 09:25
I may have mentioned this to Howard before, but as much as a Gore fan as I am, I really don't want him to run in 08. The work he's doing with raising public awareness of the depth and breadth of the climate disaster is too important to be sucked into what would inevitably be a campaign about Iraq, and the 2000 election is still too close for people to be objective about him. With even progressives criticizing him for not fighting hard enough in 2000, you know that the people who attacked him in 00 as a liar, or as a wuss, or as a loon are already sharpening their knives for him in 08. I would like to see him run, instead, in '12 or '16 -- he's young enough that those are viable years for a presidential campaign, memories of 00 will have faded, and the climate disaster will be bad enough then that it will be the #1 issue, and Gore would have the broad legitimacy on the subject to be the go-to guy as leader.
Howard Berkey (howard) Mon 18 Dec 06 09:56
The problem is, if not Gore, who is really a better choice? There are a number of interesting Democratic potential candidates, but in my opinion Gore easily outshines them, even now.
Heather Wokusch (hlswokusch) Mon 18 Dec 06 10:47
I would have to agree with Jamais that it might be better for Gore to wait. I don't think he'd have a chance to win in 2008 most of the US population probably hasn't even heard about An Inconvenient Truth and doesn't care about global warming anyway. Others remember him from 2000 and see his chance as president as over for whatever reason. Sad but true. But I do share your concern about who then is a viable candidate for the Democrats, Howard. I just can't see Clinton or Obama carrying the 2008 election alone, and Edwards is tainted for the same reason as Gore. Let's reframe this. If you had your dream choice the person you think actually would do a great job in leading the US during these tough times, regardless of if the person seems to have a chance of winning right now, who would it/they be?
Howard Berkey (howard) Mon 18 Dec 06 10:50
Howard Berkey (howard) Mon 18 Dec 06 10:50
Bill, that is :)
Jamais Cascio, OpenTheFuture.com (cascio) Mon 18 Dec 06 10:54
Me, but I would stand no chance of being elected. :)
Howard Berkey (howard) Mon 18 Dec 06 11:00
Well, you have a better chance than Bill does, at least. Pesky Constitution.
Heather Wokusch (hlswokusch) Mon 18 Dec 06 12:02
OK, a Cascio/Clinton ticket it is then. Better than most of what I've seen so far! Who will be in your Cabinet then? As a concerned voter, can I request a place for Feingold? Glad to hear that our new dream team will be future-thinking...
Jamais Cascio, OpenTheFuture.com (cascio) Mon 18 Dec 06 12:39
(I'm kidding, of course -- I don't have the stomach for compromise in a time when the world is falling apart.) Personally, I like Feingold. Gore, of course. Elliot Abrams looks interesting, although I admit I don't know his policy positions in detail.
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