Are Progressives Wimps?

Do Progressives need to learn how to fight? Progressives (and I count myself among them) do fight, it’s just that too often the fight is among ourselves.

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Meanwhile, the opposition goes to town. Whether it’s the birthers, tea parties, or disrupting town hall meetings, the Right acts…and we react.

I’ve seen a lot of media about why progressives, liberals, whatever…always seem to be on the back foot. All I know is, it’s time for that to change.

Progressives in the US stand to lose the battle over healthcare reform because there was no unified game plan ahead of time to fight for what we wanted (single payer, universal care). And I guarantee you, whether reform is passed or not, conservatives will claim victory. And well they should. They were better organized.

It’s true they hijacked the discussion on healthcare with half truths, faulty rhetoric, and straight up lies.

And no one, least of all me, wants to match them lie for lie. I don’t think progressives have to go that way. Yet the infrastructure they’ve built to spread their doctrine on a number of issues (the stimulus will bankrupt America, Obama was born in Kenya, the death panels) merits some scrutiny.

Believe it or not, I receive some of their stuff via e-mail. One thing you realize right off the bat. Conservatives never admit defeat. When the stimulus bill passed, they didn’t waste time with recriminations or blame passing. They told their followers, “you made a difference”. And then prepared them for the next battle. Sure, there may be some behind the scenes finger pointing, but when you’re fighting and fundraising at the same time, it pays to give the rank and file a sense of purpose.

Progressives can learn from this. The most important lesson, in my humble judgment, is to act rather than react. We can make fun of birthers and hostile healthcare reform opponents, but our message gets lost. The fact that, with few exceptions, there was little vocal presence in favor of single payer at most town halls to date points up the depth of the problem.

WE NEED TO LEARN HOW TO FIGHT!

Batmans

That means fighting to win, and fighting not with fists, but ideas for the long term health of the nation. We are engaging in battle on the enemy’s terms when we don’t stake out clear positions and act on them before they do.

We also need to fight with every means at our disposal. That means, and I’ve said this many times before, engaging progressive people of color on a level we don’t now see. We have groups of white progressives, black progressives, Latino progressives, etc.

How about groups of integrated progressives? They are out here, believe me. If Barack Obama’s election is to mean anything in the long run, more groups of integrated progressive Americans need to be formed, and plans to take the fight to our opposition put in place.

Or am I just nuts? You tell me.

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Who is Responsible for Tiller’s Murder?

In the minds of some, it simply (and allegedly) Scott Roeder, the person in custody for the shooting of the Kansas doctor who performed late term abortions. For others, the net of responsibility can be cast much, much further. The murder of Dr. George Tiller, inside his local church, has set off an entirely predictable firestorm of accusations between supporters and opponents of abortion.

Tiller

Some progressive bloggers and Websites heap blame on Fox News screamer Bill O’Reilly, who has referenced Tiller as “Tiller the baby killer” on more than one occasion. O’Reilly, of course rejects such criticisms, saying the killing should be condemned and the focus should instead be on what he says are the 60,000 abortions Dr. Tiller performed.

At the same time, some abortion opponents pour gas on the fire by saying in essence, that Tiller got what he deserved. These apologists for murder are truly dangerous, in that they see themselves as somehow outside of and above the law. They feel they have a God given right to kill. Dr. George Tiller was a perfect symbol for them, a man unafraid to do what he felt was right.

George Tiller had survived being shot, having his clinic bombed, and the picketing of his home and office. He wasn’t just steadfast, he was defiant. Now questions center on whether his murder will have a chilling effect not just on abortion providers but on women seeking them as well. For some, that chilling effect is worth Dr. Tiller’s life.

Randall Terry, the founder of the anti abortion group Operation Rescue says about Tiller’s death “He reaped what he sowed”. That statement speaks volumes not just about Terry, but about the outer fringe of the anti abortion movement in this country. One can’t be sure that common ground with them can actually be found, as President Obama referenced in his speech at Notre Dame.

One question about this entire ugly set of events has yet to be answered. Both Scott Roeder’s ex-wife and his brother say he was mentally unbalanced. If that is true, and he is George Tiller’s murderer, how did he manage to procure the gun he used? Time after time people are killed with guns, and we never stop to ask where the gun was purchased, whether it was legal, and if proper background checks were done. 

Gun violence, as we should know by now, isn’t the sole province of the inner city. Shouldn’t we be asking how many other zealots (regardless of cause) have access to guns, bombs, and other weapons? While we’re at it, shouldn’t the anti abortion movement take a long look in the mirror, and ask themselves if they want to be portrayed as murderers?

You tell me.

How Should Obama Deal With Torture

As President Obama approaches his first hundred days, the issue of what to do about alleged Bush Administration abuses of various treaties and  conventions on the subject have taken center stage. In a way, it’s sad to see Obama get caught in a quagmire that was not of his own doing. On the other hand, maybe he didn’t handle it as well as he could have.

It certainly made sense to release CIA memos on the torturing of certain “enemy combatants”.

Cia Memos

That’s the sort of fresh air his administration promised to deliver. Yet it was a mistake to seemingly offer blanket immunity to those who oversaw America’s detour into thuggery.

Now that it’s become apparent that “we’re moving on” wasn’t working for the president, there are broad hints from the White House that it might convene a bipartisan commission to investigate possible abuses.

This comes as new reports say  no one had even bothered to look at the history of brutal interrogation techniques like waterboarding before they were approved. Nice work, GW.

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The Obama flip-flop could have been avoided had someone in the new administration lobbied for a truth and reconciliation commission like the one convened in South Africa to probe the abuses of the apartheid system.

Now, after the president told CIA workers just the other day they were home free, he appears to be backtracking. And below it all is the specter of the increasingly vocal yet irrelevant former Vice President Dick Cheney.

He now says Obama should release CIA memos showing the success of waterboarding in wringing actionable intelligence from its victims. This tells us a couple of things.

First, Cheney must have been in the loop on the original decision to torture. Okay, how about he might have actually been the architect? Second, and just as important, this person believes the end justifies the means, that torture is okay if it works.

Leaving aside for the moment the howling of some former CIA officials at Cheney’s claim, he must know that one good turn deserves another.

If the US tortures people, why would any enemy hold back on doing the same to Americans?

But the central issue is this. President Obama must take firm action to assure the world that America rejects the use of torture, and will investigate and bring to justice people in power who think otherwise. How about he starts with Dick Cheney?

What do you think?