If I had a hammer—nostalgia with the great PP&M

For those of us who remember the 60’s (and yes, there are some of us who lived through them and still remember), it was a night to wax nostalgic and hopeful. Last evening, I had the pleasure of listening to Peter and Paul (two-thirds of the great Peter, Paul & Mary trio) talk and sing about what it has meant for them and still means for them, to sing about justice, freedom and a love between their brothers and sisters all over the land. They were in Santa Barbara, my home town, to receive the prestigious Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Distinguished Peace Leadership Award.
The award is presented annually to individuals who have “demonstrated courageous leadership in the cause of peace.” To put this award in context, some of its prior recipients include: Dr. Helen Caldicott, Dr. Carl Sagan, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Walter Cronkite, Anne and Paul Ehrilich and Daniel Elsberg (among others). Obviously, a pretty impressive group.
While Mary was, unfortunately, back home in Connecticut recovering from back surgery (having won her battle against a virulent form of leukemia as well ), Peter and Paul sang gallantly (clearly missing that magnificent Mary Travers sound). They talked of their life-long commitment to peace, social justice and community well-being.
In addition to those of us who remember them with full heads of hair, there were 120 young people in the audience—primarily college students, but some high school students who were selected as the next best hope to restore a sense of commitment to the principles that moved so many of us during our college years back when the Vietnam War and Civil Rights battles were raging in this country.
In that earlier era,we sang and danced to the Movement for political and social justice, peace in our time, brotherly and sisterly love and respect. We hoped for a better world that was comprised of these things, not material things. We dreamed about justice and goodness and love and kindness. The notion of dreaming for Versace, BMW’s, 10,000 square foot mansions and diamonds were nowhere on our radar-screens or desires. We wanted peace, and a more just world for ourselves and all humankind.
It brought tears to the eyes of many of us as Peter Yarrow implored the youngsters in the audience to pursue these goals as our next generation of leaders. He and Paul (actually Noel Paul Stookey) spoke eloquently about these causes and their hopes that we can, yet again, regain our footing by pursuing a kinder, more peaceful planet.
Although partially immersed in the music and nostalgia, I couldn’t help asking: “What has happened in our nation that we see our youngsters dancing to gangsta rap and other ‘music’ that glorifies killing and objectification of women? Why are our youngster’s heroes packing heat along with their ostentatious gold and diamond jewelry? How is it that the nation’s heroes today do not call for social justice or self-sacrifice or human kindness? Rather, they are admired and even worshiped for the number of cars, or girl-friends or houses they own.
Where are the young people crying out for social justice or marching against this illegal and hopelessly failed war? Why are we and they not calling for accountability by a White House that believes it is above the law? Why are we not challenging Bush and Chaney for their corrupt and destructive management of our environment, their criminal indifference to the poor who are living on the streets or in gang-infested communities where neither they nor their children are safe from violence? Where is the public outcry against corporate greed and irresponsibility in the pursuit of greater and greater wealth, to the detriment to our own workers?
Where are we on all this, Peter and Paul ask? We of the so-called “peace generation’ demanding social justice, peace and the freedom to think and be who we are and want to become. We HAVE the hammer, we ARE the hammer….of justice, of freedom of love between our brothers and our sisters………. We are at a cross-roads in our nation’s history and in our own sense of purpose. There should be little doubt: It’s time to bring that hammer back.

What Happened to the California Dream?

What Happened to the California Dream?- By Dave Johnson
How long have people been making fun of us left-coast tree-hugging, frisbee-tossing, granola-crunching, animal-loving, tofu-eating, yoga-practicing, peacenik eco-nuts?
The thing is, people are starting to realize that all of these ridiculed things are good for us— and for the country and the planet. They are the right choices.
Sure, everyone had a good laugh. But it’s a few years later now and the consequences of years of bad choices are catching up. People who mocked tofu-eaters and Frisbee-tossers are realizing they don’t want to be fat and out of shape–some are even dying of heart attacks and diabetes. Granola and tofu are good for you, especially compared to the fast food, meat and white breat that were being eaten in their stead.
And what about the eco-nuts? They aren’t looking all that nutty today, are they? The people who laughed about tree-hugging econ-nuts are spending $60 to fill their gas tanks and worryng about their coastal property values declining as the water rises. Meanwhile Californians are driving hybrids in proportions greater than the rest of the country. Who is laughing now?

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Empowering California’s Youth

From The Courage Campaign

Last week, I met a young woman, a high school student, at a Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara event about "Empowering California's Youth."  She was there because she'd just gotten a postcard from the army — one that detailed all the benefits of enlisting in the army after graduating from high school.  "Don't they know I'm college bound?!" she said, concerned that the army recruiters were working her high school too hard.  "There's recruiters everywhere at school," she told me.  She was so upset after getting that postcard that she decided to attend the Progressive Democrats event to hear about ways she could fight back against the military's recruitment machine.

She wasn't disappointed.

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Take Back America coming up

Of all the emerging progressive infrastructure groups, the Campaign for America’s Future has been on a tear lately. As we wrote about a few weeks back, they landed the brilliant Rick Perlstein, author of the mind-blowing history of Barry Goldwater at the dawn of movement conservatism, to cover conservative failures. (he’s a busy, busy guy)
They’ve continued this trend of snapping up brilliant progressive writers by getting Bill Scher (of LiberalOasis and “Wait! Don’t Move to Canada: A Stay-And-Fight Strategy to Win Back America“) to take point on blogging for their upcoming conference.
The show is from June 18th to 20th and it is an incredible deal; in an age of ever-climbing conference fees they’ve managed to hold it down to $190 for three entire days of brain-melting progressive action. And it’s in Washington DC – not the most affordable place for a junket, but far from the worst, too. New features this year include a bunch of self-organized, “unconference”-like sessions, which have proven to be some of the most interesting sessions at the last couple of events I’ve attended. I’m hoping to present some of the philosophical foundations work I’ve been hammering out at one of these.
Bill’s blog is here and the main Take Back America conference site is here. If you can make it, this one’s a good ‘un.

Will we learn to fund progressive infrastructure?

With Spring in full-bloom, I decided to do some spring cleaning this weekend and clean out the way-too-many saved emails I’ve been holding onto for some inexplicable reason and delete old internet “bookmarks” I haven’t looked at for months (beats cleaning out closets). In doing so, I came across a number of wonderful and informative places that have actually closed up shop for lack of funding. Sadly, but not surprisingly, many of them are progressive sites which simply ran out of money. It’s not that they were lacking for a solid readership. But readership alone doesn’t keep a site going. It takes money and commitment by progressive groups and individuals to keep internet activism alive in California. Infrastructure is never cheap, although the internet is probably the best dollar-for-result-invested that political activism has seen so far.
We know that one of the right-wing’s strategies has been to burn up progressive’s financial resources by depleting our dollars while we try to fund safety-net programs that the government no longer supports. We’re asked to contribute to so many worthy causes; to right injustice, to help the needy, protect the environment from corporate onslaught, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. And then there’s trying to keep the progressive message and its critical infrastructure alive. Poltical internet sites know this only too well. Most of California’s progressive sites continue pretty much on love and commitment to what we’re doing.
This isn’t a fundraising pitch for Speak Out California (although if it does move you to contribute to our site, we’d welcome it—all you have to do is click onto the header captioned “Donate ” at the top of our home page.) We’re not alone in our neverending need for support. Every day I get a request to donate to progressive sites like,Truthout, which serves as a sort of on-line clearinghouse for daily news and opinion of interest to the progressive community.
I know from talking with other California progressive websites that generate dialogue and information to California’s ever-growing progressive community that they, too, are struggling to stay alive; that they are able to continue by dipping into their personal savings or doing other work in addition to maintaining their websites. They’ve tried advertising and fundraising on line. Not enough comes in to pay the bills and provide them with a living wage for their efforts.
Organizations that create internet sites as a secondary aspect to their mission -for example to provide information on their own activities are often able to fund their sites, but the goal of internet infrastructure is to provide independent information seen through a broader “progressive” lense. While different groups are doing important work, they tend to have a single or specific agenda- for example, Eco-Vote. This well-designed site is intended to provide information on the work and programs of the CLCV (California League of Conservation Voters) whereas the goal of progressive infrastructure is to articulate over-arching and fundamental values that extend to a broad range of issues and topics.
On the other side of the spectrum, the right-wing propaganda machines are functioning quite successfully. Why? Simply because wealthy right-wingers and big corporations understand and appreciate the importance of developing strong informational and opinion infrastructure on the internet. They’re willing to put the money in to get their pro-business, anti-government message out wide and far. Their on-line networks get “advertising” at above-market rates or get large contributions from right-wing companies and individuals to keep going, broaden their networks and plug their agenda.
If we want to keep educating and informing progressives in California on the state’s important comings-and-goings, continue a strong and pro-active voice for positive change, and combat the right-wing propaganda machines, we’ve got to see a greater commitment to funding these efforts.
The right-wing has always understood that love alone, will not win the day. It’s about time the good guys realized that as well or our work and message will be just a faint whisper in California’s internet political discourse.

Freedom smackdown part II: Andrew Sullivan edition

Maybe it’s too mind bending to contemplate responding to Andrew Sullivan (a reasonably clear headed conservative) responding to David Brooks (a nearly completely muddle-headed one, at least most of the time), but this is a clear illustration of the rhetorical corner that both conservatives and some progressives have painted themselves into at this point.
There’s two big problems here. Problem the first:

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Ideas and consequences: the case for interdependence

Over at StreetProphets, PastorDan asks “Who is My Neighbor?” in relation to the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids that have been happening all over the country – including many in California. Latina Lista broke some great coverage of the “privatized detention facilities” (maybe the three scariest words in the American lexicon right now) that families broken up by the raids are being placed in.
PastorDan’s post includes a treatment of how birthright citizenship challenges the authoritarian familial structures favored by conservatives – and why they want that law changed. The whole article, and a lot of the pieces linked from it, are very much worth a read. But where it really gets interesting is this:

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In Sunday’s SF Chron, clever seeming anti-urbanist critic Joel Kotkin tells an increasingly familiar story about the tarnished reputation of the Golden State:

Our magnificent state may still be the home to Silicon Valley, Hollywood, the nation’s largest port complex and the world’s richest agricultural valleys, but by many critical measurements the state is slipping.

What are the problems, and how can we move forward through them? Is Mr Kotkin or anyone else in the state proposing serious solutions?

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Obama and narrative

[Cross-posted at dailykos.]
Barack Obama’s announcement speech was terrific. It had some genuinely spine-tingling moments; moments we haven’t had in far too long, like where he stands tall against right wing scapegoating of immigrants and gay people. But about two thirds of the way through, he gets into the “Let us” section. There are 20 uses of the construction “let us…” packed into the next six paragraphs. This was the weakest part of the speech. It felt like an ordinary laundry list, like he stepped out of telling an otherwise compelling story for those few paragraphs.
Education, health care, support for unions, ending of poverty, energy independence – these are all great goals, these are my goals as a progressive. So why did this part feel so flat?

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Engaging the Powers, Part I: Five Worldviews

[Cross-posted over at Street Prophets]
In his recent widely-discussed Call to Renewal speech, Senator Barack Obama dropped a throwaway reference to “powers and principalities”…

I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change, a power made real by some of the leaders here today. Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge powers and principalities.

This phrase may be unfamiliar, but it was deeply resonant for me because of a book that had a huge impact on both my own personal spirituality and my understanding of this historic-political moment, Walter Wink’s 1992 Engaging the Powers. This is one of those books that you come across that just seems like it needs to be out there more. I’ve recommended it countless times, even bought copies of it for folks, but it is a heavy, serious read, grand in scope and meticulous in its details. There are 77 pages of footnotes and 9 single-spaced, 3 columned pages of biblical citations alone.
Because of this – and because I believe this book offers a progressive historical narrative that our movement is starving for…

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