The Rainbow Mind
Speaks to Hir Soul
Spring blossoms live within Hir-Thoughts
Live life-nurturing ways
Birthing the Birth of Birthing Hir-Self
Oh, my love, My Planet, People's womb
Dying slowly from ignorance's blade
Oh, my love, My Planet, People's Womb
Birthing the Birth of Birthing Hir-Self
I wait in serenity's bosom, me.
Hir Spring Blossoms nurturing for eternity.
Chronicles under the Mushroom Sun
- Grokking Real Eyes
Dennis Kucinich and the Question
By William Rivers Pitt
Cuz take away our Playstations
And we are a third world nation
Under the thumb of some blue blood royal son
Who stole the Oval Office and that phony election
It don't take a weatherman
To look around and see the weather
Jeb said he'd deliver Florida, folks
And boy did he ever…
And we hold these truths to be self evident
#1: George W. Bush is not President
#2: America is not a true democracy
#3: the media is not fooling me
Cuz I am a poem heeding hyper-distillation
I've got no room for a lie so verbose
I'm looking out over my whole human family
And I'm raising my glass in a toast…
Ani DiFranco, "Self-Evident"
The three most powerful letters in American politics are ‘FDR.’ Franklin Roosevelt unleashed a political revolution so powerful and complete that it required the incredible extremism of the Bush administration to bring it to heel.
That is not to say the revolution wasn’t flagging before George took the Oval Office chair. Democratic Presidents and Presidential hopefuls have been running on Roosevelt rhetoric since the titan died in his fourth term, but the facts on the ground are clear.
The country has been steadily retreating from the legacy of FDR for decades.
Enter Dennis Kucinich, Democratic congressman from Ohio, former Mayor of Cleveland, and candidate for President in 2004. There is not a single polling indicator that puts him above ten percent support at this point, and he managed only a 1% showing in the Iowa caucuses. Pragmatism dictates that he is merely tilting at windmills, but a closer look reveals something far different in play.
I spent Friday to Sunday on the eve of the Iowa caucuses in a giant red van with the Kucinich campaign as he stumped in a dozen cities all across the state.
In speech after speech, Dennis Kucinich railed against the sorry lot of the American worker, the pale shadow that is health care in this country, the deteriorating state of the environment, and the war in Iraq.
These were themes that, by and large, were echoed by virtually every other candidate running in the state. The difference, however, is that Kucinich owned a moral authority and clarity of policy on these matters that most of the other candidates would love to call their own.
He is untainted by corporate funding, and has practiced what he preaches for the duration of his career. The other candidates, each one, are excellent individuals in their own right.
But there is just something extra happening with Dennis.
He is the only candidate in this race hitting hard against NAFTA and the WTO.
He is the only candidate promising, with details attached, to establish universal single-payer health care for everyone in America.
He is the only candidate attacking the deranged nature of the bloated Pentagon budget, and has sworn an oath to clean that house to pay for his social programs. Drawing on the lessons of Vietnam, a conflict which dragged on because we were too proud to leave when we should have, he has crafted a detailed plan to get our troops home within 90 days.
This, like the other policies, sets him apart. Through it all is a cry for the worker, the forgotten American worker, and the family, and the soul of the nation entire.
The ghost of FDR had come to corn country.
Welcome to Iowa
It was a bit like going back in time. The red van hummed and bounced down the highway from Des Moines to Dubuque on a morning when the sun never showed its face. A white fog hung low over the rolling hills, and whitewashed barns and farmhouses loomed out of the mist like an echo of an agrarian wonderland. The fields of corn and soy had been reaped, and the black soil waited like a postcard for spring and seeds and sunlight.
The pastoral image outside the window belied some hard facts that speak to larger issues which demand attention in the coming election. In 1900, the topsoil in Iowa was several feet deep, made up of dirt so rich in nutrients that you could eat it by the fistful and be nourished. In the last several years, industrial farming has stripped that topsoil down to a mere 14 inches. The earth that remains is saturated with chemical fertilizers that have bled into the water table, poisoning it.
100 years ago, agriculture in Iowa was dominated by family farmers. Each farm raised its own portion of crops and kept a few head of cattle. Those cattle were fed whatever was grown on the land. It was a perfect machine, an agrarian society that hummed along in a timeless harmony.
Then came the 1980s, and a new generation of farmers graduated from agricultural colleges. Their heads were filled with a desire to purchase the shiny new farming machines pitched to them in classrooms by corporate agribusinesses.
Farms that had been in families for three generations or more took on hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt as these new farmers bought equipment they didn’t need. The debt held, however, because the agrarian harmony paid enough dividends to keep the banks at bay.
In the 1980s, however, corporate agribusinesses convinced those banks to call in those debts, and thousands of farms crashed. There were about two suicides a month for a long period, as farmers who felt they had failed their families killed themselves out of rage and shame and despair. The farms went up for sale, and were purchased at fire-sale prices by corporations like ADM.
Today, the cattle and crop industries in Iowa are owned by massive agribusinesses which keep thousands of head in tight quarters. The waste created by this is extraordinary, and goes straight into the ground. Likewise, massive industrial pig farms create untold thousands of gallons of pig manure which are stored in huge ‘lagoons.’ No material crafted by human ingenuity can contain this caustic filth, and so these lagoons breach their containers and further contaminate the water table. The stench from these lagoons is so extreme that houses a mile downwind become covered in flies.
In five years, the aquifer underneath the state will be completely polluted by dung and chemicals. The topsoil, denuded by factory farming, will continue to disappear, and continue to require chemical fertilizers to bring forth the crops.
The introduction of genetically modified crops to the landscape, meanwhile, will change the ecosystem in ways we do not even begin to understand.
Recently, America endured its first Mad Cow scare. We were told that everything was under control, but this was a fantastic lie.
Mad Cow is transferred two ways: In the manure or in the feed, two conduits that are demonstrably connected. Factory cattle farms in Iowa feed their animals an incredibly dangerous mixture. A massive turkey farm north of Des Moines composts the corpses of dead turkeys, mixed with the sawdust bedding they live in. The product of this is sold to the factory farms, which mix it with rotten candy bars purchased from candy manufacturers.
Finally, the brew is spiced with the dross created in the process of cattle slaughter: Blood and offal sluiced through grates when the animals are killed.
Into this mixture goes neurological material from slaughtered cattle – brains and spines – and cattle feed is the final product. It is in the neurological parts of the cow that Mad Cow breeds. The animals eat this, and then defecate it by the ton in these massive factory yards, and all the other animals walk around in it.
Because of the profoundly unhealthy manure-filled environment in which these cattle are kept, the feed is heavily spiced with antibiotics to keep them from dropping dead because of the diseases they stand in all day long. Those antibiotics translate into humans, making us more susceptible in the long run to bacteria.
This is a ticking time bomb.
If you think this problem is limited to Iowa, you are dead wrong. David, the man driving the van, described all of this to me in the context of Iowa, and in the context of the farm his grandfather owned there many years ago, but it is a national crisis. When Dennis Kucinich went on later that weekend to discuss farm policy, the control of genetically-modified crops, and a process of moving away from corporate concentrations of power in agriculture, it wasn’t just pandering to the farm voters.
The fog that morning offered only a postcard. The problems that were hidden – the wreckage of the environment, the dominance of corporations, the danger of a poisoned food source – await us all.
Will you sign my aura?
There is an assumed caricature of the typical Kucinich supporter that has worked its way into the public consciousness. People who support Kucinich are moonbeamers who commune with crystals, and who are fifth-level vegans who only eat food that doesn’t cast a shadow. I was fully expecting to meet crowds of people asking Kucinich if he would sign their auras. The reality, I quickly saw, was far different.
Kucinich stopped at coffee houses, at town halls, at art galleries, and was met each time by hundreds of people. Often, there was no room inside these places because of the crowds, and dozens of people were forced to wait outside in 18 degree temperatures and a bitter wind. They waited. And waited. And waited. And finally met the candidate. And left feeling supercharged.
I met veterans, and union workers, and college kids, and grandmothers. Here and there were the occasional Grateful Dead tour refugees, but one can find these folk within virtually every campaign.
These were very normal people, and they all loved Dennis Kucinich.
The campaign van was a microcosm of the difference between perception and reality. The driver was David, a father from Iowa who had volunteered early and had risen to one of the top positions in the campaign. He wore a suit and tie, and sat at the helm of the operation with a calm hand and a quietly wry sense of humor. Kevin, another organizer, sat in the back lamenting the fact that he had not had a haircut in weeks. Yet his hair was short and neat. In the shotgun seat sat a security man carved out of Vermont stone whose heart was as big as a mountain. For that weekend, actress Mimi Kennedy from the show ‘Dharma and Greg’ rode along. A more sincere, normal, warm person would be difficult to find anywhere.
This was the infrastructure which surrounded Kucinich as we roared across the state. The cell phones and Blackberries were constantly beeping and humming as the operation rolled with the road. It was one of the most regular groups I’ve ever seen. So much for the public perception.
The first stop on Saturday was a Democratic party gathering at the Grand River Center in Dubuque, a large, modern facility on the industrialized banks of the Mississippi River. Hundreds of people were in attendance. The event was supposed to be a three-way stump spot for Kerry, Edwards and Kucinich. Kerry, however, got marooned somewhere else in the state because of bad weather. John Edwards showed up in a huge oceanliner of a bus and hit the room to the sound of some orgiastic rock anthem.
His supporters, the youngest of any candidate present, screamed and waved signs as Edwards took the stage. His speech was strong, vibrant and suffused with echoes of the vibe that so electrified the Clinton speeches of yore. His strong performance in the caucuses the following Monday came as no surprise after watching him work on Saturday. The endorsement from the Des Moines Register probably didn’t hurt, either.
Kucinich came on next. It was clear that many in the crowd were not familiar with him. That was about to change.
"I come from Cleveland, Ohio," began Kucinich. "I’m the oldest of seven children. My parents never owned a home, and as the family grew, we kept moving because we outgrew the apartments that we lived in. During the 1950s, there used to be ads in the newspapers that would say ‘No Children’ or ‘One Child Only.’ If you had a large family and didn’t own a home, you were out of luck. So our family kept moving from place to place. By the time I was 17 years old, we had lived in 21 different places, including a couple of cars."
"That experience," he continued, "growing up in the city of Cleveland, and living in so many different neighborhoods, and moving from place to place, that experience informs greatly my passion for public service, and my reasons for running for President of the United States.
I know that it matters to people to have a job, to have a living wage, to have decent health care, that their kids can go to decent schools, that they live in decent neighborhoods, that they have a roof over their heads.
I understand this.
I understand it because these are the kinds of concerns that my parents had to deal with when we were growing up. These are the kinds of concerns that many families have to deal with today."
"In this time of rising unemployment," he said, "all the government will tell us is that the statistics indicate that things are looking a little bit better. The truth of the matter is that there are many people not even reflected in the unemployment numbers anymore, because they stopped looking for jobs, because there aren’t any jobs available. And that’s the truth. The truth is that so many American families have breadwinners who are working part-time because they can’t find full-time work.
The truth is that people working both part-time and full-time are locked into low-paying jobs. The truth is that this country is letting working-class and middle-class citizens just slowly find their economic position deteriorating without any great cause in America to lift people up, to give people the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
What is this government doing for all of our people?"
"We see the priorities," he said. "Tax cuts for the wealthy. $155 billion for a war we didn’t have to get into. A bloated Pentagon - half the discretionary spending in the federal budget goes to the Pentagon. Cuts in veterans benefits. Cuts in health care. Cuts in education. Cuts in housing. Cuts in jobs programs. This country is losing its connection with its people. My Presidency will be about reconnecting America with the practical aspirations of the American people."
By this time, the crowd had risen, somewhat surprised with itself, to its feet in approval several times. Dennis Kucinich? Rocking the house?
"I want you, the taxpayers, to think about this," said Kucinich after the applause had died down again. "If we’re in Iraq for a few years, the cost will be over a half a trillion dollars. That’s going to come out of our budget for housing, for education, for health care. Casualties are now over five hundred, and could go into the thousands.
When is enough enough? I say enough is enough right now, and that’s why we need to get the troops out, and that’s why I’m ready to lead in that direction."
"All across the country," he said, "we see the infrastructure of many states crumbling. Bridges, water systems, sewer systems, roads in disrepair. States don’t have the money to fix them, and local communities don’t have the money to fix them.
I intend to take a page from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who in the 1930s recognized the need to rebuild America, recognized the need to put millions of people back to work, and have a new WPA program to repair our bridges and water systems and sewer systems.
We will put Americans back to work, we will build a new infrastructure, we will build a new chance for America.
I am running to lead the way on that."
"I am talking about a quest to ensure the economic stability of America," he said. "In my campaign around this country, I have visited so many communities where I have seen plant gates locked, and have looked through those gates to see grass growing in parking lots. These are plants where they used to make steel, where they used to make textiles, where they used to make car parts and washing machines and bicycles.
All around this country, we’ve seen this same story of one manufacturing plant after another being closed. We are told that this is inevitable."
"We’ve had three million manufacturing jobs lost," he said, "since July of 2000. Three million. I explained earlier where I am coming from on this. I understand job loss. It is not just a statistic. It means a home that is threatened.
It means someone in the family is not going to get the education they hoped for.
It means the loss of health benefits. It means retirement benefits at risk.
It means instability in a family.
It could mean a family splitting up. Tremendous economic pressures are being put on so many American families today, and I’ll tell you one of the reasons."
"Ten years ago," he said in a rising voice, "the United States passed agreements called NAFTA and the WTO which created conditions where global corporations are setting all the rules for trade. You know what it is about? You know what it is about. It is about cheap labor. Wherever they can drive down wages, they do it.
Wherever they can get someone to do a job for less than nothing, that’s what they are looking for. They don’t care about child labor, prison labor, slave labor, they don’t care about crushing workers.
What they care about is being able to make more and more of a profit.
They don’t care if they close down a community."
"They don’t care if they crush small businesses," he said, now in full roar. “They don’t care because they have the power, with NAFTA and the WTO, and all these trade agreements, to just move jobs out of this country, move out the manufacturing jobs, move out high-tech jobs, move out any kind of job that exists in this country that they can make a better buck off in another country by crushing workers rights. I’ve seen it. It is time to put an end to it."
The thunder of the audience shook the room.
An Interview in Seventeen Parts
Being inside a campaign van during a Presidential race is like being inside a very small hurricane. The candidate does media interview after media interview via cell phone, hoping the next stretch of farmland allows for cell phone reception long enough to get his points across. Others in the van discuss language for press releases with the home office, and everyone checks the schedule for the next campaign stop, and the next, and the next.
There were eight stops on Sunday, the day I meant to get an interview with Dennis Kucinich. I got it, interspersed between phone calls, speeches and cross-seat strategy meetings.
WRP: You spoke in your Dubuque speech about having 21 homes all over the place when you were young, moving around a lot, and enduring that insecurity. How did that experience inform your view of politics and your reasons for doing the work you do?
DK: For a lot of people, life is uncertain. Many people out there do not know whether they’ll have a job from one day to the next. There are people out there who are not sure if they will be able to hold on to their homes, if their health care will be there one day to the next, if they’ll be able to send their children to college, if their retirement security is assured. There’s a lot of insecurity out there, and I understand it. I grew up in that kind of environment, so I have a deep understanding of the kind of lingering anxieties people can have about their financial position.
WRP: What, specifically, is your plan to deal with the Iraq situation?
DK: It is a plan that involves a real shift in U.S. policy, moving away from unilateralism and pre-emption to a practice of cooperating with the world community on matters of security.
First, my plan is to go to the U.N. and to ask them to handle the oil assets of Iraq on behalf of the Iraqi people, until the Iraqi people are self-governing.
Second, ask the U.N. to handle the contracts under conditions of transparency where contracts will be given to the best bidder, and eliminate the kind of considerations which have so tainted the contract process.
Part of that is to make sure that the Iraqi people can get jobs from that contract process. One of the compounded tragedies of our presence there is that we are manipulating the contract process. There are billions of dollars sailing through the air, and most people in Iraq don’t have work.
WRP: We reported on truthout not long ago that U.S. forces opened a Burger King at the Baghdad airport, and imported workers from Pakistan to run it. So the Iraqi people can’t even get work at Burger King.
DK: This is one of the things that is leading to great resentment, as is the effort by the United States to control the oil. Another source of resentment is the administration’s plans, articulated on September 19th by Paul Bremer, to privatize the top 200 enterprises in the Iraqi economy. Such privatization plans and practices violate the Geneva and Hague Conventions.
We have to renounce those.
We must let the world community know that we anticipate Iraqi sovereignty, and that it will be up to the people of Iraq to make a determination as to what happens with the assets of their country.
In the meantime, the responsibility of the United States is to rebuild what we blew up. Some will say that it is only a private investor who can come in and do this. That’s not right. To the extent that we destroyed a functioning infrastructure, we have an obligation to repair it.
The third thing we have to do is to turn over to the United Nations the responsibility of developing an Iraq constitution in concert with the clerical leaders in Iraq, and other leaders from within the society. The U.N. will work with the Iraqis to schedule free and fair elections. This, too, is a major stumbling block and what could prove to be the flashpoint for serious organized violence against our troops. What the administration is doing is desperately seeking a government structure which would facilitate American hegemony. The leader of the largest religious group, the Shi’ite Muslims, has rejected the plan of the United States repeatedly over the last two months. Grand Ayatollah Sistani has demanded free and fair elections, and very pointedly has said that the Shi’ites will not cooperate with any structure that was imposed by the United States. Anyone who is a student of history, in the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, knows of the ill-fated attempt by the United States government to try and impose a government in Vietnam which lacked popular support.
It is our troops who will bear the brunt of this. I don’t think anyone can state strongly enough the great risk which this administration is exposing our troops to. This is an urgent matter.
Two months ago, when this question first arose in the media, there were stories in the Dallas Morning News and the Omaha paper about the potential for an uprising, a true uprising, against the United States presence in Iraq.
It appears that the Grand Ayatollah Sistani is, at this moment, taking a non-violent approach. Given the explosive nature of the U.S. presence in Iraq, it is very dangerous for us to be insisting on a certain structure of governance, especially if that is met with resistance by the clerical leaders. Do the math. 130,000 U.S. troops. 25 million Iraqis. 15 million of those are Shi’ite Muslims.
WRP: You have said that, on your first day as President, you will cancel NAFTA and the WTO. Why?
DK: NAFTA and the WTO were written by global corporate interests whose ambitions are to seek cheap labor. That’s why NAFTA and the WTO both precluded institutionalizing workers rights, human rights, or environmental quality principles in trade agreements.
They put the requirements of facilitating global commerce over every principle of ethics and what should attend to commerce. There has been much said about side-agreements that were made in developing both NAFTA and the WTO. They are not worth the paper they are written on.
NAFTA cannot be changed without the permission of Canada or Mexico, or the global corporations which wrote them for their own benefit.
NAFTA has led to a loss of 550,000 American jobs directly.
With the WTO, we’ve lost 3,000,000 manufacturing jobs since July of 2000. We are losing our manufacturing base, and our high-tech base in America, because of these trade agreements which put global commerce above every other principle.
In recognition of the toll this has taken, of NAFTA’s unsurpassed shortcomings, I would exercise the provisions of both NAFTA and the WTO which authorize parties to withdraw with 60 days notice, and proceed to do so. I will reinstate bilateral trade based on workers rights, human rights, and environmental quality principles.
WRP: You are running for President, but you are also trying to start a national movement. Explain the basis for that movement, and the goals you are ultimately trying to achieve.
DK: It is one thing to be elected to an office. I’ve won a lot of elections in my time. It’s another thing to make that election part of a broader construction of a socially and economically just society, and of a world where we can make operative the practical principles of peace as the basis for conduct between nations.
I think we are at a moment in time when we are really called upon to tap the deepest capacities we have for transforming this world.
An election campaign, while a contest of ideas, and while intended to lead to a new order of things in the United States through electing a new President – in this case, me – it is part of a much larger picture. That larger picture is about the consideration of the principles, the themes, the values, the aspirations which have moved people from so many different communities to get involved in this campaign.
They see something beyond it.
They see the potential for something beyond it.
That something is at once the realization of the potential of the future, and the creation of a structure to help us get there.
You Eat the Apple and Give Me the Corps
At one stop outside a burger joint, an older man came out of the crowd and embraced Kucinich in a bear hug. He commandeered the microphone Kucinich was using to address the large crowd and demanded that U.S. troops be withdrawn immediately from Iraq. Kucinich hailed him, shook his hand, and went inside the shop to address the rest of the crowd away from the bitter wind. The man stayed outside, and I went to speak with him.
I made my introduction, and was told that I was speaking to K.C. Churchill. "You eat the apple," he said in a voice that sounded like a combination between the explosion of a howitzer cannon and a gravel truck going uphill in low gear, "and give me the Corps. The Marine Corps! HOO-YAH!" The red Corps hat on his head, festooned with combat pins and American flags, gave testament to his martial pedigree. I asked Churchill why he was there.
"I wanted to meet the man in person," said Churchill, "and see what he had to say. I got to see Dean on Monday night, I got to see Edwards, but I got sick before I got to see Kerry. I wanted to see Kerry very badly. I like Dennis. I really like Dennis. I raise dogs, and he reminds me of a little fox terrier. He is the smallest candidate size-wise, just like the fox terrier is the smallest dog I own. My hounds are ten times bigger than that fox terrier, but my fox terrier walks around amongst them hounds, and he is the boss. It don’t matter how small he is, he would let them know that he was the boss. He makes them hounds back down. That’s Dennis."
"I’m like a lot of people," he said. "I’m undecided, even at this last minute. I got out of Vietnam in October of 1968. The government borrowed $300 billion to finance Vietnam, even after I got out. That pisses me off, big time. Because of that, Social Security ran into trouble, and now it’s gonna run into trouble again. They gotta keep their hands off of Social Security. That’s my biggest thing."
As we talked, I found out why. K.C. Churchill had been wounded three times in Vietnam. At one point, he turned his head and showed me a scar in his neck deep enough to lay his entire index finger in. He still had metal fragments in his leg and hip from a mortar blast. “This cold,” he said, “throbs and pains me because of that metal like a toothache times three.” Yet it took him two months to even get an appointment at the VA hospital down the road. “I go up there on a regular basis, but get hit with the old hurry-up-and-wait policy,” he said. “They’ve cut the government funding so bad that they are understaffed to beat hell. I’ve begged them for the last three years to take this metal out of me. They haven’t done it yet. What do I have to do, get a lawyer and sue their ass? What are my chances of winning? A well-diggers ass in Hell, that’s my chances.”
K.C. Churchill does not live it large. He is a construction worker, but his war wounds make it impossible for him to get cold-weather work. Arthritis has begun to claw its way into his hands and knees. Social Security is about all he has to keep him off the street.
He cannot get any assistance or medical aid from the veteran’s hospital, because the Bush administration has stripped billions of dollars in funding from basic veterans benefits to pay for the Iraq war and the tax cuts.
Here was a man who served in Vietnam and took wounds up and down his body three times, but tried to re-up for another tour despite his injuries. Is he alone in his predicament? No.
It is a national disgrace. The American people have been beaten about the head and shoulders with demands for patriotism. Support the troops, says the Bush administration, or be ashamed. ‘Support the troops’ was translated into ‘Support the Iraq war.’ Yet where it truly matters, the administrations’ rhetoric is shown to be an empty well.
Combine that with the ugliest of truths: Over 500 soldiers are dead in Iraq, 26,000 more have been medically evacuated for physical or mental wounds, and another generation of veterans has been born, men and women who will be lauded when war has come, but will be otherwise forgotten and discarded like broken toys after a rough game.
“What do I have to do to get my message across?” thundered Churchill outside the coffee shop. A moment later, one of the people who came out to see Kucinich stepped on a balloon that had been put out to decorate the campaign stop. It exploded with a bang. K.C. Churchill, every inch the proud and strong Marine, jumped like a scalded cat and went into a crouched, defensive posture. His eyes were wild and fearful. For several moments, he could not speak.
“Those mortars,” he finally whispered. “You never, ever get over that.”
How much change are you ready for?
In speech after speech, in place after place, Dennis Kucinich asked the same question time and again. “How much change,” he asked, “are you ready for?” The people gathered in these places, people who came out by the hundreds, always leaned forward hungrily, always cheered, always waited for the word. Without fail, Kucinich brought that word, and people left filled.
It comes down to this.
Dennis Kucinich is running for President, but he is also formulating a national movement that will be in place long after the race is run. This movement, in all 50 states, will stand ready to defend the most basic American principles that have been lost for years. The movement stands for the workers. The movement stands for the families. The movement stands for the environment. The movement stands for health care. The movement stands for peace.
The movement stands for America. During his speech in Dubuque, Kucinich said, “My campaign is about bringing the end of fear in this country, the fear which keeps us from standing up for our own interests, the fear which causes people to take positions that are against the interests of the American people. The red in our flag stands for courage, not fear.
The white in our flag stands for purity.
The blue in our flag stands for loyalty.
When Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled banner, he posed a riddle to all of us. He asked a question. Does that Star-Spangled banner yet wave in the land of the free and the home of the brave? He made the connection between freedom and bravery, between courage and democracy.”
“My candidacy,” he said in Dubuque, “is about calling forth the fearlessness that exists in the heart of every American, calling forth the courage to meet each day on its own terms.
Without fear, with confidence, with hope, with the anticipation that we can meet the challenges, whether they be terrorism or poverty.
This campaign is about a celebration of who we are as Americans, about the path of fearlessness that will lead us forward in the world, about the path of courage which will lead us to a country where we have health care for all, jobs for all, education for all, and peace in the world. We are capable of this. It is time to create a new America. The time is now. The time is now.”
Dennis Kucinich reminds people why they are Democrats, why they are progressives, in the first place. He is the soul and the spirit of those beliefs personified, he is Franklin Delano Roosevelt returned, walking and talking and preaching in the 21st century. Anyone who doubts this has not seen the man in action, has not met the people who surround him and support him.
This run for the White House is about far more than winning that office. If you think the end of the primaries will spell the end of his run, think again.
If the Democratic Party should win the White House in 2004, a powerful progressive network will have to be in place to push the new administration in the right direction, and against the tide that has been unleashed. This is what Dennis Kucinich is constructing, one brick at a time.
This tide has only just begun to rise.
How much change are you ready for?
William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of truthout.org. He is a New York Times and international best-selling author of three books - "War On Iraq," available from Context Books, "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available from Pluto Press, and "Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism," available in August from Context Books.
Dennis Kucinic: Update: October 28 2003
Ed Garvey: Kucinich stands for true Democratic principles
By Ed Garvey
October 28, 2003
To begin, I must admit to liking and respecting most of the Democrats who are seeking our support for president.
I have marched with Al Sharpton, contributed to Carol Moseley Braun's Senate campaign, met Dick Gephardt in college, and admired John Kerry's courage in opposing the Vietnam War after serving with distinction. (Those who never served but now urge us on to more and more pre-emptive strikes should, at a minimum, suit up and join our forces in Iraq.)
I'm impressed with Howard Dean's use of the Internet to raise money from, as Jim Hightower says, "the alley cats instead of the fat cats." And he took a bold and correct stance in opposing the invasion of Iraq.
I don't think we need a former general, Wesley Clark, to explain that President Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld screwed up. That is obvious to the majority of Democratic voters and, by his recent memo, apparent to Rumsfeld himself.
While I have never suffered from a migraine, watching and listening to Joe Lieberman's Bush apologia gives me some sense of how a migraine must feel.
I've written before that if Dean, Kerry or Dennis Kucinich wins the nomination, I'll be dancing in the street. And I must say that if Dick Gephardt wins, that's OK with me.
But primaries are about choices. When I ran for the Senate, I was opposed by a popular chair of the Democratic Party and by a state senator. I had to ask fellow Democrats to choose.
When we think back to Robert La Follette's reforms, the guts of the reforms rested on the selection of good candidates by the people, not the bosses. So I had to put people in the uncomfortable position of making a choice. If they chose someone else, that did not reduce them in my view nor did it make them "bad" progressives. They made a choice based on a myriad of issues, personalities or values.
The important thing is to make a choice, and I have made mine in the Democratic primary. I support, without any hesitation, the person I believe best articulates and lives our progressive values, Dennis Kucinich.
I first met Kucinich when he keynoted our first Fighting Bob Fest in Baraboo. He gave a wonderful speech but the next day at our home, speaking to perhaps only 25 people, he moved into the rarified atmosphere of a Paul Simon and Gaylord Nelson. He was not just thoughtful, he was profound.
My wife and I went to a neighbor's home years ago to hear a Southern governor who was exhibit A for the "new South." We thought that Jimmy Carter had no chance of winning the presidency, but there was something about him that compelled us to hope that he just might make it to vice president at a minimum.
Listening to Kucinich in Baraboo and at the Orpheum Theatre in the vain but valiant effort to stop the invasion of Iraq, I had that same feeling. I turned to a friend and asked, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have a person with his vision and courage as president?" The response stuck with me: "And why not?"
Indeed, why not?
If he carries Wisconsin, look out, Democratic Leadership Council.
He understands and voted against the Patriot Act. He opposed the invasion of Iraq, and while some others did as well, Kucinich wants our troops out of Iraq to be replaced by U.N. forces - now. He stands alone today, but just wait a few months.
He supports national health care without evasiveness. Could there be a more important issue than the life and death of our citizens?
And when I look at the decimation of our manufacturing base nationally and in Wisconsin, I want clear answers on the World Trade Organization and NAFTA.
Kucinich boldly stakes out his position. "On the first day of my presidency, I will cancel NAFTA and WTO."
Joe Lieberman's first day?
Appoint a hawk as secretary of defense. Dennis Kucinich would establish a Department of Peace.
Now the chickenhawks who don't mind sending the sons and daughters of the poor and working families into harm's way scoff at such a notion. Well, I don't know about you but the chickenhawks have as much credibility on "war" as Rush Limbaugh has on rehabilitation and addiction.
It is time for bold action, and Dennis Kucinich is the one who speaks out, tells the truth and makes the DLC cringe.
You know who else cringes?
The Republicans, because with a choice between pre-emptive George Bush and Dennis Kucinich, guess who would get out and vote?
Every Democrat, independent and Green in America. When we get a big turnout, we win. When we don't, the Republicans win. Offer the people a real choice and we win.
Offer them Republican lite and get ready for Patriot Act II.
When you elect people to office, you can't stand over their shoulder day in and day out to determine if they are true to their word. Nor do we expect to be consulted on every action or vote, but we certainly don't expect them to hold a moistened finger in the air to see what is popular.
We want people with integrity.
We want a Bob Kastenmeier, Bobby Kennedy or Paul Wellstone. And I add one name to that group: Dennis Kucinich.
If you agree, contact www.kucinich.us and help us carry Wisconsin. If you disagree, send comments to fightingbob.com. Whatever you do, make a choice, get involved, don't let the bosses decide for us.
Ed Garvey, the Democratic nominee for governor in 1998, is a Madison lawyer and the editor of the fightingbob.com Web site. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Takes a whole lot o' tryin'
Can an insurgent, grassroots campaign for the US Presidency outflank Big Media?
I got a note from a supporter of Dennis Kucinich, expressing shock and disbelief that the Congressman who would be the next US President had dared to turn down a second interview with Chris Matthews, loudmouth talk host at MSNBC.
What--the Dean of Hardball dissed by that pipsqueak from Cleveland? Okay, so it's a little more complicated than that, and it goes without saying that the campaign needs to take full advantage of every opportunity.
But it did raise, for me, some larger questions about a grassroots campaign and its response to Big Media. This is especially poignant in light of Kucinich's demand that stations stop airing a Dean ad, citing false statements about opponents.
It also occurred to me that I do some of my best thinking when I am responding directly to a friend: it gives the reader a sense of urgency and intimacy other forums do not. Of course, it's also like peeking into someone else's convo, and who can resist that?
So here, without adornment, is my attempt to cheer up this friend:
I don't think this will cheer you up, but I don't think it's an incompetent decision. It takes guts not to play this game, and I disagree with the article's lead that Kucinich has "forfeited the chance to reach millions." If Dennis can win--and we all agree this is still a big if--it will be from the ground up, not by fighting the gateway gladiators who annoint and condemn candidates.
The announcement tour strategy was, in a word, brilliant. The national media have ignored the campaign. Not so with local media, who really have nothing better to do when a candidate comes to town; coverage poured in from all sources in states where Dennis has been: from Hawaii to Austin to Manchester to Cleveland, local and state coverage has been excellent, and, I think, the correct antidote to the mocking behemoths who, lacking any seriousness themselves, would rather go off the air than take Dennis' campaign seriously.
Sure, it means more flying time and more travelling--but Kucinich's people don't stay in hotels. Sure we work harder for every victory--but we are all used to that. I know that it takes time, and it's a double-edged sword. The national media won't take us seriously until the first surprising votes roll in. And without exposure, we worry that the momentum will ever reach critical mass. But make no mistake: the permanent branding of Dennis the Also Ran, with Kucinich himself laying his own head on the block, has equal power to shape this exposure in a way that will permanently set him in the back of the pack. Unless he has an affair with Gennifer Flowers and the media are all over him all of a sudden, I don't think there is much good that can come from submitting to Matthews' crap.
Just last night my wife read the Rolling Stone interview, and woke me up in the middle of the night to share just "one more reason to love Dennis." Yes, it's a big leap from cult hero to serious candidate, but a recent Nation article put it best: "The press refuses to take Kucinich seriously precisely because he is serious."
I'm really not big on the whole Zen trip, to tell you the truth, but there is something to the simple confidence that the truth is the truth, and everything else is just, well, crap. The Guy Who Shunned the Media might be a better story than Man Bites Dog.
As far as reaching millions, we still have our work to do. We are the ones who will be reaching millions. I know it's hard work, but Kucinich is right when he says a grassroots campaign is worth millions. Just last weekend, we passed out over 1000 flyers at a fair in little downtown Salem; sure many people said "who is Dennis Kucinich," but there were no other campaigns even in sight. A more important indication than number--especially at this point--may be the passion of Kucinich supporters. In this context, trends among the micromedia of friends talking to each other may yet trump the national media octopus.
Anyone who has email can't have missed the growing phenomenon of little inspirational signatures that grace almost every note. Those of 'Kucitizens' begin to take on the timbre of a rising chorus of distinct but united voices: from Chavez' Si se puede! to the Man of La Mancha: "To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause." King, Gandhi, Franklin, Lincoln: it's an inspiring experience just to read a whole email these days. Even if we must "read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps," we know all too well what we are in this for. Hope is dangerous: truth does not always triumph. But King's optimism still informs as well as inspires:
"We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. We shall overcome because Carlisle is right: No lie can live forever. We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right: Truth crushed to earth will rise again. We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right: Truth forever on the scaffold/ wrong forever on the throne/ yet that scaffold sways the future/ and behind the dim unknown/ standeth God within the shadows/ keeping watch above his own."
And one of my favorites, inspired by the Matrix, "It's hard work taking the red pill." Keep on keepin' on, folks--We are the ones we've been waiting for.
Update August 31 2003
By Daniel Patrick Welch
Why the Antiwar Crowd Should Rally Behind Kucinich
The question has hung over the antiwar movement like a thick fog. Activism has continued to grow in exciting directions, of course.
But the impending election circus always sucks all the energy from otherwise rational people, who throw themselves into the quadrennial Dance of Death, tripping over each other with a curious zeal for candidates who don't share their interests-and who indeed, on both sides of the grisly political ledger, aim to co-opt or quash the antiwar fervor that is gripping the world. Enter Dennis Kucinich.
Despite the binary stupidity of a myopic press determined to judge it a failure, the incredible organizational and mobilizing power of the antiwar movement led unquestionably to the current stalemate and isolation of the U.S. imperial designs on the Middle East and beyond. Whether or not the war was stopped, it should now be clear that the massive global popular outcry prevented the validation of the war and its aftermath.
The inspiring memory of tens of millions organized to take the streets on February 15 was an important milestone after all.
The question on everybody's mind was how to gain political power from all this heat. The heat, of course, is still there, and can be felt in the visceral reaction to Bush and the U.S. agenda from every corner of the globe. Let me make clear that I mean electoral power, change in conventionally elected leadership that has a chance of bringing about some of the changes we marched for.
It is an important distinction, one which may be lost on those who see their own hypno-induced march to the voting booth as their only means of political _expression. There is power outside the electoral process, remember: organized labor, countless citizens' networks, the power to mobilize, protest and agitate.
There had better be, too: as Chomsky has pointed out, the ruling class votes every fraction of a second with every click of the stock ticker. If we rely solely on elections to bring about change, we haven't got a prayer.
Kucinich may be the right link back to the electoral realm. True, most on the left feel that hope lies outside the party, through reforms bitterly opposed by the political status quo (again, with Kucinich being a striking exception). The Democratic Party, which has dispensed with a host of popular movements in its bloody history, is not the right venue, some argue, for fundamental change.
And it should be apparent that only through the adoption of instant runoff voting, proportional representation, publicly financed campaigns, the removal of the skewed Electoral College supermajority and other democratic reforms, can we achieve a reality in which the Democratic Party faces the music. With serious pressure on the left, a reshaped party might be forced to act in coalition with newly emerging parties to promote a popular agenda.
But of course, it's not an either/or proposition. No agitation on any of these fronts should stop--and stop it needn't, given Kucinich's agenda.
The failure to achieve such reforms may akin to what Bob Marley (channeling Haile Salasse) thought of the long-awaited defeat of racism: "until that day, the dream of everlasting peace, world citizenship, the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained."
Still, until that day, one of the two Behemoth Parties will control the executive branch at the head of the world's most powerful and dangerous superpower. In other words, the next president is going to be a Democrat.
For many on the left, this is a reason to yawn. With a principled candidate like Kucinich in the race, however, it may be the spark that ignites the same passion on the left that Jackson's candidacy did sixteen years ago.
The timing is right, too. The continued occupation of Iraq is an unmitigated disaster, in which the core of the party (that is, the quisling Republicrat wing which has become the party) has decided once again to repeat the mistakes of the past. Vietnam was so much fun the first time, they must reason, why not do it all over again?
Lost on this crowd is the inexorable logic of invasion and occupation: all the cards have been dealt, and the Queen of Hearts has already been turned up. Although Gandhi was hardly the first to resist occupation, his simple truth makes looking any further unnecessary.
To quote the Mahatma: "The simple truth is that 350 thousand British cannot control 350 million Indians if the 350 million do not choose to be controlled."
Most candidates for president have blinded themselves to these simple timeworn truths, and we now face the seemingly inevitable future of a continued occupation led by a Democratic president who buys the line that we have no choice but to expand on the right wing's imperial lunacy for the sake of "national security." Again, forgive me if I garble a logic I can't follow: why not compound the atrocities we have already chalked up by committing thousands more?
There is, of course, the inevitable race caveat to be addressed. A winning coalition needs to reach beyond white progressives, and this is something that has proved incredibly difficult given the tortured history of race relations in this country. It is not at all a given that any white candidate can motivate the necessary participation to overwhelm the money and power of the right.
It is a truism that "the people united will never be defeated." No one really doubts that--the problem has always been uniting the people.
It is a simple rule of majority/minority interaction that majorities take over things they like--this is why Black progressives reaching out to whites has advantages over white progressives reaching the other way. I am firmly convinced that we have no chance of winning without the attempt to build this coalition being at the very top of the agenda.
To do that, we need to acknowledge the presence of the other black liberals in the race, and admit the failings of a liberal white candidacy where they exist. Sharpton and Mosely-Braun have impressive progressive credentials, and if one of their candidacies were to catch fire, they should receive the same support.
So why Kucinich?
Ironically one of the main reasons for rallying behind Kucinich is eerily similar to the structural case being made for Dean: momentum is building for a true alternative to the right, and an online prairie fire has started around the Kucinich campaign. The grassroots organizing tool Meetup pegs him ahead of everyone but Dean in the online members count, and the campaign is growing so fast that distribution headaches are flaring up, slowing access to much requested campaign materials. He has yet to register in opinion polls, and may not until he surprises pundits in Iowa, New Hampshire and California.
There is no earthly reason why the onLine Left-mirror of the Radio Right-shouldn't do for Kucinich what they have already mistakenly done for Dean.
It's no cakewalk for sure. The stark reality is that the campaign will only be the beginning. President Kucinich will have to govern as he runs, tapping a huge wellspring of street power to actually pursue the goal of dismantling the apparatus of perpetual war. But the scaffolding is already in place, and there have been huge successes in mobilization as I mention above. In one intriguing example, moveon.org-albeit a moderate organization-raised almost a million dollars in just a few days to help Texas Democrats fight the shameless GOP redistricting plan which aims to steal several more House seats just two years after the census. Imagine millions of activists agitating together for any of the changes in the progressive quiver, with a sympathetic ear in the executive branch.
The most insidious argument against Kucinich-if a bit circular and disingenuous-is that he "can't win." I demur to go into detail, although a few points made here do touch on the subject. But anyone interested in my lengthy prior arguments on the subject can find them in The Fire This Time and We Were Just Talking. And speaking of Just Talking, it's time to move to the next step. The cards may have been dealt, but there's still a few wildcards left in the deck. So close to the 40th anniversary of the 1963 March On Washington, I can't help echoing Dr. King by closing with a line from a different Negro Spiritual: Get on Board, little children. The ark is a-gonna move.
© 2003 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted with credit and link to opednews.com Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, USA, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. A writer, singer, linguist and activist, he has appeared on radio [interview available here] and can be available for further interviews. Past articles, translations are available at danielpwelch.com. Links to the website appreciated.
Update: August 30:
"I think this is the most important campaign since the campaign of (former U.S. Sen.) Eugene McCarthy," he said. "He is the conscience of the Democratic Party."
Bloom said the candidate's conviction and passion is something that is rarely seen in current politics and something that could draw disaffected voters to his campaign. He said Kucinich's ideology sets him apart and makes him the best candidate to defeat President Bush.
UPDATE: AUGUST 18 2003
The 2004 Election: One Issue, One Candidate
by Enver Masud
For the vast majority of Americans, there's only one issue in the 2004 election that has the potential for making their life significantly better than it is now: reducing defense spending.
We now have the highest defense budget in our history, it is breaking the national budget, and diverting resources from things Americans want:
fixing social security,
a better environment, etc.
High defense spending is also responsible, indirectly, for increasing government intrusion into our lives.
Our democracy itself is at risk.
Our $400 billion defense budget equals the combined military spending of the next 15 biggest defense spenders in the world.
The defense budgets of our designated "enemies" -- Iran, North Korea, and Syria -- are $5 billion, $2 billion, and one billion.
That of our Cold War enemies Russia and China are $65 billion and $47 billion. We also have NATO, the United Kingdom, and others to share the burden of defense against our "enemies." The $400 billion for defense, plus the military portion from other parts of the budget, plus the interest on the military portion of the national debt, plus veterans benefits, account for roughly 50% of total federal outlays!
Clearly, there is a huge mismatch between the military threat posed by our "enemies" and our response to the threat, yet the Bush administration is pushing a new generation of nuclear weapons -- we already have enough to annihilate virtually every major city on the planet.
While spending on unnecesary weapons, and weapons that we know won't work -- such as missile defense systems -- crowd out $2 trillion, badly needed, capital improvements in the civilian economy, a study by the Defense Department's inspector general found that the Pentagon couldn't properly account for more than a trillion dollars it had spent.
Furthermore, missile defense systems, nuclear weapons, cruise missiles, and traditional armies are hardly the way to fight "terrorism" which many experts say is inspired by our foreign policies.
Indeed the wars we've been fighting are creating more "terrorists," and making Americans less secure both at home and abroad. To justify our massive spending on "defense" our government has to instill fear in Americans, find enemies on whom to focus our military might, and break international laws to attack other countries, thereby, throwing into chaos the entire system of international law without which no country can prosper in this interconnected world.
With the breakup of the Soviet Union, Americans were expecting a "peace dividend." However, the economy was depressed, taxpayers had just spent billions bailing out the S & Ls, and President Bush, Sr. needed a distraction. Islam -- the Green Peril -- became the designated enemy. Iraq, our former ally against Iran, became the new bogeyman, and so we had the first Gulf War.
Yes, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, but we had a hand in getting him to invade, and we could have ousted him without resorting to war, but that didn't fit in with the aim of the empire builders who wished to gain control of the energy resources in the region.
In 2001 we had the attack on the World Trade Center, the economy was depressed, we had the Worldcom, Enron scandals, and by 2003 President Bush, Jr. needed a distraction. So we had another war on Iraq.
Intelligence reported no Iraq links to al-Qaeda, or the attack on the World Trade Center. Now we're spending one billion dollars per week to sustain our occupation of Iraq.
We have added 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed and 20,000 wounded to the hundreds of thousands already killed, maimed, or born with birth defects as a result of the first Gulf War, and the subsequent sanctions.
This is not winning us many friends in the region, and President Bush has promised us a "war on terror" for years to come.
This "war on terror" will not eradicate "terrorism" -- often this "terrorism" is resistance to some misguided policy of ours. Rather than examine our policy, "terrorism" is used to justify greater defense spending, and to divert spending from those things which will improve Americans' lives.
In his 1961, farewell speech to the nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower -- former Supreme Commander of the allied forces in France, President of Columbia University, commander of the new NATO forces being assembled in 1951 -- said:
"Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties."
President Eisenhower warned:
"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
Only one candidate for president in 2004 has shown the courage to take on the issue of defense spending. He first came to national prominence in 1977 when he was elected mayor of Cleveland at age 31 -- the youngest person ever elected to lead a major American city. As a state senator, and as a U.S. Congressman from Ohio, he has stood for what's right at considerable risk to his own career.
He was among a handful of lawmakers who filed suit to stop the Bush administration from going to war with Iraq.
There's only one candidate for president who has the potential to deliver what the vast majority of Americans want: peace, security, jobs, lower taxes, health care, education, fixing social security, infrastruture development, social services, a better environment.
That candidate for president of the United States is Mr. Dennis J. Kucinich.
Enver Masud received the Human Rights Foundation Gold Award for his book The War on Islam. He is the founder and CEO of The Wisdom Fund.
Islam places great value on social justice and the search for knowledge. Both are necessary for peace in this world, and for building a better society.