The Two-Party Wrecking Crew

Randy Miller, founder of the Utah League of Independent Voters, has begun publishing a series of original independent political cartoons at the ULIV blog and The Hankster.  This one is spot-on:  

The Two Americas: The Political Class and the Rest of Us

The police state and surveillance society being constructed by the Democratic and Republican parties with the support of deluded partisan dead-enders is arguably the greatest threat to the freedom and independence of the American people.  As The Economic Collapse blog points out, "Almost Everything Is a Crime in America now." Excerpt:
Americans are being arrested and charged with crimes for doing things like leaving dog poop on the ground, opening up Christmas presents early, not recycling properly, farting in class and having brown lawns.  But is it healthy for our society for the police to be involved in such silly things?  Every single day the United States inches closer to becoming a totalitarian society. . . . As we continue to criminalize relatively normal behavior our slide toward becoming a totalitarian state will only accelerate.  We are throwing anyone and everyone in prison these days.  It is getting absolutely ridiculous.  Today, the United States leads the world in the number of prisoners and in the percentage of the population in prison.  The United States has 5% of the world's population, but approximately 25% of the world's incarcerated population.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of the end of 2009 a total of 7,225,800 people were either on probation, in prison or on parole in America. That is a sign of a very, very sick society.  Either we have a massive crime problem or the "control grid" that our leaders have erected for us is wildly out of control. Or both. But how in the world are we supposed to have a healthy economy if our entire nation is being turned into one gigantic prison? Sadly, it is not just hardcore criminals that are being rounded up and abused by authorities these days.  The following are 14 of the most ridiculous things that Americans are being arrested for . . . 
Read the whole thing.  Of course, at the same time that we the people are brutalized and arrested by the agents of the police state for ever more trivial and insignificant infractions against "law and order," the members of the ruling political class and their well-connected allies are effectively provided with blanket immunity to engage in ever more brazen and heinous acts against the public interest.  The Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Cobb County Georgia makes the case that none of this will change until we force a change in government.  From the Smyrna-Vinings Patch:
Godown . . . serves as the current Chairman for the Libertarian Party of Cobb County, a local organization affiliated with both the Georgia State and National Libertarian Parties . . . "A lot of people are getting sick and tired of being told what they can and can't do, so I think the Libertarian Party in the future will become a more predominant [force in United States politics]," said Godown . . .  Godown said that the basic pillars of the Libertarian Party are creating as much freedom, liberty and independence for people as possible, while maintaining a small government that does not infringe upon citizens' personal lives.

"You can say Democrats are usually better on social issues, and we agree more with them on that, but when it comes to fiscal stuff, we usually agree with the Republicans more," Godown stated. "When it really comes down to it, they always kind of fall short. Republicans always talk about being fiscally conservative [but] look at their voting records. They still voted for a lot of spending and still vote for a lot of high budget stuff. Democrats may care about civil liberties and civil rights, but for the most part, they sort of fall short on that, too. We think the best thing we can do is to have a third party where we can really challenge the big two parties on those issues."  [Emphases added.]

Independents Becoming a Force to be Reckoned with in California

From last week's column at CAIVN:
Over the last decade, registration numbers for the Democratic and Republican parties have slowly but steadily declined, while the percentage of voters who decline to state a party affiliation has increased by over 50%.  In 1998, Democrats constituted 47% of registered voters, with Republicans at 35% and decline-to-state voters at 13%.  By 2010, Democrats dropped to 45%, Republicans dropped to 31%, but the unaffiliated jumped to 20% of all registered voters.  Over the same period, third party registration has remained relatively constant, hovering around 4-5% of all registered voters.
From this week's column at CAIVN:
The December 2010 statewide survey of Californians by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) provides an in-depth look at the opinions and perceptions of the state’s Independent voters as we head into the new year. . . . . According to the survey, Independents propelled Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer to double-digit wins over their Republican rivals . . . On many issues, the opinions of Independents track very closely with those of Democrats and Republicans, revealing a transpartisan consensus critical of the political and economic status-quo. . . . However, the opinions of Independents appear to diverge most strikingly from those of Democrats and Republicans on issues that polarize supporters of the major parties . . . 

On the Radar in the Third Party and Independent Blogosphere

Some new finds in the third party and independent blogosphere:
• The Black Independent Voter Network blog is back online after a year-long hiatus.  In the post announcing the site's return, BIV writes: "The writers of this blog are moderates (socially liberal, fiscally conservative), however, we want Black independent voters from all political spectrums to share their opinions and provide feedback on what we can do to ensure the political process truly represents the best of America." 

Regaining the Center provides "commentary on the politics of division" from a centrist perspective.  A recent post draws a comparison between weather forecasters and political prognosticators: "There are no signs of snow but the forecasters are adamant, look out for 20 inches or more. Political forecasters are much the same.  They continually predict unfavorable consequences but like the pros, always leave themselves a way out."

Blue Carp is the blog of David K. Williams, Jr, the State Chairman for the Libertarian Party of Colorado, who writes, "I believe in freedom. Without apology. Taxes encroach on freedom. State power encroaches on freedom. I am not an absolutist. I am not an ideologue. I am not an anarchist.  I believe that taxes and the state are necessary. Yet so is water. Too much of it, and you drown."

Vote for Myself follows national and international political news, and makes a point to cover third party and independent politics, with specific categories for Greens, Libertarians, Tea Partisans, Constitution party activists etc.  VFM asks: "Why do we allow our supposed leaders to take bribes, abuse power and run the country the way they wish instead of the way the people wish for it to be run? Why are these people elected in the first place? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to these questions."

My Own Political Party is yet another outgrowth of the widespread opposition to the Democratic-Republican two-party state.  The site is maintained by a "work-at-home mom" who writes, "I am so tired of the Republican and Democratic Parties, I decided to start my own party."

Politics: the Next Generation is maintained by two politically engaged teenagers, Ashley and Anya, who want to "dispel the stereotype of a politician or political commentator as a forty-something old guy in a business suit," according to the site's "about" page.  In recent days, Double-A have been debating the necessity of political parties, or the lack thereof.   

Toward an Independent Congress: The Case Against Parties

An argument in favor of an independent Congress and against parties as such, from Not Just Another Political Blog:
Right now, political parties seem to be the bane of America's existence.  They are causing endless gridlock in Congress, enraging voters, and bringing some truly frightening people (Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, et al) out of the woodwork as people fight to be the "most" Democratic or "most" Republican on the ballot.  Intelligents and moderates are being shoved aside, normal citizens are being ignored, and radical and harmful views are being covered as viable alternatives by the media, allowing them to become popularized and widespread.  So what's the solution?  How about something really radical, something that's never been considered.  How about doing away with political parties? I wrote once before in support of a multiparty system, like many European governments have.  I still believe that is much better than our current system.  But might a party-less system be even better? . . .

Oftentimes, the main difference between the two major parties in this country is rhetorical. . . . With no political parties, there would be no nebulously defined “base” that politicians are beholden to simply because of their party affiliation. . . . This would also eliminate party line votes. . . . A lack of parties would also throw the electoral system wide open to more involvement by the citizens. . . . Would our country even function like this? I think it's possible. But it is also entirely possible the answer is "no".  Then again, you might say that our country doesn't function now . . . 
Read the whole thing.

From the Bottom Up: the Case for State-Level Third Party Activism

At Op-Ed News, Jim Arnold makes the case for local- and state-level third party activism:
A third party in the U.S. has never been so desperately needed, and the obstacles to making it viable have never been so enormous. But there are fifty-plus potential long-term remedies, alternatives to a national third party: autonomous, populist parties established on the state and/or local level. . . . .

There are several advantages to a state-by-state and local approach. It would be fresh and newsworthy, a buzz-worthy development. A state party can bring state issues and the representation of state interests in Washington into better focus by bringing them closer to home. It can appeal to people who have a strong identification with their state or locality, closer-felt than with that monolithic entity, the federal government. It would avoid the general aversion to the feds "inside the beltway" in Washington. Many people tend to enjoy or need to feel exclusive, or opposed to as well as for something - my state as opposed to other states; my state could do it better than other states. And imagine a candidate's name on a ballot next to an affiliation with "The [state] Party"; for the embarrassingly large bloc of voters who make their marks on a whim, the party name would have an inherent advantage . . . 

The 2010 election was devastating for many state governments, far more drastic than the Congressional results. The state level is likely to be the crucial battleground between people's interests and corporatist interests in coming years.

State and local parties could address many issues more effectively than national campaigns, even if initially by relatively piecemeal efforts. We've seen examples of this with various statewide safety and environmental standards that exceed those at the national level.
Read the whole thing.

Redistricting Reform and the Growing Influence of Independents in California's Politics

Beginning next year, California's redistricting process will no longer be controlled by state lawmakers but rather by an independent commission charged with redrawing the state's district maps.  The make-up of the commission reflects the growing influence of independents in the state's politics.  From this week's column at CAIVN:
California’s newly-seated Citizens Redistricting Commission, charged with redrawing the state’s Assembly, Senate, Board of Equalization and Congressional districts, is comprised of five Republicans, five Democrats and four Independents, two of whom have past ties to a third party.

The Commission was created with the passage of Proposition 11 in 2008, the Voters First Act, which was amended by the passage of Proposition 20 in November 2010 to empower the commission to redraw Congressional districts in addition to those of state offices.  The Voters First Act explicitly stipulates that the Commission consist of five members from each of the two largest political parties in the state, as well as four members who are either decline-to-state voters or members of a third party.  The very fact that the Commission must include four individuals who are not members of either major party reflects the growing influence of Independents in California’s politics . . .
The piece goes on to profile the four independents on the commission.  Last week, when the final members of the Commission were chosen Richard Winger expressed disappointment that "none is a third party member":
On December 15, the California Redistricting Commission finished determining who the 14 commissioners will be.  None of them is a member of any party other than the Democratic and Republican Parties.  There are five Democrats, five Republicans, and 4 independents.
It is the case that none of the members of the Commission is a third party member, however, it turns out that two of the decline-to-state-voters who have been chosen for it have past ties to third party organizations.  In answer to an essay question in the application for the Commission, Michelle R. DiGuilio-Matz stated that her status as a "decline-to-state-voter" is evidence of her impartiality:
My ability to be impartial is also reflected in my political affiliation of “Decline to State”. While I have been listed with formal political parties I have always voted in a manner to reflect the qualifications and expereince of the individual or issue on the ballot. I have found that, while organized political groups have certain commonalities and/or affiliations that may serve their consituents, I too often have seen strict party adherance coming at the expense of rational discussion and critical thinking. “Decline to State” reflects my desire to be as unbiased as possible in adhering to political positions and a willingness to be open minded in measuring the validity of various positions.
Asked what she meant by her statement regarding political parties, DiGuilio-Matz reponded that "she had been registered with the Democratic Party, switched to the Green Party, [and then] registered as Decline to State," over five years ago, according to a Report on Information Collected Concerning Applicant that can be found among her application materials for the seat on the Commission.

Another decline-to-state voter on the Commission has more recent ties to a third party.  M. Andre Parvenu's party registration status caused some amount of confusion during his application process.  When he first filled out the application, Parvenu originally stated that he was registered with the Peace and Freedom Party, however, an investigation by the state auditor showed that he was in fact registered as decline-to-state.  In an applicant review panel before the California Bureau of State Audits on September 9, 2010 (.pdf), Parvenu was asked about the confusion, and stated that he has previously associated with the Peace and Freedom Party.  According to the transcript of the meeting, Parvenu says, "I couldn't remember exactly if I had voted the last election as a Peace and Freedom Party member or not, so I didn't want any discrepancy to appear."  Asked to clarify, he continues, according to the transcript, "I have voted Peace and Freedom before.  But I, at this point, prefer to be nonpartisan . . . in terms of my political affiliation I want to remain – throughout this process I want to remain neutral."

Though none of the members of the Redistricting Commission is a third party member, at least two have a past association with a third party.  Given that this is California, it is not surprising to find that those parties are the Peace and Freedom Party and the Green Party.  Final note: A third decline-to-state voter on the Commission makes a strong case in favor of redistricting reform, or at least in favor of  taking redistricting power out of the hands of sitting partisan lawmakers.  Stanley Forbes writes in his application:
Legislative districts should represent communities of interests. This is inherently difficult in California given its regional and demographic diversity. As Mark Baldassare put it in his book, “California in the New Millennium”, California is in many ways four states with mutually suspicious ethnic communities all of which distrust the government. I believe these differences can be overcome provided the districts are based on communities of interest criteria: geographic, ethnic, economic and many others. As it stands now however, the primary community of interest is political party registration.

This effectively results in many single party legislative districts that may not represent communities of interest that reflect our common interests in solving the problems facing the state. With single party districts and typically low turnout primaries, party activists who are more ideologically, rather than consensus or compromise, driven exercise a disproportionate influence on who is nominated and therefore who is elected than the public at large in their districts. This results in a Legislature excessively polarized and gripped by legislative gridlock.

California cannot successfully address its problems and build on its opportunities without ridding the Legislature of this partisan paralysis. This paralysis can only be overcome by developing legislative districts that are based on community of interest criteria other than political parties so that compromise and consensus building can be returned to our political process. We must refocus on the goal of solving the peoples’ problems rather than exercising political oneupsmanship. California can have bright, robust future but not with the current method of creating Legislative districts.

The Case for a Third Party Tea Party

Mitchell Langbert makes the case that the tea party movement can only be a force for freedom if it recognizes the tyranny of the two-party state for what it is.  Excerpts:
I have been following politics on and off for forty years and I still can't grasp why Americans favor a two-party system.  It has resulted in their being taxed to fifty percent of their incomes to get a garbage government. Garbage at the federal level; garbage at the state level; and garbage at the local level.  Despite the complete failure of the two party system Americans remain much more loyal to it than they do to liberty. . . .

The two-party system has caused America's decline because both parties are responsive to interest groups.  The special interests that are subsidized by the Fed, to include the banking system and Wall Street, the media, government, and much of big business, all contribute heavily to Republicans as well as Democrats. . . . To be committed to a two party system is to favor the status quo. . . .

Compromise between two big government parties is not "moderate." The people in Washington and the state capitals are socialists, fascists and totalitarians. They are not moderates.  The only way that change can occur is through a rethinking of the smug, insipid policies of the past 50 years.  That will require change without compromise. 
Speaking of the threat to freedom and liberty posed by Democratic-Republican party politics, the construction of the militarized police- and surveillance state continues apace.  From the Washington Post:
Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.

The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation's history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The government's goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States. . . .
Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America . . .
The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. It is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators, increasing concerns that it could somehow end up in the public domain.

NY: The Alliance Party and the Rule of Reaction

A new third party movement appears to be taking root in Schenectady New York to challenge the ruling click in the mayor's office and city council.  The new group is attempting to form a trans-partisan coalition of Democrats, Republicans and Independents under the banner of the Alliance Party. The Times Union reports:
Citing political miscues by the current mayor and the dangers of one-party rule, former Union College President Roger Hull announced plans to seek the city's top elected office in 2011 with a nonpartisan Alliance Party slate. . . . Hull, who retired after leading Union College for 15 years, said he got the idea of running for mayor back last year after listening to fellow residents standing in long lines to challenge their property taxes. From there, he huddled with others and those meetings ultimately gave birth to the Alliance Party. The group of Democrats, Republicans and independents, some of whom stood behind him Thursday, was formed 18 months ago. Hull said they would be recruiting and interviewing prospective candidates for City Council and announcing a full slate in February. . . . Mayor Brian U. Stratton and the entire City Council are Democrats. Four council seats are up for election in November.
Naturally, those interested in maintaining the political status quo have begun to parrot the standard set of talking points against any form of political organization that does not allow itself to be confined by the political straitjacket of the Democrat-Republican two-party state.  The article continues:
Schenectady County GOP Chairman Tom Buchanan lamented that Hull had not reached out to Republican leaders, surmising that a third-party campaign without any crossover backing might prove counterproductive. "It would be a shame because he would be a spoiler in a close election," said Buchanan, noting that Republicans plan run a full slate of candidates

It appears this particular party hack isn't the only person who objects to independently-minded political activism.  Long-time readers of Poli-Tea will surely remember Michael O'Connor of the Rotterdam Windmill, who wrote a number of guest posts here detailing his experience running for town council while petitioning to establish an independent ballot line to run on.  Last month, Michael posted some initial thoughts at the Windmill on the Alliance Party effort and the reaction to it:
. . . . I think it can work.  Not surprisingly, the effort is already the subject of scoffing from several quarters. Once again, the same people who claim to want a different approach that yields results are reluctant to embrace this initiative. The same old arguments of splitting the vote, ulterior motives, or sheer impossibility are being recycled. There even seems to be some jealously from former independent hopefuls that have offered some similar thinking on some subjects! Sorry, but in my mind, no one owns a monopoly on previously expressed ideas that get us better government . . . I’m excited to see this effort unfold . . .
I wonder if there are any new developments on this front.  Anyone from upstate been following this story?  

NY Election Results Certified, No Reports Yet on Blank

New York's 2010 general election results have finally been certified.  The Ithaca Journal reports that turnout was low, and that third parties fared well.  Excerpt:
New Yorkers did not turn out in droves for the 2010 elections, but still managed to give a boost to independent parties that could affect the outcome of future elections. .  .
Vote tallies certified this week by the state Board of Elections showed voter turnout on Election Day was 44.5 percent -- the fourth lowest since 1932. All told, about 4.7 million voters cast ballots. . .
The Green Party's gubernatorial candidate, Syracuse-based activist Howie Hawkins, hit the 50,000-vote threshold in order to give the party automatic ballot status for the next cycle. He received a total 59,928 votes.
The Conservative Party, meanwhile, will move up to Row C and the Working Families Party is being bumped up to Row D on the ballot based on the vote totals of the top of their tickets, Paladino and Cuomo respectively.  The Independence Party will move down two spots to Row E.
No reports yet on levels of support for Blank in the State Senate and Assembly.  

Two-Party Politics and the International Scope of Duopoly Ideology

Reactionary opposition between the Democratic and Republican parties is a defining characteristic of politics under the conditions of the two-party state and duopoly system of government.  Yet, the appearance of opposition and antagonism often serves to obscure a fundamental unity in support of consolidating the power of the ruling political class and expanding the scope of the global warfare and corporate welfare state.  A newly released Wikileaked cable sheds some light on how the constitutive dynamics of the two-party system affect our relations with other countries and influence the domestic politics of foreign nations.  As reported at Third Party and Independent Daily:
A newly released Wikileaked diplomatic cable from April 2009 details a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero at a Progressive Governance Leaders Summit in Chile.  Discussion of the Obama administration's "new approach to foreign policy" appears to have dominated the meeting.  Biden stated that for eight years the doctrine of "my way or the high way" had been ascendant in American foreign policy, but that the Obama administration would seek collaboration and consensus.

For his part, Zapatero expressed high expectations in working with the Obama administration but admitted that "managing the relationship between the United States and Spain under the Bush administration was easy for him."  The cable states: "Whatever position the Bush Administration took, he would take the opposite and see his domestic poll numbers increase. Sarcastically, Zapatero said "for that I will always be grateful to the Bush Administration."  [Emphasis added.]

Zapatero, a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, was elected Prime Minister in 2004 and then re-elected in 2008.  During the Bush administration, he was an outspoken critic of US foreign policy and the war in Iraq.  See a cache copy of the cable at Cable Search.    
In 2004, Zapatero's opposition to the Iraq war helped assure his election to the office of prime minister and led him to publicly support John Kerry's candidacy for president.  The irony, of course, is that Kerry did not oppose the war in Iraq and stood by his vote in support of it throughout the 2004 campaign.  

Civility, Brutality and the Politics of the Two-Party State

This week's column at CAIVN discusses the No Labels launch and the reaction from the dead-enders of the duopoly parties:
 . . . Just as Independents are marginalized by Democratic-Republican party politics even though they constitute a significant proportion of the electorate, our nation’s political discourse is dominated by conservatives and liberals, though over one-third of Americans consider themselves moderates.  However, despite persistent speculation that No Labels will provide the organizational infrastructure for an Independent presidential candidate in 2012, the organization’s leadership has consistently stated that it does not aim to build an Independent alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties, but rather seeks to galvanize a movement to “change the culture in Washington” by organizing support for politicians who “put their labels aside and work across the aisle to solve problems.” . . .

Ironically, the group has already succeeded in uniting partisan Democrats and Republicans in opposition to their effort to build a movement of moderates. . . . In response to the organization’s launch, one of the most common criticisms leveled by Republicans and Democrats alike is that No Labels is “unserious.”  At the influential Republican website Red State, CNN contributor Erick Erickson summed up his take on the group under the title “An Unserious Circle of Smug Seriousness.”  At Salon, the self-described “typical effete coastal liberal elitist” Alex Pareene submitted a piece on “The Unseriousness of No Labels.”  Of course, such a reaction was only to be expected, as this is the “culture” that No Labels seeks to transform.  In the puerile commentaries of so many Republicans and Democrats, to be “serious” is to be a slave to some faction of the ruling two-party state, and to show requisite concern for the pet issues of that party’s most rabid partisans and vocal activists. . . .
Read the rest.  It goes without saying that No Labels will only be as successful as its grassroots organization.  Being in NYC, and having a bit of time on Monday, I was able to swing by the launch event for a little while.  By my count there were probably around 1000 people in attendance from across the country.  Among them were a number of folks from Independent Voting and the network of centrist/moderate/independent bloggers Solomon Kleinsmith has dubbed the Centersphere.  In the end, the big names on stage at the event – which was newsworthy if only for the fact that it explicitly included Democrats, Republicans and Independents – are helpful for capturing the attention of the corporate media, but it is the organizing work of individuals on the ground across the country that makes the difference between success and failure for any nascent political movement.  Perhaps the biggest challenge for those within the No Labels movement will be to live up to the organization's name.  A commenter at CAIVN writes:
How can you call your organization "No Labels" when more than half of your members are all registered D or R to begin with? . . . If they wanted to break a few paradigms, it would have been better to require a pledge to change their party affiliations to independent or DTS [decline-to-state]. Think of the effect THAT would have. 
Coincidentally, I had been planning a future post on the group with this precise focus.  If a group like No Labels does nothing more than strengthen the two-party state, if it cannot empower independents to elect independents, then it will have been nothing more than a tool of that which it claims to oppose.  When Democrats and Republicans put their differences aside to work together, we get unending wars at home and abroad, bailouts and get-out-of-jail-free cards for the criminal corporate-political class, all-out assaults on rights, liberties and the rule of law etc.  What good is civility in politics if it does nothing more than put a happy face on the brutality of accepted policy?

Update: Solomon, who has been active within the group for a few months, has begun a series of posts critically reflecting on the launch.  He writes: "I think it is appropriate to start a series of posts breaking down what we’ve seen from No Labels so far by taking a bitter pill of honesty. While I think they’re off to a good start, they have made what appear to me (and others) as mistakes."

No Labels and the Need for More Party Animals

As you may know, the new No Labels group was officially launched yesterday in New York City.  Upwards of 1,000 activists from across the country gathered at Columbia University with the stated goal of restoring civility to the politics of the two-party state by "putting our labels aside to do what's best for America."  The group's leadership appears adamant that they are not seeking to form a nascent third party movement but rather aim to bolster moderates and centrists whether Democrat, Republican or Independent.  Ironically, however, the organization's first mini-scandal has inadvertently underscored the desire and need for third party and independent alternatives to the Democratic-Republican two-party state.  One of the group's signature designs was lifted whole cloth from the work of designer Thomas Porostocky.  The NYT City Room reports that elements of the No Labels website and the set design at the launch event:
included a grabby graphic of a menagerie of animals — giraffes, seals, dogs, butterflies, moose, hippopotami — that are blue on top and red on bottom like the standard Democrat donkey and Republican elephant.

If the graphic looks familiar, that’s because it bears a very, very striking resemblance to one that is at least five years old — and belongs to someone else. The older graphic was created by the designer Thomas Porostocky and included in a book compiled by the graphic artist Milton Glaser titled “The Design of Dissent.” Since 2008, Mr. Porostocky has been using it as the logo of his own political organization, More Party Animals, the mission of which is also to encourage the development of alternatives to Republican and Democrat.  [Emphasis added.]
The No Labels design team has now admitted that the imagery was cribbed and apologized to the original artist.  Again from the NYT:
The advertising agency veteran whose firm designed the graphic for the fledgling centrist political organization No Labels acknowledged Tuesday morning that his design was taken whole cloth from the logo of another political group.

The ad man, Dave Warren, said this morning that a designer he hired had grabbed the logo featuring red-white-and-blue animals from the Web site of the group More Party Animals and incorporated it in the design. 
The stated purpose of More Party Animals is to foster the development of new political parties and aid in the development of alternatives to the dictatorship of the two-party state.  From the group's website:
Let's face it, a two-animal circus is pretty lame.  So why aren't there more animals in the US political ring?  More Party Animals is an apolitically-political idea born out of heartfelt disenchantment with the status quo.  As the current system continues to polarize this country, we strongly believe America is in need of a wider selection of political parties.

We say our idea is apolitical because More Party Animals is steadfastly devoted to being policy-free.  Our animals represent a potential symbol for new beliefs, not the beliefs themselves.  That, we leave up to you.

Our purpose is to encourage and help people start their own parties, promote their own ideas and create a genuine alternative that might actually catch on.  More choice leads to better results . . . it's the American way.  
As Talking Points Memo reports, No Labels has now scrubbed the animals from its site.

NY Greens Make the Case for Proportional Representation and Instant Runoff Voting

The Green Party of New York has begun an effort to push for proportional representation in the Empire State, spearheaded by Howie Hawkins, former Green Party candidate for governor.  From the Green Party NY:
Howie Hawkins, the former Green Party candidate for Governor, urged Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo to make Public Campaign Financing and Proportional Representation the centerpieces of a broad ethics reform package that should be adopted during the first weeks of the legislative session.
“We need Public Campaign Financing to end the pay-to-play culture that dominates the State Capitol, as witnessed by the ongoing scandals with the State Comptroller’s office and pension funds. Now is the time to finally stop the sale of lawmakers to the highest bidder. And while we strongly support an independent Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission to end the partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts, we want that commission charged with drawing up multi-member districts to implement Proportional Representation, which is the electoral system in almost every democracy on this planet,” said Hawkins. . . .

The Green Party supports proportional representation for legislative bodies in order to fully represent the diversity of political views among the voters. Candidates of the various parties would be seated in the legislature in proportion to the percentage of the vote each party receives. “The single-member-district, winner-take-all system now in place entrenches a two-party system of one-party districts that over-represent the plurality and completely exclude all political minorities in every district. Very few of these districts are competitive. Most are controlled by the majority party. Votes for minority parties are seen as pointless and turnout is low. Under proportional representation, every vote counts toward electing representatives one favors and turnout is high,” Hawkins said.

For executive branch elections such as Governor and Attorney General, the Green Party supports Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) where voters would rank candidates in order of preference, and a candidate would have to have a majority rather than a mere plurality to be elected. If no candidate had a majority on the first round, the lowest ranked candidate would be eliminated and their votes re-allocated to the voter’s second choice. This process would continue until one candidate had a majority. IRV is used for elections in many US cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, California; Mineapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota; Memphis, Tennessee; and Portland, Maine.
Despite the known drawbacks of Instant Runoff Voting - see, for instance, this helpful post at Least of All Evils - IRV continues to be the favored proposal of many third party and independent advocates of voting reform, despite the clear advantages of approval and range voting over IRV and plurality.  Check out the Center for Range Voting.

Alabama Congressman Calls for Formation of Independent Party

Artur Davis is an outgoing Democratic Congressman from Alabama, representing the state's 7th congressional district, who opted not to seek reelection this year.  In a commentary for the Montgomery Advertiser, Davis argues that the two-party system effectively results in a one-party state, wherein the ruling power seeks nothing other than the consolidation and expansion of its grip on power.  Davis thus calls for the formation of a state-level Independent Party to "recruit and sustain candidates in targeted statewide and legislative races," because only such a movement has real "potential to advance Alabama in ways that are impossible under the constraints of partisan politics."  Excerpts:
For the hundreds of thousands of Alabamians who believe our state is capable of fundamentally changing the way we govern ourselves and the way we educate our children, and who desire a politics that is not anchored to special interest groups, there is a powerful case for an independent movement in time for the 2014 elections.This movement, which would recruit and sustain candidates in targeted statewide and legislative races, has the potential to advance Alabama in ways that are impossible under the constraints of partisan politics. . . .

Its principles would include an overhaul of a tax system that privileges out of state and absentee interests at the expense of low-income wage earners; the redrafting of a constitution that centralizes too much authority in the hands of the Legislature rather than local communities; the adoption of incentives that will empower entrepreneurship and high tech development; and reinvesting in our universities rather than demonizing them as elitist rivals to our K-12 system . . .

There are all kinds of reasons independent or third party movements have crashed and burned at the national level, most notably an Electoral College that effectively marginalizes candidates outside the two party system and the vast expense of a 50-state campaign apparatus. But in the narrower confines of a state of 4.5 million people, where a plurality of the vote can win, the course is infinitely more plausible and affordable.

Acts of Speech and Acts of War: Wikileaks and Information Warfare

Has the most recent Wikileaks diplomatic document dump sparked a worldwide information war?  The political establishment in the US was quick to frame the Cablegate release as an act of war.  The incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Peter King, has stated, “This is worse even than a physical attack on Americans, it’s worse than a military attack,” and promptly called for Wikileaks to be designated a foreign terrorist organization.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the disclosures "an attack on America's foreign policy interests," as well as "an attack on the international community."  Such rhetoric has undoubtedly figured in the decisions of corporations such as Amazon, PayPal and Mastercard to cut all ties with the controversial organization, and inspired distributed attacks against the Wikileaks website, prompting Sam Wilson at Think 3 to wonder whether we are in the midst of "an internet civil war."  But this "war" is not confined by any single nation's borders, rather, it spans the globe.  Dave Bonta writes at Via Negativa:
It doesn’t seem that long ago — around 2000, maybe? — that I first heard someone say “TMI” and had to ask what it meant. This morning, as news breaks that the anarchistic, world-wide non-organization of geeks known as Anonymous have launched DDoS attacks against the websites of MasterCard, Swedish prosecutors, and others they consider to be unfairly targeting WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, it occurs to me that the problem or scandal of “too much information” is very much at the heart of what’s shaping up to be the first global information war — call it WIW I, or perhaps WWWW I (World Wide Web War I).  
Many advocates of transparency in government and internet freedom, however, have begun to argue that employing even the metaphorical language of war and warfare to describe the ongoing fallout from and response to the most recent mega-leak, represents a serious strategic blunder, as it allows opponents of transparency in government and internet freedom to control the terms of the debate.  At Polizeros, Josh Mull argues that "journalism is not an attack and Wikileaks is not warfare."  He writes in response to a post by Bob Morris:
Asymmetrical warfare, anarchist bomb-throwing, and “digital vandalism” are all forms of attack. But dissent is not an attack. Activism is not an attack. And most importantly, journalism is not an attack . . .

The act of publishing information is not warfare. Wikileaks is not warfare. Just because Julian Assange thinks of himself as a freedom fighter, and just because Wikileaks’ supporters like to imagine themselves fighting an “Infowar”, doesn’t make it true.  If we allow our definitions of war and conflict to blur, then we bring the government’s aggressive response on ourselves . . .

If you support Wikileaks, if you support transparency, accountability, or even just basic free speech, you should not be playing into the government’s semantic game that presents itself as a victim, and Wikileaks as an attacker. As someone who engages in journalism, as someone who engages in activism and dissent, I don’t want these things re-defined as an attack on the state.
The problem, however, is that the state has already prepared the conceptual groundwork to promulgate a redefinition of such acts and actions as part and parcel of an ongoing information war.  Morris writes in response: "It’s not asymmetrical armed warfare, to be sure, but the tactics are the same, so perhaps we should call it asymmetrical info warfare."  In fact, Cablegate – understanding that term in the widest sense, to include the actions of Wikileaks as well as the response by agents of the state, individual citizens and other non-state actors – has virtually all the markings of an information war as that term has been re-defined and re-conceptualized by the state.

Over the last ten years, the Department of Defense has quietly been developing the conceptual and operational framework for what it calls "information operations," or "info-ops" for short.  An Information Operations Primer published by the Army War College in 2006 (see the relevant document at IWS) delineates five core capabilities that constitute information operations: 1) psychological operations, 2) military deception, 3) operations security, 4) electronic warfare, and 5) computer network operations.
• The concept behind Wikileaks is almost indistinguishable from that of psychological operations (PSYOPS), here defined as "planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals."

• The immediate response to the latest megaleak on the party of the Department of Defense was aimed at ensuring operations security (OPSEC) by taking actions to defend against any future such leaks from protected information networks.  As noted at Wikipedia, OPSEC is "a process that identifies critical information to determine if friendly actions can be observed by adversary intelligence systems, determines if information obtained by adversaries could be interpreted to be useful to them, and then executes selected measures that eliminate or reduce adversary exploitation of friendly critical information."

• The distributed denial of service attacks against Wikileaks and those against the websites of corporations such as PayPal and Mastercard might easily be construed as a form of electronic warfare (EW) or as computer network attacks, in which latter case they would fall under the rubric of computer network operations (CNO).  A computer network attack "includes actions taken through the use of computer networks to disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy the information resident in in computers and computer networks and/or the computers/networks themselves."  In response, all parties involved here have all very likely engaged in computer network defense, understood as "actions taken through the use of computer networks to protect, monitor, analyze, detect and respond to unauthorized activity within information systems and computer networks." 

• Finally, some conspiratorially minded observers and commentators have begun to wonder whether the Cablegate mega-leak is itself an act of military deception, and have asserted that Wikileaks was always or has become a front for state-actors engaging in "false flag operations." 
Among those speculating whether Wikileaks has effectively ignited an information war, the question has been raised as to what or where precisely the battlefield of this conflict is.  If one assumes that we are indeed in the midst of an information war, then the answer to this question is disturbingly simple: there is no space, whether physical, virtual or even mental, that is not a part of the battlefield.  Consider the following graphic conceptualization of information operations from the document mentioned above:

The "information environment" – the abstract space in which information warfare and information operations are carried out – has physical, informational, perceptual, cognitive and social dimensions.  Thus the potential informational battlefield stretches from the tangible real world, to cyberspace, to the individual human mind, to society as a whole.  As such, information warfare allows for a form of total war the likes of which were literally impossible before the dawn of the information age.

One of the primary characteristics of total war is the erosion of the distinction between civilians and combatants.  The complete collapse of this distinction is axiomatic for radical terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda.  The maintenance of this distinction represents a primary difference between civilization and barbarism.  For this reason, if for no other, it is imperative to defend the freedom of speech and of the press against any and all who would seek to argue that any such act of speech or press constitutes an act of war.

Wikileaks, the Pirate Party Movement and the Future of the Free Press

The Pirate Party International is spearheading a movement to keep Wikileaks online and its contents readily available on the internet.  From this week's column at CAIVN:
On Sunday, the Pirate Party International announced that Pirate Party organizations from around the world had “decided in a joint resolution to make Wikileaks available on a worldwide distributed mirroring infrastructure.”  By setting up sites to mirror the main Wikileaks website, the joint action aims to “guarantee that the release of US diplomatic cables can continue and [that] previous publications will stay online.”  The Pirate Parties of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Russia, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, and Serbia are specifically named in the PPI announcement, but others are also on board.  In a separate press release, the Pirate Party UK announced that it would also be participating in the action.  The US Pirate Party has not released any statements regarding this matter, but its New York affiliate appears to be participating in the mass-mirroring action, and has apparently devoted its home site to the effort . . . 

Pirate Party International was careful to state that the mass-mirroring action should not be seen as an endorsement of the Wikileaks organization, but is rather an “affirmation of their commitment to whistle-blowing worldwide.”  The announcement quotes the organization’s co-chairman, Gregory Engels of the Pirate Party Germany, stating: “This is a fight for fundamental freedoms on the Internet. Pirates will not accept governmental attempts to restrict access to free press and constrain freedom of speech."

It should be deeply troubling to all Americans that so many politicians and political commentators in the United States are unwilling to take a similar stand in support of the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech.  Texas Rep. Ron Paul is one of the few elected officials who has voiced his dissent with the establishment consensus regarding Wikileaks.  In a statement on his website, Paul writes:
state secrecy is anathema to a free society.  Why exactly should Americans be prevented from knowing what their government is doing in their name? In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth.  In a society where truth becomes treason, however, we are in big trouble. 
It may well be the case that the most vocal opponents of Wikileaks are the least informed on the matter.  In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Senator Joe Lieberman was asked what he thought of the fact that the Justice Department has not yet charged Wikileaks founder Julian Assange with treason.  Lieberman replied, “I don’t understand why that hasn’t happened yet.”  The answer to this question is actually quite simple: Julian Assange is not an American citizen, and therefore, by definition, cannot commit treason against the United States.  Senator Lieberman is clearly unaware of even the most basic facts regarding the organization.

Others have stated that by leaking and publishing over 250,000 diplomatic cables, Wikileaks has effectively declared war on the United States.  Yet, Wikileaks does not actually leak documents, but rather publishes documents it receives from individuals who have determined to leak documents on their own, which is why it is frequently called a “whistle-blower website.”  In the present case, Wikileaks has not even published .004% of the cables in question.  As the New York Times reported earlier this week, “only around 1,000 of the cables have so far been released; in many, names of sources who might be compromised or endangered were redacted.”

Since many if not most of these cables have been published by the news outlets mentioned above, sometimes even before they had been released by Wikileaks, and since those outlets also possess the entire trove of documents, calls to prosecute Wikileaks for possessing and publishing them are effectively an attack on the freedom of the press on a global scale.

In this context, the Obama administration might consider taking its own words to heart.  In a town hall meeting with future Chinese leaders in November 2009, President Obama stated:  “the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable.”  Just two months later, Secretary of State Clinton echoed these words from the President and warned that, “technologies with the potential to open up access to government and promote transparency can also be hijacked by governments to crush dissent and deny human rights.”
Read the whole thing.

The Two-Party System and the Global Warfare State

At Informed Comment, influential blogger Juan Cole asks "why our Afghanistan war dead don't seem to be news," and concludes that the deadlock of the two-party system is at the root of public acquiescence to the global warfare state:
I am sad to report that I have concluded that the relative silence on our Afghanistan war dead has to do with the workings of our two-party system. Americans are great followers of sports where two teams oppose one another. They become fierce partisans of one team over the other. They have the same approach to economic life (iPhone vs. Android, Kindle vs. Google ebooks, X-Box vs. Playstation, etc.) They join a “team” in their minds and grow absolutely scathing about the other side. Republicans and Democrats are teams for them. It may be the real reason a third party is so hard to mount; it does have to do with the first past the post electoral system, but it may be also that you can’t root for more than one team at a time, so it is more convenient to have just two parties if you have a binary mindset.

So here’s the reason the whole bloody Afghanistan war is off the radar: it isn’t a partisan issue. The Republican Party, except for a few Liberatarians, is solidly in favor of the war and would apparently like to go on fighting it for decades if only they could. But the Democrats cannot oppose the war (as they eventually opposed the Iraq War) because their own president has implemented a surge and is dedicated to prosecuting the war. The rank and file Democrats may not be very happy about Obama’s adoption of the war, but they are loathe to attack their own party leader (i.e. many of them feel as though they have to support their team). . . .

Since no advantage would at the moment accrue to either Team from opposing the Afghanistan War, there is little opposition to it. And since it isn’t a partisan debate, the television reporters in particular are mostly uninterested in it. Even most print editors don’t put it on the front page very often . . .

No Labels and the Rise of the Center

The No Labels group is set for its official launch in New York City early next week.  The organization states, "We are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are united in the belief that we do not have to give up our labels, merely put them aside to do what’s best for America."  It has been denounced as a liberal front group by Republicans and called a conservative ploy by Democrats.  Solomon Kleinsmith, who maintains Rise of the Center and is a contributor to Third Party and Independent Daily, has been involved with the group for a few months, and will be traveling to New York to attend the organization's launch.  Solomon was invited to write a commentary on the group for WNYC's politics blog, in which he explains, "Why I'm coming from Nebraska to help launch a centrist movement." Excerpt:
These people [partisan Democrat and Republican nay-sayers] cannot possibly know if there is a hidden agenda behind No Labels, nor can they know who the financial backers are who haven't come out publicly, but this doesn't stop them from pretending. Many are claiming that No Labels is a political party, laying the foundation for a Bloomberg Presidential run in 2012. If this had any truth to it, I'd actually be all for it, but they conveniently are ignoring that No Labels is a 501c4 (commonly called super PACs). I directed a "c4" in 2008, and two minutes of research would show that such organizations have strict limits on how much they can spend on partisan activities, not to mention outright bans on much of what political parties do. . . .

No Labels doesn’t fit into their artificial ideological worldview, so they pull off mental gymnastics to invent wingnut conspiracy theories about how the group must be a puppet of dark forces from the other end of the political spectrum. . . .

These ad hominem attacks are one sign that No Labels is my kinda group. I put up with the same attacks every day myself. I’ve been praying for years for a well organized, well funded and professionally run political organization that centrist independents like myself could genuinely be a part of without being treated like second class citizens. I’m happy to see them attempting to create a big tent where moderates from both sides can work together with centrist independents. If I were to put together a MoveOn for moderates, as some aptly are calling No Labels, it would look largely like what I have seen from them thus far.
Read the whole thing.  

The Citizen Terrorist and the Terrorist State

Perhaps in a future history of the rise and fall of the United States, the tragedy of our era will be readily apparent in the light of the fact that the most dangerous enemies of our nation, and the values upon which it has been built, are firmly entrenched within its ruling political class.  As recent events make all-too-clear, the agents and apologists of the Democratic-Republican party's national security police state are engaged in an overt and sustained assault on fundamental rights and freedoms in the name of the "war on terror."  The right to be secure in one's person, papers and effects against unreasonable search and seizure, as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, has effectively been declared null and void by the Department of Homeland Security.  The rights to the freedom of speech and of the press, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, are currently under attack in the interests of maintaining non-transparent government and ensuring an uninformed citizenry. 

In what may be the defining political contradiction of our age, constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms are now viewed as vital threats to the security of the state.  Simply put, the interests of the national security police state are directly at odds with the fundamental rights and liberties of any free society.  The sharper this contradiction and opposition becomes, the more closely the free citizen will resemble the terrorist in the eyes of the state, and the more closely the state will resemble a terrorist organization in the eyes of the free citizen.  

In Good Times and in Bad: the Presidential Vote and the Third Party Tradition in the United States

At FireDogLake, diarist inoljt has republished an examination of the third party presidential vote which first appeared at The Politikal Blog last May.  The piece contains a number of interesting charts and graph.  Inoljt writes:
Presidential election results are often pictured through electoral college maps, a useful and simple tool. Looking at the competition of the two parties throughout time provides a quite interesting exercise. Certain states turn blue, then red, then blue again. Others stay the same color. One election the map is filled with red; the next election blue makes a comeback. And on and on it goes.

This is in fact quite deceiving. What the electoral college does not show is the history of third-party challenges to the two-party system. In 1992, for instance, presidential candidate Ross Perot finished with 18.9% of the vote – yet not a single state in the 1992 electoral college showed his third-party run . . .

Let’s take a look, then, at the macro-level trend. Here is a graph of third-party performance throughout the entire history of the United States, since popular voting first started. (The picture here is a small thumbnail of the real graph, which can be found here.)
Inoljt comments:
The data here is also fairly inconclusive. Strong minor party candidacies seem to come and go in no particular order. There are long periods where they get less than 1% of the vote, and times where they regularly break the 10% barrier. To be frank, I was expecting to find a more discernible pattern – say, a strong minor party performance every four or five cycles.  [Emphasis added.] 
Ironically, Inoljt's surprise could have been expected.  It is considered common knowledge among political scientists and mainstream political observers that the rise and fall in the popularity of third party and independent politics over time is effectively dependent upon the state of the economy.  In good economic times, or so the reasoning goes, the public is content, and so the electorate is happy to support the major parties in power, while in bad economic times public discontent results in stronger opposition to the major parties in power.

While this line of argument may seem reasonable to economic determinists and vulgar materialists, the fact is, it is simply false, and suggests that the political scientist or commentator in question just doesn't know what he or she is talking about.  At the same time, however, these individuals are not entirely at fault since American historians and political scientists have devoted so little attention to the third party and independent political tradition in the United States.  Long time readers may recall a series of Poli-Tea posts from late 2009 which took a look at a number of academic articles on the third party and independent tradition in the US.  The third post in that series considered an article by Hirano and Snyder which provided an overview of the scientific literature on the third party and independent political tradition.  H&S write:
Another claim in the literature is that third party electoral success is linked to the state of the economy (Stedman and Stedman, 1950). However, the evidence for a connection between short-term economic fluctuations and third party electoral support is mixed at best . . . The evidence seems more consistent with the conclusion in Herring (1965) that “third parties are bred in prosperity as well as depression.” (p. 19.)  [Emphasis added.]

At Home and Abroad: the Democratic-Republican Party's War on Civil Liberties and the Right to Privacy (Update)

As the apologists of the Democratic-Republican party's national security police state continue to howl about how unauthorized access to confidential diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks compromises the security of the United States, it is now being reported that agencies of the federal government have been tracking the financial transactions of American citizens without search warrants and "with little to no judicial or Congressional oversight."  From Wired via Memeorandum:
Federal law enforcement agencies have been tracking Americans in real-time using credit cards, loyalty cards and travel reservations without getting a court order, a new document released under a government sunshine request shows.

The document, obtained by security researcher Christopher Soghoian, explains how so-called “Hotwatch” orders allow for real-time tracking of individuals in a criminal investigation via credit card companies, rental car agencies, calling cards, and even grocery store loyalty programs. The revelation sheds a little more light on the Justice Department’s increasing power and willingness to surveil Americans with little to no judicial or Congressional oversight. . . .

the Justice Department does not report or make public the number of times it got real time or historic cell phone location information, nor how often it is using these so-called “hotwatch” orders.
Unsurprisingly, Democratic and Republican leaders of the ruling criminal-political class do not appear to be especially perturbed by this news, as they are the primary architects of the policies that have eviscerated the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.  At Outside the Beltway, Doug Mataconis comments:
All of this is an outgrowth of the broad surveillance powers given to Federal law enforcement after 9/11 and as part of the “war on drugs,” and it stands as evidence to support the argument that once such powers are granted, they will be used for more than just tracking down national security threats.
Classical Values states the obvious:
Call it the war on drugs, call it the war on terror. It's really a war on privacy and on freedom, and the government is behind it.
The Democratic-Republican party's war on privacy and freedom is not confined to the United States, and is, in fact, global in scope.  This week, Third Party and Independent Daily reported on a series of leaked cables from Berlin, documenting a sustained, high-level diplomatic effort to defeat the German Free Democratic Party's opposition to the erosion of civil liberties and invasive breaches of individual data privacy.  From the second post in the series, Liberty vs. Security: Germany's Free Democratic Party and US Data Privacy Policy:
an action request was sent out in January 2010 calling on US officials to explain US data privacy policy to their German counterparts, on the assumption that concerns over US data privacy protections were based on misrepresentations and distortions of official policy (2010/01/10BERLIN128).  The cable frames the  "exaggerated data privacy views" of the FDP, as well as its "fixation on data privacy and protection issues," as a primary obstacle to German cooperation with US national security policy, stating that their opposition to data sharing operations results from the fact that the FDP sees itself as "defenders of citizens' privacy rights."
A prior cable states that "intense pressure" from high-level US officials – including Secretary of State Clinton, Treasury Secretary Geithner, Attorney General Holder, National Security Advisor Gen. Jones and Ambassador Murphy – was necessary to overcome overt opposition to sweeping data-sharing proposals supported by the US.

Update: In related news, the Washington Post reports:
The federal government has repeatedly violated legal limits governing the surveillance of U.S. citizens, according to previously secret internal documents obtained through a court battle by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In releasing 900 pages of documents, U.S. government agencies refused to say how many Americans' telephone, e-mail or other communications have been intercepted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - or FISA - Amendments Act of 2008, or to discuss any specific abuses, the ACLU said. Most of the documents were heavily redacted. 
The national security police state apparatus that has been erected by Democratic-Republican party policy consensus is a threat to individual rights, civil liberties and the very existence of constitutional, democratic, republican government in the United States.  

It's Time to Scrap the Two-Party System

From a commentary by Bob Iozzia for Patriot News at Penn Live:
I believe I can speak for my fellow disenfranchised central Pennsylvanians who try to vote for the candidate, not the party; who perhaps are liberal on some issues and conservative on others; who might have experienced first or secondhand downsizing or outsourcing because of the greed of hypocritical politicos; who are sick and tired of being sick and tired; who want to send our children to college without paying an arm and a leg. If we don’t have a good leg to stand on, it will be a challenge to remain upright — and if we fall, the nation falls. . . .

We are a nation divided into so many pieces whose rounded edges have been sharpened, that how the puzzle will be made whole is puzzling. As long as greed (for money or power) and arrogance are the backbone of our system of government, we are screwed.

It’s time to scrap the traditional two-party system so that the ponderous machine of government can finally be towed from the mud. Perhaps if the people we elect are not guided by the “gang mentality” imposed by party lines and labels, meaningful progress will be made. A nonpartisan form of government is a pipe dream, I know. But a disenfranchised moderate can dream, can’t he? Come on, man! [Emphasis added.]

Wikiphrenia: the Government-Media Complex and the War on Rights and Liberties

As has been observed by others in recent days, the response to this week's Wikileaks diplomatic document dump is almost as revealing as the content of the cables themselves, but it also demonstrates the schizophrenic character of the ideology that underpins the Democratic-Republican party's national security police state.  At one and the same time, the import of the massive leak is played down for it is said to reveal nothing that we didn't already know, while, on the other hand, it is also claimed that the leak represents a grave "attack on the international community" and a vital threat to US national interests and even democracy itself.  Ironically, this response itself does not reveal anything we didn't already know about the corporate media and the Democratic-Republican party's national security police state: they represent a grave threat to fundamental rights and liberties in the United States.

Reason's Hit and Run blog has excerpted a number of calls for the criminalization of the freedom of speech and the press in various newspaper editorials.  Within the government, the Department of Homeland Security bureaucracy has, once again, revealed itself as the avant-garde in the movement to curtail such fundamental rights and liberties.  The self-styled "Independent Democrat," Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, has successfully pressured to cease hosting any portion of the Wikileaks website.  Glenn Greenwald writes:
That Joe Lieberman is abusing his position as Homeland Security Chairman to thuggishly dictate to private companies which websites they should and should not host -- and, more important, what you can and cannot read on the Internet -- is one of the most pernicious acts by a U.S. Senator in quite some time.
Lieberman's act follows on the heels of calls to have Wikileaks labeled a "foreign terrorist organization" by his counterpart in the House, Rep. Peter King, the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, as noted here the other day.  Of course, given the Orwellian character of the national security state, perhaps this is only to be expected from officials within the DHS bureaucracy.  The agency's motto is "Preserving Our Freedoms, Protecting America," after all.

In defense of DHS policy – as we saw, for instance, in the debate over the DHS/TSA's controversial attacks on the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution –, apologists of the national security police state are often quick to argue that we must "strike the right balance" between liberty and security.  Yet, all-too-often, "striking the right balance" has come to mean giving up rights and liberties in the name of security (theater).  Radley Balko writes at Reason:
Janet Napolitano said last month that we should expect to soon see tighter restrictions at bus, train, and marine transportation centers, too. Here's a report about TSA, Border Patrol, and local police setting up a checkpoint at a Greyhound station in Tampa. Note how quickly preventing a possible terrorist attack expands to include catching illegal immigrants, and preventing drug and what sounds like "cash smuggling." (It's hard to tell from the audio.) Note also the complete and utter reverence the local news report bestows on these government agencies, who after all are merely "teaming up to keep your family safe." . . . It's not difficult to envision the day where anyone wishing to take mass transportation in this country will have to first submit to a government checkpoint

Bipartisanship and the Need for an Independent Opposition

From this week's column at CAIVN:
The very form and structure of two-party politics ensures the marginalization and exclusion of Independents from the nation’s mainstream political discourse, allowing Republicans and Democrats to engage in their well-rehearsed charades. Hypocrisy is just one of the names for the game. . . . On Sunday, Ross Douthat tackled this theme in his opinion column for the New York Times with an article entitled "The Partisan Mind." Douthat observes:
we tend to reverse-engineer the arguments required to justify whatever our own side happens to be doing. Our ideological convictions may be real enough, but our deepest conviction is often that the other guys can’t be trusted.
Despite his reservations about such intellectual and political dishonesty, the conservative commentator ends his article on a positive note.  He states that, regardless of its drawbacks, this form of partisanship ensures the existence of political opposition and serves as a check on the powers that be.  Douthat writes:
It guarantees that even when there’s an elite consensus behind whatever the ruling party wants to do (whether it’s invading Iraq or passing Obamacare), there will always be a reasonably passionate opposition as well. Given how much authority is concentrated in Washington, especially in the executive branch, even a hypocritical and inconsistent opposition is better than no opposition at all.
There is, however, a glitch in Douthat’s conclusion which results from his presupposition that the bipolar form of Democratic-Republican party politics is constitutive of politics as such.  If a hypocritical and inconsistent opposition is better than no opposition at all, where are we to find political opposition when there is a policy consensus between the Republican and Democratic parties?  This question is not as absurd as it may sound.  Despite the perennial complaints about rabid partisanship in Washington D.C., bipartisan consensus does in fact exist.  One might suggest, perhaps ironically, that there is even a bipartisan consensus in favor of excessive political partisanship . . .