Are you sick of them yet?

A classic tirade from the Political Party Pooper on the war being waged against the people of the United States by the Republican and Democratic parties:
So what is this real battle I speak of? It’s the battle of real America against the political class.  It’s the battle that no one in our media is talking about. . . . The real battle is just beginning, and the “win” is to destroy the power that the two major parties have over America.  Unless you are willing that this should occur, you will forever be saddled with representation from One Democrat and One Republican, and those two “people” are busy entertaining the likes of union bosses and David Koch.  They don’t have time to do your business; all of their time is spent raising funds for their next election, and paying back their major donors. . . .

It wasn’t you or me who sold American workers out to special interests when NAFTA and many other Free Trade agreements started sending American jobs and wealth to foreigners.  That was the Democrat and the Republican response to their donors demands for cheaper labor under the guise of “global competition”.  It wasn’t you or I who demanded that corporations and unions be treated like natural citizens so that they could donate unlimited amounts of cash and resources to the one Republican and the one Democrat seeking election.  It wasn’t you or I who fought for banks too big to fail; that was the doing of the one democrat and the one Republican in Washington.  It wasn’t you or I who then bailed those banks out because they couldn’t control themselves any better than a gaggle of teenage girls in a candy store.  It was a Democrat and a Republican who bailed them out, using our money!  All we got was massive unemployment, and platitudes from the two political parties.
Are you sick of them yet? Have you had enough?  Do you feel that over the last twenty years, you’ve been well represented?  Do you believe that when you go to the polls, you are making a real choice?  How can you be, when your choice consists of one Republican, and one Democrat, and every American knows exactly how every one of those elected will vote on every issue; namely in lock step with every one in his party?  Is that really representation of the American people, or is it rather representation of a political party and its agenda?
Read the whole thing.

Independents for Independence

Following the CUIP's National Conference of Independents earlier this month, I provided a roundup of some of the immediate reaction in the third party and independent blogosphere, a good deal of which was highly positive in character.  But there has also been a fair amount of criticism as well, notably, from those who support independent opposition to the two-party state as opposed to a strategy of working within the apparatus that sustains the misrule of the reigning parties.  This has been a long-standing tension within the growing independent movement, and it was apparent at the conference itself (I, for one, argued for political independence from the Democratic and Republican parties during the conference's open forum). Reflecting on the conference, Mark Wachtler makes the independent case for political independence in a lengthy article at The Examiner.  Excerpt:
Consider this recent Gallup poll showing America’s political allegiances – independent 38%, Democrat 31%, Republican 29%.  With such an overwhelming majority, how many U.S. Presidents have been ‘independent’? How many Senators? Congressmen? According to the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, there are 2 independent Senators – Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). And in the House of Representatives, out of 435 members, there are ZERO independents. How can that be when independents represent 40% of the population?

One look at CUIP’s literature, as well as Jackie Salit’s itinerary for this year’s conference, makes it somewhat obvious. New York independents have been encouraging the rest of us to campaign and volunteer for Democrats and Republicans over their own independents for years. In fact, highlighting the conference is Salit’s documentary praising independents for organizing and delivering for the Democratic nominee for President, Barak Obama.

One could argue that it’s a blatant and organized act of sabotage against independents nationwide if the formula didn’t work so well in New York with their election rules. Independent mayor Bloomberg is evidence enough. Bloomberg is a past Democrat, then Republican, now independent.  However, that formula doesn’t work throughout the other 49 states where the rest of the nations’ independents are up against the very same two parties the NY independents love to support. It’s a matter of philosophy, not betrayal. . . . .  The other half of the American independent movement has a different strategy. They wish to start a legitimate national political party . . . . 
At WNYC, Solomon Kleinsmith levels a centrist critique of CUIP entitled, "NY's Independents Rally Not so Independent":
Two weekends ago I flew out to New York City, for a conference for independent activists. I was hoping for a learning experience that would be welcoming for independents of all (or at least most) stripes, but I got a rally for left-leaning to left-wing independents. It really would have taken some serious effort to collect a less representative sample of independents. . . .
He follows up with a call for independents to remain open to third party organizing and activism on the model of the Independent Party of Oregon:
Luckily, there is more going on around the country for independents looking for how they can build an opposition to the two party system. The Independent Party of Oregon is a trailblazer (basketball pun intended) that independent groups, whether they are parties or not, can look to for a model of success to emulate . . . 

Parties aren't the only avenue for independents, but we should not automatically be against forming a party for centrists and moderates, where most independents stand, just because the two major parties have given us such bad examples of how political parties can be run. We can do better.
Indeed.  It is time to recognize that if self-described "independents" remain dependent upon the Democratic and Republican parties, they are not "independent" at all. 

Motion: The Two-Party System is Making America Ungovernable

This week's column at CAIVN takes a closer look at the Intelligence Squared debate on the two-party system.  Excerpt:
This week, National Public Radio and Bloomberg Television have begun airing the most recent Oxford-style debate sponsored by Intelligence Squared in which four well-known political commentators consider the proposition that “the two-party system is making America ungovernable." . . . Though the motion did not require Huffington and Brooks to argue in favor of an alternative to the two-party system, but rather only to prove its inadequacy, O’Rourke and Chafetz asked time and again: what is the alternative?  “Having lived in a country that has 14 parties [i.e. Israel],” said Chafetz at one point, “I can tell you that I didn’t find any that represented me.”  Neither Huffington nor Brooks, however, argued explicitly for a multiparty system, but instead called for modest reforms aimed at increasing political competition as well as voter participation, such as non-partisan primaries, ranked choice voting, and less restrictive ballot access laws.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the debate was the fact that it took place at all.  Mainstream political commentators do not often subject the two-party system to sustained criticism, and they are rarely forced to defend its very existence.  Indeed, the novelty of the debate was apparent in the obvious limitations of the arguments put forward on both sides of the issue.

Arianna Huffington asserted that the so-called spoiler problem associated with third party candidates can be overcome via the implementation of ranked choice voting, even though it has been demonstrated by advocates of approval voting that this is not in fact the case.  P.J. O’Rourke stated that the two-party system developed “organically” over the course of American history, completely disregarding the ways in which our political system has long been rigged by Democratic and Republican lawmakers at all levels of government to squash third party and Independent political competition.  Zev Chafetz absurdly claimed that “you can’t name an election that hasn’t had a third party candidate or more.” . . . .

The Case for Multi-Party Government: Republicans and Democrats Simply Cannot Be Trusted

At Rise of the Center, Solomon makes the case for multi-party government on the basis of one simple fact: the Democratic and Republican parties cannot be trusted with power.  Excerpt:
There are assuredly a whole slew of lessons to be learned from the ongoing mess in Wisconsin, but one of the bigger ones is we just can’t trust either party with power anymore.

Just a few short years ago we gave George W. Bush and the republican party near total control of Washington and we got record spending, a series of tax cuts we couldn’t afford and a long list of foreign policy mistakes that we’ll be dealing with for generations. The American people got sick of their overstep and split government for a few years, then gave the democrats a shot, with the rise of Barack Obama.

It didn’t take long for the Democrats to take their own version of partisan arrogance to the next level, ignoring the will of the people on legislation like the health care bill’s individual mandate, overpromising ad under delivering on the stimulus and racking up deficit spending unlike anything we’ve seen since World War II.

Give either party total control in Washington and they will trample over the will of the people without batting an eye, to hand over as much as they think they can get away with to their supporters and network of special interests that keep their party structures afloat.

Now in Wisconsin . . . . 
He concludes:
We need to elect more moderates and centrist independents, and we need to not allow either party to have complete control of government anymore. We need to have split government at every level, to at least force the two parties to have to gain the support of a handful of non members to pass anything.
They just can’t be trusted anymore.

Putting Partisans on the Defensive: Political Independence and Its Discontents

One of the most promising signs in the fight for freedom and independence from the tyranny of the two-party state and duopoly system of government is that the supporters of the ruling parties have been put on the defensive.  Millions upon millions of Americans no longer accept the false choice represented by the opposition between the Democratic and Republican parties, and increasingly choose to identify themselves as Independents rather than associate themselves with the professional partisans of the ruling political class.  To even the most minimally observant individuals among us, it is clear as day that the Republican and Democratic parties no longer represent the interests of the people of the United States, but rather those of an entrenched political establishment whose moral decadence is matched only by its political degeneracy.  Arguably, the reigning party system is no longer accepted as the absolute horizon of our nation's political order.  The proponents of the ruling parties are on the defensive.  Today it is not enough for them to simply make the case that their preferred faction of the two-party state deserves the people's support.  They are increasingly forced to make the case in support of the party system as such, to justify its very existence. 

The most recent Intelligence Squared debate, which aired on CNBC last night, bears witness to this development.  The motion: "the two-party system is making America ungovernable."  One might quibble with any number of the assumptions presupposed by the motion, or with any of the arguments put forward by the pundits who argued for and against it, but the very fact that the two-party system is itself up for debate is significant in and of itself.  (I'll write more on this debate in the coming days.)  As the Independent movement gains strength and power, it is a safe bet that those who are invested in the party-political status quo will become ever more desperate in their attempts to justify the indefinite reproduction of the party-political status quo.  We can thus expect increasingly vicious attacks against political independence and increasingly hysterical defenses of the two-party state. 

The Formula for the Consolidation of the Global Warfare and Corporate Welfare State, Wisconsin Edition

The ongoing showdown between public sector unions and the state government in Wisconsin provides us with a veritable template of party government in the United States.  The procedure is formulaic and has been employed to implement everything from the Patriot Act to the bailouts of the global banking mafia:  1) if there is no crisis at hand, manufacture one; 2) utilize this crisis to justify the implementation of emergency measures which would ostensibly address the crisis; 3) under the cover of those emergency measures, stage attacks on the fundamental rights and liberties of individuals while securing and consolidating the base of power for the global warfare and corporate welfare state. 

At issue in Wisconsin, of course, is the so-called "budget repair bill" proposed by the state's governor, Scott Walker.  In the press release announcing the bill's introduction, Walker states outright: "Emergency measure is needed to balance the state budget and give government the tools to manage during economic crisis." [Emphasis added.]  It continues:
“We must take immediate action to ensure fiscal stability in our state,” said Governor Walker.  “This budget repair bill will meet the immediate needs of our state and give government the tools to deal with this and future budget crises.”  The state of Wisconsin is facing an immediate deficit of $137 million for the current fiscal year which ends July 1.
So, the crisis facing the state is a deficit of $137 million, and this crisis is so dire it needs to be immediately addressed with emergency measures.  Interestingly, however, just last month the Wisconsin state legislature passed three bills providing $140 million in corporate and individual tax breaks.  From PolitiFact:
Economic development tax credit

Signed into law Jan. 31, 2011, this bill increases the state’s economic development tax credit fund to $98.1 million, up from $73.1 million. The fund provides a tax credit for job creation, capital investment or related activity. The additional $25 million in credits is not expected to be claimed during the 2011-2013 biennium.

So, if employers create new jobs and claim the credits, they would pay less in taxes to the state. No spending would be involved.

Health Savings Account deduction

Also signed into law, this measure allows people to deduct contributions they make to Health Savings Accounts from their state income taxes, as they can from their federal income taxes. Nearly every other state already allows this.

The deductions will reduce state revenue by an estimated $20.7 million in 2011-2012 and $27.3 million in 2012-2013.

Tax deduction for creating jobs

Under this bill, which is awaiting Walker’s signature, employers would receive a tax deduction for each job they create. They would pay an estimated $33.5 million less per year in income and franchise taxes.  
The reader can decide for him- or herself whether Wisconsin's crisis is manufactured or not.  In either case, the "emergency measures" proposed by the governor amount to an attack on long-recognized  rights of public sector workers and unions, with a number of notable exceptions.  From Walker's press release:
Collective bargaining – The bill would make various changes to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages.  Total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum.  Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled.  Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union.  Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues.  These changes take effect upon the expiration of existing contracts.  Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes.  [Emphasis added.]
It is worth noting in this context that these emergency measures to address the state's dire economic crisis also provide $22 million to the state's prison industry.  From the press release:
Corrections – The bill provides $22 million GPR to address shortfalls in the Department of Corrections adult institutions appropriation.  These shortfalls are due to health care costs, overtime, and reductions in salary and fringe benefit budgets under Act 28.
We are thus presented with a situation in which a celebrated series of corporate and individual tax breaks aimed at social and economic engineering amount to approximately $140 million.  The $137 million deficit, on the other hand, is framed as a dire emergency.  The response to that emergency requires the erosion of collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.  But the public sector unions of guard laborers, such as those in law enforcement, state troopers, inspectors and fire employees are exempted from the changes, and the prison industry receives a payoff.  The formula is clear as day.  If there is no crisis at hand, manufacture one.  Utilize this crisis to justify the implementation of emergency measures which would ostensibly address the crisis.  Under the cover of those emergency measures, stage attacks on fundamental rights and liberties while securing and consolidating the base of power for the global warfare and corporate welfare state.

Update:  As Solomon Kleinsmith points out at Rise of the Center, both sides in the Wisconsin showdown "are more than comfortable with lying to push their agenda."  This, of course, is standard practice for the partisans of the Democratic-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government.  PolitiFact checks up on the relation between the state's $137 million deficit and its $140 million in business tax breaks, concluding: "The tax cuts will cost the state a projected $140 million in tax revenue -- but not until the next two-year budget, from July 2011 to June 2013 . . . Walker’s tax cuts will boost the size of the projected deficit in the next budget, but they’re not part of this problem and did not create it."  Apparently, they will only exacerbate it. 

Huffington: the Two-Party State is "Failing Us Everywhere We Look"

From Arianna Huffington:
two-party system is failing us everywhere we look:

Why are the too big to fail banks still too big to fail? Why is there still so little emphasis on jobs at a time when 26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed? Why did our system recently fail us in three spectacular ways: the financial meltdown, the Upper Big Branch mining disaster in West Virginia where 29 miners died, and the BP oil spill in the Gulf?

Because the two-party system is hopelessly broken -- only capable of producing what Tom Friedman calls "sub-optimal solutions" to our major crises. And, as he put it, while sub-optimal is okay for ordinary times, these are not ordinary times.

On issue after issue -- education, our crumbling infrastructure, the rising costs of health care, the deficit, the steady decline of the middle class, foreign policy (where the two parties marched arm in arm into invading a country that did not after all have WMD or pose a threat to our national security) -- our current two-party system has failed us.

It has ossified to the point where it can only deliver short-term fixes. It has led to entrenched thinking, complacency, and the deification of conventional wisdom -- all conditions that have made it harder and harder to challenge a broken status quo.

And the two-party system has not just narrowed our choices, it's narrowed our thinking. It has deeply infected our political discourse, our media, and our politicians. To paraphrase Einstein, the problems we are facing today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.

The hunger for change is evident on both sides of the political spectrum -- from the meteoric rise to power of an outsider candidate like Barack Obama to the lightning in a bottle creation of the Tea Party -- both the result of grassroots, anti-establishment movements. The American people clearly want alternatives.

On practically every level, potential nominees in each party are running away from the establishment label and desperately trying to show their independence from the establishment wings of the two parties that are held in such low esteem.

And the Internet and social media are making the shakeup of the two parties much more likely, with young people less and less aligned with large, established institutions -- and more empowered than ever to connect with each other and cut through the spin perpetrated by politicians and special interests. . . .

God Bless the Two-Party System

Happened to come across this 2008 video today:

Independents Gather for National Conference in New York City

As I mentioned over the weekend, I attended the National Conference of Independents organized by the CUIP on Saturday in New York City.  In this week's column for CAIVN, I provide a rundown of the day's events. 
On Saturday, hundreds of Independents from across the country gathered in New York City for the CUIP’s National Conference of Independents entitled, “Can Independents Reform America?”  The conference was organized by the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, which is perhaps better known by its online portal at  Founded in 1994 by independent community organizers and third party activists, the organization now has local affiliates and chapters in over thirty states.  The daylong event, which was hosted at New York University, featured: a presentation by the group’s president Jackie Salit, a panel discussion on “breaking into a partisan system,” numerous “dispatches from the movement” in which representatives of state affiliates reported on their ongoing activities, an open forum for questions and comments from the audience, and even a mock trial that pitted the parties vs. the people. 
Read the rest for details.  Of course, at most conferences the primary attraction is not the individual panels themselves but rather the breaks between them.  Between the sessions, I had the chance to meet up with a number of folks I have been in regular correspondence with through Poli-Tea over the last two years including Nancy Hanks of The Hankster, Randy Miller of the Utah League of Independent Voters and Solomon Kleinsmith from Rise of the Center.  I also chatted with Joe Gandelman from The Moderate Voice, Raimon Nemar from Legend Mag, Larry Reinsch from the Independent Voters of Iowa, and Theresa Amato, whose recent book The Grand Illusion has been called "the best book on ballot access ever" by Richard Winger of Ballot Access News.

There do not seem to be any reports on the conference in the mainstream press, but there are more than a few in the independent media and blogosphere.  A sampling:
• The Examiner: "Party Politics Under Attack at National Conference of Independence"
• The Moderate Voice: "Independent Voters in Major Conference in New York City"
• Black America Web: "African Americans Riding Wave of Independence"
• Nia Means Purpose: "Unpeeling the Power of Independents"
• It's a Free Country: "The Independent Groundswell"
• The Independent View: "National Conference of Independents 2011"
• Celi the Actress: "Find Love in Battle"

Red State Diarist: We Need a National Conservative Party

Today, Red State diarist Nikitas3 has posted a lengthy entry on the site calling for the formation of a Conservative Party of America to act as a countervailing force to the Republicans and Democrats.  Excerpt:
It is time to establish a Conservative Party of America that will bring together all conservatives under one umbrella – Tea Party, 2nd Amendment, Constitutionalists, pro-life, pro-family, Christian, anti-terrorist, traditional marriage, private-property rights, secure borders, pro-military, pro-nuclear etc.

This would not be just another political advocacy group. It would be a whole new party to add to Democrats and Republicans. It could run candidates for everything from town council to president of the United States.

Today there is no such party. The Tea Party movement indeed represents conservatives, but it is not an official party and its focus is strictly fiscal. Even still, in its short history, the Tea Party helped to sweep hundreds of candidates into office in 2010. And we need to build on that success and that momentum. . . . 
Like the Tea Party, CPA will work with the Republican party when the GOP fields good candidates. No problem. Otherwise CPA can put up candidates and run them in Republican primaries or run them as Conservatives in general elections.

CPA candidates may be Tea Party or pro-life or pro-nuclear or whatever. But right now, many conservatives - in the pro-life movement, for instance - may not feel they really have a political home except in their own separate sphere of political influence. They may be well-spoken, but they see no way to expand their ideas to a bigger audience as a Conservative Party would allow them to, even to the national candidate level. CPA could begin showcasing intelligent conservatives of all stripes from all over the country, and bring out a whole new generation of activists just as the Tea Party did in less than two years. . . . 
The article then goes on to list nearly twenty reasons to support the idea.  Perhaps Nikitas3 is unaware, but Red State diarists are literally not allowed to advocate for any political party other than the GOP.  The site's rules dictate that all posts must be ideologically conservative and politically Republican, as reported here on a Red State post from last year advocating third party activism.  As I wrote at the time:
The two-party state and duopoly system of government is (re)produced and maintained, first and foremost, by a set of ideological fabrications and mystifications which aim to create the illusion that all resistance to the dictatorship of the Democratic-Republican Party is futile. However, the rules of our duopolized discourse are not laws of nature, they are artifices actively enforced by the ideological prison guards of the two-party state . . . 

Independent Voting Conference Today

Independent Voting is hosting a National Conference of Independents today in New York City, which I'm currently attending.  Nancy Hanks is streaming the whole thing live at The Hankster if you want to tune in.  Full report to follow in the next day or so.  Here are some highlights from the program:
New Documentary    
Watch the premier of the latest political documentary by Jackie Salit, the President and Founder of  This multimedia presentation covers the impact of the independent movement on the Obama White House, on Congress, on the political parties and on a cross section of political forces.  This cutting edge documentary is a great introduction to independent politics.  It explains the relevance of the independent movement to urgent social, economic and cultural problems in America.

Hear a "Talk/Talk" conversation with Jackie Salit and Dr. Fred Newman, the Stanford-trained philosopher, playwright, author and pioneer of independent politics. Talk/Talk is a Newman/Salit specialty - think Charlie Rose, Oprah and Aristotle all rolled up into one!

Panel Discussion
Moderated by Jackie Salit and General Counsel, Harry Kresky with:
  • Theresa Amato, Ralph Nader’s Presidential Campaign Manager in 2004;
  • John Avlon, Senior Political Consultant,; Founder, No Labels
  • Lenora Fulani, Co-founder,
  • Michael Hardy, General Counsel, National Action Network
  • Douglas Schoen, pollster and author
  • James Mangia, Executive Director, St. John's Well Child & Family Center and Founding Secretary, National Reform Party
  • Cathy Stewart, Chair, New York County Independence Party
  • Bradley Tusk, Founder, Tusk Strategies; Campaign Manager Bloomberg 2009
Mock Trial 
Are you a fan of Law and Order, The Good Wife, or even Judge Judy?  If so, you don't want to miss this.  We will be staging a mock trial to explore a fictional (but not improbable) "people vs. the parties" controversy. A cast of prominent civil rights and election lawyers, actors, elected officials, and a famous "surprise witness" will stage a courtroom trial and in the process shed light on the growing conflict between parties' rights and voters' rights.

Dispatches from the Movement
Get the inside scoop from’s leaders on what's happening on the ground, behind the scenes, in the hallways of power and on the street corners, as independents intensify their efforts to enact structural political reforms like open primaries across the country.  This is independent politics straight from the source.

Discussion and Dialogue
Conference attendees will have the opportunity to discuss the days’ proceedings in an open mic session, not to mention the chance to meet and mingle throughout the day.

The Tea Party Movement and the Coming Insurrection: Conservative Anarcho-Communism?

Reflecting on the controversy surrounding Glenn Beck's global conspiracy theory of "the coming insurrection," one might reasonably wonder about the source of his obsession with the insurrectionary anarcho-communist manifesto of the same name.  Might it not stem from a narcissism of small differences?  The latter term was coined by Sigmund Freud to describe the inclination to aggression between relatively similar groups.  Freud writes in Cilvilization and Its Discontents:
I once discussed the phenomenon that it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and in ridiculing each other . . .  I gave this phenomenon the name of "the narcissism of minor differences" . . .
As I have noted here before, for a supposedly conservative movement, tea party sympathizers and organizers draw inspiration from, and model their activities upon, radical left-wing groups with surprising frequency.  From December 2009:
More than one Red State diarist has suggested that Republicans follow the infiltrationist strategy allegedly implemented by radical socialists in the 1970's. Glenn Beck has stated that the people of the United States need to begin "thinking like the Chinese." And none other than Rush Limbaugh has argued that conservatives should emulate the "radical left."
In this vein, one might also reflect upon the conservative zeal for the works of Saul Alinsky.  Nonetheless, as an active organizer within the tea party movement, Glenn Beck's apparent obsession with The Coming Insurrection is curious to say the least.  But given that conservative sympathizers with the tea party movement have actively and admittedly modeled their efforts on those of "the radical left," isn't it possible that they might come to see themselves reflected and even implicated in the works of the radical left?  

As I will seek to show here, the loose association of groups that have come to be known collectively as the "tea party movement" closely conforms to the organizational template of action forwarded in The Coming Insurrection.  The Coming Insurrection is effectively divided into two parts.  The first part diagnoses the problem, while the second provides a template for action within the social-political coordinates delineated by the diagnosis.  As noted here the other day, the diagnosis in the work is grim: civilization weighs upon the backs of the living like a dead corpse.  The model of action is aimed at shaking that corpse from the backs of the living, and is discursively organized under a series of slogans excerpted and summarized here the other day:
The book calls for decentralized, anarchist activity and reinvents the notion of the commune on the model of the anarchist affinity group . . . It calls on like-minded individuals to find each other, form communes, get organized, plunder, cultivate and fabricate, create territories, remove obstacles, turn anonymity into an offensive position, organize self-defense, make the most of every crisis, sabotage every representative authority, block the economy, liberate space from police occupation, take up arms while doing everything possible to make their use unnecessary, and depose authorities at a local level.
Tea party groups are voluntary associations of like-minded individuals.  Tea Party Nation describes itself as "a user-driven group of like-minded people."  Any such organization would necessarily fall under the expansive definition of the commune on the model of the anarchist affinity group as conceived in The Coming Insurrection, where we read: "Communes come into being when people find each other, get on with each other, and decide on a common path."  The model of action proposed in TCI is based on decentralized associations which cluster to form loosely coordinated, leaderless groups.  Think of the individual member as an atom, the local association, affinity group or commune as a molecule and the cluster of associations as a molar aggregate of those molecules.  The tea party movement prides itself on being both leaderless and highly decentralized in just such a manner.  Lew Rockwell reflected on "The Tea Party as a Leaderless Movement" last September.  He wrote:
This morning on NPR, Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal was analyzing the Tea Party as a deliberately leaderless, non-hierarchical movement. Its people are not interested in political power as such,  he said, but in changing people’s minds about big government. . . . the heart of the Tea Party is libertarian, in concert with its leaderless, ultra-decentralized organizational principles.
Just as in The Coming Insurrection, "GET ORGANIZED" is a popular slogan among tea party activists, who frequently employed it in the run-up to the 2010 general election.  In May 2009, Glenn Reynolds reported on tea party activists "getting organized":
The president of the Cincinnati Tea Party organized the community tea party, which was much more subdued than other rallies held earlier this spring. And that’s how it was intended. “It’s about organization. This is where we get people involved in the movement and really it was a relatively small group that put together the rallies on April 15 and March 15,” said Mike Wilson.
The Jackson, Michigan Tea Party Patriots began to "get organized" in January 2010: "I have about 20 people who want to meet in January to get organized," wrote organizer Ron Acton.  In February of last year, NPR reported that "Colorado Tea Party Groups Get Organized."  California Tea Party groups held workshops on "how to get organized" last March.  The Tea Party of Florida advertised its meet-ups under the subject heading: "Time to Get Organized."

The Coming Insurrection calls for the "creation of territories," stating that "every practice brings a territory into existence," and concluding that "local self-organization superimposes its own geography over the state cartography, scrambling and blurring it . . ."  Tea party groups across the country flexed their muscle over the summer of 2009 when they converged on town hall meetings held by congressional representatives, in actions that short-circuited the distinction between the local and the national by garnering the attention of the US mainstream media and even the global press.  Through local self-organization, tea party groups turned these town halls into one of their primary terrains.  Indeed, in this fashion, these groups also managed to fulfill another of the other prescriptions called for in The Coming Insurrection.  By angrily confronting these elected officials, they effectively "sabotaged the representative authority" of those very representatives, and revealed their weakness in the face of an organized opposition.  

Many tea party groups have also succeeded in "deposing authorities at a local level," though their focus has been primarily at deposing those authorities within the GOP.  Many tea party groups advocate infiltration of the local Republican party apparatus at the lowest levels, namely that of the precinct, thus "fleeing visibility" and turning their relative anonymity into an offensive position from which they could leverage higher order changes in the party's power structure.  The effectiveness of such action became clear as tea party challengers "removed obstacles" by defeating their establishmentarian rivals in Republican primaries ahead of the 2010 elections. 

The Coming Insurrection calls on readers to "block the economy."  Though the work specifically addresses actual physical blockades, the economic boycott likely remains the most popular strategy of "blocking the economy" in the United States.  There is a long list of companies that have been boycotted by tea party groups.  From Talking Points Memo, January 2010:
Last week, we told you about the tea party movement's next national target -- American businesses believed to be supporting the "socialist agenda" of Democratic politicians. On Jan. 20, the tea partiers plan to boycott these corporations during their "National Day of Strike."
From The Daily Caller, in late November 2010, "Tea Party targets big business":
“If you look at President Obama’s healthcare legislation and cap and trade, there’s only one reason those things got as far as they did – they had big business support,” said Tom Borelli, Director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project. Borelli is teaming up with Freedomworks President Matt Kibbe to promote responsible, sound business practices, and beginning next year, the two will begin encouraging supporters to boycott big business that lobbies for a “progressive” agenda.
Similar actions are ongoing among tea party groups across the country.  The Coming Insurrection further calls on readers to organize self-defense and take up arms.  Tea party activists famously made headlines across the country by publicly bearing arms at their protests and rallies.  Many tea party groups are, moreover, staunch defenders of gun rights and the Second Amendment, and there are likely more than a few who are also members of local militias.  

As this cursory glance shows, it is not difficult to see that the tea party movement has effectively implemented nearly all of the fourteen prescriptions for action from The Coming Insurrection summarized above.  The similarities between the tea party movement and the model of insurrectionary anarcho-communism proposed in the work are almost too obvious to be overlooked.  And the same might be said of the differences between the two.  Yet it is both noteworthy and highly ironic that the supposedly conservative tea party movement shares so many points of contact with insurrectionist anarcho-communism.  We might even say they have adjoining territories, as Freud put it.  Is it so unreasonable to assert that the apparent and vocal opposition between the two amounts to nothing more than a narcissism of small differences?  As the anarchist AK Press Collective wrote in their open letter to Glenn Beck: "You’re right: we’re revolutionaries. But aren’t you?"

The Patriot Act and the Bipartisan War on Civil Liberties

An attempt to fast-track the renewal of the most controversial portions of the Patriot Act failed in the House yesterday.  The measure failed to get the procedurally necessary two-third majority.  The same measure would easily pass on a simple majority vote.  In the People's House, there is a sizable bipartisan majority of Democrats and Republicans who are united in opposition to core constitutional principles such as the protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and the civil rights of American citizens.  Glenn Greenwald writes:
The establishments of both political parties -- whether because of actual conviction or political calculation -- are equally devoted to the National Security State, the Surveillance State, and the endless erosions of core liberties they entail.  Partisan devotees of each party generally pretend to care about such liberties only when the other party is in power -- because screaming about abuses of power confers political advantage and enables demonization of the President -- but they quickly ignore or even justify the destruction of those liberties when their own party wields power.  Hence, Democratic loyalists spent years screeching that Bush was "shredding the Constitution" for supporting policies which Barack Obama now enthusiastically supports, while right-wing stalwarts -- who spent years cheering on every Bush-led assault on basic Constitutional limits in the name of Terrorism -- flamboyantly read from the Constitution during the Obama era as though they venerate that document as sacred.  The war on civil liberties in the U.S. is a fully bipartisan endeavor, and no effective opposition is possible through fealty to either of the two parties.
At The Think 3 Institute, Sam Wilson argues that the vote provides us with "a new picture of the House":
Majority and minority alike are bipartisan in composition. Leaders can blame unreliable people in either party for what happened last night, and the vote may well have been taken in order to expose those people to various forms of pressure from both parties. Ordinary Americans who distrust the Patriot Act and the expanded national-security apparatus it sustains should learn from this episode that they shouldn't look to any one of the major parties for protection from potentially abusive surveillance. The only way that last night's victorious minority can become a majority is by drawing from both parties. More to the point, opponents of the Patriot Act need to find more congressmen for whom party dictates count less than civil liberty.  [Emphasis added.]

The Egyptian Uprising and the Hypocrisy of the Democratic-Republican Bipartisan Foreign Policy Consensus

From this week's column at CAIVN:
The response of the US political establishment to the popular uprising in Egypt reveals the hypocrisy of a long-standing bipartisan foreign policy consensus.  Unlike Democrats and Republicans, Greens and Libertarians are united in their support for the people of Egypt in their fight to topple its oppressive regime.

The protest movement that erupted in Egypt over two weeks ago aiming to topple the nation’s authoritarian regime, headed by Hosni Mubarak, immediately captured the attention of the global media and heightened an acute contradiction in the decades-old foreign policy consensus of the US political establishment.  Rhetorically, the bipartisan Democratic-Republican party consensus stands for the expansion of freedom and democracy across the world.  In actuality, however, Democratic and Republican administrations alike have consistently supported repressive and tyrannical governments with massive amounts of foreign aid. . . .

Unlike the Democrats and Republicans, the Green and Libertarian parties have both taken an unambiguous stance in support of the Egyptian people and against the bipartisan Democratic-Republican policy in favor of foreign entanglements with corrupt and repressive regimes . . . 
Read the rest.

Glenn Beck and the Coming Insurrection: Anarchism and Anonymous

Since the January 25th protest movement erupted in Egypt over two weeks ago, Glenn Beck has been under attack from the left, right and center for his global conspiracy theory of "the coming insurrection."  Most recently, none other than neoconservative icon Bill Kristol has denounced the way in which Beck "rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left."  But Beck has been talking about "the coming insurrection" for some time.  As you might recall, I devoted a series of posts last spring to "the coming intersection of the tea party and anarchist movements" (see here, here and here).

The Coming Insurrection is an insurrectionary anarchist, or anarcho-communist manifesto first published in France in 2007.  When Beck began talking about the work in 2009 he helped turn it into a best-seller upon its publication in English, specifically urging his audience to "read this book" which he considered one of the "most evil things" he'd ever read.  At the time, an anarchist press collective responded to Beck with an open letter declaring: "we're like you, except we support real freedom, and that's why you're afraid of us."

It is an open question whether or not Beck's global conspiracy theory would appear more or less  outlandish if one understands that when he mentions "the coming insurrection" he is specifically referring to this book.  Few media commentators seem familiar with the work, or with the fact that Beck is specifically alluding to it, and those who are appear not to have read it.  David Neiwert writes at Crooks and Liars:
Glenn Beck was frothing at the mouth this week -- just before he went on an obviously much-needed vacation -- about an obscure French book that is hard to obtain and which no one appears to be reading, aside from a handful of anarchist aesthetes . . .
Ironically, Neiwert presumes it is absurd to speak about the potential political effectivity of such a book, but then goes on to argue that this very tactic has proven effective for the white supremacist movement, stating, "they're largely relegated to the fringes. But that doesn't mean people don't act on them."  Media Matters commented on Beck's recent programs underscoring the "obscurity" of the book:
All of this was offered up in service of his theory that the protests in Egypt are the manifestation of The Coming Insurrection, an obscure book that French police believe was written by a member of a small group of anarchists. Beck has repeatedly described the anonymous author (or authors) of the book as "communists." He's tied George Soros and President Obama to The Coming Insurrection, as well.

So, a diverse group of the Egyptian people are in the streets protesting an autocratic leader, and Glenn Beck has decided that this is directly connected to an anonymously written anarchist tract from France that he's been obsessing about for the past two years?
To believe that the uprising in Egypt cannot be connected to or accounted for by the theory of action proposed in The Coming Insurrection demonstrates a complete ignorance of the work's argument and message.  On the other hand, Beck's belief that he can construct a coherent theory of a coordinated, global, geostrategic conspiracy on the basis of it reveals a misunderstanding, a misinterpretation or a misappropriation of the book.  However, the claim that "the result of the coming insurrection will be that the world starts to implode," as Beck has stated, is perfectly in line with the book's primary argument and its stated goal.  Let's take a closer look at the work and attempt to remove it from its alleged obscurity.  

In The Coming Insurrection, crisis is framed as the everyday mode of contemporary society and civilization, and this state of affairs is perceived as an opportunity.  In the work's introduction, we read:
From whatever angle you approach it, the present offers no way out. This is not the least of its virtues. From those who seek hope above all, it tears away every firm ground. Those who claim to have solutions are contradicted almost immediately. Everyone agrees that things can only get worse. . . . It’s the privileged feature of radical circumstances that a rigorous application of logic leads to revolution. It’s enough just to say what is before our eyes and not to shrink from the conclusions.
Whereas Karl Marx stated in his Eighteenth Brumaire that "the tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living," in The Coming Insurrection the past and present weigh on the living like a corpse that no one can seem to shake off:
So we have a corpse on our backs, but we won’t be able to rid ourselves of it just like that. Nothing is to be expected from the end of civilization, from its clinical death. In and of itself, it can only be of interest to historians. It’s a fact, and it must be translated into a decision. Facts can be conjured away, but decision is political. To decide on the death of civilization, then to work out how it will happen: only decision will rid us of the corpse. GET GOING!
The book calls for decentralized, anarchist activity and reinvents the notion of the commune on the model of the anarchist affinity group, effectively creating an insurrectionary manual intended to aid those who seek to shake the corpse of contemporary civilization off their backs.  It calls on like-minded individuals to find each other, form communes, get organized, plunder, cultivate and fabricate, create territories, remove obstacles, turn anonymity into an offensive position, organize self-defense, make the most of every crisis, sabotage every representative authority, block the economy, liberate space from police occupation, take up arms while doing everything possible to make their use unnecessary, and depose authorities at a local level.

The Coming Insurrection connects the 2005 civil unrest in France with the 2006 protests in Oaxaca Mexico, the actions of American longshoreman in 2002, the Algerian uprising of 2001, the anti-globalization movement of the 1990's, the autonomous squatters movement in Hamburg Germany in the 1980's, the global unrest of the 1960's and so on.  Is it such a stretch of the imagination to connect these with the ongoing uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, or last year's riots in Greece, France and England, or even the recent anti-police protests in Denver?  As one anarchist website recently put it: "Egypt Today, Tomorrow the World!"

The theory of action proposed in The Coming Insurrection might also be found at work in the activities of the online hacktivist group known as "Anonymous."  Indeed, Anonymous perfectly conforms to the notion of the commune proposed in the insurrectionary manual, where we read:
Communes come into being when people find each other, get on with each other, and decide on a common path. The commune is perhaps what gets decided at the very moment when we would normally part ways. It’s the joy of an encounter that survives its expected end. . . . [They are defined] not by their membership, but by the spirit that animates them. A commune forms every time a few people, freed of their individual straitjackets, decide to rely only on themselves and measure their strength against reality . . . The commune is the basic unit of partisan reality.
From Encyclopedia Dramatica on Anonymous:
Anonymous is everyone and noone. You are. I am. Everyone is. Anonymous is humanity when the gloves come off. Anonymous is legion and its deeds are legend. . . . Anonymous is not a person, nor is it a group, movement or cause: Anonymous is a collective of people with too much time on their hands, a commune of human thought and useless imagery. A gathering of sheep and fools, assholes and trolls, and normal everyday netizens. An anonymous collective . . .
In recent months, Anonymous has shut down the websites of PayPal, Mastercard and Visa among others in support of Wikileaks, as well as the websites of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments in solidarity with the uprisings there.  Just the other day they hacked a security firm that was investigating them.  From Raw Story:
The online group of hacktivists known as "Anonymous" infiltrated the network and websites of an Internet security company after learning the company planned to sell information about the group to the FBI.

The website of Washington DC-based HBGary Federal was hijacked Sunday along with the Twitter account of CEO Aaron Barr. The company's website was defaced with a message that read, "This domain seized by Anonymous under section #14 of the rules of the Internet." . . . .

In addition to hacking the company's website and Twitter account, "Anonymous" gained access to more than 44,000 company e-mails, which were released to the public in a 4.71 gigabyte Torrent file. The group also gained access to the report that was allegedly going to be sold to the FBI and posted it online (.pdf).
This is effectively "The Party of We" which I referred to here the other day.  The quote is from Tech Dirt:
centralized top-down legacy systems are coming into conflict with distributed, decentralized, bottom-up systems -- and not understanding them at all . . . They're not protesting by saying "this will not stand." They're protesting by saying "your laws don't matter, because we can simply route around them."

By the Plutocrats, of the Plutocrats, for the Plutocrats

Sometimes you can find a gem in the strangest places.  From a comment by Knoxville News reader SmixonNack responding to a letter to the editor:
The government we have in this country, at present, is not representative of the majority. They are, in fact, only truly representative of a small and powerful minority.  And when the people who are elected to represent us are incapable of doing so, and are also elevated to the status of belonging to an an entirely separate and privileged class within society, simply by being elected, our self-assured notion that we function as a representative democracy becomes invalid.

In fact, I would argue that truly representative democracy in the US, however flawed it may have been, died a very long time ago and has been replaced with a system I can only describe as plutarchy, a combination of oligarchy and plutocracy.

Unfortunately, history shows us that governments such as ours lead only to tyranny and ever-increasing violence perpetrated upon citizens by the State. They don't backtrack. They don't downsize. They grow continually and without resistance. Our form of government has only one setting, and that is full speed ahead.

Perhaps even more unfortunately, history also teaches us that there are only three ways of halting this form of societal madness: it collapses under its own weight, it is forcibly collapsed by a third party nation, or the people declare war on the State and collapse it themselves.  If I remember correctly, the men who founded this country warned us this was going to happen.

Against Publicly Funded Party Primaries: Why should the people have to subsidize the primary elections of fringe groups like the Democrats and Republicans?

A few years ago, Washington state instituted a "top two" style primary system like that recently adopted in California.  From a letter to the editor of The Olympian in Washington state:
I am increasingly disgusted by the continuing efforts of the Democratic and Republican parties to overturn the "Top 2 Primary" system. In fact, they are convincing me that in the next election I should vote for a third-party candidate - anyone but a Democrat or a Republican.
Political parties were mistrusted by America’s Founders, for good reason. Political parties were not established by our Constitution. Why should my tax dollars be spent helping them choose their candidates? If they want to have an election in which only candidates recognized by the respective parties can run under the party label, let them finance their own primaries. Taxpayers have made it plain that they do not want to finance elections for the benefit of the parties. What part of “no” do the parties not understand?

The Party of We

Today I happened to come across an interesting piece from Mike Masnick at TechDirt on decentralized, distributed political organizing.  An excerpt:
I tend not to be much of a believer in political "parties." They always seem to get lost in groupthink around what's best for "the party," rather than what's best, period. I even tend to have issues with groups like The Pirate Party. While I support many of the ideals and concepts within the party's platform, I don't agree with everything they have to say, and still think the use of "pirate" in the name, while attention grabbing and perhaps useful in the short-term, is quite limiting long-term. And yet, I'm certainly intrigued by a lot of what's been happening over the past few months, in terms of somewhat ad hoc groups coming together and protesting things they just know are not right. While I still don't agree with the denial of service tactics of "Anonymous" and its Operation Payback, I've been saying for a while that this really is a moment when centralized top-down legacy systems are coming into conflict with distributed, decentralized, bottom-up systems -- and not understanding them at all. 
Michael Scott points us to an opinion piece from lawyer Douglas Wood, in which he does a nice job describing what he refers to as "The Party of We," which he notes is already in control. I think that final point is the part that is the most interesting, and the least understood in many of the discussions around what's happening online. In the past, with traditional systems, if you didn't agree with something, you would just protest. But if you look at what's been happening lately, when the public doesn't agree with something -- official secrecy, draconian copyright laws, censorship, privacy violations, etc. -- rather than just protesting, they're simply routing around those things. It's an incredibly important point. They're not protesting by saying "this will not stand." They're protesting by saying "your laws don't matter, because we can simply route around them." [Emphasis added.]
Read the rest.

PA: County Controller Declares Political Independence, First Such Independent or Third Party Official in Over a Century

From the Republican Herald:
County Controller Melinda Kantner is leaving the Democratic Party. During a fundraising event Friday night at Blu Tavern Restaurant, Kantner announced she'd be seeking re-election as an Independent. "I was an Independent before I ran for controller in January 2007. It's what I'm going back to," Kantner said. She has served as county controller since January 2008 as a Democrat . . . 
In a follow-up article from the Republican Herald, the publication discovers that there is a long history of third party politics in the county:
County Controller Melinda Kantner has made history. Since at least the late 1890s, there has not been a sitting county row officer or commissioner who has not belonged to either the Republican or Democratic party, according to county Election Bureau records and election results in the Schuylkill County Archives Office. "There's a first time for everything," Kantner said last week.

Two weeks ago, the incumbent ditched the Democratic Party, became an independent, and is now gearing up for a potential three-way November General Election. Decades ago, races for county row offices were often melees. For example, in the 1915 county elections, at least six parties fielded candidates. The mainstay Republican and Democrat parties had candidates on the ballot, but so did the Washington, Citizens, Socialist and Labor parties. Those parties were represented on the ballot for prothonotary, controller, county commissioner and other offices, according to county archives . . .

The Two-Party State is the Enemy of Liberty and the Antithesis of Self-Government

In an article for Op-Ed News, William J. Kelleher makes a strong case against the two-party state and duopoly system of government.  Via The Hankster:
The American Revolution was fought for many reasons.   Among these were the desires to settle individual grievances against the King's government for the quartering of soldiers, taxation without representation, and the brutality of law enforcement, as well as to throw off restrictions on trade and thereby open up new economic opportunities.   Clearly, one of the highest priorities of the colonists was to toss off the shackles of King George III, so as to achieve Liberty through self-government.   Indeed, the notion that "Liberty" is self-governing is so prominent among our country's founding principles that it can be considered as the original "American Dream."    

Self-governing requires the dispersal, rather than the concentration, of political power.   The more that power is concentrated in the hands of a few, the less self-governing there is for the many.   In other words, the concentration of power bears an inverse relationship to the Liberty of the people.   Those who hold concentrated power must, to maintain their position, put their own interests above the public interest.  

If Liberty is an essential element to the public interest, then concentrated power is essentially against the public interest.   Thus, concentrated power necessarily results in the political denigration of the general public.   The few take it upon themselves to decide what is in the best interests of the many.   Conditions like this foster political alienation and political unhappiness, or frustration, among those who desire to be self-governing but lack the needed political power.  

Political scientists have known, at least since the days of Roberto Michels, that the primary aim of political parties is to concentrate power in themselves.   Members of political parties seek to place their leadership in the seats of government, sometimes for their own material gain, but chiefly so that the members can vicariously enjoy the pleasures of being among the dominant powers.   Contrary to today's conventional wisdom, political parties are necessarily undemocratic institutions, precisely because they must put their own interest -" in taking and keeping power -" before the public interest.   The dispersal of power among the people is necessary for the full realization of Liberty through self-government.

Some readers may be surprised to learn that among the most important objectives of the Framers, or authors, of the US Constitution was to fashion a government that could not be taken over by political parties.   Generally, our nation's Founding Generation abhorred political parties.   They regularly referred to parties as "factions." . . .
Kelleher goes on to outline the antipathy for party government among the founders, and then ends the piece with a strong argument in favor of California's top two primary system, addressing the issues brought up here yesterday.  Read the rest.

Two Problems with Top Two

Last month, I wrote at CAIVN: "Two special elections for State Senate scheduled on February 15th will be the first to be held under California’s “top two” open primary, and at least one candidate, Michael Chamness, is running in protest of the new system."  In an op-ed for the Daily Breeze, Chamness states his case against the "top two" primary system:
The laws dramatically limit voter choice and candidate's rights. Because of this new set of laws, third-party candidates from parties without ballot access are forbidden from listing their party affiliation on the ballot. I'm officially registered with the Coffee Party, a minor (i.e., non-state-recognized) party. However, the current law forces candidates to say they have "no party preference." In stark contrast, Democratic and Republican candidates are free to state their party's name on the ballot. Bottom line, SB 6 forces minor-party candidates to lie to voters and does them a grave disservice. And that needs to change.

Another troubling dictate of SB 6 is that it mandates that all write-in votes cast "at the general election shall not be counted." As such, SB 6 would have robbed a duly elected write-in candidate such as Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski of a victory, as all votes cast for her would have been tossed out. . . . In the interests of preserving the intent of the voters, this provision of SB 6 must be overturned.. . . .

So I ask for your vote, though I realize it's a long shot . . . I would work tirelessly to brew up better government, put a lid on wasteful spending, find common ground among our electorate, and fight to see that the average citizen has the opportunity to run for office and stir things up a bit in Sacramento.

Majority of Independents Open to Third Party Candidate for President

From this week's column at CAIVN:
A new survey conducted by Public Policy Polling has found that 37% of Americans and 51% of Independents are open to supporting a third party candidate for President in 2012.  And there is good reason to believe these numbers significantly underestimate the level of support for an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. . . . Of those who are open to a third party alternative to President Obama and his eventual Republican challenger, 48% express support for a centrist candidate who is more conservative than Democrats and more liberal than Republicans, while 30% want a candidate who is more conservative than Republicans and 16% want a candidate who is more liberal than the Democrats. . . . These numbers translate roughly to an 18-19% base-level support for a centrist, third party candidate among the electorate at large. . . .

A look at the poll’s crosstabs shows that Independents are, unsurprisingly, most open to a third party candidate for President in 2012.  51% of Independents expressed openness to the idea, compared to 44% of Republicans and only 24% of Democrats.  Given that Independents and Republicans are much more open to the idea of a third party candidate for President than Democrats are, there is good reason to believe that the Public Policy Polling survey significantly underestimates the level of support for an alternative to the deadlock of Democratic-Republican party politics. . . .
Read the rest

The Bipartisan War on the Fourth Amendment, Cont'd

The police state and surveillance society that is being constructed on the basis of Democratic-Republican bipartisan consensus is a grave threat to constitutional government in the United States.  From a new report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, entitled, "Patterns of Misconduct: FBI Intelligence Violations from 2001-2008":
In a review of nearly 2,500 pages of documents released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a result of litigation under the Freedom of Information Act, EFF uncovered alarming trends in the Bureau’s intelligence investigation practices. The documents consist of reports made by the FBI to the Intelligence Oversight Board of violations committed during intelligence investigations from 2001 to 2008. The documents suggest that FBI intelligence investigations have compromised the civil liberties of American citizens far more frequently, and to a greater extent, than was previously assumed. [Emphasis added.] In particular, EFF’s analysis provides new insight into:

Number of Violations Committed by the FBI
  • From 2001 to 2008, the FBI reported to the IOB approximately 800 violations of laws, Executive Orders, or other regulations governing intelligence investigations, although this number likely significantly under-represents the number of violations that actually occurred.
  • From 2001 to 2008, the FBI investigated, at minimum, 7000 potential violations of laws, Executive Orders, or other regulations governing intelligence investigations.
  • Based on the proportion of violations reported to the IOB and the FBI’s own statements regarding the number of NSL violations that occurred, the actual number of violations that may have occurred from 2001 to 2008 could approach 40,000 possible violations of law, Executive Order, or other regulations governing intelligence investigations. [Emphasis added.]
Substantial Delays in the Intelligence Oversight Process
  • From 2001 to 2008, both FBI and IOB oversight of intelligence activities was delayed and likely ineffectual; on average, 2.5 years elapsed between a violation’s occurrence and its eventual reporting to the IOB.
Type and Frequency of FBI Intelligence Violations
  • From 2001 to 2008, of the nearly 800 violations reported to the IOB:
    • over one-third involved FBI violation of rules governing internal oversight of intelligence investigations.
    • nearly one-third involved FBI abuse, misuse, or careless use of the Bureau’s National Security Letter authority.
    • almost one-fifth involved an FBI violation of the Constitution, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or other laws governing criminal investigations or intelligence gathering activities.
  • From 2001 to 2008, in nearly half of all NSL violations, third-parties to whom NSLs were issued — phone companies, internet service providers, financial institutions, and credit agencies —contributed in some way to the FBI’s unauthorized receipt of personal information.  [Emphasis added.]
  • From 2001 to 2008, the FBI engaged in a number of flagrant legal violations, including:
    • submitting false or inaccurate declarations to courts.
    • using improper evidence to obtain federal grand jury subpoenas.
    • accessing password protected documents without a warrant.
The violation of protected constitutional rights and liberties on the part of the government, aided and abetted by corporate interests, has become routine under the conditions of the reigning two-party state.  There are few signs that the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties have any intention of reversing course on these matters.  Indeed, they are more likely than not to simply double down.  For instance, though it is scheduled to expire, the Patriot Act appears to be on track for its yearly renewal.  From TPM:
At the end of next month, two of the Patriot Act's controversial provisions -- one authorizing "roving" wiretapping and one allowing the government to pull all sorts of records and electronic communications from U.S. citizens -- will expire.   Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has already introduced legislation that would simply extend the provisions for one more year. That would essentially be a repeat of what happened a year ago, after the provisions expired in December 2009.
Yesterday, at the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf considered a Republican-led push to force Internet service providers to store records of their users’ activities for years to allow review of those activities by police, and asked whether "spying on us is in the pledge."  His reflection on the matter underscores the hopelessness of those who remain imprisoned by the ideology of the two-party state.  He writes:
With President Obama continuing his awful record on civil liberties – without much objection from elected Democratic officials – and the GOP reminding us why liberty-minded people loathed their prior stint running Congress, there's basically nowhere left for libertarians to turn. I don't begrudge anyone for thinking they're better off aligning with the Republicans or the Democrats. But I can't stand folks who pretend that advocates of overweening government are all on one side, or that the right thing to do at the ballot box is obvious.  [Emphasis added.]
Perhaps Friedersdorf has never heard of the Libertarian Party.  Or maybe he's just willfully obtuse.