The Political Slaughterhouse

If someone were to write the definitive political fable of our time, it would likely tell the story of how farm animals formed alliances amongst themselves in support of the two competing factions from the management at the local slaughterhouse.  An apt cartoon from lilwonders at Mylot:

Lilwonders adds in explanation: "This is the reality of the two party system. The sooner we do something about it...the better off we will be."

Canadian Pirate Party Offers Secure Internet Browsing to Protect Against Government Monitoring

From Canada's Leader Post:
The fledgling Pirate Party of Canada is offering Canadians a way to get around increased Internet monitoring by a Conservative government, Edmonton-based leader Mikkel Paulson said Tuesday.
It will provide a virtual private network, or VPN, service to Canadians. And, for every VPN account that Canadians buy, it will offer a free account to a person living in a country like Tunisia or China, where Internet access is restricted. The account would allow uncensored Internet browsing.
The party set up a server last January to help Tunisian protesters avoid detection and prosecution by their government. The party is buying more space to offer the service to other countries. A VPN account gives people a working Internet proxy, which encrypts and reroutes all the Internet traffic from their computer through a third party so that governments or hackers can’t get access.
If given a majority government, the Conservatives are promising to ram through a bill that would provide unprecedented systematic interception and monitoring of Canadians’ personal communications. In short, Canada will soon join the growing list of countries subject to invasion of privacy and internet censorship. Therefore, the Pirate Party is preparing to extend the services presently offered to residents of repressive regimes to protect the people affected by the aspiring dictator right here at home.
“We will provide VPN service to Canadians at a rate of $10 / 200GB. For every paid account we open, we will also provide a free VPN account to a citizen of a nation with censored internet,” said party leader Mikkel Paulson today. “This allows us to simultaneously provide protection to Canadians and expand our humanitarian support abroad. We won’t keep logs of the activity, although we will of course cooperate with law enforcement in the event of abuse of our services.”
Until such a time those in power begin to respect the rights of those they claim to represent, the Pirate Party will work to defend Canadians from the abuses of their government.

NY: Majority of Voters Cast Ballots for Third Party Candidates in Mayoral Election

At Ballot Access News, Richard Winger draws attention to a noteworthy result from the recent special mayoral election in Rochester, New York: a majority of voters cast their ballots for third party candidates.  From BAN:
Rochester, New York, held a special partisan election for Mayor on March 29, 2011. The official results have been released. They are: Thomas S. Richards, Democrat, 49.05%; William A. Johnson, 32.03% on the Working Families line and another 10.18% on the Independence Party line; and Alexander J. White, Green Party, 8.74%.
This was a special election to fill the seat vacated by former Mayor Robert Duffy, who was elected to the position of Lieutenant Governor of New York as current Governor Andrew Cuomo's running mate in 2010.  Thomas Richards, who won the special election on the Democratic ballot line, briefly served as Deputy and interim Mayor after being appointed to the position, from which he quickly resigned in order to run in the special election.  Richards was opposed by former Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson, who was the first African American elected to that position, which he held from 1994 to 2005.  Johnson is a Democrat, but after the Democrats nominated Richards, he ran with the support of the Working Families Party and the Independence Party.  New York has a fusion voting system in which multiple parties are allowed to nominate the same candidate for a given office.  The upstart campaign of Green Party candidate Alex White was viewed as a relative success by third party activists.  Independent Political Report observed:
although he lost, Green mayoral candidate Alex White ran a strong campaign, building up his own reputation and that of the Green Party in Monroe County, New York.
From a local media report relayed by IPR:
While he won’t rule out another campaign in the future, White was quick to say, “I would hope that thre are other candidates that are as strong or stronger than me running on the Green Party line in the future.”
The percentage-results from the mayoral election are revealing, but they do not tell the whole story.  According to the Monroe County Board of Elections, only 25,726 voters cast a ballot in the contest.    Unfortunately, eligible voter and registered voter statistics for the city are not readily available online, but, contacted via phone, Maureen Dauphinee from the county board of elections says "turnout was 27% based on 25,726 voters out of 95,269 eligible to participate in the City of Rochester Special Mayoral Election on March 29, 2011."  Thus, Democrat Thomas Richards won the election with the support of just 13% of eligible voters!  Every mayor of Rochester since 1974 has been a Democrat, so it is not surprising that the GOP would not have run a candidate in the special election.

The Democratic and Republican parties thrive on low voter turnout in non-competitive elections, understanding the latter as elections in which there is only one major party candidate, or in which there is virtually no contest between the candidates of the major parties.  What the mayoral election in Rochester shows is that these two conditions provide a strategic opening for third party and independent candidates.  The race could have been won with the support of just one out of six eligible voters.  The question is: how does one mobilize non-voters who have been brow-beaten into unquestioningly accepting Republican-Democrat party rule, probably even against their better judgment in a large number of cases? 

The ideological prison guards of the two-party state and duopoly system of government never tire of reiterating the argument which states that alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans just cannot win.  "Like it or not, it's a two-party system," they say, ignoring the fact that in many, if not most districts, the two-party system long ago degenerated into a one-party affair.

In many Republican-leaning districts, the Democratic party is not seen as a viable alternative to the GOP; similarly, in many Democrat-leaning districts, the Republican party is not seen as a viable alternative to the Democrats.  In such cases, third party and independent candidates literally represent the only alternative to one-party rule.  The Rochester mayoral election proves the point: a majority of voters cast their votes on a third party ballot line.

An Anatomy of an Anti-Independent Hit Piece

This week's column at CAIVN takes a close look at an anti-Independent hit piece in The New Republic.  Excerpt:
Are Independents “a confused and clueless horde,” who are “more myopic than moderate” and characterized above all else by their “thoughtlessness”?  These are just a few of the claims put forward in an anti-Independent hit piece published this week in The New Republic.

In “The Trouble with Independents,” Georgetown history professor Michael Kazin argues that Independent voters are “a clueless horde” on the basis of an “impression” gleaned from a single survey and report by the liberal research group Democracy Corps, which sought to gauge public opinion on Republican and Democratic arguments in the ongoing budget debate.  In his analysis of the survey, Kazim focuses in on an apparently puzzling result: a majority of respondents agree with both Republican and Democratic talking points.  He emphasizes that “by a margin of over 20 points, voters agree,” with the Republican party’s statements concerning Paul Ryan’s budget plan, but that “by slightly higher percentages, they also agree with the Democrats” in their criticism of Ryan’s plan.  Yet, things are not as clear cut as this simplistic and deceptive juxtaposition would make them appear . .  .

It is extremely revealing that, for Kazin, being persuaded by a specific line of argumentation in a lengthy survey is an indication of thoughtlessness, while reactively lining up behind whatever statements are put forward by one’s own “side” is a sign of deliberative political engagement . . .

Reconsidering Kazin’s initial point, however, is it really so surprising that a majority of likely voters might agree with Republican and Democratic talking points?  When Republicans state that Democrats are dishonest and out of control, and Democrats say that Republicans are reckless and hypocritical, who could disagree?  Fortunately, many of us in the “independent horde” need not rely on an impression gleaned from a single survey by a partisan research outlet to draw conclusions regarding the thoughtlessness and myopia of the Democratic and Republican parties.  Republicans and Democrats like the "professor" provide us with new evidence to support our considered judgment in that regard on a daily basis.

The Independent Movement and Political Paralysis

It seems like there's a ton of new and noteworthy commentary and analysis coming over the third party and independent news wires today. At Technorati, Benjamin Kerensa declares his political independence from the Democratic Party:
After months of painstaking research and consideration I made the leap and switched political parties today or better yet I opted-out of the two-party politics that so many voters in the United States are addicted to.

I actually feel quite relieved that I no longer have to subscribe to an almost molded political party that has no interest in representing the voters but instead only serves the special interest groups that donate the most money to their candidates election campaigns. So you must be asking yourself which party I left? I decided to leave the Democratic Party . . .

I had taken the politicians for their word like many millions of Americans and yet came to realize that I had not held the people I voted for accountable for keeping their promises and being solid in their issues.

A few people in the political blogging and journalism field have written some vibrant articles on why the two-party system has failed Americans and that inspired me to make a change by becoming an Independent . . .
Democrats aren't the only ones declaring their political independence from the major party machines.  At CAIVN, Chris Guzman reports on a new study which finds independent affiliation surging in the Republican stronghold of Orange County California.  Excerpt:
Based on a report by Claremont McKenna College's Rose Institute of State and Local Government, it appears that the rise in decline-to-state voters in the typically Republican-dominated Orange County spells trouble for the GOP's stronghold in the region. 
"Third party registration in Orange County has remained under four percent throughout the decade, but the number of decline to state voters has skyrocketed. In total, the number of decline to state and third party voters has gone from 18.6 percent to 24.5 percent of those registered. It is notable that all those losses are coming from the Republican share, while Democrats are able to hold their proportion constant," said the report.

The report also noted that while independent voters in Orange County have tended to favor Republicans by significant numbers in the past, there are indications that this may be changing as well. According to numerical stats provided by the Institute, independents are the most energized movement in the OC.

Get this: While the increase in decline-to-state/independent and third party voter registration increased by 6 percentage points between 2000 and 2010, from 19% to 25%, Republican Party registration in the County has dropped from 50% to 43% within the same time period. Also during this decade, Democratic registration has wavered between 30% and 32% . . . . 
And yet, even with their numbers steadily increasing across the country, many Independents still appear to be hostage to the ideology of the two-party state.  Their situation is, in fact, not very different from that of third party voters.  A new series of articles at Scholars and Rogues entitled "The American Parliament" looks into the highly un-representative character of government in the United States.  From the first article in the series:
In the US, a hypothetical third party or voter bloc that delivers 8% at the polls gets zero representatives and when Congress is sworn in they have no leverage. Their only hope for representation is to throw their support behind either the Dems or the GOP and hope that once those candidates are elected they will listen to the concerns of X Party leaders. Operative word: “hope.” In the US coalitions are loosely constructed at the campaign stage. You have 8%? Great, vote for us and here’s what we’ll do once we’re elected. Except that such promises aren’t binding and there’s no practical means of holding the Dems or Republicans, as the case may be, accountable to their promises. If you don’t like it, fine – go vote for the other guys, who, by the way, are as diametrically opposed to your platform as it is possible to be. Take it or leave, just shut up and go away.
This situation is all the more disturbing in the case of political independents, who constitute anywhere from 20% to 50% of registered voters depending on the state or district, and who consistently outnumber self-identified Democrats and Republicans in national polls.  Yet they have virtually no representation in government.  At Think 3, Sam Wilson reflects on "partisan gridlock and independent paralysis":
. . . . most of the Americans who call themselves independent seem incapable of acting independently. If they remain dismissive of the potential of existing independent parties, they have no clue about creating a movement of their own to contend for political power. Trapped in a party system, they seem intimidated by the institutional challenges of fielding their own candidates and building their own platforms. They apparently prefer to wait for someone like Trump to make them an offer. This passivity, the implicit concession that a political campaign is something best left to expert professionals, is the dependence that really belies the protests of so many self-proclaimed independents. We depend too much on institutions that generate candidates for us, while other institutions discourage us from generating our own candidates. Democracy has become a matter of choosing among the powerful rather than the electorate asserting its own power.  [Emphasis added.]
So long as independents refuse to exercise the power inherent to their numbers, they will continue to be dominated by the narrow, factionalist interests represented by the Republican and Democratic parties.

Please Refer All Complaints to Your Local Emergency Dictator

As I've written, again and again, there are three basic steps in the formula for Republican-Democrat party government in the United States: 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 fundamental rights and liberties while securing and consolidating the base of power for the dictatorship of the two-party state.  The practice is so common and so widespread, it really should have a name, if it doesn't already.  Any suggestions?

Another recent example of the practice comes to us from Michigan, where legislation allowing for the declaration of "financial martial law" empowers the governor to dissolve elected local governing bodies and replace them with "emergency financial managers."  The new law has received relatively little attention in the corporate media, but a number of bloggers at Forbes have been following the story rather closely.  From Rick Ungar, just over a month ago:
This week, the Michigan legislature passed – and the governor signed into law – a bill that would permit Governor Rick Snyder to push aside elected city officials and replace them with emergency financial managers in any municipality or school district facing financial difficulties. . . .

Whatever the reason, one of the most shocking, Draconian, democracy-destroying measures in the history of this country has became law – and the nation has seemingly slept through it.  Should you think I am somehow overstating the issue – which would certainly be understandable given how difficult all of this is to believe – let’s do a quick review of what has happened in Wolverine State.

The new law, described by one of the GOP legislators sponsoring the bill as “financial martial law”, empowers the governor’s appointees (referred to as ‘Emergency Financial Managers’ but more aptly termed viceroys appointed by the king) allows the EFR to fire duly elected local officials, cancel labor contracts and even dissolve entire communities and school districts. . . .

This law gives an appointee of the governor – which, by the way, may be a corporation – the authority to dismiss any or all of a municipality’s elected government officials. How does this not anoint Michigan’s governor as King Richard the First? Let that sink in for a moment and then explain to me how any citizen of this country can avoid outrage?
In Detriot, the actions of "Emergency Financial Manager" Robert Bobb stoked actions that resulted in the arrests of numerous protesters who opposed the unilateral closure of a highly successful school for pregnant teens.  From E.D. Kain at Forbes, last week:
Detroit Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb announced last month that he was closing eight schools, and selling up to 45 more to charter companies. Among those slated for clsoure was the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a school designed for pregnant teens and the only one of its kind in the nation. One reason the announcement came as such a surprise to students and teachers there is that Catherine Ferguson has a stellar track record, boasting 90% graduation rates and 100% college acceptance rates.
A local media account of the protest action against the closure of the school:
Protesters gathered outside the Catherine Ferguson Academy Friday afternoon chanting, picketing and holding signs -- a show of solidarity against the proposed closing of the school, which caters to pregnant and parenting teenage girls. While they were outside, about a dozen others were inside holed up in the library. When they wouldn't come out, Detroit police went inside.

"Police came and they're like, 'You've got to go. You've got to go,' said Tiffany Baldwin. "We just stood there and they just arrested us one by one."

"Officers advised them that the building was closed and that they did need to leave or they would be considered trespassers. After several warnings, they refused to comply. Once we were able to make entry into the room where they were, we arrested several for trespass," said Chief Roderick Grimes with Detroit Public Schools.

As the chants grew louder, students, former students and even a teacher were led out in handcuffs . . . Some struggled, some screamed, all were put in squad cars and hauled away. "To go in like storm troopers to arrest people who were carrying on a peaceful protest during spring break to preserve their school was just absolutely outrageous," Driver said . . .

There was a DPS spokesperson on the scene. He said they understand that a school can mean so much to students, parents and teachers, but that a protest is not the way to go about trying to get your message heard. Instead, they are encouraged to talk to Robert Bobb and show that their school needs to stay open.  [Emphasis added.]
Under the rule of the Republican-Democrat party, a peaceful protest is no longer the way to go about trying to get your message heard.  Such tactics, one assumes, are better suited to a situation in which government officials are democratically elected by the public.  Instead, you are encouraged to grovel at the feet of your local emergency financial dictator.

Poli-Tea on Polizeros Radio

Last night, Bob Morris of Polizeros invited me on to his Blog Talk Radio broadcast for a discussion of third party and independent politics.  The podcast is already online.  Bob provides a roundup of our talk in a post today:
Topics included:
The Myth of the Myth of the Independent. They aren’t just closet Democrats or Republicans but span the political spectrum with many not tilting one way or the other.
In some states there are more Independents than Republicans or Democrats. This indicates huge and growing disaffection among voters.
The two parties have seized control of our political system and deliberately make it difficult for third parties to gain ballot status. Further, neither parties wants increased voter turnout because that might upset their cozy little duopoly. They benefit from and encourage voter apathy.
Change is possible. The Vermont Progressive Party is now a major party in that state and their senator Bernie Sanders is an Independent who calls himself socialist.

Pirate Party Recognized in at least Two States, Florida Pirate Prepares for 2012 Campaign

The Pirate Party is now an officially recognized political party in at least two states.  The Massachusetts Pirate Party was certified in February, and just last month another state chapter was officially recognized in Florida.  From the announcement at the party's website:
As Chairman of the Florida Pirate Party, I am very pleased to announce we have achieved an amazing feat: We are an officially recognized political party in the state of Florida. This is an amazing achievement, and is due in no small part to Vice Chairman Bradley Hall, Chris Sheats of the Pirate Party Washington, and Christopher Ochman, a tireless pirate supporter in Virginia.
However this is a small step in what is sure to be a long and tiring journey for us all. We created this party because as I type this, entertainment industry lobbyists, information technology firms and authoritarian regimes around the world are currently working to bring the flow of information and ideals under their control. They view unencumbered free communication as a threat to their profit margins, or their grasp on power.
The Florida Pirate Party, like the worldwide Pirate movement exists as the protectors of freedom of press and expression across any and all methods of communication. We stand against the efforts of the RIAA and MPAA to make governments their personal minions for censorship. We stand against the unconstitutional pursuit by the United States Department of Justice to seize web domains without just cause or due process.
We stand for openness in government. All our leaders must be held accountable. A democracy that keeps secrets from it’s citizens is no democracy at all.
We stand for the reform of intellectual property laws. Lifetime plus 70 years of copyright is ridiculous. We believe in expanding the public domain and creative commons.
We believe the future should be a place where someone can surf the internet without wondering who is watching, or use the phone and not wonder if someone is listening. We should not live in fear of our government or our internet service provider.
And the Florida Pirates are wasting no time beginning their ballot access drive.  The state party's chairman, Ryan Moffitt, has already announced his candidacy for a seat in the Florida House, and begun the petition campaign to appear on the ballot:
It is my pleasure to announce that I have begun my campaign to become the Florida state House Representative from District 86, and become the first Pirate Party candidate for political office in the United States.

Once the paperwork has been certified by the Division of Elections, I will be cleared to gather donations, and begin gathering voter petitions to get a spot on the ballot in the 2012 general election. . . .

Let this be the beginning of the end of the monopolist copyright industry. Let this be the beginning of the end of back room deals and secret operations. Let this be the beginning of the end of warrantless wiretapping and censorship.

With your help, we can bring the state of Florida into the new digital age, in a free and open manner run by the people, and for the people. We can end the old ideals, and the old guard who believe communication and creation should stay in the domain of ivory towers, marble halls or glass office buildings. The future belongs to us, the people.

The Growth of the Independent Antiwar Movement 2007-2009: Now with Graphs!

It's like a story right out of The Onion.  Last week, both NPR and the Wall Street Journal each happened to run an article entitled "Whatever happened to the antiwar movement?" prompted in part by a new study on the "demobilization of the antiwar movement between 2007 and 2009." The funny thing is, if any news outlets like the Wall Street Journal and NPR had bothered to report that antiwar protesters mobilized by the thousands to march through New York City and San Francisco over the previous weekend, perhaps their correspondents wouldn't have to wonder.  This week's column at CAIVN is on the recent antiwar demonstrations and the new study, which inadvertently found that Independents and third party supporters are the primary drivers of the antiwar movement.  An excerpt: 
The new paper, published in the journal Mobilization by Michael Heaney and Fabio Rojas, analyzes what the authors call “the demobilization of the antiwar movement in the United States” between 2007 and 2009.  Based on interviews with over 5,000 demonstrators at nearly 30 major antiwar protests across the country over that two year period, the researchers conclude that the electoral success of the Democratic party in the elections of 2006 and 2008 led to the large-scale abandonment of the antiwar movement by Democrats, even despite the party’s failure to deliver on its antiwar promises . . . 
The report concludes that, “the withdrawal of Democrats from the movement in 2009 appears to be a significant explanation for the falling size of antiwar protests.”  The research team’s surveyors estimated that hundreds of thousands of individuals turned out for antiwar protests in early 2007 and dwindled to the hundreds by late 2009.  
The report’s findings have prompted a number of mainstream media outlets to ask: “Whatever happened to the antiwar movement?”  On April 15th, both NPR and the Wall Street Journal published articles posing that exact question.  The piece at NPR noted that, “Now and then, small pockets of protesters still band together,” while the WSJ report stated that antiwar protests remain at about the levels common in late 2009, “drawing mere hundreds.”

Remarkably, neither of these articles mentioned the fact that on the previous weekend, thousands of Americans had gathered in New York and San Francisco to protest the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya . . .
Read the rest for more details on the protests and the media's malfeasance.  Here, let's take a closer look at the research paper itself, as it contains a fair amount of data on the partisan composition of the antiwar movement.  The study finds that turnout fell as Democratic participation in antiwar protests plunged between 2007 and 2009, which they call the "demobilization of the antiwar movement".  The authors explicitly contrast Democratic participation rates at antiwar protests with those of third party voters, pointing out that the two have an inverse relationship: as Democrats left the protest movement, it shrank, and the proportion of third party members at antiwar rallies increased considerably.

However, it fails to compare Democratic participation rates with those of Independents, i.e. protesters who refused to identify themselves with  any party, or with Independents plus third party supporters combined.  If you add the latter two together, you find that their numbers either rivaled or exceeded those of Democrats throughout the two year period the study considered.  Except for a handful of the largest protests, Democrats rarely constituted the majority of the "antiwar movement" as it is defined in the study.  The researchers also found that as Democratic participation in antiwar protests plunged from 2008 to 2009, turnout generally shrank from hundreds of thousands to hundreds and thousands, and the partisan composition shifted to 54% Independent, about 25% third party and 21% Democrat.  Here's the partisan composition graph:

You'll notice that there are only three points at which the majority of antiwar protesters were Democrats, and even in those instances, their majority was slim.  At the time of the largest protests covered by the study, when hundreds of thousands of antiwar protesters were out in the streets in early 2007 and Democratic participation was highest, almost half of those who turned out were Independents and third party supporters.  And Independents overtook the Democrats as the majority even before the Democrats disengaged following Obama's election.  

The report's flaw is to be found in its equation of Democratic disengagement from the antiwar movement with the demobilization of the antiwar movement as such.  As the protests earlier this month demonstrate, the antiwar movement is still mobilized enough to gather protesters by the thousands on both coasts.  How can we explain this?  It may well be that the study overestimates the effects of plunging Democratic participation on the antiwar movement because it does not consider changes in partisan affiliation, specifically, the growth of Independent identification and the fall of Democratic affiliation. 

According to Pew Research, Independents and Democrats were roughly in parity in 2007 (34% to 33% respectively).  In 2008 Democratic party identification rose in the run-up to the presidential election, as Independent identification fell and Republican affiliation held steady.  But then in 2009 Democratic and Republican affiliation fell, leading to an Independent plurality of 39% I, 33% D and 22% R.  In other words, Independent identification surged following Obama's election, at least in part because a nontrivial number of Democrats declared their independence from the party.  The Pew graph:

What the study calls the "demobilization of the antiwar movement" is actually just evidence of the betrayal of the antiwar movement by the Democratic party.  In accord with their electoral strategy, the Democrats just "moved on" from their previous concerns following Obama's election.  They wasted no time in betraying antiwar activists once they had successfully hijacked the movement.  But the antiwar movement moved on too.  It continued to exist and is still mobilized, as this month's protests and the new antiwar coalitions demonstrate.  There are just very few Democrats in it, since the Democratic party supports the wars.  But that doesn't mean the antiwar movement isn't millions strong.  A majority of Americans no longer support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan  

This flaw in the study might also be indicated by the failure of its predictive and explanatory power, as evidenced in the conclusions drawn by NPR and the Wall Street Journal in blissful ignorance of the previous weekend's antiwar mobilizations.  National Public Radio and the Wall Street Journal considered its findings and provided their readers with a eulogy for the antiwar movement.  They should at least have suspected that the news of its death was greatly exaggerated.

The study makes for interesting reading and is only about 15 pages long, here's a pdf, if you're interested in checking it out.  I'll probably come back to it in the coming days, as it contains a couple other points worth teasing out, and might allow us to draw some speculative conclusions about the future of the tea party.

Arizona Independent Calls for Non-Partisan Elections

Paul Johnson is a former mayor of Phoenix Arizona and a former Democrat.  Like a growing number of Arizonans, Johnson is now an Independent.  Indeed, Independents now outnumber Democrats and are quickly gaining on Republicans in the state.  In a commentary for The Arizona Republic, Johnson argues that "partisan politics is wrecking our country," and makes the case for non-partisan elections in order to ensure that Independents are not disenfranchised from the political process, while moderating the effects extremist primary voters in the Democratic and Republican parties have on our political system.  Johnson furthermore argues against the public subsidization of Democratic and Republican party primary elections.  Excerpt:
Today, we have a two-party system built upon a simple principle: Win. Public policy comes second.  The current two-party system, not the one envisioned by our forefathers, has created a currency of distortion, exaggeration, misrepresentation, centralization of power and the unfortunate motivation to put political stripes above the greater good.
Today, the two-party system rewards extremism and punishes moderation.  We need to change the reward system in politics.  In Arizona's partisan primaries, less than 9 percent of the registered voters decide who will represent each party. This gives a disproportionate influence to extreme groups - and, if that's OK with you, stop reading right here.  Unfortunately, we all pay the price . . . 
With partisan primaries and publicly funded elections, economic and business issues are no longer a priority. Compromise is ignored. The average Arizonan has no voice. Extremists rule.

And, so, with no organized effort, independent voters are on their way to becoming the majority party. Arizona's voters are giving up on realignment in the party system and have moved to disalignment with either party. Within the next few years, independents are going to make up the majority of Arizona voters. But the political game is rigged against them.

We will not change human nature. But if we change state and federal elections to a system more like our nonpartisan city elections, we will change behavior and thus outcomes . . .
Our federal and state elections currently subsidize partisan primaries, and at least one of the parties has suggested it plans to sue to keep independents from being able to vote in its primary. As independents are quickly becoming the majority party, this subsidy is not justifiable.
There is no longer any justification for the public subsidization of the primary elections for the Democratic and Republican parties.  The Democratic and Republican parties are not public entities, they are private organizations that have simply seized control of government at all levels in the United States over the course of what is basically indistinguishable from a long, slow coup.  The longer Americans continue to pretend that Republicans and Democrats represent anything other than the interests of the parties and their corporate sponsors, the longer we will have to endure the corporatist subjugation of the American people.

Update:  Johnson's op-ed has sparked a lengthy discussion in the comments of the letters to the editor section of the Arizona Republic.

The Political Inquisition at the Daily Kos: Diarist Forced to Publicly Recant Third Party Proposal

It is a primary conceit of the apologists for the reigning political status quo that the Democrat-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government is a "natural" result of our nation's constitution.  Some will even go so far as to portray it is an incarnation of some eternal, Platonic form of the political.  This is the mythology of the two-party state.  It is both the means by which the ruling parties are provided with their imaginary, quasi-metaphysical ground, and the rhetorical ploy with which their strategists obscure the disciplinary role the parties themselves play in the maintenance and reproduction of the system which ensures their continued monopolization of political power and representation in the United States. 

There is nothing "natural" about this process.  It is regulated by strictly enforced codes of thought, speech and action.  It is no coincidence that two of the most popular websites devoted to supporting the Democratic and Republican parties have explicit rules and regulations prohibiting the discussion of third party and independent alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans.  The surest way to be booted from the Daily Kos and Red State is to advocate for rational alternatives to the major parties.  I have previously documented such controversies at Red State in the past.  A recent incident at the Daily Kos demonstrates the prevalence of this practice. 

On Sunday, Daily Kos diarist tmax published a post entitled: "I am THROUGH with Democrats: WE NEED A THIRD PARTY!"  In the piece, tmax argues that "President Obama needs to start his own party."  An excerpt:
The Progressive Party can be a reality. We can jettison the Blue Dogs on the right, the Professional Liberals on the left, and basically suck the heart out of the existing corporate-owned DLC driven Democratic Party. By including the vast moderate middle that strongly supports the President's "avoid the gridlock and Get Things Done" approach we can explode our numbers in a way that tying ourselves to the Identity Politics crowd prevents us from doing now. By aligning the Progressive Party with the moderates, rather than the left, we can accomplish progressive/liberal goals without alienating the soft conservatives that have become extremely disillusioned with the Republicans.
Shortly after the diary was posted, a "note" in bold-faced type was appended to the top of the article.  It reads:
This diary is now Snark. I have received a warning from Admin stating that it "crosses the line" between "theory" and "advocating", in terms of discussing the possibility of a 3rd party on Daily Kos. I have confirmed that I will not continue to call for the President to start his own party. The diary will remain up as a basis for discussion of the issues it addresses. I am proud and happy to be a Democrat, although I continue to join many of my fellow Kossacks and fellow Democrats in believing that party (and the system as a whole) needs improvement.  [Emphases added.]

In other words, tmax was forced to publicly recant his third party heresy.  At Red State and Daily Kos, to stray beyond the proscribed lines of thought, speech and argument that are deemed necessary for the preservation of the two-party state, is to invite expulsion. The point here is not that these sites should not be allowed to regulate the speech of those who publish their views on it.  That is their right.  What such incidents reveal, however, is that there is nothing "natural" or "organic" about support for the Democratic and Republican parties. Rather it is the result of discipline and enforcement, prohibition and punishment. Indeed, one might go so far as to argue that a primary condition for the reproduction of the Democrat-Republican two-party state today is the curtailment of free speech, including the prohibition of any speech or argument that might endanger the modes of thought necessary to maintain the misrule of the Democratic and Republican parties.

As a final thought, one might add that if support for the Democratic and Republican parties is predicated upon the negation of free speech, this might go some part of the way toward explaining the hostility of Democrats and Republicans alike to rights and liberties guaranteed in the First Amendment.

The Case for a Third Party Infiltration Strategy

When the professional partisans of the Republican and Democratic parties are confronted with the deep political discontent of the American public, it is their primary responsibility to channel that rage and put it back into the service of the ruling parties and reigning status quo.  In such situations, these ideological prison guards of the two-party state might even go so far as to concede the criticism and critique leveled against the Democrats and Republicans, and even the duopoly system of government itself.  But, in the next breath, they will throw up their hands and exclaim, "Well, what're you gonna do?  It's a two-party system!  Our only hope is to work within the party and reform it from the inside."  This is the argument that was employed by Democrats to co-opt and kill off the anti-war movement.  And it is the same argument that has been employed by Republican operatives to co-opt and kill off the tea party movement.

You are just as likely to hear the argument for the infiltration of the major parties from Rush Limbaugh as you are from Markos Moulitsas.  The reason for this is quite simple.  The likes of Markos Moulitsas and Rush Limbaugh share the self-same goal: ensuring the reproduction of the Democrat-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government.  The infiltration of the major parties by free thinking, independently-minded individuals and groups is not the means by which the major parties are reformed and resuscitated.  Rather it is the means by which free-thinking, independently-minded individuals and groups are smothered and castrated by the entrenched interests represented by the ruling party establishment.

However, in an interesting post at The Daily Mush, Jim Hlavac takes the infiltration argument and puts it in the service of the political opposition to the dictatorship of the two-party state.  He argues that the wide swath of Americans who are not represented by the "socialists and theocrats" in the Democratic and Republican parties should infiltrate the Libertarian party.  Excerpt:
So us 65% or so in the middle are forced, by current election rules, to either vote for Republicans, which empowers the theocrats on that side, or the Democrats, which empowers the Socialists on that side. And because the two fringes have so successfully insinuated themselves into the party power structure, and because the election laws are rigged in the parties favor, then it becomes almost impossible to get any sort of reasonable practical stuff done. And instead, the two fringes work their magic on gaining more control over the government, the law, the public purse and over the lives of the people . . . .

The only other party structure that is up and running is the Libertarians. Technically even the third largest party in America. And it’s time to consider us rational people taking over the moribund thing with its lots of ballot access and make it truly about what America is about – leaving people alone to do what they want to, so long as they cause no harm, and believe as they want to, and otherwise do nothing except handle the violent criminals, and defense, and adjudication of natural disputes from the course of the people’s activities, and help the most truly unfortunate. . . .

So why not take over the Libertarian Party and stop arguing within the elitist two party power structure and start arguing with it as a third party? Now that would be audacious hope for change. 

OR: Secretaries of State Blast Anti-Independent Bill as Unprecedented and Unconstitutional

I wrote yesterday on the bill introduced into the Oregon House of Representatives that would prohibit the use of the word "Independent" in the name of any political party and thus force the Independent Party of Oregon to change its name or face dissolution.  During the first hearing on the bill at the meeting of the House Rules Committee yesterday afternoon, two former Secretaries of State blasted the proposal as unprecedented and blatantly unconstitutional.  Moreover, they emphasized the deep public disgust with the Democratic and Republican parties, and stressed the public's desire for third party and independent alternatives.  They even echoed the point, made here yesterday, that if we are going to ban the use of certain words in the names of political parties so as to avoid voter confusion, we should probably start with the Democratic and Republican parties, lest voters cast their ballots under the false impression that those two organizations stand for democratic and republican values, respectively.  Here are their full prepared remarks as relayed by the Independent Party of Oregon:
The heavy-handed attempt to side-swipe the IPO met with some equally weighty criticism today, particularly in the joint written testimony submitted by former Secretaries of State Norma Paulus (a Republican, who served from 1977 to 1985) and Phil Keisling (a Democrat, who served from 1991 to 1999).

Here is their joint testimony: 
Chairs Olson and Hunt, members of the House Rules Committee,
It has come to our attention that your committee is weighing the merits of House Bill 2442, which would ban the use of the word “independent” in the name of a major or minor political party, and force the Independent Party of Oregon to change its name by the end of the year, or be disbanded.
During our combined 16 years of service as Oregon Secretary of State, we have administered more than 600 elections for state and federal office, and were responsible for regulating numerous minor and major political parties.
We are aware of no legal precedent in any jurisdiction in the United States that would allow a legislature to ban the use of a word in the name of a political party, and are highly skeptical that the Oregon Constitution, with its broad protections for free speech, would permit such an intrusion on the association and speech rights of a duly constituted political party. Pass this bill -- or even treat it semi-seriously -- and what's next? Bills to ban the word "republican" or "democratic" from other parties because one party in power feels threatened?
Since leaving public office, we have spent a great deal of time working to reform a system that has become increasingly partisan, to the detriment of the public interest. We have witnessed a steady erosion of public confidence in our democratic institutions as a result of this partisanship, to the point where recent polls have shown that nearly 60 percent of voters believe that a third party is needed because they do not feel well represented by either major party, and several recent polls that show record-levels of dissatisfaction with both the Oregon legislature and the US Congress.
Such public cynicism is justified when legislation is pushed by one or both major parties to silence the voice of a minor political party that is taking steps to encourage greater collaboration between the major parties and greater transparency in government.
Whatever one may think of the party's name, the Independent Party of Oregon has clearly established itself as a legitimate entity in this state. It provided all of its members with an opportunity to select the party's 2010 candidates by holding the largest nominating process ever conducted by an Oregon minor political party, and has distinguished itself as the first party in more than 100 years to hold a primary election at its own expense.
This bill is cynical, political mischief of the worst, most juvenile kind -- worthy of being thrown on the legislative scrap heap, so this body can get down to the important business at hand.
For more on the bill, and the opposition to it, see also today's statement from the Secretary of the Independent Party of Oregon.

OR: "Emergency" Law Would Abolish Indepedendent Party

As I've written before, the formula for the preservation of the Democrat-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government in the United States is rather simple:  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 dictatorship of the two-party state.  An anonymous gang of legislators in Oregon have streamlined the process.  From this week's column at CAIVN:
As the Independent movement gains strength and momentum, it is only logical to expect a backlash from the partisans in the major parties.  In Oregon, Independents are fighting for the very right to represent themselves as Independents.

Today, the Rules Committee of the Oregon state House is scheduled to consider a bill – HB 2442 – that would force the Independent Party of Oregon to change its name or face dissolution.  More precisely, the proposal would prohibit any party from using the word ‘Independent’ in its name on the basis of the assertion that such use of the word “independent” causes confusion among voters and even threatens the integrity of the elections process.  Absurdly, the bill goes so far as to declare a state of emergency regarding the matter, claiming that it is “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety,” according to the official summary (.pdf) available at the state legislature’s website . . . 
Read the rest for further details on this outrageous measure.  In one fell swoop, the bill declares a crisis, asserts the necessity of implementing emergency measures to address the crisis, and employs those measures to stage a frontal attack on the First Amendment rights of the state's Independents.  Of course, there is no crisis in Oregon.  The state's Independent Party does not represent any kind of threat to the peace, health and safety of the public.  However, with just 3% of voters in Oregon registered with the party, it is already clearly perceived as an existential threat to the entrenched interests of the state's ruling political class, whose interests are diametrically opposed to those of the state's independently-minded voters.  From the Independent Party of Oregon:
On April 13, the House Rules Committee of the Oregon Legislature will consider a bill to abolish the Independent Party of Oregon (IPO).  The bill bans using the word "independent" in the name of any political party, thus forcing the Independent Party to change its name by the end of the year or be disbanded.

“The free speech and free association implications of this bill are stunning, particularly when you consider that no legislator has listed his or her name as a sponsor,” said Party Chair, Linda Williams. “This is a transparent partisan attempt by a handful of legislators to strangle the Independent Party of Oregon in its infancy."
Over 400 individuals have already signed an online petition declaring their opposition to any effort that would seek to restrict the rights to free speech and association of the members of the Independent Party of Oregon.  The comments appended to the petition provide a rare window onto the views of a wide swath of Independent voters from across the political spectrum.

On second thought, however, maybe such a proposal is actually worth considering.  Voter confusion may well rise to the level of a veritable crisis.  But we must begin at the top to recognize its true contours.  How many Americans cast their ballots for the Democratic party on the basis of the mistaken assumption that it stands for democracy and democratic principles?  How many cast their ballots for the Republican party on the basis of the mistaken assumption that it stands for republican values and representative government?  Should they not be forced to change their names in order to avoid such confusion?  Unlike the case of the Independent Party of Oregon, confusion in this regard is a clear and present danger to the peace, health and safety of the American public.  Indeed, it represents an immediate threat to the very existence of the rights and liberties enshrined in the Constitution, beginning with the First Amendment. Government of, by and for the Democratic and Republican parties is a crisis of democratic, republican government.

Hippie Punching and Battered Spouse Syndrome in the Democratic Party

Sometimes you can't help but feel sorry for Democrats and Republicans.  Oftentimes their relationship to the party is like nothing so much as that of battered spouses who have been so badly abused that they are no longer capable of taking any independent action to escape their abusers.  Indeed, even on those occasions when they declare "never again," and resolve to set out on a different course, they nevertheless return to their abuser time after time.  More tragically, many Democrats and Republicans are aware of this fact, but appear powerless to take any action that would change the situation.  Indeed, this recognition is apparent in their very language.  The Democratic "netroots" call it "hippie punching."  In a post at Hullabaloo entitled "Where hippie punching gets you," Digby writes:
Jonathan Cohn makes the good point that Obama's speech on Wednesday is unfortunately going to be seen as the left most position in the debate which makes a compromise between his plan and Ryan's the "juuust right" sweet spot. Cohn rightly suggests that tit would be helpful to have a leftward plan that incorporates left wing values the same way Ryan's plan incorporates Ayn Rand's wet dreams. . . .
This "leftward plan" that would incorporate "left wing values" would call for raising certain taxes, a single-payer health care system, decreased military spending and so on.  Digby continues:
The problem, unfortunately, is that when anyone sets forth a truly liberal plan like Cohn proposes, they are not only met with shrieks of horror from conservatives, establishment liberals and Democratic third-way centrists stalk them like a pack of hyenas and marginalize them as outside the "mainstream" and assure everyone who will listen that they are not "serious." You may have noticed that Paul Ryan's lunacy is not similarly treated by his own. Indeed, it's not even similarly treated that way by liberals. . . .

The fact is that there is no liberal establishment willing to validate liberalism. Indeed, for reasons only they can tell us, they almost always go out of their way to exclude anyone who can readily be identified as a person of the left and rush before the cameras and into print to reassure America that they have no support. I have my theories about why that might be, but suffice to say it's a fairly easily documented phenomenon. There is simply no space in the establishment political dialog for explicitly left policy or rhetoric.
Of course, there already is such a "leftward plan" that incorporates "left wing values."  It's called the platform of the Green Party.  Last year, Green party candidates campaigned on a plan called the Green New Deal.  Among the primary planks of the plan are single-payer healthcare, reduced military spending and progressive tax reform.  The problem, of course, is that anytime someone sets forth a truly liberal plan like that proposed by the Greens, they are met not only with shrieks of horror from conservatives, establishment liberals and the liberal-left base of the Democratic party, the netroots marginalize them as outside the "mainstream" and assure everyone who will listen that they are not "serious."  Indeed, the battered spouses of the Democratic party such as those in the netroots consistently go out of their way to exclude Greens who can be readily identified as persons of the left, and rush to the cameras and their publications to assure their fellow liberals that these Greens have no support.  Beaten into submission by their abusers, the battered spouses of the Democratic party chose to kick the dog rather than take independent action to escape the abuse. 

The Pathetic Partisan and the Duopolist Filter

Last week, in an article at Salon, Glenn Greenwald considered the "impotence of the loyal partisan voter," touching on a paradox inherent to the two-party state and duopoly system of government.  The point is actually quite simple: if you are a loyal voter for one of the two major parties, it is virtually assured that you thereby guarantee your own political irrelevance.  Greenwald writes:
That's what a rational, calculating, self-interested, unprincipled Democratic politician should do:  accommodate those factions which need accommodating (because their support is in question), while ignoring or scorning the ones whose support is not in question . . .
Greenwald, however, proved incapable of liberating himself from the ideology that sustains the two-party state.  As GG wrote in response at Shiny Ideas:
In short it is not, contrary to what Glenn seems to be saying, necessary to invoke blind loyalty to describe the voting habits of the Democratic base. As for a potential solution to this impasse... Glenn Glenn Glenn, I kept waiting for you to say "two party system", but you never got there. Which is sad, because you could broach the subject of our fucked up political duopoly and people would actually listen to you. The solution is for people to have a viable alternative to both the Republicans and the Democrats.
The next day, Greenwald was invited onto Lawrence O'Donnell's show on MSNBC to talk about the column.  To his credit, O'Donnell hammered home the point that even Greenwald was unwilling to articulate: the two-party system is the problem.  Such criticism of the two-party state rarely penetrates the media's duopolist filter.  A rough transcript of O'Donnell's statements from the segment (video below):
They take us for granted once they are past the primary zone and its just Democrat against Republican, they are simply placing the bet that you are stuck, as the two-party system sticks you, in the lesser of two evils choice and they will always win that vote from you. . . .

I think the structural problem here is the two-party system.  The two-party system is a monopolistic system invented by politics, American politics, which,  American business loves monopoly whenever they can get to it, and they love this monopoly because it doesn't allow you any kind of gradation in your choice, you have to go with the Democrat because the Republican is out of the question.  That's why the third party challenge is the only thing that you ever see move one of these parties in one direction or the other . . .
Even then, Greenwald refused to take the two-party state to task, and instead offered nothing more than platitudes about the importance of waging primary challenges as the GOP did in 2010.  So, Greenwald objects to the fact that the Democratic party is all-too-willing to accommodate the political opposition while "kicking its base whenever possible," but then his solution is to become more like the opposition!  Thanks to Tirade Faction for the link.

Another Half Trillion Dollar Check for the Global Warfare State

Today, the professional partisans in the Democrats and Republicans are patting themselves on the backs for averting the budget crisis they themselves created.  Some are even lauding the "historic" character of the $38 billion in spending cuts that resulted from the back-room deals struck by party bosses in the White House and Congress over the last week.  An unnamed Democrat writes to Greg Sargent at the Washington Post to underscore the fact that the Pentagon's budget was not spared from the chopping block:
$3B IN PENTAGON SAVINGS -- WE PROVED DoD WASTE SHOULD NOT BE SPARED. We won the argument that waste at the Pentagon should not be immune from spending cuts. The final agreement eliminates nearly $3 billion in unnecessary Pentagon spending that was contained in H.R. 1. These reductions are supported by Secretary Gates. 
As most media reports mention offhandedly, the budget deal ensured Pentagon funding through September.  The price? Over $500 billion dollars.  From the Air Force Times:
The amount of 2011 defense funding included in the compromise was not clear Friday night, but negotiators had been discussing a $533 billion defense budget, which would be about $16 billion less than the Obama administration had requested. Still, this would be a slight increase over the level allowed under the temporary funding bills that capped spending at $526 billion, the 2010 spending level. 
So the $3 billion in "savings" from spending "cuts" for the Pentagon does not in fact represent a decrease in spending for the global warfare state beloved by Republicans and Democrats alike.  As the Frum Forum notes, the defense budget is the "cut the GOP forgot."  Excerpt:
while Republicans have devoted lots of attention to entitlements, not nearly enough has been paid to the size of the defense budget. If Republicans want to prove their seriousness about fiscal discipline, this needs to change. While the simple act of withdrawing from Iraq is going to rein it in a bit, there needs to be deeper cuts still.

Right now, the United States spends 4.3 percent of GDP on the military. This gives the United States a larger military budget than the entire rest of the world combined and an overall dominance so vast that no nation state could possibly win any sort of traditional battle against American troops. The four other permanent security council members spend, on average, 2.5 percent of their GDPs on defense.

The Bipartisan War on the Fourth Amendment, Cont'd

There seem to be few things for which Democrats and Republicans have more contempt than the Fourth Amendment.  The Obama administration is currently making the case to the Congress that the Fourth Amendment simply does not apply to digital and satellite communications.  And the Obama administration's lawyers are preaching to the choir.  Most people probably don't even know that the government claims it does not need a warrant to read their email, and that it acts accordingly.  From Wired:
The Obama administration is urging Congress not to adopt legislation that would impose constitutional safeguards on Americans’ e-mail stored in the cloud.  As the law stands now, the authorities may obtain cloud e-mail without a warrant if it is older than 180 days, thanks to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act adopted in 1986. At that time, e-mail left on a third-party server for six months was considered to be abandoned, and thus enjoyed less privacy protection. However, the law demands warrants for the authorities to seize e-mail from a person’s hard drive.

A coalition of internet service providers and other groups, known as Digital Due Process, has lobbied for an update to the law to treat both cloud- and home-stored e-mail the same, and thus require a probable-cause warrant for access. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on that topic Tuesday.  . . . James A. Baker, associate deputy attorney general, testified:
"in order to obtain a search warrant for a particular e-mail account, law enforcement has to establish probable cause to believe that evidence will be found in that particular account. In some cases, this link can be hard to establish."
In other words, the Obama administration thinks it is too much of a burden on the government to have to establish probable cause and obtain a warrant before they go snooping through someone's email.  "It's too damn hard!" they say, as if that isn't the whole point of the Fourth Amendment.  Consider the response of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.  From CNET:
Baker told (PDF) a Senate committee that requiring a search warrant to obtain stored e-mail could have an "adverse impact" on criminal investigations. And making location information only available with a search warrant, he said, would hinder "the government's ability to obtain important information in investigations of serious crimes."

Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, seemed to agree. It's crucial, he said, "to ensure we don't limit (law enforcement's) ability to obtain information necessary to catch criminals and terrorists who use electronic communication." He also suggested that requiring warrants would lead to "increased burdens on the court system."  [Emphasis added.]
In other words, the Senator wants to ensure that the government's ability to obtain information is unlimited!  This is the exact opposite of limited, constitutional government, and it is diametrically opposed to the letter and spirit of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.  Democrat-Republican party government is an immediate and grave threat to rights, liberties and the rule of law in the United States.  

Money Laundering: the Parties Support the Drug Cartels, the Cartels Support the Banks and the Banks Support the Parties

If you recall, back in 2002 the US government launched an expensive propaganda campaign in its failed "war on drugs" aimed at tying the recreational use of drugs such as marijuana and cocaine to terrorism.  The ads, one of which aired during the Super Bowl, equated the use of illegal drugs with the killing of civilians, police and judges on the basis of the claim that money earned through the illicit drug trade is used by terrorists to finance their organizations and operations.  The ad campaign was widely mocked at the time.  The Libertarian Party stepped up to fund an ad which pointed out that it is the "war on drugs," beloved by the Republican and Democratic parties, that sustains the international drug cartels, and drew the implicit conclusion that, if you support Democrats and Republicans, you support terrorism. 

Nearly ten years later, the banking and financial scandals that have rocked the global economy suggest a plethora of new possibilities for the government's anti-drug propagandists.  For example: if you use illegal drugs, you support the multi-national banking cartels and the ruling financial oligarchy.  A lengthy article in the UK Guardian from this past Sunday provides a detailed look at "how a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico's murderous drug gangs."  The piece demonstrates the interdependency of the international drug cartels and the international banking cartels, both of which are dutifully supported by their representatives in the Republican and Democratic parties.  Some excerpts:
"Wachovia's blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations," said Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor. Yet the total fine was less than 2% of the bank's $12.3bn profit for 2009. On 24 March 2010, Wells Fargo stock traded at $30.86 – up 1% on the week of the court settlement.

The conclusion to the case [against Wachovia] was only the tip of an iceberg, demonstrating the role of the "legal" banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars – the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world – around their global operations, now bailed out by the taxpayer.

At the height of the 2008 banking crisis, Antonio Maria Costa, then head of the United Nations office on drugs and crime, said he had evidence to suggest the proceeds from drugs and crime were "the only liquid investment capital" available to banks on the brink of collapse. "Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade," he said. "There were signs that some banks were rescued that way."  Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo during the 2008 crash, just as Wells Fargo became a beneficiary of $25bn in taxpayers' money . . .

Mazur, whose firm Chase and Associates works closely with law enforcement agencies and trains officers for bank anti-money laundering, cast a keen eye over the case against Wachovia, and he says now that "the only thing that will make the banks properly vigilant to what is happening is when they hear the rattle of handcuffs in the boardroom".  Mazur said that "a lot of the law enforcement people were disappointed to see a settlement" between the administration and Wachovia . . .

"We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. This is the biggest money-laundering scandal of our time," [said investigator Martin Woods].  "These are the proceeds of murder and misery in Mexico, and of drugs sold around the world," he says. "All the law enforcement people wanted to see this come to trial. But no one goes to jail. "What does the settlement do to fight the cartels? Nothing – it doesn't make the job of law enforcement easier and it encourages the cartels and anyone who wants to make money by laundering their blood dollars. Where's the risk? There is none."

[Woods asks, rhetorically:] "Is it in the interest of the American people to encourage both the drug cartels and the banks in this way? Is it in the interest of the Mexican people? It's simple: if you don't see the correlation between the money laundering by banks and the 30,000 people killed in Mexico, you're missing the point."  [Emphases added.]
Read the whole article for all the gory details.  Let's sum up the situation here.  The war on drugs supported by the Democratic and Republican parties sustains the international drug cartels.  These international drug gangs sustain the global banking system.  The global banking cartels, in turn, support the Democratic and Republican parties with massive amounts of campaign contributions.  It's a pretty tidy system the Republicans and Democrats have created for themselves.

The Trials and Tribulations of the One-Party State: the Dialectic of Ideological Extremism and Independent Moderatism

In the last month, district courts in Idaho and South Carolina have handed down rulings in Republican party lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of those states' respective open primary systems.  In both instances, the GOP made much the same case: open primaries violate their First Amendment right to free association since they allow voters who are not registered as Republicans to cast ballots in GOP primary election, also known as "cross-over voting."  Idaho's forty year-old open primary system was struck down as unconstitutional.  South Carolina's was upheld because the state allows alternative nominating methods, such as nomination by convention and nomination by petition.  Details on the two rulings can be found in this week's column at CAIVN.  Here, however, I wanted to emphasize a noteworthy passage from the ruling in the Idaho case in which the myth of the two-party system gives way to the reality of the one-party state.  In the case, ironically, it was expert testimony submitted by the defendant – Idaho's Secretary of State Ben Ysursa – that ultimately swayed the court. From the decision:
Defendant's own experts provide the Court with clear evidence of crossover voting.  Defendant's experts, Martin and Saunders, admit that "inside the Idaho open primary system, especially in a one-party state like Idaho where the Republican Party primaries are in most cases the 'only game in town,' voters do likely cross over; they have to in order to have any meaningful influence in elections and express their sincere preferences with regard to their own representation." . . . . Martin and Saunders note that Idaho is the most one-party state and least electorally competitive state in the United States. [Emphasis added.]
Steve Rankin writes at the Free Citizen blog that, "This is the first such case in which a party has presented empirical evidence that people not in sympathy with the party have been voting in its primaries."  The judge's opinion then goes on to lay out the state's political imbalance:
Republicans hold 28 seats in the Idaho State Senate, while Democrats hold only 7.  Of the 70 members of the House of Representatives, 57 are Republicans and only 13 are Democrats.  All statewide elected offices . . . . [are held by] Republicans.  Furthermore, since 1992, Idaho has had 35 legislative districts . . . totaling 105 seats. . . . Contested Republican primaries far outnumber contested Democratic primaries every year . . . Moreover, Republican candidates often run unopposed in the general election, making the primary that much more important.
In their testimony, Martin and Saunders estimated anywhere from 10%-30% of votes in GOP primaries are cross-over votes cast by Democrats, Independents and third party supporters, which could sway the outcome of a primary contest, and result in the nomination of a candidate who is not acceptable to the majority of Republican party voters.  The Secretary of State argued that closing Idaho's primary elections would therefore produce "more ideologically extreme candidates."  To which the judge responded:
At first blush, that would appear to be a strong argument for maintaining the status quo.  But, choosing ideologically extreme candidates is precisely what a political party is entitled to do in asserting its right of association under the First Amendment. [Emphasis added.]
Idaho's legislature is now moving toward the implementation of a system that would necessitate party registration in the state, and give parties the option of holding closed primary elections that would exclude Independents and members of other parties.  Mountain Home News writes:
Independents are going to be aced out and left with increasingly unacceptable choices in the general election. What's worse is the Democrats really can't offer up a viable alternative in the general election. The current Democratic Party in Idaho is a joke -- and a bad one at that.
Richard Winger suggests that this situation may result in the creation of a new moderate party in the state.  From Ballot Access News:
If the bill passes, it is not out of the question that Idaho voters who are not happy with this system will create a new party, perhaps named the Moderate Party. Rhode Island already has a ballot-qualified party named the Moderate Party, and Alaska once had a ballot-qualified Republican Moderate Party.
The lawsuit has already resulted in the creation of new Independent organizations in the state, such as the American Independent Movement, which intervened in the case.  From their mission statement:
THE INDEPENDENT MISSION is to open the political process to more Americans and select and elect Independent candidates to bring about structural political and government reform. In most parts of the Country  where Independents are not yet organized enough to select and elect Independent candidates we often support party candidates who more closely represent the interests of the people they are sworn to represent rather than the candidates who pander to and represent the extreme right or left of their respective parties and the special interests. Independents hold the view that the political process and our government should be controlled by the people not political Parties and special interests.

The Independent Caucus in the US Congress

Via The Hankster and Cafe Sentido comes a political infographic from comparing the makeup of the current Congress with what our Congress would look like if it were actually reflective of the American electorate, using four different metrics:

The graphic compares the current Congress with the hypothesized proportional or representative Congress in terms of political affiliation, gender, race and religion.  There are only two Independents in the current Congress, and both are in the Senate, namely, Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders.  The thought experiment estimates conservatively that there would be 81 Independents in the House and Senate if the legislature were reflective of political affiliations in the country as a whole rather than just the Democratic and Republican parties.  Unfortunately, the graphic does not also compare the great disparity in wealth between the Congress and the people.  But the fact is noted in the corresponding post:
One thing not noted on this infographic is that, besides being nothing like America in terms of race, sex, or religion, our senators and representatives are also wholly different from most Americans in terms of wealth. We've said this before, but it bears repeating: The average American's net worth is $96,000. But the average Senator's net worth? $13.4 million. For House members that sum drops to "just" $5 million.  Does this represent your community?

Proposal for Fusion Voting in Tennessee Modeled on New York System

From The Republic:
Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville wants to allow candidates to be listed on the ballot as the nominee of more than one political party. Their total votes would then be added up to decide the election.

Campfield is offering his amendment to a bill designed to bring Tennessee into compliance with a federal judge's ruling last year that the state's qualification standards for minor parties are too burdensome . . .

Campfield said his proposal is based on current practices in New York. "It just allows that if a third party wants to stay on the ballot, they can," he said.

Kyle said his proposal is aimed at giving a voice to people interested in smaller parties' platforms, and not forcing them to side with Democrats or Republicans. "We shouldn't be pigeonholing people," Kyle said. "I think this is a fair and reasonable way." . . .

The Bipartisan War on Free Speech: the Loss of Liberty is the Price of Freedom

In response to almost any given event, the immediate reaction of Democratic and Republican party leaders is to stage an attack on fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.  Radical Florida evangelical pastor Terry Jones provides us with a case in point.  In March, Jones and his followers held a mock trial in which the Koran was accused of promoting violence and found guilty.  The book was then consigned to the flames.  Apparently determined to prove Jones right, Islamic radicals in Afghanistan waged violent protests in response to the action, leading to multiple acts of arson and the murder of more than twenty people, among them a number of United Nations workers.  Today, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid and Republican Sen. Linsey Graham took to the Sunday talk shows and announced that they would be "looking into" the matter to "push back" against the free exercise of free speech.  Transcript via Althouse:
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, you introduced a resolution to condemn this by the Congress... or where do you go from here?
SENATOR HARRY REID: We’ll-- we’ll take a look at this, of course. John Kerry, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has been on top of this. He’s made many trips to Afghanistan. And I think we’ll take a look at this as to whether we need hearings or not, I don’t know.
          Later in the show, Lindsey Graham opines on the same issue:
BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to get to this Afghanistan thing.  General Petraeus today condemned the actions of this Florida preacher, who burned the Koran.  You heard what Senator Reid said . . . Is there anything that actually can be done along this line?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: You know I wish we could find some way to-- to-- to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea but we’re in a war. During World War II, you had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy. So burning a Koran is a terrible thing. But it doesn’t justify killing someone. Burning a bible would be a terrible thing but it doesn’t justify murder. But having said that, any time we can push back here in America against actions like this that put our troops at risk we ought to do it. So I look forward to working with Senator Kerry and Reid and others to condemn this, condemn violence all over the world based in the name of religion.  [Emphasis added.]
Allow me to repeat that: "Free speech is a great idea, but we're in a war . . . any time we can push back here in America against actions like this that put our troops at risk we ought to do it."  The so-called war on terror – including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – was sold to the American people in part as a means of expanding freedom and liberty abroad, but it has resulted in a dangerous erosion of respect for freedom and liberty at home on the ground that freedom and liberty at home endangers troops abroad.  The war on terror has become one of the primary reasons cited by Democratic and Republican lawmakers to justify their ongoing war on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and they are not above instrumentalizing soldiers in the field to legitimize that war.   Freedom isn't free, as the slogan goes.  But for the Orwellian double-thinkers in the Democratic and Republican parties, the loss of liberty is the price of freedom.

Update: George Will provides a choice quote underscoring the "horror" of an elected official in St. Louis at the prospect of free speech.  Alderman Phyllis Young objects to a property owner's display of a sign denouncing eminent domain abuse:
St. Louis Alderman Phyllis Young is distressed that Roos’s speech might escape government control: “If this sign is allowed to remain, then anyone with property along any thoroughfare can paint signs indicating the opinion or current matter relevant to the owner to influence passersby with no control by any City agency. The precedent should not be allowed.”

A Declaration of Independence from the Corporate Oligarchy

At Zero Party Politics, Gus Bridi is calling on his fellow Americans to declare their independence from the corporate oligarchy this July 4th.  Excerpt:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, and we hold these truths to be further self-evident that our rights, as men, as women, as Americans, and as human beings, are separate and distinct from the rights derived from a contrived “corporate personhood,” a false personhood that has usurped the rights of the literal human person . . . The history of the present Corporate Oligarchy is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over the People of these United States . . . The People vow to:
1) withdraw all their deposits from the Oligarchy’s banks,
2) divest all their stock holdings in the Oligarchy’s corporations (particularly corporations in the so-called “defense” industry, financial industry, and any company that has not paid corporate income tax over the past year who has declared profits),
3) refuse to vote for any Oligarchic candidate identifying him or herself as a Democrat or Republican on any ballot for any political office,
4) refuse in the future to enlist in any of the Oligarchy’s military forces,
5) conscientiously object to any foreign deployment for those of the People who are presently enlisted in the Oligarchy’s military while continuing to defend the borders of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic, and
6) recognizing that the Oligarchic “justice” system refuses to prosecute its own racketeers who prolifically operate financial criminal enterprises, the People, when summoned to sit as jurors in federal or state criminal courts of the Oligarchy, refuse to convict any of their fellow People accused of acts deemed as “crimes” by the Oligarchy other than those involving violence or theft against the People.
The People demand a peaceful revolution and a return of a government of the People, by the People, and for the People. . . .