The Struggle Against the Two-Party State is Global

In a commentary at the Cape Argus, Richard Pithouse from Rhodes University in South Africa, reflects on the country's emerging two-party state following municipal elections held earlier this month.
There is often a degree to which elections function as a public ritual to legitimate the power of elites more than to offer any realistic prospect for ordinary people to challenge them. The “established democracies”, which are supposed to be the horizon of our democratic aspirations, are often two-party systems in which the electoral system, along with civil society and the media, are so distorted by the influence of money that voters are able to choose only between competing factions of the elite. There are many countries where no party can be a serious player without enormous financial backing . . . 

Every time South Africans go to the polls, we’re subjected to an incredible degree of mystification that presents the secular act of voting as a sacred ritual and invests it with all kinds of magical powers that it manifestly lacks . . .  

We’re told that voting is all about making our own choice, whereas it is, in most cases, a limited choice between two competing factions of the elite who are equally invested in scaling back people’s legitimate aspirations for a just society into an insanely unequal society contained with state violence, new forms of spatial segregation and “service delivery" . . . .

we need to bring the same attention to the practice of democracy outside the electoral arena as we bring to elections. For as long as we continue to make elections a fetish for democracy rather than understanding that they are just one part of our limited form of democracy or public conversation, we will be unable to comprehend the full significance of the competing responses to the failures of our democracy to realise the legitimate aspirations of the majority. 
Read the rest.  Opposition to duopoly government is global in scope, and can be found everywhere from the Americas to the EU to Africa, India and East Asia.  Is there a sense in which we could say such opposition is globalized, i.e. globally coordinated?  One might mention here the global social forums, which stand in direct opposition to the Davos meetings of the global elite, among other things.  The global protests against the war in Iraq in February 2003 were organized at just such a forum, for instance. At the level of party, two obvious examples spring to mind: the Green Party and the Pirate Party which are at least potentially global in scope and have affiliates and members all over the world.  

Might not the necessary emphasis on the importance of local organizing and bottom-up third party and independent political strategy here in the US have the unintended effect of blinding us to potential models and modes of organization being developed by allies abroad?  Must we not consider the global implications of local third party and independent political strategy?  

The Bipartisan War on the Fourth Amendment, Cont'd

From Wired:

You think you understand how the Patriot Act allows the government to spy on its citizens. Sen. Ron Wyden says it’s worse than you know. Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. Wyden (D-Oregon) says that powers they grant the government on their face, the government applies a far broader legal interpretation — an interpretation that the government has conveniently classified, so it cannot be publicly assessed or challenged. But one prominent Patriot-watcher asserts that the secret interpretation empowers the government to deploy ”dragnets” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently. “We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden told Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office.
From Reason Hit and Run:
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court said the "exigent circumstances" that exist when someone might be flushing drugs down a toilet allow police to enter a home without a warrant, even if their own actions create those circumstances.

As the lone dissenting justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, noted, this decision "arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement in drug cases." Instead of "presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate," they can retroactively validate their decision to break into someone's home by claiming they smelled something funny and heard something suspicious.

While the U.S. Supreme Court said police may force their way into a home to prevent the destruction of evidence, the Indiana Supreme Court, in a less noticed decision issued the week before, said police may force their way into a home for any reason or no reason at all. Although the victim of an illegal search can challenge it in court after the fact, three of the five justices agreed, "there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers." They thereby nullified a principle of common law that is centuries old, arguably dating back to the Magna Carta.
From The Washington Times:
What most Americans don’t realize is that if the government wants to read your emails, look at your pictures or gain access to any data that you have stored online for more than 180 days on sites including Yahoo! Google Docs and online backup sites, it can do so without a search warrant. Data saved online is not protected by the Fourth Amendment in the same way that information is protected if it is stored on a home computer, CD or detachable hard drive.
From the Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Should we just ignore the Democrats and Republicans?

In an opinion piece for the Colorado Springs Independent, Ted Rall takes on "the evil of two lessers," and argues that we should just stop paying attention to the Democrats and Republicans.  Excerpt:
our political system is a farce. Really, we should get rid of this phony two-party "democracy." And we will. In the meantime, we ought to ignore it.

The two-party system made simple: Two worthless scoundrels are on the ballot. If you vote for one of them, a worthless scoundrel will win. If you don't vote, a worthless scoundrel will win. It's a pretty unappealing sales pitch. How did it last 200 years? The two-party system, a mutation unanticipated by the Constitution and dreaded by the Founding Fathers, mainly relies on the "lesser of two evils" argument . . .

The argument that we, the people, are somehow to blame for the failings of "our politicians" is absurd. Even partisans of the two major parties are substantially dissatisfied with the nominees who emerge from the primary system . . .

The two-party system is a twisted con based on fear. If you don't vote for Party A then Party B, which is slightly more evil, will win. If "your" Party A wins, all you get is the dubious, incremental pseudo-victory of somewhat less suckiness. But Party A gets something infinitely more valuable: political legitimacy and the right to claim a mandate for policies that you mostly dislike.

It's a terrible, lopsided bargain. You get little to nothing. They use your vote to justify their policies: No jobs. One war after another. Wasting your tax dollars. Corruption. More pollution . . .
Rall's blanket suggestion that Americans simply ignore the Democrat-Republican two-party political charade should be qualified to some extent.  On the one hand, it is undeniable that much of what passes for 'politics' among Democrats and Republicans is nothing but narcissistic grandstanding, strategic distraction and outright deception.  Political independence means not allowing oneself to be captivated by the corporate media-driven political spectacle characteristic of the two-party state, and not allowing oneself to be drowned in the meaningless minutia of the political news cycle.  On the other hand, however, innumerable policies routinely promulgated by the Democratic and Republican parties constitute a grave threat to fundamental rights and freedoms, and even the very principle of constitutional government.  We ignore them at our peril.

Pressure Mounts for Open Primaries in Pennsylvania

This week's column at CAIVN takes a look at the growing pressure for open primaries in Pennsylvania.  Some excerpts:
With abysmally low voter turnout in the closed primary elections held earlier this month in Pennsylvania, pressure is mounting to open the process to Independents.  On May 17th, Pennsylvania voters headed to the polls to cast their ballots in primary elections for county and municipal offices, school boards and judges.  Or rather, more precisely, voters didn’t head to the polls to cast their ballots in the state’s primary elections.  As local Patch columnist Tom De Martini wrote reflecting on the returns:  “Primary voter turnout is usually low, but Tuesday's showing at the polls was one of the worst I can recall since I starting casting ballots in 1979.”  One local CBS News affiliate felt it necessary to emphasize that, despite the low turnout, the results still count: “low voter turnout was the theme for the day, even though a few key races were up for decision. A whopping 80 percent of voters bypassed the election, but the results still count.”

Pennsylvania is one of twenty states in which Independents and third party voters are prohibited from casting a ballot in the Republican and Democratic party primaries, according to a tally by The Center for Voting and Democracy.  Roughly one million Pennsylvanians, about one in eight voters, are not affiliated with any party or are registered with a third party.  The abysmal showing in the primary elections by the state’s Democrats and Republicans is leading to increased calls for open primaries . . .

When faced with criticism of the closed primary system, its supporters in the Democratic and Republican parties often reply by stating that if Independents desire to vote in the primary elections, they can simply change their affiliation. Independents respond by pointing out that if the Democratic and Republican parties want publicly funded primary elections, these elections should not be effectively closed to the public . . .

The problem posed by Pennsylvania’s closed primary system is exacerbated by the fact that candidates for local and state offices often cross-file in both the Republican and Democratic primary elections, which can easily result in uncontested general election races . . .
Perhaps one might argue that if Independent Pennsylvanians are so frustrated with the Democratic and Republican parties, they can register their discontent by voting for Independent or third party candidates in the general election.  But Democratic and Republican party activists work tirelessly to ensure that such candidates do not appear on the ballot . . .

How to Save the Legacy of the Boston Tea Party?

At The Moral Liberal, Jack Kerwick makes the case for the political independence of the tea party movement from the political opportunists in the GOP, and debunks two common arguments against third party activism and advocacy.  Excerpt:
If and when those conservatives and libertarians who compose the bulk of the Tea Party, decide that the Republican establishment has yet to learn the lessons of ’06 and ’08, choose to follow through with their promise [to form a third party], they will invariably be met by Republicans with two distinct by interrelated objections.

First, they will be told that they are utopian, “purists” foolishly holding out for an “ideal” candidate.  Second, because virtually all members of the Tea Party would have otherwise voted Republican if not for this new third party, they will be castigated for essentially giving elections away to Democrats. Both of these criticisms are, at best, misplaced; at worst, they are just disingenuous.  At any rate, they are easily answerable.

Let’s begin with the argument against “purism.” To this line, two replies are in the coming. No one, as far as I have ever been able to determine, refuses to vote for anyone who isn’t an ideal candidate.  Ideal candidates, by definition, don’t exist.  This, after all, is what makes them ideal. This counter-objection alone suffices to expose the argument of the Anti-Purist as so much counterfeit.  But there is another consideration that militates decisively against it.

A Tea Partier who refrains from voting for a Republican candidate who shares few if any of his beliefs can no more be accused of holding out for an ideal candidate than can someone who refuses to marry a person with whom he has little to anything in common be accused of holding out for an ideal spouse.  In other words, the object of the argument against purism is the most glaring of straw men: “I will not vote for a thoroughly flawed candidate” is one thing; “I will only vote for a perfect candidate” is something else entirely.

As for the second objection against the Tea Partier’s rejection of those Republican candidates who eschew his values and convictions, it can be dispensed with just as effortlessly as the first.
Every election season—and at no time more so than this past season—Republicans pledge to “reform Washington,” “trim down” the federal government, and so forth.  Once, however, they get elected and they conduct themselves with none of the confidence and enthusiasm with which they expressed themselves on the campaign trail, those who placed them in office are treated to one lecture after the other on the need for “compromise” and “patience.”

Well, when the Tea Partier’s impatience with establishment Republican candidates intimates a Democratic victory, he can use this same line of reasoning against his Republican critics.  My dislike for the Democratic Party is second to none, he can insist. But in order to advance in the long run my conservative or Constitutionalist values, it may be necessary to compromise some in the short term.
Read the whole thing.  Before the tea party movement was hijacked by Republican party hacks, there was a moment at which it appeared to hold the promise of a real movement for political independence from the misrule of the Republican and Democratic parties.  This latent possibility remains, and, the longer self-described tea party activists continue to demonstrate a  slavish allegiance to the Republican party, the greater will be the contradiction between the so-called "tea party movement" and its historical forebears in the American revolution.  The Boston Tea Party, after all, was part of a radical movement for political independence from an unrepresentative and tyrannical government.  How do we save the legacy of the Boston Tea Party from today's Tea Party Tories?

Independent Progressives to Challenge Democrats from the Left

Last Monday, I highlighted the burgeoning independent progressive movement at FireDogLake.  The group is more organized than I had realized.  Last December, FDL activists began a push to mount a primary challenge to President Obama in 2012 under the moniker 'New Progressive Alliance.'  From the group's first manifesto, published on December 16, 2010:
Voting took place last week here at MyFDL to choose a movement name and platform topics in the effort to mount a primary challenge to Barack Obama in 2012. The results are now tabulated, and “MyFDL” commenters chose “New Progressive Alliance” as the effort’s name, and rated the following five topics as those most important to the Progressive cause:
1) Full Employment
2) Medicare for All
3) Civil Rights/Human Rights/Civil Liberties
4) Fair Trade
5) End the Wars Now 
The organization's website went online earlier this month at, with this announcement:
What began over a year ago at FireDogLake has grown into a determined effort to add more straw to the straining back of the camel that is our sold-out, two-party system. . . .  The NPA welcomes the energies, insights, ideas, and innovations of true Progressives everywhere. It's going to take all these things to achieve our goals, but this week's vote in Canada - like the uprisings in the Mideast and our own Midwest - shows that the Left will not accede to the plutocracy seeking to finally and forever consolidate its control over working men and women. Thanks for stopping by, and please, share with your friends, neighbors, and family.
The group's political independence is clearly apparent in its strategy, which does not shy away from declaring the necessity of third party and independent political advocacy:
This effort has two main objectives:
(1) To supercharge the founding and growth of a viable third party representing the American Left; and/or
(2) To return the Democratic Party to its historically underpinning ideologies of unremitting support for the working class, dogged regulation of commerce, reluctance to enter into armed conflict abroad, conservation of our environment; and equal opportunity for all . . . 
Consider the degree to which third parties have been successful up ’til now, and why. The answers to these questions are “not very” and “bad strategy,” respectively. Most efforts have followed the same flawed plan:

(1) Build a movement
(2) Name a candidate
(3) Get trounced
This effort turns that approach on its head, to wit:

(1) Network with other progressives – common people – to identify and rank potential candidates with proven, uncompromising records of activism strongly espousing progressive thought.
(2) Write the platform.

(3) Approach the desired candidates, one at a time, first choice first, second choice second, etc., until one agrees to run. 
[The NPA] seeks to recruit warriors, already hard at work fighting for progressive values, to the national stage in order to bring a progressive party to national prominence. We will do this by explaining the following rationale to each prospective candidate:

Because the Democrats, the defacto “Left” party in this country, have lost their way, we seek to run a TRUE Lefty for the party’s presidential nomination. We believe the Democratic Party needs either to be killed or wholesale inundated by a new party – rendering it, in its current form, obsolete.

Other third-party efforts have failed because they ignore the realities of the electoral system in this country, specifically, that if you are not initially competing head-to-head within one of the two major parties, you WILL be ignored. Even those who have done so and then ran in the election as Independents suffered from the lack of a party identity.

We therefore aim to give the Left that identity – a real, uncompromising voice – by challenging the spineless, utterly captive Democratic Party. Our effort may result in one or both of the above goals, and you’ll notice that getting elected is not one of them at the moment. We will use the electoral process in building a movement; a coalition of all the Lefty parties now at work in this country: Greens, Working Families, Socialists, etc. In short, a 'new progressive alliance.
The group has apparently already begun its search for a presidential candidate – where else? – on Craigs List NYC, via Pushing Rope. The ad reads in part:
for an NPA candidate who is fully on board with the program, committing political suicide as a Democrat is not only of no concern, but in a sense welcome. That’s because it is anticipated that any NPA approved Democrat primary candidate must, if they fail to win the Democratic Party’s nomination (as everybody expects will be the case), turn around and give their endorsement to an NPA approved progressive Presidential candidate, running under a third party, such as the Green Party, or as an independent.
The NPA's steering committee has a number of well known third party and independent-leaning political activists, including Richard Winger, Cindy Sheehan, Jill Stein, Alan Maki and Cornel West.  Perhaps this partly explains why West has been under attack from the dead-enders of the Democratic party in recent weeks.

The Rapture: Zombie Apocalypse in Times Square?

There was a strange atmosphere in New York City yesterday, fostered in no small part by the prediction that the end of the world was set to begin.  DJs hosted end of the world dance parties.  Bars offered judgment day drink specials: "Last call?!"  Christian choirs assembled for impromptu performances in subway stations.  And zombies roamed Times Square:

Shortly after these zombies staggered by at 6pm, a large gaggle of locals, tourists and reporters swarmed around Robert Fitzpatrick, the Staten Island man who said he had "independently confirmed" the end times prophecy of Harold Camping, and had spent his life savings to spread the word to all those who had ears to hear and eyes to see.

Fitzpatrick expressed surprise and confusion that the world had no ceased to exist, and answered questions from anyone who was willing to ask.  There was no lack of hecklers in the crowd.  One sarcastically demanded to know: "Why are we still here?"  Another pointed out the inaccuracy of the prediction: "Your calculations are all wrong man!"  And yet another lamented that we all have to go to work on Monday now, to boos and hisses from the crowd.  Here's a pic of Fitzpatrick (bottom right) surrounded by reporters and onlookers as the Times Square news ticker above asks whether this really is the end of the world:

There is No Monopoly on Right: Contradiction and the Ideology of the Two-Party State

A commentary in the Mercury News by Byron Williams succinctly demonstrates the hubris, arrogance and intellectual bankruptcy of the ideology that sustains the two-party state.  Entitled, "To thrive, the nation needs two strong political parties," Williams's article takes a critical look at the weakness of the Republican party and its field of presidential candidates, and argues that this is not in the interests of the Democratic party either.  Excerpt:
With the current political process being what it is -- showing the qualities of a spectator sport -- it is also doubtful that many politically left of center will lose sleep over a weakened Republican Party. . .  My desires for a strong Republican Party assumes two things:  it is currently a weak party in need of self-reflection and purging; the Democratic Party is the de facto stronger of the two.

Being the "de facto" stronger political party, however, does not denote any moral superiority. If anything, it breeds an arrogance and hubris that lulls one into believing that "right" exist only within their domain, alleviating any desires for self-reflectionIn a two-party system, it requires that only one party be overtly infected by perceived weakness to send both tumbling into the abyss of mediocrity.  [Emphasis added.]
Of course, it is a cliche of bipartisan political sloganeering that no party has a monopoly on the truth, that no party is politically infallible, that no party is in possession of the fabled "silver bullet," and so on.  Williams explicitly subscribes to this hackneyed view.  His eventual conclusion, however, is quite revealing.  He writes:
It would be foolhardy to believe the answers to the problems we face are exclusive to one political party. For the nation to be successful, both political parties must aggressively compete in the marketplace of ideas.
So, according to Williams, it is foolhardy to believe that the answers to the problems we face are exclusive to one political party, but it is enlightened rationalism to believe that the answers to the problems we face are exclusive to two of them!  The two-party state breeds an arrogance and hubris among Democrats and Republicans which lulls them into believing that "right" exists only within their domain, alleviating any desires for critical self-reflection.  Indeed, Williams appears blissfully ignorant of the absurd contradiction inherent in his assertion that, though no party has a monopoly on right, the Democrats and Republicans have a monopoly on right.  The ideology of the two-party state is a nest of thoughtless contradictions.

The Bipartisan War on the Constitution Cont'd.

It is a long-standing cliche of American political commentary that Republicans and Democrats don't agree on anything.  Of course, this is an exaggeration.  When it comes to strengthening the corporate welfare state, expanding the global warfare state, eroding rights and liberties, gutting the Constitution and so on, they are remarkably amiable.  Indeed, such measures don't even require debate anymore.  From the Associated Press:
Top congressional leaders agreed Thursday to a four-year extension of the anti-terrorist Patriot Act, the controversial law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks that governs the search for terrorists on American soil.
The deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner calls for a vote before May 27, when parts of the current act expire. The idea is to pass the extension with as little debate as possible to avoid a protracted and familiar argument over the expanded power the law gives to the government.

An Unwitting Dialectic of the Two-Party State and Multi-Party Government

The ideology of the two-party state is a nest of contradictions.  When confronted with a thoroughgoing critique of two-party government, and a convincing case for the necessity of expanding the scope of political representation in the United States, the apologists of the ruling parties often fall back on a stock set of counterarguments.  Among the latter is the claim that the Republican-Democrat two-party state already effectively functions as a multi-party system.  Democrats and Republicans alike will point to the various sub-factions of the Democratic and Republican parties and say: "We already have a four party system!" or some such nonsense.  Consider a recent opinion piece by Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, entitled "Three Party Government."  In the introduction, he writes:
As the budget process in Washington lurches from crisis to continuing resolution to debt limit scramble — with Congress seemingly incapable of dealing with fiscal issues without the prospect of immediate financial collapse — it is worth considering the structural reasons for this seriousness deficit. Some view the culprit as partisan polarization or the disproportionate power of Senate minorities — both of which play a role. But the main challenge is this: Our two-party system has produced a three-party government. [Emphasis added.] 
This assertion might come as something of a surprise to the millions of Americans who live in states where the two-party system has degenerated into one-party government, not to mention those who recognize that the Democratic and Republican parties are essentially unified in their opposition to representing the interests of the American people in accord with the nation's Constitution.  Nonetheless, Gerson argues that despite the split within the Republican party between the "tea party freshmen" and "mainstream Republicans," the GOP caucus in the Congress functions for all intents and purposes as a unified whole.  He then continues:
On fiscal issues, the Democratic Party is really two parties. One consists of European-style social democrats, represented by leaders such as Nancy Pelosi . . . The other Democratic Party is socially liberal and pro-business . . . 
This is, in other words, nothing more than the old split between the supposedly moderate "blue dogs" and the alleged "progressives" in the Democratic party.  Gerson asserts that this split is the source of the "third party" in the US Congress: the Republicans, the blue dog Democrats and the social Democrats.  Ironically, however, though Gerson spends the entirety of his column arguing that this effectively amounts to three-party government, he nonetheless concludes the exact opposite.  Excerpt:
Again and again, Democratic leaders have failed to produce budget approaches that unite 90 percent of their caucus. This is not entirely their fault. The ideological distance between social Democrats and pro-business Democrats is wider than any ideological gap on the Republican side. If pro-business Democrats were formally independent as a party, like the Liberal Democrats in Britain, they might be tempted to form a coalition government with Republicans — using their influence not only to block the proposals of social Democrats but to gain a share of power. But America’s two-party system doesn’t allow for this strategy.  [Emphasis added.]
So, according to Gerson, our two-party system has produced a three party government, but America's two-party system doesn't allow for such a thing.  Were there any reason to believe that someone like Gerson is what you'd call a "dialectical thinker," perhaps one would be inclined toward a charitable reading of the contradiction between his premise and his conclusion.  But it appears to be nothing more than the product of a rhetorical ploy, or maybe just plain laziness or sloppiness.

Despite Gerson, however, perhaps the contradiction is productive after all.  As the apologists of the two-party state themselves argue, the two-party system has effectively resulted in a kind of multi-party government, as evidenced by the various factions that constitute the Democratic and Republican party coalitions.  But, at the same time, it does not allow for the political expression and ultimate representation of these myriad competing interests – which are to be expected in a country as large and diverse as the United States –, because they are always and everywhere subordinated to the interests of the ruling parties themselves.  Political freedom and independence today begins with freedom and independence from the Democratic and Republican parties.

Party Preference and Voter-Nominated Offices: the Incoherence of Partisan Designation in California's Top Two Primary System

Yesterday, California's 36th Congressional District held a special primary election to fill the US House seat vacated by Democrat Jane Harman shortly after her re-election last year.  This was the first election for a US House seat held under California's new top two primary system.  According to the CA Secretary of State's semi-official tally, Democrat Janice Hahn and Republican Craig Huey have taken the top two spots in the field of sixteen candidates.  (The situation looked fairly different when I submitted today's article for CAIVN late last night, reporting that two Democrats were likely to take the top two spots.)  If and when Hahn and Huey are declared the official winners of the race, they will then proceed to the general election runoff in which they will be the only two candidates on the ballot.  This result is likely to surprise mainstream political observers, many of whom expected Hahn and Democrat Debra Bowen to easily trounce their Republican, independent and third party rivals.

For many supporters of alternatives to the Democratic-Republican two-party duopoly, the difference between a general election with two Democrats, or two Republicans, or one of each on the ballot, is likely negligible to non-existent.  There are a number of lawsuits pending against the top two style primary.  Among them are one in Washington state challenging the constitutionality of the top two system as such, and at least two in California challenging a number of provisions specific to the legal scaffolding of the Golden State's newly instituted system.  For an extensive discussion of the suits, see this presentation by Richard Winger and Gautam Dutta filmed at the general assembly of the Green party of California earlier this month.

Dutta is the attorney representing the plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits against California's system.  One of the plaintiffs in that suit, Michael Chamness, was a candidate in the special primary election for the 36th Congressional District.  Though a member of the newly-formed Coffee Party, Chamness was forced to state on the ballot that he has "no party preference" because the Coffee Party is not one of the six parties officially recognized by the state (i.e. Democrat, Republican, American Independent, Green, Peace and Freedom, and Libertarian).  Chamness's suit thus claims that the implementing law for the top two primary forces him to lie to voters.  Under California's old system, he would at least have been allowed to identify himself as "independent." 

Under the implementing law for California's top two system – namely, Senate Bill 6, passed as part of a late night budget deal in February 2009 – the partisan labeling system thus privileges the category of party and then narrows the definition of party to include only a small number of such groups, with a high bar to maintain inclusion in the set of permitted partisan designations.  Even despite the claims in Chamness's suit, this might appear reasonable enough to some observers.  But there remains an underlying contradiction between these rules and the overall logic of the primary system itself.

The law implementing California's Proposition 14 replaced the old party-nominated/partisan system of offices with what is termed a "voter-nominated" system of offices.  See this release from the Secretary of State contrasting the two systems.  Under the old system, the winner of a particular party's primary election become that party's official nominee.  This is not the case under top two.  The candidates on yesterday's ballot in CD-36, for instance, do not technically represent their parties.  Party designations reflect only the individual affiliation of the given candidate, not an official endorsement from the party.  Nor does their election in a primary mean that they become the "official" candidate of their chosen party.  It is for this reason that you can end up with a choice between two candidates from the same party on the general election ballot.  See this release from the Secretary of State on voter-nominated offices.  

As candidates under California's top two primary system are no longer running for a partisan office, but rather a voter-nominated office, the partisan labeling scheme limiting the party designations that a given candidate may choose from to describe him- or herself on the ballot must be considered an anachronism of the old system and should be abolished.  The new system has changed the very nature of the office, but this change is not coherently reflected in the partisan labeling system utilized on the ballot.

Addition by Subtraction and Military Spending

Last month, you'll recall, Democratic and Republican party leaders reached an "historic" budget deal in which party bosses in the Congress and White House carved out $38 billion in spending cuts and narrowly averted a complete government shut down.  Or so the story went.  As I noted at the time, the "budget deal" was, for the most part, just a half-trillion dollar check for the global warfare state beloved by the militarists in the Republican and Democratic parties alike.  Talking Points Memo is now reporting that the spending "cut" actually increased spending over the remainder of the year by over $3 billion.  Excerpt:
It turns out the six-month spending bill Congress passed in April increased discretionary outlays through the remainder of the fiscal year by a bit over $3 billion. In other words, total direct spending will be higher by the end of September than if Congress had just set spending on autopilot for the remainder of the fiscal year back in April.
At the time the deal was struck, Democrats breathlessly bragged that they had "proved Department of Defense waste should not be spared."  Greg Sargent quoted an unnamed Democratic source:
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. . .
Ironically, however, the $3 billion increase in overall spending for the remainder of this year is the result of a $7.5 billion increase in defense spending.  From TPM:
"Total discretionary outlays in 2011 will be $3.2 billion higher as a result of the legislation, CBO estimates--an increase of $7.5 billion for defense programs, partially offset by a net reduction of $4.4 billion in other spending," reads a just-released report from the Congressional Budget Office . . . 
Is this addition by subtraction or subtraction by addition?  Here's an appropriate exchange from an episode of The Office:
Michael: Yes, Dwight Schrute has left this company. More personnel turnover.
Andy: The cost of doing business.
Michael: Yes, well. It is a big loss. Dwight was the top salesman...
Andy: Was the top salesman...
Michael: I said 'was'.
Andy: [chuckles] Addition by subtraction.
Michael: What does that even mean? That is impossible.
Andy: Mmmm. Yeah you're right.
Michael: But, there is some good news. Oscar is back. Addition by addition. 

Progressive Independence at FireDogLake

Unlike the Daily Kos and Red State, which explicitly aim to do nothing more than reproduce the reigning two-party political status quo, FireDogLake does not appear to have a policy prohibiting independent thought or third party advocacy.  At the very least, Greens and Socialists who write there  need not hide their affiliations for fear of expulsion.  It seems in recent days there has been a significant uptick in third party and independent agitation at the progressive site.  Some excerpts:

From Jeff Roby:  "How to destroy the Democratic Party and build an independent alternative"
Democrats and independents, and Democrats getting religion and newly proclaiming their independence, continue to act out an oft-repeated ritual.  Democratic loyalists point out that they can influence policy from within and, more importantly, that’s where the working class can be reached, for better or worse.  Independents point out the utterly craven sellout by the Democratic Party where corporate America holds the high ground and has abandoned any pretext of progressivism.  Both are correct.  Both perform their rituals of beating their heads against a brick wall until their heads bleed, Dems begging for crumbs, independents settling for their sub-1% of the national presidential vote.

In the past, I have argued for a progressive* Democratic/progressive independent alliance.  Still a good idea — Dump Obama has been its tactical embodiment.  But Dump Obama is dependent on a challenger entering the Democratic primaries.  So what we need is a plan that goes beyond 2012, and is not dependent on the whims of even most progressive Democratic politicians.  So we need a better look at what we are up against.
A follow-up post from Roby:  "You say you want a revolution" 
I’ve taken a look at various 3rd party programs, and would like to focus on the Greens, as their program is the most developed. While it is not explicitly socialist, it nonetheless raises the issues and contradictions endemic to even an explicitly socialist party.  Many of their platform points are quite good, sensible environmental measures, clean government processes, logical corporate regulations, i.e., liberal reforms, the perfection of capitalism. Others are what I would call system-busters — changes that would not be able to be implemented within the boundaries of capitalism as we know it, or changes that would be system-busters if rigorously carried out, such as the Greens “Participatory Democracy, rooted in community practice at the grassroots level and informing every level, from the local to the international.”
From jest:  "On the cataclysmic realities of a 3rd party"
what the most influential portion of the party has become: a maimed, old, disgrace of its young former self. And unfortunately, it has metastasized, and spread to base of the party, and the Left in general.  An instructive case of this was the AR senate race, won by John Boozman-R . After the departure of Bill Halter in the primary, many on the left were dejected as there was no progressive candidate to support in the general election; the Republican cruised to victory with nearly 60% of the vote. That’s probably how the history books will be written, but that is not true at all.

There was a progressive candidate in the AR senate general election who had legislative experience, supported Medicare for all, curbing corporate abuses, and all the ideals we hold dear. I think you know where I’m going with this: John Gray-G, the complete opposite of the Dorian Gray-esque Lincoln who lost the race.

There is a lot of censorship in the media regarding independent candidates, so there is not much coverage on him. But he more than held his own at the AR Senate debates, where most of his focus was not about environmental issues, but economic ones, despite what most Green Party detractors believe & expect.

So, how did progressives in AR react to having a sensible alternative to the reprehensible corporatist Lincoln?

Progressives preferred the corporatist Democrat, Lincoln, who also had no chance of winning, by a factor of 20. Gray got less than 2% of the total vote. 100% of the people in the Democratic party found this man’s message abhorrent.  Think about that. . . .

And yet these same “progressives” complain that they have no candidates on the ballot to vote for.   What about the 2010 SC senate race between DeMint & Greene? No options for progressives?  Wrong . . . .
From Liz Berry:  "The majority of Americans are fed up with the Tea Party/Republican and the Democratic parties"
Those who say that the USA are polarized are correct, but it is NOT the 50/50 polarization that is implied to us via the propaganda of mainstream media. If you were to believe them you would think that American opinion is split right down the middle. This is a perfect example of the propaganda technique of telling half the truth and not the whole truth. American is polarized all right–but it is damn sure not “down the middle.”

We are polarized 70/26 with 3% on the fence. THE MAJORITY FAVOR DUMPING BOTH PARTIES. The only question remaining is how do we organize to create a real democracy.
From Matthew J:  "No Confidence Protest Vote 2012"
our political system is controlled by legalized bribery of various forms.  Politicians feel free to act in their own interests after getting elected rather than actually representing the people who elected them . . . 

I strongly believe the first step we need to take as a citizenry is to join together in a way that sends a strong and clear message to our country and the world that says Americans want a government that is actually responsive to the people that are governed . . . . .

In this post I will lay out a strategy that I believe is pragmatic, practical, and has a reasonable chance to work.  The basic idea is to run a campaign not for a particular candidate but instead against both the Democratic and Republican parties.  The genesis for this idea is that both parties are rather hopelessly corrupt and non-responsive to the citizens at this time, yet the structure of our system does not offer meaningful opportunity for 3rd party or independent candidates . . . .

To my knowledge there has never been a coordinate protest vote (or no confidence) campaign (please share in the comments if you are aware of such a movement).  This would be a new experiment in grassroots democracy.  A coordinated protest vote campaign would encourage as many voters as possible to cast protest votes for actual people, but people who are not affiliated with the Democratic and Republican parties.  Rather than promoting a specific candidate such a campaign would encourage voters to cast a protest vote for any 3rd party, independent, or write in candidate they wish.  It would be extremely important that these votes are valid and counted.

The Case for Open Primaries in Pennsylvania

At Patch, Joe Ferraaro makes the case for open primaries in Pennsylvania, where, by means of cross-filing, Democrats and Republicans often succeed in securing the primary nomination of both major parties. The result, in many cases, are non-contested general election. 
People not registered as Democrats or Republicans (Non Major Party or NMPs) are frozen out of the process. Given the exceptionally small numbers of people who vote in these elections, an even more minuscule number can decide who runs the show for the rest of us . . .

In a primary election, we can expect a turnout of about 15 percent of the registered voters, which translates roughly to about 10 percent of the population.  In terms of who votes, that means in a two-way race, only 5 percent of the people need to vote to tell the rest of us what is going to happen—5 percent telling the other 95 percent what to do . . .

Have you ever thought about how much it costs to run an election from a taxpayer standpoint? . . . Now, how fair is it that only members of the major parties may participate in this process? Should the two major parties be called upon to foot the bill because, after all, the primary system is set up for their benefit and their benefit alone?

Cross-filing, as Kane brings up, creates a shut-out situation for those not involved in with these political parties. Is it really one-person/one-vote? I am surprised some hot-shot lawyer hasn’t brought up an "equal protection under the law" type of argument to make this system fall down.  One fair solution may be to completely open up the primary process in Pennsylvania. The parties nominate as they have before, but anyone who is of age and in good standing may cast a primary ballot.
There are a number of active groups seeking to implement open primaries in Pennsylvania, check out Independent Pennsylvanians, for instance.  Another solution, of course, would be to privatize the primary process and make the Democrats and Republicans pay all the costs associated with foisting their misrule on the population.  

NOTE:  A prior version of this post was published yesterday, but was auto-deleted due to some problems at Blogger.  

The Independent Majority in Massachusetts

The majority of voters in Massachusetts are not registered with either of the major parties, but rather opt to maintain their independence from any party whatsoever.  A full 52% of voters are now either unenrolled with any party or, to a significantly lesser extent, registered with a third party group.  According to statistics released by the Massachusetts Secretary of State's Office, the percentage of voters who refuse to register with either of the major parties has been steadily increasing since at least 1984, having first surpassed the Democrats in 1990.  Since 2000, they have constituted an outright majority.  The percentage of registered Democrats, on the other hand, has significantly declined over the last 25 years.  Democrats accounted for nearly 50% of the state's voters in 1984.  Today, just 36% of voters in Massachusetts are Democrats.  The percentage of registered Republicans has generally held steady, but also declined somewhat in recent years.  Only 11% of voters in the state are Republicans. 

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At the Herald News, columnist Mike Moran calls this a "seismic shift." Excerpt:
A newly published listing, with numbers tracked annually since 1982, reveals changes in the party affiliation of Bay State voters. It shows a seismic shift in attitude and a steadily decreasing number of voters identifying themselves as either Democrats or Republicans. . . . Over the past 29 years, the number of registered voters in Massachusetts has gone from approximately 2.9 million to 4.1 million. The bad news for loyal Democrats and Republicans is that while both parties have seen an increase in the raw numbers over the years, there has also been a significant decrease in both party’s ranks as a percentage of all registered voters.

In other words, more and more of us are choosing to forego membership in the two major parties. As it stands now, the biggest party in Massachusetts is no party at all. Democrats comprise 36 percent of voters; Republicans are at 11 percent; and independent voters hold the majority with 52 percent.
Democratic and Republican party leaders in the state have diametrically opposed explanations for this massive shift.  From the Patriot Ledger:
“There’s disenfranchisement with the entire system, and political parties represent that system,” said Tim Buckley, communications manager for the Massachusetts Republican Party. . . .

John Walsh of Abington, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party . . . suggested some changes could be a result of the state’s election system, which allows unaligned citizens to vote on any party’s ballot in primaries, and the 1993 Motor Voter Act, which lets residents sign up to vote while renewing or applying for a driver’s license.
So voters are disenfranchised, i.e. deprived of the right to vote or other rights of citizenship, but the election system has been opened up to allow independents to vote in any party's primary?  It is noteworthy that though Independents account for an outright majority of the state's voters, there are no independents in the state legislature, which is dominated by Democrats despite their falling numbers in the electorate at large.  In the MA House of Representatives, there are 128 Democrats and 32 Republicans.  In the Senate, there are 36 Democrats and 4 Republicans.  What's the matter with Massachusetts?  

Civic Discontent and the Limitations of Binary Political Analysis

The third party and independent news feeds lit up today with the release of a new Gallup poll showing record high levels of support for a third party alternative to the Republicans and Democrats among self-described Republicans and Tea Party activists:
Gallup has always found political independents to be most desirous of a third party, and 68% currently are. But right now there is also a significant party gap, with 52% of Republicans favoring a third party, compared with 33% of Democrats.

This is the first time Gallup finds a significantly higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats in favor of a third party. During much of President Bush's term, the opposite was true, with Democrats more likely to favor the formation of a third party. That gap narrowed in 2007, after the Democrats' victories in the 2006 midterms, and there has been a minimal difference between the two parties until the current poll . . .
The increase in Republican support for a third party since 2008 could be an outgrowth of the Tea Party movement, which is closely aligned with the GOP. The poll . . . finds 60% of those who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters in favor of a third party
The results were confusing to dead-enders of the major parties such as Allahpundit at Hot Air.  Excerpt:
My assumption is that partisan support for a third party should spike when a party is out of power and has nothing to lose by splitting (or flirting with splitting) over ideology . . . Conversely, partisan support for a third party should crater when a party is in power and looking to hold together to preserve its legislative majority — or so I would have guessed. But neither the Democratic nor the Republican trend line follows that prediction. From 2008 to 2010, despite total control of government, Democrats’ support for a third party rose seven points. Republican support for a third party also rose by seven points when they had total control of government from 2003 to 2006.
Allahpundit thus neatly demonstrates that, over the last decade, support for a third party has increased across partisan lines no matter what the party composition of government was.  This reveals the limitations of the standard binary system of political thought common to Democrats, Republicans and their mouthpieces in the political press.  As support for the ruling parties drops, it stands to reason that the traditional partisan political matrix would arguably become an ever more unreliable analytical tool.  Though the poll found that there were significant disparities among Independents, Republicans and Democrats in their levels of support for something other than the misrule of the reigning two-party state, the results were remarkably consistent when broken down by ideology rather than partisan affiliation.  From Gallup:
Gallup currently finds essentially no differences in support for a third party by political ideology, with 51% of conservatives, 52% of moderates, and 52% of liberals in favor. Over time, the ideological groups' positions have converged, with conservatives becoming more supportive.
In other words, a majority of Americans on the left, right and center recognize that the Democrat-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government does not in fact represent the interests of the American people.

Chasing the Car: The Constitution Party of Colorado

In the Colorado gubernatorial election of 2010, if you recall, Tom Tancredo's entrance into the race on the Constitution Party ticket and his strong showing transformed the organization into a major party under Colorado election law.  Unfortunately, however, the party does not appear to have significantly capitalized upon Tancredo's success and still has only a few thousand members.  Furthermore, as a recognized major party, it is now required to fulfill the myriad obligations meant to regulate mass organizations with hundreds of thousands or millions of members, but, due to its small size, it is not equal to the task.  From The Republic:
The American Constitution Party . . . says it's fed up with the bureaucracy of being a major player in state politics — and besides, it can't afford it.  With only 4,134 members, the ACP has had to create a 21-member central committee, elect an executive committee and set up party committees in each of Colorado's 64 counties. In exchange, the party gets a place at or near the top of the ballot in the next gubernatorial election in 2014.

"We keep asking Secretary of State Scott Gessler what's the benefit of being a major party. We get a higher position on the ballot, but if that's the only thing, it's not worth it," said Amanda Campbell, the ACP's treasurer and an executive board member.

Being a major party brings major responsibilities, like filing detailed campaign finance reports, hiring lawyers to interpret complicated state and federal reporting requirements, and holding primaries and caucuses. But according to the secretary of state's website, the ACP had just $817 in the bank as of April 15 . . . . 
The Constitution Party of Colorado's situation is not very different from the dilemma faced by a dog that has successfully chased down a car.  What does he do with it once he's caught it? 

Two-Party Tandem

Another cartoon from Randy Miller at the Utah League of Independent Voters: "on a bicycle built for two . . . parties" . . . .

Land of the Free, Home of the Incarcerated

From Daniel D'Amico at the Mises Institute:
It is time to take prisons seriously. The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world today and throughout history. The financial costs are tremendous and rising. One in every one hundred Americans is jailed within this so-called land of the free. Many have committed no violent crimes. Not a few are in for supposed political crimes. Some are wholly innocent of both yet languish in captivity. What are the sociological, political, economic, cultural, and historical consequences of incarceration?

The prison is a unique technology of enforcement. One could say it is the ultimate embodiment of institutionalized coercion. Its essential architectural features — individualized cells and controlled living environments — minimize the opportunities for social interaction among inmates and maximize their perception of total observation and control by guards. Both features were designed and implemented to accomplish particular purposes.

Since the 1970s, the American system has been said to operate according to a retributive paradigm of criminal justice, wherein criminals are thought to deserve punishment. Prisons are believed to be an efficient retributive technique and deterrence is their convenient consequence.

Originally, penitentiaries were designed and built with grander intentions: to induce penitence at the individual level and to make for a better community at the societal level. Prisons were both a micro and macro tool of social engineering . . . 
This summer, D'Amico will be holding an online course at the Mises Academy on the prison state that has been constructed by the Democratic and Republican parties over the course of the last four decades:
In my upcoming Mises Academy course, The American Prison State, I will use readings and lectures to outline the long and varied history of incarceration and criminal law in the United States. All the readings for this course will be free and online. The online video lectures will use Webex, the industry standard for web conferencing. Lectures will be Tuesday evenings, 7:00–8:30 EDT, and they will be recorded and available for enrolled students to download. The first class will be on June 7.
Some basic facts and figures to consider:

File:US incarceration timeline-clean.svg

Beyond the Bipolar Divide

From a lengthy new report by the Pew Research Center, "Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology":
a growing number of Americans are choosing not to identify with either political party, and the center of the political spectrum is increasingly diverse. Rather than being moderate, many of these independents hold extremely strong ideological positions on issues such as the role of government, immigration, the environment and social issues. But they combine these views in ways that defy liberal or conservative orthodoxy.

For political leaders in both parties, the challenge is not only one of appeasing ideological and moderate “wings” within their coalitions, but rather holding together remarkably disparate groups, many of whom have strong disagreements with core principles that have defined each party’s political character in recent years . . . .

The new political typology finds two groups that are clearly Republican in their political orientation, three that are predominantly Democratic, and – reflecting the growing number of independents – four in which majorities eschew party labels. Within this broad political center are two Republican-leaning groups and one Democratic-leaning group, along with the politically uninvolved Bystanders.
On the right, Staunch Conservatives and Main Street Republicans overwhelmingly identify as Republicans. Similarly, on the left large majorities of Solid Liberals and Hard-Pressed Democrats consider themselves Democrats. While a majority of New Coalition Democrats identify with the Democratic Party, many consider themselves independents (though most say they lean toward the Democratic Party).

The middle is far more diverse. Although majorities in all of these groups identify as political independents, 77% of Libertarians and 60% of Disaffecteds lean to the GOP while 58% of Post-M0derns lean to the Democratic Party. The politically disengaged Bystanders – who do not vote or follow politics – lean somewhat to the Democratic Party.


Poll: 80% of Americans Open to Third Party Candidate for President, Independents' Independence Extends to the Religious Sphere

An extensive new poll from the Reason Foundation finds that 80% of Americans are open to the idea of voting for a third party or independent candidate in the 2012 presidential election, including 89% of Independents, 86% of Republicans and 71% of Democrats.  In other findings, it also appears that compared with people of other political persuasions, Independents are most likely to express independence not only from party, but also from church, temple or mosque. 

23% of those polled for the survey identified themselves as Independents, compared with 30.5% who confessed they are Republicans and 39% who admitted they are Democrats.  Given that 37% of all adults and 28% of likely voters consistently tell pollsters they are Independents, it may be the case that they are somewhat under-represented in the survey's sample by a margin greater than the poll's margin of error.  Nonetheless, 40% of Independents stated outright opposition to the Democratic and Republican parties, while 30% said they are "closer to" the Republicans and 23% said they lean more toward the Democrats.  Needless to say, Democrats and Republicans prefer the Democratic and Republican parties by wide margins. 

The survey also found that, compared with Republicans and Democrats, Independents are most likely to express independence from religion in addition to party.  Asked what their religious preference is, and prompted with a choice of "Protestant, Catholic, Jewish Muslim, some other religion or no religion," 24.4% of Independents stated that they prefer "no religion," compared with 17% of Democrats and 9.5% of Republicans who said they have no religious preference.  As a group, Independents are also significantly less likely to profess a religion than the population at large.  Overall, 16.2% of the survey's respondents answered "no religion" when asked what their religious preference is.

The survey reports (top-line and cross-tabs) are all available in full at Reason.  This week's column at CAIVN unpacks a few more of the poll's findings.  Excerpt:
Those who [said they were open to a third party candidate for president] included 89% of Independents, 83% of Tea Party supporters, 86% of Republicans, and even 71% of Democrats!  If these results are not simply a statistical fluke, they indicate an increasing openness on the part of the American public to consider political alternatives to the Democratic and Republican parties.  A WSJ/NBC poll from May 2010 found that 31% of Americans – a record high at the time – agreed with the statement that the two-party system is broken and a third party would be good for the country.  A Gallup poll from September 2010 reported that 58% of Americans thought the Democratic and Republican parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a major third party is necessary . . .

The Alternative Vote Referendum and the Dilemmas of Popular Political Commentary

On Thursday, voters in the United Kingdom will be heading to the polls to cast their ballots in the so-called Alternative Vote Referendum to decide whether they will maintain their current first-past-the-post plurality voting system or whether they will implement an alternative voting method, namely, ranked choice voting, to choose their representatives for the House of Commons.  The referendum was scheduled as part of the coalition agreement between the Conservative Party and the third party Liberal Democrats following the 2010 general election.

Needless to say, since then countless articles have been published explaining the differences between the two voting systems and arguing for or against the measure.  Groups and individuals who favor ranked choice have resorted to ever more creative means to convince their fellow voters to cast their ballots in support of the reform.  A relatively new Youtube video tries to explain the difference between FPTP and AV in terms even people from the internet can understand.  It's title: "Is your cat confused about the referendum on the voting system on the 5th of May?"

Apparently, however, even this was too complicated for the astute political observers at CBS News.  Bailey Johnson's The Feed relays the video above and comments:
(CBS) - Americans are somewhat spoiled when it comes to voting. Our solid two-party system and relatively simple first-past-the-post voting style stands in contrast to other political systems. In Britain, voters are having a referendum on May 5th to decide whether to stick with their brand of first-past-the-post or an alternate voting system.

Voting. Electoral reform. Politics. It's all so confusing! Is there any way we could explain this complicated referendum with cats? Well now, we can.  Now that makes sense. Readers looking for more information on the up-coming referendum should check out The Guardian's coverage on the issue. As for us, we think we get it now. Vote Reform Cat! Or something... maybe we should watch the video again.
Is it even necessary to point out the absurd and thoughtless contradictions inherent in these few lines?   When confronted with this sort of attitude and discursive tone, popular at mind-numbing websites like Gawker and Wonkette, I am often reminded of studies which investigate the conflicts faced by American high school students.  In recent years, a number of reports have detailed the dilemmas of high-achieving African American and Latino youth.  From Mercury News in 2008:
Sandra Romero and Bibiana Vega do their best to shrug off taunts from fellow Latino classmates at Del Mar High School in San Jose.  The 17-year-old seniors are called "whitewashed." Mataditas - dorks. Cerebritas - brainiacs. They're told they're "losing their culture" - just because Sandra has a 4.0 grade-point average and Bibiana has a 3.5. The put-downs are clear: Smart is not cool. And too many Latino students are choosing cool over school.
From the Boston Globe in 2009:
There was a time in Myriam Piquant's young life when she refused to admit she was smart. So she kept quiet about her good grades to her neighborhood friends. In elementary and middle school, she didn't let on to fellow students about where she lived (Mattapan) or her cultural difference (Haitian), or her goals in life (lawyering). . . . .

Youth trend specialists say groups like the Du Bois Society are part of a rising counterculture that is aiming to break the stigma among black kids that being smart is uncool.
If only there were similar organizations dedicated to breaking the stigma, all-too-common in  mainstream media and popular political commentary, that being smart is not cool.  Fortunately, for those among them who are interested in seeking help in this regard, they might consider perusing this WikiHow article on "how to be cool and smart at the same time."  Perhaps, then, folks like the CBS News observers above might at least have the sense to follow Mark Twain's sage advice: "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

Excelsior: Michael Bloomberg's Address at the World Trade Center on the Death of Bin Laden

From NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's address at the World Trade Center today:
Good afternoon. In the dark days that followed September 11, 2001, Americans made a solemn commitment that we would always remember in our hearts and minds all those we lost.

In just four months, on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, thanks to the generosity of people from around the world, the National September 11th Memorial will open, providing a powerful and permanent place of reflection and remembrance.

Already, there is a generation of children growing up who were too young to understand what happened on 9/11 – and they may be too young to understand what the news of Bin Laden’s death means. But it is our obligation in building the museum to ensure that the story of 9/11 is never forgotten.

In the dark days that followed September 11th, we made a solemn commitment that we would rebuild the World Trade Center site. As you can see, Seven World Trade Center is standing and open for business. Four World Trade Center has risen above 25 stories, One World Trade Center is now above 60 stories, and both are stretching higher every day. This is the largest, most complicated construction site in North America – and one of the most important in American history.

In the dark days that followed September 11th, we made a solemn commitment – to the dead and the living – that we would bring to justice those responsible for killing more than 2,900 innocent people.

Yesterday, Osama bin Laden found out that America keeps its commitments.

Today, we have come to the site that terrorists attacked in 1993 and again in 2001 to re-affirm our commitments – to all those we lost, to the future we believe in, and to a more peaceful and just world.

And we come to say, with gratitude for the courageous men and women who made it possible, that the forces of freedom and justice have once again prevailed over those who use terror to pursue tyranny.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and the World Trade Center site is teeming with new life.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and Lower Manhattan is pulsing with new activity.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and New York City’s spirit has never been stronger.

The construction you see here is a rebuke to all of those who seek to destroy our freedoms and liberties. Nothing will ever return our loved ones – but we are rebuilding from the ashes and the tears a monument to the American spirit. New York’s way is ever forward, ever skyward . . .

Read the rest.   'Excelsior,' Latin for "ever higher" is the New York State motto. 

Update: New York City's local news channel, NY1, has video of the address.