Category Archives: Activism


Don’t Tell the Cops!



Silver Rebels in the Temples of Gold

Excerpt from the NEW YORK TIMES (March 15, 2014), David Wallis reporting —

Before Boston police detained Ann A. Stewart last August, she had a clean record. But she vows not to wait long, certainly not another 89 years, to become a repeat offender.

Ms. Stewart, 89, a retired hospital employee, was arrested while chanting slogans with a few co-conspirators from inside an imitation jail cell to protest the doubling of the local paratransit fare to $4. Protest organizers erected the fake prison in the middle of the city’s busy Stuart Street to symbolize the fare increase’s effect on disabled riders on fixed incomes, and to block traffic. Ms. Stewart’s arresting officer – “a very nice young man,” she recalled – did not place her in handcuffs and let her keep her cane.

Ms. Stewart, who does not use paratransit herself, treasures the memory of her approximately two hours in custody. “It means a lot to me,” she said. “I’m very strong in my belief about certain things a senior should be able to do.”

Not long after the August protest (which was part of a longer campaign), the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority rolled back the paratransit fare by one dollar – evidence, in Ms. Stewart’s opinion, that older adults must aggressively fight for their rights.

In Europe, older protesters often make noise. In 2012, throngs of Greek pensioners marched in Athens to oppose austerity measures. Last October, a raucous crowd estimated at 10,000 rallied in front of the Irish Parliament to denounce medical benefit cuts for people over 65.

For now, the senior rights movement in America remains relatively muted. Perhaps as Tom Hayden, the 1960s activist, suggested, the “price of some success is that the voluntary activist groups can feel less needed.” Could older Americans just be complacent? Maybe demonstrating in the streets is best left to the young? Or perhaps, as one experienced activist argued, unfavorable media coverage of events like Occupy Wall Street gives protesting a bad name.

Whatever the reasons, several social scientists say deteriorating conditions for retirees and older Americans in general – intensifying fear about retirement security, age discrimination, increasing poverty among the elderly and new threats to cut programs for seniors – could be the impetus for what some are calling a “silver revolution.”

“Now would be the time for senior rights movements to mobilize once again,” Andrea Louise Campbell, author of “How Policies Make Citizens: Senior Citizen Activism and the American Welfare State,” suggested in an email. Ms. Campbell pointed to recent proposals by politicians to trim Social Security benefits and convert Medicare into a voucher program as actions meriting a response.

“If there’s a direct threat to Social Security or Medicare, that’s when you do see people mobilizing,” said Jill B. Quadagno, a professor of sociology at Florida State University who studies social gerontology. Ms. Quadagno recounted that in 1964, roughly 14,000 protesters, predominantly retirees, marched outside the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J. The National Council of Senior Citizens, backed by the A.F.L.-C.I.O., staged the show of force to prod politicians to support President Lyndon B. Johnson’s proposal for Medicare, which was enacted the next year. Later that decade and in the 1970s, advocates for older adults battled to expand Social Security, winning, among other policy changes, automatic cost-of-living adjustments.


If your hair is some shade of silver, and you don’t have gold in your pockets, the ONE PERCENTERS have a target on your back. They intend to take you down, steal your Social Security fund, shred your Medicare and tear up your Senior Discounts. Although you have worked your entire life, paying into Social Security and Medicare you will be castigated as a welfare cheat and a drain on society. They will seek to turn your grandkids against you promising them tax cuts to buy support for gutting the social safety net. The goal is to render us all the nasty and brutish creatures devoted only to our narrow self interests that they themselves are.


Wing-Nuts to the Right of Me, Lug-Nuts to the Left. Here I Am Trapped in the Middle with You

Readers won’t be surprised to learn that the DISSENTING DEMOCRAT looks with favor upon the prospective candidacy of BERNIE SANDERS for the Presidency. Bernie is the independent-minded U.S. Senator from Vermont who is able to meld a broad coalition of Democrats, Independents, Progressives and third-party types into repeated electoral victory.

Although Bernie has described himself as a “Socialist”, he is far from doctrinaire or sectarian. He is pragmatic and very much representative of what we have called here the “Real Democrats” on issue after issue. He caucuses with the Democrats and would have the best chance of attaining the Presidency running within the Democratic primaries and caucuses.

Regrettably, his nascent campaign could be sabotaged by the Left’s version of Tea partisans, or what we lovingly call lugnuts. Barry Goldwater, the father of the American Conservative movement, complained in his latter years that despite his credentials, today’s Republican Party would consider him as “too liberal”. The right wingnuts have so transformed Barry’s Party that Ronald Reagan has actually  been criticized as “Socialistic”.

The DISSENTING DEMOCRAT tends to support Progressives, and indeed has generally supported whosoever has had the best claim to being the Progressive candidate in the Democratic Party. In 2004, we were early supporters for Dennis Kucinich and sought to help organize for him in our State. Contacting the designated “Kucinich Coordinators”, we offered to collect precinct caucus lists from the previous election cycle and call delegates to ascertain interest in Kucinich and to encourage any identified supporters to attend caucus. This is how delegates are selected, and delegates are the ones who elect other delegates who attend the party convention to endorse candidates.

The Kucinich “organization” wasn’t interested. Pouring through precinct lists didn’t sound like fun, even if someone else volunteered to do it. No, the cool thing was to get together a bunch of people who would hang out downtown and hand out leaflets. For what purpose we still don’t know. The Kucinich folks skipped the State Convention where delegates met to actually support candidates but leafleted the State Fair where a third of the attendees came from out-of-state and where no one was selected to be a delegate.

We became very disenchanted with the Kucinich campaign from there on out.

Now we have attempted to network with Bernie Sanders people on Facebook. Recognizing, of course, that unlike our year 2004 experience these contacts were not the “official” Sanders organization, our experience deja vued Kucinich days. The loudest “mouths” (“fingers” inasmuch as we communicate via keyboard) have no political experience, don’t know how candidates are endorsed, or what is involved in a political campaign. All of which is forgivable, and remediable, but they also absolutely disdain to have anything to do with politics-as-it-is. According to these “Lug-Nuts” (“Wing-Nuts” being reserved for our Teaser friends) these wise ones are superior to all Democrats, politico and rank-and-file. The pros (that means anyone who has ever door-knocked or lit-dropped for votes) are all corrupt and just plain-folks Democrats are “sheep”.

Only the Lug-Nuts are among the cognoscenti. They are purer-than-thou and think that they truly represent the people, even though the people don’t know it yet. They will become very disenchanted when, or if, Bernie starts campaigning for grown-up votes and flesh-and-blood delegates. I fear they will then reject him as a sell-out not worthy of their holy support.

However, there is I suspect some chance that this mindset could become the pool from which the Bernie Sanders campaign draws drink. I hope not but suppose it is possible. If Bernie does decide to make a go of it, he needs to start organizing early, not only to win, but to pre-empt the crazies from establishing themselves as the face of the campaign in Whosville and beyond.

Labor Movement Must Be More Than Just a Union Movement

Richard Wolff commenting on the UAW loss of the union election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattenooga, Tennessee. Unions need to develop allies throughout the community in order to win the hearts & minds of the workers.

Organizations of business, the wealthy and the conservatives (think tanks, foundations, hired public relations firms, advertising enterprises, major newspapers, mass radio and TV stations, internet outlets and social media) work constantly to shape workers’ life experiences and thus how they see the world. Because of their dependence on financing from businesses and the wealthy, most Republicans and Democrats avoid conflicts with their campaigns to shape public opinion. Conservatives pander to them.

No alternative, different way to see the world similarly surrounds workers in their daily lives. Workers’ organizations (unions, think tanks, independent media) are many fewer, poorer and much weaker. “Outside influences” shape workers’ consciousness one-sidedly because of the gross disparity of resources available to those exerting that influence. What made local Republicans and conservatives’ billboards persuasive was public opinion; the shape of that opinion defeated unionization in Tennessee. How differently “outside influences” work in other countries is suggested by this simple fact: virtually all of VW’s 105 factories elsewhere are unionized.

During the middle 1930s, millions joined unions for the first time: the greatest unionization drive in history.

The history of unionization in the US reinforces the point. During the middle 1930s, millions joined unions for the first time: the greatest unionization drive in history. We had never seen anything like it before, nor have we since. Unionization then was achieved by a remarkable alliance: unions (allied in the Congress of Industrial Organizations or CIO) plus large, active socialist and communist parties. Those parties widely and effectively contested the “outside influences” stemming from business, the wealthy and conservatives. Socialists and communists mobilized their own media, writers, artists and academics into play. Their demonstrations on many social issues made news and their organizations disseminated a distinctive interpretation of that news. They contradicted what business, the wealthy and conservatives asserted and not only around particular issues. Many among them also contested the economic system arguing that the US could and should do better than capitalism. Interested teachers, clergy, students, immigrant and racial minorities and the general public thus continuously encountered perspectives other than those of business, the wealthy and conservatives.

Excerpt from MOYERS & COMPANY

It Is Not Light That Is Needed, But Fire

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

“For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake… The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

— Frederick Douglass




Keystone Sparks Protest

The COMMON DREAMS news service reports that Bill McKibben, a leader in the environmental movement, did not trust Obama to do the right thing and so the movement had chosen to plan for a massive act of civil disobedience opposing the Keystone pipeline. As further reported:

The sit-in is expected to be the largest act of civil disobedience by young people in the recent history of the environmental movement and it will be led by just the demographic that helped propel Obama to the presidency. The protest, known as “XL Dissent,” is meant to send a clear signal to President Obama that the base that helped elect him sees Keystone XL as a decision that will define his entire legacy.

“Obama was the first president I voted for, and I want real climate action and a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Nick Stracco, a senior at Tulane University. “The people that voted him into office have made it absolutely clear what we want, and that’s to reject Keystone XL.”

The strategy is likely the only one left. It happens when a political system is so fixed that there are no options left within it for legitimate dissent. We can vote for the politicians who say they’re on our side but when it counts, they aren’t, thus civil disobedience is the only remaining option. We wish them well but doubt that the action will do any good. Mr. Obama is presently scouting for his next employment opportunity, serving the people is not one of them, corporate directorships are.

SOURCE: “Bill McKibben: We Don’t Trust Obama”, COMMON DREAMS (February 7, 2014)