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This is a question for political activists of any ideological stripe. When you attend a demonstration, what is your purpose? For many of you it seems like a ridiculous overly introspective question, but really, have you thought about it?

I’ve already posted and dedicated a couple of radio shows to the idea of “activistism” or action for it’s own sake. I asked the question on one show and only one caller even attempted to address the question directly. He said he attended demonstrations for his own morale, whether it did any “good” beyond that. Fair enough. Rallying the troops is more than an adequate purpose, especially at the beginning of any war where the patriotism quotient is running at 9 to 1 or worse and the airwaves are completely one-sided. I remember during the first Gulf War, FAIR kept tabs of the interviews on CNN. They found that only two of those interviewed for the first 30 days of conflict opposed the war, and on Nightline, one of them was cut off by Ted Koppel who said that the expert had not been brought in to voice opposition to the war but to comment on some obscure aspect of it. So, yeah, I don’t want to play down that value to the demonstrations.

But I’ve attended the last few demonstrations in Eureka. The first, just before the war, was empowering or at least morale boosting. But between the bizarre behavior of a few individuals, the often grating rhetoric which stretches the sentiments well beyond the average person’s opposition to the war, and the prominence of conspiracy theorists, speaking of which, reminiscent of the discrediting efforts of Cointelpro – “normal people” haven’t been brought into the visible opposition.

As a teenager and during my early college years I attended many demonstrations of all sorts, large and small. I started to get jaded with them by the mid 1980s when I was attending many in and around the Bay Area. I started to recognize the “usual suspects,” and poorly organized demos would consist of the various sectarian Marxist groups trying to sell their papers to each other and confused bystanders. I remember one gathering in particular at Union Square, where George Schulz, or maybe Al Haig, somebody from the Reagan cabinet, was attending some sort of Conference in the St. Francis Hotel. It was poorly attended, selecting for the usuals. You had the CISPES people at the center holding the placards opposite the police like and metal barriers, chanting the same old chants which sometimes rhymed. I’d come up from the BART station after work to do my civic duty, was approached by the usuals pitching Workers Vanguard, Revolutionary Worker, The Militant, and I forget which paper was put out by the DeLeon group. Oh and the one put out by the group which thought Albania was the salvation of the human race.

I made my way to the tables. Same old pamphlets. Same old faces.

I made my way to the crowd. Same old chants. Same old speeches. Same bullhorns with the same stickers I’d seen at the events for years. Same banners, getting tattered with age. A ritual, with no twists. No thought. A demonstration which would be reported between the weather and reports of car accidents. With people walking by just as accustomed to the event as they were of the guy holding up the signs on Market Street warning about impending Armageddon, and the Scientologists and Moonies pushing their leaflets with big vacuous smiles.

I concluded right there that the demonstrations weren’t merely a waste of time. They hurt the causes – whatever the causes were, which was rarely clear.

So back to my question. What makes a demonstration “successful?” Merely that it happens? Can a demonstration be counterproductive to the cause? What specifically are the goals? Are you trying to reach people? Attract media coverage? Rattle some nerves in power? Do you think about how to attain these goals, tailoring the rhetoric to the goals? Is the timing important? The demographics of the attendees?

Just questions.

Photo comes from Zombie, a right winger who photographs demos in the Bay Area.

Somebody at the SF Bay Guardian must have read my eulogy for OH’s. Check out this review:

Everything about Bar Bambino (2931 16th St.; 701-8466, is carefully rustic. In the restaurant’s front window, a rough-hewn community table seats 10 and a soft white Italian marble bar reaches all the way back to an open section of the kitchen, displaying cheeses and charcuterie. A few scattered indoor tables give way to a quiet, heated outdoor patio. The menu shows owner Christopher Losa’s love for northern Italy, where he lived for several years: the food is simple, traditional Italian, like the polpetti, pork-and-veal meatballs in a rich tomato sauce with dark chard. There’s nothing superfluous on the plates (order some sides for that), and the dishes are affordable. “I’m all about gastronomic progression, but how many times a week can you eat peppered sardines in cilantro foam?” laughs Losa. “Sometimes you just want a plate of really good pasta.” The highly polished Italian wine list offsets Bar Bambino’s simple food.

But really, if you want great simple Italian food, Little Joe’s (not “Original Joe’s” or any of the others), which used to be on Broadway, then Van Ness, but now located somewhere south of Market has the best marina sauce over raviolis anywhere. I wrote about it a year ago. My opinion hasn’t changed.

More than one in a hundred American adults are presently behind bars. The highest percentage of any nation currently. Yippee!

And I believe California is even higher, thanks to three strikes and despite prop 36. Takes some doing.

Matt Gonzalez, who came within inches of the SF Mayor’s office back in 2002 (and to whom I sent money) will be running for Vice President. Well, as much as I want the Democrats to retake the White House this year, I find it exciting that Gonzalez is back in politics. He had been on the Board in SF representing the Haight-Ashbury District and decided to go back into private practice not long after losing the Mayoral race to Gavin Newsom.

It should freshen up Ralph Nader’s run as he couldn’t choose a more dynamic running mate in someone who came very close to making the Green Party a player in California politics. Demographically and culturally speaking – he’s me – sort of in between baby-boom and gen x, post-hippie, non-punk, yuppie-but-not-yuppie, lost generation who remembers his first Clash album while enduring Billy Don’t be a Hero on all the airwaves. It’s likely he and I attended some of the same parties in SF (the ones with dim blue and red lightbulbs all over the house, usually in a rustic Victorian in the Mission District filled with grad student and art grant recipient tenants – with plenty medium priced booze served in plastic glasses and the background aroma of you-know-what from this county) in the early 90s and we probably have many of the same books on our shelves and much of the same music in our CD collections.

I still think it’s a pointless run, and instead of going for the Hail Mary every time the Greens ought to work on getting local candidates elected so they can work up a leadership base and infrastructure to run for higher offices. But they don’t listen to me, so what can you do?

The photo comes from the SF Chronicle article linked above.

Addendum: Yes, this is a weird week for me, praising campaigns I don’t support.

Second addendum: Hmmm. I wondered what had become of James Hammer. Hammer, now one of Gonzalez’ law partners, was an SF prosecutor famous for obtaining the conviction of dog owners who’s pets had killed a lesbian woman in an apartment building. Some may remember that the dogs were raised in Hayfork, bringing a local element into the story. Anyway, James Hammer is now openly gay. He wasn’t (open) when I knew him briefly while we both attended Half Moon Bay High School. In fact, I remember a religious argument which left me with the distinct impression he was very conservative. I think he probably liked Billy Don’t be a Hero. Anyway, he’s in private practice with Gonzalez after a brief stint as legal talking head for one of the networks.

Third addendum: Whew! Mayor Gavin Newsom on Gonzalez. I have to say, that the debate between them which I heard on the radio was the most high level intelligent debate I’ve heard between political candidates, and I mean the most. That includes races for president, senate, etc. Both were extremely knowledgeable, passionate, articulate, and most importantly candid with policy and philosophical details. About the only silly line in the whole campaign was Newsom saying he was for ideas and not ideology, which Gonzalez played around with in a way that you could only get away with erudite electorate of San Francisco.

Simply put, for the sake of America’s future, the Nader-Gonzalez ticket must be considered and challenged as the very real threat it is.

If had to make an educated guess, I would bet that Matt Gonzalez’s name ID outside of San Francisco is somewhere south of zero. But the fact is, Matt Gonzalez is a dynamic and accomplished politician who will bring both a charming charisma and a steely discipline to the Nader effort.

When Matt ran for Mayor, he was able to attract both the enthusiasm of young voters and the money of many developers who didn’t like my stands on their projects. He jumped into the race late, even though both a strong gay candidate and a progressive woman were already running credible campaigns – and he beat them.

Matt is a smart, tough and ruthless campaigner who will help make the Nader ticket just effective enough to be dangerous. I respect my fellow San Franciscan as an opponent. I respect him as a thinker. And I like and respect him as a person.

But what Matt Gonzalez and Ralph Nader are doing to our nation is beyond divisive – it is dangerous. Every progressive and Democrat needs to recognize that in the Nader-Gonzalez candidacy, we gain nothing but have everything to lose.

Read the whole thing. One more thing, Gonzalez would never bop his friend’s wife. Newsom ought to reflect on that.

Fourth addendum: According to the NY Times, they will not be seeking the Green Party nomination, but will instead run as independents.

Fifth addendum: A hilarious video of “anonymous” advice for Nader.

Wasn’t there a Gospel quote about Jesus being popular everywhere except for his home town? Well, Dennis Kucinich isn’t Jesus, but apparently some of his constituents are feeling neglected.

The Cleveland Scene, an alternative newspaper, has an article up about his opponent, a former Kucinich groupie named Joe Cimperman who wanted to commission a portrait of the congressman, but got burned and then got pissed.

The new Kucinich, he argues, is rarely involved in matters at home anymore. He’s twice run for president, but barely registered in the national consciousness. Meanwhile, while the congressman was “spending all his time in Hawaii and Syria,” Cleveland was being rushed to an economic emergency ward.

So Cimperman decided to take Kucinich’s job — the 10th Congressional District seat, representing an area that stretches from Cleveland to North Olmsted. It’s not like he’s betraying his mentor, says Cimperman. “I didn’t leave Dennis. Dennis left me.”


A few weeks later, Cimperman delivered a gift basket — stuffed with sausages and a map of Cuyahoga County — to Kucinich’s house. The message: In case you forgot about Cleveland . . .

The next week, a staffer filmed him as he went to Kucinich’s office to drop off a “missing” flier featuring the congressman’s face.


He immediately launched TV ads attacking Kucinich’s most vulnerable flanks, accusing him of ignoring his job and failing to deliver anything meaningful to the district.

Kucinich was forced to cut short his presidential bid and scurry back to Cleveland. He seemed to understand that he faced a legitimate threat, an opponent regarded as such a tireless campaigner and aggressive self-promoter that he’s often accused of grandstanding.

In other words, Kucinich had come home to battle a younger version of himself.


Yet outside the unswayable core, Kucinich has done his best to alienate lay Democrats. His two presidential bids seemed like the antics of a kid brother who’s constantly trying to play with the older boys. Despite three years of nonstop campaigning, he rarely scored more than 1 percent in the primaries.


At home he (Kucinich) was anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage, praising the merits of bowling and sausage. In California he was a vegan liberal. At home he refused to debate his opponents; in New Hampshire and Nevada he sued to be included.


Unfortunately, Scene couldn’t get Kucinich on the phone either. His cell phone picks up after one ring. This is Dennis. Thanks for calling. I’m looking forward to speaking with you . . .

But he never calls back.

And lest you think this is a flank attack by conservatives and/or Democratic Party insiders, Cimperman has mostly championed progressive causes including a failed attempt to keep WalMart out of Cleveland. He has compromised on other issues according to the article, but he does not appear to be hitting Kucinich from the right. On the other hand, note the first comment to the article which claims that Kucinich has an excellent attendance record in Congress despite his campaigns – and isn’t that really the job of a congressional representative? The portrait incident may actually weigh against Cimperman’s central theme.

Still, Kucinich’s sudden departure from the presidential race would indicate that he’s well aware of his vulnerabilities.

Disclosure: I voted for Kucinich in the 2004 primary.

The man who introduced intellectualism to conservative politics died today. The magazine he founded, National Review, has a symposium and a slide show. I’ll gather up some thoughts and type them out a little later on, but I miss his style of conservatism in the age of Limbaugh and Coulter.

Buckley’s career took off in the 1950s with the book “Up From Liberalism,” wherein on the very first page he warned of the danger that “comes when a distrust of doctrinaire social systems eases over into a dissolute disregard for principle.” It was perhaps an early plea for what would decades later be referred to as “compassionate conservatism. He also differed from his fellow conservatives from a libertarian perspective on the drug war. In fact, he would take his sailboat out of American legal jurisdiction waters and smoked marijuana (apparently not concerned about the possession issues up to that point) and was quite open about it. And more recently, he broke with his fellow NRO team to oppose the Iraq war.

And while other conservatives felt betrayed by Buckley’s protege Michael Lind when the latter made the journey to the liberal dark side in the mid 1990s, Buckley maintained the utmost respect for Lind and continued to publish him. This even after Lind wrote a book and named it in parody “Up from Conservatism.”

This isn’t the most flattering remembrance of him, but it’s a famous clip from a debate between Buckley and Gore Vidal during the 1868 Democratic Party convention. During the exchange Vidal calls Buckley a “crypto-nazi” and Buckley threatened to punch Vidal in the nose. Vidal later apologized saying he’d meant to say “crypto-fascist” rather than “crypto-nazi.”

Here’s an old debate with Noam Chomsky.

The photo comes from Britannica.

Matthew Owen, who invited me to speak at the Rotary Club in Eureka on Monday (where I was clearly out of my element), reports to me that an elderly gentleman told him that he didn’t think he was going to like my talk. First off, he didn’t know what a “blog” is. Secondly, I was from Sohum, a liberal, and an attorney – three strikes against me.

But he told Matthew that he thought my talk turned out to be “very interesting.”

Hey, they laughed at my jokes! I can’t ask for more.

I don’t have the time to post a full report right now, but I was at the event at the Garberville Fire Department earlier today. A good turnout – I counted about 120 people. Culturally diverse crowd and even some young people. Very upbeat and positive event.

Her website is up.

I’ll have more to report when I can find the time later today.


Okay, so I was a little late to the event which was marked a block away with a sign and red, white, and blue balloons. Campaign Treasurer Karyn Thomas was speaking when I arrived. I just caught the tail end of her introduction. There were probably about a hundred people there and I think a couple dozen more arrived after me. According to one organizer, they got about twice as many people as they had anticipated.

Present from the north were Eureka City Council Member Chris Kerrigan and Greg and Carol, all of whom will be working on Estelle’s campaign.

Karyn introduced David Kirby who spoke about the differences and points of unity between northern and southern district, the latter being state of the economy. He then introduced Estelle as a candidate of unity.

Estelle began by describing the Second District folk as “self starters” who are “not looking for hand-outs.” She then moved into a discussion of issues of infrastructure, including roads. “It’s not just pot holes” she said, noting that she has driven every single county road and finds that there are entire pieces of road missing on some. She noted that Shelter Cove residents finally had to take matters into their own hands and fill in a large hole which had been causing them grief. She moved into Roger Rodoni’s failure to adequately address the needs of the fire departments of the Second District.

She opened up the gathering for questions. Holly Sweet spoke up about the need for public restrooms in Redway, talking about troubles the lack of bathrooms are causing for her business property. Holly emphasized that she didn’t want a government response which essentially blamed the poor for their situations. Estelle responded that it was a “sticky situation,” complicated by the mental problems and drug usage of some of the homeless and supported the idea of experimenting with the placement of port-o-potties to see how it would work. She emphasized that the problem was really one which had to be addressed by a comprehensive policy which emphasized access to social services and pointed to an effort in Eureka, the funding for which Roger was the only opposition vote. She agreed that she did not want to target the poor and that their needs should not just be ignored.

Asked about the Richardson Grove controversy, she responded that she had attended last week’s meeting at the Wharfinger and that while she understands the objections of environmentalists, she also understands the issue from all perspectives and said that the widening of 101 is very important to a number of independent businesses. (Before anybody jumps all over her about it I should note that Clif also holds a nuanced view of the issue and both candidates want to keep the dialog open to look for situations which address all concerns comprehensively – I would also note that the candidates may be ambiguous on the issue because the project and its apparent opposition is also very ambiguous. See the post and thread below on topic.).

In response to a question about the County’s case against McKee she noted that the Court has found him in compliance with all laws and the contract with the county and that the county had been in violation of the same. I took this to mean that she would vote to drop the lawsuit if elected.

A teacher brought up budget cuts. Estelle indicated that that would be out of her jurisdiction as a supervisor, but that the teachers should let her know what she could do to help.

A representative of the Second District Volunteer Firefighters Association (I’m really not sure if I got the name right, but I’ll correct it when I have the information) announced a vote to endorse Estelle.

Another attendee blamed the problems of the roads on environmentalists who pushed regulations which make it so expensive to fix them. There was an awkward moment of silence, which Estelle ended with “okay,” then passed the microphone on to someone else.

After a few more speakers she thanked the crowd for turning out and announced that she will be holding an event at Fortuna River Lodge on March 13 at 2 to 4 p.m., an event organized by Harold Mendes.

She had signs, bumper stickers, and buttons – all red, white, and blue. Clif’s paraphernalia is also red, white, and blue. Roger’s is green. Read into all that what you will.

The shot of Estelle flanked by her impressive campaign committee comes from her website, linked above. The photo of Estelle with firefighters also comes from the site. The photo at the top from today’s event comes via e-mail from Kim Sallaway.

I’ll share some points later. I missed some of the debate taking care of dinner and kids, but I’ll watch what I missed later. Russert is more aggressive than he should be, and he’s annoying both candidates – Clinton a bit more. She responded with a wry smile when he challenged her on her 2000 promise of more jobs in upstate New York by responding, “I thought Al Gore would be president.”

And apparently Obama “rejected and denounced” Farrakhan. (Clinton told him that “rejecting” wasn’t strong enough and that he had to “denounce” – he then did both).

I actually prefer Clinton’s health care proposal to Obama’s, but they kind of went over the same old ground. Clinton’s proposal punishes poor people who can’t afford the insurance and doesn’t specify subsidies. Obama’s plan doesn’t allow for the economies of scale needed to assure the success of the plan, and besides Obama mandates coverage for kids. Etc.

Some highlights leading into the debate, yesterday’s sarcastic speech was probably Clinton’s best moment in the campaign. Too little too late, but a nice moment. See, in case you missed it in tonight’s debate, she’s “a fighter.” She said it about 5 or 6 times.

Obama emphasized the difference being that he draws a bigger crowd into his tent. Sen. Christopher Dodd endorsed Obama this morning, remarking: “For 27 years I’ve been hearing about ‘Reagan Democrats.’ Now for the first time I’m hearing about ‘Obama Republicans.'”

Both promised to pull out of NAFTA if they don’t secure better labor and environmental standards.

I think this is the SNL skit Clinton’s been referencing.

More later.


Incriminating Obama photos! Hanoi Jane connection?


Oops! Diebold just accidentally leaked the 2008 results! Also, the situation in Nigeria is very complex. And they’re imposing waiting periods on suicide bombing vests in Iraq.


Okay, I guess I got sidetracked. Democratic Party nomination debate number 20 is in the history books. If I think of anything else intelligent to say about it I’ll post it here.


Well I watched the portions I missed. The most interesting part was the question about what vote each would take back. Clinton said she’d take back the war authorization, which automatically makes her a candidate five times stronger than Kerry who wimped out on the question. And Obama apologized for not putting up a fight to keep the federal government out of the painful Terry Schiavo situation, where right wing senators played doctor and ultimately the autopsy revealed there really was nothing left of her brain (after the physicians who said so were raked over the coals all over the airwaves). Good answers both.

Oh, and I had it reversed. “Reject” is stronger than “denounce.” I didn’t know that.

And Tim Russert is a pompous jerk.


Addendum: Here’s some background into the Farrakahn reject/denounce exchange last night, and perhaps a preview of what he’s facing in the general election campaign.

Yesterday I was the guest speaker (about blogging) at a Rotary meeting at the Warfinger in Eureka. I had a great time, and I’ll type up some notes about it later on. But before and after my talk I was asked by two individuals to explain the environmental opposition to the proposed realignment. One of them said, “we’re talking about four trees, all of them deciduous.” I haven’t really followed the issue, so I couldn’t really comment. I promised that I’d post something to draw comments so that people up north could understand what the issue is.

Unfortunately, I’m not at all clear about it even after reading the Redwood Times article. Certainly I would hope that there would be some sort of scientific inquiry about the impact on the old growth root systems, if there is an intelligent concern. The article states that concerns are posted at the EPIC site, but I can’t find any mention of the proposal except for this old alert from which I’ve lifted the photo.

So in a thousand words or less, what’s the story?


February 2008