The last fourth of the 6 January 1941 State of the Union Address to Congress
A 75-year old speech reminds of us a time before the corporate capture of politics, when even a well-born WASP president recognized that freedom requires ending special privilege for the few and had to include economic security for workers and those unable to work. There is probably no better guide to understanding why the rich hated "that man in the White House" every bit as much as the right hates President Obama, a far less liberal thinker, today.
This is the last fourth of FDR's 1941 "State of the Union" address to Congress. He spent much of the speech outlining the "Lend Lease" program of sending arms to Britain to help it keep Hitler at bay. FDR had to overcome the fact that many prominent Americans on the right cheered Hitler's results in Germany and promoted the idea that America should ignore the fight in Europe. But FDR's speech did not just discuss arms and war -- he segued from Lend Lease to discussing the basic social contract that had to exist to justify taking Americans toward what FDR knew would be a titanic war against fascism.
FDR's speech captured the essence of the progressive struggle against the Gilded Age policies that still mainly dominated up to FDR's election and the "New Deal." Undoing FDR's legacy has been the main object of the Republican Party ever since, and they have succeeded to a frightening degree in convincing average folks that what is good for the top 1% is good for America, despite all evidence to the contrary.
The 272-word Gettysburg Address is the standard by which all Presidential speaking is judged. This part of FDR's speech lacks the amazing crystalline precision and simplicity of that speech and can seem leaden and dull in comparison. But in terms of effect, the roughly 600 additional words FDR used to outline a positive program for the American Century were well used.
As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone. Those who man our defenses, and those behind them who build our defenses, must have the stamina and the courage which come from unshakable belief in the manner of life which they are defending. The mighty action that we are calling for cannot be based on a disregard of all things the worth fighting for.
Maine's Sam Smith, long-time inspiration for OregonPEN, founder and publisher of "The Progressive Review" for many years and still busy giving life to Utah Phillips' pointed observation that "The long memory is the most radical idea in this country. It is the loss of that long memory which deprives our people of that connective flow of thoughts and events that clarifies our vision, not of where we're going, but where we want to go.”
Sam Smith, 2011
"Whistleblowers," n., People who lose the match when wrestling with their own integrity trapped in jobs working for the ones who won.
; 1773 – Confidential letters exposed by Benjamin Franklin proved the governor of Massachusetts misled Parliament to promote a military buildup in the new world. The governor was dishonorably discharged and exiled.
Attorney General tells Ethics panel it must recognize online-only press as news media, same as old kind
This issue of OregonPEN - an online-only newspaper with a mission of helping empower people in Oregon - is given over to republication of a milestone opinion from the Attorney General about the ability of nontraditional media to demand parity with the declining "institutional" media outlets such as traditional printed newspapers. The absence of public interest coverage in the traditional media is already a calamity; as the disappearance of corporate-owned and corporate advertiser-funded newspapers accelerates (at an accelerating rate), this opinion is crucial, because it paves the way for publications such as OregonPEN to start filling the gaps left by the collapse of printed media.
Just as the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord were small events that heralded a much greater one soon to follow, the welcome conclusion to the new Attorney General opinion will have profound effects on the ability to oversee public entities in Oregon in the 21st Century. The conclusion to the opinion:
The law permits news-gathering representatives of institutional media to attend executive sessions. The statutory term "news media" is broad and flexible enough to encompass changing technologies for delivering the news. A governing body may not exclude a representative of the news media from an executive session except as specifically allowed by ORS 192.660(4) and (5). The commission generally may adopt rules to carry out its duty to enforce the executive session law, but it is prohibited by ORS 192.660(10) from adopting a rule that establishes which entities are considered representatives of the news media. Governing bodies may adopt policies relating to the admission of media representatives to executive sessions, but those policies cannot limit the statutory right of representatives of the news media to attend executive sessions. In evaluating allegations that an individual was wrongly excluded from executive session, the commission must assess compliance with the statute, regardless of a governing body's policies.
18 April 2016 No. 8291
In 1998, Oregon pioneered a humane, legal alternative for people with terminal illness
In this political year, with its relentless din like the sounds of an agitated troupe of howler monkeys, it's easy to feel a flood of cynicism and pessimism during all waking hours that makes even the nightmares of sleep seem benign in comparison.
Which is why it's refreshing to take note of a positive milestone in Oregon political history, the 18th anniversary of the first use of Oregon's Death with Dignity law, implemented in 1998. The law allows terminally ill Oregonians who are physically capable of self-administering prescription drugs to choose the time of their death. Fiercely opposed from the start, the law endures, a tribute to the basic good sense of Oregonians, who had to go around the Legislature and pass the measure by initiative.
None of the opponents' lurid fears about the law have come true. So each year, a few score Oregonians are able to obtain a prescription and feel a huge sense of relief knowing that they are not helpless before the ravages of their disease and that they can end their suffering if they wish. Not surprisingly, many Oregonians obtain the prescription but never use it, but they benefit from the law just as much as if they did take the drugs. In their last days, they are freed from terror of the unknown and from overwhelming pain.
America tends to treat aging as a disease and death as an optional exercise, so it makes sense that the movement for legal Death with Dignity found its first success in Oregon, a state that still prides itself on going its own way politically.
Below is the annual DHS data summary on the use of the Death with Dignity law, followed by the official DHS descriptions of the law and its history.
OREGON DEATH WITH DIGNITY ACT: 2015 DATA SUMMARY
Participation Summary and Trends During 2015,
A summary of DWDA prescriptions written and medications ingested are shown in Figure 2.
Death with Dignity Act Requirements
Death with Dignity Act History
Excerpts from the first report
Q: What is Oregon's Death with Dignity Act?
Starting in June, Californians like Brittany Maynard will have legal access to Death with Dignity at Home
Press Release / March 10, 2016
Oregon pioneered a funding system for a different era, and it has become a terrible albatross around our necks
The early automobile lobby sold Oregon on a new idea, a gas tax devoted entirely to paying for roads. And it worked to "get Oregon out of the mud." But, since then, the tax and the limits on the uses have changed dramatically, to the point where the "users" pay less than half of what the roads really cost. Which means that property taxes -- constitutionally capped in Oregon -- are a stealth road tax, and divert an ever larger stream of money away from public goods like public health, schools, and good governance.
This is a lengthy interview, but it's one of the most important hidden features in the Oregon political landscape. If you want to understand why Oregon is so full of unmet needs, you have to understand this stealth drain on our resources. As always, this interview has been edited to remove verbal tics and repititions; words added in editing are noted in [brackets].
Chuck Marohn, StrongTowns.org (CM): “America is in a transportation policy crisis. The federal highway trust fund regularly flirts with insolvency. Our transportation infrastructure is aging. Demand for other options is on the rise with limited available funding to serve their growing needs.” That’s from a new report by The Frontier Group and The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. The report's called Who Pays for Roads, and I have Tony Dutzik, one of the authors of this report. He's a senior policy analyst with The Frontier Group. Tony, you've been on the podcast before. Welcome back.
Initiative effort by both office holders and activists
Local activists and elected officials have combined in Benton County to promote an initiative to bring ranked-choice voting (RCV) to county elections, which would let county voters rank candidates 1, 2, 3, and so on, instead of being forced to cast a single vote for just one candidate. With RCV, voters can vote for their favorite candidate without concerns about "spoilers" and wasted votes. The text of the Benton County measure:
Better Ballot Benton County Charter Amendment
The "Better Ballot Benton" campaign website explains the motivation for using RCV, which is expressly mentioned in the Oregon Constitution, in a section added in the height of the Progressive Reform era, when the "Oregon System" of initiatives and referendums was pioneered.
In all elections authorized by this constitution until otherwise provided by law, the person or persons receiving the highest number of votes shall be declared elected, but provision may be made by law for elections by equal proportional representation of all the voters for every office which is filled by the election of two or more persons whose official duties, rights and powers are equal and concurrent.
Arguments in favor from the "Better Ballot Benton" website:
Bring Ranked Choice Voting to Benton County
Students at Oregon State University, one of Oregon’s largest universities, turned out in record numbers to vote in the student government’s first ranked choice election (RCV) taking place from April 15-18th. After 9 rounds of counting, Oregon State University undergrads elected Taylor Sarman and Bryan Williamson as President and Vice-president of the Associated Students (ASOSU) in a race that drew over 3,300 student voters to the polls. The results were announced on April 20th in the student newspaper The Barometer.
As advocates in Benton County work to bring a better ballot to elections there, the rest of Oregon should be considering the advantages of ranked choice voting as well. FairVote, the premier nonpartisan elections reform organization, has an outstanding trove of materials about ranked choice voting and its benefits. Reprinted from the FairVote website, with links.
Ranked Choice Voting
From our overstocked archives -- Sam Smith, 2011
As I was listening recently to a Bob Edwards interview with Kirsten Downey, biographer of the New Deal labor secretary, Frances Perkins, it struck me that the first woman ever to hold cabinet office in American history had played a key role in getting more accomplished than the last three decades of American liberalism combined - things like the Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, Social Security, federal insurance for bank accounts, welfare, unemployment insurance, child labor laws, bargaining rights for labor, restrictions on overtime, a 40 hour work week and a minimum wage.
Perkins' colleagues in the New Deal also brought us legal alcohol, regulation of the stock exchanges, the Soil Conservation Service, national parks and monuments, the Tennessee Valley Authority, rural electrification, the FHA, a big increase in hospital beds, and the Small Business Administration.
Add to that the numerous achievements of the Great Society including bilingual education, civil rights legislation, community action agencies, Head Start, job Corps, the national endowments for arts and humanities, Teacher Corps, anti-poverty programs, nutrition assistance, Medicare and Medicaid.
Next to this, post-1980 liberalism seems at best pathetic and at worst a major betrayal of its own past. Even the otherwise crummy Nixon administration did better - bringing us EPA, affirmative action, the Clean Air Act, the first Earth Day, indexing Social Security for inflation, Supplemental Security income, OSHA, and healthcare reform.
Future historians seeking to learn why America so easily surrendered its democratic traditions and constitutional government to a rabid right will find plenty to study in the rise of a liberal aristocracy that became increasingly disinterested in its own historic values. Like all aristocracies, it came to exist primarily to protect itself, had an impermeable faith in its own virtue, and held in contempt those who did not share its values or accept its hegemony.
For many years, 20th century liberalism was saved from becoming an aristocracy because of the dominance of constituencies such as labor, European socialists and ethnic minorities. By the 1980s, however, these constituencies - thanks in no small part to successful liberal policies - had advanced socially and economically to the point that they no longer functioned as a massive reminder of what liberalism was meant to be about.
With the end of the Great Society, Democrats began a steady retreat from liberalism climaxing in Clinton and Obama with their systematic dismantling of liberal programs and paradigms. As Glen Ford, editor of the Black Agenda Report, put it recently, "President Obama seems positively eager to dismantle the safety nets put in place in the thirties and strengthened by a black-led movement in the sixties."
Among the greatest victims of this retreat have been economic decency, social democracy and civil liberties. It was not that the new liberal aristocrats actually opposed them; it just didn't matter much to them. Liberalism was no longer a matter of masses yearning to breathe free, but of boomers yearning for an SUV and millennials for a new I-Something.
While there were still repeated expressions of faith in a declining number of icons such as diversity, abortion, and the environment, the fact was that the liberal elite had become far more characterized by its capacity for self-defense than by its concern or action for others.
Most striking was the disappearing interest in those at the bottom. Liberal city councils went after the homeless, pandered to developers, and engaged in other forms of socio-economic cleansing. The Clinton administration attacked welfare in a manner once limited to the Republican right; prison populations soared without a murmur from the liberals; Democrats supported without question a cruel and unconstitutional war on drugs; they joined the war on two centuries of public education; and liberal media aristocrats prided themselves in faux realpolitik and patronizing prescriptions for the masses. Obama gave freely to the banks but hardly noticed the foreclosed.
The trend produced remarkable twists of liberal values. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus backed the war on drugs; the leaders of NOW repeatedly defended a sexually predatory male in the White House. And liberal academia provided all purpose justification through the magic rationalization of postmodernism.
Through it all, the liberal aristocracy was the dog that didn't bark. Just as Sherlock Holmes' creature failed to warn of an intruder, so America's liberal leadership failed repeatedly to warn of infringements of civil liberties, of unconstitutional acts and legislation, or to rise to the defense of people beyond its own class.
When the liberal aristocracy backed the war on drugs, happily sacrificed national and local sovereignty to multinational corporations, yawned as the Clintons disassembled their own former cause, and looked the other way as Obama expanded the police state, it was clear that this atrophied elite would not handle a real crisis.
Thought without action is the coitus interruptus of the mind, which may be why liberals produced so few progeny. A politics so heavily grounded in intellectual considerations as opposed to human experience, runs the constant risk of losing its bearings. A wiser approach was espoused by Julius Nyerere who argued that the true revolutionary acted as one of thought and thought as one of action. Another great African activist, Nelson Mandela, credited cattle farming rather than universities as his inspiration. Moving herds around, he explained, had taught him how to lead from behind.
Too great an intellectual bias turns citizens into data -- economic or sociological aggregates rather than human organisms. And it produces bizarre, incomprehensible, ineffective legislation like the current health care law.
Politics involves real people and it helps to speak real people talk. Many liberals have a tin ear for their presumed constituency. This involves more than a choice of words; the over-refined language is clouded with abstractions while disdaining the anecdotes and metaphors that every good preacher knows is the easiest way to propel a message.
I sometimes think that liberalism died when, in the last few decades, its advocates started talking about "infrastructure" instead of public works. The language of obfuscation added to the divide between liberals and others.
Thomas Jefferson said that people "by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties:
There is little doubt as to which of these parties many liberals belong. Rhetoric notwithstanding, too often those leading liberal America believe they were born to rule. In fact, their profound self-assurance on this score helps to explain another anomaly of liberals and leftists: the frequency with which you will find them -- Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are names that spring to mind -- cavorting with those whose politics should be an anathema. The reason is simply that the blood of their entitlement is thicker than that of their ideology. What really ties Washington together and unites it against the rest of the country is not policy but a common understanding of the sort of person who should be in charge.
Now the economy has fallen, our world status collapsed, our Constitution tattered, and our civil liberties deteriorating by the day. And in the place of a quietly incompetent alliance between conservative and liberal elites, we now find a rabid Republicanism rising unlike anything seen before - the most extremist mainstream party in our history.
The collapse of liberalism, of course, is only one cause - less important, to be sure, than the cult of Reaganism, reckless capitalism or Citizens United, perhaps the worst Supreme Court decision ever. But this much we know: you cannot win in the eighth or ninth round if you give up in the first or second. At the very least, liberal disintegration opened doors sooner and wider through which the rabid right could easily enter.
And there are scary precedents. For example, Article 48 of the constitution of the Weimar Republic stated, "In case public safety is seriously threatened or disturbed, the Reich President may take the measures necessary to reestablish law and order, if necessary using armed force. In the pursuit of this aim, he may suspend the civil rights described in articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153, partially or entirely. The Reich President must inform the Reichstag immediately about all measures undertaken . . . The measures must be suspended immediately if the Reichstag so demands."
It was this article that Hitler used to peacefully establish his dictatorship. And why was it so peaceful and easy? Because, according to historian Thomas Childers, the 'democratic" Weimar Republic had already used it 57 times prior to Hitler's ascendancy.
There are eerie similarities between Article 48 and the Patriot Act and warrantless powers being granted law enforcement in America. Yet traditional liberals have been astonishingly passive in the face of this huge assault on the Constitution. And get incensed if you mention the word facism.
Progressives, populists, Greens, socialists and others fed up with the bipartisan crisis of our politics need to make a clearly visible break with dysfunctional liberalism and define a new way of approaching our problems. Here are a few things that could help it happen:
That's just a short list of the sort of things that would separate a new left from liberalism.
Groups of disaffected progressives, Greens and issue activists could use the Internet to compile a short list policies that would define a new movement for a post-liberal era and start to rewrite the political chart. As it stands, we know that liberals hate Palin, Bachman, and the Koch Brothers. But what they really stand for remains a mystery.
If you think there are not enough of us to create a new movement with clear goals, consider this: over the past few years polls have found that a majority of Americans support:
Gay marriage, opposition to the drug war, legalizing marijuana, ending corporate personhood, increasing taxes on the wealthy, leaving Social Security alone, ending capital punishment, universal health coverage, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,
doing something about climate change, and public campaign financing, Further, resolutions critical of the Patriot Act have been passed in 378 communities in 43 states including six state-wide resolutions.
On many of these issues, traditional liberals have often been lazy, passive, indifferent, opposed or afraid to do anything. And the media has kept this real majority view well hidden.
We need to change this, but we can't do it by looking the other way or hiding under the table. You can't do it sucking up to Democratic presidents who expand wars and send welfare to Wall Street instead of helping those in real trouble. You can't do it pretending that we're not losing our civil liberties.
Traditional liberalism must be put to sleep and replaced with something that recovers the spirit and ideals that it lost or discarded along the way.
The liberal approach has become elitist; the alternative is populist. One draws from European history and thought; the other is rooted in American experience. One favors a centralized state and believes in the beneficence of large bureaucracies; the other is skeptical of grand institutions and keeps pulling decisions back towards the community based democracy. One seeks confrontation; the other consensus. One is polar; the other holistic. One is rational; the other spiritual.
And one is dead, and the other is still waiting to be born.
Reprinted with kind permission of Sam Smith and his inimitable "Undernews," site, inspiring OregonPEN for decades by offering "The News While There's Still Time to Do Something About It." As a coda on this piece, Sam noted that "Some of the above appeared first in an article [in 2001,] ten years ago. Sadly, not much as changed."