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March 2, 2004

Getting real. John Kerry is now to all intents and purposes the Democratic nominee. If you want George W. Bush to stop being President of the United States, this is what you do:

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Take names and kick butt. Support the Popular Front. Win. [10:26 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Getting real.:

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2004, 12:12 AM:

Here's something Kerry can bring up tomorrow for the nightly news:

9/11 Panel Rejects White House Limits on Interviews - (New York Times)

WASHINGTON, March 2 The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is refusing to accept strict conditions from the White House for interviews with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and is renewing its request that Mr. Bush's national security adviser testify in public, commission members said Tuesday.

The panel members, interviewed after a private meeting on Tuesday, said the commission had decided for now to reject a White House request that the interview with Mr. Bush be limited to one hour and that the questioners be only the panel's chairman and vice chairman.

The members said the commission had also decided to continue to press the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to reconsider her refusal to testify at a public hearing. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are expected to be asked about how they had reacted to intelligence reports before Sept. 11, 2001, suggesting that Al Qaeda might be planning a large attack. Panel members want to ask Ms. Rice the same questions in public.

"We have held firm in saying that the conditions set by the president and vice president and Dr. Rice are not good enough," said Timothy J. Roemer, a former Indiana congressman who is one of five Democrats on the 10-member commission. ...

Time to play hardball, because that's what the other side is also playing. And if Bush thinks that 9/11 is only worth an hour of his time, he can damn well think again.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2004, 03:34 AM:

As long as we're talking different fronts in the War on Shrub, it is worth noting that Multnomah County will be performing same-sex marriages starting tomorrow. The county attorney noticed that state law on marriage defined it as a "civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age." As you'll no doubt notice yourself, that definition does not say anywhere that there has to be exactly one of each involved (actually, it doesn't seem to limit the total number to two, even, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here).

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2004, 08:09 AM:

Was at the KerryNY victory party last night. Met his sister. To say there is fire in the belly of the rank-and-file is to neglect the rhetorical qualities of the phrase "superheated stellar plasma", and to simply call us united is to neglect the fact that it was a Clark elector, on the ballot that morning, and a Deaniac out of the pages of the right-wing smear machine that were planning a six-digit fundraiser.

colleen lindsay ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2004, 08:17 AM:

Well, Dubbya has managed to do one thing very well in first term as Prez: He's united the Democratic party. When we oust the inept bastard in November, we can think kindlier of him for that miracle.

Nina ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2004, 10:57 AM:

Don't forget to support your local candidates for Congress, Senate and state offices. Even if you live in an overwhelmingly thug district, you never know when an incumbant will pull a Janklow, and your guy has to be there and organized.

And if you live in a safe Dem district, I admire and envy you. But I still caution you not to be complacent - the thug smear machine is out there, waiting for our guys to make a gaffe they can blow out of proportion.

Don't mourn, organize!

Ray ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2004, 11:22 AM:

"Don't mourn, organise"

Don't mean to rain on your parade, but given the IWW's positions on elections and political parties, that quote is not really appropriate here. I mean, if you think _Nader_ is an irresponsible splitter, what would you think of Joe Hill if he were alive today?

From San Diego up to Maine,
In every mine and mill,
Where workers strike and organise,
Says he "You'll find Joe Hill."

not 'where workers hold six-digit fundraisers to get one multi-millionaire elected rather than another', you'll note. :)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2004, 12:58 PM:

Actually, the whole idea of the IWW was the opposite of being a "splitter"--they were trying to organize the labor movement into One Big Union.

Moreover, holding six-digit fundraisers to get one multi-millionaire elected rather than another is sometimes exactly what "the workers" need to do. History is like that.

I wasn't the person with the Joe Hill quote, but that doesn't mean I can't admire the courage of the IWW, or that I mustn't think that the advice encoded in Hill's legendary dying words is good advice. As it happens, it's very good advice to anyone who has suffered a series of political blows. The idea that only far-left union organizers can derive wisdom from that piece of our history is unbecoming.

As to the "multimillionaire" bit, here's an excellent post on the subject from John-Paul at everythingsruined:

I'm really sick of hearing about how much money Kerry and Edwards have. Yes, they're millionaires and they don't live like the people they fight for. There are two really idiotic assumptions underneath this:
1) If you're wealthy, you should practice class allegiance. Puh-lease. Just because Bush and Dick have dedicated themselves to defending wealth doesn't mean that all wealthy people should act the same way. You can have money and still understand that poverty sucks and something should be done about it. And besides...
2) Only poor senators should fight for the poor. That would be fine, but there are no poor senators! Really. None. Poor people don't make it to office in this country, so they have to rely on rich people to fight for them. If there were one non-rich senator, then maybe he could run for president on a class warfare platform and no one would question his consistency. But then again, no one would question him at all, because he wouldn't exist, because he wouldn't have any backers. He wouldn't get on the ballot, he wouldn't be taken seriously, he wouldn't go to the fancy dinners and cocktail parties. He'd be too busy fighting for his fellow underclass and flying around in his rickety plane, trying to keep his senate seat from a well-funded right-wing whore. Old rickety planes are more likely to crash then corporate jets, so eventually Mr. Underclass senator would vacate his seat and the senate could go back to being a rich-men-only club.

Ray ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 05:22 AM:

"The idea that only far-left union organizers can derive wisdom from that piece of our history is unbecoming."

Well, to me the idea that a quotation can be stripped of its original context, and used in a way that the person who said it would probably violently disagree with, is equally unbecoming. Its like saying "Drink Dr Pepper! You've nothing to lose but your chains!", or "Fed up with those hills saying 'No pasaran!'? You need our new 4WD SUV!"

Kerry et al being multi-millionaires might not bother you, because you accept that most of the people who are going to run for high political office will be multi-millionaires. Fine. But the fact that most people running for high political office are multi-millionaires is one of the things the IWW would point to when they argue for industrial, rather than electoral action.

Which is where the 'splitter' bit comes in. Unlike Nader, who might take votes from Democrats by getting people to vote for him, many in the IWW would take votes from Democrats by telling people not to waste their time with elections. And the IWW were one group of workers who would not agree that what they needed to do at a particular time was hold big fundraisers for political candidates. It may be what _you_ think is right, but its almost certainly not what _Joe Hill_ meant when he urged people to organise.

(Yeah, I may be over-reacting, but quoting Joe Hill is the straw that breaks this anarchist's back)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 09:08 AM:

Yes, you are over-reacting. You're also cheating.

"Well, to me the idea that a quotation can be stripped of its original context, and used in a way that the person who said it would probably violently disagree with, is equally unbecoming. It's like saying 'Drink Dr Pepper! You've nothing to lose but your chains!', or 'Fed up with those hills saying "No pasaran!"? You need our new 4WD SUV!'

Both of your examples jam phrases of moral gravity up next to advertising copy. Of course this offends our sensibilities, as you intend, but it doesn't actually substantiate your argument, because nobody in this conversation was doing anything remotely like that.

Nina used the quotation from Joe Hill -- "Don't mourn, organize" -- to conclude a post urging people to pay attention to their local elections, and to not be politically complacent. You're now saying that this is "like" saying "Fed up with those hills saying 'No pasaran!'? You need our new 4WD SUV!" You know something? What Nina said wasn't "like" that at all. In fact, the accusation you're now making against her is grotesquely disproportionate to the original post.

So while I'd enjoy having a discussion of the rights and wrongs of appropriating aphorisms and quotations from historical works and people with whom one might not completely agree--or even of the history of the IWW and the American left, and the question of "industrial, over electoral action"--I'm afraid that right now it would take some work to convince me that you're really interested in that kind of conversation. Because at the moment it almost looks as if you're mostly interested in puffing yourself up by taking a nasty shot at somebody who's done nothing worse than make a historical allusion in the service of an innocuous point.

Ray ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 09:49 AM:

Okay, here are some better examples.
Suppose some school board in the Midwest decides to ban teaching of evolution (or give equal time to 'Intelligent Design'). The guy signing it in says "For the last century, evolutionists have been belittling mankind, making us nothing more than animals. Signing this order is a small step for a man, but a giant leap for mankind."
Or in California, some rabid anti-immigrationist calls for fences, border guards, mass deportations, and says "This situation must be stopped. If not now, when? If not by us..."

These are, of course, over the top examples. I'm not suggesting that Nina is proposing anything as bad as the people in these examples. But they're not trivial either. And I'm sure if they actually happened, you would be offended, because quotations that you felt were important, for what they said or because of the context in which they were originally said, were being used in a way that the original speaker (and you) would object to. Strenuously object to.

The IWW _could_ have devoted itself to electoralism if it had wanted to. There were presidential elections in 1912 and 1916, and Democratic candidates in each one (not to mention all of the other federal and state elections). But it didn't. (Its still around today, of course, and still works on industrial, not electoral issues, but the 1910's were the high point) So I have a hard time seeing the Kerry campaign as a continuation of the same struggle.

(FWIW, the smiley at the end of the first post, and the reference to over-reacting in the second post, were meant to indicate that I'm not sitting here in a boiling fury plotting my revenge on the evil electoralists taking the name of Joe in vain. But it did irritate me enough to want to post a correction. It would be nice if people quoting famous Wobblies knew a little more about what they stood for.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 11:45 AM:

Okay, those are less offensive examples. Sorry to get quite so hacked off.

I do know a fair bit about the IWW. I even had a slight social connection to someone who was on their governing board for many years, and longtime members of SF fandom who are reading this have a good chance of knowing who I'm talking about.

I guess I can see why you take exception, but honestly, I'm a lot more certain that Rabbi Hillel would have objected to being used in support of an immigrant-haters, and that Neil Armstrong would take a dim view of being quoted in support of attacks on evolution, than I am sure that Joe Hill would object to his words being quoted by a political liberal advocating electoral change 89 years after his death.

It's certainly true that the IWW advocated "industrial, rather than electoral action," a strategy that had some strong arguments in its favor in the second decade of the 20th century. It's also true that Hill's defenders weren't so hardline as to refuse to exert pressure on President Woodrow Wilson, through the more mainstream AFL, pushing Wilson to twice plead with the Republican governor of Utah to call off Hill's execution.

The point isn't that there was anything wrong with this; the point is that the IWW, like most other political actors, mixed strategies and tactics as the occasion demanded. Hill was no theoretician calling for progressives and reformers to forever abjure electoral action; he was a rough-and-tumble organizer and rabble-rouser who was inspired by the IWW's daring vision of a unified, international movement of workers. When he said "Don't waste time mourning--organize!" he wasn't expressing a view about the eternal superiority of direct industrial action to electoral politics; rather, he was dealing out a piece of stirring common sense that can be usefully taken to heart by anyone going up against an overweening power. So I remain unconvinced that Nina's use of his dying words is in any significant way comparable to the kinds of hypothetical travesties you keep devising.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 11:47 AM:

Moerover, to make one other observation about all this: If I quote La Rochefoucauld's observation that "hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue," am I doing violence to La Rochefoucauld's memory because I don't remotely share his aristocratic, pessimistic view of human nature? I don't think so. Insights are insights, even when they come from people with whom we disagree.

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 12:07 PM:

At the risk of derailing the thread, I'm hoping that "Don't mourn, organize" is also being taken to heart by the folks who got turned down at the NYC courthouse this mourning, among whom I number some friends.

Ray ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 12:22 PM:

The problem for me is that I think Joe Hill had something specific in mind when he said 'Organise'. The IWW were out forming unions and taking industrial action, and that's what he'd spent his life doing too. So I think when he said 'Organise' he meant 'Organise union branches'. He didn't mean 'organise political parties', or 'organise political fundraisers' any more than he meant 'organise an armed militia*'. These are certainly things he _could_ have meant, if we just had that sentence to go on, but in context its clear what he was talking about. (Incidentally, what would you think if Bush lost the election, and his concession speech was "Don't waste time mourning - Organise!")

The difference between the La Rouchefoucauld's quote and Hill's is, I think, that one is powerful because of its context, and the other is more self-contained. "Don't waste time mourning - Organise!" is not a particularly clever or insightful thing to say. We remember it because of who said it, and why. "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue" could be said by anyone, at any time, and still be quotable.

(Compare, for example, the opening lines of Moby Dick and Anna Karenina. "Call me Ishmael" is famous only for what follows)

*which is not such a wild possibility. Connolly was organising the Irish Citizen Army in Ireland at the time, and there were probably plenty of IWW members familiar with the idea of 'propaganda by the deed'.

Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 12:38 PM:

A side note: it's just Hillel, not Rabbi Hillel. "Rabbi", at the time, had a technical meaning, and Hillel wasn't one.

And I gotta say, I've got no idea whatsoever as to what his opinions would be in regards to immigration law in California.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2004, 12:54 PM:

I, for one, wouldn't be offended at the examples using Armstrong and Hillel. I'd just giggle at the cluelessness of those making them. So you're wrong there.

I've been trying to think about the appropriateness of using the "Don't mourn, organize" quote in other ways than the way which you say you assume he meant it. It is, however, an openended and ambiguous statment. Between trying to separate out your assumptions, my assumptions, ambiguity and ethics while fighting off the viruses which have recolonized my head and lungs after I thought I was over it, I'm having no luck at all. I had to type ambiguous 3 times and I'm still not sure I got it right. I think I'll go back to bed now.