portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states


Yes, we can - fool the gullible voters again!

President-elect Obama has been busy picking out the cabinet and advisers that will staff his administration. Lots of familiar faces, including some Bush loyalists.
President-elect Barack Obama has been busy picking out the cabinet and advisers that will staff his administration: Lots of familiar faces, including some Bush loyalists.

Obama on Monday announced a foreign policy team which includes President Bush's defense secretary, Robert Gates - an early supporter of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Also picked to re-up is Gen. David Petraeus, the general who heads up U.S. Central Command, in charge of running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though he believes that al Qeada has become more of a threat in Afghanistan, he still thinks they are the power causing so much unrest in Iraq. A view few Iraqis share, by the way.

Also in line for a seat in the cabinet is Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, as secretary of homeland security. According to John Trazvina, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, under her term: "Arizona has become one of the worst states for immigrants in this country."

Obama also selected retired Marine Gen. James Jones as White House national security adviser. In the military, he has overseen actions in Iraq (1991) and before he retired from the military, was commander of NATO forces under W. He is now president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy, an effort designed to pull energy producers and policymakers behind a strategy to secure U.S. energy supplies. He also sits on the board of The Boeing Co., and chairs the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank. Yes, quite a huge change there.

And to top it off, Obama plans on calling 81-years-old Paul Volker out of retirement to chair his "President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board." For those of you too young to recall, Volker served under both Presidents Carter and Reagan. He is one of the pioneers of the religion of Free Markets and "Trickle-down economincs" which has devastated the economy, destroyed US financial institutions, and caused the lay-offs of millions of American workers as their jobs were shipped overseas.

Do you voters understand why so many of us have less-than-zero faith in the electoral process now?

Explain 01.Dec.2008 17:48


"Do you voters understand why so many of us have less-than-zero faith in the electoral process now?"

But explain, spell it out for us. What is this better method of decision making you have in mind? How does it work? Are you under the impression that a vast number of Americans wanted some particular (different) major change and so were denied a choice of that at the polls? And that is the reason why the electoral process didn't work to bring about that change.

Look, I want major change as much as you do, but we're not going to make much progress toward that goal as long as we keep deluding ourselves as to what the real problem is. The real problem is that we haven't managed to project a clear vision of those changes, convinced many other people to want them. That comes first. ORGANIZE.

Oh, but ... 01.Dec.2008 19:18

Den Mark, Vancouver

Oh, but democrats are SOOOOO different from republicans. Just ask them; they'll tell you. And you can believe them, of course, cuz they're, well, ..... different. Just ask them; they'll tell you.

For one thing, "democrats" begins with "d"; "republicans" begins with "r". Can't get much different than that. I know I'M convinced.


There Are Obvious Solutions... 01.Dec.2008 23:33


This is why we need approval with runoff voting (not Ford Foundation sponsored "IRV", which simply would not work). The system is, shall we say, broken.

See a great solution <u><a href=" link to wiki.electorama.com.

Improvements, yes 02.Dec.2008 04:52


I don't know what "approval with runoff" means. The fact that the Ford Foundation supports IRV isn't necessarily a reason against it (plenty of radicals favor plain IRV too) but plain IRV is mildly dangerous. However IRV modified with a first vote count determining if there was a "condorcet candidate" (one who would beat all of the others in a one on on matchup)eliminates most of the dangers* of IRV

However that's NOT the real issue here, not the cause of the disatisfaction with the electoral process being expressed. The original poster was saying that "democracy" is a bad system because it does not result in just, wise, good, far sighted, generous, etc. etc. decisions but just the decisions that "the people" want --- and that they may be foolish about what they want, think about their own interests, etc. In other words, the objection is that "the people" don't know what is in their won best interest and the poster with greater wisdom does. This is an OLD debate, one we can document at least as far back as Plato vs Aristotle.

The argument FOR "democracy" is not that it results in good decisions but that at least it's what the people want and that IN PRACTICE alternatives do not do better.

* The danger of IRV is that when there is a "condorcet candidate" eliminated early, final results can be very contrary to expectations. You'd be screaming even louder about the uselessness of the electoral process if in succeeding elections a change across the board in the preferences of the entire voting population resulted in who won moving in the opposite direction! Hell, that might mean civil war or at least riots in the streets. The proponents of simple IRV tned to look only at the current situation with all the extreme small parties "on the outside" in which case plain IRV works reasonably well. But it's also possible to have the large parties on the outside around a smaller middle and that's when all hell can break loose with wild swings or even the situation I already described. Numerical examples can be provided.

civil war? riots in the streets? 02.Dec.2008 07:38

save me

Despite increasing violence by police against demonstrators, there hasn't been a real riot in this country in almost 20 years. Watch old videotapes of Los Angeles in 1992 and compare them to the harmless parades that today's jackbooted goons love to smash. Fear mongering about "civil war" is not currently a plausible way to win listeners and support, even from frightened spineless liberals.

If the system's broken 02.Dec.2008 10:06

Jody Paulson

let's try to fix it.

I highly recommend the movie "Milk", about the assassinated gay rights leader Harvey Milk. After having spent the last year pretty much dedicated to a long-shot candidate (Cindy Sheehan, who ran against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco's US Congressional district), one thing in the movie I could definately relate to was that the system was stacked against Cindy from the beginning. Milk was an enourmously successful activist in the Castro, but it wasn't until San Francisco changed the way they elected supervisors that he actually a seat at the table of "legitimate" power.

Right now you need money, you need air-time, you need instant ballot access that comes with being part of an entrenched machine to get elected, and we all know what you have to be these days to get those things -- *corrupt as hell*, or at least "compromised." The way the system is set up now, I don't see how you can win a campaign run with integrity, no matter how out-of-touch and unresponsive your opponent is, no matter how dedicated your volunteers and how right your cause. Nancy Pelosi wouldn't even deign to debate Cindy, and the press was all right with that.

But Milk and his supporters changed the system, and by then it was a matter of course he would get elected. We've got to get big money *out* of the election system, we need honest election counting, we need fair and equal news coverage. Until we work on these issues, yeah, it would seem that plugging away for the Ron Pauls, Cynthia McKinneys, and Ralph Naders of this world is nothing but spinning our wheels.

BTW, Cindy Sheehan got 17% of the vote, and Pelosi, head of the worst-regarded congress in recent history got 71% of the vote (the Republican, Dana Walsh, got 9%).

Possible outcome (wioth simple IRV) 02.Dec.2008 10:44

Mike Novack

Ordinarily we are pretty accepting but you are perhaps not visualizing the situation possible with "simple" IRV. So I'll spell it out for you.

election one -- three main parties in contention, the fascists, the centrists, and the socialists. As a result of IRV, the centrist is elected.

election two (a few years later) --- same three parties in contention. The mood of the voters has swung leftward so both the centrists and the socialists have more votes than thew previous time around and the fascists less. But the result of "simple" IRV is that the fascists win the election.

You don't think THAT result would get people up off their asses? Of course the scenario I just described could happen in reverse too. If people don't believe what I described is possible without seeing the numbers ............

election one -- Fascists 40% Centrists 31% Socialists 29%
(the socialist is eleminated and as is reasonable, those votes transfer to the next best choice which would be the Centrist)
election two -- Fascists 35% Centrists 32% Socialists 33%
(the Centrist is eliminated and as is a reasonable assumption, the second choice is evenly split to either side giving the Fascist 51% and the Socialist 49%. Checking first for a "condorecet candidate" would have prevented this as the Centrist easily beats either the Fascist of the Socialist when votes conted that way). NOTE that there may still be remaining wierd preference distributions that might cause trouble, no system is going to be perfect against that risk (see work of mathematicians like Arrow et al). But the risk described here would not be a rare one in various democracies mid 19th Century to the present. In other words, a historic risk, not a freak distribution of voter preferences.

Plain IRV is risky. It works well when the smaller first choice parties being eliminated are to the outside of the major parties. Not so well when they are in the middle. The risk comes into play precisely when the society is trying to move in a particular direction and acts to thwart that change. Besides the scenario I described can also have one where very small changes in voter preferences among smaller middle parties can cause results to jump back and forth between the outside extremes. The problem is that elimination is sequential and order of elimination can make a big difference.

no it would not 02.Dec.2008 23:44

any other questions

> [ blah blah blah fascists win an election again ]
> You don't think THAT result would get people up off their asses?

See previous post. This generation of Americans of street-fighting age doesn't fight in the streets, over "socialism" or anything else. It might, MAYBE, once in a while, passively blockade an intersection while the authorities deploy chemical weapons against it. Then later it will sue them.

to no it would not-huh? 03.Dec.2008 01:18


"street fighting age" What age is that?
"See previous post" What post? Are talking manatees or what here?

geniuses everywhere 03.Dec.2008 16:14

welcome to indymedia

> "street fighting age" What age is that?

Oh that would be between 50 and 65 I think, don't you?

> "See previous post" What post? Are talking manatees or what here?

If you've read everything on this page and you really can't figure it out, then just go read something else.

__ 03.Dec.2008 19:07


see foto
players at court
players at court


Always Have 01.Dec.2008 18:32


I always have understood less than zero faith, as you say. What I don't understand is zero effort, and any effort at change must include voting. If you don't care to vote, fine. But that's almost as bad as voting and then going home until the next vote, perhaps posting on IndyMedia the occasional angst. If you look south to countries like Venezuela, you can see what hard work--including voting--has achieved.

posting occasional angst 01.Dec.2008 20:02

none of us ever did anything else ever

Yes yes everybody who ever posted on indymedia was sitting on their ass at the time and typing bullshit into a keyboard instead of OUT ON THE STREETS DOING SOMETHING REAL AND IMPORTANT. Every single one of us. We all suck.

One Party System 01.Dec.2008 21:05

Briar Rabbit

First thing is to quite pretending that voting Democrat is going to change anything. I for one do vote, especially in local elections but I am not deluded that the dems will change anything...which is why I refuse to vote for them. We actually had a chance for some change at the polls with Cynthia or Ralph. Did you vote for either? But nothing will change with the one party system(one party with 2 right wings)
We had some options for change at the local level but as it appears more people voted for the status quo. I guess we get what we vote for....

As the bumper sticker says... 01.Dec.2008 21:56

Marlena Gangi guerrilla.girl.is@gmail.com

"If voting changed anything, it would be made illegal."

C'mon people. Liberal Left Wing, Right Wing; its still the same fascist bird.

The current shitstem will not change until it dismantled and reconstructed. By voting, you are only delaying the revolution.

WoW! 01.Dec.2008 22:35


Touched a raw nerve here, have I?

So, look...I've been at work organizing with friends and comrades for over 30 years. I still am. It's just that I can't seem to convince many first world consumers that NOTHING will change unless they first give up their positions of privilege as first world consumers. Now, it doesn't matter, because the Bush regime has so wrecked the economy that most of you will soon become enmeshed into the sort of poverty I'm experiencing now.

To paraphrase Tolstoy: First world consumers will do anything to reduce the pain and suffering they cause by riding on the backs of poorer people all over the world - except get off their backs.

Furthermore, if you vote, you have no right to complain about the state of affairs in this country - you've already conceded the right to make decisions that effect your life to someone else.

And, btw - when did we as a people decide that Capitalism would be the focal point of our existences? I don't remember that vote.

Votes ain't money 01.Dec.2008 22:50


They don't need our votes for the system to continue. Voting makes no difference, which is also what makes it harmless. What the 'stem needs most off all is our money and whatever we do to make our money. Voting is just the icing on the cake--There's still cake if you don't eat the frosting.

Everyone who voted for Obama... 01.Dec.2008 23:54


...got screwed.

It's finally starting to seem like more of the same, isn't it, liberals? There are many things that would work in place of the shitty system we have here, not all of them would be ideal. Perhaps the most ideal would be anarchism in action. I'm not going to spell that out for you, you can wikipedia Anarchy and Anarchism. Consensus decision making seems to work much better than fake ass democracy.

And you know what? Fuck voting. If people want to do it, that's fine. I just want them to realize how utterly arbitrary it is. Even in local elections, the State is going to do what it wants anyway. The interests of the bourgeosie class will always come first. If voting in local elections makes you feel better about life, great. We all need some sort of vice, I guess.

But can you vote against oppression? Racism? Can you vote "no" to police brutality? To them using tazers? To them pepperspraying teenagers at point blank range and breaking legs, then charging the victim with "assault on a police officer"?

Can you vote against war? When's the last time anyone asked you?

Open your eyes.

No offense, friend 02.Dec.2008 08:26


"Consensus decision making seems to work much better than fake ass democracy."

Concensus decision making IS a form of democracy. One in which you can't simply call the question and then count hands but where you have to get the side that lost that count to agree to accept the results (and may have to keep modifying the result until you can get that agreement). If you have taken part in groups that operate by concensus you would know that. It's harder to get any decisions made at all, though those you do manage to make by concensus likely to be better decisions.

Note that in order for consensus to have a chance of working, those using this decision making process must have a very high stake in continuing to work with the others. If a society/political entity assumes close to zero diversity of interesty. It is a very suitable form of democracy for VOLUNTARY associations since with these a disgruntled minority can always walk out the door.

Don't misunderstand. 02.Dec.2008 09:05


I never said that consensus decision making wasn't democracy, I said, "It's better than fake ass democracy." Implying that what we currently have is fake ass democracy.

Since you quoted me, you should know that.

And, thanks for the workshop on consensus based decision making. But I'll assume that since you didn't address any other part of my comment, you must agree with everything I said. '

Finally, two people agree on Indymedia. Now that's Change You Can Believe In (tm)!

Consensus voting 02.Dec.2008 10:06


is doublespeak for tyranny of an insider clique.

Direct Representation permits no political class. You may vote directly on all bills or you may give your vote to a representative. You may rescind your vote at anytime, therefore corruption would disappear.

Direct Representation will be to government what the Protestant Revolution was to the priest class.

If 02.Dec.2008 10:22


this helps wake up one single democrat from their delusion it was worth this ass time.

Current forms of states are closed to electoral reform. So.... 02.Dec.2008 12:04


"Do you voters understand why so many of us have less-than-zero faith in the electoral process now?" But explain, spell it out for us. What is this better method of decision making you have in mind? How does it work? Are you under the impression that a vast number of Americans [and billions around the world] wanted some particular (different) major change and so were denied a choice of that at the polls? And that is the reason why the electoral process didn't work to bring about that change. Look, I want major change as much as you do, but we're not going to make much progress toward that goal as long as we keep deluding ourselves as to what the real problem is. The real problem is that we haven't managed to project a clear vision of those changes, convinced many other people to want them. That comes first. ORGANIZE.

Bioregional democracy, Bioregional State, 4 points

"The real problem is that we haven't managed to project a clear vision of those changes..."

Suggestions for mobilization and unification of dissent toward something constructive:

There's more than enough grievances. Just organize, particularly through the second point below.



Current forms of states are closed to electoral reform. To fix elections means changing institutions at this point.

The dead tree referenced in this post is the current ill-equipped and corrupt form of formal democracy. The fresh shoots are the novel ecological checks and balances of the bioregional state. These fresh shoots are required to allow further growth toward sustainability and sound democracy instead of passively allowing the dead tree to topple and destroy democracy with it which is the direction it is leaning.


[And why debate 'numbers' (just undocumented figments) of a rigged election outcome? The numbers are false. There's little trust in U.S. elections being accurate measurements of anything currently.]


Lew Church, PSU Progressive Student Union lewchurch@gmail.com

Rob and Marlene both make good points about the futility of voting in a capitalist, pro-war electoral system. Obama's cabinet picks, both on national security and on the economy, do indeed suggest that Obama is moving (if he hasn't always been) to the right -- despite over 500 death threats, so far, against Obama. Rosa Luxemburg addressed some of these issues in Reform or Revolution? The Bolsheviks, while not anarchists of course, did use a variety of tactics between 1905 and 1917, including voting and participating in the duma (a 'fake democracy' under the Tsar?), and attempts (1905) at revolution, and successful (1917) revolution.

In the U.S., at the national/global level, many on the Left have argued that Obama's foreign policy may be (especially with Hillary as Secty of State, if she is confirmed by Congress) fairly close to the Republican foreign policy. However, if Obama ends one war (Iraq), would that still be worth voting for Obama-Biden, when Nader and McKinney did not have, this year, a viable chance to get 34% of the vote (in the Electoral College, forcing it into the House, where a third party would lose anyway?)?

As poor people and workers, it is very tempting to argue for 'all or nothing.' However, the material conditions in Russia in 1917 were different than they were in 1905. In fact, Lenin, Trotsky and Luxemburg all met with other international socialists in London in 1902 at a conference at a church (which was bombed in WWII by Hitler). Even material conditions in Russia in 1905 (where the revolution failed) are markedly different than they are now, in the U.S., in 2008 -- despite what Paul Krugman rightly calls the 'greatest economic mess' since the 1930s.

Even at the local level (despite the excellent examples or Harvey Milk, or Cindy Sheehan v. Pelosi, in SF), power is hard to challenge. Publicly financed elections in Portland (which the Oregonian apparently sees as the 'real threat' to the current capitalist-cum-'democratic' system!) is one way to impinge upon and cut into the current system -- as Amanda Fritz did in becoming the 7th woman (out of 150 council members!) to ever serve on Portland City Council. And, like Obama, Amanda has yet to take office.

Even at the micro level, Portland State (where ASPSU allocates $12,000,000 per year in student fees to student groups!), it is difficult to make inroads into 'the system' (and PSU is a public college). PSU Rearguard, which I founded as a zine in Iraq War I under Bush I with Progressive Student Union, seems to be going downhill (or to the Right) with the last two editors. Marlene was one of the editors after myself, but she was three editors ago on Rearguard staff. Two of us even re-applied to take over our own paper, Rearguard, two editors back, after Marlene left, but the PSU Pub Board/Administration decides who is editor, and they chose an Oregonian clone (Josh) as editor, rather than Nate (grad student in history) and me (grad studnet in education), at that juncture.

Progressive Student Union recently asked ASPSU (and the supposedly liberal ASPSU prez, Hannah Fisher) to work on activist projects to the Left of ASPSU. Hannah refused, saying she wouldn't work with people she deemed to be questionable (or, too far Left). Marlene, who was for a few months editor of the community paper, Alliance, in Portland, this year, 2008, also emailed Michael Munk and me that we were too questionable (or too far Left) for her to consider our submissions under her editorship of the Alliance, etc.

At PSU, activist students and community members in our coalition continue to work on:

--anti-war organizing (Iraq and Afghanistan, both)

--the Coke-Odwalla Boycott for labor rights in Colombia and human rights in Darfur

--starting up (again) the international film program (the Progressive Film Fest -- the daily school paper just wrote a column complaining about the LACK of international film at PSU and in PDX)

--having PSU join the WRC in DC (Worker Rights Consortium), etc.

However, Hannah/ASPSU (student government, which itself gets $300,000 per year from the $12,000,000 it allocates) while talking 'liberal' (like Obama?) wants to make sure that elements of the Left do not have access to PSU -- on things as simple as scheduling rooms, making photocopies, etc. (Despite the marketing slogan over Broadway at PSU about 'let knowledge serve the city').

When there was more activist students on the Left in student government at PSU, a few years ago (Erin Devaney and Molly Woon, for example), it was the Administration (and SLAP, the $700,000 department that 'regulates' student groups) which attacked OSPIRG (defunded and declared not to be a student group at all, at one point), Progressive Student Union (attacked by student Republicans, Administration, campus security, et al.), and even, ASPSU itself. Because Erin and Molly pledged to reform SLAP itself, SLAP then refused to allow ASPSU to even hold senate meetings in Smith Center, the student union, and Erin and Molly started scheduling meetings in the Urban Studies building (where Molly wound up being a TA in Poli Sci).

Erin and another member of the SFC (Student Fee Committee) had their salaries withheld by the Administration/SLAP, as soon as Erin and Molly were 'elected' and Erin was helping (with Molly) with the then-Taco Bell Boycott on campus (we got Taco Bell kicked out of PSU in support of the farm worker boycott, the 9th college in the US to do so), the Coke-Odwalla Boycott, and our activist zine, PSU Agitator (which we finally got funded, with $5,000 in SFC money, 2 years after we tried to re-take over PSU Rearguard).

Erin (as ASPSU prez a couple years back) eventually stopped working on activist projects, including reforming SLAP. Hannah, in her campaign material, and now as current ASPSU prez, says she wants to reform SLAP, but the Rearguard says SALP doesn't need reforming, and criticizes Hannah for even suggesting such. It appears that, in a 'closed' environment (ironic that a public university in a blue state winds up being 'closed' in this sense, of course), the pressure is for those with paying jobs to move to the Right, or at least, be quiet and not to organize/resist.

It may well be that Obama will be happy to have his name on the Oval Office desk, and no more. On the other hand, through move.on and other non-governmental support, Obama may be able to re-shape foreign and domestic policy. And Wall Street may be destroyed by capitalism itself, regardless of who is president, per se. That doesn't mean that state capitalism will not continue apace, exploiting workers and the poor in all 200 countries, including the U.S.

At PSU, many students who voted for Obama used the yardstick of 'suffering' to not vote for McCain-Palin. That is, the belief that fewer people in the U.S. and in Iraq (and elsewhere) will suffer or die (food riots in 10 countries in 2008, etc.) under an Obama Administration than under a McCain Administration.

Until we do have a movement of the size and effectiveness of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, which does take organizing and a strategy (not to mention tactics and a timeline, which the Bolsheviks had, from 1905 to 1917), the one criteria (not the only one, and perhaps not a 'persuasive' criteria?) is whether more people in the U.S. will have access to health care, jobs, education, and public transportation under Obama than McCain, and, correspondingly, whether diplomacy not preemptive war (human rights, not sweatshops, etc.) are more likely under Obama than McCain?

I did vote for Nader in 2000; I had already voted for Gore twice, with Clinton. NAFTA and neoliberalism, the sanctions against Iraq in the 90s by Clinton, the gutting of welfare by Clinton, etc. -- made it unethical to vote for a 'third' Clinton term via Al Gore. It may well be that anarchists and those to the Left of the Democratic Party machine (and it is a machine) are right to say that Obama's term/s will simply be Clinton Term III.

Obama, on the other hand, like FDR, may be more open to pressure from the Left, than McCain (or Palin, after McCain expired) would ever have been.


PO Box 40011, Portland, Oregon 97240

Yes you can 02.Dec.2008 17:06


Circle-A, in answer to your many questions, yes you can as part of a larger project. Last I checked, voting actually turned out to be pretty important in getting rid of chattel slavery and getting equal rights codified into law. As to wars, we don't know the answer to that--in fact most of these questions we do not know the answers to. But voting certainly played a roll that went along with the much more important aspects of direct action. Neither works terribly well on its own, it seems.

Age-ist %#@$&!!!!! 03.Dec.2008 12:04

Rob again

I was 39 when I was nabbed for rioting, so what's your point? Fetishization of youth is as bad as sexism or any other elitist notion. DAmn, this pisses me off

Umm... 03.Dec.2008 12:14

Rob yet again

The previous comment I posted was in response to a post on the "comments."

foo 03.Dec.2008 16:48



tomorrow's rioters will be veterans of 1968 coming out of retirement? 03.Dec.2008 16:49

mostly around 60 years old, come on is that realistic or not

Did anybody say 39 was NOT "street-fighting age," Rob? You planning to get nabbed AGAIN for rioting at 50?

The POINT here is that ALTHOUGH previous generations of rioters -- LIKE YOU ROB, GOOD JOB -- are still ALIVE, it is not rational to EXPECT them, MOST OF THEM, despite Rob's unusual dedication, to go out in the street again to re-enact 1968 or 1992 for us, certainly not over some bullshit like the results of an INSTANT RUN-OFF VOTING ELECTION, which is being postulated as the hypothetical motivation for "rioting" and "civil war" here and is the whole reason anybody is talking about this.