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A video posted today at documents an unusual tactic employed by a group of environmental activists who are trying to gain the attention of John Kerry at the State Department. Concerned that a petition containing two million anti-Keystone XL pipeline comments would go unnoticed, the group delivered their message in a very public manner:

We were concerned that the State Department and the Washington D.C. establishment might just ignore them. So we made those public comments “really” public: covering the State Department with them and illuminating D.C.

You can view the video here. It’s short, but worth the effort.

I commend the group for their efforts, not only because the Keystone XL pipeline is a disaster that threatens the viability of our planet and our own existence, but also because the creativeness used by this group to get their message across was inexpensive, yet effective, and it accomplished the desired results.

But there is an ominous, underlying message contained in that script that should concern all D.C. politicians, especially Democrats. It’s based on the following premise: why should any group of citizens have to resort to extreme measures just to gain the attention of an elected official or an appointed representative?

The answer is easy. It’s because almost everyone in Congress and the White House has stopped listening to the complaints of average Americans.

But this group of young voters made it very clear that ignoring their demands could cause long-term consequences. Along with the mantra “there is no planet B,” the group sent a very clear message to the Obama administration:

If you are looking for a sure fire way to alienate America’s youth, go ahead and approve the (Keystone XL) pipeline.
Ignoring constituents. Alienating voters. Where have we heard those complaints before?

Perhaps the easiest way to lose an election -- if you are a political entity -- is to alienate members of the base. Unlike other factions of the party, the base represents the vibrancy of a movement, the heart and soul that supply blood and oxygen to constituents who elect and re-elect party leaders. Without this fundamentally important group, a party is reduced to relying on paid mediums, such as advertising, and talk show outlets just to promote its agenda.

Forget pragmatism; forget the middle; if you lose the base, then you have just sucked the life out of your own party.

Everyone seems to understand that simple premise, except the people who occupy Congress and the White House. In typical Democratic fashion, the party playbook only allows the party elite to employ two tactics when coping with rebellion; either attack and ridicule anyone who doesn’t tow the party line (which is completely incongruent with the party platform), or lie and obfuscate.

But this time, intimidation and manipulation aren’t working, and anyone who has access to the Internet has the capability to fact check a party leader’s comments.

We are being pummeled from so many directions; our party now resembles the little Dutch boy who had his finger stuck in a dyke, hoping that one simple tactic could be enough to stem the flood. But we don’t have enough fingers to stop all the leaks that are tearing the party apart, and our current leaders seem so inert and ineffective, it’s difficult to determine at times if anyone in D.C. is still breathing.

If Obama hasn’t learned that he made a mistake by alienating the left, then he will never know the damage he has caused.

From the movie, The Interpreter

''The gunfire around us makes it hard to hear...but the human voice is different from other can be heard over noises that bury everything else. Even when it's not shouting. Even if it's just a whisper. Even the lowest whisper can be heard over armies when it's telling the truth.'' Edwin Zuwanie
Well, we’ve whispered, and we’ve talked, and even screamed, but it has been to no avail.

And what happens to a leader who refuses to hear the truth?

Progressive blogs are filled with comments like this:

Thomas Frank  –

Another group that sought out my friend Bill Black during the crisis year was the Obama campaign. For them he narrated a twelve-minute campaign video, describing at length the involvement of Republican candidate John McCain in the Keating Five scandal, and faulting McCain for choosing a zealous deregulator as his chief economic adviser—“he’s picked the worst possible source of advice.” (You can watch the video here.)

When Obama won the presidency, I assumed that Bill Black would soon be moving to Washington to usher prominent bankers through their perp walks. That’s what opportunity and meritocracy meant, after all. You bring in the guy who understands the problem.

Of course it never happened. His phone never rang. There was no ladder of opportunity for him or anyone like him, precisely because they represented accountability. And Barack Obama, champion of meritocracy, went on instead to pick the second-worst-possible source of advice.

From Digby
Everything about that, from the greedheads, to the GOP ideologues to the impotent Democrats is a microcosm of the problems we face in dealing with ... well, everything.

The Sunshine Years
by digby

“This is the most transparent administration in history,” Obama said during a Google Plus “Fireside” Hangout. "I can document that this is the case,” he continued. “Every visitor that comes into the White House is now part of the public record. Every law we pass and every rule we implement we put online for everyone to see.” February 14, 2014.

As Paul Harvey used to say, and now we have the rest of the story:

The Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The administration cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy. Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests, the analysis found.

Robert Kuttner
Obama's order was fine as far as it went, but the president could do a lot more.

For five years, worker advocates have been imploring the president to use his executive powers to raise labor standards in federal contractors, to have the Labor Department crack down on a variety of abuses such as widespread wage theft, phony classification of regular employees as temps or contract workers, and violation of the right to unionize. A much more high profile initiative could have more political impact.

Obama should also stop supporting budget austerity at the expense of working people. The president came within ace of watering down the annual cost of living increase in Social Security, as part of a proposed grand budget bargain with Republicans that was never in the cards. He relented only because the entire Democratic party base went off on him.

Thomas Frank
The big news after President Obama’s State of the Union address in January was that he didn’t really talk about the issues of inequality that everyone expected him to talk about. Instead, he shifted the “conversation,” as we call it, toward the subject of opportunity. He shied away from the extremely disturbing fact that when you work these days only your boss prospers, and brought us back to the infinitely less disturbing fact that sometimes poor people do get ahead despite it all. In a clever oratorical maneuver, Obama illustrated this comforting idea by referencing the success stories of both himself—“the son of a single mom”—and his arch-foe, Republican House Speaker John Boehner—“the son of a barkeep.” He spoke of building “new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” a phrase that has become a trademark for his administration.

The problem, as Obama summed it up, is that Americans have ceased to believe they can rise from the ranks. “Opportunity is who we are,” he said. “And the defining project of our generation must be to restore that promise.”

The switcheroo was subtle, but if you’ve been paying attention you couldn’t miss it:

The criticisms and condemnations aimed at this president are increasing exponentially, every day. Perhaps the most damning attack by a progressive was contained in an article posted today by Mike Whitney.
Obama: The Willing Executioner

Of course, Obama doesn’t care [what] the American people want. He’s going to do what he signed-on to do; crack down on civil liberties, strangle the economy, and spread war across the planet. As far as the warmongering goes–he’s doing an even better job than Bush. Don’t believe me? Just check out this clip from the International Business Times:

“In their annual End of Year poll, researchers for WIN and Gallup International surveyed more than 66,000 people across 65 nations and found that 24 percent of all respondents answered that the United States “is the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” Pakistan and China fell significantly behind the United States on the poll, with 8 and 6 percent, respectively.” (In Gallup Poll, The Biggest Threat To World Peace Is… America?, IBT)

And re: the economy:
There’s no doubt that Obama has been hurt by the anemic recovery or by focusing on deficit reduction instead of job creation. High unemployment, flat wages and shrinking incomes have weighed heavily on expectations, which has put a damper on consumption and growth. Gallup’s Economic Confidence index now shows a “sharp decline in the outlook for the future” …”with some 57 percent of the respondents saying things are getting worse, not better.”

Indeed, things have gotten worse under Obama, much worse, which is why many of his most ardent supporters are falling off the bandwagon.

Does this type of criticism hurt the president? Absolutely. But it is not a new problem. In fact, it has been with us from the onset of his presidency. But it has always been political taboo; no one inside the party was allowed to discuss it openly, and now left unchecked, it will certainly extend to down-ticket races, and will dominate the 2016 Democratic convention, and could possibly divide the party if Hillary is nominated.

Obama’s decision to champion conservative policies that are the anti-thesis of basic Democratic values was a stupid mistake. But that mistake was compounded by the party faithful’s decision to attack and ridicule members of the base when they complained. Now, the party is in danger of losing the liberal wing of the party to the populist movement. Liberal values are much more popular than neo-liberal policies. But the only group championing those values is the members of the populist movement.

Several days ago, Richard Eskow said this:

The echoes of Adolph Reed's critique of the left in Harper's magazine continue to reverberate. At its fringes, where the heat's generated, it's an argument about the relationship between the progressive movement and the Democratic Party. At its center, where there have been occasional glimpses of light, the talk is about building an independent populist movement that can affect real change.

That's where the conversation should have been all along.

From Acronym TV:

Carl Gibson, co-founder of U.S. Uncut, is joining with other Occupy Wall Street organizers to launch a new populist political party. While more details (including the name of the party and the identities of other key organizers) will be available when the group launches on March 20, the party will be explicitly anti-capitalist.
Says Gibson: “A new party that actively opposes capitalism and unites people around the basic ideas of meeting human needs would be widely respected and immediately acknowledged. This new party could stand apart from the two corporate-owned parties by refusing to take campaign donations from corporations, banks and developers, standing up for the rights of immigrants and indigenous people, calling for sustainable energy and development, making education for all a top priority, and believing in universal access to healthcare as a human right. While it would take time, focusing on building power first at the local and county level is the surest way to make lasting change.”

It may be too late for Democrats to repair the damage that has been done to the party’s brand, but if they absolutely refuse to listen to the voices rising from within their own ranks, and continue to intimidate the members of the base, then they have no one to blame but themselves if they lose big in 2014.

4:43 AM PT: Ruh Roh,

From Taegan Goddard's Political Wire:


March 17, 2014

Expect More Democratic Retirements

John King: "Watch in the week or so ahead for a few more retirements by veteran House Democrats. I'm told the Florida special election results were the last straw for at least two and perhaps more House Democrats facing tough 2014 races. Leadership will make a run at persuading these lawmakers otherwise - but with hope of regaining the majority all but lost, watch the Capitol exits."

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