I am having more computer problems this morning (with the spare laptop), so I want to get something up quickly while I still can.

First off, have any of you using McAfee security software noticed your PCs doing some inexplicable things lately? Like suddenly turning off for no apparent reason? I ask because this week I’ve had spontaneous shutdowns on two separate computers while McAfee was doing scans and updates in the background. That may be a coincidence, but I do wonder.

Second, yesterday Cindy Sheehan led a group of protesters who shouted down and stopped a House Democratic press conference on ethics reform. Rahm Emanuel, of whom I am wildly ambivalent, was the leader of the press conference.

“Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership can no longer tell us what is on the table,” Mrs. Sheehan said. “We are the ones that put them in power and they are not including the peace movement. … It needs to be at least included in the discussion.”

She demanded the elimination of funding for the war, an investigation and impeachment of President Bush for what she called “lies” to justify the war.

Mrs. Sheehan was leading about 75 others lobbying congressional offices when they happened upon the press conference. The Democrats were there to present new ethics proposals as part of the 100-hour agenda with which they plan to begin the House majority today.

I’d like to hear your opinions on this. I was in the middle of a commentary on this very matter when the PC shut down (and fortunately recovered), and I may still finish it, but you guys have your say first. Points to ponder:

I’m all for holding Dems’ feet to fire, and if, say, in 2006 Sheehan had accomplished a similar shutdown of a Republican press conference we might have applauded (or not; I don’t generally like disruptive tactics that shut down speech). Are we being hypocritical if we complain about yesterday’s protest?

Is it really fair to slam Nancy Pelosi for not being sufficiently antiwar after she went out on a limb to get Jack Murtha appointed House Majority Leader?

Is it really fair to slam Dems for not holding investigations when Joe Biden is about to begin hearings on the Iraq War? Which is not something they could have done until now.

Did Cindy Sheehan actually play a role in getting Dems elected in the recent midterm elections? I honestly don’t recall.

Finally, do you think protesting in this matter could play a productive part in ending the war, or might it be counter productive by making an antiwar position more politically untenable?

68 thoughts on “Glitches

  1. Maha, reply #44. You’re right, though dialogue of this type can help clarify one’s perspective on strategy and tactic.

    In the spirit of your reply, we should register our views with our elected representatives as a small step:

    US House Contact
    US Senate Contact

    We should also contact the mass media outlets.

    On tactic, it has been argued that MLK would not have been as influential had there not been the looming presence of more militant elements in the movement. I’m generally a proponent of measured balance, and appreciate the importance of image… (ala Hugo Chavez should moderate just a bit). But now that I rarely watch TV, I’m less attentive to image.

  2. GDA — it may be that the group targeted Rahm Emanuel, and there’s reason to target Rahm Emanuel, but that (and the reasons Rahm Emanuel might be targeted) did not come through in news coverage, which makes the protest a failure, however well intended.

    Protesting is not about emotional catharsis or even (contrary to much opinion) about speaking truth to power. If you think protesting is about outsiders “sending a message” to insiders, you are missing a step. Because powerful people on the inside don’t give a flying bleep about what 75 random people wandering the halls of Congress think about anything.

    The power of public protesting comes from its ability to change public opinion, not from how loud the protesters shout or who they shout at. A good protest should (1) raise public awareness of your issue, and (b) make the public more sympathetic to your position. If a protest hasn’t accomplished BOTH of those goals, it has failed.

    What the politicians being protested think of the protest is irrelevant; whether the protest is justified is irrelevant; whether the protesters feel good about their protesting is irrelevant. All that matters is what impression is made on the public.

    Further, you seem to assume that no one else is communicating the antiwar message to the Washington Dems, which is not true. Not all of the communicating is going on publicly, so you aren’t going to hear about it on CNN, but I assure you channels have been opened between the antiwar Netroots and Washington Dem insiders. Much backchannel discussion is going on even as I keyboard, and this promises to be a lot more productive than Sheehan’s publicity stunts.

    Right now, even though the Dem insiders don’t give a bleep about what the 75 random people think, I assure you that after the midterm elections they are paying attention to what we bloggers are saying. We aren’t yet in a position to dictate terms, but the pols now understand we can have an impact on elections, so they can’t afford to ignore us entirely.

    THAT’S how you speak truth to power.

    So while Sheehan’s protest may be morally justified, I don’t see how it got us even a fraction of an inch closer to getting out of Iraq.

  3. Sheehan who have every right to be expressing themselves from their passions. Passion and heart issues arise spontaneously and are the energy behind the protests which happen to express those passions.

    If Sheehan wants to spontaneously express heart issues, she should start a blog, or see a therapist. If she’s going to thrash around in view of news media, she needs to be smarter about it.

  4. There’s no getting out of Iraq regardless of party “A” or party”B”.
    Show me the money!

  5. On tactic, it has been argued that MLK would not have been as influential had there not been the looming presence of more militant elements in the movement.

    That’s a fascinating argument that I’ve been thinking over the past couple of days. I agree with it in part, but pay attention to timelines here. The Montgomery Bus Boycott began in December 1955. The lunch counter sit-ins were ca.1960. The voting rights march on Washington — one of the great protest marches of all time — was in 1963, and I think it did swing public opinion in favor of the civil rights legislation of 1964. The march in Selma was also in 1963 and was possibly even more critical to changing public opinion to sympathize with MLK and the civil rights movement against redneck racists.

    The Black Power movement, although it had been percolating along for a while, didn’t draw widespread public attention until later — 1965 or 1966 or so, or more than ten years after the Bus Boycott, and after change was already in the works.

    IMO the Black Power movement made MLK seem more acceptable to white people, in comparison, so that many of them were genuinely sorry when he died. That and the assassination helped MLK achieve national sainthood. But much of what MLK accomplished in his life had already been accomplished. It’s hard to say if the Black Power movement actually accomplished anything tangible in the way of legislation or promoting equal opportunities.

    I’m generally a proponent of measured balance, and appreciate the importance of image… (ala Hugo Chavez should moderate just a bit). But now that I rarely watch TV, I’m less attentive to image.

    Unfortunately, the rest of the country watches a lot of TV.

  6. There’s no getting out of Iraq regardless of party “A” or party”B”.

    Parties aren’t going to get us out of Iraq, but politicians who are reachable by means of party politics are the only ones who can get us out of Iraq. That’s the reality. If you think that you can ignore party politics and effect change by means of sheer moral righteousness — well, good luck with that. I’ll cheer for you, but I’m skeptical.

  7. Amending #6 above.

    Mrs Sheehan has made it clear that “we all need to be political gadflies, we all have to do our part”and “one of these days they(Dems) are going to have to do what we say just to get them out of our hair”.

    Whether or not the letter Speaker Pelosi (& Sen Reid) sent to the president was in the works anyway, we may never know. But to sum it all up:

    Here’s the letter:

    And Mrs Sheehan:

    Also see “The Surge to Nowhere”:

  8. Maha, you’re always so nice to me. Thanks. I’ll consider myself your “special” little brother.
    Please realize I “poke” at you sometimes just to get a reaction. To provoke to ,get you thinking, never to anger you.
    Where the HELL is Marvel today?

  9. Where the HELL is Marvel today?

    LOL! Yeah, I know, Marvel is the only person I let shove me around. It’s that country boy charm, I guess.

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  11. Whether or not the letter Speaker Pelosi (& Sen Reid) sent to the president was in the works anyway, we may never know. But to sum it all up:

    Oh, it was. The politicians don’t rustle up something like that overnight, especially since both Reid and Pelosi signed it. It would have been bounced around between them and their staffs for at least two or three days and very probably longer. If Sheehan is taking credit for it, she’s wrong.

  12. Let’s use our brains, people. If you interrupt a Congressional press conference when you know the media is there, the media is not “latching on” to you; it’s the other way around. And those 75 other protesters were there because Cindy Sheehan was.

    I can understand arguments that support her right to protest, and to act on her personal grief, in the manner she sees fit. Like maha, though, I don’t have much patience with arguments that misrepresent or fail to grasp the dynamics of Ms. Sheehan’s actions.

  13. Sheehan’s behavior would be off-putting to a majority of people – even though they might agree with her issues. The question is would her behavior turn people off to the anti-war movement in general. If so, and I think it would be so, she ends up turning people away when what has to happen is the movement has to grow – I’m talking about bodies here. Thousands of people quietly marching is far more effective than 75 people shouting down a speaker, which is actually counter-productive if you want those thousands to join you. Remember it took thousands to finally get us out of Nam.

  14. Maha at 56: Malcom X was active in the time frames you mention. He wasn’t spoken about much in the media, but he terrified the hell out of everyone (my very progressive mother would shudder at his name). Some say there was an agreement between Malcom X and MLK to play it that way.

    Methinks you could be overreacting – 75 people chanting at a presser bears little resemblance to the MayDay march, or ’68 convention, or Pentagon sit-in. The press is perfectly capable of ignoring a large demonstration, or turning a handful of noisemakers into a threat to national security.

    I am *very* encouraged that bloggers are now being listened to. Somehow I doubt Rahm is one of the listeners.

  15. In the YT video I sited above in #58, it is clear that ending our involvement in Iraq is only a milestone for Mrs Sheehan on the road to Impeachment, Removal, & Incarceration of both executives. She believes that it was the Ford pardon of Nixon that ultimately embolded Cheney/Rumsfeld. And to prevent another illegal war in the future, she states quite clearly that this is how she will honor her son Casey’s death.

    We have a never ending list of extra constitutional programs actively violating our rights or reserving the rights to do so, and now we have the Postal Accountability signing statement. This nightmare uses the claim of “Unitary Executive” in four of the seven paragraphs of the text.

    Obviously this is going to come to a head. GWU Law Prof. Turley has been a leading articulator of the absudity of the executives’ tenous position.

    Form last summer commenting on the removal of the 4th Amendmend:

    to Thursday’s countdown: “This is a president who still remains uncomfortable within that constitutional skin. He just has a hard time playing well with the other branches.”

    When asked by Keith what to do about signing statements, Prof Turley replied, “Well, that is obviously the problem, is that you have a president who‘s not recognizing a fundamental tenet of our constitutional system that he constitutionally took an oath to protect. But there is a bill that has been offered by a Republican, Specter, that tells courts not to obey, not to follow these signing statements. That‘s one step that they can take”.

    and goes on to say, “You know, the fact is, this president has an obsession with this concept of an absolute ruler, the absolutely president. And he‘s surrounded himself with fairly radical law professors who told him what he wanted to hear, that you could take a citizen off the street, unilaterally strip him of all of his rights, hold him until you wanted to release him, if at all”.

    If you or I take lousy legal advice, consequences can be dire. The question for me is only, Do we owe our forebearers or our children a restoration of the Republic? I think it’s both.

    So if 20,000 + more 19-21 year old Americans are about to be asked to go kick in doors in Baghdad, the question is really only about political will, and which smoking gun. The evidence is in.

  16. He wasn’t spoken about much in the media, but he terrified the hell out of everyone (my very progressive mother would shudder at his name).

    That’s the thing — Malcolm X wasn’t spoken about much in the media. I’m not sure how much white middle-class America was aware of him. I was a freshman in high school when he was killed, but I’m not sure I’d heard of him or had any idea who he was until I was in college. Small-town girl, you know. But maybe he was better known than I remember.

    The black power movement that caught white attention was the group with SNCC and the black panthers, and that was mid to late 1960s.

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