Thursday, March 24, 2005

Strategic Planning

(I posted this over at DemSpeak. I might even post this at Daily Kos.)

I was going to write something about strategic planning. But I was also watching Jon Stewart tonight and his guest was from Wu-Tang Clan.

I had only heard the name in passing before, but in hearing RZA talk on Jon Stewart I decided to look them up. They are incredibly impressive as a group. I have no idea about their music tho. (I listened. It's rap and I can't understand any of it, never have, but no matter.)

I know I'm a pain for most of you here. So, I offer this challenge. Read all 4 short pages at the link above (you need to click the little arrows on the page to advance). Whether you like rap, hiphop, R&B doesn't matter. What matters is the nature (the how and why) of their success. Then, try to understand the kind of strategy that will strike a nerve in this country to get it off the homicidal/suicidal path it is currently on and bring some sanity back to this country.

I am assuming few, if any, of you know anything about martial arts let alone Eastern philosophy. I don't practice the art but I do understand the philosophy, especially that of Bruce Lee.

In order for this endeavor, DemSpeak and others, to be truly successful, it will need to develop the killing stroke. Without that, it is only childish word play. I don't mean that as an insult. I mean it as to the seriousness of the kind of work that truly needs to be done. This is life and death. Without that kind of clarity, there will never be the laser beam focus needed to find the right weakness and deliver the killing stroke to bring the whole nut house down.

In deepest sincerity,

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Gardeners and Builders

"Things have their root and their branches. Affairs have their end and their beginning. To know what comes first and what comes last will lead near to what is taught in the Great Learning." --Confucius, The Great Learning

The gardener tends to the soil and watering and plucks out the weeds and bugs so that good fruit is produced. This is the foundation of good gardening.

The builder tends to the laying of the footing so that what is built upon it will be long lasting. This is the foundation of good construction. (The footing is the root of the house.)

"It cannot be, when the root is neglected, that what should spring from it will be well ordered. It never has been the case that what was of great importance has been slightly cared for, and, at the sme time, that what was of slight importance has been greatly cared for." --Confucius, The Great Learning

In all cases here, we are dealing with people and society. People are the root and society is the branch.

"From the Son of Heaven (the president) to the masses of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything." (ibid)

And what is each person supposed to cultivate?

"Wisdom, benevolence, and courage--these are the virtues universally binding." --Confucius, Analects

Nance said: political change at the roots level is the strongest change. That implies that when the roots are nurtured the plant will remain vigorous and spread. (That would be our philosophy.)

and Ron said: I think that those in charge see the grassroots as an object, as a lawn. They are distinctly different from those grassroots types. They water us when they need us to make them look good.

In line with the builder is the image of a pyramid. It is the wide base at the bottom that supports everything above it. Those at the top have somehow gotten it into their heads that they owe nothing to the base that supports them. This is true of any organization, any political party, and of society in general.

As Ron points out, those at the top see themselves as gardeners, but they obviously have purple thumbs. Rather, they like to go around pulling up the plants and then say how they are helping them to grow.

Also, they allow forces in society (weeds) to proliferate which crowd out the good plants. Or worse, they cut the trees of virtue down and then wonder why the mountains are bald and have no beauty. To wit:

"And so also of what properly belongs to man; shall it be said that the mind of any man is without benevolence and righteousness? The way in which a man loses his proper goodness of mind is like the way which the mountains are denuded of trees by axes. Hewn down day after day, can it--the mind--retain its beauty? But there is a development of its life day and night, and in the calm air of the morning, just between night and day, the mind feels in a degree those desires and aversions which are proper to humanity, but the feeling is not strong, and it is fettered and destroyed by what takes place during the day. This fettering takes place again and again, the restorative influence of the night is not sufficient to preserve the proper goodness of the mind; and when this proves insufficient for that purpose, the nature becomes not much different from that of the irrational animals, and when people now see it, they think that it never had those powers which I assert. But does this condition represent the feelings proper to humanity?

"Therefore, if it receives its proper nourishment, there is nothing which will not grow. If it loses its proper nourishment, there is nothing which will not die." --Mencius

In conclusion, both of you are right in that the grassroots and the footing of a building are the very foundation of political organizations, and I'll add, society and civilization.

The people exist. They always will until we become extinct. People are the plants and they need tending to grow strong and healthy and produce good fruit. They are also the blocks of the footing of a house or the base of the pyramid. This makes them the foundation of society, and society is both a garden and a building. How well the people are tended as plants or laid as the footing of an ediface determines the kind of society we will have, whether fruitful and enduring, or weedy and temporary.

What we need are much better gardeners and builders who understand that when the root is neglected, what will spring from it will not be well ordered, nor will the mind of humanity retain its natural goodness and beauty. We the plants, the grassroots, the base of society, must do a much better job of picking our gardeners and builders.

But as the Great Learning also teaches, no one is exempt from cultivating in themselves the virtues of wisdom, benevolence, and courage which, according to the Ancients, have their roots in sincerity of the heart.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Moral Outrage

[I originally posted this as a comment in the Framing vs Fencing diary by Hudson at Daily Kos on March 10th. 21 people gave it a 4.]

Hudson, you're instincts and intuition are spot on. While the lefties play catch up, the wingnuts are barreling along at break neck speed to put their facsist program in place before the people realize what's been done to them, as in Nazi Germany.

So while everyone is hand wringing about making sure we don't stoop to their level, they continue to act on their agenda by passing the indentured servitude legislation, aka the bankruptcy bill.

Sorry, I'm straying. Point. A sword is a weapon. It can be used for good or ill depending on the intent of the wielder.

I happen to believe in the basic goodness of most people. I also trust most people to want to be or do good when given the opportunity. However, the sword can and should be used to take down an attacker in self-defense.

I am a Confucian, a Buddhist, a Japanese-American, and I follow the Bushido. If you know anything about the samurai, they live to protect their country and their emperor, but they follow the code of compassion, honor, faithfulness, sincerity, loyalty, etc. I also happened to understand Bruce Lee's philosophy, rooted as it is in understanding the nature of the Dao, as well as the Buddhist purpose of clarifying perception and not being stuck on any particular view which leaves one free to use them all, especially in a street fight.

Sorry this is so oblique. Point. To win, one must have the killer instinct, not to commit murder, but to seek life for oneself and protect the lives of others. In other words, one can kill the enemy and still be ethical.

But as Dumbledore says to Voldemort, there are other ways to destroy a man than to kill him, even for someone as evil as Voldemort. It's just a matter knowing how.

I for one will pull no punches, but as you and others have pointed out, it will always be based on the truth. Calling a liar a liar is not wrong or unethical. It is accurate and necessary because people's lives are at stake.

For me, this fight is life and death, and I don't intend to take any prisoners. But like a king who shows mercy to the vanquished, I have nothing but compassion for those who know not what they do.

As Confucius says: repay kindness with kindnes, repay evil with justice. Justice is not vengeance, it is not an eye for an eye. Justice is the restoration of moral balance by way of atonement and restitution.

Monday, March 14, 2005

What else we should do

At Daily Kos is a diary worth everyone's interest. Click on the title of this blog to go there.

One response that Hudson gave to a comment contains this little bit:
I would love to see the Dean-led DNC move people beyond Meetups, beyond our natural peer groups. The party could do a lot to train and encourage people to get themselves out to Chamber of Commerce breakfasts, spaghetti suppers, union halls, community groups, or just standing in front of post offices on Saturday mornings -- talking with our neighbors.

Just as getting water to boil takes a whole lot of energy to build up before it actually starts bubbling, so too activism will take a great deal of personal energy built up to overcome getting out and speaking up.

This is where I see people right now. They are on the internt blogging away and reading what they can. But all that information and energy will eventually need to become mechanical energy capable of turning into actual physical action in real life, not just with one's fingers on a keyboard.

At some point, whether through peak oil or the coming monster depression, there will be no choice but to get active because your next meal with depend on it. Better to clear one's calendar and one's conscience and get busy rebuilding community by being in it and speaking up.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

What is a progressive?

My answer to that question posted at Comments from Left Field is:

To be a progressive means you care more about people and less about maximizing profit. Think Scrooge after his heart melts and becomes a decent person. In fact, Marley's speech I believe encapsulates the essence of being a progressive:

"'Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!'"

Politics, or more importantly governance, is going to have to become about a lot more than just money. The Indentured Servitude bill just passed by the Senate is a case in point. There is no mercy in it. There is only cold, heartless cruelty for the masses being squeezed for every drop of blood and life they have just to make some selfish fucking bastard rich! They are SCROOGE! All of them who voted for the bill! Off with their heads!

Ahem. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Fighting back

Happen to catch this blog entry at Moon of Alabama:
FreedomWorks recruits, educates, trains and mobilizes hundreds of thousands of volunteer activists to fight for less government, lower taxes, and more freedom.

Recruit, educate, train, mobilize to fight - interesting language ...


This tactic has worked in my country some 70 years ago. Currently nobody would try them in any systematic way. But such methods do spread, especially when they are successful. Blair has already copied much of this modus operandi.

So here are the questions:

* How does one counter this method?
* How does one counter militant groups like FreedomWorks?

I really do not know. Please give me some ideas.

To which I replied:

I once watched a Young America's Foundation (YAF) panel discussion on C-SPAN. One of the speakers said, "never meet a good idea you aren't willing to steal."

b, you said it yourself what to do:

Recruit, educate, train, mobilize to fight

There is nothing that says that the sane & humane people of the country (the people's party) can't use their methods for populist purposes.

What is that purpose? Well, for openers, it would be to counter their demagoguery by consistently drawing the curtain back and pointing out the man behind the curtain. Meaning, pointing out their lies, how they are lies, and why they are lying. Also, point out the speakers' connections to the right wing machine; and most importantly, the way they are being whipped up to ignore the legislation that would really hurt average working people such as the bankruptcy bill and what that would mean for them should they ever get sick or hurt.

This is how I think we can begin to fight back.

Adding to my reply, the whole organizational structure must become the model we want in the world: open, democratic, consensus driven, and yet focused on a purpose and governed by a set principles that do not shift with the vicissitudes of popular opinion.

The examples I draw upon are Gandhi and MLK Jr. What drove them and guided their actions were universals we all feel in the face of political and legal tyranny and oppression, injustice, and moral cruelty. This is not about getting rid of norms, mores, and taboos in society. This about protecting people's rights as human beings against torture, imprisonment without due process, illegal search and seizure, indentured servitude, economic slavery, etc.

What the Army of Light would do is to restore proper morality in terms of fairness, honesty, humaneness, and moral justice. It would be about living by the Golden Rule and enforcing it in the workplace, in business, in government policy, and in all our human relations.

Ok, it's a paradigm shift. You ready for it?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"Ownership" and the tragedy of the commons

I was lying awake in bed last night when my thoughts turned to peak oil and growing food. This thought then sequed into the enclosing of space, private property, and the meaning of "ownership."

You see, when peak oil hits we will need to start growing our own food because it won't be shipped in from the far flung corners of the earth anymore--the cost of oil and gasoline will make it impossible to transport anything affordably. So, the need to start growing food locally will become paramount and the local people will have to plant, tend, and harvest the crops because the farmers won't be able to use their tractors for the same reason trucks can't bring food--the gas is too expensive. This means the local farmers will have to share their land with the local towns people so that everyone will keep from starving to death. This is just plain reality in the days to come.

But then my thought turned to how the notion of "private property" enclosed the land once used as a commons for agricultural purposes. Then, with this notion of private property came the idea that people can do anything they want with their land, including polluting the air, water, and land they "own." But the air doesn't just stay inside the invisible property lines, it moves into the space enclosed by another person's invisible property lines. The same is true of any stream, creek, or river that runs across the property. And the ground water underneath the land is equally shared by everyone who pumps from that aquifer. So, the whole idea that private property means you get to do anything you want on your land is not only selfish, it is also stupid because eventually what you do will fill your own lungs or be in the water you drink or in the food you eat.

This is not to say you can't do anything at all because having a home, a garden, planting flowers and trees, and generally making it a nice place to hang out are good things. The problem is the mentality that gives permission to destroy or maim what nature or God has created. No one may pollute the air, water, or land to the detriment of other people or other living things and yet things are done everyday, some by ordinary people overfertilizing their lawns or using pesticides, and some, like corporations, who do it deliberately with no thought of the ultimate consequences beyond reaping a hefty profit.

This aspect of "ownership" is not the one touted by the administration in regards to social security. They have in mind the kind where people act responsibly to ensure a secure future for their retirement and to pass on an improved legacy to their children in the same way people ought to treat a park to keep it clean and undamaged so that it will remain enjoyable by all for generations to come.

Unfortunately, the example set by the government and the profit seekers in society show nothing of this kind of responsibility. They think nothing of trashing the environment, polluting the air, water, land, and food, poisoning and killing people with medicine--something that is supposed to save lives not take lives, of placing people and their newborns in indentured servitude in perpetuity, or of treating people like mushrooms where they are kept in the dark and fed bullshit to keep them from learning what is really being done to them. Then, they absolve themselves of having ruined our commonwealth, our common heritage, our livelihoods, our lives, our children's and grandchildren's futures, and then have the gall to say they have no responsibility to promote and protect the public good because that is the responsibility of each person in this new "ownership" society where only the profit margin matters.

So, like children who learn from their parents the kind of values they should have, governmental policies and business practices set the tone of society and create a culture where nothing is valued except a number. This is the kind of "ownership" the administration is actually promoting. In such a society, the tragedy is not only the devastaion of the commons upon which all our lives depend, but of every life enslaved by it. To have the totality of life reduced to a profit margin and the whole of one's own existence focused on this one thing is to perpetrate the greatest delusion in the history of humankind. Money, in and of itself will not feed, house, or clothe you though it might be good for starting a fire for warmth.

In the days to come, what will matter most is life itself. Without which, there is no existence. We need to remember the preciousness of life, to protect the commonwealth that feeds and supports us all, and turn to the greatest source of all wealth: the shelter of each other.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Feel-good activism and barking dogs

I read this in an Information Clearhouse newsletter the other day. I'm passing this on to you because I think it speaks to something fundamental that we need to address.
Iraq's Right to Resistance and Self-Determination

By Ghali Hassan

The Resistance should make no illusions about the leaders of the "anti-war" movement, and the Left/Liberal elites "opposition" to the War and Occupation. Their "activism" is an empty slogan; it is merely a way "to salve people's consciences without having to think or do anything". They are imperialism's tools of propaganda. Without their "feel-good" life-style activism, Western "democracy" is a form of naked tyranny. They provide sugar-coated delusion and tranquilliser for the disfranchised masses.

I happen to agree with this assessment, mostly because I have run into it myself, and partly because I too am guilty of it. I am perhaps one of the most frustrated people in the world because so much of what I see is invisible to too many others either because it is too far away in distance, or too far away conceptually.

To me, there are three things that should consume our full attention because these involve the most serious matters of life and death.

1) Stopping the war in Iraq
2) Stopping all mining and use of nuclear materials (See E.F. Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered")
3) Getting ready for peak oil (I repeat the ref. for Schumacher's book, pub'd 1973)

How these translate into on the ground action in getting people elected, unfortunately, requires remaining in the matrix of illusion. Alas. And so, a barking dog is easily ignored as a wack job or tinfoil mad hatter, even among smart people, let alone the average thinker.

And this is how they win. By making sure that matters of genuine importance are never addresssed because the Cons have created such a buzz and flurry of defensive activity about some pet program under attack.

And as long as we fight against the attack we can feel good about ourselves because we've fought the good fight. Meanwhile, the war continues; depleted uranium dust is seeping into our water supply, polluting the land waiting for an unsuspecting person to disturb the dust and breath it in, and people are already dying from it--11,000 Gulf War vets have died since returning home; and hardly anyone has heard about what a world without cheap oil is going to mean to us all.

I don't want to be a downer, but ya know what, this is exactly what is meant in the quote I pasted above about "feel-good" life-style activism. Cuz if we can't stop the worst of it, we aren't gonna stop the least of it.


It is easier to find a score of men wise enough to discover the truth than to find one intrepid enough, in the face of opposition to stand up for it: A. A. Hodge