Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Asheville's Progressive Hope

"All politics is local" observed Tip O'Neill, a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gordon Smith, from the gorgeous Western North Carolina city of Asheville, has taken the lessons of Tip O'Neill and has crafted a modern local campaign that is bold, inspiring, fun and accessible like none other I have ever seen. He is using social media, personal outreach and good old fashioned door to door politicking combined with energetic public events to reach thousands of people with his very progressive ideas.

Please follow me below the fold to learn more. Local politics. It all starts here.

John Blossom observed back in 2008 in his excellent piece on local politics and its changing dynamic, that citizens are making a profound difference on the political landscape through blogging, social media and interactive awareness never seen before. He uses Tip O'Neill as an early example before the modern tools we now enjoy arrived.
"All politics is local" observed Tip O'Neill, a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. O'Neill was a Congressman from Cambridge, Massachusetts who learned this maxim of politics when he lost his first political campaign - a race for a seat on his local city council - by only 150 votes. When O'Neill asked some of the people in his neighborhood why they hadn't voted for him, they told him "You didn't ask for my vote." Tip O'Neill never forgot this lesson and went on to a very successful career in politics in which he was known for his ability to lead and influence the most unlikely combinations of political allies to get their votes - and to get business done. The art of politics is indeed all local, based on building bonds of trust and delivering on personal promises to people who have entrusted someone with their personal political endorsement.

Gordon started this campaign back in the spring before announcing his intentions. He laid the groundwork by quietly building an organization of dedicated progressives while pouring himself into researching the issues that mattered most to Asheville voters. He had quite the head start in on that front as Asheville's premiere local political blogger. His blog turned five years old this year and it has covered every aspect of the local political scene. He is also one of the earliest Kossacks.

Breaking into politics, finally, was an obvious direction Gordon needed to take. And one that Asheville needed him to take.
Gordon wins primary
The arrival of a new era in Asheville politics was clearly demonstrated by the victories attained by Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith in the city council primary on October 6. These wins were built on hard and smart work by both candidates, sizeable teams of deeply committed volunteers and the grassroots organizing skills many of them gained working in President Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Here's why
As I write this, Gordon Smith has just earned his place on the November ballot for Asheville City Council. It is a tribute to the planning and long hours Gordon and the team he built devoted to this effort. But more, to the years Gordon has already devoted to building a better Asheville. Gordon Smith has proven himself a force for a smarter, more citizen-centered approach to city government. Of course, Gordon Smith is approachable, responsive, and a good listener – he’s a child and family therapist. As operator of a small business and as an engaged citizen, he has become a focal point for people interested in a building a sustainable, prosperous future for Asheville. He will be an excellent community representative on Asheville City Council.

Below are some links to the issues Gordon believes are essential to building a sustainable, progressive community here in the heart of Blue Ridge mountains. Asheville is a unique oasis of art, culture and beauty and Gordon Smith could use a little extra help to push him over the top and into the City Council where he can provide positive, progressive leadership and a strong voice for change and a sustainable future.

Affordable Housing
Economic Sustainability
Environmental Sustainability
Community Sustainability
A balanced budget

Thanks for your time and please consider throwing a few bucks toward a progressive local voice.
And please come visit! The leaves are turning, the air is crisp and Asheville is alive with energy, beauty and progressive politics.

Friday, October 09, 2009

2009: The Nobel Hope-'n'-Hype Prize

Wow. I think I was as shocked in my pre-coffee stupor this morning as Barack Obama must have been to discover that he'd won the million-+ dollar Nobel Peace Prize for nothing more than running a campaign on deception, cleverly labeled 'Hope'. Surely, thunk I to myself, they must be kidding! Since when did Alfred Nobel authorize his endowed prizes for great contributions in science, literature and politics to people who haven't done a damned thing other than maintain the bad old status quo?

I mean, it's not like the U.S. has turned Iraq over to the puppet government we installed there after invading the country for lies in the last administration, as if Saddam Hussein (who got hanged years ago) was responsible for 9-11 or was any threat after years of embargo that had hundreds of thousands of Iraqis starving after Daddy's bullshit mercenary war in the early '90s. Last I checked, which was this morning, ridiculously overstretched U.S. troops and well-paid mercenaries were still there and still dying.

Nor is it like the U.S. isn't still negotiating with warlords and drug kingpins in Afghanistan, or that the puppet government we installed there is in charge of anything other than the pallets of cash passed out to those drug lords. And yes, our troops and mercenaries are still dying every day there too. Why, last I checked - again this morning - Obama was still trying to get a troop surge there, despite not having any troops to work with after 8 years of decimating our vaunted "All-Volunteer" force.

Oh... and civilians by the multi-thousands in both countries are still being slaughtered wholesale, while our overstretched troops play the old game of "take this hill today, abandon it to the enemy tomorrow" that lost us Korea and Vietnam. Then there's Pakistan, which Obama is bombing regularly with drones and slaughtering thousands of innocent civilians we're not even at war with. And of course there's Iran, which Obama is threatening daily with carpet-nukes because he doesn't like their diminutive not-really leader's rhetoric as our troops surround his nation. Oh, and then there's Columbia, and Obama's troop build-up there to ostensibly take on the drug cartels he's supporting out in the open in Opium-Land.

The whole world is topsy-turvy crazy, and the Nobel committee is leading the pack. Wow. Just... wow.

Wake me up when Barack Obama does anything real in this world to end and/or prevent war. Until then, I've just got to consider this as being just what it is. The Nobel Hope-Against-Hope Prize.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Microcosm: Interesting Local Primary

Cross-posted to People First Politics

As a microcosm of current American politics in an age of angry Teabaggers and motivated Progressives, the Western North Carolina city of Asheville has been providing some fine entertainment. The Mayoral/City Council races to be decided in November enjoyed their much-anticipated primary yesterday, and the results are quite promising.

Asheville has been described as a "New New Age Mecca" by CBS and "America's New Freak Capital" by Rolling Stone, and indeed hosts a large and thriving population of musicians, artists of all varieties, organic consumers, gays, pagans, hippies and activist vegans. It's got Code Pink and PETA and even a group of Quakers who pass out subversive literature promoting peace on earth. Its first Gay Pride parade marches this coming Saturday. But Asheville has also long been famous as a hard core Appalachian backwater for its notorious police force, its crooked magistrates, and its semi-official love of the KKK.

The Klan had a march a few years ago downtown, and the city ignored all loud protest and numerous petitions to allow them their march anyway. Their only restriction for the permit was "no guns." Before the march, the police confiscated numerous guns from the sheet-sters, then let them march anyway. Police brutality against citizens peacefully protesting the march to war in Iraq, officers who routinely violate citizen's rights and do things like shoot people's dogs inside fences... Things have been slowly getting better, could get a whole lot better if yesterday's primary statistics mean anything.

There are three seats on the City Council open this year, along with the mayoral race. The incumbent mayor, Terry Bellamy received a substantial majority of votes, challenger Robert Edwards, will have to work very hard to unseat her. It was the City Council race that has provided the biggest reality show yucks, though. Incumbent Carl Mumpower, who challenged Heath Shuler in the 2008 Congressional and hardly made a showing, has been busy playing his King of Teabagger role with relish, trying to garner national attention as a mover-shaker. His latest act was to label local schoolteachers "Nazis", leading to actual death threats against teachers and causing parents to become afraid for the safety of their children. And just to flesh that out, when chastized for it, Mumpower went on to liken our elementary school teachers to Communists, Castro, Hezbollah, and yes, Al-Qaeda.

So it was with some satisfaction to see when the primary votes came in, that more progressive challengers Gordon Smith, Cecil bothwell and Esther Manheimer (who happens to be married to a public school teacher) took the vast majority. This may be a reflection of the Democratic/Progressive activism that started making itself obvious in 2006 with the defeat of Rep. Charles Taylor (a.k.a. "Chainsaw Charlie") by Blue Dog Heath Shuler, and expanded in 2008 to swing toward Obama. The energized left is apparently still engaged and still willing to get out and vote, which is something that perhaps D.C. ought to be paying some attention to.

The way the votes break down is quite dramatic. The percentages don't look like much, but it's a primary (only 13% of voters turned out). I've listed below, with both measures to make it easy to parse. City offices are non-partisan, but the candidate positions are fairly clear even for those who aren't Carl "Nazi" Mumpower...

• Cecil Bothwell: 19.63% - 52% of ballots cast.
• Gordon Smith: 18.87% - 50% of ballots.
• Esther Manheimer: 17.29% - 46% of ballots.
J. Neal Jackson: 6.71% - 18% of ballots.

Kelly Miller: 13.05% - 35% of ballots.
Carl Mumpower: 12.30% - 33% of ballots.

City Council member Robin Cape did not seek reelection, but following the filing deadline decided to run as a write-in candidate for the November general election, thus avoiding the primary. Three seats are open. If this trend continues through next month's general, the tenor of Asheville's City Council with change significantly toward issues the residents feel are most important - preservation, affordable housing, public transportation expansion, Green and environmental issues, education. On that last front, let's hope that city officials won't be calling our school teachers Nazis or terrorists again any time soon.

I think people in the area I live are beginning to turn on the ugly hate-politics of the hard-right WingNuts, even the more conservative contingents. This would certainly be a healthy thing to spring from the 'grassroots' of our own neighborhoods, cities, counties and regions to force a big change in the way politics is currently practiced in the isolated backwater of Washington, D.C. It's about damned time.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Nazi Is As Nazi Does

[ cross-posted from Daily Kos ]

Carl Mumpower: a Danger to the Citizens He Claims to Serve

You'd think a fairly routine City Council race in a smallish city (~75,000 not counting tourists) in the sticks of Southern Appalachia would be off the radar screens of just about everybody else in the country. But alas, not so. One of the incumbents, a certain Carl Mumpower, has been busy making a claim for WingNut fame and fortune by egging on militia-style death threats against local schoolchildren and teachers. Mumpower is a hero of Teabaggers and hate-radio bloviators like Rush Limbaugh. So of course his more colorful antics this time around are getting national attention.

The latest is about a YouTube video showing a one-minute clip of students at a local elementary school participating in a 26-minute performance last February about famous Americans, and celebrating the election of the nation's first African-American President. While that program fully accorded with the North Carolina educational curriculum per teaching about civic leadership, American heroes, good citizenship, diverse cultures and such, the clip has led to some nasty charges and ramifications.

According to the Asheville Citizen-Times area resident Loren Lanter posted the clip to YouTube in late September, where it was picked up by national media and Rush Limbaugh as evidence of indoctrination in public schools. Limbaugh's old buddy Carl could of course be counted upon to exploit the situation to his dubious advantage. Mumpower announced:

"...That is ritual behavior and that's how you plug things into kids' heads. I'll come right out and say it. That's exactly how the Hitler youth were programmed prior to World War II."

This absurd grandstanding has led directly to death threats against teachers, threats of violence to the school, and has caused many parents to become very concerned about the safety of their children. One of the challengers for Mumpower's City Council seat, activist and blogger Gordon Smith responded, sounding a lot like a rational and civic-minded human being:

"Asheville's children and schoolteachers deserve our highest praise and encouragement. Instead we have a city leader insulting them and stoking the fires of violence. Carl Mumpower ought to apologize to the children, families, and school personnel for his dangerous comments and issue a statement condemning death threats against school officials."

Hear, hear. One wonders how Mumpower would characterize a one-minute clip of quick scenes showing public school students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to a piece of cloth, chanting requisite prayers to the Christian godling, dressing up and parading around in uniforms, etc. from way back when I was a kid. And those ubiquitous Duck-and-Cover drills were not just pointless to public safety, they were specific to instilling mass fear in the nation's children of a doomsday technology they weren't allowed to learn anything about. This country's never been materially different from any of its enemies in the matter of mass public and childhood indoctrination, brainwashing and fear-peddling. Heck we're much better at it these days with FoxNews, Limbaugh and his clones, and crazy WingNuts like Mumpower and ilk ready to demonize and threaten the very lives their own neighbors for a single minute of nationwide infamy.

Gordon Smith wrote the above condemnation of Mumpower on September 30 on his blog. On October 1 City Councilman Mumpower wrote on his blog:

"The recent brouhaha over our school kids reciting President Obama's campaign slogans has had more legs than most would have anticipated. Liberal apologists, culture vultures, and their enablers are joining forces to minimize the impact of the event and those challenging it. With all due respect, I would rather not."

He goes on to reiterate his Nazi charge, again identifies the school and its location specifically, and further likens the February civics program to indoctrination methods used by "Communist China, Castro, Al-Qaeda, and Hezbollah." Anything to pump those crazies, maybe get a WingNut to show up with assault weaponry and open fire at the school, or just park a rental truck loaded with explosives out front. Then he personally thanks the guy who posted the video to YouTube, despite the fact that doing so without any sort of consent or waver of any of the parents or teachers may be actionable, particularly in that it has led to those rampant and ongoing threats of violence against the school, teachers and students.

It's probably redundant to mention that Mumpower is a holdover from the city's notoriously racist past, or that he spends time casing public housing projects for signs of illegal goings on (that as a Councilman you'd think he could assign to the actual law enforcement apparatus of the city). For those of us who live and/or work in Asheville, it would be nice if the City Council could reflect something of the true diversity and political leanings of its citizens, rather than the paranoid racist rantings of the seriously inbred corners of outlying rural incorporations. There are good liberal candidates running this year and turnout in early voting has set a record so far, promising a record participation when the votes are counted.

The City Council races are officially "non-partisan," but this of course doesn't prevent the parties from financing and politicking for their favored candidates. Buncombe County Republican Party Chair Robert Malt admits that high turnout tends to indicate the citizens are "dissatisfied" with the status quo and are looking to change things. Let's hope he's right, and the last of our notorious wannabe mind-tyrants - who lost a bid for the 11th district to Heath Shuler in 2006 - is finally put out to pasture where he belongs.

Carl Mumpower's quest for personal aggrandizement must stop threatening the lives of citizens he's supposed to serve. If he won't call off his vicious dogs, he needs to be tossed out like the bum he truly is. As unceremoniously as possible, please!

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