A shout out to Colgate University--and other issues confronting our country

Colgate University in Hamilton, New York is a compact, venerable, and extremely pleasant campus with miles of fall-turning trees as far as the eye can see. This time of year most of the eastern seaboard is awash with the most amazing colors as nature does its thing. I spoke there yesterday, October 16, invited by the university's ALANA Cultural Center. I addressed a small group of students at noon at the ALANA Cultural Center on issues that mostly revolved around gangs. There was also a barbecue and a dinner I had the pleasure to attend. In the evening, I spoke at the Love Auditorium in Olin Hall. The group was small, but very vested in the discussion. It was a relatively deep dialogue about alignment, change, and challenge. The questions were high level and stimulating. I had a great time--and now have a few friends at Colgate University (which I'm honored to say tends to happen at most schools I speak at). Several students even ended up driving the hour or so back with me to the hotel in Syracuse I was staying at. A million thanks.

On the way to Colgate University from Burbank airport, which took all day on two planes, I got to check out most of the presidential campaign debate. Obama spoke in what has come to be his signature tone--calm, explanatory, and not taken in by McCain (although this time he did a little more sparring than usual).

McCain, for being a so-called straight talker, continued with hyperbole, subterfuge, and lies. For example, he brought up Bill Ayers again--come off it, dude! Ayers is no "domestic terrorist" nor is he a "washed up" radical--he's one of Chicago's leading citizens, a university professor, and family man. He and his wife Bernardine have been strong advocates for schools, justice, and youth. His involvement in alleged bombings were 40 years ago, which he has long repudiated, and for which he was never indicted. I know this because I've worked with Bill Ayers, like many Chicago progressives, when I lived in the city for fifteen years.

McCain attacked ACORN (the nonprofit organization under investigation by the FBI in Nevada for possible voter registration irregularities) by claiming they were perhaps perpetuating the single most destructive voter fraud in US history and will destroy the fabric of American democracy? Yeah, that's some "straight talk."

The fact is this is a gross exaggeration. First of all, ACORN is "under investigation"--presently there are no indictments and no one has been found guilty of anything. Secondly, they are being investigated for possible voter registration fraud, which is different than voter election fraud. And the registration cards that may be in error are so far only one percent of all the registration forms ACORN has filled in several states. The real issue is whether a few people got lazy, played games (registering one voter as "Mickey Mouse," for example) or if this was part of a conspiratorial systemic core problem with ACORN. All this remains to be seen. Still, McCain and Palin have already found them "guilty" -- although she won't "straight talk" about a legislative panel in Alaska that did in fact find Palin had abused her authority in the "Troopergate" scandal.

If ACORN is ever indicted and eventually found guilty of manipulating voter registration forms this is wrong. And there should be consequences. But I will place bets now that this will not result in the fall of the US Democratic Process. Any takers?

The problem with a man who claims to be strategic and able to "win wars" is that his campaign is up till now a total mess--if McCain can't organize a fairly responsible presidential campaign, how's he going to lead this country, let alone win wars?

Obama's people have called McCain "erratic" and that's largely true. Picking Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential candidate is arguably the most erratic of all his decisions (and he's had quite a few). Right now he simply can't be trusted.

Now what about that "Joe Plumber"?

McCain made it sound as if this guy makes more than $250,000 (which only five percent of Americans do) and that Obama will tax the hell out of him (we now find out that Joe Wurzelbacher, who McCain misnamed on air, is doing bad financially and is not even a licensed plumber). Remember, McCain's a Republican. They openly declare that they represent the wealthier and more conservative Americans in this country. Their base is made up of CEOS and major investors. Yes, many poor working class people claim this party--but in every election and every time they'd held the presidency or the Congress, the working class suffers more (although the Democrats aren't immune about using labor's name in vain and then abandoning them).

Many politicians in both parties have evoked people like "Joe Plumber" to attract what they consider the white blue-collar guys. But, if you don't know by now, it is only words. They have never done anything for the working classes. Reagan was one of the worse presidents in this regard (remember his crushing of the Air Controllers union and the millions of jobs lost due to de-industrialization under his watch). So was Bush I. And this got even worse under Bush II.

Don't fall for any of this--and I'm speaking to all you "Joe Plumbers" and other workers (I've actually done this kind of work in a steel mill, in construction, and various factories for many years).

McCain's true colors came out when he attacked "class warfare" and the redistribution of wealth. What's wrong with that? That's the problem--the small number of people who own all the wealth in the country, and don't work hard for it, while millions who work hard every day, when they can get work, are being shafted.

Let's distribute this wealth, man. I'm all for it.

McCain claims he's no Bush, but he's backed up Bush on key issues, including de-regulation that is one of the key roots of the current crisis among the financial markets.

Now, again, I don't think the Democratic Party is going to "save us" from any of this. But I do think that if change is going to happen it will have to be done under an Obama Administration.

Now if you are inclined to vote independent for real programs, then consider the Green Party candidates Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, or Ralph Nader and his running mate, Matt Gonzalez. They have long proven records of activism and advocacy. They are smart and are putting forward the best programs of any parties.

The reason I'll vote for Obama is that millions of hard-working, progressive thinking people are moving rapidly to his campaign. I'd like to be among them. We need to be where the revolutionary thread is and pull on that. Yes, for many progressives it's with the Greens--and all power to them. But the numbers aren't going their way (even though I've voted Green for many years, including for Nader).

I like the numbers of people going for Obama. Does this mean he'll be elected President? Right now this campaign is going in his favor. But the numbers are too close in key states and areas. Everyone has to work hard if Obama is to make this historical leap. Will Obama solve the crisis, save our homes, and bring about true peace and justice? I think this is only possible if the working class and progressives learn to organize and grow into the various stages of change. We cannot just drop the ball. Whether Obama wins or loses--this has happened to often in the past for progressives--is not the essential thing (but let's help him win).

Change is objective--it's in the air and on the ground. It's sweeping up everything, including Obama and even Republicans. We have to take this to new levels.

I say to any and all activists and progressives--whether you vote for the Greens, Nader or Obama, hang in there for real change. Keep putting forward the real program of the working class -- jobs, housing, schools, immigration rights, the right to have the best health care possible for everyone, a healthy earth. Don't let up. If McCain wins, don't get depressed and walk away. Hammer away--we should have done this with Bush, but I saw too many people and institutions just back off.

I'm voting for Obama. But even if he wins, we have a long way to go to change this country. Let's take these steps with Obama, and keep on stepping. Change is everywhere. The one missing ingredient is the growing consciousness of those who have suffered the most under any administration, the real basis of value but also exploitation under capitalism--the poor and working class of this country.

Yes, the working class are "the economy," and they've died in wars without question and much heroism that were largely created for the capitalist class and in the long run benefiting the capitalist class (don't ever believe they actually plan to stop terrorism). Instead of just evoking "plumbers," or any worker for that matter, the working class needs to have the knowledge, skills, tools, and organization to create their own strategies, plans, programs, and history.

Vote Green or vote Obama--don't stop regardless of the outcome. It's time for real change.


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