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(Un)intended Consequences?

IMG_1110

The last vacation I took: Bethany Beach, Delaware, July 2011

In a day or two, I will relate my own ongoing struggle with Obamacare (it’s not positive, believe it or not).  But for now, I want to talk about something I saw yesterday on Corrente regarding the Clinton papers and what Hillary Clinton had to say about the individual mandate.

But first, let me tell you about Jobs4NJ.  When I was laid off back in 2011 from the job I loved, I signed up for the NJ job matching service.  You upload your CV to their database, spend 2 hours correcting all the formatting mistakes, and wait.  By the way, we were told at the NJDOL that we could also apply for state jobs but that each job application would require a $25 fee.  That fee was non-refundable whether you got a job or not.  Imagine asking a bunch of unemployed people to cough up $25 for each job opening they saw on the state employment site.  I’m wondering if that was a Christie innovation.  The DOL employees were extremely kind, helpful and treated us with dignity and respect and even they thought the fee was outrageous.

Anyway, getting back to Jobs4NJ.  They sent me some job listings.  The good positions were gone, gone, gone from NJ.  The postings I got had descriptions that seemed a bit vague, as if the companies themselves weren’t really sure what they wanted.  Most positions in “science” were really business positions.  Apparently, R&D has an unmet demand for marketing and finance specialists.  Labrats?  Ehhhh, not so much.

I applied to some of the few low level lab positions that were available, and, as is the custom these days with companies, never heard back from any of them that they even received my CV and cover letter or what exactly the mismatch was.  This was not the example of malignant narcissism run amok that I alluded to a couple of days ago though.  I would be grossly exaggerating if I characterized this all too typical insensitivity towards jobseekers as evil.  I’m saving the story of true senseless malice for a book.

I still get email from Jobs4NJ, though you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to go back to that state.  But I noticed something the other day about the new positions.  Quite a few of them have the word “CONTRACT” in the post.  Hmmm, that’s a new one, thought I.  And then, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Over a year ago, I predicted that the ACA would lead to a greater number of contract positions.  And why is that?  There are a couple of reasons.  One, it allows many corporations to go “weightless”.  They don’t have to offer their workers benefits if they get a third party vendor to handle their human resources needs.  That third party vendor becomes a middle man, matching up contractors with the company.  The middle man becomes the tax collector who processes the paperwork and handles the  untidy business of interacting with the people who, you know, get their hands dirty in the labs.  (Sidenote: It always amused me when I compared the executive cafeteria with the R&D cafeteria.  The business workers had bespoke prepared foods, plenty of healthy and delicious options and an on-call nutritionist who would consult with you on your dietary needs.  I witnessed this personally one day.  The R&D cafeteria served the kind of high fat, high calorie limited entrees that would be perfect for coal miners, not a bunch of bespectacled, skinny geeks.  But since the executives rarely interacted with us, we may perhaps excuse them for thinking we were grimy blue collar lumberjacks who needed 5000 calories per serving of bland, greasy food.)

The other reason why the ACA is leading to a greater number of non-full time, contract positions is that because the employer mandate keeps getting put off, indefinitely, it seems, the employee is now responsible for carrying the weight of the health care premiums, which, by the way, are still astronomical when the deductibles and OOP expenses are factored in.  An increase in precariousness shouldn’t be surprising.  Why should an employer invest money in training and retaining an employee when they don’t have to?  It’s a kind of moral hazard, is it not?

So, it came as no surprise to me that Hillary Clinton saw a flaw in the individual mandate back in the 90s.  Let’s be clear, that’s not the same as a universal mandate, which seems to be a cornerstone of successful national health care systems around the world.  It’s important that all stakeholders, employees and employers, buy in to the system or it doesn’t work.  But to put all of the burden on individuals and letting employers get away with no responsibility?  According to the papers, Hillary Clinton said that was a problem:

“That is politically and substantively a much harder sell than the one we’ve got — a much harder sell,” Clinton said. “Because not only will you be saying that the individual bears the full responsibility; you will be sending shock waves through the currently insured population that if there is no requirement that employers continue to insure, then they, too, may bear the individual responsibility.”

Yes, this is exactly what is happening.  EVERYONE is potentially affected.  Even worse, there may be a two tier system of employees.  I can just imagine the better connected, legacy ivy league graduates becoming fully vested in the employee benefit system while the state school graduates scramble from job to job trying to find a foot hold.  It’s already happening in the pharmaceutical industry where what the MBAs consider the cream of the crop get the few coveted positions in Cambridge and San Francisco and the rest of us run from contract position to contract position, or stuck in an endless series of low paying post doc positions.  (Sidenote: you politicians are crazy if you think we former scientists are going to let you get away with the “there aren’t enough STEM workers” schtick.  We are already all over the comments sections and posting loud and clear that there is no shortage.  We’re not going to let our children languish in the labs for decades while they make less money than a first grade teacher for all the education they have.)

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!!

What else do contract workers not have besides health care benefits?

Well, I will tell you because I have been there.  They don’t have pensions, 401K plans, sick days, holidays or vacation days. They don’t get tuition discounts or reimbursements.  They don’t get to ride the buses for free nor can they get a spot in the employee parking lots.  And if you are a temp or contract worker, you don’t really have ANY labor protections.  You may have trouble getting paid due to the way companies pay their invoices.  In some cases, you have no protection against discrimination.  Think of how gay contractors fare with even the federal government.  YOU’RE a CONTRACTOR.  Your boss could call you in at any time of the day or night and make unreasonable demands on your time.  He may decide to arbitrarily cut your hours in half one week and let YOU worry about how you’re going to pay the rent or health insurance premium while your kid is in the hospital. As a temp worker “you do not have a salary”, as I was so brusquely  and dismissively reminded one day.

See where this is going?  Sorry, people, this is where we already are.  It’s not the future of employment.  It is the now.  Check out the Freelancer’s Union to see what employment is turning into.  A rational person would become debt free as quickly as possible and build a tiny house with solar panels and no plumbing and grow their own food.  We can let Krugman wax rhapsodic about what would happen to the economy if everyone cut back and accrued as little debt as possible.  Talk about lack of demand.  But that’s where we’re headed.  Those of us who were lucky enough to have some savings when the masters of the universe decided to pull up stakes and grab the pie for themselves have decided to stop spending money.  It’s self preservation but it’s not healthy for the country.  No more Royal Caribbean cruises, no more vacation rentals at the shore.  We question whether we really need that bentwood coffee table and agonize over hair cuts.  We save up for the days we have to call in sick.  We put off replacing our broken phones.

I think it’s time we stopped making excuses for our politicians that let this happen.  In fact, I’m not blaming Republicans for the recent, drastic, horrible negative turn of events that working people are experiencing right now.  They were like snakes and we knew what they were.  Their poison was already well understood by the educated working class.  We have no one to blame but ourselves for allowing the stealthy predators into our midst in the last 6 years.  Some of us were so bedazzled by being called “creative” that we failed to look closely at who our new friends were.

But whether the war on the working class by the financiers was intentional or not, we can no longer deny, or should I say, we deny at our peril, that our nation’s top politicians have provided a moral hazard for finance and businesses both large and small, to continue to shed benefits and worker protections via the contracting route.  In the pharmaceutical area, this was accomplished easily by laying off hundred of thousands of R&D professionals in the wake of the Great Recession and now hiring us back as contractors.  Indeed, the high unemployment rate of the last several years coupled with the delay in the employer mandate for the ACA has created a perfect storm where the stripping of compensation is going to pick up even faster and reach deeper into the American workforce just as Hillary predicted decades ago.

It’s happening so fast that many of us don’t even realize the predators are on us until we’re being forced down the gullet.  Will this become a harder sell politically in November 2014?  We will see.

Revising my hypothesis about Democratic messaging

I’ve thought about Ira Glass’s question about Democratic messaging and I’m revising my hypothesis about why Democrats seem to SUCK at it so badly.  Here’s what I’ve been toying with:

1.) Let’s talk about the Republican party.  It’s not really a party anymore.  It’s really a frenzied, irrational mob that is being lead by a small evil group of manipulative conmen who have access to more money than God. That goes for the former Democrats who fled to the Tea Party after 2008 as well.  You’ve been had.

2.) If I were evil geniuses with more money than God, how would I take down my opponents?  Well, there are the obvious ways through traditional media and Fox News and propaganda.  But you’ve got to keep refighting those battles every 2-4 years.  That gets old and there’s a danger that the public will eventually catch on.

3.) Well off people who make a lot of money but aren’t generationally rich are vulnerable. They might not be socially reactionary but greed is a powerful force. Hold that thought.

4.) I might turn the thoughts of the well off but not generationally rich to taking over the party of my enemy.  It’s a good possibility that they’ve already decided to do this independently.

5.) Money pours into the coffers of the enemy.  The enemy bites.  (It hasn’t been fed in several election cycles)  Then, like a retrovirus, that money starts turning the mechanism of the party against itself.

6.) Money is a powerful substance for highjacking the messaging of the party.  The party itself changes.  The party no longer functions as it used to.

Ira’s mistake is in assuming that the messaging sucks unintentionally because the party is incompetent.  This is the wrong way to look at it.  The messaging is supposed to suck.  The people who have taken over the party have made sure that the party itself remains fragmented.  The base is no longer cohesive.  The party infiltrators intentionally broke it apart in 2008 in order to pit African Americans against women, “creative class” {{cough, cough}} against working class, “educated” {{rolling eyes}} against everyone without an ivy league degree.

The new message system keeps getting propagated through a new generation of bought political journalists.  The demographics of this new breed are strikingly similar to the people who bought the party.  We have Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Josh Marshall, people like that.  They’re young, relatively well-educated, white, male.  Are there any women here?  The Democratic infiltrators know what they’re doing.  Why should they give any voice to the powerless, the people who might actually want them to do something?

And every time there is a possibility that the gang will have a “Hey, we’ve been eating grass!” moment and start comparing notes, the infiltrators quickly disseminate poison throughout the system. I think we could prove this with a Lexus-Nexis search.  I’m betting there is a correlation between Obama’s public opinion surveys and negative journalism about more liberal or successful Democrats. If there isn’t one, I’ll eat my blog.  That negative messaging permeates throughout the blogosphere and social networking apparatus.  We know how it’s done because we’ve seen it.   They take the most powerful politician in the party and use him as a target at which every grievance of the activist base can hurl their insults and nurse their injuries.  It’s a three minute hate in neat little packages.  This continues to separate the party into creative class, men with privileged backgrounds and everyone else.

The people who are most hurt by the three minute hate against successful Democratic politicians who aren’t pure are the same people who were most inclined to vote for the hated Democratic politician, that is working and middle class people, the poor, African Americans, women, and immigrants.  The activist base keeps telling them they should be angry with the last successful and powerful Democratic politician but they’re not.  It’s all designed to keep the parts of the party from talking to one another.

Now, you have to wonder how it is that this money retrovirus was able to accomplish so much.  It seems to me that it’s easier to do when the Republicans go to the extreme right.  The more right they go, the more likely that socially moderate rich people will look for alternatives.  Arianna Huffington is poster girl for this kind of movement to the Democrats.  And the crazier the right gets, the more the socially moderate monied class flees to the Democrats, diluting the strength of the 99% with all of that money.  So, it shouldn’t be any wonder that the right is really going for the gusto and becoming as radical as it possibly can.  Don’t expect it to get better before the election.  Republicans are going to push it right as far as it will go so that the Democratic party gets further diluted.  The vast majority of voters feel they have nowhere to go.  They’re trapped because there is a void to the left of the Democrats where they used to feel comfortable.  In the meantime, because the right has pushed sooooo far right, it’s hard to tell what’s the center anymore.  Average Americans get the idea that the most important thing is to cut the legs off of other Americans.  They know there’s something wrong with the picture but all of the solutions that are presented to them are the same.

What we have here is the Karl Rovian forces taking over both parties and pushing working people and the 99% out.  The Democrats are not our people anymore.  The activists won’t accept this but unless they have more money than the people who have highjacked the party mechanism, they’re not going to get control of the messaging anymore, until they back the only other center of power left within the party.  They could choose to embrace the last successful Democratic politician who defied both parties’ expectations and who has the support of the working class, women, poor, middle class, immigrants, and *used* to have African Americans until the 2008 character assasination.  But the people who run the Democratic party are going to continue to poison those thoughts the minute they start to bubble up.  The activist base is just too full of themselves and too prone to blame someone else than actually get a fucking clue.  They’d rather go for purity than actual power.

(Odd that they haven’t considered that the other center of power may decide to go left in order to differentiate itself from the highjackers…)

So, there you have it, Ira.  Democratic messaging is working fine.  It’s doing exactly what it’s been paid to do.  If you want a return to left of center politics, you’ve got to be willing to clean out the infection.  So far, I see no indication that the activist base wants to rid themselves of doing it even though much of the base realizes it jumped in bed with someone they didn’t know and caught something nasty.  To do so would mean they have to overcome powerful conditioning and toxicity.

I think the Democrats are heading towards extinction.  If they lose big this fall, and it’s a distinct possibility, the ensuing hardships should shake the activists out of their torpor and make them realize they’ve been had.  I wish I could say this is all unavoidable but sometimes, you have to learn the hard way.

Sunday: Interesting observation

Rooney Mara prefers her Dad's Giants to her Mom's Steelers

I was checking out the actors and actresses who were nominated for Academy Awards this year and found that of the actresses nominated, 4 out of 5 nominees came from well-connected families or very upper middle class backgrounds.  Rooney Mara is part of a football dynasty, Meryl Streep’s dad was a Big Pharma executive who lived in Bernardsville, NJ (very posh), Michelle Williams dad was a wealthy stock broker and Glenn Close’s family went back to colonial Viginia and also featured major hospital/brokerage people.  The only exception to this trend was Viola Davis whose mother and grandmother were domestic servants on a plantation in the deep south, which *might* have something to do with the reason why she was cast in the movie The Help, even though she has a slew of other drama awards for various roles.

On the men’s side, all but two come from a working class/middle class background.  George Clooney came from a political family and is also a nephew of Rosemary Clooney. Demien Bichir’s family is in the acting biz in Mexico.  Since Clooney and Bichir’s connections are within the acting profession, you might call that a professional relationship.

I just thought it was interesting that given this particular set of data for this year, it appears that your chances of getting to the top of the acting world if you’re a woman has a lot to do with who your daddy knows.  Of course, your “connexions” can’t act for you but your chances of getting your foot in the door appear to be greater if your family has money and know people who owe them favors.

If you’re an actor looking to reach the top, just be born incredibly good looking and work on your trade.

Which makes me wonder what happens to all of the phenomenally talented women who come from working class backgrounds.  I mean, how do we know that the acting we are seeing is the best that there is if the only people who ever make it in Hollywood are the scions of the investment class?  That’s not to say that Meryl Streep and Glenn Close aren’t incredibly talented and I’d watch Brad Pitt in anything.  But if this is our standard, how do we know it is set high enough?

The reason I ask is because the science profession is sort of getting to be this way.  You’re nobody if you haven’t got a PhD from Harvard.  And we know that getting into Harvard is not merely a matter of merit.  The Ivies turn down thousands of well qualified applicants every year.  What if your brain doesn’t kick into gear until your sophomore year and you’re in a state university?  Can you even get a job anymore?  It’s who you know these days.  Who is going to be your patron.  What if you come from a working class background and don’t have a patron?  Can a Steve Jobs type even get an interview at Apple these days and if the answer is no, is that trend supposed to be good for America?

Just askin’.

 

OccupyWallStreet: Nucleation and crystallization

Update:  Here is a photoessay from The Atlantic of last weekend’s OccupyTogether rallies held throughout the world.

In one of the more recent comment threads, r u reddy pointed me to a guest post that David Graeber wrote for NakedCapitalism about the origins of OccupyWallStreet and asked me if I cared to comment.  Why, yes, yes I do.

But first, I would like to point out one line that caught my attention in Graeber’s piece.  It’s about Obama and young people:

How, then, do you expect a young American voter to feel, after casting a vote for a fundamental change to our political and economic system, on discovering that in fact, they have elected a man who twenty years ago would have been considered a moderate conservative?

And that right there gives you an indication about where Graeber is coming from.  To him, it is Obama’s betrayal of “young people” that he appears to be most concerned about.  In his post, he uses the words “young”, “youth” or “student” 2o times.  Granted, it’s a long post but by the time you’re finished reading it, you get the distinct impression that young people with student loans are the ones suffering the most in this economy. How does Graeber think the unemployed middle aged professional feels about the election of a man who she knew would be a moderate conservative during a period of economic crisis?  It just goes to show that Graeber doesn’t understand his movement.  So, what is David missing, because this thing is still solidifying and we’re not certain what it’s going to look like when it’s finished.  Here’s my comment response with editing:

I think David Graeber gives himself and his friends too much credit. Remember, the PUMAs were in Denver with much the same grievances. We were the working class (of all ages, genders, educations and professions) that got thrown under the bus in 2008. And there were hundreds of people who showed up in Denver at the PUMA headquarters.  During the convention, this blog’s readership spiked to 52,000 unique page hits in a 24 hour period.  There were many people who were deeply concerned with the direction the 2008 election had taken.  From what I can tell, this movement might have started sooner if the left itself hadn’t sat on it.

The problem is that there was no way in hell anyone other than Obama was going to get the nomination no matter how valid the challenger and justified the cause. So, we had to wait through a couple of years of Obama trying to parley with the repulsive Republicans, knowing that he was going to be a disaster. It wasn’t that difficult to figure out what Obama really stood for after his scorched earth policy in the primaries, the way he accepted the treatment of voters in Florida and Michigan, his thin voting record, his vote for telecomm immunity, his campaign’s tolerance of overt misogyny against Hillary and Palin, his courtship of evangelicals coupled with the disappearance of reproductive rights issues from Democratic congressional candidate’s websites in 2008, and his acceptance of millions in campaign funds from the financial services industry.  If young people had unreasonable hope about what Change!™ Obama was going to bring, it’s because Graeber and his buddies at DailyKos whipped them into a frenzy.  We regular people who saw Obama for the passive, opportunistic, investment class wannabe that he was had to live in the wilderness while people in Graeber’s cohort fell madly in love and then out of love with Barry. It was DailyKos that lead the jeers and taunts against us by scornfully calling us a “shrieking band of paranoid holdouts”. Jane Hamsher called us a “certain kind of woman” and to this day, most of the left blogosphere can’t get over the conditioning that associates PUMA with racism and bitter menopausal women who don’t have college degrees.  But now that the Graebers of the country are over their infatuation, the revolution can return to it’s regular program already in progress.

Secondly, I see this from a chemistry perspective. In supersaturated solutions, you can frequently get crystallization to occur by scratching the inside of the beaker with the sharp end of a glass rod. The scratch provides something called a nucleation site onto which a crystal can build. At a certain point, crystallization becomes a concerted process and the crystals fall out of solution. But it won’t happen unless conditions are right for crystallization. The concentration of the solution has to be high enough, the temperature has to be just so, it has to be scratched or seeded.

This is what we have with OWS. The conditions were right for crystallization and the movement fell out because they picked the right spot to scratch.
I see a lot of blather about anarchism and anti-capitalism and blahdeblahdeblah. I’m not sure those things are as relevant as Graeber makes them sound. That’s because the 99% consist of more than the friends he has with the crushing student loans and you will find people of all ages, genders and backgrounds at an occupation site. That right there should tell Graeber something. This was a movement waiting to happen that goes way beyond his little circle of progressive activists. This is a movement for former PUMAs as well.

And the movement is going to be what it’s going to be. It is an open source concept. That means that the users determine the way the end product works by collaboration, iterations, feedback and adjustments. Anarchism means absolutely nothing to me. (well, I know what it means, I just don’t think it’s a particularly good working model) Neither does tearing down a capitalist system. I don’t think the vast majority of regular people want to tear down the system. I think they want out from under its grasp.  They want an economy that works for them.   That may mean reviving and reinforcing the rules or setting up a parallel economic system without Wall Street’s dirty mitts on everything but whatever that means, the open source model demands that it is responsive to the users and can’t be determined beforehand by people like Graeber.

So, I think what Graeber and his friends did is scratch the glass. The public was ready for this. And now, he and his friends need to lose their egos and join with the rest of us so we can get things done.

By they way, Graeber is overlooking the strength of this movement if he thinks it is centered on young people. The reason it has become so incredibly successful is that when there is a big march, it is the regular working stiffs who show up to them. If it were just students, the media would have an easier time writing them off. But it’s not just students. It’s union people and unemployed people and teachers and actresses, and chemists and older people and families with kids. The 99% percent really means just about everyone.  It doesn’t mean “all 99%-ers are equal but some 99%-ers who are young with student loans are more equal than others”.  Some of us have mortgages and no jobs.  We count.

When I was at the march on October 5, I saw why the thing was taking off. The marchers looked like everyday people, not like a college pep rally. Graeber is already out of touch with his own constituency. Not only that but as wonderful as young people are, I’m surprised that OWS hasn’t taken advantage of the technical expertise of some of their sympathizers who are NOT 25 years old. We might be middle aged but most of us cut our teeth in the internet age. We wrote the first web pages, configured the first apache servers and played with the tools that brought us smartphones and social media. We learn quickly. It’s stupid to leave all that knowledge and experience on the table in order to celebrate youth to the exclusion of all else.

For example, there are a lot of unemployed scientific researchers right now.  To pass on all that talent, experience and insider knowledge while the OWS young people go on at length (and quite foolishly sometimes, IMHO) about the dangers of modern pharmaceuticals would be to miss out on an opportunity to make pharma work for the public at large and not just the big corporations.  Instead of going off on uninformed tantrums about how evil pharma is, they could be spending their time figuring out how to set one up that would be responsive to them.  Like having the 99% own the patents and decide what therapeutic areas to explore. I am willing to help take on this kind of working group on if there isn’t one already formed.  Preserving our scientific infrastructure is extremely important and there is all that talent and knowledge out there. This is something that “young people” and social scientists are unlikely to get a grasp of without our help.

If Graeber wants to keep this movement going, it would be much better to make middle age sexy and invite as many working class people in to share what they know that they have learned after years of experience. Youth is wasted on the young.

******************************

When I think of OWS, this is what I see – here’s another video of protestors singing Do You Hear The People Sing in the rotunda of the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.  Yes, there are young people.  But they are not by any means the majority or the only ones with a grievance.

Jesse LaGreca does it again

I wouldn’t call Jesse a spokesperson for OccupyWallStreet and he wouldn’t either.  But, damn, he’s good.  Today he was a guest of Christiane Amanpour’s round table on ABC’s This Week.  He’s able to derail George Will’s self-reverential bloviating about smaller government, deficit reducing blahdy-blah and he does it with a pugnacious, mischievous delight.  I live vicariously through LaGreca because I’ve always wanted to stuff a sock in Will’s mouth and down his esophagous till it emerges from his ass too and I’ll bet I’m not alone.

You can view the video at Hulabaloo here.  Scroll down to the bottom video and fast forward to minute marker 4:20.  (I’m not familiar with this open source video format so it will take me awhile to find a WordPress friendly version)

Here’s a different video of Jesse at OccupyWallStreet:

[youtube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EN_--FiUkE]

Amanpour introduced LaGreca as a DailyKos blogger.  Let me take this opportunity to point out that yours truly was booted off DailyKos in January 2008 due to accusations of thought crimes against Obama.  It didn’t take long for me to get over it as there were many like minded individuals to join me in the political Oort belt.  In a matter of hours, I went from a trusted user with mucho mojo and a not infrequent recommended diarist to instant pariah.  Talk about co-opting a movement.  If there was ever a movement that was co-opted by the DNC and bent over to take it from the banker backed Obama campaign, it would have to have been DailyKos.  It also had no problems letting itself be the conduit for misogyny and using the accusations of racism as a weapon to budgeon people who cared more about the economy and the aftermath of the Bush administration than the wet dreams of self-described “creative class”.

But the worst thing DailyKos did was watch 18,000,000 voters get disenfranchised by their own party and cheer that process on.  There is no greater offense that one group of citizens can do to another than to deprive them of their right to be heard and their votes to be taken seriously. It was shameful and disgusting behavior based on the premise that the ends justified the means.  Well, congratulations for getting it so stupendously wrong, Markos.  Millions of unemployed people around the country can thank you for making their struggle to remain in the middle class that much harder and their opportunity to have their votes counted increasingly obstructed.  After all, if a progressive site like DailyKos says nothing, why can’t Ohio or Indiana or Alabama do what they want with their voters?

I wouldn’t go back to DailyKos for anything, and it is unlikely they would want me back.  But if I were Jesse LaGreca, I wouldn’t affiliate myself too closely with DailyKos.  Forget about the right wingers who will jump on it.  DailyKos has destroyed its credibility to the rest of us Democrats in Exile.  We here at The Confluence have always associated ourselves with the working class, which in this context is anyone not living off their investments regardless of education, profession or delusions of grandeur.  DailyKos started out with good intentions and then spent all of its capital on a presidential candidate who used it to inflict anti-working class policies on the rest of us.

Jesse, you done good.  You are a natural.  You’re feisty, articulate and clever.  But do yourself and us a favor and ixnay on the ailyDay osKay.  This is the last time I’ll be posting videos of you until you do.

And Markos owes me and the other Clintonistas an apology for helping to split the party and emasculate the left on Obama’s behalf.  Stupidity doesn’t even begin to describe what a mistake that was.  He let us and the rest of America down.  The best thing that Jesse can do for OccupyWallStreet is distance himself from DailyKos and the stink of the party co-opting the site.

Thursday: What we’re up against because the “Creative Class” just *had* to have its way

Oh, how bittersweet to know what’s coming but unable to knock any sense at all into the children who got us into this mess.

I noticed yesterday that they seemed unusually quiet.  Well, except for the gits at the Big Cheeto who seem determined to blame all of this on the hicks in the sticks.

No, don’t blame it on an increase in the number of indies going Republican.  The problem is a good chunk of your own team didn’t bother to show up.  It’s that “party unity” thing you bludgeoned us with.  Remember when Nancy Pelosi brought down the gavel like she was late for a plane and the band struck up, “People all over the world, join hands, get on a LOVE train, LOVE train”.   That song is ruined for me. The party was being 1 part sincere and 45 parts mean spirited and contemptuous, rubbing salt in the wounds of everybody in Denver who was sent there to represent a middle class/working class constituency that was desperately looking for a return to peace and prosperity.  Instead, they were railroaded and stuffed in the closet while a small bunch of fanatics took over the party.

Based on the comments I saw on various blogs yesterday, the “creative class” intelligentsia still do. not. get. it.  They now seem receptive to the idea that Obama should be primaried, preferably from the left.  But they keep trying to ignore the only legitimate person in the room who has a shot of doing it.  Desperately, they grasp at names like Elizabeth Warren, who has never run for public office, and Russ Feingold, who just got tossed out of one for, I suspect, being a bit too much of a man of mystery.  Even Anglachel who was a Clintonista backs off from entertaining the possibility: Continue reading

Can this party be saved?

I’ve been cruising the web, checking out the blind men groping different parts of the elephant and trying to make sense of it all. None of them are seeing the big picture though, with the exeception of Ian Welsh and he’s even more pessimistic than I am. So, I thought I’d throw my own uninformed opinion into the mix. Here it is.

The Tea Party should give the Democrats the willies but not for the reason they think. It’s not the Koch brothers who are the big problem here. Oh, sure, the crazy idiot libertarians of the Republican party are about to get their wet dream fulfilled. But if they didn’t exist to fund the Tea Party, the voters might have invented it themselves. See, a lot of the people voting for Tea Party candidates are voters the Democrats might easily have claimed as their own two years ago.

If the blogger boyz could actually bother to get to know them, they’d understand what kind of pressure the working class is under. They work long years for stagnant pay while their under water houses take up more and more of their income. They can’t send their kids to college without saddling them with crippling debt. Their employment prospects are dim. And someone’s always got their hands out. Sometimes it’s teachers. Sometimes it’s bankers. Sometimes it’s their unemployed neighbors. To top it all off, the businesses that became cozy with both parties are ripping them off in every transaction from the ATM to the airlines to the gas station. And no matter how desperate they are for relief, the government only subsidizes the most destitute. In other words, you have to lose absolutely everything you have ever worked for before you get a boot with which you can pull yourself up.

Now, two years ago, those people had a choice. Or they THOUGHT they had a choice. They could have hit the reset button and gone back eight years or they could take a risk with Barack Obama. The choice was made for them by blogger boyz who felt they couldn’t leave this monumental moment of transcendent, orgasmic change in the hands of stupid working class people. So, we got change.

But while the blogger boyz were basking in the afterglow, life went on for the working class. And life has gotten significantly worse. The Democrats have given them nothing. The health care reform act was less than nothing. TARP was a disaster. HAMP is a disgrace. And as Peter Daou pointed out today, more people were killed in (non combat) operations in (not) Iraq, or something like that.

Believe it or not, guys, the working class can read.

They are not amused. At this point, the lives of the working class of the Tea Party have become like a sinking liferaft. They are throwing everyone else over to save themselves. Well, who can blame them? The Democrats gave them nothing in the past 6 years. At least the Tea Party Republicans offer them tax cuts. If that’s all they can get, they’ll take it.

And don’t blame them for this choice. It’s not because they’re stupid. It isn’t that they don’t understand that they are only hurting themselves. It’s that the Democrats give them no alternatives. And they’re pissed off. They could have had another Clinton.

Now, the lefty bloggers can continue to make fun of them and pile on Sarah Palin but that only going to make the former Democrats in the Tea Party even madder and more committed to getting rid of Democrats. They are tired of being mocked and treated like suckers.

The Democrats appear to be headed for political impotence. If they lose Congress, it’s back to the hinterlands, with no committee chairmanships and less seniority and meager campaign contributions. Obama will have to carry the ball for the whole party. Let me repeat that. OBAMA will have to carry the ball for the entire party.

Can this party be saved? I dunno. Depends on how badly it wants to save itself. Is it ready to make peace with the people it stupidly threw away in 2008? I’d like to think so but the Catfood Commission is still in business. That’s a bad sign. Oh, and Elizabeth Warren’s appointment would signify that the days of a free ride for bankers and credit card companies are coming to an end but that doesn’t look very promising at the moment.

It would be helpful to bring in another quarterback for 2012 but the blogger boyz are sneering at that idea.

I guess the answer is, No, unfortunately. Too bad really. Because unless the voting machines are already rigged, a party still needs voters to remain viable. And the Democrats got rid of a good chunk of them in 2008.

Pass the crumpets.

Dear Big Dawg, “This is our future”

Howyadoin’.  I catered the primary cocktail parties in 2008 and occasionally, I do pick up jobs here and there for RD and the other FP’s.  I’m a working class kind of guy working on my degree in nutrition and physical training.  Going to open a spa someday for all those rich ladies with too much time on their hands and too much lard on their asses.

Anyway, I saw that you were stumping for Ms. Blanche down in Arkansas.  And I read some of your remarks about who was funding her opponent.  It sounded to me like you were trying to make out like union people are “special interests”.  But then I thought that was probably just Politico taking your speech out of context again.  Bill Clinton could never mistake hundreds of millions of working class Americans as “special interests”.  I mean, the unions gave us the weekend and most of us don’t even have to belong to one.  I live for the weekends.

Then Florence, you remember her?  Did the coat check deal for the cocktail parties?  She’s been getting all crazy with that SyFy channel stuff and she starts watching this Caprica show about some brainy teenager hacker girl who gets blown up but comes back to life in the body of a robot through some transfer of the bits of her life that comprise her soul that fit on one of them USB drives and voile, a cylon is born.  I guess you have to follow these things to really understand it.  Florence says she’s doing a lot of coat check gigs in corporate HQs and the dudes sound just like this Graystone character.  Take a look:

Imagine that.  A subhuman race that does all the work and never needs to be fed.  Or paid even.  And they don’t complain.  It’s like a shareholder’s wet dream. When the cylon’s arm comes off and it spills the glass of water all over the table, that, my friend, is what you call a visual metaphor.

Ehhh, whaddaygonnado?  It’s the future, Bill. It’ll probably all turn out ok in the end. It’s not like this has all happened before or will happen again. I think that’s called a cultural reference, Bill.

By the way, I read this comment by Anne on TalkLeft about what some White House Senior Official said about Blanche winning.  Dollars to donuts it was Rahm.

And the reason the AFL spokesperson (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by Anne on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 09:01:41 AM EST

shot back with “We are not an arm of the Democratic Party,” is because, according to the Politico article referenced in the post, a WH spokesperson said they’d

“flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet” in the “pointless exercise” of supporting the failed bid of Bill Halter to unseat Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

Vale went on to say:

“If that’s their take on this, then they severely misread how the electorate feels and how we’re running our political program. When we say we’re only going to support elected officials who support our issues,” said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale. “When they say we should have targeted our money among some key house races among Blue Dog Democrats — that ain’t happening.”

Disturbing on a number of levels.

For one, the public dressing-down of unions for working to help defeat Lincoln and supporting the other Democrat, and for not assisting in the election of more Blue Dogs should make it obvious that the New Dems and this administration have disdain for and are indifferent to the interests of the working men and women that unions represent, that they believe their own political interests far outweigh the interests of the people.

For another, the Rahm Emmanuel plan to stock the Congress with more and more Blue Dogs continues apace.

So, where does this leave us liberals and progressives?  Well, considering that the New Dems have not stopped trying to throw us out of our own party because we have refused to submit to the Stepford treatment that would render us compliant and quiet, I’d say we have three tasks: make more noise and refuse to be ignored, work harder to throw their craven a$$e$ out if they continue to ignore us, and, think very seriously about using some of that energy and anger to form, if not a new party, a strong and visible bloc whose votes cannot afford to be dismissed out of hand.

Hey, you take care, Bill. Stop by for a drink sometime. And if you see the Missus, tell her we’re here for her. But all in all, we would have backed Halter. Just sayin’.

Given #1: The media is not your friend

Mike Lux can’t understand why the networks are getting all giddy about the TeaParty movement.  It’s all they ever cover.

To be clear, the tea partiers aren’t the only angry people in America. There are plenty of working class swing voters who aren’t inclined to buy into the tea party stew of racism, nativism, and Ayn Rand style libertarianism, but are deeply troubled that the jobs situation isn’t improving and that no one in government seems to be looking out for them. There are plenty of progressive activists angry at the Wall Street bankers, the health insurance companies, and the other corporate interests that are screwing them, and are angry that too many politicians seem to be in their pocket. In both cases, Obama and his fellow Democrats still have the opportunity to reach them, still have the ability to make absolutely clear whose side they are on. If Democrats show those voters that they will reject those special interests, and fight hard for average folks’ interests, they can still win this election. If they show voters that they are just as angry about what’s been done to regular people as the regular people, they will have a better 2010 than anyone is predicting right now.

The media loves-loves-loves this tea party story, but the tea partiers really aren’t anything new, and they don’t represent a very big group of voters. There is a lot of anger out there, but most of it is righteous anger that Democrats can and should tap into – anger that Wall Street and other bad actor big companies have been allowed to destroy our economy, and that no one is taking them on for it.

I have to go back and do my research but wasn’t OpenLeft one of the places that was dumping all over “the bubbas” during the primaries?  You know, the working class women who weren’t in love with Obama because they knew poison when they saw it? Well, whatever.  We’ll come back to that later.  The primaries are where this problem started.  If only Mike Lux would have a Soylent Green moment about them, we could start talking the same language again and get on with it.

Anyway, about the TeaParty.  Mike probably already knows the answer to this.  There have been reports in various places, the latest in The Big Short by Michael Lewis, that Hill staffers are glued to cable TV. The media shapes their worldview with  distortion and misdirection and bad information. Yep, you can put any stupid thing you want on CNN or CNBC and Congresscritters act like Rupert Murdoch and the other media owners have sunk their electrodes deep into the brains of the American public. But it isn’t true.

What the media has the power to do is amplify the voices it likes and mute the voices it doesn’t like.  It likes the TeaPartiers because they are militantly anti-government, anti-immigrant, anti-progressive.  Sweeet!  The neo-feudalists don’t have to lift a finger.  Well, that’s not strictly true.  We know that hard-ass Republican movement conservatives are funding the TeaParties.  But it’s a drop in the bucket compared to all of the attention they’re getting.

Nevertheless, there are people on Capitol Hill who are watching that nonsense and getting the heebie-jeebies.  OMG, the TeaParty is on the march!  They’re in your Walmart.  They’re pissed off.  They want you to do Republican things and be all bi-partisan and sell out women. And it’s working so well. Congress is scared to death of TeaParty people.  They’re so scared that they don’t even see the ax that’s about to fall on them from their (former) friends.

Mike, the media is never going to cover your frustration with the Democratic party.  The Democrats aren’t listening to you because they are transfixed by Fox News.  No matter how much you tell them they are pissing you off, they will ignore you because you and your rowdy band of progressive activists are not on the TV.  If the cameras aren’t covering you marching on the Mall and shouting slogans or throwing cherry bombs through the windows of some Democrat who just voted on the most regressive Republican health care reform bill in history, then you don’t really exist to those Hill staffers. And the cameras are never going to cover you, no matter how many millions you get to march on Washington.

Even Corzine’s loss and Martha Coakley’s defeat won’t register for awhile because it takes effort to analyze the polls and it’s so much easier to hear some blond spokesmodel tell you what those elections really meant based on some slanted poll the network conducted.

If you want to make a difference, you have to stop trying to get your politician’s attention through the media.  The people you want to reach are those very same voters you dumped on during the 2008 primaries.  Remember the working class?  Yeah, well, they don’t even know you exist.  They don’t read blogs.  But they might read a bumpersticker.  They might read guerilla messaging.  You can infiltrate them with signs and unanswered questions.  You could write a book.  Don’t fill it with tree hugging, birkenstock wearing, vegan, recycling crap though.  They really don’t care about that stuff.  They want to know whether you feel for them and their unemployment status.  Do you know what it’s like to work so hard and never seem to get ahead?  Have you ever had to take a 30% cut in salary to keep the lousy job you have?  Can you sympathize with the newly unemployed couple who can’t pay the mortgage on their house and will soon have no home for themselves and their two kids? Have you seen your friends with PhDs in the sciences wandering around the grocery store, not knowing what to do with themselves because they’ve lost their jobs and their industry has gone to Hyderabad for the indefinite future?

Those are the people you have to reach out to, not your politicians.  Not all of those working class schlubs are watching Fox.  They are waiting for a different answer.

You will not get good media.  If you get to be popular, the parties will dump on you.  Your friends will abandon you.  You will face humiliation, jeers, lies about you.  People will find out where you live and put dead bunnies on your doorstep.  You will not get to sit at the kewl lunch table.

You know what?  Forget about the media.  Hillary did and she almost beat the bastards.  She was knifed by her own, not by Fox news.  Go around them, Mike.  Be the anti-media.  Get all mysterious.  When you start to attract their attention, don’t return their phone calls.  Play hard to get.  Deliver your messages without them.  When the pols lose and lose and lose, they’ll eventually get a clue.  The Republican party is a lost cause.  The Democrats have an infection that needs to be cured.  But don’t put your faith in either one.  Put your faith in the people you scorned in 2008.  Women, working class people, Hillary supporters, the FDR style liberals.  Get them on board, Mike, and you can turn this thing around.

But don’t expect the media to acknowledge your existence.  They have you right where they want you right now.  Silent and invisible. Accept that as a given and move on.

Proposal: The Confluence Run for the Working Class

Update: Please note that this is my proposal and does not necessarily reflect the ideas of other writers at The Confluence.  No other writer at The Confluence was consulted in the preparation of this post.  I am speaking for me only.

Endorphins can do funny things to your thought processes.  I began running last year and I am still not very good at it.  Just to give you an idea of my running condition, my present limit is about 2.7 miles on a treadmill.  It takes me about 35 minutes with warm up and cool down.  Running is *hard* for me like other exercise routines are not.  But one thing that I have noticed is that when I’m in the midst of a run, with my power songs blaring in my ears, I start to get visions of things that might be.  Sort of like Galadriel’s mirror but with a lot more sweat and heavy breathing.

Usually, the vision is prompted by the question, “How do we motivate the working class to fight for itself?”  I’d like to quote from Hell’s Kitchen from yesterday’s survey results thread because she summarized all that is wrong with America:

I am a 70 year old female. My parents were the swing generation from working class to middle class. I have a masters degree in computer science and am retired. I am married to a Keynesian economist, but one who is not on to POTUS and thinks I am uncharitable. My sister and I are supposedly middle class but in 1991, I consciously abandoned the middle class for my working class roots.

Why?

The corporation I worked for dumped an entire department of 75 people. However, it was not the loss of the job itself that turned me back, it was the gratuitous cruelty involved in the matter. I thought if it’s simply an economic matter for the firm, why not make it as easy as possible for every one involved?

Instead, we were told repeatedly how awful we were and how glad they would be to get rid of us, but they couldn’t fire us until we finished our projects. And that’s just the general atmosphere. That doesn’t include the individual acts of cruelty by corporate leaders against vulnerable employees.

I decided at that point that the middle class – especially the white collar middle class – was an illusion. I don’t care how professional your job is, what kind of degree you have – if you depend on a paycheck for your living and someone else has the say-so about whether you get that paycheck or not, you are not middle class, you are working class. The sooner people wake up to that reality, the quicker we’ll find political solutions to our problems.

Having been asleep during Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I, and then the 2000 election, I woke up. With the shock of the 2000 election, I thought surely the Democratic Party would wake up. In 2004, I began to realize that there were problems with my party.

Do you hear that, Chris Bowers, “Creative Class” wannabe extraordinaire?  There is no Creative Class.  If you rely on someone to pay you for your work, and not on your investments for a living, you are working class.  Your fate is no different than a auto worker or teacher or chemist or retail sales manager.  You can be replaced by the Japanese, Chinese or a call center operator in Hyderabad. We are all in this together.  Jettisoning the ‘old coalition’ from the Democratic party was quite possibly the stupidest thing that A-listers bought into last year.  They reduced their ability to fight the erosion of their way of life.  They just don’t know it yet, but they’re about to find out.

The problem remains though, how do you motivate people to fight for themselves?  How do you get people together and bring critical mass to their voices?  How do you effectively reconstitute the voices that were squelched in the past several decades?  The media is not our friend.  We know that none of the cable news channels are going to report on any serious challengers to the status quo.  And in this modern media age, there is further atomization of possible collective action.  Each person has the option to get their own sources of information, follow their own interests, find their own entertainment.  While that can be an enriching experience, it can also be isolating from common principles.  How do we herd millions of cats?

It was on one of my runs that I thought about how we can get around the media filter and increase our visibility while at the same time spread a message.  I propose The Confluence Run for the Working Class on July 4, 2010.  The run can be a 5K run or walk, nationwide.  There are online tools at Nikerunning that can help groups organize such events and challenges.  The participants can organize the runs locally and in the lead up to the run,  do practice runs together through the streets of their towns, parks, neighborhoods.  We can wear T-Shirts that say The Confluence Run for the Working Class.  The goal is to attract attention and to get as many people as possible to run on July 4, 2010.  Maybe there can be a rally at the end of the run in a prominent public place.  We have to plan and organize what message we want to deliver at those rallies.  For practice runs, we can put together iMixes for iPods with motivating music.

Now, for the message, we need to get serious about organizing.  Jangles has suggested that we form a PAC and register as a non-profit.  I know we tried this before but it’s time guys.  Before we start brainstorming on this, please hold your creative energies on the your personal beliefs.  I guarantee you that a comment thread is not the best place for such a thing.  Those statements of beliefs get way too flowery, idealistic and out of touch with average everyday people.  We need to focus our attentions up front on organizational discipline.

So, I want to open the floor to consideration of the proposal for The Confluence Run for the Working Class.  Please don’t whine about how you can’t run or haven’t exercised in forever.  See your doctor before you start any exercise program.  If you can’t run it (yet), walk it.  Or, if you’re disabled, wheel it.  Besides, if you want to change the country, you have to look like you have the energy to do it.

Please take the poll below to indicate your support of an investigation into the feasibility of the inkling of having a run of the type described in the post above, recognizing that no other writer of The Confluence was consulted before this PROPOSAL was posted.

Have at it.

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