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Coffee Summits, not Coffee Parties

By now you’ve probably heard about the Coffee Party.

The Coffee Party: Drink more caffeine to be half as angry and twice as ineffectual as the Tea Party.

The Coffee Party bills itself as a spontaneous grassroots alternative to the tea party, one not tied to any hyper-partisan or corporate agenda. In actuality, it behaves more like an unofficial extension of the Obama permanent campaign. The only call to actual “action” seems to be for the Waiting-on-the-World-to-Change Generation to lament over lattes, sharing their exasperation at how the unwashed masses have been astroturfed to obstruct poor President Obama from carrying out his noble vision of bipartisan, pluralist kumbayah.

From CNN:

Meet these members of the Coffee Party Movement, an organically grown, freshly brewed push that’s marking its official kickoff Saturday. Across the country, even around the globe, they and other Americans in at least several hundred communities are expected to gather in coffeehouses to raise their mugs of java to something new.

They’re professionals, musicians and housewives. They’re frustrated liberal activists, disheartened conservatives and political newborns. They’re young and old, rich and poor, black, white and all shades of other.

Born on Facebook just six weeks ago, the group boasts more than 110,000 fans, as of Friday morning. The Coffee Party is billed by many as an answer to the Tea Party (more than 1,000 fewer fans), a year-old protest movement that’s steeped in fiscal conservatism and boiling-hot, anti-tax rhetoric.

This new group calls for civility, objects to obstructionism and demands that politicians be held accountable to the people who put them in office.

The New York Times ran an earlier fluff piece about the Coffee Party last week:

Eileen Cabiling, who founded the Los Angeles chapter, said she had campaigned for President Obama, but paid little attention to politics until the Tea Party convention and Mr. Obama’s State of the Union speech, where he rebuked Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike for their inability to move on legislation.

“I had withdrawn in campaign fatigue,” Ms. Cabiling said. “I was like, what happened?”

[…]

“This is about recognizing that the government represents us,” Ms. Cabiling said, “so we need to step to the plate and start having a voice and start acting like bosses.”

This sounds like 2008 all over again. In other words, they are the ones they have been brewing for.

Recognizing that “the government is us” is instructive, but somehow Ms. Cabiling’s comments remind me less of returning government to We-the-People and more of the creative classs self-indulgence that leads to declarations such as “Out with Bubbas, Up with Creatives.”

What seems to drive today’s progressives is where they perceive themselves in relation to the Bubbas. In Obama, the creative class saw an opportunity to be the bosses–many declaring in 2008 that for the first time they felt engaged in the political process. Once Obama won the election, their motivation was gone. They were now the bosses they had waited for, or so they thought. Politics became boring again, onto the next reality show. Obama’s lack of leadership and his continuation of Bush policies were not enough to get his supporters out of their “campaign fatigue.” It took the tea party’s opposition to Obama to get the Obama partisans to realize that they were not quite as in control of the situation as they thought they were. Now they want to “wake up and stand up” just enough to regain their perception of themselves as bosses. Demanding for accountability of our elected officials seems to be an afterthought.

Even if it is not a propaganda arm or a gimmick, the coffee party is a response to the Tea Party, and therein lies the problem.

In terms of where we as liberals need to be focusing our response, the Tea Party is neither here nor there.

Jumper Cables = Critical Thinking

The Tea Party isn’t the one who claimed to be a proponent of single-payer universal healthcare in 2003…

…then campaigned for a public option and against a mandate in 2008…

…only to assume the American presidency and reverse his already half-baked recipe into the ultimate shit sandwich–a mandate without a public option.

It wasn’t the Tea Party protests that brought the public option down, either. The public option has remained popular, if vaguely defined, among voters.

The Tea Party is beside the point.

Bill Clinton nailed it not too long ago when he was campaigning for Martha Coakley in Massachusetts:

You need to take that tea party label back. (Applause and cheers) The tea party–(Applause continues)–you know all this tea party protest, the whole idea behind it is that government is inherently corrupt and bad and confused, right–and, the Boston Tea Party was a revolt against government. That is not true–the Boston Tea Party was a revolt against abuse of power–taxation without representation, taking the autonomy away from the Massachusetts Bay Company and the local governments. You had a very vigorous government at the time of the Boston Tea Party. The people believed in it, they participated in it, and they thought the purpose of the government was to advance the common good. –Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton has a knack for getting to the heart of the matter. (Ironically, Martha Coakley lost because she was unable to fight the abuse of power within her own party.)

Neither the Tea Party nor the Coffee Party are responding to the root issue. The Tea Party is a vehicle for absorbing catch-all populist anger into the GOP brand. The coffee response to the tea party is likewise a vehicle for preserving the Obama brand. Neither “party” has a larger purpose other than keeping each side involved in an imaginary contest where each tribe wants to be the boss of the other tribe. When you take away the superficial rhetoric about the role of government on both sides, what remains are taunts that either you’re a socialist or you’re a teabagger. These faux movements exploit real voter backlash at Washington and serve to keep the electorate divided and busy bashing each other at the rank-and-file level rather than collectively pushing back on the oligarchy.

What is missing right now is a mobilized response not to each other but to abuse of power, specifically a response in the form of advocacy for the working/middle class. I’m often reminded of FDR’s economic bill of rights:

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security.

I’m also reminded of this clip from Meet the Press:

SEC’Y CLINTON: Well, I absolutely would look forward to having coffee. I’ve never met her.

[…]

But, you know, I’m ready to have a cup of coffee. Maybe I can make a case on some of the issues that we disagree on.

MR. GREGORY: So maybe there’s a summit meeting here.

Tea and Coffee parties are echo chambers.

What we really need are more coffee summits, so to speak, where competing ideas are put forward as to how we can turn FDR’s economic bill of rights into a reality.

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Hillary Clinton Channels FDR in Internet Freedom Speech

Some people call us Hillary Die Hards like that’s a *bad* thing.  But there’s a reason we supported her for president of the US.  She leads from her principles.

That’s it.  The whole shebang.  We didn’t think she was perfect or transformative or a magical change agent.  We figured that she’d piss us off occasionally.  But in general, there’s a bedrock foundation of belief and commitment to her values and we can pretty much predict what side she’s going to come down on an issue.

That’s why the speech she gave yesterday at the Newseum in Washington came as no surprise to me.  The earthquake in Haiti has obscured the seismic activity in China that occurred last week when Google refused to continue censoring its search engine for the Chinese audience at their government’s demands.  It is also alleged that government sanctioned hackers have accessed 40 0r more companies, including Google, in order to look for information on Chinese dissidents and to steal source code and intellectual property.  These are very serious allegations.  Censorship and persecution of dissidence  are abhorrent and anyone who works with proprietary information in large databases knows how valuable that information is.

Yesterday, Hillary threw down the gauntlet and committed the State Department to preserving and extending the ability of all countries to use the internet as a means of expression, commerce, education and connection with each other.  Here’s a small sample of that speech:

On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. Now, this challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the First Amendment to our Constitution are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone.

Franklin Roosevelt built on these ideas when he delivered his Four Freedoms speech in 1941. Now, at the time, Americans faced a cavalcade of crises and a crisis of confidence. But the vision of a world in which all people enjoyed freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear transcended the troubles of his day. And years later, one of my heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt, worked to have these principles adopted as a cornerstone of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They have provided a lodestar to every succeeding generation, guiding us, galvanizing us, and enabling us to move forward in the face of uncertainty.

So as technology hurtles forward, we must think back to that legacy. We need to synchronize our technological progress with our principles. In accepting the Nobel Prize, President Obama spoke about the need to build a world in which peace rests on the inherent rights and dignities of every individual. And in my speech on human rights at Georgetown a few days later, I talked about how we must find ways to make human rights a reality. Today, we find an urgent need to protect these freedoms on the digital frontiers of the 21st century.

There are many other networks in the world. Some aid in the movement of people or resources, and some facilitate exchanges between individuals with the same work or interests. But the internet is a network that magnifies the power and potential of all others. And that’s why we believe it’s critical that its users are assured certain basic freedoms. Freedom of expression is first among them. This freedom is no longer defined solely by whether citizens can go into the town square and criticize their government without fear of retribution. Blogs, emails, social networks, and text messages have opened up new forums for exchanging ideas, and created new targets for censorship.

As I speak to you today, government censors somewhere are working furiously to erase my words from the records of history. But history itself has already condemned these tactics. Two months ago, I was in Germany to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The leaders gathered at that ceremony paid tribute to the courageous men and women on the far side of that barrier who made the case against oppression by circulating small pamphlets called samizdat. Now, these leaflets questioned the claims and intentions of dictatorships in the Eastern Bloc and many people paid dearly for distributing them. But their words helped pierce the concrete and concertina wire of the Iron Curtain.

There was a reason why Hillary voted no on retroactive immunity for telecomms in the FISA legislation.  It wasn’t to make Obama look bad.  He did that all on his own.  No, she wanted to protect our privacy so that we could call our president on his boneheaded moves without fear of retribution.

The full text of the speech and a video of the event is available at 21st Century Statecraft at State.gov.

Democrats who fear yesterday’s Supreme Court Ruling on corporate campaign donations should get crackin’.  The internet provides a wealth of low cost or free methods of spreading the word, like blogtalkradio, blogging, facebook.  Some candidates have made use of these tools but online media is still in its infancy and has the potential to reach a lot of people who might otherwise get their information from TV.  If you’d thrown your weight behind Hillary, you’d have a friend in the WH right now who would help you protect your precious access.  Looks like you’ll have to do this on your own now.  Get to work!

It’s Time to Downsize the US

Alexander_cuts_the_Gordian_KnotIn difficult circumstances, such as the current economic crisis, it’s normal to work out how one got there as a means to avoid repeating the process. In the current situation, the discussion seems to range between those who feel that the situation is already working itself out, to those who feel that structural dangers remain and proper regulation is required, to those who feel that the problems were the result of regulation and government programs in the first place.

Count me somewhat on the side of the last group. I say somewhat because I think that the problem has to with the inappropriateness of the regulations that were employed, but unlike them I do not think that the problem is humans using morals and reason to regulate the marketplace. In other, more localized, words, I reject the notion that the Tenth Amendment prohibits spending programs and regulations.

My sense is that the regulations that were deployed to prevent economic disaster were structurally and functionally inadequate because they half-heartedly represented the Great American Project as manifest in the Constitution of the United States. The problem with the regulations wasn’t that they were half-hearted. That half-heartedness is symptom of the larger problem. They were structurally and functionally inadequate because the US can no longer afford to provide its citizens the rights and freedoms guaranteed in its Constitution. The regulations failed because they had a relationship to expectations that are suited to an America that does not exist, in an economic sense. The problems with the public education system, illegal immigration, crime and punishment, and social security, to name a few, are all relatively easy to solve, once the very costly, burdensomeness of the Constitution is overcome. It’s time for America to wake up and downsize its’ dream, the dreams of its citizens, and smell the aroma of the box store, bulk size, generic coffee reality that its best and its brightest have packaged for Uncle Sam’s future.

Downsizing America

Given the economic realities of the new US of A, what aspects of the American vision should no longer be seen as part of the covenant between the citizens and their government? A quick look at some fundamentals of democracy should provide some context about what avenues should be open to being cut. Then the process of contracting out the bureaucratics to the private sector can begin. This said, these are preliminary thoughts, so all that I will provide is a rough and general sketch.

Democracy is expensive and inefficient, even when it’s practised by politicians who are not neo-conservative Republicans. This is unsurprising by design. After all, it’s said that, in an ideal democracy, the populace is educated, they have access to all of the information they need to make a good decision, and they are free to make that decision. How does this ideal fare when it faces the real world?

Immediately, one is struck by the gross redundancy in the ideal system. Providing that much information to so many amounts to an excessive effort for minuscule return. The set of possible decisions for any question is extremely limited, given the options for action, and polling research has already proven that we only need small sample populations to get the gist of what people want. In fact, given the history of their wants, and given the nature of the question, there is probably no need to poll them further because it should be derivable from past decisions. The cost savings to be gained by dismantling the information network should be substantial. Mainstream media can remain as is.

The efficacy of sampling also suggests a direction for schooling provision. Once again, the system is entirely redundant. Imagine, though it’s a laughable thought, that a university degree was all the education one needed to be capable of making good decisions. What do you think it would cost to bring the 71% of Americans who do not have a degree, into the range of democratic competence? How could it possibly be worth the cost? In fact, apart from the decreasing number of specialty jobs that actually require a well-schooled employee, there is no good reason to maintain anything, but a shell of the existing system, apart from creating athletes for the circus part of social diversion. This is because we can use the same polling methodology and randomly choose children from the masses to receive schooling similar to the one that is provided today, and then poll them to find what the rest would have wanted, if they had the schooling.

Given the earlier recommendation of using past polling to extrapolate their wants, this process is admittedly redundant, but it does double duty in terms of providing training for the small percentage of jobs that actually require advanced schooling. Then again, perhaps it is wasteful to randomly select children, as this disregards the advantages of choosing children who are more likely to do well at university, based on their family background. Given past polling, it’s probably best to err on the side of efficiency. The point to take here is that there is no value in giving people more schooling than they need to do the small range of relatively unskilled jobs that await them. Furthermore, think of the dissatisfaction that is avoided when people don’t have enough education to be hired below their level of training.

If the vast majority of people are no longer making decisions, then there’s no reason to prop up the facade that they actually are involved in decision-making. If voter turnout is any indication, many will appreciate avoiding the exercise. To be fair, eternal vigilance is an unwieldy burden to bear, if the only benefits people accrue is to not have decisions made for them by their betters.

In fact, if they are not needed for decision-making, their representatives are redundant for the same structural reasons. The cash to be gained, by trading in the clunker of a public decision-making structure, should be sigificant.

All of these actions would save the economy trillions and once again put America front and center as an economic powerhouse, through the tax dollars it would free up and save. At the same time, it would give Americans a leg up on the rest of the developed/undeveloping world, by readying its citizens for a life of diminished possibilities long before the others face the challenge, should they.

The Constitution is in the way of progress in the US, to the extent it promotes the values of the ideal democracy. Perhaps it was prescient to send home Churchhill’s bust because his notion that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”, seems to have gone bust for America.

chrwsbwp

This is “a frayed thread” in honor of GW’s administration crying wolf at election time.

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The Culture of Cannibalism in US Politics: The Cycle of Corruption

MarkTwain_arts Mark Twain, in “Cannibalism in the Cars,” suggested that cannibalism of the body politic is a logical outcome of the practice of the political values of the elected representatives of the United States, in dire circumstances. What would occur, if such dire circumstances did not require a natural disaster, but became a systemic feature of the political landscape?

doncamp

The current economic crisis and America’s abject failure to provide economically-efficient, affordable healthcare are two examples of dire circumstances that are systemic features of America’s political landscape. Both crises are the results of bad governance. Both circumstances are direct products of the growth of influence of en-corporated political interests (encorps) in the system of governance of the United States. Bad governance, in both cases, involves a betrayal of the public trust that is manifested in not regulating the encorps in a way that protects the public’s interests, especially with respect to not meaningfully regulating the encorps ability to influence government officials.

The United States was born wary of the power of vested interests to influence public policy. Alexander Hamilton’s comments in the Federalist Papers are an example of this concern. .

In republics, persons elevated from the mass of the community, by the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, to stations of great pre-eminence and power, may find compensations for betraying their trust, which, to any but minds animated and guided by superior virtue, may appear to exceed the proportion of interest they have in the common stock, and to overbalance the obligations of duty.

Unfortunately, keeping the vested interests out is not a simple matter. How can it be when parties themselves are collective expressions of a set of weighted interests? Frankly, it is sensible for people of like purpose to strive together to achieve their aims, and there is nothing necessarily insidious about the practise. In fact, it’s a cornerstone of Democracy and civil society.

It is also, however, the entry way for corruption because the crux of the matter is not that people have differing and competing interests: it’s that they differ so greatly in terms of their power to realize those interests. When the power to realize those interests is used to unjustly deny the interests of less powerful, but equally or more deserving citizens, through a donation that is traded for a piece of unjust legislation, then it can be said that a positive feedback loop of corruption has been initiated.
The overly simple analysis that follows attempts to describe the basic workings of this system.
Continue reading

Wednesday: With Democrats like this, who needs Republicans?

Franklin D. signs Social Security into law

Franklin D. signs Social Security into law

Short post this am, I’m off to another TC.

Social Security “reform” is back in the news. We always knew that Medicare needed a major overhaul but Social Security was supposed to be safe- as long as the economy kept growing.  Ah, there’s the rub.  During recessions, economies do not grow.  Now, in the past, recessions weren’t very long lasting and things righted themselves soon enough.  But *this* recession is different.  In this recession, we have given away the store to the bankers, literally, and have them hobbling along on their zombie bandaged feet, arms outstretched to consume whatever’s left.  In spite of all the money we’ve dumped on them, they are still wildly undercapitalized.  And they’re going to hold onto their toxic assets while they gamble for ressurection with the money we gave them.  In other words, the recession is going to be long, painful and Japanese. There are going to be a lot of people out of work, for longer periods of time and contributions to the social security trust fund are going to diminish proportionally.

We could have shortened the pain but we have Obama and he and his droogs at Treasury are determined to save the bankers from the endangered species list at the expense of the rest of us.  Reform, if it comes at all, will be too little, too late.  So, here we are, looking a reduced Social Security trust fund, a much smaller piece of the pie that we will have to divide amongst ourselves.  And there will be many more people who will be relying on it this time, thanks to the bankers and stock brokers who gambled away our retirement money.

Judging from my mom’s reaction to the perceived fate of Social Security, I wouldn’t expect any help from the older generation.  They got theirs, they pity you but not enough to want to help you at their own expense.  Expect the administration to “divide and conquer”.  There will be some age cutoff where you will be sitting pretty to receive what you put into the system.  People like yours truly will miss that cutoff, just like everything else people my age missed like income averaging and car loan deductions on our income taxes and generous Pell grants.  We will be expected to provide for ourselves using the markets for returns, which will be extremely risky and will undoubtably be accompanied by generous fees for the money managers.

I can hardly wait.

For Democratic Reform- FDR

Some of you may be asking what you can do now that the party has abandoned its principles and the public.  It isn’t enough to withhold your vote for Obama.  What can YOU do to make the party better?

Well, we are working on that.  A number of Clinton bloggers and organizers have begun to coalesce and form an initiative to reform the party and take it back.  We are calling our initiative For Democratic Reform or FDR.  (It’s intentional)

We are in the process of forming an inrastructure, formalizing our political philosophy and goals and developing content for our new site.  That’s the hard part and we are committed to it.  The easy part is the website through which we will start to communicate with the public and others who would like to help us to achieve our goals.

Have a sneak peek at our Website: For Democratic Reform- FDR.

This is the start of something *good*!

Monday: You say you want a Revolution

The maddening thing about Florida and Michigan is that the DNC has been sitting on these two states all primary season, deliberately withholding their critical mass so that Barack Obama’s delegate count looks inflated. All season long, it has appeared that he was ahead. This was by design. It gave his campaign the advantage of looking like an unstoppable force of nature and his supporters a million different ways of talking about the math, not the map.

But it *is* the MAP, not the math that counts here. Because without that critical mass of Florida and Michigan, every other vote from a state that went for Clinton doesn’t count. The DNC lowered the bar for the anti-Clinton candidate from 2210 delegates to 2025 by sitting on Florida and Michigan. It’s not just that Florida and Michigan have been disenfranchised, it’s ALL of the Clinton states including CA, NY, NJ, AZ, OH, TX, PA, IN, MA, NH, AR, NM, WV, TN, etc, etc. If you live in one of those states that went decisively for Clinton, your vote was just as much hostage as a vote in Florida and Michigan. It’s just one more insult to voters in a party where the primary process is more important than the people and where gaming the system leads to a predetermined outcome.

It’s one thing to get mad. But what can you do about it, you ask? What can one person do to make her vote count? Demand that Florida and Michigan be seated as is. The time for revotes has come and gone and Obama obstructed them anyway in order to maintain the perception of an insurmountable lead. He has forfeited any reasonable argument for less than full recognition. The voters of Florida and Michigan are innocent victims in all of the political shenanigans and so are we. See the links below to do what you can to bring Florida to a resolution or start a Revolution.

You wanna do even more? FDR has a rally…

Alright!!!

One other thing:  Some of you are getting a little PO’d about Obama’s use of the past tense when it comes to Hillary.  How many times do we need to go over this?  They are playing mind games, people.  Even if he does stupidly go in front of the cameras tomorrow night and crown himself king, he has to wait out the next three months because nothing is official until the balloons drop in Denver.  In the meantime, he’s going to be sweating bullets because *we* have something the DNC desperately wants. And they are not going to get it by continuing their bad behavior.  We all have choices.  You have a lot more power than you think. Now, turn off the news, re-register as an unaffiliated voter, send your old torn up registration card to Howard and Donna and send Hillary a ten spot.  Don’t make me come over there.  :-||