Hi all.My one volunteer effort in this election cycle is to person the table at the Wed Market from 12-1 each week.
I have modest goals but a big vision. How do we turn a red state blue? Or more accurately, how do we grow local progressives? This has been on my mind since 2004.
Here is a brief summary I posted on FB on the UCDC’s Facebook page.
During my hour and a quarter at Wed Market:
Roughly 10-12 visitors. No one said unregistered. All said they know about photo ID.
One Mifflinburg supporter asked me “Do you believe in the NEw World Order?” “The Bildenburg Group?” “Have you seen Jesse Ventura’s video about the six FEMA camps?”
When I didn’t jump on her conspiracy theory bandwagon she said “You’ll probably laugh at me.” I told her I would not. I pointed out that FEMA probably makes camps to help people for disasters.
I tried to say that the powerful are rigging the system, but they don’t need to meet in secret club and smoke cigars to do it.
Then a couple tried to do a drive-by insult fest. “Are you better off now than four years ago?” “We have to get rid of BHO!”
I crossed the ten feet and tried to engage them in discussion. “What is BHO?”(I thought it was a government agency).
The pair, mostly the man continued on about how their small business is being crushed, how we should be ashamed for supporting Obama, how we should be doubly ashamed since we were next to the prayer tent (not sure what that meant and I apologized to the nice prayer folks after), how ACA will cost $2,200 per person, how the economy is in the tank. They left with a final “Baby killers!” insult.
I tried to engage the man saying “Let’s talk about policy, about issues.”
Barbara said “You will never convince people like that.” I know. But my point is how did it look to the watchers? TO the people around there? I have no idea if it will work, but if we can use the Wed Market to find ways to talk progressive values in local speak, we will do more to make America a freer place than we may know.
Letter submitted to Daily Item. We shall see.
Paul Ryan is famous for his budget blueprint making him a “fiscal conservative.” That has got to be one of the most famous boondoggles in history. According to his own estimates, he balances the budget (teh annual budget, not the debt) around 2063! Clinton, that poster boy of fiscal conservatism, got to a balanced budget in 8 years!
So, it is a joke that Ryan is a fiscal conservative. He believes in a government that does almost nothing outside of defense.
Tom Marino proudly trumpets his support for this joke of a budget. On his website, Rep Marino says: “The budget blueprint I supported today keeps that promise and boldly confronts the challenges we face.”
That is very bold of you. To balance the budget in 50 years. That is like boldly putting out a fire by studying the farmer’s almanac for the next rain day.”
Budget estimates from Matt Miller (former OMB guy) : http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/mar/03/matt-miller/matt-miller-blasts-deficit-debt-implications-paul-/
Another former OMB guy: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/opinion/paul-ryans-fairy-tale-budget-plan.html
Oh yeah, Paul Ryan gives out party favors. Donations to Marino: http://campaignmoney.org/blog/2012/08/15/paul-ryans-donations-members-congress
- You Made the People Dumb (boomantribune.com)
- Paul Ryan, in a nutshell (donemmerich.blogspot.com)
- Paul Ryan on his budget, “I don’t know exactly what the balance is, we haven’t run the numbers” (freakoutnation.com)
- Paul Ryan, Deficit Dove (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
Thomas Friedman, I suppose, thinks of himself as a moderate. Maybe like Matt Miller from KCRW’s Left,Right, and Center who advocates for “radcial centricism” (or something like that). This species of thinking imagines that the “left” and “right” can only be correct up to a point. Hence, the one good path towards progress must, by definition, be some thing “in between.” Friedman, especially, excels at taking what seem like irreconcilable differences and with his wise words, turn them into new consensuses that if only the irrationally passionate partisans of left and right would accept would lead us into a shiny tomorrow.
Friedman’s recent op-ed in the New York Times is a classic. He argues that the great debate of our times is over “which capitalism?” instead of “which -ism?” Fair enough. In this context, he defines “American Capitalism” as- that’s right- the perfectly moderate mix of opposites, of public and private. I suppose that European “safety-net” socialism is unbalanced by inference from his argument.
To regain our American mojo we need to rebalance public and private. Hence, he calls for a series of “grand compromises.” Between cutting the federal budget and raising taxes. Between paying for “nursery schools and nursing homes.” (Nice line). Between labor and management. Between environmentalists and extractive industries. And so on. Between Dogs and Cats. Yankees and Red Sox. No, not the last two.
I find this seductive. Yes, let us come together and find common ground. What a story: can we not have politicians who can use language, influence, guile, and all their dark arts to bring these differing parties to Friedman’s round table of Grand Compromises? I want to be in that story!
But I am afraid it is a fairy tale. Continue reading
Note: This is a draft of a policy paper for a PA Progressive House candidate. I want to capture the ideas of a fairer economy in language that resonates with American values of hard work, fair play, and compassion. The policy ideas are negotiable…
The economy should work for everyone who works.
We have lived through an upside-down economy where Wall Street prospers on Main Street’s misery. Just as millions of hard-working home owners found themselves upside-down in their homes- paying for a mortgage worth more than the house- all of us have been in an upside-down economy. We are paying for the idea of an economy, one that favors wealth over work, one favors a quick buck over an earned dollar, one that favors glitz over grit, when the real economy is loosing real value.
The real economy is where stuff is made, relationships matter, value is clear, and a handshake instead of a stock option starts a deal. The real economy needs the strengths and talents of all of us. It also needs the infrastructures to connect people and companies. It also needs rules of the road that we all agree to.
We can fix the economy. We can give it what it needs: better people, better infrastructures, and better rules of the road.
Better People Ideas:
1) Healthy People: decouple health insurance from employment
2) Prepared People: invest in worker re-training
3) Child care systems so that working parents can work
Better Infrastructure Ideas:
1) Invest in transportation networks
2) Invest in healthy ecosystems
3) Invest in people through daycare, schooling, community college, state 4 year
4) More access to the Internet for people, towns, and entrepreneurs
Better Rules of The Road Ideas:
1) Too Big to Fail is Too Big to Be- re-instate Glass-Steagal separation of retail from investment banking and also cross-ownership of financial institutions.
2) Reward Work and Wealth- change taxes so that wealth (retained interest, capital gains) does not get a huge tax break compared to work; encourage better alignment of compensation to long term wealth
3) End Foreclosure Abuse by Banks and Mortgage Holders
4) Allow workers to represent themselves
5) Tie minimum wage to economic indicators like inflation
6) Require all free trade agreements to integrate wage, safety, and environmental minimums so it is far trade and not a race to the bottom
I am something of a news junkie. When I want to procrastinate, which is a lot, I start poking around. Rather than feel like it is all “a waste,” I thought I would assemble the best of the ‘net surfing here. I know I can feel overwhelmed. You too? Then let my roamings shortcut yours.
There have been some amazing images and photographs.
This woman being pepper-sprayed was, like much photo-journalism, an accident.
What is that long, black pole behind the cop spraying? It looks like a pike or a cattle prod.
Another bound to be iconic image. Here we have UC Davis campus police spraying peaceful protestors.
The context around this UC Davis event is explained by an open letter to the Chancellor (Now, that is a creepy term. Sounds like scary Germans) by Professor Nathan Davis. He writes that at times protestors had their mouths forced open to get more of that spray in. Nice.
Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats.
One of my favorite images has got to be Captain (Ret) Ray Lewis of the Phialdelphia police being arrested for marching with the Occupy movement.
The look on his face is priceless. To me it says “I served the public and democracy for this?”
Another hopeful image is this one of U Cal Berkley students defying the order to not re-establish an encampment in Sproul Plaza. They floated their tents! Awesome!
OFinally, a bit on policy ideas. I love policy ideas and looking at how do-able changes can improve a situation. David Cay Johnston is a journalist who has written many books. One which I own and have read parts of is Free Lunch and it is about how venally rich use government to subvert any idea of free competition to line their own pockets. You can hear him explain this here in a 2008 interview. For example, big box retailers often get to deduct their sales tax from their costs of building the stores to encourage “job creation.” I had to read it three times to make sure I wasn’t mis-reading. Anyway, this very self-described moderate journalist is great at tracking down the dirty details of a rigged system.
I found this interesting op-ed at Reuters by Mr. Johnston. Derivative trading (like credit default swaps) when one does not actually own the underlying asset is gambling. The parties are simply making zero-sum bets on the movement of prices. As much as it can be gussied up to look like something useful for a real economy, the 670 trillion dollars in notional value of CDS‘s in 2008 was a huge casino. (Notional value means what they were worth on paper.) So, the solution? It was already in our laws. Such debts are unenforceable. The supreme court, and others, have ruled that gambling debts are not enforceable (hence, the rash of mafia movies involving a certain knee-breaking penchant). If AIG and Goldman Sachs, among others, had NO expectation they could collect on their CDS bets, they never would have made them and would have stuck to actual hedging.
Finally, a podcast I like, The New Yorker’s “Political Scene” is an insight-packed 12-15 minutes. This week’s made my eyes bulge and made me start swearing aloud (which probably confused anyone near me while I was walking the dog). I, like some tea party folks, found myself dripping in the condescension of the the liberal elites.
In a conversation about (about 7 minutes in) where it goes and how it might engage with politics, Hertzberg says they “can’t harness their own energy.” He says “They don’t have a decision making that works. They depend on this tribal campfire thing to go forward.” Then, “Rick” Hertzberg finds himself wondering “what they do stand for.” Good grief. Among many problems with this, the most basic one for me is the way the mainstream media and journalism elites force anyone to play by their rules of matching policy to policy. In other words, rather than understand occupy as a metaphor for public dialogue and democracy form the ground up, protestors are supposed to lobby up and have a ten point plan which will then be crushed by the resources of vested interests. It is like playing ice hockey but being told you have to use flippers instead of skates.
I gave my students the option of observing #OWS in Valley or film at film festival.
One, so far, chose to see rally. Here is her report. “Occupy Wall:street: Coming to a Small Town Near You.” My students can probably guess, but I have not been overt about my support of the protest. Like any social movement, I get it emotionally even if I worry also about its coherence, strategy, and the taint of the “weird ones” who will associate. You can’t always control who gets invited to the party. Their reactions, as likely future businesspeople, are an interesting set of responses. I try to engage them and let them figure out the reality of politics, power, economics, ideology, and the possibilities for alternatives on their own.
Overall, I feel Bucknell students seem to have an aversion to public spaces and the messy side of democracy. This seems to me some sort of long hang-o0ver from the 60s and 70s and the success of the Archie Bunker frame that anyone who speaks up is “just a trouble maker and dirty hippie.” Hopefully, this and other moments can help them develop a deeper appreciation for how change happens, warts and all.