Friday, July 22, 2011

Imagine......

David Brooks probably thought he was cleverly channeling John Lennon in his New York Times column today.  He could barely contain his glee in his latest screed, titled "The Grand Bargain Lives!" 
Imagine  there's no heaven you’re a member of Congress. You have your own preferred way to screw your constituents reduce debt. If you’re a Democrat, it probably involves protecting your own sorry asses Medicare and raising taxes. If you’re a Republican, it probably involves cutting the throats of the masses spending, killing reforming Medicare and keeping taxes imaginary low....

.....You are being asked to support a foggy approach, not a specific plan. You are being asked to do this even though you have no faith in the other party and limited faith in the leadership of your own. You are being asked to risk your political life for an approach that bears little resemblance to what you would ideally prefer.
Do you do this? I think you do.
You do it because all the other options are worse. Doing nothing could lead to default and the end of The Oligarchy American economic supremacy.*
I really should stop reading Bobo.  I don't have a blood pressure cuff in the house, but if I did it would have exploded.  I fired off a response, and The Times in its infinite wisdom is holding it in the censorship bin***.  I guess they are afraid it might cause the underarms of David's Brooks Brothers shirt to dampen with odorless dew.... not that he actually reads any of the comments.  His glasses would shatter.
Dear David......

Imagine you're a member of the dwindling middle class, you have junk or no health insurance, and you are facing wage cuts while your boss expects you to do twice the work. Imagine you face a choice between paying your rent or your electric bill this month. Imagine you're a jobless 62-year-old widow counting the days for your Medicare and Social Security benefits to kick in and hope against hope you don't get sick for the next three years. Imagine you're an elementary school student whose house just got foreclosed because your father lost his job and now you all have to live in a seedy motel. Imagine when you go back to school in the fall, your class size has grown to 50 because the district just laid off a thousand teachers. Imagine that you turn on your TV (assuming you still have cable) and you see some empty suit spewing nonsense about a Grand Bargain. Imagine if you or a family member depends on a paltry Social Security check and the president you elected cavalierly now declares that check may just not make it on the 3rd of the month. And just go eat your peas and suffer with joy.
Imagine if you will that the Beltway pundits and the politicians they cheerlead had to change places with the real Americans. Would you care about the deficit and the debt ceiling then? Somehow, I doubt it. Would you re-elect any of the politicians who are literally pulling the rug out from under millions of people? I doubt that too. 
So live on in your dream world and consider that the real people, the genuine human beings in this country, have run out of options. And then write another fun column about The Grand Bargain, and see if anyone cares.
Love, Karen **


Get Out the Wire Hangers and Clean This Mess Up!
* Vetted and approved by the White House Ministry of Truth Office of Public Engagement.
** Cross-posted on "Off Times Square", RealityChex.com
*** Cross-posted much later by NYT Comment Moderators upon surviving the vetting process after all. I apologize for the redundancies!

54 comments:

Anne Lavoie said...

Your response to Krugman's 'The Lesser Depression' more than made up for Brooks leaving your comment out - it was another Garcia masterpiece!

I am so glad it got in #1 spot for all to read. I'd like to see that one passed around far and wide. Keep it up, Karen! (but try to keep your blood pressure down).

Gerald Rubin said...

Great job as always Karen.

I just want to mention that your link at the bottom of your piece to RealityChex does not work correctly because of the second periond (".") after com. The browser reads that period as part of the address rather than punctuation. At least mine did. I did this once myself so it is now in my memory banks as something to avoid.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Gerald. The link is now fixed.

Napoleon said...

Karen's statements from "Imagine you're a member of the dwindling middle class ..." to "So live on ..." were pure aces all the way. Hopefully, the Democratic leaders in the Senate and the House yesterday told Obama this is what they imagine, why they won't budge, and why they now are willing to say so publicly.

John in Lafayette said...

At least you found the words. I was so disgusted by Brooks' comments I was rendered speechless.

Outstanding reply. Too bad they won't have the wider audience they deserve. Justice delayed is justice denied, especially on the comments pages of the NYT. If you don't get in early enough to get on the first screen, you miss about 90% of the readership. So even if they do end up posting your comments, there are a few thousand people who won't have the benefit of your words.

All the news that's fit to print, indeed.

Anonymous said...

If Obama had merely kept his promise to let the Bush tax cuts expire, would we actually even be here? I seem to remember Kirsten Gillibrand voting against the extension. Good woman, she.

But I don't expect, as Nap suggests, the Senate or House Democratic leadership to be able to buck this successfully. Why? Obama has stalled on this too close to the August deadline.

The fish, as my immigrant neighbors will tell you, rots from the head. Obama has to go. No more excuses, no more blaming the House and Senate.
Send Barack O'Republican packing. I'm voting only for "real" fiction in 2012. Anyone know where I can find Mr. Coalhouse ("Kohlhaas") Walker, Jr.? Or Hyman Roth? Either woukd be an improvement over Obama.
-Draft

James F Traynor said...

Last Sunday I went to a small meeting (about 20 people) of progressive Democrats. It was about 30 miles from here. You have to drive that far in my area before you reach a density of 1 liberal per square mile.

It was disheartening. Although all of them were dismayed over Obama's policy decisions only two or three wanted to get rid of him. The remainder made all kind of excuses for his actions. When I said we were at war with the Republicans only one person agreed with me, an ex- Republican business man, who said I was right. I won't be going back there. It's definitely not where the action is. I don't know where the action is - if there is any. What to do? I don't know. I don't even know whether or not there will be significant demonstrations. From that meeting I attended, I doubt it. For every dollar (and there's not many of them) I give to progressive politicians and organisations there is one less dollar going to food banks.

Karen, don't read Brooks, it's like listening to Limbaugh. They're fascists.

Anonymous said...

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2011/07/obama_on_compromise.php?ref=fpblg

Video of Obama justifying giving the shiv in the collective back of everyone outside the top two percent:

Excuse #1: the Emancipation Proclamation (seriously)
Excuse #2: he's a "grown-up"

Has to be seen to be believed. Viewer Warning: for immature audiences only. For those with a historical memory beyond SpongeBob SquarePants, this video contains nauseating levels of audacity, and dizzying levels of bullshit, for strong stomachs only.
-Draft

Anonymous said...

(from DS -sorry for multiple posts, but looks like the timeline is being moved up drastically)

Reid's Rebellion:

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/07/democrats-set-drop-dead-date-for-debt-ceiling-backup-plan.php?ref=fpblg

President Obama's quest to reach a historic budget agreement with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) fell into deep doubt Thursday, after a noisy rebellion by Senate Democrats over reports that Obama might hand Republicans the farm on discretionary and entitlement spending, with few or no guarantees that the GOP will accept any new tax revenues.

If the initial leak was meant to serve as a trial balloon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) shot it out of the sky the same day, after a contentious meeting with White House budget director Jack Lew. A Senate leadership aide told me that Reid will set the wheels in motion to pass a backup plan no later than Sunday unless a deal that can pass both chambers is agreed to before then. And the administration, clearly in damage control mode, summoned Democratic leaders up Pennsylvania Ave late in the day to clear the air, nurse wounds, and lay out a possible framework for a grand bargain to the skeptical crowd."

Janet Camp said...

I skipped Brooks because after reading Grover Norquist's op-ed, I was too sick to stomach any more shit. I wasn't going to read it at all, but thought I'd just like to see how he justifies his views. He actually just whines about how he's been misinterpreted, but it is sickening all the same.

The economy is like health care. Forty or fifty million uninsured is not enough to make people FIGHT for single payer or even a public option and 10 to 20 (over 40% for some minority groups) per cent unemployment, underemployment, longer hours/less pay, isn't enough to make them mad enough to fight either. What is the tipping point?

Anne Lavoie said...

@Draft

Thanks for pointing that one out. It was one slick, but desperate, White House production. It tells us Obama is particularly sensitive to being called a sellout and unprincipled by Sanctimonious Purists, which he now refers to in more general terms as simply 'The Huffington Post'.

So his excuse for being a sellout is that in politics, principles will only bring you DISAPPOINTMENT, God forbid. He does not have disappointments or defeats (those are for US), because he is smart enough to claim to have principles (cough, cough), but not be bound by them. The most important thing is the thrill of victory. Got that straight, kids? Lesson: Don't let principles be obstacles to success.

If it's a win for him, what are we complaining about? It's his version of Trickle Down Happiness.

PK said...

My (unsent) comment to Brooks

..."You do it because while the Grand Bargains won’t solve most of our fiscal problems. They will produce some incremental progress. We won’t fundamentally address the debt until we control health care inflation."


Until we control HEALTH CARE INFLATION? You are such an asshole, Brookstone. Why don't you pull your head out and look out at the real world once in awhile? You are allergic to any talk of WAR SPENDING! Guess it is fair to say you nevah met a war you did not love. All those Americun plebs going in to get ripped apart by IEDs, taking out their anger by shooting up women and children--just future Al Queda wannabees. Those jerks probably wouldn't be blue chip holders anyway. Just more breeders and working class idiots--picketing for the damn unions. And drones. Cool. Better than video games.


Oh, and not to worry about the Muslims we are maiming and killing. We all know that in the Middle East life is cheap. What's a slaughtered Muslim kid here or there? And their women? Not even human. The men just beasts. WOW! Aren't you glad we are all Americuns, Dave?


Seen any good movies lately? I hear Harry Potter, Part VIIIIIIII is WUNDERFUL! Just about your level too. Asshole

Anonymous said...

Wow - I thought I was a NYT groupie... You & Marie Burns own the comments section.

Your Brooks bashing though is completely unfair and unwarranted. He is by far the most sensible conservative.

The Black Swan said...

I think Obama believes Compromise=Capitulation, and that it is better to Compromise on a terrible deal, than to lose fighting for the people.

Anonymous said...

This blog seems at least 50 to 75% more Sardonicky today than usual. The brilliantly biting posts from Karen and others here have added a much needed dose of dark comedy to these otherwise depressing episodes of "Debt Ceiling Armageddon Theater." Thanks, everyone, and have a nice weekend.

-- William

Janet Camp said...

@Anonymous

It's her blog and she can "bash" whomever she chooses.

If you like Brooks, fine--read him and post a cherry comment, but kindly consider the view that even though he may not be as outright lunatic fringe as some, he is such a dolt that it hardly matters what his actual affiliation is.

James F Traynor said...

@Janet Camp

Yeah, I've been thinking about that 'tipping point' too. And Brooks is dangerous because he appeals to the 'reasonable' who never color outside the lines. I saw Brooks on PBS on the night of Obama's celebration of his nomination. I think it was in Colorado. In any case, he seemed to be going berserk. Not very sensible then.

@Anonymous

I'm a pragmatist, not an ideologue; You're mistaken about Brooks.

Janet Camp said...

Hey everybody! Breaking news-- No, not Norway's tragic bombing......

GE PROFIT EXCEEDS FORECAST - NY Times, online

Anne Lavoie said...

@Janet Camp

And GE's profits will be even higher since they announced they will soon be branching out into the Health Insurance market. They like the idea not just of all those mandatory customers, thanks to Obamacare, but all the federal subsidies that will go directly to them. Oh, and no cost control!

And Google and Microsoft are really happy about getting those new government contracts now that the government is closing all those (thousand?) federal computer centers and going to cloud computing. Too bad about all those federal employees though. All the real estate is being sold too - fire sale prices probably.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I hope everyone who is writing and reading here has their Congress members on speed dial. Robert Reich wrote, many months ago, that our Reps in Congress know that it takes effort to contact them and suggested that there is a specific order of power that each type of contact carries. A visit to your Rep's office carries the most weight. Second, is snail mail – It takes time to craft a letter and the assumption is that a letter from one constituent means there are lots out there who believe the same thing but aren’t writing due to the time and effort. Third is a phone call – again it takes time and effort to be in touch by phone and an e-mail carries the least weight. This was really interesting to me because up until then, I was sending off e-mails as a matter of course, once a week, to Obama and my Senators and Rep in the House. I now call and even write letters and encourage you to do the same. For those of us who wonder, what can we really do? Well this is something. I also encourage all of you to get on the mailing list of Bold Progressives who have organised phone campaigns.

Traynor – I feel your pain. I just had a conversation with a so called liberal who is an apologist for Obama. It is hard to even talk to people like this. What I have noticed is that these people are all ones who get their information from the Main Stream Media and they take everything at face value. They still see Obama as a victim of the mess Bush left behind and of the Blue Dogs and Republicans in Congress. They haven’t dug deeper and they have no interest in digging deeper. It is a real problem.

Anonymous said...

@ Anne,
Thanks for your note, and for noting the shift from Sanctimonious Purists to Huffington Post bloggers. I was too stunned to analyze it that far. The President is really too slick - slicker even than Bill Clinton, who always held enough backcountry granularity in his delivery to make slick seem merely smooth. By maintaining that element of grit, he was the better wizard, by far, in a weird way.

@ Karen et alia,

Quick note before the weekend in case anyone needs a mindblowing book. I went to school with this very nice, very smart, (and ridiculously good-looking) student named Michelle Alexander... now Ms. Alexander has written a brilliant, terrifying, best-selling book titled, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness."

http://www.newjimcrow.com/

I tried to get her book out of our local library system, but all 30 (!!!) copies are checked out, and there's a hold list. I'm stuck between being happy for her success, and knowing that, given her fierce moral integrity, her happiness for successfully writing about such institutional injustice can't be very, well, happy.

But if this book somehow brings change, well, I'm sure it will make her happy.

Here's a link to a powerful, powerful (can't say that enough) Op-Ed she wrote for the Times - her invocation of King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" was, I thought, stirring.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/opinion/15alexander.html?_r=1&sq=michelle%20alexander%20%20%20the%20new%20jim%20crow&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=all

-DraftSpitz

Janet Camp said...

@Anne

I think GE is already in the healthcare business, in that they "self-insure" their employees. At any rate, there's an enormous building not far from my house that says GE Healthcare on the side, with a drive-up bank type
of set up round the back that they just added on.

Perhaps they are expanding beyond their own employees--Yikes!

@Draft

I think I heard your friend interviewed on some podcast I listen to at night before falling asleep. I'm going to strangle on my headphones some night! I'll definitely get the book now. Thanks for the thumbs up.

To all: Hey, Obama is "angry at Repubs" according to NY Times, so maybe he'll stay that way for a while and start treating them like the ugly bullies they are?

Ciara said...

@Valerie Long Tweedie,

Thank you so much for your comments of a couple of days ago on me, you, Barack Obama and the stages of grief. I thought they were truly insightful. Yes, I think that is exactly what I and many others have been going through. I especially appreciated your very humanistic approach to a phenomenon that is political on the surface, to be sure, but that in fact runs very deep into our hearts and selves, where we really "live." What I have noticed in myself is not only that I proceed through the steps but that sometimes I regress to an earlier one -- my desire to believe that none of this is happening is really that strong.

Thank you very, very much for your comment to me. And for your other contributions here at Sardonicky.

Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

I'd like to add to the discussion here but I just can't. You put it perfectly, Karen.

All the best,

Tom Degan

Anne Lavoie said...

Here's another Imagine for you.

Imagine that more of our government becomes privatized, beyond the military (Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, XE, Halliburton, et al), pharmacomedical (numerous corporations providing Medicare Part D and soon-to-be Obamacare), and real parasites like Lockheed-Martin that are in nearly everything (Census, IRS, Social Security, Defense, Coast Guard, etc.).

Imagine that the corporations establish a presence in every Congressional District in the country. Oh, they already are? Well, imagine even more. Imagine all those lobbyists and how many more federal dollars they would set their sights on with the Congressmen in all those Congressional districts.

Imagine the federal budget became heavily indebted to the point that the country is going bankrupt from paying just the interest payments on the debt to pay the bills to the private corporations. Now that's not hard to imagine at all, is it? The unpaid for wars and the unpaid mandate of Medicare Part D are already doing that now.

Imagine the only way to stop the war machine, part of that Sacred Pig that is Corporate America, was through the budget, but we know Congressman will never say 'no' to their corporate masters because corporations are benefiting enormously. "We can't cut the defense budget - jobs would be lost!" Corporate profits, aka 'jobs' that may not even be in this country, always trump everything else in Washington.

Imagine that some kind of a balanced budget law might just be the ONLY way to stop the war machine and keep the Sacred Pig from gobbling us up. Obama said "It isn't necessary. We can balance the budget without it" WHEN PIGS FLY!!! Presidents love to have a blank check for wars. They hate limits.

We know some things with certainty: lobbyists will be sure to bribe Congressman for more privatization and contracts; spending and profits from these contracts (which politicians shall refer to as 'jobs') will increase but be hidden by the national security secrecy screen: "we can't tell you what we spend, it's classified"; and losses are socialized while profits are privatized - how many bailouts do we have to live through to realize that is the law of the land.

Imagine that we could stop the endless wars by controlling how much the corporate Sacred Pig gets fed. The pigs only want to get fat, it's just their nature, written into their dna/corporate charters.

Imagine that our government has already been bought and paid for. We don't own it anymore. We just pay for it.

Imagine that maybe a Constitutional Amendment for a balanced budget is the only way to stop the Sacred Pig from making serfs of all of us in the endless feeding frenzy as it gobbles up the government.

I don't know. I'm just imagining.

Neil said...

The sky is falling, again, just like the run-up to TARP. This time I’m not buying whatever the Bush-Obama gang is selling. Default, then go bankrupt. Time we put this country on a cash basis. Dump the Fed. End world-wide central bank debt slavery.

This blog is perplexing in that Karen lays down the well-deserved gantlet, but many of the comments are from hand-wringers. Granted, I’m new here, spend more time on ZH.

I voted for change, but got more of the same from BHO. If elections won’t bring change, perhaps default and bankruptcy will. There is method behind the tea baggers’ apparent madness.

Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul, that would be a great 2012 ticket for change.

Anonymous said...

@Annie
Please carefully consider a balanced budget amendment. I can't find what the Republicans drafted, but most do not require a balanced budget during wars and emergencies. Moreover, what suggests that the Pentagon will suffer under a balanced budget? They (and Homeland Security) will still remain the top priority. It will just mean even less for social programs.

Ned

Napoleon said...

One thing needed is for Democratic leaders in the Senate and the House to tell Obama they will not agree to cuts in Medicare and Social Security payments when money can be saved by cutting dollars spent in overseas locations that are in support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that are spent at overseas military bases.

Those dollars support jobs in foreign locations and the consumer economies in those locations. They don't support jobs here in the United States or the consumer economy here. Thus, drastic cuts in the amount of dollars spent abroad by the military could be used to prevent drastic cuts in the safety net or could be used to boost jobs in the United States.

VLT said...

@Neil,

"This blog is perplexing in that Karen lays down the well-deserved gantlet, but many of the comments are from hand-wringers. Granted, I’m new here . . ."

Right - good point - you are new here. Most enlightened people – and people truly interested in sharing ideas - would have the good sense to read comments written in the past before making baseless assumptions about those writing in. I suggest you go to the history and read the comments made over the last few months and then make your decision about our commentariat. After you have done your reading, if you actually have a unique perspective to share in terms of actions we should be taking, do enlighten the rest of us hand-wringers.

VLT said...

Nap,

Amen to that sentiment! I think it was Anne who pointed out that none of the politicians on either side were saying the contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq wouldn't be paid if we didn’t raise the debt ceiling.

All I can say is get on the phone and call your reps in Congress. BoldProgressives has a phone campaign going on right now so the best thing we can do is bombard our Reps in the House with phone calls and assurances that we are keeping track of how they vote.

VLT said...

A bit of a non-sequitur - I was just reading Truthdig (which I just discovered) and Chris Hedges wrote an excellent essay, "Ralph Nader is Tired of Running for President." It is really excellent - and depressing. America needs to wake up - and soon.

Anonymous said...

@VLT:
To be fair to Neil, I don't think "hand-wringer" is terribly perjorative. It's more a goad to action. And a guy who spends his time at ZH isn't going to want to spend too much time here - the Tyler Durdens of the world have kind of descended upon ZH, they have their own nutty take on the political scene, but who's to say they're always wrong?
I'd welcome a guy like Neil - he's clearly got some crazy ideas, but he may also have some right ideas. And I think he might just goad some of us to take civil action beyond writing letters to congress. I also suspect that as challenging as he might seem, he might provide the link to those independents who would tip the balance against the war.
As someone who organized phone banks and letter writing campaigns for six months of the HCR push, I can sadly report that it didn't get us "shite". (Sorry for speaking plainly, but I'm burnt out on letters to congress!) I'm actually researching how to conduct a hunger strike. And, this is not on you, but I'm really kind of bitter about how we've been corralled into "polite action" like letter writing by OFA/DNC, while we have our asses stolen out from under us. 
I think (?) I'm almost ready to stage a non-violent direct protest action of a hunger strike. I've been reading a bit about the history of hunger strikes - from Celts to Brit suffragettes to Hindu custom, and I'm reaching out to more experienced protesters/activists. Culturally, a hunger strike is something I can relate to better than marching, and if a one-person hunger strike is carefully planned and managed, it has the potential to push awareness far more effectively than a rally (which is nearly impossible to control - see: Grannies, Raging, as discussed before.)
I guess we'll all go through different stages of action, right? And they're all useful. It's just that sometimes we burn out on the very things (like writing letters) which, by logic, ought to be sufficient but somehow aren't enough to get our point across.
All that said, I hope you're enjoying the weekend, at least! 
-Draft

Karen Garcia said...

ZH (Zero Hedge)is not all about conspiracy theories. It scooped everybody in its expose of flash trading (recently re-exposed on a 60 Minutes segment). Of course, some of it is speculative, but given the fantastic schemes perpetrated by Wall Street and our complicit politicians, I think ZH serves its purpose. Seems nothing is outside the realm of possibility any more.

Napoleon said...

@VLT

Thanks for the advice about phoning my representatives in Congress. I did that this week for my representative to the House, thanks to an email from Moveon.org but until I saw your comment I hadn't thought about phoning the offices of the two senators as well. I will do that today.

Also, I didn't read anything in your email that would discourage anyone from pursuing another course of action, whether in the form of hunger strikes, demonstrations, vigils, fund raising for progressives, running for political office, etc. You simply recommended a collective action that has often been found to have a multiplier effect and is one where not infrequently local news media, and sometimes the national media, report on the ratio of favorable versus unfavorable calls and letters members of Congress received on a newsworthy issue.

Also, I thank Karen for stating the name symbolized by the abbreviation.

citizen 625 said...

Implicit in the debt talk and DC jabber in general is that the mighty hand of the capitalist market will return everything to the pleasant status quo ante of yesteryear. The market, the politics of everything to union rights to civil rights to Glass-Steagall do not EVER go back to where they were. The direction of political action is all in who is doing the acting and toward what end. Remember at the end of this blogging thing to take a few like minded friends to the polls with you next time.

Anonymous said...

@Karen:

"ZH (Zero Hedge)is not all about conspiracy theories."
Never mentioned conspiracy, though I guess "nutty" implies same. I started reading ZH some years ago via thebaselinescenario.com and am an infrequent regular. But yes, I do think it can get a little nuttily speculative... It's also worth reading.

OTOH, I happen to think the Tyler Durdens of the world (I am a fan) are an unharnessed power - how do you channel their potential energy to take non-violent protest that goes beyond (excuse Neil's term) "hand-wringing" and polite calls to our congressfolk? 

As stated before, I think there are all sorts of routes forward, and they all have their uses.

But... I'll be frank here: for the level of change we want, I think it suggests a level of willful blindness to think that writing into blogs and calling congress is going to SUFFICE. It can be an integral part, but it seems to this weary organizer that real change involves that AND a strategic level of disobedience. Think of all the essential, earnest middle-class NY'ers who supported the civil rights struggle with cash and letters. But without the jailings of King and Parks and Bayard Rustin, etc., without those terrible images of men sustaining the fire hoses, woukd change have come?

That is, everyone here is against the wars. BUT... has anyone considered a non-violent sit-in protest that would necessarily involve getting arrested? Or participared in same? I know that until this year I haven't. But why?

These are awkward and challenging questions. But at the risk of seeming impolite, I ask them. I also recommend (just for the hell of it) giving King's Letter from Birmingham Jail a re-read now that we're all long past the first college read of it. Like everything else, the re-read is an entirely new experience. He asks and answers so many impolite questions in the letter, it's kind of shocking.

We've whitewashed King: the man was quite radical. But I try to take the long view - back in 5th century Athens (and for thousands of years afterward) democracy itself was horribly radical.

-Draft

Napoleon said...

Back to the issue raised by VLT and Anonymous-Draft concerning a protest, it occurs to me that there is a way to do it, though soft in form and perhaps altogether unrealistic, that centers on treating any proposed debt ceiling agreement, or framework, by Obama and the Republicans as a precursor to efforts to kill or fatally wound Medicare and Social Security.

The protest I am intimating (I can't bear yet to say recommending) is one that calls to mind the public response in Britain to the death of Diana and the outpouring of grief today in Norway over the mass killings, namely a flower tribute to Medicare and Social Security in which ordinary citizens simply throw flowers after flowers upon large heaps in designated spots as a means of commemorating the threatened demise of Social Security and Medicare.

This form of protest has the advantage of being a typical way today in which masses of unnamed citizens express grief for the passing away of a beloved and gather publicity for the expression of their grief.

Karen Garcia said...

Chaining yourself to the White House fence is always good for publicity and making the government uncomfortable. It worked pretty well to get the repeal of DADT through. There are all manner of resistance methods available to us as individuals -- I wish, for example, more people would raise a fuss at airports over the TSA gropers and rapi-scans. One woman was arrested recently for "groping" a TSA worker in protest. She made the news.

Anonymous said...

@Nap:
I think that's a beautiful idea. And as a former organizer, let me ask you an impolite but necessary question: Are you willing to do the heavy lifting of organizing the large numbers of people to enact your idea? What resources would you implement, not just cash resources, but corralling the many and disparate grassroots organizers and doing the painstaking work of collecting pledges and emails? That is, are you willing to WORK for change, or do you stop at, as you put it, "intimating without being able to dare yet to recommend"?

We all have lovely sentiments. What else do we have? Is it impolite to ask that question, and why? If it is impolite, perhaps it is impolite because it reveals us as the "hand-wringers" that Neil rightly called us.

We have been at war in Afghanistan for nearly a decade. We are still blogging and calling congressfolk. We have ideas for floral tributes, for which our friends will pat us on the back and exclaim, "hail, felloe! Well met!" even though we have little intention of implementing even those ideas. Perhaps we don't really want what we say we do?

-Draft

Ciara said...

Perhaps we do want what we say we do. Perhaps we are, though, exhausted from daily life. And perhaps shaming is just not the best way to motivate people.

Napoleon said...

@Anonymous-Draft,
It's not impolite to ask the question but it is unnecessary. What is impolite is to refer to me as "Nap" when the name I use, and clearly intend for others to use in referring to me, is "Napoleon"

I was throwing out an idea that occurred to me from watching the flower tribute in Norway, and contrary to your implicit suggestion concerning whether I am "willing to WORK for change, or do you stop .." I was hinting, or intimating, at the idea because I was throwing it out before having had time to evaluate it. I am no stranger to protests and have been attacked by mobs, perhaps you as well, while involved with them.

Ciara said...

Karen Garcia said...
"Chaining yourself to the White House fence is always good for publicity and making the government uncomfortable. It worked pretty well to get the repeal of DADT through. There are all manner of resistance methods available to us as individuals -- I wish, for example, more people would raise a fuss at airports over the TSA gropers and rapi-scans. One woman was arrested recently for "groping" a TSA worker in protest. She made the news."

There are so many questions suggested by Karen's comment, above, and by the oft-lamented disappearance of the protest-culture of the late 1960s, with its music and heroes and ideas. What makes a protest truly effective? I expect that each protest that ultimately does have an effect was the beneficiary of multiple factors. One can't plan for effectiveness, in the end. One can only plan and hope, and then do it all over again, learning as one goes along.

Why don't we protest more, and more often? I've been asking myself that since the Reagan presidency! I'm sure the answer is multi-faceted. Two disincentives, I believe, are (1) a lack of conviction that protest really makes a difference; and (2) a lack of meaningful leadership. As to the second, remember that tremendous, cheering, almost ecstatic crowd at Obama's inauguration? Remember how clear the message from that crowd was, i.e., we want meaningful change? I suggest that that crowd, having been slapped upside the head with factor (2) (Obama's many betrayals), is now deep in the depression of the factor (1).

Will there be a "tipping point," at which enough people will have a sure-enough sense of what to do and where to do it? Possibly. The next real opportunity will come after the next major economic disaster, a la September 2008. Will we use that opportunity well? Probably not -- but planning for it now would probably be a great idea.

Janet Camp said...

Re: Protesting

Being arrested is exactly why, perhaps, more people aren't protesting. Who can afford to miss work, if you have it, or have an arrest on their record?

I've always thought that pregnant woman are the best possible group to chain themselves somewhere--who is going to manhandle pregnant women--or even arrest them?

Grandmothers (and perhaps grandfathers) are a good bet. They have the time, aren't prone to losing their tempers and cops would not want to be videotaped shoving them to the ground.

But, the best bet these days, given that the media won't put protests on TV much anyway, is economic action. Boycotts, if well-organized and widespread enough, have tremendous potential to harm corporations at the bottom line. However, I guess I would not want them to be successful enough to cause layoffs, so I'm not sure there is any way at all to really get to the Kochs and Murdochs. But economic protest could at least get legislators to recognize problems and start paying attention to the lives of the consumers who support them.

I don't know about flowers. I wouldn't want to co opt
the way people show grief, but it would be an easy way to get large numbers of people involved and the
media could hardly ignore it.

Anonymous said...

@Karen
"Chaining yourself to the White House fence is always good for publicity and making the government uncomfortable. It worked pretty well to get the repeal of DADT through. There are all manner of resistance methods available to us as individuals -- I wish, for example, more people would raise a fuss at airports over the TSA gropers and rapi-scans. One woman was arrested recently for "groping" a TSA worker in protest. She made the news."

This is what really concerns me about the current level of dissatisfaction among the citizenry. The TSA screening really pissed people off. But on a relative basis, is it that big of a deal?

Europeans have been dealing with this level of scrutiny since the 1960's. I spent maybe ten percent of my waking hours in 1991 standing in screening lines when I was living in Europe during the First Gulf War. After 9/11, I went through those same lines for my office in New York. I'd expect to be more thoroughly screened if I were to get on a plane... and I was. No biggie.

OTOH, the fact that the U.S. drug war has imprisoned more black males than were enslaved on the eve of the civil war in 1850... and that it's destroyed Mexico... that is, on a relative basis, a really big f@cking deal. Or should be.

But has anyone made a peep about the latter? Why not?

Why not?

The fact that more ink has been spilt over the TSA screening in the past year than over the genocide of the black community over the last forty years of the drug war... well, it's kind of weird. It kind of makes me wonder about not just me, but all of us.

The Pelican Bay prisoners protesting their isolation confinements just ended their hunger strike last week - they lasted three weeks, which is just before their organs would start breaking down.

None of us wrote a word about them while they were striking. Karen, you and I wrote about Michelle Bachmann, we wrote about marriage gay and otherwise, I name-dropped Didion. We kept an eye on Obama and the GOP (one and the same, really.)

But these men, many of them prisoners of the drug war, held in inhumane isolation cells, they slipped by without our notice.

I just... I just don't know what to say about that. I mean, it seems like there should be some kind of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, but refigured for the Dem/Progressive community. I don't know where the "violation" implicit in a TSA screening would be on that Hierarchy, but...

On that hierarchy of needs, doesn't it seem like ending human rights abuses in prisons should be a priority, along with getting shelter for the homeless, ending the wars, protecting the environment and investing in education? Isn't that what the call to action should be about?

-Draft

VLT said...

Janet,

It is shocking how badly protesters can be treated. I know of elderly nuns and priests who have been manhandled by police and military whilst simply peacefully protesting nuclear arms and the wars. I agree that the problem is the media, which seems to cover any Tea Party member who sneezes, is disinterested in legitimate protesting and civil disobedience. I don’t really know what to do about that other than to attract the bigger numbers to the point that the protest simply can’t be ignored – as in Wisconsin.

I also believe that a boycott can also be effective. As one of my friends used to say, "You vote with your dollars." I also think it can serve as a means of getting a conversation going. A friend who boycotted WalMart fifteen years ago was the person who showed me the damage WalMart was doing to local businesses and communities. Many people carry on simply not thinking about where the things they buy are coming from and who their consuming dollars support.

Napoleon - Mea Culpa! I have shortened your name myself on several occasions. People regularly have shortened mine and it doesn't matter to me. Consequently, I made the false assumption that you would feel the same way. I will honour your wish to be referred to Napoleon in future – and again, my apologies.

Valerie

Anonymous said...

@Janet

To follow up on your last post, I recently read a theory that people are also afraid of the professional repercussions of protesting due to the technological era we're living in today. Even in the absence of an embarrassing arrest record, think about everyone being surveilled via cameras (with or without facial recognition capabilities), GPS-enabled cellphones, even the good old days of electronic trails left by credit cards, etc. I'm not paranoid or anything, but this is the way of the world these days. All those professionals just trying to get by in this corporate fascist state may be a little more worried about being able to put food on the table than fighting the good fight for social justice.

And, of course, some would say that's exactly the plan: Keep us divided, scared, and barely making ends meet. Shut up, work hard, be thankful you even have a job, and go home and get some sleep because you have to get up and do it all over again tomorrow. Just something to think about.

-- William

Neil said...

Re VLT

Marie Burns/Reality Chex has been on my blogroll since last year, and I’ve had a link to the Draft Spitzer blog for awhile. So I was pleasantly surprised to see those folks here.

I’m a big letter writer, and once got a park bench fixed that way. Otherwise letters are not that effective unless from a VIP or stuffed with cash. (I mean a campaign contribution).

Karen’s suggestions of chaining oneself to the White House fence is fine, but as Janet Camp noted, arrest is a real possibility. That kind of in-your-face protest worked better in the 60’s, before our current police state, with computers tracking your whole life forever. Last month a Florida judge signed an arrest warrant for me on civil contempt over a lawsuit I filed. For three weeks the sheriff hunted me on a writ of bodily attachment. It was exhausting living in seclusion.

This is happening all over the country. In June 2011 the US Supreme Court ruled that civil contemnors (like me) are not entitled to counsel. The case is Turner v. Rodgers and is on my website http://yousue.org/turner-v-rogers/ See the story about David Bardes and "cold cell torture" at the bottom of the page. Bardes was left in a hypothermic jail cell for 32.5 hours, 31.5 more hours than Bush's torture memo allows. He almost died over support payments not owed.

Today I don’t think Martin Luther King’s peaceful techniques would work, although since Draft mentioned the Letter from Birmingham Jail, that is on my site here http://yousue.org/civil-rights/ How many people today would join the Freedom Riders and subject themselves to beatings?

VLT wrote in another post, "America needs to wake up - and soon." Problem is, people can’t face the reality of what this country has become: A police state with more prison inmates and parolees than any place on Earth. A thoroughly corrupt country where the rule of law has been replaced with special interests. A legal system described by Larry Tribe as "The whole system of justice in America is broken," and "The entire legal system is largely structured to be labyrinthine, inaccessible, unusable." In my view this is most significant problem we face, and NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT! On my home page, at the top, are a few brave lawyers willing to speak out, and they pay the price. Florida foreclosure defense lawyer Matt Weidner might be disbarred over his blog critical of "fraudclosure" http://yousue.org/

A more effective effort that letter-writing is making YouTube videos. I made one about the judicial selection process in Tampa, which is open to the public, but no one attends. This was the first YouTube I ever made. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtswMgV0lkE The video was shot by a homeless man, and the interviewer was a student volunteer. The editing was done on my home computer. None of the judicial applicants would speak on camera. I attended the interviews and made notes, some of which are reported here http://yousue.org/jnc-judicial-nominating-commission/

I could go on an on, and my website has multiple pages dedicated to bank corruption, Federal Reserve mismanagement, lawyers and courts stealing from senior citizens, mortgage foreclosure, homelessness, the Florida Bar, and the case that led me on this strange trip.

This country is ready to explode. Since the American people don’t have the stomach for armed revolution, it will happen some other way, like a financial meltdown. It’s not just Zero Hedge, it’s Matt Weidner, Catherine Austin Fitts, and lots more.

ZH claims that "On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero". As a resident of a retirement community, I can confirm that claim. One by one, they go. And trust me, there is no honor dying in a nursing home or hospice. So grab your pitchforks and get ready, unless you want to be slaves to the banks and corrupt system forever.

Napoleon said...

@VLT

Apology accepted. I had noticed the timing and circumstance of your use of the abbreviation for my name and took it into account. Initially, I had assumed VLT and the unabbreviated name represented distinct people but rather slowly concluded, like now as a result of reading your post, this was unlikely. In the interim, the confusion was incorporated in my comments.

Karen Garcia said...

@Neil,
Thanks for the referral to your blog... it has a wealth of info, to be sure and you have obviously put a lot of work into it. Good luck with your legal problems,too.

Valerie Long Tweedie (VLT) said...

William,

That was a really good comment. And really makes a lot of sense to me. Although it is sad and very frightening to realise that this is what is going on in America.

Neil,

You wrote, "Problem is, people can’t face the reality of what this country has become: A police state with more prison inmates and parolees than any place on Earth. A thoroughly corrupt country where the rule of law has been replaced with special interests. A legal system described by Larry Tribe as "The whole system of justice in America is broken," and "The entire legal system is largely structured to be labyrinthine, inaccessible, unusable." In my view this is most significant problem we face, and NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT!"

I think most law abiding, Middle Class people have a false security when it comes to the police, federal policing agencies (such as Homeland Security and the FBI)and the legal system. They rarely need it themselves and assume it works fairly to bring about a just result. I too worry about the the U.S. having already on its way to becoming a police state - While the Middle Class is distracted by our very real economic woes, those who want to maintain power have used terrorism to scare people into allowing their civil liberties to be thrown under the bus. No one is paying attention and no one understands what it means to our democracy.

Neil said...

@Karen

Thank you Karen, appreciate your comments. The website grew out of frustration with my own hand-wringing, letter-writing, and other tilting at windmills. Sorry if my earlier comment upset VLT or anyone else.

Janet Camp said...

Valerie Long Tweedie (just to make sure)

Thanks for the response--I hope we won't be seen as "hand wringers" for apologising for protesters.

I did not think the Wisconsin protest received adequate coverage, personally. Thousands (tens of thousands) of people were there, day after day for over a month, but because it was peaceful, the media soon lost interest.

Perhaps some of you saw more coverage than I did as I don't watch TV, but I read reports that said we didn't get nearly as much as the TP gets for (as you said) sneezing.

The other problem is that since the Seattle protests, the authorities have badly marginalised protesters by requiring them to be as much as two miles away from the "event". They fence it off and you might as well be in a cage.

I feel in my heart that there's room for protesting, but even when nearly a million show up, it doesn't seem to have a huge impact. I'm in favor of economic damage--that will get their attention like nothing else. It's easy enough to do--we just need some basic organization, a good website and some publicity (web ads?). Let's keep thinking on this. I know there's a list of Koch Bros. businesses, but it's mostly construction materials that most people would't have a clue about unless they've recently done a home improvement project. There are the paper products, but we need to make this much wider.

We need the website so people can electronically send emails that they did not buy (blank) product today because it's made by (blank) who does not act in the interest of working Americans, or something like that. I don't have the savvy to do this, but let's start thinking about who does.

Janet Camp said...

@William

Thanks for the comment and I completely agree. You have expanded on what I was getting at. I don't think you're paranoid at all. Read my response just posted to VLT
Note: You may all feel free to reference me as JC. I'm pretty sure I won't be confused with that other much more famous JC.

Valerie Long Tweedie (VLT) said...

Neil,

No harm done. I appreciate your comments and your point of view. Glad you are joining in on the discussion and bringing fresh ideas. My snippy response comes from my own frustration that little of what we do seems to make much of a difference. But we have to keep trying and we have to keep fighting the good fight. It's not over yet.