Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day Mayday

The best part about May 1st is that the April 30th midnight deadline for more annoying-than-usual Democratic fund-raising has passed. Here's a typical example, titled "Crumbling Down" --

The FEC deadline at midnight is a big deal.

If we don't meet our goal, we will fall behind. If we fall behind, we risk our work crumbling down because the Koch brothers' chosen candidates will walk into office.

We can't afford to let these guys to win. We have to fight back.
Together we can do this. We need you to step up.

Donate before it's too late >>>


Progressives 2014

 As far as I know, the world did not crumble overnight, and the billionaire Koch Brothers did not succeed in swallowing poor multimillionaire Harry Reid whole because I failed to "step up." Nor did Debbie Wasserman-Schultz get turned into a pumpkin by the evil Tea Party Fairy. Unfortunately.

Also unfortunately, it seems that I have forever missed (until next month anyhow) the deadline to get my name forever implanted upon Obama's Wall... or, as it's alternately called,"The Permanent Record." I don't know about you, but when I was in school, getting your name put in the permanent record was a threat, not a promise. It was a punishment guaranteed to keep you in a low-wage job and in debt servitude for the rest of your misbegotten life. And if you went to Catholic school, condemnation to a very long stint in Purgatory.

Oh, wait.

So yesterday, doomsday, the Democrats pulled the cute stunt of putting the paltry $10.10 minimum wage bill on the senate floor, knowing full well it would fail by virtue of their failure to reform the filibuster.  It would fail.... but they would not. Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post got the whole thing pegged with the silly rhetorical question "Can President Obama and Senate Democrats Win by Losing on the Minimum Wage?"
They held conference calls and media events and rallies. They mobilized their biggest names, including President Obama, on a nationwide messaging push behind the minimum wage legislation.
And the result? The bill only got one Republican vote, falling well short of the 60-vote threshold needed to open debate.
If this sounds familiar, that's because it is.
Last month, Democrats did essentially the same thing for the Paycheck Fairness bill, which aimed to cut down on disparities in pay between men and women.
There was news conference after news conference on Capitol Hill, impassioned speeches from the Senate floor, and Democratic women lawmakers even started walking around wearing necklaces made of Payday candy bars.
So why, a reasonable person might ask, are Democrats continually pushing bills that seem dead on arrival?
Because passing the bills isn't the point.
The point is to make the Republicans look like the sadistic psychopaths they are, and to raise money, money, money by dint of the "we suck less" credo. I can't even begin to count how many times Sean Eldridge, the billionaire Democratic neophyte running for a seat in my district, has emailed asking for $5 to "stand with him" on the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and marriage equality in solidarity against the evil GOP billionaire-fellaters.  Other than Elizabeth Warren, not one Democrat has asked me to send money to fight the banksters and reinstate Glass-Steagall. And even Elizabeth Warren isn't asking for donations to fight against American imperialism, endless war, and the Surveillance State.

And this being May Day, not one Democrat has asked me for help in defending workers' and union rights.

But, on this first day of the lovely month of May, I was mighty intrigued by an email from Lawrence Lessig, simply titled "Mayday."

I opened it with excitement, thinking it was announcing a general strike, or a march on Washington. This is what it said:
We all know this democracy is in distress. It's time to send an urgent signal that we can fix it.
Today we're launching a SuperPAC to end all SuperPACs. It's called the Citizens SuperPAC, and it's only going to succeed if you support it. The video below will explain the plan, and you can also head over to MayOne.US to learn more.
When I clicked on the link to Learn More, I was asked for money money money to get the Money Money Money out of politics. I was not asked to partake in a march, join a general strike, start a boycott, stage a sit-in, or write a speech or article. I was asked to write them a check or supply my credit card info, then Tweet all my friends, and spread the word on Facebook.

OMG!!! It'll have the oligarchs shaking in their Pradas. Meanwhile, my email address will spread far and wide throughout the fundraise-o-sphere, and somebody's office overhead will be protected for another 30 seconds.

Lessig means well, I'm sure. But the PTB must be so happy. Our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to be consumer-spectators in the One Indispensable Nation of dispensable people. We have been assigned our roles. Their Big Money is Big Speech. Our little money is but a faint whisper, giving us the illusion that we are citizens participating in our own democracy.

In 80 other countries, May Day is a public holiday. Stock markets are (gasp!) closed. Ironically, what's also known as  International Workers' Day commemorates the struggle that Chicago workers, unionists and reformers went through in 1886 to fight for an eight-hour work day. Violent protests broke out on May 1, 1886 as 35,000 workers rallied on the streets in Chicago to demand better working hours.

Yet in Miseducation Nation, schoolchildren are not getting the day off  (if they play hookey, they'll get their names on that dreaded permanent record!)  and they are probably not being taught about labor history in the classroom. According to the valuable teaching tool known as Washington Post's Kids Post, May Day is all about flowers, moms, baskets, beauty contests, dances, and maypoles. Children are finally and falsely told, as a kind of afterthought,  that only in "other countries" is May Day observed to honor workers' rights:
In the late 1800s, workers in different parts of the world were fighting for the right to work no more than eight hours a day. At the time, it was common for them to have to work 11 hours or more each day. They chose May 1 as a time to protest in favor of a shorter workday.
Despite the best corporate efforts to suppress the news, Chicago was actually holding an event to commemorate the May Day Haymarket slaughter. Other events are scattered throughout the nation. And if you can't get out, the World Socialist Website is holding on online rally this Sunday, May 4th. (Yeah, they do discreetly ask for an optional donation, but they also stress that money is not necessary to sign up.)

Update: I may have missed my chance to get my name on the Obama Wall, but no matter. Organizing for Action, his political post-campaign arm, sent me another email today, this time asking that I sign a petition in support of the minimum wage. The president's ungrammatical pitch (this failure is going on his permanent record!):
"What every American wants is a paycheck that lets them (sic) support their families, know a little (as opposed to much) economic security, pass down some hope and optimism (as opposed to property and money) to their kids. And that’s worth fighting for. (me)"
Am I in? You betcha. Who doesn't want to bequeath platitudes? And once I sign my name, I'm directed to the page where I get instructions on how to get the minimum wage -- by giving  OFA a lot of economic security, in amounts of $15, $35, $50, $100, $500, $1,000 and beyond. Coming soon to my inbox: a friendly guilt-inducing reminder from OFA that they're still waiting for me to step up and honor my pledge to the momentum. These follow-ups are always in the form of invoices telling me that I have remitted exactly $0 to the momentum so far. 

It must have been a momentary lapse. But if it goes on my permanent record, it really is of no moment.


Jay - Ottawa said...

Allow me to pile on. Back in the day some of us used to say, darkly, “There’s a lot of money in poverty.” Lately, as Karen points out, there’s lots of money in shadow boxing for reform. Just take a hard look at this week’s minimum wage theater. What’s really going on behind the new storefronts of our pop-up reformers?

Is there any difference between giving a few bucks to a sweet-talk progressive endlessly drafting petitions or, on the other hand, is there something substantially different in contributing a few hours to a march down mean streets? Or holding back a few bucks to support a boycott, despite the inconvenience to ourselves? Or unmasking the frauds––Lord, there are so many––among politicians and even among outsider "progressives"? Would we (many numbered among the near-poor) be better off holding back our $3 donations in anticipation of a massive boycott of absolutely zero spending that could drop a corporation to its knees? Or, if we feel better parting with our dollars, spending it for pizzas and fresh water for the next wave of locavore occupiers bearing the heat of the day to hold the front line?

The new smell test should amount to this: If they want your money, they probably want your money, period; If they tell you to hang on to your money to starve a corporation till it’s small enough to drown in a bathtub …. well, maybe they're for real.

Anonymous said...

One important memory of my younger years was marching in downtown NYC during Mayday with my father, union people, socialists, everyday working people walking proudly together during the Depression. Their pride and dignity and real sense of brotherhood amid the struggle to survive was a powerful never to be forgotten experience for me.

This is what has been destroyed in our country and that strong feeling of togetherness and hope for a better future is something we are all yearning for. I hope it is reignited with the younger generations one day who will work together to help the nation heal itself and each other. That is my fervent wish for this real Mayday.

Pearl said...

The above is from Pearl, not anonymous.

traynorjf said...

Yeah, Mayday, really gives them the shivers. I wonder if that's the source of MAYDAY! MAYDAY!. Wouldn't be surprised, but too lazy to look up.

jhand said...

Our state teacher association (NEA affiliate) has lobbied Congress for years on three national issues: the Social Security offset rules, the WEP, and the DREAM Act. The first two affect state employees in states like Texas, California, and Ohio; the third issue affects millions of kids we teach. As a general statement, Democrats have been lukewarm, wimpy, or uninterested in all of these issues, depending on the way the wind was blowing in DC. When we finally got the DREAM Act to the Senate floor, both R's and D's sold us out on cloture.
I get the same e-mails you get, Karen, and I share your attitude about giving any of these campaign committees any money. When it comes to issues that require spending money and changing laws that affect ordinary people, the D's are (ACA aside) pretty useless.