The 99% and The Two Americas

(Cross posted at

Chris Cillizza wrote a piece on October 17 in The Washington Post called “What John Edwards Can Teach Barack Obama”
Cillizza compares the message of the “Two Americas” to “We are the 99%” i.e. that there is one America for the privileged with their lobbyists and influence and another America for the rest of us. He suggests that Barack Obama take a look at this Edwards’ theme. He also admits that Obama is not a natural populist and so donning this message might indeed turn out to be an ill fitting suit making the wearer look a bit comical.

If I tell you where the idea of “Two Americas” comes from, you will see why it’s not a good fit for the current president. The Two Americas phrase itself was coined by an Edwards’ staffer Christina Reynolds. But its roots lay in a deep held belief of the senator that something had gone terribly wrong.

In 2003 I decided it was time for me to scout around and read up on the possible Democratic candidates. I stumbled on a speech by an obscure North Carolina senator and a phrase lept out at me. I had one of those “Oh my God” moments. Here was a phrase and an idea that made sense of everything that had gone wrong since the beginnings of Friedman/Reagonomics that had morphed into Rubin/Clintonomics. The phrase was “we must honor work over wealth”.

Barrett Keizer said, in his brilliant 2006 February essay for Harper’s called “Crap Shoot: Everyone Loses When Politics is a Game”:

“The player, the wise guy, prides himself on his cleverness, but he always perishes from being less clever than he thinks. He perishes because he only knows the relentless, mindless momentum of the game; he knows nothing of the sanctifying rhythms of work and rest.”

“Sanctity”. Wow, that reminds me that Jesus was blue collar. He was a carpenter. God too worked his butt off and then rested. Those are the natural rhythms of the earth; to work and then to rest and play.

Edwards was attempting to redeem the word “work” that Reagonomics had succeeded in replacing with the so-called virtue of “ownership”. Reagan pushed the idea that you weren’t really a player unless you owned shares in America and owned property. Being a “shareholder” was preferable to be called a “worker”.

But, no, the world belongs to people who love work and not to the players in the casinos with their rigged games. It’s long past time for work to take again its dominant place over wealth. “Attention must be paid”, said Linda Loman of her salesman husband Willy. Dignity, respect, justice begins when a person is rewarded for a good day’s work and is honored for it.

Freedom demands shared responsibility that can only be achieved when all work is given dignity and all brothers and sisters are respected. It doesn’t mean we all get yachts. But it does mean that we all get boats. Right now it is clear to the young people that all they’ve got is the instruction manual on “How to Swim” while the Fat Cats speed around them churning up the waves.

The occupiers around the world are finding virtue and truth in the phrase that “many hands make light work”. They are discovering the joy of working together in their assemblies and “work” groups. And they are discovering the joy of playing and jamming after some marching and sweating. They are redefining what is valuable.

Promises have been broken and Liberty has been stolen. Fearful and hollow men seek to exclude and not include. So, it’s time to “kindly” ask those who would serve up liberty without fraternity or equality to step to the back of the bus. Our time is now.

The French got it right in their cry of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity“. “Cut to the Revolution.”


“Teachers as Temps”

Check out Glen Ford’s latest piece on “Corporate Dream: Teachers as Temps”

Discredit teachers and you can discredit public education.  And then the blood suckers can get their hands on the 800 Billion Dollars we spend on public education.  Always follow the money.

Poverty is the Real Loser Here

So the justice department spent 2.5 years investigating John Edwards and whether campaign funds were used to keep his mistress and love child in hiding. Curious as to its priorites.
Curious that Edwards was the only candidate that built his campaign around the issue of poverty. If you solve poverty, you solve everything; war and peace, environmental degradation, hunger, and racism. He was the one who called out Wall Street time and time again and had specific plans to tame the beast. But like many before him, he had personal flaws.
So now we have no mention of the end to poverty by our leaders and instead we have a justice department that goes after a guy who cheated on his wife. It is very telling who this attorney general on behalf of this president goes after as mentioned by several comments on; whistleblowers instead of the banksters? adulterers rather than war criminals? WTF indeed.

Big Fish and Little Fish

by shemayaza_born on photobucket

Big Fish eat little fish.  That’s how it works. You hear all the time that our corporate taxes are the highest in the world.  Sure, but most U.S. corps don’t pay it.  83 out of the top 100 companies paid zero taxes between 1999 and 2005. (IRS study).  Zero.   Companies like Exxon, GE, Carnival Cruise Line, Verizon use various loopholes to get out of paying any taxes.  In the 1950s, corporations contributed about 30% of all federal revenue.  Now it is down to 6%.  So what happens?  The tax burden is shifted to the rest of us small fry in the form of sin taxes, property taxes, and all kinds of licenses and fees that small business fish have to pay.   And then the big fish wait until the small fish are gasping for air and then they gobble up their business. Continue reading

Teachers and Oscars

When I was a young actor, I used to fantasize about winning a Tony or an Oscar. I’m guessing most young actors have done this. In my acceptance speeches, I always thanked my teachers. Sometimes I would choose one, but most of the time I included my 4th grade teacher Mr. Hoekema who picked me to narrate the Christmas Play for Dutch Day at the Chicago Museum of Natural History. Also Mr. Meyer who cast me as Helen Keller my first year of high school when I didn’t even know what a play was. My undergrad drama teacher, Mrs. Boeve, was probably the biggest influence on my life. Her slides of her travels all over the world fed my imagination and my curiosity to see the world and find out about other people. Her lectures on Kabuki theater would come in handy later with my foray into politics. I became a huge fan of Bertolt Brecht because of her. In grad school it was Dr. Bergwin, Dr. Weisfeld, and Dr. Beaver, the later wooing me away from theater and into film.

So I was especially disappointed at this year’s Oscars. With teachers sleeping in the rotunda in Madison’s state capitol and standing out in the snow and cold on the streets of Wisconsin, not one academy award winner thought to thank their teachers. (Maybe somebody did and I didn’t hear it because I nodded off quite a bit during that show). Last year I heard on the Oscar stage “God bless our troops”. This year I yearned to hear “God bless our teachers”.

I remember fondly when the Oscars were always full of surprises; Streakers running across the stage; Sacheen Little Feather accepting Marlon Brando’s Oscar in order to deliver a political statement on treatment of Native Americans in film and denouncing the siege at Wounded Knee; Vanessa Redgrave speaking on behalf of the Palestinians; and Michael Moore chastising George Bush.

Then there were the outfits like Cher’s 1986 Bob Mackie with that huge feather headdress, Bjork’s dead swan dress, and the South Park guys dressed in drag, to name a few.

There were also wonderful speeches by winners. Tom Hanks who won for his role in “Philadelphia” gave a moving tribute to all those who had died of AIDS. Russell Crowe gave tribute to his grandfather, his uncle, and “one bloke” Ridley Scott. He paid tribute to his “childhood imaginings” that allowed a suburban kid to dream of such a moment as winning an Oscar.

But most of the winners this year seemed strangely subdued excepting, of course, Melissa Leo’s “f” bomb. Gone for years has been any sense of anarchy. But now emotion and a sense of being part of a family or part of a history seems to be seeping away too. Has Hollywood, like the U.S., become a place of oligarchs and those who serve them so much so that no one even dare be “different” or “inappropriate”? Has everything just gotten too big? TBTF? Or did it all start getting phonier with the advent of “the Red Carpet”? When did an industry award event become more about fashion than film?

Don’t get me wrong, there were wonderful films this year so that is something to celebrate including the foreign films that I have yet to see. Pictures like “The Fighter” and “Winter’s Bone” depict American lives that many of us know little about. And, quite frankly, “Social Network”‘s elite world is something fewer and fewer Americans will ever get to enter or even dream about. There was some great story telling this year including the intriguing and difficult “Inception” which also painted a dark view of the greedy and corrupt culture that has infested our lives.

Yes, I know The Oscars are mostly about marketing films, but it used to have a little more heart. I wish I had thought about thanking teachers before the Oscars and had posted that on Melissa Leo’s Facebook page ( if she had one) because she would be the first winner of the major categories and then maybe a tsunami of thanks to teachers would have occurred. Thanking teachers would have been deliciously subversive without every mentioning the awful “u” word– “union”. Darn. But maybe somebody will read this with a bigger viewership than mine and start thanking teachers whenever they appear on the TV or radio. Maybe we can start that tsunami with a little ripple here and there. Thank a teacher today.

Will Madison Be Our Cairo?

You won’t find it on its front page section “Protests for Democracy”, but CNN is reporting that 15 more school districts will close today [#104] as teachers make their way to Madison, WI to join the protest against Gov. Walker’s anti union bill. Wisconsin teachers call in sick

At least 15 school systems in Wisconsin canceled Thursday’s classes because teachers and other public employees will continue protests at the state Capitol over a bill that would strip them of most of their collective bargaining rights and increase their contributions for benefits.

From MSNBC we get a report noting some Green Bay Packers weighing in: Madison protests

“As a publicly owned team we wouldn’t have been able to win the Super Bowl without the support of our fans,” reads a statement signed by seven current and former players. “It is the same dedication of our public workers every day that makes Wisconsin run. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. But now in an unprecedented political attack Governor Walker is trying to take away their right to have a voice and bargain at work.”

I heard a trucker on a show on Sirius Left radio say he was disconnecting his trailer and taking his cab and driving from Kentucky to Madison to join the protests over union busting.

Will Madison be our Cairo?

A Bank of Our Own

Web of Debt BookCourtesy of Ellen Brown at  her “Web of Debt” website we get a good reason for states to have their own state banks. She says in the article that Fed Chairman Bernanke told Congress that the Fed won’t or can’t bail the states out of their budget deficits.  Why?  The Fed gave *$12.3 trillion  in almost interest free credit to the too big to fail (TBTF) banks and other financial entities to get them out of their credit crisis.  But the Fed won’t give the same kind of credit  to the states.  It’s not because it doesn’t have the money.  The total budget deficit of the states is projected at $140 billion.  That’s chickenfeed compared to the almost $13 Trillion Bernanke handed out to our banks, foreign banks, and multinational corporations.   Bernanke says it is because the Fed can’t loan to states, municipalities, or commercial interests just to its exclusive club of private banks.

But it wasn’t always that way. In 1934, Congress revised the Federal Reserve Act to  allow it to “make credit available for the purpose of supplying working capital to established industrial and commercial businesses.”  But this was repealed in 1958.  The Bank of North Dakota (BND) is the only state bank left and it continues in the tradition of that 1934 revision of the Federal Reserve Act.  It takes in state revenues and then makes low interest loans to businesses, farms, and students.  With the interest it makes, it circulates the money back into the state.   It is similar to the highly successful colonial bank in Pennsylvania.  The interest there was used to build roads, bridges, help farmers, build schools,  and other important needs of the colony.

Congress is dead set on screwing the states probably because its bankster masters want to keep milking the states and cities.  So  it won’t revisit the 1934 revision which would force the Fed to extend low interest credit to the states. In light of that,  Ellen Brown says

“the states could take matters into their own hands and set up their own state-owned banks based on the BND’s model…rather than spending or selling off valuable public assets or hoarding them in massive rainy day funds made necessary by the lack of ready credit, states could leverage their assets into a very strong and abundant local credit system..”

Sounds like a good plan.  Would any state senator takes this up or should we work on a ballot initiative?

Note:  Brilliant book of hers.  Buy it.  She makes all this complicated money manipulation and fractional banking easy to understand and fun to read.  She writes it within the context of the Wizard of Oz.  She quotes another very readable book on the subject , Stephen Zarlenga’s “The Lost Science of Money”.  It’s a huge book of over 700 pages, but worth it

“extremists are extremists and I don’t really care.”

So said Big Jon Tester to the Missoulian editorial board on Monday, January 3.

Sen. Jon Tester plans to reintroduce his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act this year with no changes, but hopes to bring more Montanans to its support.

“The work doesn’t get done on the far left and it doesn’t get done on the far right,” Tester said during a meeting with the Missoulian editorial board on Monday. “It gets done in the middle. If you look at the folks opposing this bill, they’re the extremes. Quite frankly, extremists are extremists and I don’t really care. If they’re willing to become less ideologues and more realists, then come on board.”

Quite a lively discussion went on at “Left in the West”.

I’m now getting used to but also tired of the constant name calling by our elected representatives instead of a discussions of the actual policy differences.  It so high school.  But calling people who disagree with you “extremists” is dangerous.  My previous post on Montana’s dark time during WW I was a reminder to Montana’s leaders to not go down the road of Councils for Defense or Loyalty Councils who labeled their neighbors seditious traitors when they disagreed with government policy.  People who resort to this kind of language are quite simply bullies and that too is so high school.



Montana’s “Inquisition” and Wikileaks

So you are a little girl in grammar school in 1917.  Your name is Christine Shupp.  You related to a neighbor here in Montana that as a child you were forced every morning after the pledge of allegiance to the flag to  kneel down on the floor and kiss the flag.  It is because you were German. And say you are a rancher in Rosebud County, Montana and you call WWI “a millionaire’s war”. Whamo, you are dragged off by neighbors to jail. You’re in a saloon and call war time food regulations “a big joke” and you are sentenced to from 7 to 20 years.

Montana played a huge part in suppressing free speech during WWI.  In light of all the noise about Julian Assange,  Wikileaks, and Joe Lieberman’s “upgrading” The Espionage Act of 1917,  it ‘s probably a good idea to take  a look backwards to the Montana Council of Defense.  (Yes, President Obama and MSNBC, it’s a good idea to look backwards because leaning forwards can more often than not have you falling on your face.)

Historian K. Ross Toole wrote a chapter called “The Inquisition” in his book “Twentieth Century Montana: A State of Extremes” about a very dark time in Montana’s history.  At the  beginning of WW I, Woodrow Wilson formed a National Council of Defense and asked each state and each county in the state to help with war propaganda, helping in recruitment of troops, and getting people to buy Liberty Bonds.  The Montana Council of Defense went whole hog into this endeavor and was especially keen on finding “slackers” and “draft dodgers”.  The Governor of Montana, Sam Stewart called a special session of the legislature in part to make the Montana Council of Defense a legal body with funding by the state.  The legislature also passed the Sedition Act and the Criminal Syndicalism Act, which the federal government would use as a model for the federal Sedition Act which was an amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917. This act was probably one of the harshest anti-speech laws ever passed in the United States. Continue reading

I’m Not Ready to Make Nice

A bunch of concerned people called the “No Labels” group got together last week to talk about being nice in Washington politics. But being civil and trying to work things out isn’t a movement. It’s a style. But what is really going on beneath the surface of his party of nice is just another attempt by the elites to herd independents, disenfranchised Democrats and Republicans into the “magic middle” as Thomas Frank would call it and hope no one notices that this middle is still firmly preaching the flim flam of free market capitalism. This group hug does not get to the heart of the problem of having a government totally captured by corrupt economic interests producing crony capitalism which is a nice way of saying that this country and Europe are being rub by the mob. And that problem needs passionate debate and laws and institutions that will correct the injustices, not a love fest.

Yes, there is definitely a problem with the labels that we use to describe our political system. Few of our political words mean what they used to mean. Republicans, Democrats, progressives, liberals, conservatives, reform, free market, security… We truly inhabit George Orwell’s “1984”. We are caught in the brambles of bullshit and the maze of mendacity with weasel words abounding. But re-branding or being above branding is still in the end just marketing and not a philosophy that would lead to solutions. Continue reading