October 20, 2017 (WashingtonPost.com)
Published on Oct 21, 2017
Here is the video from today’s police action. They admit to the cities involvement in this, despite what the city had promised.
An eviction defense is in the works. We are requesting people come out starting Monday night. Bring tents, reclining lawn chairs, blankets, food, and coffee. Please spread the word.
The Poor Tour started with a homeless person dying. During the tour, several others died as well. This action against the homeless comes just as the bad weather is about to start. Coincidence?
Note from JP Massar:
The BART police are about to commit a crime. They are about to evict
some 25 homeless people from homes they have resided in for the last
nine months. For no reason.
This is cruel; this is inhumane; this is despicable. I implore you to stop it.
For nine months a stable, peaceful, law-abiding community of
homeless people has resided at the HERE/THERE space on the west side
of the BART tracks just north of the Oakland/Berkeley border, across
the street from Sweet Adeline bakery. They have had the support of
the neighborhood and have recently obtained, through community
support, the ability to access a porta-potty and a handwashing
station. They have a short list of rules that govern behavior (e.g.,
noise curfew hours, no drugs). Some of them belong to the political
group known as First They Came for the Homeless.
On Saturday afternoon BART police put up notices demanding that they
remove themselves from HERE/THERE area within 72 hours and
threatening to confiscate their possessions.
Evicting some 25 people back onto the streets for no reason is
despicable. Evicting them onto the streets as the rains are about to
come is inhumane and cruel. Evicting them WHEN THERE IS A STATEWIDE
HEPATITIS A OUTBREAK that is centered among homeless people who lack
adequate access to sanitary facilities is a crime. People could
well die as a result of this proposed action.
These people have no place to go. There are no excess shelter beds
in Berkeley. I know you are acutely aware of the extreme housing
shortage in the Bay, and the desperate plight of homeless people as
a result. I know you are leading as BART is takes what steps it can
to build and support the building of affordable housing. How ironic
can it be that now the BART that you oversee will be contributing to
the crisis instead of keeping a community stable? How ironic is it
that as BART you are about to dismantle a community that is able to
help fellow homeless people, providing them with food, shelter and
support, that has reunited runaways with their families, that has
seen some of its community members pull themselves together to get
jobs and obtain permanent housing?
As my BART Board representative (Ms. Saltzman) and as the BART Board
representative whose territory encompasses HERE/THERE (Ms. Simon) I
ask that you each make a public statement against this eviction
action. I ask that you each insist on a moratorium on the eviction
proceedings so that the BART Board can discuss this and on the
grounds of simple humanity. I ask that you enter into discussions
with the City of Berkeley and the residents of HERE/THERE, so that
you can learn about the encampment and understand what a model it is
for a homeless community.
The Democrats are not just gaining voters. They are gaining activists determined to transform the party.
A striking feature of the current political moment is that many activists on the left are flocking to the Democratic Party. At first glance, this makes sense simply as a reaction to the narrow and disputed electoral victory of the bizarre and dangerous Donald Trump.
But the Democrats are not merely gaining voters. They are gaining activists, people who are committing not only to pull the party lever in the voting booth, but who are determined to rejuvenate and transform the party, beginning at the local level. This development is encouraging, and not only because it could make a difference in the 2018 midterms and the next presidential election.
Until the shock and fear of a Trump-led government took center stage, some on the left viewed elections and movement building as separate, even irreconcilable, paths to reform. While their skepticism about the Democratic Party was not misplaced, we argue that movements also depend on electoral politics. The growth, morale and effectiveness of today’s movements will depend on the success of the current surge of enthusiasm for Democratic Party activism.
Why Some on the Left are Turning to the Democratic Party
Compared to the Obama years and the noisy 2016 election itself, the enthusiasm for Democratic Party activism welling up on the broad left today is startling. It already overshadows the usual Democratic Party electoral ground game of enlisting labor and other grass-roots constituencies to knock on doors, distribute literature and make phone calls to prime voters. Hundreds of groups at the national and local levels have organized to recruit new Democratic candidates and work on campaigns. Long-standing organizations that support Democratic candidates, such as Emily’s List, are seeing unprecedented growth, and movement organizations, from the Democratic Socialists of America to the Movement for Black Lives, are getting involved in local and state races.
While fear of Trump has galvanized even centrist liberals, much of the new energy and organizing know-how is coming from left-leaning activists. Though surprising, it is not hard to explain the sudden enthusiasm for electoral action. The dangers of Donald Trump in the White House and a right-wing Republican Party in control of Congress, the Supreme Court and more than half of the states are glaring.
The path toward this new electoral activism was paved by the Bernie Sanders campaign, which made credible the prospect of engaging in a fight within the Democratic Party for a more radical and democratic economic program, for racial and social justice and for peace. As historian Max Elbaum has observed, the polarization of the country grew during the 2016 election. But the sectors of the left that grew the most were those energized by the Sanders campaign. Our Revolution, an organization inspired by that campaign, now claims some 400 local chapters that are trying to shift the Democratic Party to the left, in part by backing progressive local and state candidates.
The path to victory will be difficult. In the House, if the Democrats can hold on to the seats they already have, they still need to win an additional 24 seats. In the Senate, the prospects are more daunting: The Democrats must defend three times as many seats as the Republicans, 10 in states won by Trump, half of those by double digits.
It will take time, then, to oust the Republicans from their commanding position at the national level. That is why so much left energy has been focused on down-ballot elections. Victories on the local level can matter. Not only do they boost the morale of electoral and movement activists alike, but in our federal system, localities often have significant policy authority
An astonishing number of state and local elected offices go uncontested. One study found that, between 1992 and 2010, a third of all state legislative incumbents did not face a challenger in the primary and general elections. Another study found that, in six states, half of all mayoral candidates ran unopposed.
In Virginia, for example, where all statewide offices are held by Democrats and Clinton defeated Trump by 5 points, the lower House of Delegates has long been dominated by Republicans. Forty of the Republicans’ 66 seats were uncontested by Democratic challengers in 2015. While it still might be a long shot, with the election of Trump and the new energy for electoral politics on the left, in 2017 the GOP could lose the 17 Republican House of Delegates seats that voted for Clinton in 2016.
Such a victory would be unprecedented, but the challenge is being embraced by a new grass-roots political action committee, Activate Virginia, founded by Josh Stanfield, a 30-year-old Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and two other activists.
Virginia’s example, which points to a key weakness of the Democratic Party, also offers an opportunity to strengthen the influence of the left. The two major political parties are not parties in the sense of disciplined, unified, hierarchical membership organizations. Rather, they are loose and conflict-ridden confederations of separate leadership groups whose overall structure reflects the complex constitutional and institutional arrangements of the US federal system.
The point, however, is not to belabor the weakness of fractious and institutionally hamstrung political parties, but rather to note that the institutional fragmentation of the Democratic Party makes it susceptible to takeover. As an example of how centrists have exploited this political reality, consider the creation of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in 1985. The so-called Third Way was designed to stymie the progressive, pro-labor party activism stimulated by Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988, and other efforts to move the party to the left. And it succeeded — until the recent Sanders challenge loosened the grip that centrists had on the party for the past 30 years.
This kind of synergy between electoral and movement politics may be emerging in the area of health care. On the one side, Trump and the right-wing majority in Congress have put forward a series of Draconian legislative proposals to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and especially the provisions that underwrite health care for the poor. On the other side, the political furor over these efforts has given a big bump to the Sanders-backed Medicare for All Act, with 16 Democratic senators now signed on. The legislative drama, in turn, is likely to boost the morale and increase the energy of the longer-term movement for a publicly funded health care system.
Why Movements Need Electoral Politics
The two major parties also matter because they play a very large role in shaping the life course of movements. This dynamic is often overlooked because the fundamental dynamics of movements and electoral campaigns are different. Movement activists work to raise the issues that divide and anger constituencies, while electoral operatives tend to smooth over the divisions that inhibit the building of the winning majority that elections require. In these respects, movement and electoral dynamics are antagonistic. But that is by no means the whole of it.
Movements also depend on elected leaders who are susceptible to or embrace the challenges that movements generate. They thrive when they get the rhetorical support of the elected leaders who worry about defections from movement-influenced constituencies. Moreover, the policy victories that movements score are ultimately fashioned by elected politicians.
As an example, consider the recent fortunes of the environmental movement. The same year Barack Obama was first elected president, a Canadian firm, TransCanada, had applied for a permit to build a 1,200-mile pipeline across the American Midwest to connect Canadian tar sands oil with Gulf Coast oil refineries. The company and the oil lobby misleadingly claimed that the project would create 140,000 jobs and billions in economic benefits; the Canadian government pressured a newly elected President Obama to approve the project. In April 2010, the US State Department concluded the pipeline would have a limited effect on the environment. Political strategists inside the White House convinced the president to stop using the term “climate change” and to focus on “clean energy jobs” and a “clean energy economy” to avoid drawing fire from the fossil-fuel industry and conservatives. Meanwhile, oil lobbyists used propaganda to successfully shift public opinion on climate change. In 2008, acceptance that its causes were human-made was 72 percent. Two years later, only 52 percent agreed.
Environmental activists rejected their insider tactics and began to build a coalition of grassroots groups that went well beyond normal lobbying and interest group politics, bringing together ranchers and land rights advocates in red states like Nebraska and Native tribes whose land would be violated and water threatened by the project.
At the time, Bill McKibben, a leader of the movement, wrote, “Now we know what we didn’t before. Making nice doesn’t work … we may need to get arrested.” In late August 2011, protestors mounted a two-week campaign in front of the White House, joined by some of the large environmental groups that are not usually associated with civil disobedience and more than 1,200 people got arrested. On Nov. 6, 2011, thousands of protesters surrounded the White House in what they called a “solidarity hug” to urge Obama to veto the pipeline. Under intense pressure from the Republican-controlled Congress to move the project forward, in 2015, Obama exercised his veto power for only the third time.
The re-energized environmental movement did its work in the streets. But the crucial point is that friendly Democrats ultimately conceded to the demand. The delays won by a broad and inclusive coalition of opposition groups to the pipeline using direct action, civil disobedience and mass arrests exerted political pressure on a wobbly president.
The great and transformational movements of the past — the radical Democrats of the Revolutionary War era, or the abolitionists of the 19th century, or the 20th-century labor movement, or the black freedom movement, or the women’s movement, or the movements for personal rights included under the LBGTQ acronym — all scored their successes because they activated the elementary and fundamental power of ordinary people. The essence of that power is the refusal to cooperate in the basic institutional arrangements of a society. That is what movement power is: The power of the strike writ large, encompassing not only refusal in the workplace but in civil society itself.
Refusal isn’t easy, and that is an important reason why movements depend on electoral politics. All of the influences of the institutions that mold daily life collaborate to make the exercise of movement power difficult, as do the immediate threats and punishments that the dominant society imposes on movements. Most of the time, electoral politics legitimizes those threats and punishments, giving the authority of tradition and legal procedure to the threat of force that usually suppresses rebellion. But sometimes, when electoral calculations lead politicians to recognize that they need voter support from among emerging movement constituencies, mass discontent is sufficient to lead at least some political leaders to rhetorically side with the discontented. By doing so, they of course give courage and moral support to emerging movements, as Roosevelt’s campaign rhetoric gave courage to an emerging labor movement, or Kennedy’s rhetoric nourished the black freedom movement, or Obama’s sympathy for Trayvon Martin encouraged the Movement for Black Lives. The importance of this encouragement cannot be overstated.
Electoral context matters for another reason. The disruption that ensues from movement leverage can cleave the electoral base of a governing party, compelling political elites to respond with ameliorating reform. When that happens, it is elected politicians who fashion the policy measures that respond to movement demands and disorder. We need politicians in charge of that process who lean toward the left and its movements. Even when movement leverage succeeds in forcing action on policy reform, the movement itself is only one of the influences in crafting the policy change. We want the thumbs of legislators like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on the scale in legislative deliberations. And that means movements need a rejuvenated Democratic Party.
In his recent report, “Reversing Inequality: Unleashing the Transformative Potential of an Equitable Economy,” Chuck Collins explores the structural dimensions of inequality in the U.S. and proposes fundamental changes to “rewire” the economy. It’s a long article, but worth reading because it describes the systemic problems of the U.S. economy and recommends dramatic policies that progressives should be thinking about as they look ahead to 2018.
The paper starts with a review of the current economy: who has benefited, who has fallen behind, and who never was fully a part of the post war economic boom, particularly African Americans and other minorities.
A key point Collins makes is that technological change and globalization are not the major drivers of inequality often attributed to them, although they intensify the problems. Rather, income and wealth disparities are driven by structural inequalities in the economy that are reinforced by political power imbalances. Thus the stagnant wages in the manufacturing sector can be traced directly back to the political losses suffered by unions, as well as to major changes to the tax code giving more and more gains to the top earners in the U.S. and fewer and fewer to the bottom half. These changes started under Ronald Reagan but accelerated during the George W. Bush presidency and, especially, since the end of the Great Recession.
One of the strengths of the paper is that it talks about the social and political costs of inequality in addition to the economic effects. For the large number of people at the bottom of the income ladder, who are often trying to hold down multiple minimum-wage jobs and hustling just to make it to the next paycheck, there is minimal social mobility. Sociologists have observed that segregation by income level has increased over the past few decades, meaning that social cohesion has declined.
“As same-income enclaves form and close the door behind them, people’s sense that they share a common destiny withers, replaced by fear, disconnectedness, misunderstanding, distrust, and class and racial antagonisms that undermine relationships,” writes Collins.
Inequality also creates major differences in health outcomes. Collins cites studies showing a direct link between wealth inequality and increased rates of heart disease, asthma, mental illness, cancer, and other diseases and chronic conditions.
Even in the realm of economic growth, inequality has negative effects. In the U.S., conventional wisdom (ie. trickle down economics) has told us that decreasing taxes on the wealthy stimulates the economy overall. In fact, the opposite is the case. Research findings by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others indicate that more equal societies enjoy longer economic expansions, fewer “bubbles,” stronger rates of economic growth, and they recover from downturns more quickly.
One quibble I have with Collins’ focus on inequality is this: A full reckoning of the effects of inequality should address the obvious argument that, for individuals and families, it is poverty that holds people back, causes serious health problems, and limits educational opportunities.
And then there are the extreme political outcomes. The extremely rich use their wealth to affect public opinion, and to intervene in electoral politics in order to determine the rules of both the political game and the economic game. The result is minimal investments in universal healthcare, income supports and education that are the rule in Europe.
This reality has been on display repeatedly in the past several months as Republicans in Congress have consistently tried to pass extremely unpopular legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. In a normally functioning democracy, a politician would decline to support a major piece of unpopular legislation. But in the U.S., where Republicans have been able to suppress democracy through extreme gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement, their real constituency is composed of plutocrats such as the Mercer family, the Koch brothers, and Sheldon Adelson, along with the Tea Party extremists who imbibe the propaganda of Fox News and alt-right outlets purveying an alternate reality.
After painting this bleak picture of the U.S. political economy, Collins talks about the building blocks of another system: the “Next System.” The general objective of the Next System is to create a society where there is much less inequality along with the social polarization and other negative outcomes that go with it. In a society where everyone has access to health, a basic income, and education, and where society itself is more democratic and organized to be more in harmony with nature, life would simply be better for everyone.
To many American ears, such a system may sound idealistic in the extreme and therefore out of reach. No doubt, we have fallen a long way as a country since the 1970s with the weakening of unions and the increasing dominance of corporations and financial capital. Nonetheless, if laws governing taxes, trade, wages, union organizing and government spending on healthcare and welfare can be changed to favor capital, they can be changed back to favor ordinary people. But it will require a struggle, because it is not nearly enough to adjust who gets what. The rules of the political game must also be changed to return real democracy to our country.
But where would such a campaign lead us? Collins argues that part of the objective would be to bring back some of the building blocks of the New Deal, including an expansion of workers’ rights, the establishment of a living minimum wage, much more progressive taxation, liberal social welfare policies including social security, health insurance, and welfare as well as affordable education for all. But this is only a start.
While social programs that increase opportunities and guarantee healthcare, education and a minimal standard of living for all would be a tremendous improvement in the United States, they would not prevent the continued transfer of great amounts of wealth to huge financial institutions and the super rich. They will also not change the structure of power in our political economic system. This is where the rewiring comes in to envision an entirely different model.
To transform the way our economy works so that it benefits everyone, Collins essentially calls for a new operating system along the lines of the “Nordic model” as described by George Lakey in Viking Economics. This includes the obvious necessity of making income taxes more progressive, reversing trends of the past several decades. But it also requires that wealth inequality itself be taken on by expanding inheritance taxation and levying a wealth tax on the top 1 percent.
In addition to addressing the wealth of individuals, major changes are needed in key economic institutions, especially corporations and the financial system. At present most public corporations are controlled by a narrow executive leadership and designed to benefit their shareholders. Thus, there are large incentives to cut costs, such as workers’ pensions, salaries, and benefits (as well as environmental safeguards) in order to improve the bottom line and increase the value of their stocks. We have seen the results in the lax safety measures of BP in the Gulf, Volkswagen’s fraudulent mileage metering, the Wells Fargo personal accounts scandal, and all of the shenanigans that tanked the U.S. and global economy in 2008.
In other words, corporate governance needs to be transformed so that corporations are structured for social gains instead of shareholder gains. Some of this has already been accomplished as many corporations are open to socially responsible practices and outcomes. But to ensure greater devotion to socially desirable objectives, corporate governance needs a thorough restructuring. Other stakeholders, including workers, consumers, and communities as well as local environmental organizations, need to be given seats at the table in corporate boardrooms.
Such a reform would require major legislation, meaning it is outside the realm of foreseeable change at present. But it is not unrealistic from a technical perspective. Germany’s “co-determination” law has been in effect since 1976 and clearly has not hamstrung German industry. And, perhaps more relevant for the U.S. context, we already have entities known as “B Corporations,” which are designed to achieve sustainable environmental and social goals along with financial viability and, importantly, are evaluated on that basis.
Corporate influence in the U.S. political system must also be minimized. This takes us into the realm of dark money and election financing, which is a large topic on its own. It is one more thing that is immensely difficult in the current U.S. system, but it must be taken on. If corporations and the people who control them are allowed to continue “investing” in political candidates, the political system will continue to do their bidding.
In the financial sector, Collins argues that the “hyperfinancialization of the economy has transformed large sectors of finance into extractive enterprises rather than the stable lending systems needed for real community economic activity.” To turn that around, several substantial steps should be taken. Speculation should be taxed more aggressively and the concentration in the banking sector needs to be reversed by breaking up the biggest banks and limiting their size going forward.
Collins also calls for creating an array of people- and community-focused banks and financial institutions, such as public and state banks, a national reconstruction and infrastructure bank, and other financial institutions whose role is to facilitate the reinvigoration of communities and local enterprises across the country. Many such institutions exist and millions of people are already members of credit unions, but much more must be done to build out such networks and increase the availability of credit to communities everywhere.
Finally, and inevitably, we come to the politics of a Next System and its many unanswered questions. Collins offers numerous useful and creative ideas for how to build a much more democratic economy, but does not say a lot about how to get there politically. Fortunately, we appear to be in a political moment where the long-standing and frozen status quo is giving way. No doubt many of the forces that have crawled up through the cracks of the crumbling edifice of our neoliberal world are frightening in the extreme. But with the emergence of the broad and deep opposition to Donald Trump and his reactionary Republican allies, the potential power of progressive social movements is emerging and starting to assert itself. Bernie Sanders, the one candidate in 2016 who consistently stated that we need to be a lot more like Denmark, happens to be the most popular politician in the country. And his recent legislation calling for a single-payer health system has an unheard-of 15 co-sponsors.
In the end, perhaps it is no shortcoming that the Collins paper does not explain the politics of birthing such dramatic change. We already know that it will come primarily through social movements from below, and that the process has already begun. For the activists and leaders of those movements who are attempting to figure out the design for a more progressive, democratic economy and society, this paper is a useful reference; not as a roadmap for how to get there, but as a blueprint for the essential building blocks of a new system.
For more, listen to Bernie Sanders’ interview with Collins on the Bernie Sanders Show, episode 11.
Next year, a random sample of the 300,000 residents of Stockton, a port city in California’s Central Valley, will get $500 per month ($6,000 a year) with no strings attached.
It’s the latest test of a policy known as basic income, funded not out of city revenues but by individual and foundation philanthropy. The first $1 million in funding comes from the Economic Security Project, a pro-basic income advocacy and research group co-chaired by Facebook co-founder and former New Republic publisher Chris Hughes and activists Natalie Foster and Dorian Warren; Hughes provided the group’s initial funding. Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs hopes to launch the basic income project as early as August 2018.
The project — known as the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) — will be, in a way, the purest expression to date of Silicon Valley’s passion for basic income proposals, which many tech entrepreneurs and investors see as a necessary way to support Americans if artificial intelligence and other automation advances lead to unemployment for vast swaths of the population.
To the tech world, basic income is a way to redistribute the vast wealth that Silicon Valley creates to poorer people and localities left behind. And what better place to start than by redirecting part of a Facebook fortune to Stockton, an overwhelmingly nonwhite exurb of the Bay Area that became the largest city in the U.S. to declare bankruptcy during the financial crisis?
An hour and half from San Francisco (if traffic is forgiving) and thus boasting the longest commute times in America, Stockton is tantalizingly close to big tech and its wealth, but just far enough away to experience significantly lower incomes and a higher poverty rate than San Francisco, San Jose, or Oakland.
Tubbs is particularly well-suited to be the policy’s champion. Upon winning the mayoral election last year, he became both Stockton’s first black mayor and, at 26, the youngest mayor of a city of more than 100,000 people in American history. Tubbs cites as his inspiration Martin Luther King Jr., who called for a guaranteed minimum income in his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, as well as his own experience “growing up in poverty and seeing how much of some of the stress came from trying to stretch dollars to pay for necessities, like bills or school uniforms. When things came up unexpectedly it would cause a lot of hardships.”
“The stress isn’t because people don’t have character,” Tubbs adds. “It’s because people don’t have cash.”
WHAT STOCKTON’S EXPERIMENT HOPES TO LEARN
Many important aspects of the policy remain to be determined. Tubbs plans to start with a six- to nine-month planning period, where the city will finalize eligibility criteria and the payment amount, and request proposals from researchers on how best to design the program to add to our knowledge about cash programs.
Ontario, Canada; Finland; and the international charity GiveDirectly in Kenya have all launched basic income experiments of their own. Yet another study, funded by the early-stage venture capital firm Y Combinator, is launching soon, and Glasgow, Edinburgh, North Ayrshire, and Fife in Scotland are jumping into the ring too. (A full list of ongoing and announced basic income pilots can be found here.)
Each of those studies has different goals. Ontario, Finland, and Scotland are interested in potentially reforming their welfare/social assistance systems, attracted by the simplicity of just giving people cash without conditions. (Finland has already largely botched its experiment through poor design, rendering its research value rather limited.)
GiveDirectly wants to test the viability of regular cash payments as a global development tool, for use by aid and development agencies like USAID or the United Nations or World Bank as well as national governments in poor countries.
Y Combinator wants to see what risks people take when given an unconditional stipend: if they start more businesses or become more creative and ambitious or if they just keep on working.
Tubbs says his goal with the Stockton experiment is to see the myriad ways recipients invest the money, whether that’s toward taking more time off work to spend on other activities, or going back to school, or volunteering. “I’m excited about just showing what people do with increased economic opportunity,” he says. “Being able to devote their time full time as a parent or caregiver, going back to school to reskill, investing in a new business. I know the ingenuity of some of the folks in my city.”
Tubbs says he hopes the experiment will run at least three years and benefit at least 100 people, which would put the total cost of the transfers at $1.8 million (before implementation costs). If it works, he envisions a public-private partnership eventually expanding the approach to cover more of the city.
That would probably require significant outside funding. The fiscal situation in Stockton is much improved from when it fell into bankruptcy, but a truly universal, not-lotteried benefit at the municipal level would be challenging to enact. The plan would likely trigger an influx of residents from nearby towns (and maybe even some from farther away). The town, facing high borrowing costs due to its junk bond-level credit ratings post-bankruptcy, would need to raise taxes in response to that. Higher taxes could in turn lead some high-income residents to leave, setting off a vicious cycle.
Tubbs concedes that ideally this is the kind of policy that would be implemented at the state or national level. Nonetheless, he says, “It’s a great opportunity to have this conversation about all these factors. … Stockton is a proxy for America: its diversity, its people. It’s a place that’s emerging and has big bold ideas.”
The battle for net neutrality heats up this month as groups including Demand Progress, Free Press and Fight for the Future ramp up nationwide actions under the banner of a new coalition: Team Internet.
Allying with the group are companies like Netflix, Etsy, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Reddit, Tumblr, Upworthy, and Vimeo, among dozens of others. The coalition represents the latest stage in the pitched battle over net neutrality – a fight of many years involving digital rights activists, Internet service providers (ISPs) and lawmakers who have battled contentiously and passionately for reform on their ends of the ideological spectrum.
In one corner stand are those who view net neutrality as a digital manifestation of the First Amendment. In the other, those who think individuals and businesses should be able to pay more for better, faster access to the internet. The result so far: another stalemate with yesterday’s progress back on the negotiation table.
Until, perhaps, now.
Corporate industry groups have recently filed petitions for a writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision that classified broadband as a common carrier under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. They say that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) exceeded its statutory authority by reclassifying broadband as a common carrier service.
The Team Internet coalition is hardly the first group to protest Congress and lobbyists intent on stripping citizens’ rights in the digital realm. However, one distinguishing aspect of the new group is its use of a modern, some might say revolutionary, approach: through peer-to-peer technology and “distributed organizing” tactics that support, and call for, in-person activism across the country.
For example, on September 27, a group of people came together at the U.S. capitol to meet individually with their U.S. senators and representatives. The internet users were recruited through an online campaign of tweets and emails. Additionally, a crowd-funding pagelaunched by Fight for the Future helped internet activists to financially support participants if they could not go themselves.
Now, because of the campaign waged by Team Internet, everyday Americans are meeting face-to-face with lawmakers to warn them of the importance of net neutrality provisions – and to urge them in no uncertain terms to support current Title II status. According toDemand Progress, as of last week around 4,000 people had committed to visiting lawmakers’ in-district offices, and more than 7,000 had signed up to be volunteers. The site provides a daily nationwide events page encouraging people to show up to meet with their representatives.
“The companies trying to kill net neutrality are spending millions on lobbyists who are hitting the Hill constantly to spread fear and misinformation,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future. “We’re harnessing the power of the Internet to make sure that those stories are heard over the noise of the telecom lobby.”
Team Internet has employed another tactic to organize people and activities through a decentralized process: Instead of having particular leaders at the helm, the group’s activism is supported and created through volunteer-run online and offline sites that support organizing at both the local and state level.
“In the two months since the Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality, those efforts have crystallized into a decentralized, grassroots movement to defend a free and open Internet,” write Alison Brzenchek, Mary Alice Crim and Heather Franklin of Free Press.
The group Battle for the Net, put together by the organizing groups of Team Internet, expands on this approach by making it incredibly easy to contribute to the cause. First, one can send a pre-written e-mail to Congress and the FCC. There are also plenty of videos educating the public on the issue, which they make easy to pass along.
Next, you can find your home state with its full list of members of Congress. The site clearly exposes each member’s stance on net neutrality, with their photo, and by hovering over each photo, one can immediately send a pre-written tweet to that individual senator or congressperson. The design of the website is intuitive, instant, and simple – all ingredients for a successful digital campaign.
Well-supported, decentralized, grassroots organizations like Team Internet are the antidote to incessant corporate lobbying, and should be a model for other movements to follow. The group promises to apply sustained pressure on the telecom industry and their cohorts in Congress. As the corporate sector continues to flex its muscles through brute economic force, activists are fighting back with mobility and endurance. Where lobbyists and corporate-funded lawmakers work surreptitiously in the dark, activists work openly, on all platforms, ready to resist harmful changes and mobilize more people to join the battle.
October 12, 2017 (SFGate.com)
Photo: Jeff Chiu, Associated Press. In this Aug. 29, 2017, file photo, United States Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Feinstein, a veteran California Democrat, said Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, … more
It’s not just Republicans — who lack a serious candidate — who were unhappy to see Sen. Dianne Feinstein announce this week that she would be seeking a sixth term. The California Left has been hoping forever that Feinstein would retire so a true progressive might replace her.
Since that’s not happening, here’s their Plan B: state Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León, the Los Angeles Democrat, challenges her.
“Kevin de León is running,” Markos Moulitsas, the Berkeley-based founder of the nationally influential progressive political site DailyKos, told me Wednesday. “I’m not telling you how I know, but he’s running.”
De León’s people were politely mum Wednesday on that assertion. If Moulitsas is right — and I increasingly think he is, based on conversations with key Democrats and operatives this week — it is now time for Feinstein’s progressive foes to put up or shut up.
But their challenge is huge: How do you defeat an incumbent senator with near-universal name recognition, a place in history as California’s first female senator, a net worth of $94 million and the party establishment tripping over themselves to say nice things about her? Just this week, one of her erstwhile challengers, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, threw a fundraiser for Feinstein and the United Farm Workers union endorsed her.
Even Moulitsas conceded, “The task is actually incredibly difficult, to the point where Feinstein would be the prohibitive favorite from the beginning.”
To many progressives, DiFi is, in no particular order, a corporatist, Iraq war-mongering, single-payer-health-care-dubious, not-anti-Trump-enough, pro-Patriot Act, anti-Edward Snowden one-percenter. For starters. And she has got to go.
“This is a movement moment. It’s not enough to resist,” said Bill Honigman, the California state director for the national Progressive Democrats of America. “You need to offer a replacement for things that generally need to be replaced.”
And it ain’t going to be a Republican.
“I don’t think she can be beaten in a Senate race,” said former South Bay GOP Rep. Tom Campbell, whom Feinstein defeated for Senate in 2000. “Certainly a Republican won’t be able to do it.”
Given the anemia of the California GOP, it will be difficult to beat Feinstein by doing anything but running to her political left — which de León would be best positioned to do. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said she is “not running for Senate in 2018.” Billionaire San Francisco environmentalist Tom Steyer is still Hamleting on a run and wealthy Los Angeles entrepreneur Joseph Sanberg has little name recognition.
So, according to progressive leaders, here is the road map for how to beat DiFi:
Keep saying she’s soft on Trump: Anti-Trumpism is the breakfast of champions for progressives and many feel Feinstein hasn’t touched her plate. Moulitsas and others found Feinstein’s comment “offensive” last month that Trump “has the ability to learn and to change. And if he does, he can be a good president. And that’s my hope.”
More offensive to others is that Feinstein voted for 11 of President Trump’s 22 Cabinet and other upper-level nominees, while fellow California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris voted to confirm only four.
“It has to be a referendum on Trump because she has been conciliatory,” said Marcy Winograd, a leader of the California Democratic Party’s 1,100-member progressive caucus. “She says you have to have patience. It’s no time for patience.”
Keep asking, “Where’s DiFi?” There are two things Feinstein rarely does: town halls and debates. That could be a liability in the social media Era of Oversharing, especially among voters under 30, as more Millennials (35 percent) disapprove of Feinstein than approve (34 percent), according to a September Berkeley IGS poll.
Unless things change, history may remember Campbell as the last person to debate Feinstein — and that was almost in the last millennium (2000). Feinstein hasn’t deigned to debate her last two Republican Senate opponents. In 2012, her campaign manager, Bill Carrick, shrugged off a debate challenge from Republican Elizabeth Emken, telling me at the time, “This is the sort of typical cliche move from someone (who) is 19 points down and has $25,000 in the bank and 35 percent name recognition.”
“We feel that her job is to represent California and not be a personality where it is about her and not us,” said Aram Fischer, a leader of Indivisible San Francisco, which at 4,500 members is one of the largest local resistance groups in the nation. “We don’t think that Dianne Feinstein is meeting that standard.”
Keep talking about single-payer Medicare-for-all: This weekend, the National Nurses United — the Oakland-based union with 100,000 members in California — will hold 100 grassroots actions in all 80 state Assembly districts to talk about an issue on the top of progressive wish lists. Any Feinstein challenger who talks up single payer has a chance to tap into their energy.
“That’s an indication that you have an activist base that’s getting active,” said union spokesman Chuck Idelson.
Keep hoping the revolution will be nationalized: A candidate not named Tom Steyer or Joe Sanberg can’t keep pace with the bottomless bank of DiFi. But progressives feel money won’t matter as much because the race will draw national attention — and small dollar donations from progressives around the country. If a Democrat with no political resume, like Jon Ossoff, could raise a record $30 million for a special House race in suburban Atlanta, imagine what someone like de León, with a record of legislative accomplishment, could raise.
“This race will be nationalized — and I will do everything I can to make it so,” said Moulitsas, whose DailyKos operation has an email list of 3 million and between 10 million and 12 million unique monthly visitors.
Keep focusing on your voters: A progressive candidate — particularly de León — could be attractive to a coalition of Latinos, African Americans and Millennials, Moulitsas said. “Of course, those are also the voters who don’t vote (in high numbers) in midterm elections. But long term it is the right bet. That is the future of the party.”
Combine that coalition with white progressives and stir in the energy of new grassroots anti-Trump resistance groups like Indivisible, and a progressive candidate could have enough votes to climb into the top two finishers in a June primary.
Look for at least de León to jump in. Traditionally, it would be career suicide for a fellow Democrat to take on such a well-respected incumbent like Feinstein. But the feeling among de León supporters is that even if he loses, he would be appealing to the progressive future of the party’s voters.
Running would be good for him — and good for progressives.
“It would be,” Moulitsas said, “a win-win.”
OCT. 13, 2017 (NYTimes.com)
GENEVA — United Nations officials on Friday condemned the recent mass arrests of gay and transgender people in Azerbaijan, Egypt and Indonesia, saying that the authorities in those countries had violated international law by detaining, mistreating and torturing them.
The roundups — of about 80 people in Azerbaijan, 50 in Egypt and 50 in Indonesia over the past few weeks — do not appear to be connected, but United Nations officials said they exposed patterns of discrimination and abuse that also damage broad development goals.
The authorities in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, have detained more than 80 people identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender since mid-September, reportedly subjecting some of them to beatings, electric shocks and forced shaving, Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva.
The police resorted to other forms of humiliation, including forcing many of those arrested to undergo medical examinations and then releasing the results or details of their medical status to the news media.
The authorities in Baku said they were acting in response to public demands for a crackdown on prostitution, but lawyers for those detained said that most were not involved in the sex trade and that the charges were a pretext.
All of those detained in Azerbaijan have been released, but some served short sentences on charges of “hooliganism” and “resisting a police order,” Mr. Colville said. He added that “any arrest based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is by definition arbitrary and violates international law.”
Egyptian authorities had arrested more than 50 people in recent weeks on the basis of their assumed sexual orientation or gender identity, some of them entrapped by law enforcement officials on websites and chat rooms, Mr. Colville said.
Two people were arrested after they waved rainbow flags during a rock concert, he said. The flag waving, at a performance by a Lebanese band with an openly gay singer, was shown on social media sites and provoked criticism as an attempt to disgrace Egypt. The police interrogated the two on charges that included “joining an outlawed group that aims to promote homosexuality.”
Charges against those detained included “habitual debauchery,” “inciting indecency and debauchery,” and “joining a banned group,” Mr. Colville said. Some had been subjected to intrusive vaginal and anal examinations, he said, which have been condemned by the United Nations’ anti-torture panel as cruel, inhumane and degrading.
A few of those arrested in Egypt have been released, but 10 men were sentenced to prison terms of one to six years and others were being held pending trial, he said.
Egyptian human rights activists, who say the government has arrested more than 300 gay and transgender people since 2013, condemned the arrests as an attempt to distract public attention from social problems.
The Indonesian police arrested 50 people at a sauna in the capital, Jakarta, a week ago “on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation,” Mr. Colville said. Many were released, but four men and one woman were charged under a “law on pornography” that Mr. Colville said had been used to punish people for same-sex relationships.
He said the authorities in all three countries accused those arrested of being involved in sex work “although in almost all cases the accused have denied such allegations or indicated that they were coerced into confessing involvement.”
Mr. Colville called on the three governments to release anyone detained on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and drop charges based on vaguely worded and discriminatory laws.
Twelve United Nations agencies called in June for an end to discrimination in health care and the elimination of laws that criminalize gender expression and relationships between consenting adults. They described such measures as violations of basic rights, as a threat to public health and as an obstacle to achieving development goals.
Monday, October 23rd from 6:45 – 9 pm at The Black and Brown Social Club
474 Valencia Street near the 16th Street BART station
Information, discussion & community! Monday Night Forum!!
Occupy Forum is an opportunity for open and respectful dialogue
on all sides of these critically important issues!
How America’s colonial history
in Puerto Rico is reflected in its current political and economic crises,
and how shock doctrine policy threatens us all
In Texas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is still operating. 50 Disaster Recovery Centers to help residents recovering from Hurricane Harvey. In Florida, FEMA is running 18 Disaster Recovery Centers to help residents there after Hurricane Irma. In Puerto Rico 83% of the people living there — all U.S. citizens — remain without power after being hit by Hurricane Maria. But Trump threatened Thursday to withdraw FEMA, the military and other federal officials from the struggling island. “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders… in P.R. forever!” he tweeted. It had been 22 days since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico.
To characterize Trump’s response to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico vs. his response to the same in Texas as “racist” is a foregone conclusion. But to better understand the U.S./Puerto Rico relationship helps us to understand the “Shock Doctrine” politics that threaten us all. As we have seen in a rapidly growing number of circumstances, when colonialism, imperialism, racism, free market capitalism, (including debt crisis), and climate change converge, the population is left reeling and vulnerable to man-made disaster.
Indeed, at a news conference last week, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló warned that without significant help, “millions” could leave for the U.S. mainland.
“You’re not going to get hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans moving to the States — you’re going to get millions,” Rosselló said. “You’re going to get millions, creating a devastating demographic shift for us here in Puerto Rico.” The draconian immigration policies introduced by the Trump regime are the icing on the cake.
OccupyForum will be led by our frequent contributor Professor George Wright, who will take us through Puerto Rican-American relations up to the present, and help us understand the warning signs for us all.
Time will be allotted for announcements. Donations to Occupy Forum to cover costs are encouraged; no one turned away!
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