A tribute to the 99ers: We are not invisible.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Burning Down the House.

Last September the house of Gene Cranick burned to the ground in Obion County, TN. At first, firefighters refused to respond to the call. When the South Fulton, TN fire department finally arrived, they made sure the Cranick's neighbors house was safe from the fire and left. Why? Obion County residents receive fire protection from South Fulton based on an annual $75 fee paid by the homeowner. The Cranicks did not pay the fee for 2010. The neighbor paid the fee and received fire department services. The Cranicks failed to pay the fee and received nothing.

The question is, Do you believe that watching a house burn is good public policy? No modifiers, no qualifiers, no "in this case, in that case", "if this occurs, if this doesn't happen". Is it good public policy for firefighters to stand idly by and watch a house burn to the ground, Yes or No?

Today, The US Government stands less than a month away from being unable to meet it's financial obligations. In order to avoid defaulting on it's debt, the US Congress must vote to increase the debt ceiling above it's current limit of $14.3 trillion. The results of the US defaulting on it's debt will have very serious implications and could in fact be catastrophic both at home and worldwide. For various reasons US legislators have been unable to find a way to increase the debt ceiling.

The question is, Do you believe it is good public policy for the USA to fail to meet it's financial obligations? I guess it depends on how you feel about firefighters watching a house burn to the ground.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We Are... not all we should be.

I took my daughter to school yesterday. The radio was on and the local "I play whatever I want" station was doing a  Top 9 at 9 countdown. The year was 1985 and the #1 song was "We Are The World". For those too young to recognize some of the artists, these artists were mainstream pop music (plus some legends) in 1985.  

What is the takeaway from "We Are The World" 26 years later?

  • The song and it's making still resonate with pop music stars today. "We Are The World 25 for Haiti" is a remake by today's pop stars in response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake disaster.
  • Superstars willing to suppress their ego and work together to execute a plan can make great things happen in a very short time frame.  99ers must do the same and coalesce under a single banner with a single message. "It's a choice we're making, we're saving our own lives".
  • "We Are The World" was successful at raising awareness of ongoing tragedy in the World. "We Are The World" was also successful at raising funds for the cause(s). Still, there is hunger in Africa 26 years later and Haiti is still a disaster. Nothing is going to change the fact that there will still be long term unemployed hunger, homelessness and suicides. The damage can be mitigated by continued organized activism on behalf of and by 99ers.
Simply put, we can and must do better. The starting point is uniting under one banner. Clear communication to the organization and the public is vital. Time to put aside differences and pull together for our survival.  Anyone have any ideas on reduce the number of unemployed advocacy groups to just one?
    Don't forget President Obama taking questions live today at Facebook HQ. If you don't speak up you will never be heard.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Staying Positive.

    A topic on the #99erAid Twitterchat a couple of weeks ago was ways to stay positive.  A positive mental attitude is essential for 99ers to survive. H.R. 589 would go a long way to helping with positive thoughts. A jobs creation bill would also be helpful.  Both items need to pass Congress, so 99ers must advocate for their passage. Political action alone can't maintain positivity, so long term unemployed need to focus on daily/weekly items to stay positive. In the course of preparing for my life beyond H.R. 589 and 99erhood, I have found two sites that will help maintain a daily positive outlook

    In Seth Godin's roundup of SXSW, I was introduced to Gretchen Rubin. Ms. Rubin is the founder of the "The Happiness Project". The name is self explanatory. I get the daily "moment of happiness" to remind me to stay positive.

    This past Friday night I met Nate St. Pierre through Gini Dietrich on her blog, "Spin Sucks".  Actually, Nate was introduced to me and technically the introduction was on Twitter but either way I found "It Starts With Us" due to my participation on "Spin Sucks". Participation in "In Starts With Us" is simple. Each week you commit to spending 15 minutes on a prescribed project delivered via email. 15 minutes isn't much time, but 15 minutes X 1000's of people has a very positive effect.
    Both "The Happiness Project" and "It Starts With Us" are new activities for me. I'll let you know how it's working, but given the name and portfolio I expect positive results from both. So, how do you stay positive?

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    My Own Medicine.

    Last month, I suggested that the long term unemployed make plans for beyond H.R. 589. Whether H.R. 589 ever passes (or is discussed for that matter) moves closer to irrelevancy. To clarify, 14 weeks of additional unemployment benefits is not irrelevant, especially to the long term unemployed. However as a 99er moves ahead with plans for beyond HR 589, the eventual passage of H.R. 589 loses significance. The 99er is moving toward self sufficiency and would no longer qualify for benefits under H.R. 589. To further translate, the closer the plan for beyond a safety net comes to fruition, the less the need for said safety net.

    In this light I am pleased to announce the launch of "Crowdsourcing A Good Life." Along with the corresponding Facebook page and Twitter account, Crowdsourcing is in part a response to the plethora of self proclaimed experts, ninjas, rockstars and sherpas so abundant in the e-marketplace. Crowdsourcing asks simple questions (for example, What is the best Mother's Day gift you have ever given or received), one at a time. Answers are solicited from the "experts" (anyone wishing to answer) in the crowd and compiled into a blog post. The Crowd is also asked to offer questions. Please take a moment to check out Crowdsourcing and let me know your thoughts.

    "Crowdsourcing A Good Life" is not meant as my stand alone plan to go beyond 99erhood. Rather, it is a puzzle piece of a more comprehensive plan to become a self sufficient servicer provider entrepreneur. In that light, although my plans include tending to "Unemployed but Organized" at the current level, there is obviously the thought that other (profit driven) endeavors will take precedence.  In the meantime, I still plan on advocating for unemployment equity and will keep all abreast on my progress to go beyond H.R. 589.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Passing H.R. 589

    I became involved with the 99ers in July, 2010. Activists had been advocating for TierV/extended unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks prior to my involvement. To date there has been 1 vote on Tier V. S3706 failed to pass the Senate. In the House, H.R. 6556 was introduced in Dec. 2010 during the waning days of the Democratic majority in the 111th Congress. H.R. 589, the 112th Congress sibling of HR 6556 was introduced in Feb. 2011 and referred to committee. The committee must be very busy because no one has heard much about H.R. 589 since February.

    Many passionate, bright, energetic individuals have devoted day and night spreading information about the benefits of passing unemployment benefits on top of the 99 week maximum. Still the answer from Congress is "we're just not that into Tier V." Perhaps it's time to try another approach.

    Currently written, H.R. 589 would add an additional 14 weeks of unemployment benefits in Tier II and be available to all, including those unemployed that have max'ed out at 99 weeks anytime in the last 13 months. While much will be the same 14 weeks from today (or whenever H.R. 589 passes) 14 weeks of benefits would be a godsend for millions of unemployed and the businesses where the unemployed will spend those benefits. Houses (and therefore neighborhood housing values) will be preserved. Homelessness will be prevented. Some will find work, others will find a path to self employment.  14 weeks means survival for many.

    Herein lies the path to passage for H.R. 589.  Unemployed, unemployment fairness advocates and umbrella groups organizing on behalf of the unemployed must concentrate on a vision for week 15. Specifically, show the benefits of H.R. 589 as it expires for the first group of recipients. Contrast that vision with a picture of another 15 weeks without anything for millions. If the unemployed can articulate these 2 different scenarios and connect on a visceral level with the populace as a whole, momentum for H.R. 589 can build. What starts as a few voices can in fact become a loud loyal chorus.  Isn't that right, Wisconsin? 

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    I Was Born At Night But It Wasn't Last Night.

    On Thursday April 7, 2011 the Waukesha County Clerk reported she forgot to include the votes for Brookfield, WI in the final totals. The 13,000 + votes broke roughly 2 to 1 for the Republican, Justice David Prosser turning a 200 vote deficit into a 7500+ vote margin of victory. Conveniently the new margin of victory is just beyond the threshold for a state mandated (and state paid for) recount. Best as I can tell, these are facts.

    When it comes to conjecture, this all seems very convenient. Having just intimated massive voter fraud incompetently masked as a math error, let me hold that thought in abeyance for now and share some thoughts on cleaning up this particular mess.

    1. No one knows the truth about the "found" votes except for Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus and perhaps a Koch brother.  Ms. Nickolaus's explanation involved "not saving" and "personal computer".  "Not saving" and "personal computer" are unacceptable reasons for the  loss of over 13,000 votes. All involved should call for the resignation/immediate removal of Ms. Nickolaus. She may not be a criminal, but she is criminally incompetent.  The idea that votes are saved on to a personal computer is vomit inducing.
    2. Governor Scott Walker should call for an immediate recount paid by the State of Wisconsin or Waukesha County.  The system failed miserably. It is incumbent on state leadership to do everything possible to restore some certainty to the election process.
    3. The State of Wisconsin must develop and institute "best practices" to avoid this type of impropriety in the future. Although the short term outcome may be favorable for some, in the long run everyone loses when democracy suffers.
    I'm not a fan of the GOP in any state. Had I chance to review Justice Prosser's record, I doubt I would find much to like. Still, if this man was indeed duly elected to the state Supreme Court it is criminal that his victory is tainted by an idiot County Clerk, even if Justice Prosser is Clerk Nickolaus's patron. Imagine that.

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Paul Ryan, Consistent, Clairvoyant and maybe a Funeral Director's Best Friend.

    You have got to love Rep. Paul Ryan. He's been the GOP's lead man on the budget deficit since the GOP was the minority party in the House.Way back to early 2010, Rep. Ryan has been calling for additional tax breaks for the wealthy and the evisceration of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Yup, balance the budget on the backs on the poor and soon to be poor middle class. You may like him or not(put me in the not category) but the man tells the 100% truth. "To hell with you all, I'm hangin' with the rich." (Okay, so it's not an exact quote, more a paraphrasing of supply side economics.)

    Ryan's 2012 budget was much the same as his proposals in 2010. Cuts in Medicaid, privatize Medicare, tax policy welfare for the wealthy and Social Security in the cross hairs. Ryan's budget is also a long term godsend for the unemployed and apparently a quiet endorsement of the Obama administration. Using a newly updated model, he predicts unemployment at 7.8 % in 2012 dropping to 4.3% in 2021. Wow.

    March, 2011 unemployment was 8.8%.  Rep. Ryan's budget begins in 2012 so the predicted 1% drop in unemployment must be due to the fiscal policy of President Obama.  Further, mainstream economists  estimate full employment as an unemployment rate between 5%-6%, so a predicted unemployment rate of 4.3% is welcome news (even 9 years off) to the long term unemployed.

    Rep. Ryan uses assumptions from the Heritage Foundation so unlike in high school he doesn't have to show his work. So I have just one question: Given the consideration currently given long term unemployed (banks doing historically well since bailout, unemployment still 2+% points beyond 9/08 rate, no unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks) is the drop in unemployment joined to a corresponding rise in the death rate? Just sayin'.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    The Hidden Ball Trick

    The Major League Baseball season is here. For those of us that enjoy a hearty mix of baseball and politics this season is especially welcome. The onset of the baseball season provides a daily welcome distraction from everything not going on in Congress.

    A favorite play of sandlot ballplayers is the hidden ball trick. The hidden ball trick is a ploy by which the pitcher pretends to hold the ball when in reality another position player has the ball in his/her possession. The aim is to trick a base runner into taking a lead off and the base runner is then surprised (embarrassed) and tagged out by the position player holding the ball. Organized baseball rules are designed to minimize this type of subterfuge and the hidden ball trick is rarely employed in Major League Baseball. The last successful hidden ball trick in the major leagues was either 2007 or 2005 depending on how you define the execution of the play. Congress has no rules against their version of the hidden ball trick and it is currently in play in another attempt by the minority to enforce their vision on the majority.

    Allow me to explain: The GOP use foot soldiers like Allen West, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. West, Palin, Bachmann and others serve two funtions: 
    1. They rile up the "base" (low information voters, those voting against their economic self interest, kloset klanners, etc).
    2. They provide fodder for media to either lionize or minimize their musings. These musings rarely reflect a policy discussion, further masking the ongoings in government.
    All the while the GOP is able to further their policy objectives by "moving the middle." For example in the ongoing 2011 Congressional budget battle, The Dems have already conceded GOP budget cuts of $30 billion but that amount of budget cuts continues to increase. No one is sure whether the Dems will compromise (capitulate) further or government will shut down (temporarily) but the GOP has already achieved their goal of shifting shared responsibility for the commons away from those most able to participate.  While the jesters have America's attention, Americans are being tagged out. Surprisingly no one is embarrassed, but we are all diminished.

    Nothing can be solved overnight, but you can begin to take back the discussion.  Please join the #99erAid Twitterchat, Tuesdays 8 PM EDT.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    I Wouldn't Hire Me, Either.

    I have observed some of the goings on over the past week in regard to the long term unemployed.  I think many of these proceedings are positive but the overall effect does nothing to move the 99ers agenda forward. I find that fact troubling.

    This past week, Rhonda Taylor started a data base to aggregate all the 99ers in one place. Ms. Taylor also acknowledged that to expand the database it is imperative to reach out to 99ers not active in Social Media. During that span Unemployed Friends resurfaced as Unemployed Friends 2.0.  A comprehensive database inclusive of all unemployed will be a welcome aid in organizing and disseminating information to 99ers.  I also want to wish a hearty welcome back to Unemployed Friends. Unemployed Friends was one of my first points of connection when I came joined unemployed rights advocacy. The Unemployed Friends shoe march in the summer of 2010 remains an inspired original action. Hopefully shoe march will resurface. Nothing but good here.

    Yesterday and today there is an advocacy action to support H.R. 589.  There has been significant Social Media promotion for this action. A quick count shows a combined 56 respondents (I may have missed something) on the Facebook and Fullseat events pages for this action. Early reviews from yesterday's action activity shows 99ers made some noise. Still, I remain unsettled about results.

    H.R. 589 was introduced February 9, 2011 in the 112th Congress and originally as H.R. 6556 in the 111th Congress. I count the combined bills "on the floor" for about 8 weeks, over the half the benefit period the bills hope to offer. So, we now have 99ers "celebrating" a year without benefits and a bill for additional benefits in the system for 8 weeks and the best we can do is 56 public commitments to nag Congress during the 2 day action? U_Cubed shows almost 4000 members and we were unable to get a public "I'm in" from 10%? There is an obvious disconnect and I'm baffled.

    I've been in involved in an ongoing thread with a commenter from a post last week. The commenter used an "expensive" word to call me a liar in my explanation of Minnesota HF 171 (no more than $20 cash monthly for state aid recipients) and mentioned s/he would never hire me. I think the commenter used the fancy word to channel William F. Buckley and in this endeavor the commenter failed in both spirit and analysis. Buckley was magnanimous of spirit and meticulous in anaylsis. The commenter is mean spirited and myopic, symbolic of today's NeoCons. But in returning to the topic at hand, when it comes to results, I wouldn't hire me, either.

    I started blogging in July, 2010 spurred on by the lack of organization and message with the long term unemployed.
    That week was a very busy week in Washington. 2 confirmation hearings, the death of Senator Byrd, the ongoing mess in the Gulf. Many pressing issues were competing for coverage. 1.2 million citizens without any support, promised support and very little coverage. This is my responsibility along with my fellow unemployed.
    The unemployed have no voice, no face, no advocate. We don't have a concrete message other than we need help either with a job or longer benefits. We are relying on the compassion of others, but our plight is much harder to comprehend than the image of an oil-slicked pelican. That is not going to change unless we make it change.
    Today is my 101st post and 99ers are even more diffuse and still lack a concrete message. I'm not so ego-driven that I believe I can organize and disseminate a message on my own. Still, in concert with passionate, creative and driven advocates, I have failed to advance the agenda of "jobs, jobs, jobs with a safety net in the interim" via a unified organization and a unique message one iota. We're no closer to this goal than we were 10 months ago, when I started. Effectively, I have produced no results, so I wouldn't hire me either.


    Monday, March 28, 2011

    Please Add These Events To Your Calendar.

    If the 99ers message of jobs, jobs, jobs and a safety net in the interim is ever going to be heard, 99ers must act together. In this light please participate in this event today and tomorrow to your to the full extent of your ability.

    Monday and Tuesday, March 28 and 29, 2011 is a call, tweet, email and fax rally to advocate for H.R. 589. There are many sites, groups and individuals supporting this action. All are doing great work. These two links provide sufficient if not complete information for participating in this event. You can also access the information for this action via a Facebook event . Please help keep the pressure on for the passage of H.R. 589.

    As always, the #99eraid Twitterchat Tuesdays at 8 PM EDT is appointment tweeting.  Bring your ideas and enthusiasm. See you then.


    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    The Difference Between Plagiarism and Research.

    A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook. I thought the article worth sharing.  The article begins to pull back the curtain on the goings-on in Wisconsin and other GOP governed states in the U.S. Hint: The assault on liberal (pro working families) values didn't begin two months ago and isn't led by inmates on a weekend pass from the asylum. Happy Reading. 

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Why People Hate Government and Why They're Right.

    There are so many people that hate government. Those on the left think government does too little, those on the right that think government does too much and those in the middle think government just doesn't do. There is an ever growing feeling that elected officials don't represent their constituency; their elected officials have lost touch. There appears to be many reasons why the body politic has lost faith in their government. Most of these reasons have pictures of dead presidents.

    In the 2008 Presidential election the Obama and McCain campaigns combined spent over $1 billion.  During the 2010 elections winners in the House of Representatives spent an average of $1.6 million for a job that pays $174,000 annually. In the Senate, 2010 election winners spent an average of $3.1 million  for a job that pays $174,000 annually. Based on a 2002 Census Bureau study lifetime earnings for workers in the US are between $1 million and $4.4 million based on level of education. So anyone can grow up to become President (or Senator or Rep) as long as they have the wherewithal to raise more money than most people earn in lifetime. I don't run with that crowd and I'm not sure those in that crowd can properly represent me.

    The answer is simple. The USA must enact campaign finance reform, specifically publicly financed elections for all US offices and all state Governors. Since the people that have the largest vested interest in maintaining the status quo are the very same people that would enact reforms, the chance of any meaningful movement to control the cost of elections is nil. The idea that the inmates are running the asylum leads many to hate government. They may very well be right.


    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Loose ends and requests.

    Last night's #99eraid Twitterchat had multiple themes. One theme discussed was ways of building a nonpartisan coalition to pass H.R. 589 and beyond. This is a great idea. Unemployment effects people of all political persuasions.

    In what will apparently illustrate the challenge of creating bipartisan support, it seems yesterdays post caught the attention of someone that posts to Breitbart (no link from me, sorry).  The blogger said he first heard about the 99ers recently. He commented that 99ers have a slick looking website and linked this little ol' blog right here. (thanks, dude) He went on to give his opinion about 99ers and our plight with the usual "I'm sympathetic" but that's not the way his piece slanted. Hey, it's his post and his opinions. I do have a couple of thoughts:

    1. Just heard about the 99ers?  Hey feel free to comment on something that's been going on for over year. Why bother with research?
    2. Thought this was a slick looking website. Kudos to Awesome, Inc. for the template and concernedinKY for the opening video. (Concerned, he thought your video could be a beer commercial.  Given what Bud spends on advertising that's quite a compliment.) The slick look has nothing to do with me. In the 9 months I've been blogging I haven't spent an hour a month on design maintenance.
    3. Blogger also criticized yours truly for perpetuating the myth that the Minnesota GOP wants to restrict state aid recipients to a maximum of $20 cash per month. Here's the link I read and it doesn't look like a myth to me.
    4. In the comments "anonymous" criticized me for spending time on my site/blog when I should be looking for work, having a negative attitude and for not taking personal responsibility.  Anonymous went on to suggest that 99ers were taking cash under the table (based on?) and would stated he/she would never hire a 99er. Essentially when anonymous couldn't carry a fact based discussion anonymous turned to a personal attack and broad assumptions using limited or no facts.
    I'm hoping the blogger and anonymous are not indicative of the majority of the GOP. I don't see enough (any?) common ground for a nonpartisan coalition. 

    I also have two requests:
    1. Please read this article from Donalee King and if applicable add your information to the 99er database.
    2. I have nominated my friend Sima Dahl and her work on Marketing Job Wire for inclusion in Seth Godins/Domino Project new Kindle book, due out on April 11, 2011. Voting opened yesterday and concludes today at 5 PM EDT. Please take a minute to vote and pass it along. Thanks.
    Please make the #99eraid Twitterchat appointment tweeting, Tuesday nights, 8 PM EDT.

      Tuesday, March 22, 2011

      These People Are Allowed In Public?

      Minnesota GOP lawmakers want to make it illegal for anyone receiving state aid to have more than $20 cash. OK, so how about anyone with net worth over $250,000 and money offshore to avoid paying taxes be stoned to death in the town square? Actually, I'm surprised at the Minnesota GOP for invoking a half-measure. Why not end state aid to the poor and reestablish debtors prison?

      I'm a fan of the 1st Amendment but I'm weary of the eternally hypocritical (yes, you Newt Gingrich and your patriotic flag pole) and the criminally stupid (too big a list to specify anyone) attempting to drag the US back to the antebellum era. Shouldn't someone have a track record of at least 75% truth and coherence before we continue to shove a microphone in their face? Did you ever think Emily Litella (RIP, Gilda) would become a model for GOP communication directors across the country? Can't you do better? Yes, you can.

      Share your thoughts with the Twitterverse.  Join tonight's #99eraid Twitterchat, 8 PM EDT. Don't forget to add your state tag (#99eraid_IL) so you can find local tweeps and organize. See you tonight.

      Monday, March 21, 2011

      Why People Hate Government and Why They're Wrong.

      There are so many people that hate government. Those on the right think government does too much , those on the left think government does too little and those in the middle think government just doesn't do. The fact is government isn't the problem, people that hate government are the problem.

      We live in a representative democracy. In other words everybody has a equal vote in electing the people that govern, but those elected officials determine policy i.e. tell us what to do. I can't speak for you, but I'm not enamored with the idea of a stranger (even a stranger I helped elect) telling me what I'm allowed to do. Additionally, government must represent the electorate as a whole, even those that didn't bother to vote. Since I voted, I deserve priority consideration.  Finally, government is charged with balancing competing interests, maintaining a level playing field and giving voice to those unable to speak for themselves (e.g. future generations). Succinctly, government is a referee and whether it's a sporting event, art exhibition, bake off or even a pro wrestling match, no one ever like the ref. The best that can be said about a referee or umpire is they went unnoticed. Government rarely goes unnoticed.

      So when government legislates a compromise at best 40% will be happy, and that's on a good day. Quite often, almost everyone dislikes being governed, so government can't win even when doing an outstanding job. It's wrong to hate someone for merely doing their job, which is why people are wrong to hate government.

      Something you can't hate and should absolutely join is the #99eraid Twitterchat, Tuesdays 8 PM EDT. Just search the hashtag #99eraid.


      Saturday, March 19, 2011

      Mr. President, the answer sleeps beside you.

      Last week on the Ed Schultz Show, Ed was discussing an article about the President and his advisors look for ways to reinvigorate the base.  Without dismissing any of the callers, all I could think was: HAVE YOU EVER PISSED OFF YOUR WIFE?


      Like a spouse, the base sticks around through thick and thin, lends support when you are low, celebrates your success and quietly disagrees when you are wrong.  Admittedly, the liberal base can work on the "quiet correction" a bit. Still, it wasn't the fickle middle that worked the phones, walked the streets and stood in the cold in Springfield when the Obama campaign kicked off.

      How do you apologize to your wife when she's really angry? Well, I sincerely apologize (or at least sound incredibly sincere) and do something that makes my wife feel loved and appreciated. It works the same with the base and by the way, suggesting "swallowing your anger" doesn't work with a spouse and won't work with the base.

      So, Mr. President apologize to the base. "I'm sorry to have compromised on my principles but moving the country forward, even in very small steps is my Number One priority. I apologize to those I have disappointed and ask you to stay with me as we move forward" would be very effective.  Endorsing H.R. 589, a comprehensive jobs creation package and safety nets until unemployment drops below 8% would show that you are serious.

      Mr. President I am an unabashed fan of yours. I stood with you on HCR even without a public option because health care reform needs to start somewhere. I've said nothing while you fail to address the unemployment crisis because I realize you can't do everything. I didn't like the tax compromise, but in the end the repeal of DADT and the belated passage of the SALT treaty made the compromise worthwhile, even though it left 99ers out in the cold. Mr. President, I remain a fan but "reinvigorate the base" and "swallow my anger"? So, Mr. President, I humbly ask, PLEASE REMOVE YOUR HEAD FROM YOUR ASS.

      Thursday, March 17, 2011

      Another lesson from Wisconsin.

      Emperor Scott Walker, Viceroy Scott Fitzpatrick and the single mind GOP of Wisconsin continue to share insight into today's Republican Party.  As you may be aware, last week at the behest of Walker and with the facilitation of Fitzpatrick, the GOP caucus of the Wisconsin Senate rammed through a bill stripping many Wisconsin public employees of their right to collective bargaining. Earlier this week, Fitzpatrick authorized "taxation without representation" by stripping Wisconsin Senate Dems of their right to vote in committee. Sen. Fitzpatrick has since rescinded this edict; all Wisconsin Senators will be allowed to vote in committee.

      Scott Walker's political future is all but set. A recall measure will be filed January 3, 2012, the first day he is eligible for recall. Anyone casting their lot with Walker is asking for the same fortune. Given that politicians are many things, but box o' rocks stupid is not one of them, what gives?

      Simple: If GOP officials choose to leave politics there will be a nice private sector job waiting, so long as they obey the puppetmasters.  If the same GOP officials choose to run, they're counting on the unlimited hidden campaign funds allowed by the Citizens United decision to scrub their image clean. The ramifications for the 99ers or any other fans of democracy are clear cut.

      It is impossible to match funds with the virtually unlimited resources of the ultrawealthy ubergreedy patrons of today's GOP. Many Dems are also feeding at the same trough.  All the rest of us have to offer is unbridled resolve.  We must commit to stay active, remain visible, advocate our cause and absolutely go out and vote.

      In the short term, contact your legislators today  and every day about passage of H.R. 589. Join U Cubed  and find a local cube.  Local organizing is a key to moving the 99er agenda forward. Finally, don't quit, never quit. Democracy is too important.

      Tuesday, March 15, 2011

      There Is News, It's Not Good.

      While going through headlines, etc. some things jumped out:
      1. Some Senate Republicans are planning to block all non-budget (and they mean non-budget cutting) bills.
      2. Multiple events (having nothing at all to do with global climate change) have reduced overall food supply, driving food costs up-possibly forever.
      3. Florida is going to reduce unemployment benefits. Do you think other states will do the same? I do.
      4. The national unemployment rate may not drop below 8%, ever.
      Connecting the dots: The only thing the US Senate GOP caucus is planning on passing is kidney stones and gas, unless social safety net programs are cut.  The cost of living (food,energy) is going up. States (primarily those with GOP majorities in government) are cutting safety nets and eliminating collective bargaining for state employees. The next step will be to privatize services, further driving wages down. The US will be facing  higher numbers of unemployed (increased supply) which will also put downward pressure on wages. Further, no one is talking about or proposing a plan for reacting to the "new" normal unemployment rate.

      That's right. Costs are going up. The government is doing nothing to support wages or worse yet actively working on driving wages down, while cutting or eliminating safety nets. Well, at least spring is almost here.

      Monday, March 14, 2011

      An Ongoing National Natural Disaster.

      I had a day of commitments Friday. I got up early and went online to investigate the latest attempts of d(D)emocracide by the GOP in Wisconsin and across the land. Much to my chagrin the news was owned by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Actually, devastating is an inaccurate description of what occurred in Japan, but the English language doesn't have the words to accurately describe what occurred in Japan. Whole families disappearing, neighborhoods destroyed, homeless sleeping in makeshift shelters, 100,000's with no sustenance, electricity or running water.  It will be years, maybe decades before the full toll will be understood and some generations may never recover.

      Almost immediately fund raising for rescue, recovery and rebuilding Japan began.  I was particularly moved by Seth Meyer's appeal for the Red Cross at the end of the SNL update since SNL rarely takes anything seriously. I am proud to live in a country that takes suffering to heart and reaches out to help victims of acts beyond control of the victims. Of course, I am also occasionally bewildered by this country's response to disasters within our borders.

      In September, 2008 the USA experienced a financial earthquake and tsunami. As in Japan the results were devastating and aftershocks have continued in the form of unemployment for 30 months. Whole families are affected. Neighborhoods are destroyed. Homelessness increases which means people are sleeping in makeshift shelters if any shelter. 100,000's have no access to running water, electricity or any source of sustenance. It will be years possibly decades before the full toll is understood. Some generations will never recover.

      I'm not asking why Japan and not the 99ers. I am not saying  us (or U.S) first. I said I am proud to live in a country that takes suffering to heart. I would like to know why we are so callous to suffering within our own border. Why do we refuse to act appropriately to correct a disaster that is salvageable?  Anyone have a thought?

      Please remember #99erAid Twitterchat Tuesdays 8 PM EDT.

      Thursday, March 10, 2011

      To UCubed: I apologize.

      In the past months I have been highly critical of UCubed in at least two posts. I didn't think my posts were mean spirited or vindictive. I still don't think that way. I felt 99ers needed more from UCubed. I still believe that, too. I must admit I was working with a wrong set of assumptions.  I felt that since UCubed had a Director and a budget, UCubed should be doing more on behalf of the long term unemployed. Until this week.

      UCubed had been aggressively publicizing elections for state directors. On Monday, I received an email from UCubed Executive Director that elections had to be cancelled. Only one person in one state had stepped up to run. For the sake of full disclosure that one person wasn't me. As the saying goes, "When you point a finger at someone else, remember there are three fingers pointing back at you."

      I do believe 99ers need more from UCubed, but as another saying goes, "You can't make chicken soup from chicken poop." As I look at my reflection in the mirror do I see egg or chicken poop? I'm not sure.

      So to Executive Director Rick Sloan and anyone else in UCubed, in unity-strength, I apologize. To anyone reading this not yet a member of UCubed, please join and help me get this mess off my face.

      Wednesday, March 9, 2011

      POPVOX, H.R.589 and the 99ers


      (This is a guest post from Help The 99ers, originally posted on the Help the 99ers blog March 8, 2011.)
      "It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much."
      - Yogi Berra
      Congressional staffers say that messages from their constituents are getting lost. When Congress receives some 300 million emails per year, that's not hard to imagine. Add in the phone calls, letters, faxes, Facebook posts, tweets, et al, and it's no wonder that it's impossible to get a conversation going.
      Coming from a ten-year background working with a number of advocacy organizations, Rachna Choudhry knew the problem well. At a dinner party with Marci Harris, then a legislative counsel in Congressman Pete Stark's office, the conversation touched on ways to address the problem. Here's how Rachna described it:
      I first met Marci at a dinner party two years ago. When the host mentioned that she was a congressional staffer, I immediately perked up. I was, after all, working for an advocacy organization whose purpose was to inform Members of Congress and influence the policy-making process. Simply put, I was a lobbyist.
      Instead of having a typical Washington dinner party conversation, however, (e.g. Who do you work for? What issues do you cover? What's on your "docket" right now?), we discussed the extent of the breakdown in the system. Even with the overwhelming amount of emails, letters, phone calls, faxes, literature drops, tweets and Facebook posts from individuals across the country, it was still a challenge for Congress to ascertain the positions of organizations and understand the concerns of their constituents. The signal-to-noise ratio was skewed. Congress was getting too much noise, so much so that it was interfering with the signal - the underlying message.
      That's how POPVOX was born. POPVOX, which launched its public beta in January, is one of those "so simple, it's brilliant" ideas. It gives ordinary citizens like you and me a way to make our voices heard in Congress. It also gives grassroots organizations, which may not have the resources of the professional lobbying groups, a place to make their positions known. Last, but not least, it simplifies the process for Congressional staffers by putting information about issues, opinions and bills into an easy-to-digest legislative docket.
      The website is very easy to use. In our conversation for this article, Rachna mentioned that POPVOX passed the "mom test" - she recruited both her and Marci's mothers as test users and asked them to use the site without any assistance. The moms came away with a positive experience.
      Because it offers people the option of commenting on bills, POPVOX can put a human face on legislation. One bill that we in the 99er community are very interested in is H.R. 589, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act of 2011. One of the comments by a supporter tells an all-too-common tale, but one that needs to be heard:
      "I have been actively seeking employment for over 2 years. I lost my job through no fault of my own. I returned to school & aquired more skills. I've worked most of my life & never had a problem securing & retaining jobs. I am almost 60 years old. I have used all my safety nets. I am a burden on my family. With UE compensation I can least contribute something. I miss working, I enjoy working. I don't want to collect UE benefits but the reality is that I need them desparately. I would use those funds immediately to pay for basic goods & services which in turn will help stimulate the economy."
      That message will go directly to the commenter's Member of Congress, Representative Allen West in Florida's 22nd Congressional district. It will also be available on the site for anyone in Congress, like Representatives Barbara Lee and Bobby Scott, who focus on the issue of unemployment. It will be public for every person interested in the bill.
      Because it offers organizations of all sizes the opportunity to register their positions on bills, POPVOX can also amplify the voice of the small, grassroots organization. Rachna used the analogy of Blockbuster vs. Netflix: Blockbuster has all the major titles in stock, but Netflix also has the smaller films that didn't get that much exposure. POPVOX, like Netflix, gives the smaller guys a chance, and opens access beyond the major advocacy groups. Again, using the example of the 99ers, the different advocacy groups are now starting to register their presence and their positions on H.R. 589. One group, the American 99ers Union, represents several smaller groups. We're seeing the beginning of a network effect, where the more organizations support a bill, the more will join in.
      I asked Rachna about user registrations: for POPVOX to be most effective, people need to give the site their name and address. POPVOX verifies that information and uses it to match people with their Representatives. When POPVOX delivers constituent messages to Congress, staffers can be sure that they're looking at their home district's opinions, and that's one reason why Rachna has gotten positive feedback about the registration process from users.
      How can the 99er community use POPVOX?
      First, simply by using it. Each 99er who registers and adds their support adds their voice to a growing chorus that POPVOX can further amplify. Second, by encouraging family, friends and supporters to do the same. Next, for those of us with a story to tell, POPVOX offers a platform from which to tell it, and an audience that's there to listen. And, just as with individuals, groups who register, endorse bills and record their position statements make it easier for the groups who follow.
      It's not about quantity, though: when I asked Rachna if there was a number (of supporters, groups, etc.) that could ensure a Congressman would be influenced, her reply was that POPVOX was more about the quality of the messages, and how that could influence decision making during the legislative process more than a number could.
      POPVOX is one of many tools in the advocacy toolkit. Its ease of use, its ability to verify constituent voices and its ability to make those voices heard by the right people at the right time, should make it the first tool on the list for us.
      As we were ending our interview, Rachna mentioned that POPVOX is a finalist in the SXSW Accelerator competition. Best of luck to the POPVOX team!

      Help the 99ers started the journey to 99erhood in April, 2008. A tireless advocate on behalf on the long term unemployed, "Help"'s favorite quote is Shakespeare "You take my life when you do take the means by wearby I live."  I join in "Help" in the thought that it's time to stop the "taking".


      Tuesday, March 8, 2011

      99ers Communication Problem.

      It's been about a year since the first 99ers realized a title was need for their status. Some non-99ers thought the classification already existed: lazy, soft, coddled, unambitious, but those characterizations are wrong. No one realized last year, but the first 99ers were the canary in the cave that history will recognize as the Great Depression of the 21st Century. Unfortunately if 99ers wait for history to prove that they were unwilling victims and not passive participants of this modern financial disaster, their grandchildren will still be feeling the effects of this cataclysmic period in the early part of this century.  Better to start changing the course of history today.

      I started blogging in July, 2010. I was dumbfounded that the Senate could adjourn without appropriating funds to pay extended unemployment benefits they had previously approved. I had pointed out that the long term unemployed had been hampered in generating support because there was not a clear unique message. Long therm unemployed were talking about jobs, safety nets, equity, humanity and social justice. In the past 9 months 99ers have crafted this easy to understand/easy to explain message...Oops.

      This morning's thread at the #99erAid hashtag is a reminder about tonight's #99erAid Twitterchat (8 PM EST and companion 99erAid Facebook page) and a suggestion to bring ideas about types of protests. Specifically the types of protests that communicate the message of the 99ers. The message of the 99ers being...?

      I am not being negative. I believe we need a clear message and a means of organizing or the protests will not provide the desired results. Fortunately, this is a situation where the cart can proceed the horse. So bring your ideas about protests tonight (#99erAid, 8 PM EST and Facebook Page 99er Aid. Did I mention that already?).  Together we can tackle message and ways to organize in the coming weeks.  See you tonight.

      Monday, March 7, 2011

      Life Lessons: Beyond H.R.589

      In my professional capacity as a funeral director, I was called upon to serve a family this last week (A friend is out of town, so I'm filling in). Some funerals are easier then others. This funeral was tougher than most. I was assisting a family with the funeral of a full term stillborn. No warning before delivery. No complications during pregnancy. Nine months in utero, filling a family with hopes and dreams. Not only do those hopes and dreams come crashing down, but this family must find a way to continue on. This particular family has another child. Having another child forces the family to focus, a reason to get out of bed. Still, nothing numbs the pain they feel and nothing will for a very long time.Yet the family finds a way to carry on.

      It's March and March, 2011 has a uniquely perplexing, frustrating sad anniversary. 99ers will begin to celebrate their 1st full year of being a 99er.  52 weeks without unemployment benefits; nearly 3 years without full time employment.  Folks out of work due to the offshoring of jobs; over 3.4 million manufacturing jobs lost in the 1st decade of this century. People unemployed through no fault of their own with little hope for reemployment any time soon.

      There has been almost no help for 99ers in the last year. A couple of failed attempts at adding some weeks of unemployment insurance, the last being H.R.6556 which is now reincarnated as H.R.589.  If H.R.6556 didn't get through the 111th Congress, I don't see how H.R.589 is passed in the 112th Congress. A bill to establish incentives for creating American jobs and penalizing offshoring couldn't overcome a GOP Senate filibuster in the 111th Congress (I'm shocked, shocked I tell you to find gambling in this establishment). So what should a 99er do? Find a way to carry on.

      Close your eyes and consider this: With a wave of my magic wand, H.R.589 is expressed through both chambers of Congress today, signed into law tonight and checks start to roll tomorrow.
      1. What is your plan for Wednesday?
      2. What is your plan in 14 weeks, the day after the last benefit check arrives.
      Don't answer, you haven't gotten over the shock of H.R.589 passing so quickly. Seriously, should (when?) H.R.589 pass(es), what then?  There is no one size fits all answer. However, with the understanding that 3.4 million manufacturing jobs will not reappear in 14 weeks, what is the next step? What is the advocacy action for 99ers as a group? How will you take these 14 weeks of additional benefits to prepare for week 15? If 99ers can't answer these questions H.R.589 has no effect. When 99ers answer these questions, the agenda is set for today, because 99ers can't count on H.R.589 and must find a way to carry on.

       I have a personal plan in place and will share it in the coming days. If you have a plan or some ideas why not share them? Either way please include the weekly forum for the long term unemployed, #99erAid via the #99erAid Twitterchat, Tuesdays 8PM EST or the corresponding Facebook page 99erAid. Getting involved in the 99er community should be part of the plan.

      Monday, February 28, 2011

      Twitterchat Takeaways: The Lesson of Wisconsin.

      I'm posting here from scenic Rockford, IL the winter home of the Wisconsin Senatorial Democratic Caucus. No need for them to hurry back, Governor Walker ordered the Capitol closed. So much for tourism.

      On last Tuesday's Twitterchat, I saw some tweets suggesting the pols get with the 99ers agenda or face the 99ers wrath in the 2012 election. For those considering the threat of revenge at the ballot box: Stop yourself. No one cares.

      Just look at the last week in Wisconsin. 10 days ago the public employee unions in Wisconsin had conceded all financial demands in Gov. Walker's budget to retain the right of collective bargaining. "Thanks, but no thanks" was the governor's reply. A few days later, Governor Walker was punked. A liberal blogger posing as a Koch brother had a frank conversation with Gov. Walker about his plans for combating the ongoing strike, including planting troublemakers. The list of things wrong with the conversation is too long to delineate here but: 
      • Why is the Gov. talking about State's business with someone that has no standing in Wisconsin?
      • Why is the Gov. spending more time talking to an outsider than he is negotiating with the Union?
      Thursday, Night despite over 2 weeks of protests the Wisconsin Assembly may have broken procedural rules  to hastily ram through the controversial bill in the middle of the night. Sunday, Gov. Walker ordered the Capitol closed for cleaning (cleansing?), despite the fact that the 100,000's of protesters have not impeded day to day operations in any manner. Monday, Gov. Walker threatened layoffs if his budget is not passed by Tuesday March 1, 2011. Gov. Walker's message to voters: You don't matter.

      Speaker Boehner was able to show why he has earned the right to be a GOP leader. In just three words, Boehner was able to express his contempt for the electorate. It has taken Gov. Walker over two weeks to express the same level of disregard for the public he purports to represent.

      As the party of Lincoln, today's GOP may believe they can fool enough of the people enough of the time. Perhaps Republican officeholders think that with the Citizens United decision, enough hidden money can be dumped into any campaign that their voting record won't matter. Maybe it's a combination of the two. In any case, when it comes to the will of the public the GOP just isn't that into your vote, yet.

      As for the Democrats, I understand 99ers frustration with lack of progress. I felt the same way in August, 2010 and went on record. As time passed, I saw the bat crap crazy lineup of marionettes, crooks and asylumates from the GOP. I couldn't let my anger allow these idealogical intransigents near elected office. Unfortunately, I found myself in the minority and today we are faced with potential puppet dictatorships starting in Wisconsin and spreading across the United States.Yuck.

      I apologize I took the long route when I could have used 4 sentences. If ballot pressure worked, S3706 would already be law. The GOP can't be threatened with votes, they count on the stupidity of the electorate being bamboozled by the cash of the Koch Brothers and friends. The Dems aren't much better. The Dems realize if you vote GOP you elect the Governor Scott Walkers of this country.

      In short you can't change anything by apathy or anger voting. You can make a bad situation worse. So stop talking about the ballot box. But please join the #99erAid Twitterchat, Tuesday March 1, 2011 8PM EST. Bring your ideas and your passion. As for your threat to not vote, leave that elsewhere.




      Friday, February 25, 2011

      Twitterchat Takeaways: Don't beat up your friends.

      During last Tuesday's #99erAid Twitterchat, there were some complaints about Rep. Lee's presentation of H.R.589.  H.R.589 was proposed in a manner that would not allow it to be an amendment to another bill, making it's path to passage even more difficult. There was similar conversation when S3706 hit a wall last summer. Going back to June, 2010 the same tone was used for Rep. Jim McDermott. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama are also popular targets because of a lack of results for 99ers. All these criticisms are fair, but...

      99ers are also vociferously dumbfounded at the consistent lack of media coverage. Understandably so, since the continued inaction fuels a downward spiral of hunger, homelessness and suicide. But as long as the "Jersey Shore" means more than a destination to cool off during a hot summer, good luck finding a scintilla of common sense in what the media chooses to cover.

      Were it not for the insufficient meager attempts at legislation to support the long term unemployed, media coverage would be even less. So continue to tell our legislative "friends" that they need to do better, 99ers deserve real help. That's where a (daily) phone call, fax or email is appropriate.  In public, 99ers need to stick to air kisses.  In public we must remain unified. You may think, with friends like these politicians, who needs enemies. Without friends like these all 99ers have are enemies.

      Wednesday, February 23, 2011

      The Stubborn,The Stupid,The Bat Crap Crazy.

      With Wisconsin Governor Walker threatening martial law on the Wisconsin Teachers Union for having the temerity to question his divine right as Wisconsin Chief executive and with NewCon posterboy New Jersey Governor Bam Bam Bigelow spewing into any microphone he can find, there are some other news items not receiving nearly enough attention. Until now.
      • Missouri State Senator Jane Cunningham wants to repeal child labor laws.
      • South Dakota State Representative wants to expand justifiable homicide to include protecting an unborn child.
      • Also from South Dakota is a bill requiring all adults to own a gun. Imagine this campaign from the South Dakota Bureau of Tourism, "Relive the exhilarating days of American History. The Wild West comes alive in beautiful pacifist free South Dakota." Or something simpler from the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce,"South Dakota: We've got you in our crosshairs." The mind reels with imagination.
      • Georgia State Representative Bobby Franklin wants to do away with the drivers license
      • In the US Congress, 210 U.S. Representatives have signed on to H.R.3, which redefines rape as forcible rape. This bill does receive coverage, just not enough. 210 elected officials actually endorsing the concept of forcible rape therefore establishing the concept of consensual rape makes me want to vomit.
      Why is this significant to the 99ers? 99ers need jobs. Until there are jobs available, jobs that pay a living wage, 99ers need a safety net.  Given limited resources (have you seen the US budget?) the conversation about how to allocate those resources to create a sustainable economic recovery is a very serious discussion. Part of that discussion must be how long to extend the safety net to the unemployed. Implicit in that discussion is that the current consideration of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks and no more hasn't been a discussion. To this point, politicians talk about TierV have employed the ostrich method of confronting a problem. Taking the point further, 14 weeks of additional extended unemployment benefits called for by H.R.589 are helpful, but what happens afterwards? Jobs will not magically appear and since 99ers will soon start celebrating their 1st anniversary of 99erhood, H.R.589 is simply insufficient.

      The discussion about how to achieve the most effective results is an adult conversation.  It covers serious territory with the harsh reality that some (millions?) will not receive what they seek. That will be painful and ugly debate, sacrificing some for the sake of others. How do you have this conversation about survivors and casualties with people that want to redefine rape, repeal child labor laws or eliminate drivers licenses? You can't have that conversation with bat crap crazies and that's a real problem for 99ers.  Did I mention that Chris Christie has to be a posterboy because he won't fit in an 8"X10"?  

      Tuesday, February 22, 2011

      Progressive Radio, Wisconsin and H.R.589

      I was in the car a lot at the end of last week which allowed me the opportunity to listen to the local progressive radio outlet, WCPT. The populist response to Wisconsin Gov. Walker was the primary topic of conversation. Here are just a few things I heard:
      • On Friday morning a caller to the Stephanie Miller Show supported President Obama's quiet reaction to  the Wisconsin teachers by adding that Organizing for America was providing organizational support.
      • Thom Hartmann suggesting that Unions provide organization to the 99ers. Thom thought the major reason organized labor hasn't lent more support to the long-term unemployed is organized labor is fighting for it's own existence.
      • Caller Dan (or Don), a self identified conservative on the Norman Goldman Show reframed the conversation about demonstrations in Wisconsin: "This isn't about unions. It's about our neighbors." Dan also added that any true conservative should support the teachers because the Governor's actions were big government defined.
      • Brian Glassel of Glass Nickel Pizza interviewed on the Ed Schultz Show Thursday. Brian mentioned that teachers frequently eat at Glass Nickel. His concern was that if the draconian cuts we're employed teachers would have to cut back their patronage of his restaurant. If teachers and others cut back too much there would be no Glass Nickel Pizza. The staff at Glass Nickel would be unemployed driving down revenue at other local establishments. The spiral would continue downward.
      • Ed Schultz concluded his radio on show on Thursday with a reminder that he had not forgotten about the 99ers and a promise to continue fighting on behalf of the unemployed and underemployed of America.
      What are the lessons for the 99ers from this list of radio comments? How can the unemployed gain insight in the battle for H.R.589 and beyond?
      1. Success requires organization. Ideally organized labor could provide this assistance to the long term unemployed. The Wisconsin teachers and public employees already have a union and still got help from Organizing for America.  It's great OFA jumped in to help in Wisconsin. Attention OFA: The 99ers also need your help.  
      2. The conversation needs to go beyond the needs of the 99ers. Brian Glassel pointed out that his restaurant needs the teachers patronage. Caller Dan reminded everyone that it's not about Unions, it's about neighbors and neighborhoods. 99ers need to recruit and/or develop similar third party assistance.  Frame the conversation about everyone but the 99ers.
      3. Despite the steep uphill battle, 99ers still have media support.  Ed, thank you for keeping the 99ers on your agenda. Would you mind placing a call to Senator Debbie Stabenow and Rep. Jim McDermott? 99ers would love to hear from them, too.
      On a final note, don't forget tonight's 99erAid Twitterchat, 8 PM EST. The hashtag is #99erAid and the Facebook Event is #99erAid. I look forward to tweeting with you tonight, please join the conversation. 

      Monday, February 21, 2011

      John Boehner, a truthful man.

      I am a proud liberal and I have to admit liberals give Speaker John Boehner a rough time. We ponder his unnatural skin tone. We unmercifully tease about his tendency to cry. We question his ethics in distributing lobbyist campaign contributions on the House floor. One thing we should not question is his honesty. John Boehner is the most honest person in DC. When asked about potential job losses due to $100 billion in budget cuts proposed by the Republicans, Speaker Boehner replied "... So be it." Though many liberals decried this answer as callous, tone deaf, cold hearted, etc, no one suggested it was dishonest.  In fact it may have been the most transparent comment in Washington DC last week.

      Speaker Boehner is the highest ranked elected Republican official in the USA.  He sets the legislative calendar for the House of Representatives and sets the conversational tone for the GOP agenda. When questioned about job losses in front of microphones and cameras Speaker Boehner told the truth. He doesn't care about jobs, the people that lose those jobs or the businesses these (soon to be) unemployed support. His responsibility is to his constituency: Millionaires, billionaires and multinational corporations. As for the rest of the country? "...So be it."

      99ers are already faxing, calling and emailing Speaker Boehner and the rest of his party to rally support for H.R.589. This is absolutely the right thing to do, without Republican support H.R.589 will not pass. Without Speaker Boehner's approval H.R.589 won't come to a vote. Can anyone expect Speaker Boehner's assistance to pass H.R.589? Ask Speaker Boehner. So be it.

      Thursday, February 17, 2011

      Tuesday's Twitter Brainstorming.

      Tuesday night's #99erAid Twitterchat was a 1 hour+ brainstorming session for thoughts on helping and supporting the 99ers. Due to the nature of Twitter the ideas came through randomly and quickly with multiple conversation threads during the hour.  Some takeaways:
      • 99ers must continue support for H.R.589 by any means possible. Even though another legislative roadblock for H.R.589 has emerged 99ers must continue to phone, fax, email and educate elected officials from both parties to create groundswell support.
      • Advocacy must reach beyond Congress.  There was a debate on the merits of local vs. national demonstrations. Some proposed reaching out to business and celebrity sponsorship for subsidized transportation to D.C. for a mammoth rally. Others favored multiple local rallies while acknowledging the challenges of locating and connecting with local 99ers and unemployment advocates.
      • All pretty much concurred that press coverage was at best sparse and inconsistent.
      I had the privilege of connecting with reporter Kat Aaron (@kataaron) during the Twitterchat. She organized the Twitterchat this way, no small task since the brainstorming session totaled 89 pages and 15,000 words.

      There appears to be a demand to continue the conversation.  99erAid II is scheduled for Tuesday, February 22, 2011 8 PM EST. The hashtag will again be #99erAid and there is also a Facebook event page, #99erAid. Please mark this on your calendar and join the conversation.

      Tuesday, February 15, 2011

      H.R.589, Job Creation and Rape.

      On Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011 Representative Barbara Lee introduced H.R.589, "The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2011." The bill calls for an additional 14 weeks of Tier I unemployment compensation to be made available to those currently receiving unemployment compensation and to those that have previously exhausted all benefits. Rep. Lee introduced similar legislation (H.R.6556) at the end of the 111th Congress, which failed to pass the resolution.

      In other Congressional unemployment related news, the 112th Congress has to date put forward 23 bills regarding jobs. 10 call for investment to create jobs, 4 deal with repealing health care reform, 3 concern the effects of federal regulation stifling job growth and 2 propose suspending environmental regulations to protect jobs. Less than 50% of the legislation for job creation actually involves job creation. Why does this matter? Without significant job creation, the additional 14 weeks of unemployment benefits proposed aren't any more helpful than a lottery ticket.

      In other Congressional news, on Feb. 8, 2011 Rep. Christopher Smith introduced H.R.3 "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act" which among other things further victimizes rape victims. The bill would limit federal funds for rape victims to cases of "forcible rape" thereby excluding victims of "casual rape", "recreational rape" and the ever popular "consensual rape".  The bill has 205 cosponsors. Why does this matter? You can't talk the common sense of job creation and safety nets to 206 bat crap crazies that would take ownership of a bill using the term "forcible rape".

      Simply put, all 99ers need to get behind H.R.589 via fax, phone, email and/or carrier pigeon. Beyond that it is incumbent on 99ers both individually and collectively to have a plan in place to go beyond H.R.589, so that the work Rep. Lee, 60 cosponsors and countless advocates is not wasted.  In this light, please join Jason Tabrys and other for 99er Aid tonight at 8 PM EST for the #99erAid Twitterchat.

      Tuesday, February 1, 2011

      Time for UCubed to stop chillin'.

      UCubed is an unemployment advocacy group organized under the auspices of the IAM.  The organizational skills and resources Unions can offer the unemployed are (to borrow a marketing campaign) PRICELESS. I can only imagine the assistance UCubed can provide once they actually start.


      I apologize, the above is a cheap shot.  This is not intended to be a condemnation on UCubed, merely a strongly worded critique. Simply put, the 99ers and the soon to be 99ers desperately need UCubed to reach it's potential beginning today.


      We are a week+ beyond the State of the Union Address. President Obama deftly avoided any mention of the 99ers and the ongoing unemployment crisis during the State of the Union. The UCubed response was a strongly worded "Shame on you, Barack Obama" (thanks, Hillary). I ask, "Is this the best the power of 31 million can offer?"


      99ers are fighting and losing a major public relations battle.  Just yesterday @ReThePeople tweeted
      "  have to realize they are playing a suckers game. Since you are only fighting for  benefits, only your little group is affected".  @ReThePeople appears to be in tune with current events, but in this case he is so wrong. First the agenda of the unemployed has always been and continues to be jobs, jobs,  jobs but until there are sufficient jobs, a safety net is necessary. Second, the argument for extending unemployment insurance beyond 99 weeks has as much to do with sustaining the economic recovery as it does with sustaining the unemployed. 99ers are not fighting for themselves alone, they are fighting for today's economic stability and the future of our country. Still the need for UCubed to get aggressive goes beyond PR.


      On Sunday Donalee King asked if the violence in Egypt is merely a foreshadowing of events in the USA. Well Donalee, yes it is.


      I have been a proponent of aggressive but peaceful demonstrations in the street. Organized, time limited displays with a specific purpose.  Be it cardboard box villages in front of an elected officials office or blocking access to a public building at 5 PM, it is vital to involve/educate the entire community about the plight of the 99ers. UCubed has the best ability to arrange these type of protests and keep them peaceful.  If peaceful protests are not arranged angry people will take to the streets. (I'm assuming the current strategy of call/fax/email/tweet/angry,astonished posts will continue to yield the same results: NOTHING.) When that anger boils over, violence will follow. Violence often has random results and a corresponding violent response in an effort to quell the violent outburst will result in even more random results.  This is one of many reasons why it is important to channel the growing anger of the unemployed now, and UCubed (or another funded, staffed advocacy group) needs to take the lead.


      Their have been many suggesting that each homeless, hungry or dead 99er is the responsibility of a President and Congress that fail to react to this crisis appropriately.  We know the Congress and President will continue to respond in their ostrich like manner. The next group of hungry, homeless or dead 99ers is our responsibility and it starts with our advocacy organizations that know better. UCubed, I'm talking to you.

      Saturday, January 29, 2011

      Join me on a journey.

      I've been listening to Peter, Paul & Mary and the Weavers alot lately.  It's not my love of harmony because I've also been listening to Dylan. Times are turbulent. I'm looking for an anchor.  I love my family but thy're not my anchor. My family is my motor. Anyway, these lyrics struck me in a new way: 

      Come gather ’round people
      Wherever you roam
      And admit that the waters
      Around you have grown
      And accept it that soon
      You’ll be drenched to the bone
      If your time to you is worth savin’
      Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
      For the times they are a-changin’

      Frankly, times aren't a-changin' any more. Times have already changed. Unemployed are becoming 99ers every week.  The first 99ers are two months away from chartering the 200 club. There are 5 seekers for each job. The businesses bolstered by taxpayer $$ (that's $$ from you and me) are doing just fine these days. Record profits, record bonuses and hoarding record amounts of cash. These now healthy corporations aren't required  to add employees and equipment. Of course we weren't required to prop up these businesses, but that's another conversation for another day. Fact is they're not hiring and when they do, they rarely hire from the ranks of the unemployed or over 45 crowd.  Astonishment and anger are understandable responses but instead, I've joined a bunch of Hooligans.

      This bunch of Hooligans isn't the smash and grab, steal Grandma's purse hooligans. These Hooligans look at the status quo askance, bending  old rules or writing new rules when necessary. These Hooligans may have been insiders once but now relish the role of outsider, regularly establishing new norms and always pushing the boundaries further.  These Hooligans are a tribe, led by Chieftain Sarah Robinson. I've been following her blog, "Escaping Mediocrity" for a bit and she's turned me into a Hooligan. Sarah is launching a month long series "28 Days to Getting Your Sh*t Together", Feb. 1. I've subscribed and I am inviting you to join me.

      I am not being compensated to shill for the series. In true Hooligan fashion, I haven't asked permission to invite an entire group to subscribe. As a matter of fact, Sarah won't even know about this invitation until I post and send her the link (Hi Sarah, How ya doin'?). I'm doing this because I expect "28 days" to help me and I want to share whatever I can with others.  The only cost is the time it takes to register, read and react to the posts for "28 Days". There is no fear of failure. My "career elevator" is already in the parking garage, up is the only direction I can go.  I would like any 99er unafraid of rethinking their path to join me.

      This is not a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" opportunity. It's insulting to suggest a 99er suck it up and get it together. Consider "28 Days" a "visualize everyone that's denied, dismissed or diminished you and kick those f***ers in the nuts" moment that lasts a whole month. It's been long enough, it's time to kick those f***ers in the nuts. Sign up and put on your steel toe boots. See you Feb. 1.


      Wednesday, January 26, 2011

      Rambling Rumblings.

      I missed most of the State of the Union address last night. I was meeting with a local restaurant owner, assuring him I had the requisite skills to take food from his kitchen door to a neighborhood house.  I think he's going to offer me a two week tryout. When I got home I found I lacked the patience to watch a replay of the speech of the two responses.

      According to my Twitter stream President Obama did not mention the plight of the 99ers in the State of the Union. I was not surprised.  The President has never mentioned the 99ers. I don't expect him to start now. Any help for the 99ers is going to have to come from the legislative branch.

      Rep. Barbara Lee has committed to introducing legislation similar to HR 6556 which she brought forward  at the end of the 111th Congress.  The support of Rep.Lee and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus is great support for the long term unemployed, but...

      The Republicans chose Rep. Paul Ryan (ever notice how his eyes resemble the eyes of stormtroopers in WWII movies?) to give their response to the State of the Union. Rep. Ryan wants to work toward deficit reduction by privatizing Medicare and minimizing Social Security.  I don't see how it will be possible to expand safety nets with a Republican majority in the house unless...

      Perhaps unemployment benefits can be temporarily expanded beyond 99 weeks as part of an overall plan to destroy Medicare and Social Security? Talk about a deal with the devil. Are you comfortable with legislation that assists 99ers today and totally screws 99ers (and everyone other than the ultra wealthy) in the future?  Please offer your opinion or an alternative.

      Tuesday, January 25, 2011

      The power of community.

      I was working as a Funeral Director until September, 2008. Since then, I am occasionally asked to assist at a funeral. Such was the case this past Wednesday, January 19. My friend Karen's father had died. I had served Karen when her mother died and all involved thought I would be a comfort to her at her father's funeral.

      If you haven't experienced winter in the Midwest, it's cold. Not Miami down in the 50's cold but cover all your skin or lose it cold. The two weeks prior to the funeral the temperature had exceeded freezing twice. The ground was frozen making burial without machinery difficult.

      It is a Jewish tradition (though not exclusively Jewish) to not delegate the burial of a loved one to strangers. Instead, those attending the funeral share the responsibility of filling the grave; each person shovels earth to the extent of their own ability. Filling a grave is considered an ultimate act of kindness and a communal responsibility. The deceased cannot fill the grave themselves and the deceased cannot repay the kindness of those filling the grave.

      Karen asked me to remind the cemetery crew their services would not be necessary to close the grave. "Karen the ground is frozen. There is one shovelful of earth. It weighs 2000 pounds", I said.  "Barry, my friends buried my mother, they'll do the same for my father.  It's what we believe in."  I chose not to remind Karen that her mother's funeral had been in early summer.  I asked the cemetery crew to stand out of sight but to be available if needed.

      There were about 20 people present at the funeral. Once the Rabbi finished the eulogy and prescribed prayers the burial began. I was right about the frozen mound of dirt. Karen was right about her friends. Everyone took turns shoveling to their ability. When necessary, some took charge of loosening the frozen dirt with a pick or shovel. After approximately a 1/2 hour, despite the cold air and frozen earth, with everyone taking turns in rotation, the grave was filled. Acting together with purpose the community had fulfilled their role. I had planned on using this example as an introduction to the strength and depth of the 99er community. Unfortunately another more pertinent example surfaced.

      The same day as the funeral an article in the Hartford Examiner about 99ers in peril referenced a post on Rant Rave. 99ers are at an increased risk of suicide. 

      The next night I was glancing at my Twitter history during the late news and was referred to a comment on YouTube:

      I have no choice but to give up. My rent is due tomorrow (21st) and I have 18 bucks and change in my pocket. Tonight will be last time I'd sleeping on a bed in a warm room, I dont think I will last on the streets, conceivably, tomorrow will be last time I wake up.
      I am not religious man, but, may God helps whom still hanging on the hope one day their life will be back to “normal”. I thank God that I don’t have anyone counting on me for their survival.
      May God bless you all.
      As you follow the thread you see the immediate response from the 99er community.  Offers of ideas, support and even a call to local law enforcement to prevent a potential suicide. The Denver Post summarized the actions the next day, Friday.
      99ers are not alone. There are many experiencing the same feelings, thoughts and challenges. Don't go through this hell by yourself. Give back to the community when you can.  Offer support. Participate in advocacy opportunities to the extent of your ability. Join the Jobs Party. Take a minute to get your resume to Rep. Jackson.  Be ready to support Rep. Lee as she introduces the 112th Congress version of HR 6556. Do what you can to advance the idea of jobs and safety net. Help those that are unable to help themselves. It's the responsibility of community. It's the power of community.