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

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.