Looking for Alternatives after the Wisconsin Vote

Political Animal – Could Climate Hawks Replace Labor?

The big discussion today is the long, seemingly unstoppable death of the labor movement. We seem to be faced with an insurmountable concentration of influence in corporations and the very wealthy. Plutocrats use their influence to swing elections, and then use the power there obtained to further eviscerate countervailing interest groups, so they can strip even more of the country’s wealth into their own pockets. Rinse and repeat. Ordinary middle class non-unionized workers seem to resent public sector unions and covet their benefits, instead of realizing that their lives could be easier if they were so organized. (I also think it’s important to recognize that public unions played no small part in their own downfall through greed and overreach.)

In any case, it seems unlikely that labor is going to rise from the dead. It took the Great Depression to break the power of the plutocratic elite last time around, and with this financial crisis elites have managed to keep the system from completely collapsing, though only just.

Political Animal – Could Climate Hawks Replace Labor?

The attacks on labor unions over the past decades has proven successful in public opinion, in law and in the courts. If progressive politics is to survive, one method would be to find new allies and new terrain to fight on. This isn’t a bad idea but environmentalists are currently under the same kinds of attacks that have impaired labor unions. An alternative media is necessary to put out progressive ideas but more important we need a new generation of progressive thought and investment in think tanks and other organizations to develop long terms plans for the decades. Planning needs to be long term to be effective.

James Pilant

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25 to 1, Is this Democracy? Walker Allies flood State with Money

Scott Walker Recall Leaders Prep Final Push In Effort To Regain Momentum

Scott Walker Recall Leaders Prep Final Push In Effort To Regain Momentum

Walker, who has raised $25 million, has been blanketing Wisconsin with broadcast advertising touting his handling of the economy. His Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett, who did not win his party’s primary until May 8, has raised only $1 million and not been able to match the blitz. The most recent public poll on the race released last week showed Walker leading by 6 points.

Tom Barrett and Family

A moving wall of money threatens democracy by the people. Corporatism is being birthed even as we speak. The fruit of Citizen’s United is a nation where corporations struggle for influence against each other while the public is simply a mass of pawns manipulated by the massive power of an owned media.

Look at the numbers. They are more eloquent than anything I can say – 25 to 1.

James Pilant

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Is Giving to the Democrats Pointless?

What Occupy taught the unions – Occupy Wall Street – Salon.com

Unions are in a death spiral. Private sector unionism has all but vanished, accounting for a measly  6.9 percent of the workforce. Public sector workers are being hammered by government cutbacks and hostile media that blame teachers, nurses and firefighters for budget crises. To counter this trend organized labor banked on creating more hospitable organizing conditions by contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the Democratic Party the last two election cycles. In return Obama abandoned the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made union campaigns marginally easier, failed to push for an increase in the minimum wage, and installed an education secretary who attacks teachers and public education.

What Occupy taught the unions – Occupy Wall Street – Salon.com

You support the Democratic Party. You organize. You get your friends to vote. And then after speaking many fine words most eloquently, they forget you. They ignore you. They insult you. corporate-profits-and-compensation 2000 2011

Those are the friends of the 99%? Those are the friends of the Middle Class? These are the people you can depend on to defend public school, control bank fees and rein in the disastrous casino capitalism that has wrought havoc on the world’s economy?

The current belief of Progressives and Liberals is to vote for the lesser of two evils. May I point out that the lesser of two evils is still evil and you are making a deal with the devil, a devil who delights in betraying your interests.

Consider your options.

James Pilant

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Is there Hope for the 99%, Can Individuals Still Make a Difference in a Nation Dominated by the 1%?

I had the pleasure of reading the article quoted below. It’s written by Erica K. in Open Salon. It’s entitled –

Requiem for the Jerry Springer Nation

(An excerpt from the article) –

Then came the Occupy movement, people from all walks of life banding together for a common cause, with good intentions, fighting for the least of their brothers and sisters, not the wealthiest and slimiest. It filled me and many with hope, and others with disdain, but it was something. A something that spread from Wall Street across the nation and into other parts of the world. Something is better than nothing.

I, too, have wondered if change was possible. Sometimes, the Obama’s servitude to the great economic interests particularly financial institutions, has driven me to rage. The Democratic and Republican seem interested in the 99% only the most unusual circumstance. Generally speaking, either party can be counted on to be obedient to corporate money.

So, the current political situation is hopeless. It is virtually impossible in most states to find a candidate who has any degree of fidelity to the middle class, the people that actually make America work.

I am a member of the 99%, and I know what to do. It’s been done many times before.

We take over a political party. I don’t care which one.

History shows successful takeovers by Progressives at the turn of the Twentieth century and the liberals in the 1930’s.

Please understand, you don’t influence politicians by editorials and tough words in meetings, you beat them in elections. They have to be humiliated, vilified, driven from electoral politics.

No prisoners.

When some Democratic says the phrase, “What I’m doing is tough for you, but think what the Republicans would do.” That person is an enemy. You dry up his money. You pound him with criticism and ridicule at every turn, and then you beat him at the polls. You knock him down so that he never enters politics again. Every time, a candidate who believes wholeheartedly in defending and restoring the middle class wins, you win. Every time a compromising, corporate dependent candidate with some generally sympathetic views wins, you have suffered a humiliating defeat. If you compromise, you will be sold. Corporate contributions demand that result and they get that result.

For more than three decades, Liberals, Progressives and Unions have voted for the more liberal of the candidates in lock step. The result is that those candidates can ignore their interests moving to the right year by year to pander to corporate interests. Time after time, I hear the phrases, “We have to settle for what we can get, we have to face reality, we can only do what’s possible.” These are the words of compromise and slow, agonizing defeat. And for thirty years, the nation has moved to the right.

The left got what it deserved for its compromised: millions of jobs shifted overseas, workers rights stomped into insignificance, financial interest freed to speculate with public money, tax breaks and subsidies for countless industries, and, last but certainly not least, well organized, well financed attacks on Social Security.  This has been the result of compromising, of settling for what was “possible.”

The Republicans openly declare their fealty to the one percent and the Democrats are so toothless, weak and doctrineless that voting is almost pointless.

Occupy Wall Street has brought me hope. Maybe there is chance that this country can be run by its citizens, not as an oligarchy but as a democracy.

James Pilant

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Will the Wall Street Protestors’ Movement, Be Absorbed into the Democratic Party?

Robert Reich writing in his blog has this to say on the subject

But if Occupy Wall Street coalesces into something like a real movement, the Democratic Party may have more difficulty digesting it than the GOP has had with the Tea Party.

After all, a big share of both parties’ campaign funds comes from the Street and corporate board rooms. The Street and corporate America also have hordes of public-relations flacks and armies of lobbyists to do their bidding – not to mention the unfathomably deep pockets of the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey’s and Karl Rove’s SuperPACs. Even if the Occupiers have access to some union money, it’s hardly a match.

Yet the real difficulty lies deeper. A little history is helpful here.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, the Democratic Party had no trouble embracing economic populism. It charged the large industrial concentrations of the era – the trusts – with stifling the economy and poisoning democracy. In the 1912 campaign Woodrow Wilson promised to wage “a crusade against powers that have governed us … that have limited our development … that have determined our lives … that have set us in a straightjacket to so as they please.” The struggle to break up the trusts would be, in Wilson’s words, nothing less than a “second struggle for emancipation.”

Reich goes on to analyze the gradual “escape” of the Democratic Party from Populist issues and its transformation into a financial party much like the Republicans. He is, of course, correct – while the movement has some sound bites that seem to the untrained ear to mimic the occasional Democratic politician, the message of the Wall Street Protestors is inimical to the interests of both political parties.

The Republican Party and these Wall Street Protestors are alien to one another but to the Democrats these protestors are only slightly less strange. The Democrats have been selling free market fundamentalism, de-regulation, tax cuts, tax breaks, tax holidays, subsidies, free trade pacts, etc. for years. If that sounds exactly like the Republican Party, it should because it is. The parties vary dramatically on many issues but on the treatment of our financial elites they are both little more than courtiers at the court of the king, the top one percent.

The things that motivate the protestors may from time to time provide the Democrats with useful dialogue for a quick commercial but they haven’t been important to the party apparatus for decades. Once the commercial is cut, the message will be forgotten unless the poll numbers move briskly in which case the line will have a brief second life.

The Democrats are going to do what the Democrats always do, pretend to care. They’ll throw some crumbs to the demonstrators, endorsements, praise, nice op-eds and eventually “proposed” legislation. The legislation will be gradually forgotten, or re-written until there is nothing left or passed in one house to languish in the other. The fix is always in.

When the Democrats care about something like “free” trade deals, it goes right to the top right away. The damn things can annihilate the economic fortunes of millions of Americans but the Democrats vote for them quickly, easily and in almost total lockstep because that is what the “real” Americans, the top one percent want.

A political party built around the protecting the welfare of the bottom 99% of the population is not just a radical idea, for the professional campaigners is simply doesn’t make any sense, by their reasoning, the bottom 99% doesn’t have the kind of money or influence to run elections.

That conventional wisdom is unlikely to change. Campaigns have been run for the interests of the top one percent for decades, and it is no doubt much easier to win with incredible sums of money from a handful of donors, who can be counted upon to give large sums year after year, than it is to actually work an election from point of view of actual human beings.

Is this going to be a turning point in history? I hope so. I don’t see the protestors handing their movement over to the President or anyone else. Identification with either major political party inevitably leads to an absorption of the least controversial elements. It is destructive to the political process to allow such co-option.

Only movements separate from the parties can have a long term effect on the party itself. The reason for this is that parties exist to elect candidates, not to effect change. Thus, we have the spectacle of the Democratic Party developing into a party of professional politicians purchasable virtually at will. To make a party tow the ideological line, you have to beat and humiliate politicians who hold other beliefs. It has to be done outside the party.

James Pilant

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Dutch unease about society “understandable” (via Radio Netherlands International)

So it is not just us.

From the article

“Cohesion in towns and villages has disappeared with the advent of individualisation, immigrants from around the world and an increasingly complex society,” said Mr Verhagen, leader of the Christian Democrats, junior partners in the Dutch coalition government. “It is no longer taken for granted that our children will have it better than we did.”

Cohesion is disappearing. I have been noticing for some years now that things as simple as common experiences are disappearing. When I try to use a movie as an example in class, only the biggest blockbusters will have been seen and, even then, often by less than half the class. Our culture seems to be fragmenting into individual units almost all of them focused on the personal and the trivial.

James Pilant

Ethics Roundup 2-20-11

Picture by Greg Kendall Ball

The Crane and Matten Blog have a wonderful article up. It’s called Baron-zu-Googleberg. And it’s a morality tale. I’d go read this one just for the sheer fun of it.

From the post –

One of the funnier incidents in cypberspace is the facebook page on this (‘If Guttenberg has a Doctor, I want one too!’) or the new keyboard designed for PhDs a la Guttenberg – with all keys removed except the ‘c’ut and ‘v’-paste ones…

From Ethics Blog, a reflection on leadership

We are most likely not heads of state, but we are all to some degree leaders. Can we be both feared and loved? I think it is possible. As parents we try to find the delicate balance between authority and love. Such balance can also sometimes be found in the military. We read and hear of stories about commanders who were both feared (court martial is always a possibility if one does not obey orders) and yet loved by their men who sometimes would even risk their lives for their leaders.

There is a new Chuck Gallager blog post and it is fascinating. Apparently, he had a blog post which another person had issues with (I want you to read the post for all the play by plays.). So he published his old post with the new comments entered into the appropriate places. It is a very ethical and intelligent way to handle the subject (and more than a little time consuming). I’m impressed.

David Yamada in his blog, Minding the Workplace has a great deal to say about the ongoing events in Wisconsin –

Governor Walker’s attack on human rights is unlike anything I’ve seen in the U.S. during my adult lifetime. He is using the state’s budget woes as a pretext to justify denying workers the right to bargain over their compensation and benefits. Hard bargaining at the negotiation table in the midst of tough economic times is one thing, but moving to deny workers a collective voice is pure thuggery.

Washington’s Blog has a truly fascinating post – Don’t Let Wisconsin Divide Us … Conservatives and Liberals Agree about the Important Things.

In fact, most Americans – conservatives and liberals – are fed up with both of the mainstream republican and democratic parties, because it has become obvious that both parties serve Wall Street and the military-industrial complex at the expense of most Americans.