Is There a Resistance Movement or Resistance Moment?

Bristol   I definitely don’t want to be standing at the station when the whistle blows that the train is moving out. I have to admit that I have my ears perked up at every sound to try to hear whether it’s the thundering feet of a movement or just the sharp cry of a moment.

I’m too jaded in this work to see Congressional town halls as the birthplace of the next revolution, but I don’t want to be blind to history either, and a snippet of the news like the one that follows makes me sit up straight and stand at total attention:

In fact, some of the most formidable and well-established organizing groups on the left have found themselves scrambling to track all of the local groups sprouting up through social media channels like Facebook and Slack, or in local “huddles” that grew out of the women’s marches across the country the day after the inauguration.

When the people are moving and established organizations and institutions are having to work overtime to catch up with them, that’s a very, very interesting sign. In a time of movement, it may be difficult for this kind of activity and anger to be channeled in the way that these same organizations and institutions are hoping to move the stream. It’s good news though for the 30 million lower income families taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act that there are many of the flags being waved as elected representatives slink home from the Congressional chaos are focusing on saving health care.

There are other signs too. When seasoned organizers report that they expected 200 at a meeting, and 1000 showed up, as my generation said, “you don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing.” The Times also reported on other barometers that people were in motion:

Anti-abortion demonstrations in some cities this month were met with much larger crowds of abortion rights supporters. At a widely viewed town-hall-style meeting held by Representative Gus Bilirakis in Florida, a local Republican Party chairman who declared that the health care act set up “death panels” was shouted down by supporters of the law.

And, perhaps more interestingly, an organizer for Planned Parenthood posed the question plainly as she tries to ride this wave of momentum:

“It doesn’t work for organizations to bigfoot strategy; it’s not the way organizing happens now,” said Kelley Robinson, the deputy national organizing director for Planned Parenthood, which is fighting the defunding of its health clinics. “There are bigger ideas coming out of the grass roots than the traditional organizations.”

If she’s right, that’s a call to arms for all of us to get ready to move, because grassroots activity needs formation, planning, resources, and direction in order to win. That’s not bigfoot, that’s soft touch, listening, and work on the ground that takes a moment and helps make a movement and births new organizations and great social change.

When that whistle blows, we have to all be on the train.


Drinking, Development, and Land Use Fights in Little Rock for Tea Party and Occupy Inbox x

Little Rock       It was exciting to be back in Little Rock visiting with a combination of old ACORN leaders and organizers, city and neighborhood activists, Local 100 ULU organizers and leaders, and others.  The excuse for the meeting in the old Arkansas ACORN building and board conference room, surrounded by posters and pictures of campaigns and elections over decades, was to talk about my two new books, Global Grassroots and Battle for the Ninth Ward, published by Social Policy Press (  It didn’t take long for us to down to real business, and that was great fun!

I threw a stink bomb out in the room by asking people to discuss the similar populist appeals of the Tea Party and the Occupy movements.  I didn’t realize how close to home I had come.  It seems in Little Rock Occupy there has been a steady presence and enthusiastic presence of the Ron Paul wing of the Tea-people complete with their own “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, tents and paraphernalia.

After much conversation, book signing and buying, and so forth, Kathy Wells of the Greater Little Rock Coalition of Neighborhoods wanted to discuss and get some advice on how to deal with a project being promoted by Deltic Timber around the Lake Maumelle watershed.  This was interesting stuff because Lake Maumelle is the water source for much of the drinking water for Little Rock so anything out there has major impacts on everyone.  After 35 years or so this is the first time since the reorganizing and downsizing of the Pulaski County Quorum Court (the county government including Little Rock and North Little Rock) in the mid-1970’s (yes, ACORN was all in the middle of that!) that the now 15-member body has been forced to use the land use powers – and responsibilities! – it has over the unincorporated areas of the County.

A lot is at stake.  Deltic Timber has pushed a proposal to develop thousands of acres in the watershed that would allow subdivision and construction of about 9000 houses jolting the population up significantly in this west of the city.  The now infamous, billionaire Koch Brothers and their cats’ paw operation Americans for Prosperity has been agitating the Tea-people on the argument that the “only good land use controls are no land use controls.”  Some of the Quorum Court Justices of the Peace are scared to death of Tea Party organizing in their districts with elections on the horizon next year.  The long time County Judge Buddy Villines has been dealt a bad hand where he can take it or leave it, and leaving it seems to mean anarchy prevails out there, which would be bad for everyone.

Wells has a multi-pronged program including grandfathering in the use of existing residents and other well reasoned points that are supported by a wide range of environmentalists and the Occupy folks, who are willing to agitate around these issues to provide a stronger strike force.  Unfortunately, listening to the arguments back and forth, the votes just didn’t seemed to be there for any better than Deltic Timber has indicated they would agree to in the first place, which was better than nothing, though not a huge deal better.  Neil Sealy, veteran community organizer and director of Arkansas Community Organizations, the successor organization to ACORN in Arkansas, indicated that his conversations with some of the JP’s who were old ACORN members, told him that they might put forward some amendments, but didn’t see good prospects for them and felt they had to put all of their bets on passing anything they good.

This may be one time when the Great Recession and its devastating impact on housing finance and construction is a friend, especially to people in central Arkansas, who don’t want to drink pig spit and horse wallow and whatever runs off with it.  Taking the best bargain available could give them a chance to get the elections right and the issues aligned, and put some teeth along the gummy mouth of whatever passes for land use “controls” in Pulaski now, and still get it done before the Deltic boys can sell mess and get going on their dreams for more where best would be less.

These Deltic folks are hardly “good corporate citizens” and land stewards and has a long record of shameful behavior behind them on these issues, so they have to be brought in line.   Nonetheless it is fascinating in a place like Arkansas to see a future battleground building between the Occupiers and the Tea-people where not only “hearts and minds” are at stake, but so results in coming election.  Let the games begin!


Big Government Guy Dances Poorly

AndrewBreitbartShreveport I tried to make my way through an understanding of the President’s new plan for a path to victory, but though I like to think that I’m as smart as the average bear, I couldn’t find it in my first reading, though it seems a lot of things are increasingly on the “dead” list including health care, comprehensive immigration reform, labor law reform, cap-and-trade, and probably your favorite issue as well.  Hey, just as we thought maybe at the least we might get some financial reform, he puts the shoulder rub on Tim Geithner, who is the Secretary of the Treasury giveaway and a huge weight around the President’s neck.  Guy wanted someone to thank him for their not being a “depression,” while not realizing that tens of millions of people think there is a depression and find it all just a matter of degree without a real difference.

If all of that didn’t confuse me enough, I found something almost identical in reading the Washington Independent which was trying to parse whether or not James O’Keefe, the inept ACORN scammer and lowlife Senator Landrieu wire tapper, was working for Andrew Breitbart and his websites, but was “not” working for them.  Huh?  Which is only to say that he was a direct subcontractor (we’ll have to see how “independent”) and that Breitbart doesn’t want the bungling on his shoes, despite the fact that he has relished the indirect smear tactic and O’Keefe repeatedly.  It’s all too rich…when what goes around, comes around, and they still pretend to not get it.

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Selling Out Tea Party Populists

tea-partyNew Orleans The other day when I had seen a piece touting the first ever national Tea Party Convention in Nashville in February, I looked at the calendar, noted the date, and sent an email to a friend in LA suggesting we go check it out.  I know now I must have been kidding myself – the convention is too expensive to even consider at over $500 a pop being paid to a for-profit outfit called Tea Party Nation run by an entrepreneur, rather than an organizer, named Judson Phillips.

Looks like some folks are merely trying to cash in on the movement, because I  can guarantee you from my experience with the grass roots tea-people in Memphis and Springfield, they are angry and alienated and looking for a political home, but they are sure not folks who would be willing or able to write a full board check for $549, plus transport and house themselves in Nashville.   Even the dates should have made me suspicious of a Thursday through Saturday affair rather than a weekend only convention. Whoever was organizing this mess wasn’t thinking about the little people in the base who are fueling this outburst with their passion.

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Springfield College and the 9/12ers

P1010017Springfield It’s wild and wooly out there on the trail these days.  I gave the annual Social Science lecture about my book, Citizen Wealth, and its themes at Springfield College last night to 200+ students, faculty, and members of the community in Marsh Hall on the campus.  All of this capped a marathon of four (4) classes I had done for various professors over the course of the few hours in the city.  The remarks were well received, the questions robust and varied – more on this – and generally it was a solid performance by all involved.  Somehow that tells almost none of the story of the excitement of event, I fear.

Some group prior to my visit to Springfield had posted on a listserv connected to the Tea Party people that they wanted to recruit protestors for my talk in Springfield and Amherst.  The notice was forwarded and it made the case that they needed to be well dressed and restrained so that they could communicate with students and keep them from being brainwashed by whatever points I might make.  No matter, I thought.  Before the speech I went a couple of miles away and met with Caroline Murray, the director of ADP – the Alliance to Develop Power – in her offices so that I could check-in on the progress of community organizing in Springfield and adjoining counties.  Upon returning to campus I was handed emails that outlined their “security” plans and their media plans.  It seemed that Fox was going to cover the speech and the “protest” planned by what they called 9/12 or Glenn Beck people.  Huh?

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House Votes for Health Care

joseph-pic-rightSpringfield First vote on the US House passage was a full court press that worked.  The Republican Cao from New Orleans was the only one of that tribe to vote for passage.  Who says townhalls don’t matter!

I flew on the US Air leg from DC to Hartford sitting behind Congressman Olver from the 1st District.  If it was any barometer, the civilians and business folks on this flight were pumping his hand and thanking him for his work.

A nurse who was the sound engineer on the radio station, WUMA, in Amherst where I was talking about Citizen Wealth was rattling off which votes where with Olver and where others had fallen down.  People  were watching and it was on their minds.

James Carville wearing a tie and Puma sneaks crawled onto the plane in New Orleans at 6AM.  I saw him live on CNN as walked down the concourse in Hartford.

It may have been Indian summer this day in western Massachusetts, but change was in the air.