Meeting Populism Head On, Means Bringing Back the Base with Organizing

New Orleans   So resistance and protests might be working to pushback some of the assault on basic American principles, rights, and obligations to people, and we’re getting a little help from the courts, although who knows how long that might last, but I have to beat my usual drum a bit and remind that much of the appeal of Trump’s populist call is to people who rightfully should be our base. If we want to convert them, we have to engage them first, and that means real commitment and work in organizing.

It’s not just me. I find support for this position on all sides of the argument.

Aaron Bartley, who runs a housing development and community organizing operation called, PUSH Buffalo, circulated a piece carried in the Huffington Post called “How Our Cities Will Save Us From Trump.” He makes the interesting observation as an organizer, that despite the fact that he has emerged as White House puppeteer-in-charge, Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon has at best only a tenuous hold on their putative base. Making a point about street-heat, Aaron argues,

Bannon has done none of this painstaking work. While his hardline base of rural and Tea Party suburbanites is substantial, it is dispersed and spends far more time in chat rooms than town squares. The power of online networks and propaganda outlets is not to be discounted—after all it has propelled Bannon to his status as a diabolical global overlord—but the fascists’ lack of street mobilization capacity and their distance from capital’s key assets will neuter them in the next phase of urban-centric mass mobilization.

Although Aaron’s main theme is that diverse coalitions for change formed in the cities, including those with capital and innovation, are hedges against the worst of it, implicit in his Bannon point is an argument that if we were willing to challenge the ideology and practice at the heart of his base – as organizers – it’s core weaknesses might turn into our strengths.

Another former ACORN organizer, Jeff Elmer, reconnected with a piece he thought instructive called “How to Culture Jam a Populist in Four East Steps” by Andres Miguel Rondon a native-Venezuelan in the caracaschronicles.com. Rondon was comparing the lengthy standoff between Hugo Chavez and his brand of Latin American populism with the elites he attacked and who opposed him for years with much the same arguments as those being thrown at Trump now. Having visited some years ago briefly, it’s less than a perfect fit, but one piece of Rondon’s advice from the right side of the street is exactly correct when he advises:

actually go to the slums and to the countryside. And not for a speech, or a rally, but for game of dominoes or to dance salsa – to show they were Venezuelans too, that they had tumbao and could hit a baseball, could tell a joke that landed. That they could break the tribal divide, come down off the billboards and show they were real. And no, this is not populism by other means. It is the only way of establishing your standing. It’s deciding not to live in an echo chamber. To press pause on the siren song of polarization.

Of course Rondon is a sad liar, as Trump would say, because there’s nothing easy about that 4th step he recommends, because he is also implicitly calling for us to engage and organize, and there’s nothing easy about organizing, even though that is what just might save America right now, even more than cities and dominoes.

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Signs of the Times

NOLA

New Orleans    I’m not sure if this is a footnote to these times of turmoil or the banner headline, but I have to admit to loving the way people are not just putting their feet to the street these days but their voices – and often humor – to the signs of the times.

One of the marvelous things to watch during the recent Women’s March and in many other marches pictured around the country is the wild ingenuity that people are bringing to the posters they are carrying and the slogans they are inventing. The unique personalities coming to the signs brings some authenticity, and also speaks to the more decentralized organizing mechanisms involved in putting together these rallies and marches. Where I can marvel and admire the discipline and demeanor of the I AM A MAN block letter posters from Memphis and other civil rights marches, I have to admit that I love the do-it-yourself art, expression, satire, and even outrage of the diverse homemade signs we’re seeing so much of recently.

Here’s a random sample of signs and slogans from Spin.com:

· A beautiful picture of a huge orange peach with Trump-hair.
· Oh course there’s Love Trumps Hate in many forms.
· You’re Not My Cheeto
· Science is Greater that Shit on Twitter
· Shout outs to Beyonce saying “OK, Ladies, Let’s Get In Formation”
· “Even the Lanisters Pay Their Debts” in a dig at Trump and s shout out to Game of Thrones
· Insane in the Membrane, Insane in the Brain
· Oh, No, 4 Full Years of Bad Hair Days
· Keep Your Tiny Hands Off of My Rights

From Slate.com

· Super Callous Fascist Racist Braggadocious
· A young mother holding a sign saying, “We’re Raising Our Children to Tear Down Your Wall”
· “I’m With Her” alongside a picture of the Statue of Liberty
· Melania Are You OK?
· “Sex Offenders Can’t Live in Public Housing” with a hand drawn picture of the White House
· It’s Day One and I’ve Had Enough

That’s the tip of the iceberg obviously. The number of signs and slogans with drawings of female genitalia and slogans that matched would have made many high school sex education courses obsolete. The homemade cats’ ears everywhere and the knitted pink hats were a brilliant touch as well.

Aliens are Already Here

Of course the risk that brings organizations and organizers bad dreams are the signs that get really coarse, vulgar, and direct. Many an organizer has had screaming nightmares in the middle of the night about some of the signs that might emerge form a poster party on a long bus ride to an action and whether that will be where a camera focuses, but this time around it all kind of worked, because if nothing else, it was keeping it all real. And, there wasn’t really a recognizable organization that would take a hit, so let’ the good signs roll!

How about these from USA Today:

· Tweet Women With Respect
· The classic Rosie Riveter, “We Can Do It” with her arm squeezing a pig with a Trump head attached.

Or the Daily Dot

· Enough Snowflakes Make an Avalanche
· Tits Before Toupees
· My Arms Are Tired From Holding This Sign Since the 60’s

From a friend (Mike Gallagher) in Boston:

· Would You Be More Upset if they Wanted to Ban NETFLIX Instead of Muslims?

From New Orleans:

· Billionaire is the New Lord
· My Other Sign is Also a No
· Arise My Sisters, Today We Fight
· This is What a Feminist Looks Like

On that sign the arrows point in all directions. I like that. There’s hope and spirit in these signs, and we need that in these times.

Please enjoy Alone from The Pretenders.

Thanks to KABF.

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The Delete Uber Drive

New Orleans   There’s an old saying that “what goes around, comes around,” and that was never truer that the huge hit that the arrogant, bullying, worker exploiting Uber ride sharing service has taken since the company once again tripped over its own greed this last weekend when it showed its true colors once again in the wake of President Trump’s immigrant bashing ban.

I started out calling this one a little wrong. I could tell on social media that there was a “delete Uber” drive that was going viral, but at first I just thought they were simply getting outshone by their competitor, Lyft, which had shrewdly ridden the wave of protest and opposition and garnered publicity worth many times the value of their contribution by dropping a cool million on the ACLU to help in its legal fights to break the ban. They weren’t alone, since ACLU collected $20 million total over the weekend, proving that there are rewards for doing the right thing.

One of my Facebook friends clued me in that the Uber fury was based on their strikebreaking. I had known that the well regarded, 18,000 member New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a quasi-union affiliated with the AFL-CIO, had called a one-hour strike around New York’s JFK Airport to protest the Muslim-ban. Many of its members are immigrants, including a fair number of Muslims, so this was a righteous action for them.

Almost all of us who travel have succumbed to Uber somewhere or another, in my case it was in Mexico City, Christmas, 2015, when it was the only way I could get a ride for my family to the airport to head home at 430 AM in the morning, after I was defeated by the cab company and in desperation. So, we know about the way “surge” pricing works. The price of the fare goes up when demand goes up. Demand goes up during sporting events, parades, rain, snow, and it turns out taxi worker strikes. Halfway during the one-hour strike, Uber turned off its surge so that people could get a ride from JFK during the protests more cheaply. Later when they realized they had also run into a wall of protest, they dissembled with some “alternative facts,” claiming that they had turned off the surge to make it easier for people to get to JFK in order to protest. The real facts were that they left their surge on getting to the airport and turned it off for those leaving the airport. Sounds like strike breaking and boost the ban activity, doesn’t it? Now thousands have surged to delete Uber from their smartphones in protest.

Uber is getting all the trouble it has earned. The Uber CEO Travis Kalanick then was forced to try to explain why he has been all cozied up to Trump since the election, including agreeing to serve on a transportation committee appointed by the White House. He responded that he would “work with anyone” trying to deal with transportation. Anyone is a broad list which includes most of the autocrats and dictators around the world, many of whom have already seemed to close to Uber, since bullies like bullies sometimes in a birds of a feather kind of thing.

Whatever problems Uber is having now couldn’t happened to a more deserving gang of folks. Now, we’ll see how they like a little disruption and a lot of deletion.

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What Do Planned Parenthood and ACORN Have in Common – Republican Attacks!

Cecile Richards greets participants at the Rally for Women’s Health on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on July 11, 2013.

New Orleans   Hey, it’s not just me that’s noticed the haters pulling out their playbook big time again on Planned Parenthood just as they did on ACORN. Here’s a thoughtful, spot on piece by Brenden Gallagher published on the merryjane.com website. I’m glad to bring truth wherever I find it, so here goes:

Why Do Republicans Hate Planned Parenthood So Much?

Take a closer look at the crusade against women’s rights and health care.

A simple explanation for defunding Planned Parenthood that is offered up ad nauseum by talking heads across the political spectrum is that Republicans hate abortion. That doesn’t tell the whole story. Not only does Planned Parenthood offer many services that aren’t abortions, abortion only accounts for 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services. Eighty percent of Planned Parenthood’s services go toward preventing unintended pregnancy. If Planned Parenthood were to go away overnight, the result would be an increase in abortions. In over 100 counties in America, Planned Parenthood is the only “safety net” health center that deals with women’s reproductive health. Poor and working-class women in America depend on Planned Parenthood for essential medical care.

Republicans are always on the lookout for a new bogeyman. This is a necessity for a party that actively advances policies that hurt working people. Since their policies of restricting health care, lower wages, and funneling money into the hands of corporations don’t naturally attract the working class, they have to invent reasons for people who make less than six figures a year to vote for them. Not everyone can be cowed by the largely imagined threat of immigrants taking their jobs, and that’s why the have to construct and destroy social pariahs to maintain their base. If you take a close look at Republican political strategy, you will see that the fight against Planned Parenthood isn’t just about abortion, it’s about bringing a scalp home to their base while trimming the budget at the expense of women all over the country.

The current Republican crusade against Planned Parenthood looks a lot like the their attacks against ACORN (Association of Community Organizing for Reform Now). In 2008, the organization had a budget of $100 million and membership of 400,000. By the beginning of 2010, ACORN was no more. The company’s 40-year mission of helping those in poverty, with actions as small as building playgrounds and as large at taking on banks, came crashing down after Republicans conducted a national smear campaign connecting ACORN erroneously with voter fraud. It’s no coincidence that James O’Keefe, a self-styled provocateur, has made videos attempting to discredit both ACORN and Planned Parenthood. It bears mentioning that the GOP and its surrogates seized upon some very real stories of corruption within ACORN to bring them down, but it was a propaganda campaign constructed on falsehoods that ultimately led to ACORN’s demise.

This is how the Republicans operate. They attack organizations with a three-step process. First, Republicans identify a positive social organization in which they can easily spot and single out something conservatives hate. In the case of ACORN, it was voter fraud committed by minorities (which, btw, doesn’t exist). With Planned Parenthood, it’s abortion. Once they pick the organization, they produce propaganda with people like James O’Keefe. The media has no choice but to cover it, even if the O’Keefes of the world are discredited in the process. Then Congressional Republicans try to close the organization. If they succeed, the organization shutters. If they fail, they’ve rallied their base around a cause that makes them forget the awful economic and social policies that should get them to defect from the party.

The tactics the GOP and Fox News used against ACORN, relentlessly repeating accusations against the group, are instructive in the case of Planned Parenthood. So much of the argument in favor of Planned Parenthood on social media has been “abortion comprises a small portion of what Planned Parenthood does.” While this is important for context, it won’t sway conservatives. They don’t care. It is in their political interest to tie abortion to Planned Parenthood. There were no connections between ACORN and voter fraud (because, again, voter fraud statistically doesn’t happen), but they still used the issue to shiv the community organizing group. The only way to save Planned Parenthood will be to celebrate all of the services it provides and convince moderate and left-leaning lawmakers of its importance.

Conservatives have attacked Planned Parenthood since its inception in 1916, long before abortion was a Constitutional right. Providing contraception challenged traditional gender roles, which has always been what irked conservatives about the organization. Many conservative voters don’t know that the Hyde Amendment, passed in the mid ’70s, already prohibits federal funding for abortions. The defunding of Planned Parenthood isn’t about cutting off an organization from abortion funding, but about punishing an organization that provides abortions and women’s health care. Again, this is because Republicans don’t actually care about the facts, they care about symbols. In nominating Donald Trump, they showed the Christian Right they have no real concern for their agenda. They invent issues like these to throw a bone to their religious base without actually providing them with anything resembling friendly policy.

ACORN fell because Democratic politicians wouldn’t stand up for the organization once it became toxic. The political calculation was that their constituents didn’t care that much about ACORN while Republicans made it difficult to support them. The way to save Planned Parenthood, then, is going to be pressuring Democrats to fight for it, not backing off of championing Planned Parenthood’s abortion services. Not only is abortion an essential part of what Planned Parenthood does, but even if it weren’t, Planned Parenthood would forever remain a symbol of abortion rights for conservatives. This isn’t just about abortion. Planned Parenthood stands for women’s rights, just as ACORN stood for the rights of the poor and minorities. Republicans would be trying to defund PP no matter what, as it is an affront to their corporate patriarchal worldview. Asserting Planned Parenthood’s right to exist will be a better tactic than compromise, since the real argument is that both Planned Parenthood and abortion should be no more.

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Refugees Stuck in Place, Countries Banned, and Airport Actions Everywhere

New Orleans   I use Facebook, but I don’t trust it. Nonetheless, I have to say it was valuable yesterday and as shocked and humiliated as I was, along with all Americans who love their country and its ideals by President Trumps banning orders, I was proud of my friends.

There was a moment when I could scroll down my timeline and see my friends protesting at airports from Chicago to Atlanta to San Francisco to Washington to New York City to Boston, and even New Orleans. There were videos of rallies and actions, so even though I was coming out of ACORN’s annual Year End / Year Begin meeting, I felt like I was there at least by proxy. In New York City, 10,000 made the schlep to JFK airport within hours of social media blowing up over the Trump edict. A second rally at Battery Park – with a great view of Ellis Island — drew 20,000 in less than 10 hours of posts, texts, and tweets. A new watchword in the age of Trump will have to be to stay flexible and ready to move on a moment’s notice to keep them from storming the gates.

I also loved the fact that I was finding out that there was an quick response boycott of the ride-sharing service, Uber, that has bullied its way into cities all around the world, displacing taxi workers everywhere, not for something that they did exactly, but for something they did not do. Lyft, their ride-sharing competitor, pledged $1 million to the ACLU in support of their work fighting the ban and winning court orders in four different jurisdictions around the country, while Uber was silent. I’m not sure that Lyft is all that much different than Uber really, except that it allows the drivers to be tipped, but, hey, any port in a storm. AirBnb made a pledge to provide housing to any refugees that needed it, though I’m not sure that was anything more than a press release. Starbucks said it would hire something like 10,000 refugees over the coming five years, but given the turnover of baristas and the number of their employees, I bet they already do that. But, hey, I don’t want to quibble, at least they are sending messages to our foot soldiers that they don’t go for this mess, joining the Catholic Church, veterans groups, slews of mainstream politicians, and others.

The message so far seems to be that protests work, at least a little, and that’s good.

The Trump team is confused. They don’t seem to understand the important distinction between having power and being able to govern.

Yes, they now have the power to create mayhem and bring their chaos and crazy to the country and the world. No, that is not the same as governing, especially where there are laws, courts, other elected officials, and a free and vocal population. Verified reports indicate that they were briefing the former general who is the head of Homeland Security at the same time his staff, listening to the call was watching Trump on television signing the order. Regardless of the breach of our beliefs, values, and the foundations of our country, we pay taxes for something better than a Mickey Mouse operation where one arm has no idea what the other arm is doing, and the mouth seems completely disconnected from a mind.

***

Please enjoy One Small Voice by Carole King.

Thanks KABF.

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O’Keefers Scammed While Trying to Provoke Violence at Women’s March

Source: Lauren Windsor, Huffington Post
A screengrab from the video released Monday by The Undercurrent.

New Orleans   Making a list of things I got wrong last year, one has to be my call that we had finally heard the last of James O’Keefe, the video scammer and promoter of “alternative facts” about people and organizations for Brietbart and the alt-right. No matter how many of his agit-props fizzle out like wet firecrackers, his cash supply line seems to keep humming as he tries one ill-conceived publicity stunt after another.

Since he’s not going away, the good news may be that he’s being out scammed by folks on our side of the march line. No longer content to be a fake news journalist, O’Keefe, seems to have found bigger bucks as an outright provocateur.

Here’s from the Huffington News report of O’Keefe agents being out-scammed as they offered $100,000 for a DC bridge blocking to damage the Women’s March on Washington:

The counter-sting, carried out by The Undercurrent and Americans Take Action, a project of a previous target of provocateur James O’Keefe, managed to surreptitiously record elements of O’Keefe’s network offering huge sums of money to progressive activists if they would disrupt the ceremony and “put a stop to the inauguration” and the related proceedings to such a degree that donors to the clandestine effort would “turn on a TV and maybe not even see Trump.” To have riots blot out coverage of Trump, the donor offered “unlimited resources,” including to shut down bridges into D.C.

The Undercurrent, led by executive producer Lauren Windsor, is sponsored by American Family Voices, which was among a constellation of groups infiltrated by O’Keefe’s Project Veritas during the presidential campaign, an effort to link Democrats with voter fraud.

Windsor told HuffPost that for now, the group is only releasing an edited version of the video. One of the conservative operatives recorded on it by The Undercurrent was Allison Maass, who previously was caught attempting to infiltrate the Senate campaign of Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, as well as the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Maass was also a lead infiltrator during the voter fraud campaign.

Windsor, in investigating Project Veritas, discovered the name of a front group, Breakthrough Dev Group, that O’Keefe was using to set up stings. Somebody from BDG contacted an allied group, which reached out to activist Ryan Clayton. Windsor arranged to have the meeting secretly recorded. (It’s likely Maass was recording as well. It is plausible that O’Keefe’s plan was not to disrupt the inaugural, but instead to catch lefties offering to do so.)

The Daily Kos did a brief follow-up of their own and included a tweet from a Cornell Law School professor that this should have been a Class F felony. Who knows?

Here’s the takeaway. First, once again it didn’t work, perhaps indicating that we’re all finally getting smarter and not just that he’s getting stupider, because I don’t think that’s possible. Secondly, it would appear that these new groups have formed to finally “do unto others as they have done unto us,” and though it’s a sad statement of the condition of our contemporary political scene, maybe it will end up being one of those “mutual deterrence” things we read about in other nuclear settings.

Regardless, for now, go team!

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