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Interviewing Filmmakers for "This American Journey!"

Even if you didn't order your DVD, you can still join us! You can stream the movie on Hulu and Amazon.  Please join us today.  www.thisamericanjourney.com 

We interviewed the filmmakers Paul Blackthorne and Mister Basquali (seen in the video below) on Saturday, 10/25.  The interview ran 35 minutes long and was big fun!  

Listen in on Coffee Party Radio!  Let us know how you like the film and make suggestions for our next movie.

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Citizen Engagement with Coffee Party USA

My name is Billy Sears and I am the newest member of The Coffee Party USA Board of Directors.  I am tasked with Local Organizing and Support.

Some of you may recognize my name.  I have a long history with Coffee Party USA, dating back to our roots in 2010.  I saw the beginnings of Coffee Party as a YouTube video that went massively viral, a wildly popular facebook page just getting off the ground, and I also participated in one of over 400 Coffee Party groups that met in a single weekend in 2010.

I went on to be a leader with my local Coffee Party community in Champaign, IL as well as a leader within the national Coffee Party community as our first ever staff member as Director of Membership.

I have been through many incarnations of Coffee Party.  I have seen, and been a part of, our many successes.  I have also been a part of our learning opportunities.  Throughout everything that we have been through as a community in the past, our founding principles remain the same:

  • We do not feel represented by our government or the officials that we have elected to be our collective voice in the democratic process.

  • We must participate in the democratic process, in a responsible way, and work to hold our elected representatives accountable for obstruction of progress.

  • The continuing influence of money in politics, particularly the Citizens United ruling, is damaging in a way the framers of this republic’s democracy never could have imagined.

As we get closer and closer to the five year anniversary of Coffee Party, I would like to invite you to engage, or re-engage, in Coffee Party USA.  We are a grassroots democracy movement, working to connect communities in an ongoing effort to reclaim our government.  You are one of the most important assets in The Coffee Party arsenal.

I would like to extend you a personal invitation to join me on a teleconference to discuss various ways to organize  with Coffee Party USA in your community.  This call will be held on Sunday, September 14, at 3pm CT/1pm PT. Click here to register

This will be the first of what will become a monthly call.  It will serve as an opportunity for new, and seasoned, Coffee Party organizers to come together to discuss best practices, progress in their communities, challenges to overcome, as well as create and build community within the Coffee Party organizing family.

We will also discuss opportunities to volunteer for the national Local Support Team.  This team will be tasked with drafting grassroots campaigns for local Coffee Party groups, assisting local organizers in identifying opportunities in their communities, as well as helping to support and build leaders all over the country.

I cannot stress enough that organizing within Coffee Party USA is a partnership.  Be prepared to bring your creativity and ideas to the table.  Everyone has a voice and the only bad idea is the one that doesn't make it to the table.

This local organizing call will be held on Sunday, September 14, at 3pm CT/1pm PT.  You may register by clicking here.

If you have any questions prior to the call, or would like to discuss specific local organizing or volunteer opportunities, please do not hesitate to contact me at billy@coffeepartyusa.com

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Press Release from the Vetting Committee - June 6th, 2014

We know there have been a lot of questions regarding the Vetting Committee. While this process is done in a closed environment to protect the applicants and the process, there are some things we can tell you:

  1. We are currently in the process of checking the minimum requirements of the candidates (membership, background checks, and so forth.)

  2. There are six people on the Vetting Committee - some from the current leadership, some from the membership.

  3. We will begin  conducting the interviews of qualified candidates between June 13  and June 23.  Interviews will be conducted by either 2 or 3 members of the vetting committee.  Efforts will be made to be diverse (members v leadership) in these interviews as scheduling allows.

  4. Candidates are urged to refrain from campaigning until the ballot is announced on June 23. 

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Empowering Ourselves in the Coffee Party Movement

It has been great to see the passion with which people have jumped in to “save” the Coffee Party, when in fact, no rescue is necessary.  

We are moving from an old model to a new model in our human and political affairs -- from one in which we are at effect (disempowered) to another at which we are at cause (empowered). One is largely negative which leads many to feel our cause is doomed, to one that is affirmative and believes in the best of humanity and offers hope.

Our world today — the old model --  is ripe with victims, persecutors and heroes (aka rescuers) which many believe is the meaning of our daily lives.  This type of thinking, from inside the drama triangle, focuses on what we don’t want, who’s to blame, how bad we feel, and we tend to give our power away to and eulogize those who we call saviors. This is a default setting for most of the world.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

- Leo Tolstoy

Another way to provide meaning to our lives and the world has been emerging.  In this healthier world view, we focus on what we want...our vision.  When we focus on what we want, we engage our passion and identify next steps to take, hopefully together.

But what if what I want is to be right / win / dominate? (This attitude has been around for millennia.) Being right, wanting to win and dominating others is a strategy of the drama triangle most commonly used by persecutors or even those who are seen to be well-respected leaders — heads of corporations, politicians, etc... We can instead choose to assist others with the intention of helping them be better versions of themselves.  Not become more like us.

What if someone has taken advantage of or even hurt me?  Victimization does happen.  When the role of victim becomes an identity, one is living in the drama triangle. People who live with victim-mentality are never responsible for what is happening to them...they are quick to point out who’s to blame and are experts in the blame game. Instead, we can choose to accept our responsibility and decide what we want...engaging our vision and passion.

What if I see that a terrible mistake is about to be made or an injustice about to be perpetrated or there are very real injustices? Shouldn’t I warn someone? What should I do? This rescuer tendency to always “know what’s best for others” is actually a fear that the rescuer won’t be needed, so it is common to be around victims as a way to find meaning.  The arrogance of the rescuer also brings a sense of isolation, since no one else knows what's right. We can choose to ask questions of others instead of offering advice. If we admit we don't know everything, then the contribution of others becomes valued, lifting us all out of the drama triangle.

What, you ask, does this have to do with politics today?

When politicians, journalists, nonprofit organizations, businesses and others live in the drama triangle, everyone begins to be viewed as holding one of the three roles; victim, rescuer or persecutor.  Usually somebody is seen to be right and someone else is wrong. The media seems to exist to keep score. When substantive differences surface, instead of focusing on what we want to move forward and how might we work together, a blame game starts.  Eventually, people are disenchanted and all but the fiercest warriors fade away.

Keeping in mind that we cannot change anyone but ourselves, what is our personal responsibility?  How do we step away from the drama, our current political predicament, and start focusing on what we want?

What is your vision?

Sources:

 

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Coffee Party Statement from the Board of Directors - May 23rd, 2014

The Coffee Party USA Board of Directors appreciates the interest of members and followers in a situation that has taken an uncomfortable turn. Unfortunately, as our meeting minutes were not up to date, it was difficult for members and followers to know how this turn of events transpired.

We are working diligently to correct the situation. Minutes of board meetings have been posted through December 2013. The balance are being prepared post haste. Our goal is that they be made available online as they are completed and approved no later than June 7, 2014.  

It was because of failures in leadership like the lack of minutes as well as other elements of our promised transparency that we were pursuing better qualified people for the job.

Coffee Party Founders, Annabel Park and Eric Byler, have been the visionary leaders of the Coffee Party USA since our inception in 2010.  Ms. Park transitioned away from Coffee Party in 2011 to pursue other interests.  Mr. Byler ran for and was elected President of the Board of Directors.  Both were offered positions of Founding Directors on the Board in perpetuity, freeing them to be visionaries and not corporate officers.  They declined.  This April, Mr. Byler voted in favor of his own removal as President.  He resigned shortly thereafter with a motion on the floor that he be removed from the Board for cause.

The Board of Directors sees Mr. Byler’s resignation as an opportunity for effective leadership.  We have redoubled our efforts to fill board vacancies and conduct elections on schedule.  We are rebuilding our volunteer teams.  We are pursuing collaborations with other aligned organizations, and planning a few of our own.

But our biggest challenge is overcoming the Founders’ attempt to discredit and undermine the remaining directors using members, supporters and followers as tools in their “rescue” strategy, just like they did to the interim board in 2011.  http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0311/The_Coffee_Party_and_its_discontents.html

For example, Mr. Byler stated in his resignation his opposition to a new fundraising program, even though he seconded the motion that was unanimously approved by the Board in 2013.  The Board voted to table this fundraising option on May 6, 2014 after Mr. Byler reported that the Coffee Party database had been handed over to a third party and that support for the project was motivated by personal gain, statements which the Board considered and rejected.  The program was never tested or launched, although considerable time was spent in program planning and design.

Another allegation in Mr. Byler’s resignation was that one of the directors has a conflict of interest with our prospective fundraising organization.  One director did declare a conflict of interest and Board members, following the process outlined in both the bylaws and a policy document drafted by the Board Development Work Group years before, concluded the conflict to be materially insignificant.  From the policy: “A financial interest is not necessarily a conflict of interest.”

There may be more unanswered questions, but the point here is that there has been no room for conversation, only accusation and denigration of differing points of view.  This is unacceptable to us.

In the end, we choose to believe that this is a series of misunderstandings gone sideways.  We appeal to members for patience and objectivity as differences are sorted out.  It is our position that:

  • We were elected to do a job.  We are going to keep doing it.
  • Coffee Party USA will be best served by holding the scheduled election for five replacement and three newly created board positions.
  • Recordings of board meetings are the private property of Coffee Party USA, were never intended to be made public, and could harm Coffee Party USA and persons not on the Board if released to the public.
  • Release of Board meeting recordings is improper and a misuse of confidential Coffee Party information.

The current Board wishes to acknowledge their appreciation to Ms. Parks and Mr. Byler for their vision of people sitting down over coffee and talking politics in a civil way.  We hope and trust that our actions now will serve as a model for this type of discourse.

It is our intent to carry that vision into the future with Coffee Party USA.  If you agree, please consider running for election as a member of the Board of Directors.  

Coffee Party USA

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Sometimes a Cup of Coffee is Just a Cup of Coffee

  

Coffee Party USA is one of many affinity groups that emerged from the political cauldron we call 2010. I’m finding 2014 fraught with comparisons between our movement and others forged at that time. In my mind, we are self defined, so I offer these words to counter any linguistic sleight of hand that would have you “know us” by comparing us to others.

Our name implies that if Americans sat down and had a cup of coffee in a cafe or at a living room coffee table, we would find a spark of common ground. High praise for The People? No, just our experience.

COFFEE PARTY  

“Incite Civility and Reason”

Finding how we are alike (rather than how we are different) requires the generosity of spirit to listen and speak with respect - be civil. The other essential piece is data - good data - so our ability to reason has a chance to emerge from the chaos of emotions that define politics these days.

The trend to emotionalize political conversation may have morphed since 2010, but it has not stopped. Our membership, as well as many supporters and followers, have looked at why this is possible. That search led us to “the cycle of corruption”. More than anything, Americans want justice, equity, and fairness. The cycle of political corruption is not fair.

 

Rather than believe government is inherently bad, we believe government is broken. Again, our membership, followers and supporters came up with focus issues to repair this republic’s democracy. Everything we do ties back to these three issues.

Campaign Finance Reform

Tax Code Reform

Wall Street Reform

Today, we collectively see the first, Campaign Finance Reform, getting money out of politics, as job one. This drives us to seek and vet the massive amounts of information and misinformation available today. This drives us to the cafes and living rooms, to social media and blogs like this one, to have a cup of coffee and talk about what we have found.

This is Coffee Party. Whether we appear in agreement with or in opposition to some other group is in the mind of the beholder, and irrelevant to who we are in the world.

CoffeePartyON!
Jeanene Louden, Managing Director

 

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Unlimited Money, Unlimited Political Corruption: Supreme Court's hail mary pass to entrench plutocracy

mccutcheon.jpgThe Supreme Court's ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC means that wealthy political donors are no longer restricted on how many candidates and party committees they can give to per election cycle ($123,000). But, it maintains restrictions how much a donor can give to a single candidate or to a party committee ($26,000).

JOSH GERSTEIN Josh Gerstein and Byron Tau write in Politico:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday delivered another blow to already rickety limits on campaign contributions, ruling that caps on the total amount of money an individual can give to political campaigns, PACs and parties are unconstitutional.

In the 5-4 ruling, the court’s Republican-appointed justices joined in overturning the so-called aggregate limits on the grounds that they violated the First Amendment, while the Democratic appointees dissented — insisting that the caps were constitutional as a means to guard against corruption and circumvention of the still-valid limits on donations to individual campaigns and political committees.

The sweeping ruling has the potential to once again reshape the campaign finance landscape — bringing more campaign money back under the control of political parties after four years of record spending by outside groups.

It’s the latest in a series of federal court rulings — most notably 2010’s Citizens United decision — that are loosening up the rules on campaign contributions. Wednesday’s ruling does not, however, strike down the court’s landmark holding in 1976 Buckley v. Valeo that upheld most contribution limits to individual candidates and committees. [MORE]

Some have argued that wealthy donors who would like to contribute to campaigns and political parties openly can now do so in an unlimited way, and, that this is an improvement over what we had before McCutcheon, when those who wished to donate amounts higher than the aggregate limits were required to use shady Super PACs which did not have as much downside as candidates and political parties do when it comes to dishonest campaign advertising, for instance. 

Chris Cilizza explains in his "Winners and losers" breakdown for The Washington Post that the winners include:

Party committees: The competition among party committees -- Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee vs. the Democratic Congressional Committee vs. the Democratic National Committee, for example -- is over.  Instead of competing to be the recipient of the $32,400 an individual donor could contribute to a national party committee each year, now the committees are each free to collect $32,400 each from a major giver willing to write that sort of check. To the extent they can find donors willing to write those checks -- there were fewer than 700 people in the 2012 cycle who would have affected by McCutcheon -- that's a financial boon for the party committees.

Big donors:  Wealthy individuals are now able to spend more of their own money on more candidates and more campaign committees. If you wanted to spread your wealth around to, say, every Republican candidate running for Senate this year, you can now do it. [MORE]

The outcome was predictable enough that Represent.us had waiting in the wings the video below, mocking the decision in the format of a tech gadget commercial. The video does seem to have gotten one thing wrong in its prediction — donation limits to any single donor are still in place, so, the scenario in which a wealthy person seeking public money for a private venture can make donations to an important member of Congress "only limited by the amount of money I have in my bank account" is not legal under McCutcheon.

Represent.us writes:

The supreme court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC allows for nearly unlimited political contributions. Before McCutcheon, the most any one person could give to federal candidates in a given election cycle was $123,000 — That’s more than twice what the average American family makes in an entire year. The McCutcheon ruling means that now, one person can write a multi-million dollar check to buy influence with candidates.

McCutcheon puts unprecedented power in the hands of the 646 people (0.0002% of the U.S. population) who were affected by the aggregate cap in the last election.  MORE at http://unlimitedcorruption.com/

And:

  1. People want to help fix it. So please spread the word about McCutcheon, get people riled up and ready to do something about it. Sharing this video and telling Congress to pass Anti-Corruption laws is a great place to start.

  2. America is with us. Over 430,000 people support bold anti-corruption reforms and a recent poll shows that 97% of Americans are with us on this. Send people right to our home page where they can add their name and help us get to our goal of one million.

  3. You can act locally. Volunteers are organizing local events all over the country as part of the Money Out/Voters In coalition. Click here to find an event near you.

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Reflections for the Obamacare Deadline by a Romneycare Nurse

margaret-reeve-pahani.jpgI am Margaret Reeve Panahi, am a nurse, and live in Massachusetts. I was working as a nurse practitioner as a primary care practitioner (PCP) in a public health center when Romneycare was established. I can say that it helped tremendously, both for access to care for the patients, and fewer tragically overwhelming cases for the practitioners that could have been prevented, or lessened, if the patients had been able to come in earlier. It was heartwarming to see the changes. 

I am no longer practicing because my husband has a serious genetic illness that has led to many surgeries, unpredictable and serious hospitalizations, including a kidney transplant about five years ago. He now has Medicare, but still needs to buy supplemental insurance for both hospitalizations and prescriptions. We applied for ACA insurance and have been given subsidies for both of his non-Medicare insurances, and my individual insurance, as well. At this point, we are saving about $1,000.00 per month in medical bills, with insurance and co-pays together. We are very grateful. More grateful than we can say. The process is not done yet though because Massachusetts had bad problems with the technological aspects of the system, so we are on temporary care, until a final enrollment can be done. We will need some of the resources and information listed below when we make our enrollment decision. 

romney-obamacare.jpgOur state is working on further reforms to the original Romneycare law. We are looking to improve it and learn from what has happened with cost and patient health care outcomes. As we continue to refine our system we have realized that access to care is necessary and thus we continue to study and make choices moving forward. Some groups are working for a single-payer system to be enacted here, like what went into law in Vermont recently. We also have a large health care for profit lobby from the high-tech medical devices companies, private insurance and pharmaceutical groups who work to protect their interests. This is the same debate that we went in with while into forming the ACA. 

My experience is that the world did not collapse when we increased health care access, and in fact, health care has been improved. The information below is for finding out about how to know what Obamacare does and doesn’t do, and what that will mean you and your loved ones.

Information about the ACA: how to get it, how to choose it, and other questions about “Obamacare”.

The final date to enroll is today, March 31, 2014. You can only enroll online at this point, it is too late to apply with a paper application. Exceptions will be made for people who create profiles on the site by midnight tonight, but cannot complete the application due to technical or personal reasons beyond your control. 

The primary government ACA site from is https://www.healthcare.gov

Basic intro about how to choose a plan

The easiest and simplest way to understand what is involved is to go to the CVS web site. It has calculators from the Kaiser Family Foundation to do some math calculations and then links directly to the ACA site. I have no financial or any other connection with CVS, I just found the pamphlet and thought That I would pass on the info. In the article from the Washington post, the writers also recommend the Kaiser tools. 


Specific questions:


1. For people under 26 if you parents have insurance, in college, working individuals who want a catastrophic basic coverage plan.

"Nearly 6 in 10 uninsured Americans can pay less than $100 per month for Marketplace coverage. 2/3 of uninsured young adults can pay less than $100 per month. You may even find health insurance for as little as $50 per month. See what you can save." 

2. What to do if your state doesn’t have expanded medicaid? How to find out if your state has not expanded, and how to get insurance anyway. 

3. How to find local help in your state, by state, city, and zip code. Check with local community health centers, and your state’s healthcare marketplace site. 

4. How to find insurance in your state if you don’t want to be in the marketplace, or you want to compare prices of insurances inside and outside the ACA.

5. What if you don’t sign up and what are the fees? This also shows alternative plans that are exempt and acceptable as coverage such as Medicare and VA insurance.

Other sources for information:

A1. Medical Bills Are the Biggest Cause of US Bankruptcies: Study by DAN MANGAN, CNBC 


A2. Obamacare subscribers: Beware of high deductibles by WENDELL POTTER, Center for Public Integrity 


A3. Everything you need to know about life under Obamacare  by SARAH KLIFF and EZRA KLEIN, The Washington Post 

 

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The Passing of Tony Benn and Other Lessons from Parliament

Tony_Benn_picture_black_and_white.jpgMy journey to the UK last week coincided with the death of a legend.  Tony Benn was a father, statesman, prolific author, and tireless champion of democracy of, by, and for The People.  And as I watched the numerous clips of speeches and interviews given over the course of a lifetime of service I noticed something totally amazing.  Tony Benn was on the right side of virtually every issue.

In the 80’s, he decried the devaluation of skilled labor in favor of financiers that added no real value to the economy.  In the early 90’s, he correctly predicted that when ready, America would make [up] a clear case for waging  war against Iraq and then pursue that course without regard for its allies.  And up until his retirement in 2001, he railed against the unfettered free markets, tax cuts for the rich, and austerity measures that inflicted tremendous pain on the common man while increasing the fortunes of the wealthy.  He also called out his government for its continuous infringements on civil rights.  And throughout his 47 years of dedicated service to The People, he continually condemned a corrupt national government that routinely usurped power from local jurisdictions that were much more concerned with serving their constituents instead of special moneyed interests.  

Now there are two fairly obvious lessons to be learned from Mr. Benn’s life story.  The first is just how similar the plights of the British and U.S. commoner (the 98%) have been over the past four decades.  But the second and much more important conclusion is actually one of omission -- specifically, the omission of any such voice coming from anywhere across the U.S. political landscape. 

Of course, the very obvious explanation to this quandary can be found within our country’s prevailing two-party system.  This is in stark contrast to Great Britain’s, which currently finds no less than 12 parties holding seats within Parliament.   More pointedly, Tony Benn held office under the banner of the Labour Party -- a party that simply has no equivalent in the U.S. and never will as long as we allow the corpatocracy to rule.  If a better example exists for why we need at least one more choice other than a -D or -R, I certainly don’t know what or who it is. 

So, in the name of transpartisanship I would ask each of you to take time out to research the life, musings, and political philosophies of Tony Benn and then ask yourself, where is this most essential of voices in American politics?  

PS  No, Elizabeth Warren doesn't even come close.

 

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4 things we've missed about the metadata/privacy debate

metadata.jpgAfter reading the Brennan Center for Justice article, The Third-Party Metadata Idea Is Fourth-RateI was struck by what I didn’t read in it.

Perhaps I just haven’t seen articles that have covered some of the issues I think about when it comes to data gathering. To be sure, it also seems crazy for me to even appear to be second-guessing people with the credentials of Ms. Cordero and Ms. Goitein, but here’s what they and others don’t seem to be talking about in the metadata debate.

1. The data is already with private corporations

Where do we think the metadata for our telephone and Internet traffic comes from, government agencies? Comcast keeps serving me ads for a previous employer because I paid that employer’s web site a visit a few weeks back, and Verizon Wireless knows whether or not I’m getting close to exceeding my monthly cell usage voice or data limits.

2. Competitors don’t like to share

The idea that AT&T or Verizon or Comcast or anyone else is going to agree to submit their metadata to any of their competitors or some other third party chosen through a bid process by a collection of government agencies has all the same likelihood of President Obama pardoning Edward Snowden and inviting him over to the White House for lunch.

3. Security risks

Seriously? These learned authors are suggesting that private corporations are not as good as government agencies at securing data? I have another perspective based on some industry experience – no one is good at it. Ask Target or First Data or any other corporation that has been breached if they weren’t motivated and spending lots of money to keep hackers out. Now ask yourself if you really believe that the government is more motivated than a profit-driven private corporation to do anything.

4. Financial motivations

This might be the one place where I’m in complete agreement with the authors. A private corporation being paid what we have to anticipate could easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars isn’t going to ever give that up, and they’ll do everything they can to corrupt present and future elected officials to keep telling us how afraid we must be and that we must allow all this unwarranted data collection to continue (while, no doubt, the private company or companies make tidy donations to each party, to relevant candidates, and to all the right super PACs.)

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