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Who Is the US Chamber of Commerce and What Does It Do? | Coffee Party Radio Archive from 9/17/12

It's no secret that Coffee Party members are not exactly fans of the US Chamber of Commerce. One of our most popular YouTube videos calls them directly, pointing out that they do NOT lobby for the interests of small businesses as they claim, but rather for 16 corporations who use the Chamber's brand as a front group to hide vast lobbying and electioneering expenditures from their customers (We the People).

In this episode of The Middle Ground on Coffee Party Radio, we talk to Anne Pernick of Corporate Ethics International and Blair Bowie of US PIRG. Anne and Blair will explain the Chamber's mission and tell us what her organization plans to do to celebrate the Chamber's 100th birthday.

with Michael Charney & Eric Byler

Tuesdays at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT)
You can also click here for the archived podcast.

As my friend and co-host Michael Charney points out, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of this country's best-kept secrets. If we can change that, the question in our video will become a central one for this and all elections: "Who will it be Congress, 16 Corporations, or We the People?"

Please join us for THE MIDDLE GROUND, Tuesdays from 8 to 9 PM EST (5 to 6 PM PST).

"Transpartisan" is not a synonym for “neutral"

Eric Byler is an award-winning film director and a co-founder/president of Coffee Party USA. This essay was originally published July 4th, 2011.

by Eric Byler

A transpartisan approach to civic engagement steers clear of pre-packaged issue platforms.  It encourages all Americans to put the facts first, and use their own intelligence in approaching complex issues. 

Coffee Party USA is an invitation to participate in the democratic process with civility, with respect, and within a transpartisan framework.  But let me make this clear: transpartisan is not a synonym for “neutral.” It is not a barrier to participation.  It is not a constraint.  It is a liberation.

Understandably, the word "transpartisan" attracts people who want to have a voice in our political process, but are turned off by the partisanship and ugliness with which it is waged.  Often, they are conflict-averse, as most humans are.  So, they seek a non-partisan or transpartisan group with which to organize.  But they are often unable to take collective action because their desire to avoid conflict supersedes their desire to have impact. 

To silence them, all that is required is a loud, aggressive, (and usually extreme) position.  If it is repeated often enough, it is labeled “controversial” and “partisan,” and so too is anyone who challenges it.  Thus, a conflict-averse citizen or organization is barred from taking a position on anything people scream about in front of cameras.  If we allow this to govern our civic life, the result will be a political process dominated by people who thrive on conflict, who subscribe to dogmatic ideologies, and aren't able to use their intelligence to examine complex issues because they are too busy fighting.

Chasing the Middle

Another pitfall for active citizens who are conflict-averse is that they spend too much time and energy “chasing the middle.”  If your only goal is to find the "center" between two opposing arguments, you are giving up your right to define your own values.  Since the 2008 election, the Republican party has moved to the right, decrying health care and climate change policies they had once championed in order oppose President Obama.  Does that mean that a "centrist" must re-calibrate his or her beliefs on those issues in order to find the new "middle?"  As responsible citizens, we cannot allow someone else's electioneering strategy to alter who we are.  

Let's be cautious of the assumption that, "the right answer is always in the middle."  Often, the right answer simply cannot be found on the line defined by the only two options we are given.  Often, it's somewhere else entirely.

Transpartisanship and Coffee Party USA

So, how can the Coffee Party, or any transpartisan organization have impact in a deliberative process dominated by conflict-driven political entertainment? 

  1. See transpartisanship as an exploration, not a constraint.
  2. Learn to deal with criticism, and accept that conflict cannot always be avoided. 
  3. Remember that our guiding principles cannot be abandoned, even in the face of strong rhetoric.

Organizing with the Coffee Party is not going to be a refuge from criticism or unfair accusations.  Any movement, in fact any opinion that stands in the way of somebody's political agenda is sure to get a dose of that. 

But, if you are willing to transcend partisanship, and stand up to the bullying and misinformation that disguise and perpetuate the Cycle of Corruptionwithout becoming part of it — your civic life will have an authenticity and integrity that enriches our deliberative process, and sets an example that inspires others to join you. 

Do "Social" Issues Hold Back Our Economy & Hurt Our Country? | Coffee Party Radio

The Bottom Line with Jessica English

Sundays, 5 pm Eastern (2 pm Pacific Time)

CLICK HERE to listen live

Guest hosting on The Bottom Line today is my friend Chris Franks who you may remember was a guest on The Bottom Line a few months ago.  Jessica English will call in to say hi, and we hope you'll do the same: (646) 929-2495.

Chris Franks writes: I'm a start-up guy, a businessman, I'm a political independent, but I do have a position on today's topic, social issues. I can't understand why they are even issues at all. Why is there still debate in this country as to whether or not we should allow equality for all Americans regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation?  It angers and frustrates me that, in a day when we face tremendous economic and fiscal challenges, and, when we are on the verge of tremendous economic opportunity, we spend so much time talking about issues like birth control, the definition of marriage, and whether or not it's okay to be a Muslim.  
I want to talk about economic issues.  Both parties say that's what THEY want to talk about that too. But in my assessment, both parties are using race, gender, and sexual orientation as part of the political campaigns.  What's the deal here?  How do we get past the social issues so we can talk about rebuilding this economy?  Please call in to help me sort it out with the help of our guests Gil Asakawa of the University of Colorado, and Coffee Party member Lauren Kinsey of Columbus, Ohio.

Romney a Victim of Group-Think in Libya Blunder

by Eric Byler

UPDATE:  Mitt Romeny's Libya blunder is being dubbed "Romney's Lehman Moment" in reference to John McCain's puzzling reaction to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, which many say cost him his chance at the White House. Whether or not this will be equally damaging for Romney, it reminds me of something rather innocuous. Romney's behavior reminds me of a person in a large audience laughing each time an orator completes a sentence, in part because its funny, mostly because others are doing so. Then, when the orator shifts gears and speaks in a serious manner, one audience member ends up guffawing anyway, so hypnotized is he by the collective experience.

By the same token, in his never-ending attempts to please the fringe right, Romney has become hypnotized by periodic, baseless attacks on President Obama, manufactured and echoed by media empires and political operatives outside his campaign. If I were a consumer of Republican media products, I could see myself gradually coming to assume that, with each new event and each new decision by the Obama administration, producers and consumers alike are expected to insist that the opposite should have occurred and/or that the President doesn't really love America. We've seen the mantra of "breaking news, attack Obama, breaking news, attack Obama" enough times to know what's coming next. But perhaps not always.

As the tragic situation unfolded in the Middle East, with Americans in danger and four having been murdered, people who are more experienced with politics and/or foreign policy were holding their tongues until more information was available, and, until there was a proper amount of time to come together as a People and honor our dead. But Romney is under a lot of pressure. He is one of the busiest, most frantic, and most overworked people in the U.S. right now. He didn't have time to think. He laughed loudly and heartily — thinking perhaps that he could be the source of the echo for once. But most in the GOP establishment remained silent, leaving Romney's voice to echo all alone.

It's interesting that so many figures on the right have been so vocal in the aftermath of Romney's unfortunate remarks, some to back him up (Fox News is defending him belatedly) but most to rake him over the coals. Perhaps they want to protect their own national security credibility at the expense of his. Perhaps they want to make sure Romney is blamed for their party's implosion, instead of the extreme ideas and policies their media empires have forced him to echo and embrace.

I feel bad for the man. I wouldn't have made any of his choices, not one of them. But I still feel bad for him as a human being suffering public ridicule on a global scale.

How the Debt Ceiling Hostage Crisis, and the "austerity" it led to have hurt our unemployment rate

by Eric Byler

I've stopped marveling when consumers of Republican media products ignore anything that isn't included in the frame of their television sets, and embrace anything that is. It is part of the modern political equation. But Ezra Klein's recent blog post has revealed something new about the possible motivation of those who scripted and produced the "Debt-ceiling Hostage Crisis" and other soap operas that have dominated American political discourse and impacted federal policy since President Obama took office. The thought was that, if an expertly crafted narrative about debt and deficit could force a reduction in public sector employment at a time of economic peril (the very sort of austerity we now see imploding in Europe), it might succeed is stalling or reversing our economic recovery in time for the 2012 election.

Consider how much the 2012 presidential campaign has been impacted by the economic malpractice of cutting government jobs during a recession. While private sector job creation since the 2008 economic collapse has been relatively robust (4.3 million jobs created), a recent analysis from Yale University finds that a "hidden austerity program" that steadily cut public sector employment has been enough to increase our unemployment rate by a full percentage point, achieving the 8 percent unemployment rate that has been the centerpiece of the Republican electioneering narrative since 2009. (For those who don't recall, 8 percent is a crucial bench mark because the Obama administration justified the middle class tax cuts and other measures in the Recovery Act also known as the "stimulus" by saying it would keep the unemployment rate below that mark).

It requires a lot of money to reshape the conversation of a nation. Let's recall that when George W. Bush was president, the evaporation of the Clinton Era budget surpluses and doubling of our national debt was scarcely mentioned on Fox News — or on any other corporately purchased entertainment outlet that offers political advertising disguised as journalism — and as a result, fiscal responsibility was never enough of a political issue to lead to fiscally responsible policies. This, and a clever maneuver that kept the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan off the books, allowed the Bush administration to turn Clinton's record surpluses into record deficits without a peep from Americans who claim to be fiscally conservative, or, really from anyone. At least, that's how it looked on TV and let's face it: TV is the only window we have to the world beyond our own, actual experiences.

Klein writes, "Note that a Republican was president after the 1981, 1990 and 2000 recessions. Public-sector austerity looks a lot better to conservatives when they’re out of power than when they’re in it." But he doesn't spell out the reasons why.

The prodigious production budget that funded the debt hysteria news narrative from 2009 to the present was seen as a worthwhile investment, not only because it prevented policies that would have helped the economy, but also because it made possible policies that hurt the economy, namely the elimination of jobs and programs that invest in a strong, expanding middle class. By broadcasting and repeating the debt crisis mantra, they were able to help Congressional Republicans block infrastructure spending and other job-creating measures, and deepen the actual crisis — the jobs crisis — caused by the Great Recession.

A slow recovery and an unemployment rate over 8 percent are essential to the case being made against President Obama by Republican media products and the politicians who star in them. Both are not unlike elaborate special effects or gigantic sets constructed for blockbuster movies like Avatar or Titanic — they may be insanely expensive to create, but without them, you simply don't have a movie.

“You Know It’s Propaganda When...” | Why you should enter the Coffee Party video contest


Coffee Party Video Contest: Small Budget, Grassroots Response to Big Budget, Special Interest Propaganda

by Eric Byler

Our radios and televisions are inundated with aggressive advertisements paid for by those who feel threatened by our ability to think and communicate. They believe their wealth entitles them to the right to govern us. 


Donate to crowd-fund prizes for the winners

Ultimately, the struggle for that right will pit highly manipulated and very expensive media products against crowd-sourced Internet conversations like the ones we have through the Coffee Party. Our role in this struggle is to be early adopters — examples for the rest of the nation to follow — to accelerate the democratization of media. That’s why I’m asking you to participate in the Coffee Party’s “You Know It’s Propaganda When” video contest.  


Donate to crowd-fund prizes for the winners

We don’t need your video to look like a million bucks. Use your web cam, your phone, your kid's phone, whatever! It's your voice we want, and, the more raw your video is, the more effectively it will demonstrate our point. Heck, you can even leave a voicemail and we'll edit into an ensemble video. Call: (301) 259-1869.

You don't need to be an expert.  Just rely on your insight, your authenticity, and your integrity to make a great video. (If you want to boost the production value email me a rough cut, I’ll give you some free professional advice!)

As more and more people migrate from passive television consumption to active online engagement, it won’t matter how incessantly plutocrats and profiteers pay to broadcast propaganda into our living rooms. This contest is our way of showing our fellow citizens how to recognize and deconstruct propaganda. And, more importantly, it’s an opportunity to show we are willing to respond with poise, clarity, and courage. 


Donate to crowd-fund prizes for the winners

Please join us. Your video will become part of national narrative, winners will receive prize money, and be featured on television and radio (our own shows and others).

PS: Help us promote the contest!  Download a full rez version of our poster by clicking here and put it up at the local coffee shop where you surf the web, or on the bulletin board at work or at school.

Has America's Ruling Class Gone Too Far in Exploiting Religion, Racial Resentment, Homophobia, ect. for Political Gain?

by Eric Byler

Has America's ruling class gone too far in exploiting things like religion and racial resentment in order to remain competitive in national elections? Most Republicans would say no, of course, especially with their national convention approaching faster than a hurricane. But my friend and radio co-host Michael Charney seems to be arriving at a different conclusion. He chose the topic for tonight's show: Is religion playing too great a role in shaping our elections? 


Michael writes: "Religion is a political force with real impact on elections.  Recently the Catholic Church released a short videosuggesting that Catholics should vote for candidates with certain views on marriage and faith.  Simultaneously, state legislatures are passing laws to restrict a key method used to bring people to the polls — after-church car and bus pooling."
Our guest, Bethany Blankley, is a frequent writer and blogger, and is a current Fellow at the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview.  She's written for Huffington Post, and for Breitbart!
Please call in and contribute your voice to our very important discussion.  We're not producing this show for you, we're producing it with you. We want to learn from you, so please call in: 646-929-2495.

SuperPAC attack ads and Dog Whistle Politics, marketing designed for a fervent, suggestible minority

by Eric Byler

I learn a lot from the hour I spend each Tuesday evening with my radio co-host, Republican author Michael Charney. Please [listen to our most recent show] I would be proud to introduce you to him. 

Michael is fit to be tied over an Obama SuperPAC ad implying that Mitt Romney caused a woman to die from cancer. I agree that this is unfair, but my choice for worst ad of the general election so far is the "welfare" ad approved by Mitt Romney.

But is it enough to argue over which "side" is worse? Shouldn't We the People be doing something more to minimize the impact of false, alienating advertisements in the era of unlimited, anonymous spending? Let's talk about it tonight on The Middle Ground

At the top of the show I plan to ask Michael if he likes Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as his running mate.  Later, I'll ask him why America's ruling class spends so heavily on campaign ads. I found a clue to what he might say in an article he wrote today.  Michael writes:

"Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)  have found that 'when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.' Think of it as a tipping point for the social mind.

"The implications for our political process are vast and I believe we have already seen some of the results.  Politics in America is a a large-scale marketing effort, and the team that markets the simplest ideas the fastest gets that ten percent mind share.  Maybe that's why a phrase like "death panels" survives despite the facts, or why assistance programs are always thought of as 'entitlements.'"

"Knowledge and awareness are key but how do we recognize when we're the targets of political marketing, when those with agendas are trying to hijack our logic and replace it with emotion?  Perhaps most importantly, are there ways that we can reverse the ten-percent beliefs that today polarize us the most?"

Overturn Citizens United — the fight continues, momentum grows

Amazing announcement from our partners at Move to Amend — Attend an event near you or let your friends in the areas below know they can lend their voices and their bodies to the most important cause of our time, the overturning of the Supreme Court's decree for unlimited and anonymous spending to influence the outcome of our elections.  —Eric Byler

Move to Amend is barnstorming across the Midwest, and we're coming to a town near you!Catch a talk in your area, and learn how you can get involved in the campaign to end corporate personhood and demand real democracy!

David Cobb, a fiery speaker and former Green Party presidential candidate, is touring the country giving his talk "Creating Democracy & Challenging Corporate Rule." This presentation is part history lesson and part heart-felt call-to-action!  David gives a rousing one hour talk telling the story of the American creation myth and the Constitution as it pertains to Corporate Personhood and illegitimate but legal corporate constitutional rights, followed by about an hour of facilitated discussion.

All events are open to the general public. We appreciate your donations to help us finance these tours, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Click the links below for more info about each event, including location and organizer contact.

If you are planning to attend, please post on our new rideshare board so that folks can get together to carpool to the events.

For more information contact Alanna Stewart, Move to Amend Barnstorming Coordinator, at 707-269-0984 or barnstorming@movetoamend.org

The World's "Job Creators" Are Hiding 21 Trillion Dollars from Their Home Governments Using Off-Shore Tax Havens

by Eric Byler

This graphic from Heather Stewart's article in The Guardian UK shows where the world's super-rich are hiding $21,000,000,000,000 (21 trillion dollars) in wealth from their home governments.  

Who knows what words they use to justify such injustice abroad, but here, the words are "Job Creators" and "Trickle-down Economics." Now, it's true that some wealth trickles down, and some who have wealth do create jobs. But for the most part, wealth sneaks out the back door to avoid taxation. 

Whether its safety regulations, consumer protections, environmental protection, or taxation, what the super rich are saying to us is: "We don't wish to follow the laws of this country because doing so would reduce our wealth." 

As we've seen with the flood of money they're spending on Super-PAC's, many in our ruling class don't mind spending mightily for the privilege of making our laws.   But this is still a Republic if we can keep it. To do that, we must go to the polls and vote. We must assert our right as "We the People" to make the laws in this country, and to require all our citizens follow the law, even the ones who call themselves "Job Creators."

PS: Isn't it funny how "Job Creators" rhymes so well with "Tax Evaders?"  Someone needs to write a song, make a bumper sticker, or an info-graphic with that one.

CLICK HERE for a larger version of this graphic.   |  Join our Facebook discussion about this topic

Petition to Overturn Citizens United

“Taking Back Our Democracy: Responding to Citizens United and the Rise of Super PACs" 

WATCH LIVE at 2:30 PM Eastern Time July 24, 2012

MORE INFO   |   

Tonight at 8 pm, we'll have a report from Washington on how it went on The Middle Ground, the Coffee Party Radio show hosted by Michael Charney and Eric Byler. The call-in number is 646-929-2495 (you can call to listen, and then hit 1 if you want to speak). Or click here to listen on the web.
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