We Want Elizabeth Warren
Send a letter to the President
Click HERE to send the letter below, or write your own version.
Dear Mr. President,
I am one of the millions of Americans directly impacted by the financial collapse of 2008. I am writing to ask you to nominate Elizabeth Warren as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and, to fight for a fully-funded, independent agency.
Lately we’ve been talking a lot about deficits, but no one speaks of the “trust deficit” when it comes to how Americans feel about the financial services industry. Predatory lending practices, a financial meltdown, taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a comp lete lack of accountability, transparency and fairness, have left most Americans feeling that we have returned to the days of th e robber barons.
Appointing Elizabeth Warren would not only go a long way to help us attain much-needed consumer protection, it would also help inspire consumer confidence in the market, and, restore basic trust in our federal government's ability to rein in dangerous behavior in the financial sector. When the United States was attacked in 2001, the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act were swiftly enacted to protect our nation. In the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, the reform of our financial services industry deserves that same level of cooperation and urgent attention from our nation’s leaders. This is about our future.
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Contact the Editors
Lynda Park, Barb Bull,
and Tim McDonough
Democracy as a Collaboration, Not a Fight
by Annabel Park
Members of Congress, trapped in a political process corrupted by money, simply cannot take the bold and audacious steps need to reform our broken government.
Knowing this, we cannot afford to just wait to see what happens. It's time for us to set aside our differences, roll up our sleeves, and figure out how the American people can climb into the driver's seat of our government.
It's easy to get discouraged about the possibility of achieving meaningful reform, but now is not the time to give up. We can't give up on our own government, our country, our future. Giving up is not an option because things will continue to get worse if we do nothing. This much we know for sure.
No one has all the answers, but if we agree to work together to find good ideas, aggregate our energy and pool our talents and resources, we just may create something really powerful, quite revolutionary, together.
As reported in the Washington Post recently, we have something to learn from ants.
When in danger of drowning, a colony of the critters — thousands of them — will save themselves by joining forces and forming a raft. They pile together and lock legs and jaws. So bound, an ant raft can survive for months. “Water does not penetrate the raft,” said Nathan Mlot, a mechanical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Even the bottom layer of ants stays dry, he said.
The individuals act as one, becoming what entomologists call a super-organism.
Amazing! That's the kind of spirit we need. Especially since it feels like we are drowning in corruption, misinformation, conflict and economic insecurity. Imagine. If we learned to work together, perhaps we can become a super-organism. That is the hope inherent in democracy as an ideal.
Democracy can and should be a collaboration, not a sport or a fight. It should feel more like building a house (or a raft) or putting on a musical together, less like playing a football game.
It is not easy to achieve effective collaboration. Here are some challenges: 1) We are most often working in a virtual environment. 2) We are all volunteering. 3) Among other bad habits, we are in the habit of thinking of politics as a fight, thinking we must get our way or we are losing.
Mostly, collaboration is not easy because our goal is difficult to achieve. There is such powerful institutional resistance to real change. It will be tempting to quit along the way and "it's too hard," "it's too late," "it's impossible," or "it's too _____."
For all these reasons, it requires commitment to continue despite the challenges. And, we have to accept the fact that it is just going to be hard. We must counter the difficulty with our resolve.
It might be useful to think of our society as suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol. We are working on quitting and recovering. For some it may take a few months to quit and for others, it will take years.
Remember that it took years for the suffrage movement, civil rights movement,anti-apartheid movement to achieve their goals. We don't know what our journey will look like.
As we know, American democracy has always been an experiment. We embrace the fact that we are part of that history of experimenting with this ideal, with the intention.
Whatever the challenges, we must learn to overcome them all. Or, at least die trying. We owe that to the future generations that will inherit this mess.
So, come and experiment with us. Let's learn to collaborate toward creating an informed and engaged citizenry. Toward catalyzing a rebirth of democracy in America.
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Ryan, Rand, and the Objectivist Budget
by Michael Stafford
[Read the full length article HERE.]
Four members of the Congressional House Republican Caucus voted against Congressman Paul Ryan's budgetary "Path to Prosperity." Had I been there and had the opportunity to do so, I would have proudly been among their number. There's a simple reason for this: Paul Ryan is an "[Ayn] Rand nut." His proposal isn't a path to prosperity or fiscal sanity, it’s a projection of an Objectivist vision for our society, our nation, and its future. And that's a dark path we'd do well to avoid.
I'm not the only one who has recognized this. Jonathan Chait, for example, has noted that "when Republicans [like Ryan] invoke the horrors of the national debt, they don’t actually mean the national debt. They mean big government." This is why Ryan, and many like him, despite all the talk of the perils of deficits, refuse to deviate at all from the GOP's "anti-tax orthodoxy." In the end, "[t]hey are left arguing that the debt threatens to destroy American civilization, but they would rather leave it unaddressed than agree to even a dime of higher taxes." This seeming incongruity is inexplicable without reference to Ayn Rand and the Objectivist school of extreme Libertarian thought:Congressman Ryan has long been a noted devotee of Ayn Rand. He has publicly stated that "[t]he reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” Today, Rand's writings are required reading for everyone working in Ryan's office.
This is troubling. Ayn Rand is essentially the L. Ron Hubbard of American conservatism. And Objectivism is its closest approximation of a political/ideological cult.
Time and space do not permit an in-depth analysis of Rand's school of libertarian thought, Objectivism, and its various wrinkles and permutations. Thankfully, its essence has already been distilled for us by Charlie Sheen: "Winning!" It really all comes down to that. And from an Objectivist perspective, Winners have a special virtue, a superiority that differentiates them from everyone else. This gives Winners the right, no, more than that, the responsibility, to be selfish. The flip side of this is a tendency to see the poor as somehow lacking in virtue- they are poor because they are lazy, because they have defective or deficient characters, because they are just not quite smart enough to make the cut.
In the words on Jonathan Chait, "[t]he enduring heart of Rand’s totalistic philosophy was Marxism flipped upside down. Rand viewed the capitalists, not the workers, as the producers of all wealth, and the workers, not the capitalists, as useless parasites."
Ryan's budget proposal is, in many ways, an Objectivist document. As Chait has noted, the “overwhelming thrust" of the proposal is a desire "to liberate the lucky and the successful to enjoy their good fortune without burdening them with any responsibility for the welfare of their fellow citizens." As a result, Ryan's plan slashes spending on social programs that benefit the poor and the middle class while, simultaneously, reducing the tax burden on the wealthiest members of our society. This is inexplicable from a policy standpoint, and indefensible from an ethical one. But it makes perfect sense if you see the world from an Objectivist perspective.
Ryan's proposals on Medicare have attracted the most attention. Essentially, he'd replace the current version with a voucher system for everyone presently aged 55 and younger in 2022 and beyond. This may sound innocuous, but it has tremendous financial implications for individuals in the working and middle classes attempting to save for retirement. Given projected increases in healthcare costs, it is extremely unlikely that most of us will be able to purchase insurance comparable to today's Medicare post-2022. In Ryan's vision, "prosperity" is apparently some sort of Orwellian new-speak for learning to live with a lot less.
Most Americans understand that entitlement reform is necessary. Many of us recognize that core social programs are on unsustainable trajectories. And we know that simply raising taxes, or eliminating tax exemptions, standing alone, isn't an answer. But I don't think Ryan's proposal is a reform- it's more like an Objectivist evisceration, both of the social contract, and of the power of the federal government itself.
In the midst of economic and fiscal crisis, it is important that we not lose sight of our shared responsibilities for each other, and for our society as a whole. Now, more then ever, we need to attend to the commons, and to the common good. We need to ensure that our economy, and our government, equitably distributes the benefits and burdens generated by both booms and busts.
In the end, if you are in the middle or working classes, then Ryan's proposal isn't a "Path to Prosperity"- it is a roadmap to oligarchy and systemic inequality. It repudiates our obligation to the common good, and ignores our responsibilities towards the most vulnerable members of our society. And that’s a path I’d rather not tread.
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Meet an Impact Team Member
Linda Cook, West Regional Coordinator
My name is Linda Cook, and I work for a local green, sustainable company in Washinton State. I am soon to become a grandmother “officially” when my son’s adoption of a gorgeous nine month old goes through. That is a big focus in my life now.
I grew up in Northern California, both in the Bay Area and on the Russian River. When I was in my early twenties I married and moved to Washington State with my husband who was in the Navy. I was a homemaker and child care provider for many years. After my divorce I went back to school.
I studied US culture at University of Washington, Tacoma, serving on the Student Government as Vice President of Governance and as a writer for the newspaper. Much of my studies concerned American Revolutionary times. Also, communications and social structures were big on the list. After graduating I worked in advertising sales for many years.
In 2008 I had become very concerned about the healthcare issue and the wars. I then worked to elect Obama president. That was the first time I became involved with politics.
I became involved with the Coffee Party in March 2010 when a group called “Radical Civility” decided to join the movement. Two months later I hosted the Renton Coffee Party, and in September I attended the convention in Louiseville, Kentucky. I met many wonderful people there and had a great time. Like many others in the movement my focus is stopping the plutocracy and getting our government to work for the general welfare of the citizens.
Currently, I am the point person for Washington State for the Coffee Party movement. I also serve on the membership drive committee and the book club committee (which will be announced soon). The book club is of special interest to me. I am currently reading two new books, one on governance and the other on the prominent role agriculture played in the founding of our country. Our founding fathers were well-rounded and great gardeners to boot.
Be Part of Coffee Party 2.0
Become an Official Member
Help us build Coffee Party 2.0 — a 21st century grassroots movement that will catalyze cooperative action, generate sustained influence, and achieve "game changing" impact on key political issues of our time. Official members will be eligible to vote, nominate, and run in our Board of Directors election in November.
Coffee Party Regional Coordinators
CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA, VT, WV
AR, AL, GA, FL, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN
IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, OH, WI
AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX
AK, CA, HI, ID, MT, ND, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY
Letter: Coffee Party a more
civil cup of tea
This letter to the editor was published in The Daily Reflector on May 17, 2011.
People approach me and ask is the coffee party real or a tongue-in-cheek group committed to spoofing the tea party. A spoof? Nothing could be further from the truth. The announcements of monthly programs and the coverage of such programs show that the coffee party is dedicated to holding public forums on pressing issues facing the public.
It was organized nationwide only a year or so ago in response to town meeting fiascoes orchestrated by the tea party. There had to be a better way to provide sensible solutions than yelling and disrupting meetings, regardless of how upset the general public may be with the state of affairs. The coffee party felt the need to fill this gap.
Our mission is to provide public forums (town meetings) that are informative, rational, intelligent, respectful and open to the public with time for an extensive question-and-answer period. These monthly meetings can be seen on local television Channel 23. They have included ECU's dean of business school talking about the economy, ECU history chairman discussing elections past and present, ECU professor of religious studies on religion and politics, a panel of physicians, a professor from Brody School of Medicine, and a legislative expert discussed coming to grips with the health care bill — improve it or repeal it? And last month, our diverse panel of educators, past and present, grappled with problems of educating our children.
This month's program, tonight at 7, will be “The Constitution: Can It Still Work For the People?” The presenter, Carol Moore, is both a lawyer and a teacher of law. The public is invited to come and express concerns during the Q&A session.
Now, doesn't the coffee party sound sensible, responsible, hoping to awaken the public on issues germane to the democratic process in the true spirit of the town meeting?
Owensboro, KY Coffee Party
Addicted to Free, Civil Speech
by Roger Ingram
The Coffee Party chapter in Owensboro, KY celebrated its 1st anniversary on April 17th. Originally from Oregon, I had moved to Owensboro in January, 2009. My wife, Barbara, was born and reared in Kentucky, but had not lived here since she was in her early 20’s. It was a bit of a culture shock for both of us to come to such a “red” state. I felt isolated and found it very difficult to find people who shared my Progressive values. I saw a posting on the Internet about Coffee Party USA and immediately tried to locate a Coffee Party chapter in my area. The closest was in Bowling Green, KY, about 65 miles from Owensboro. I then contacted the State Coffee Party leader in Lexington, who suggested I start my own Chapter, a tall order since I knew hardly anyone in the area. As luck would have it, a local Tea Party chapter was having a Tax Day rally at the Owensboro City Hall, so I donned my “Obama for America” T-shirt and went to the rally (my wife was afraid I would be shot). There was a crowd of about 200 Tea Partiers with signs and “packin’” weapons. However, there were a few like myself who had come to observe. I was approached by some who saw me with my Obama T-shirt, and I told them I wanted to start a Coffee Party group and that I would be holding a meeting at the local coffee house the next Saturday and invited them to come. Nine people showed up! That was the birth of the Owensboro Coffee Party Chapter.
We started out meeting every other Saturday morning, but within a few months the members decided that we should meet every Saturday. Our membership has grown to 24, and we are a very diverse group, in age as well as political and spiritual philosophy. Members range in age from 20’s to late 60’s. We have professed Atheists as well as Fundamentalist Christians, although most are somewhere in-between. We have a member of the local Tea Party chapter who comes on a regular basis. We have one member who is an expert on the Founding Fathers and Separation of Church and State. Another is a professional photographer. One member is a Doctor of Neurology and Psychiatry, while another has a PhD in Metallurgy and is Chinese, having grown up in Communist China. Needless to say, he adds a valuable perspective to our discussions. Another member is from France and gives us a European perspective. We also have a Theoretical Physicist, who brings a whole other dimension, no pun intended, to our group. We have school teachers and administrators, as well. Our members come from other communities in Western Kentucky, not just Owensboro. All in all, as you can imagine, we always have very exhilarating and exciting discussions every week. With all this diversity, you might expect that we would have heated arguments, but that is not the case. All members have signed the Civility Pledge and take it very seriously.
We have had guest speakers to raise awareness about challenges in education in Kentucky, to discuss efforts to establish a Progressive Club in Owensboro, and to strategize about creating more Coffee Party chapters in Kentucky. One of our members gave us a presentation on how to conduct effective protests, based on the book “Roots for Radicals”. Our group supported the protesters in the recent events in Wisconsin. Another member talked to us about how to raise awareness concerning recycling in our home county. At Christmas-time we made an effort to support our local foodbank as their need for food for the homeless population was extreme.
The benefit we all derive from our Coffee Party participation is that it provides a place that is safe to voice opinions without being criticized or humiliated for what one believes. Many of our members have expressed to me that they are “addicted” to the Coffee Party and experience “withdrawal symptoms” if unable to attend a meeting for some reason. I, myself, share that feeling. With such a diverse group we obviously do not always agree on everything, but everyone knows they will be given an opportunity to express themselves with dignity and respect. To paraphrase Voltaire, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." We strictly adhere to that philosophy.
The Coffee Party has been a life saver for me, and I have made many new friends as a result. We meet at a locally owned coffee house and they recently told me the only reason they stay open on Saturday is because of the amount of business we generate for them. I, along with the members of our Coffee Party Chapter, am grateful to Annabel Park and Eric Byler for creating this wonderful, and badly needed, organization in these times of such hateful rhetoric and divisiveness in our current political atmosphere.
Report from the Coffee Party 2.0 Transition Team
Two months ago, as Coffee Party USA was celebrating a membership drive that surpassed all expectations as well as its one-year anniversary, our Board of Directors established the Coffee Party Transition Team to help design and launch Coffee Party 2.0 — a new organizational infrastructure for collaboration and action housed by our official website and guided by a new Board of Directors elected by our membership.
We inherited an ambitious deadline — July 1, 2011 — which had been chosen last fall by the previous leadership team. We initially judged that this deadline as reasonable, but we have since reconsidered. In the past two months we have learned a great deal about the challenges of running a truly grassroots organization with thousands of members and hundreds of thousands of volunteers. We’ve also begun to grasp the revolutionary potential of such a people-powered democracy movement in this age of emerging technology. Thus, after careful consideration, we have decided to redesign our transition and design schedules because our responsibility to the Coffee Party, and to our country, goes beyond “getting it done.” We also need to get it right.
With the consultation of our friends at Changing the Game and other Coffee Party contributors, the Transition Team has voted to recommend, and the Board of Directors has agreed, that the election we had hoped to hold before Independence Day should be scheduled for Tuesday, November 1, 2011. Of course this means that we are no longer adhering to our previous deadline to become a member of the Coffee Party in order to be eligible to vote in the election. We’ll be holding membership drives during the summer, in fact, with all new members eligible to vote in the fall election. After the election, there will be a transition period, and, our first elected Board of Directors will take office on on January 1, 2012.
This new timeline will give us sufficient opportunity to do justice to various projects that would have been difficult to take on all at once. We’ll have the entire summer to design the Coffee Party 2.0’s structure, work-flow, and tools. We’ll have the summer and the fall to recruit candidates for the Board of Directors. We’ll have all of that time to design a “get-out-the-vote” campaign so that the majority of our members are aware of the election and are enthusiastic about voting, running, or nominating someone. And, our members will have plenty of time to get to know the candidates before they vote.
We apologize for making an announcement two months ago that turned out to be incorrect, but we are very confident that we have made a better decision now that we have received some good advice and acquired valuable knowledge and new information.
As the Transition Team took some time to assess its overall plan, Coffee Party action and advocacy has continued full speed ahead.
Our Advocacy, Action, and Messaging Work Group is recruiting members improve creativity and communication for the movement. Michael Stafford was a guest on a recent Blog Talk Radio show and has published a number of essays on our blog. "Ryan, Rand and the Objectivist Budget." Blake Mitchell, a recent college graduate and video game / graphic designer, created the “Jedi Elizabeth Warren” poster for our campaign to support Elizabeth Warren’s nomination to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Coffee Party members and participants have sent nearly 40,000 letters to Washington as part of this initiative.
In the last three weeks there have been several “Information and Involvement” open conference calls where Annabel Park and Eric Byler, co-founders of the Coffee Party, shared information about Coffee Party history, current advocacy opportunities and the Coffee Party 2.0 project and status. Many participants took the additional step of volunteering to become part the 2.0 design team and have made tremendous contributions already. More Information and Involvement calls will be scheduled over the next two months, so please consider joining us on one of them.
The Chapter Formation Work Group had its first meeting to begin the work of designing a framework for local Coffee Party groups to affiliate with Coffee Party USA. This group will also collaborating with the Pathways to Participation and Internet Infrastructure Work Groups to explore ways for Coffee Party USA to support local organizers with the training and online organizing tools their groups need to grow and thrive as an integral part of Coffee Party 2.0. To further this goal, organizers from around the nation participated in the first Local Organizer Impact Team conference call on May 23rd.
Thank you all for your continued support. Stay tuned for more news about this "design project for Coffee Party 2.0 that builds on what we have learned and accomplished so far, and puts in place an organizational design and impact strategy that will allow the Coffee Party to communicate more effectively, grow more quickly, and offer state-of-the-art Internet platforms to 'make the truth go viral' and organize collective action."
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 259-1869.
—The Coffee Party 2.0 Transition Team