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Coffee Connect Newsletter, Feb 25, 2011, Vol. 1, Issue 4

February 25, 2011, Vol. 1 No. 4

From the Editors

Thanks to all of you for your continued feedback. Many of you have written to us about the topics that you are concerned about. Here is a select list:

  • Worries about corporate influence in budget and policy decisions;
  • Coffee Party's take on US Uncut;
  • Threats to undermine Social Security;
  • Need to fix the filibuster rule;
  • The House funding cut for the EPA.

We hear you. We will try to address these and other topics in future issues. Continue to keep us informed of your thoughts.

--Lynda Park, Barb Bull, and Tim McDonough (Newsletter Co-editors)
newsletter@coffeepartyusa.com




Coffee Party Regional Coordinators

We are here to support local organizers.

Northeast
CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA, VT, WV
Lynda Park
northeast@coffeepartyusa.com

Southeast
AR, AL, GA, FL, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN
Gloria LeBlanc and Leah Spitzer
southeast@coffeepartyusa.com

Midwest
IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, OH, WI
Billy Sears
midwest@coffeepartyusa.com

Southwest
AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX
Diane Owens
southwest@coffeepartyusa.com

West
States: AK, CA, HI, ID, MT, ND, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY
Barb Bull and Linda Cook
west@coffeepartyusa.com




Only a Few More Days Left to Become a Founding Member

The Tipping Point

Years from now, we will think of February 2011 as the tipping point in America’s great awakening. After all the warnings and wake-up calls, this be will remembered as the time when the American people decided to come together, confront the plutocracy that plagues our republic, and do something to change the economic inequality/instability that has grown from it. There is a tide. If you don't yet feel it, here are Ten Wake Up Calls that we predict will help define February 2011 in America.  The more people who get involved, the more meaningful it will be.  So, please share this page with others who may still need a reason to wake up and stand up.

1) Egypt. It had to have an impact: so many Americans glued to their televisions, watching as people take the streets, ready to die for freedom, destined to topple an oppressive regime that had dominated them for decades. How? By peacefully demanding self-governance. Their triumph made us believe we could, and should, demand the same.

2) Bob Herbert's Challenge To America. While some Americans looked at Egypt and thought, "They're trying to get what we already have," Bob Herbert's Feb. 12 column challenged us to look in the mirror. He wrote, "Senator John Kerry said that the Egyptian people 'have made clear they will settle for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities.' Americans are being asked to swallow exactly the opposite. In the mad rush to privatization over the past few decades, democracy itself was put up for sale, and the rich were the only ones who could afford it. ...The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that's a long, hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process of letting a real democracy slip away." Herbert's analysis connected the erosion of the American democracy to the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision and the infestation of money in politics.

3) The Protest & the Prank Call in WisconsinEven Fox News has acknowledged the historic showdown in Madison, Wisconsin has nothing to do with balancing a budget as Gov. Walker claims.  "It's about the power," Paul Krugman wrote on Feb. 20 in his NY Times column. "The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America's oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence. So will the attack on unions succeed? I don't know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn't."

Fully aware that this is a power play, tens of thousands of people have been protesting for the last 10 days in the state capitol in Madison. The Wisconsin protest has sparked a movement, the Save the American Dream movement, with rallies being held across the country TOMORROW, 2/26.

With the state capital building overflowing with protesters, and Governor Scott Walker insisting Wisconsin's public sector workers should be punished for the global credit crisis, journalist Ian Murphy called the Governor's office on Feb. 23 falsely identifying himself as California billionaire David Koch. This now infamous phone call posed a question to the nation: would a taxpaying resident of Wisconsin have been shown the same courtesy? "That's where you see the access and power that major corporations and wealthy contributors will have in a Walker administration," Ezra Klein pointed out. And Mary Bottari of PR Watch outlined the shocking corruption implied in this now infamous recording. But both Klein and Bottari would readily agree: this same type of corruption permeates our federal government as well. News of Gov. Walker's disgrace has penetrated layers of society who could care less about collective bargaining, but enjoy a good prank. Thus, America now has names and faces - two men who are not in jail, but in power - to symbolize the systemic, institutionalized corruption at the heart of our republic. Money buys influence because money buys elections, and this incident will push America into changing that.

(continued below)

(continued from above)

4) Johann Hari's article in The Nation. If you haven't caught the bug, you will when you read this article.  Johann Hari begins with, "Imagine a parallel universe," speaking of the almost unimaginable success of UK Uncut: a leaderless social movement that swept Great Britain, announcing to the world: "There is an alternative to making the poor and the middle class pay for a crisis caused by the rich."  Hari recounts how UK Uncut transformed the national dialogue on proposed budget cuts by comparing the price tags for missing revenue caused by corporations who refuse to pay their taxes and cuts in housing subsidies, for instance, that would drive people who DO pay taxes out of their homes.  The resulting uproar changed the course of history.  Hari's follow-up article laid out some steps for making this happen in the United States, and among the many promising results: US Uncut is planning protests at Bank of America branches in at least 50 cities tomorrow 2/26/11, working in concert with Save the American Dream's rallies at all 50 state capitals in support of the people of Wisconsin.

5) It's the Inequality, Stupid. To drive home the point about the economic inequality in America, Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot put together this Mother Jones piece with 5 powerful graphics illustrating the fact that 99% of Americans have been left in the dust over 30 years by the wealthiest 1%.

This graphic should become the symbol of an historic democracy movement with many names and no identifiable leader. We challenge Americans to use their creativity to render countless interpretations of this graphic. We want people to see this image on T-shirts, on bumper stickers, on billboards, on bridges, and even on jumbotrons. We have a political system that benefits people with money. Blinded by a false paradigm of left vs. right, we focus our anger at one another, instead of the underlying threat to our republic: the corruption of our government by endless cash and those who wield it. We hope that this graphic will emerge as a symbol and a constant reminder of the road map to economic ruin - a course that has yet to be corrected - a course we must correct, even if it means bridging partisan, ethnic, and cultural rifts to do so.

6) The Great American Rip-off. Much has been said about "too big to fail" banks and the massive, recurring bailouts ensured by our current banking system.  Prof. Lawrence Lessig and others have anguished over the fact that we have yet to correct this system, calling it, "the dumbest form of socialism ever produced by man: where we socialize the risk, but privatize the benefit." And Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone Magazine, "This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth - and nobody went to jail." Terrified that this injustice would inspire a movement to change all of that, corporate interests including the Koch Brothers spent billions in 2009 and 2010 on misinformation campaigns and political theater designed to turn the resulting Great Recession into a weapon to divide us rather than the unifying wake-up call it was destined to be. Now, potentially this tactic will backfire, and the wake-up call they feared is sweeping the nation with double the force.

7) BP makes us sick. If there was no accountability for corporate tycoons who destroyed our economy, would destroying our environment lead to a different outcome? In a Truthout article entitled "We're poisoned, we're sick," Dahr Jamail and Erika Blumenfeld remind us that fellow Americans living along the Gulf of Mexico have been suffering symptoms of toxic chemical exposure for months. Now BP has been awarded a $7.2 billion deal to explore deep water drilling in India.

8) House of Representatives run amok. Goldman Sachs recently distributed a private memo to its clients warning that the dangerously ideological House budget proposal would severely damage our economy. The best thing they could say about it was that it would likely be vetoed. And this analysis by Center for American Progress compares the ten safety net programs slated for deep cuts with the cost of the tax breaks for the super-wealthy, exposing the warped and misaligned logic of expecting hard-working Americans to accept drastic cuts that will negatively impact our quality of life, in order to pay for corporate welfare in the aftermath of a crisis. Whether or not the hardline position of House leaders is political posturing, the impending showdown between ideological extremism and informed pragmatism (and possible shutdown of the federal government) will be yet another illuminating jolt for our silent, disengaged majority. The price for apathy is too steep to pay.

9) The Stiglitz Deficit-reduction Plan. We support this plan by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz because it increases efficiency, bolsters growth, and reduces inequality. If the tide we are sensing truly lifts all boats, this plan will be attainable despite the efforts of corporate interests to thwart the interests of America. Elements include:

  • Increase spending on high-return public investments.
  • Cut military spending.
  • Eliminate corporate welfare
  • Negotiate prices with drug companies.
  • End special benefits to the energy sector.
  • Create a fairer and more efficient tax system, by eliminating the special treatment of capital gains and dividends.
  • Increase taxes to the top 1% by 5%.

10) Tax Week, April 11 to 17, 2011. As April 15, 2011 nears, the American people are on the verge of watershed accomplishment.  Imagine if the national narrative about Tax Day 2011 were based on accurate information, and a need for real change, instead of the misinformed and misdirected anger from a year ago?  This is within our reach.  And our medium term goal should be seize the opportunity.  Rather than "we're broke" and "we don't like paying taxes," what if the spirit of Tax Day 2011 said this:

We see the whole truth.  We understand the link between budget deficits, tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%, and corporate welfare.  We understand that we are broke by design because the taxes that are owed to this nation are paid by everyone except those who benefit most from doing business here.  We are not going to allow the corruption of our government to continue without challenge.  We demand nothing less than a fundamental change to our power structure.  Once people see the whole truth, that change will be inevitable.  Cut entitlement programs?  We agree!  Let’s cut corporate entitlement programs: End corporate tax loopholes, tax havens, tax breaks, and subsidies. 

During the week of April 10 through April 17, the Coffee Party will help to organize nationally-coordinated actions to demand change.  We’d love for you to help us devise the plan.  Contact us at Summit@CoffeePartyUSA.com if you're interested.  And if you found this summary helpful, go to the top of this page to spread the word with the click of a button.

--Annabel Park and Eric Byler



Meet a National Team Member
Bruce Schuman,
Shared Purpose Director

When Annabel Park first appeared on national television in March 2010, I was immediately excited. I had been feeling many of the same things. America needed a new politics, where people really talked to each other and worked together to solve our problems. Annabel had a vision, and I believed in it. So I joined coffeepartyusa.com, and started posting messages on fascinating subjects like the Sphere.

I am a web programmer myself, with a vision of cooperation and collaboration, and have been building systems to support a shared understanding for a long time. When I got back from Thailand at the end of 2009, I went to work on a political project I called the Purple Alliance, which was all about these same ideals: Let's collaborate, let's work together, let's be civil, let's be at least half-way intelligent and informed about what we're doing in this country. And Annabel was wearing a purple coat in her viral in -the-snow video! So the Coffee Party was a natural fit for me.

When Annabel asked me to started building web applications for the Coffee Party back in June, I was happy to do so. We started out with a system to support Maestro Conference phone calls, and then built a voting and survey system that we could use for the National Summit on Money in Politics in late June, and then a system for petitions, and then a whole bunch of other stuff that became the Shared Purpose system.

Everywhere we look around us today, things are in transition, and the "old systems" seem to be falling apart. The US is apparently broke, and maybe the battle starting up now in Wisconsin is harbinger of things to come. We've got to get past these ideology- and marketing-based approaches to solving our problems, and start using the best and most informed methods possible. How bad do things have to get before we learn this lesson and start pulling ourselves together in a real can-do American spirit?

We're in a process of discovery and invention right now - here in the Coffee Party and throughout the USA. The problems are growing around us, the turmoil in the world is increasing, and the political tensions are just getting higher. And yet, there are "good people" everywhere throughout the US, who see all these things, and are looking for a way to contribute, for something they can give or do to help this country move forward. The Coffee Party exists to give these people a way to contribute.

As a designer and network-builder and writer, I believe in this place. I believe in the USA, I believe in our national heritage, and I believe in our people. Maybe we need a kind of creative crisis to drive us into innovative new approaches and outside-the-box ways to think about our problems. I think we need a new spirit in the USA - of trust and listening and collaboration - taking a form that includes everybody, and brings all our best talents and insights to the table. We have the national greatness in our cells, we have the instinct in our souls. We hear a common call. We do have a "shared purpose". This is something we can do, if we just keep showing up, keep listening, and keep working together.

--Bruce Schuman, Santa Barbara, CA

The Shared Purpose Network

SharedPurpose.net is an "internet organizing platform for a new voice in American politics," and we are excited and honored to be working with the Coffee Party. We offer a wide array of features to support Coffee Party organization, including a network of groups based on geography (one for every state), issues, local chapters, and CP activities. Shared Purpose follows the guiding vision that there is a common ground shared among all Americans, despite our differences on issues.

Shared<br />
                                                            Purpose logo

We are a nation of immigrants; we are a diverse community that somehow remains One Nation. Indeed, our national motto, "E Pluribus Unum," is the guiding idea for the Shared Purpose system. Out of Many, One. Come together from every angle, inspired by a vision of collaboration and unity. Let's work together to overcome the problems that have been damaging our country. We know we have to do something. Shared Purpose and the Coffee Party are offering innovative leadership and a new way forward.

For any Coffee Party group organizer or chapter leader, we are happy to provide support, to help you organize your local group. Click here

to download a userguide for Organizers.

Some of the features available to you include:

  • An online discussion forum (web and email)
  • A broadcast email system ("email blast")
  • Group membership list you can export to Excel
  • Polling and surveys you can request your members to complete ("Action Profiles")
  • File sharing (graphics and document uploading)
  • Collaborative documents - your group can work together to create documents, joint declarations, etc
  • Ability to interact with many other Coffee Party groups on SharedPurpose.Net

American politics is at a critical juncture. Our old political models are failing us, and our leaders have been unable to bring us together as a nation. We need new ideas from everywhere, in a new framework that can bring together the best ideas and instincts of Americans. The Coffee Party is spearheading the development of new ideas, and the Sharedpurpose Network is helping incubate these ideas. Some of the special projects we are developing include:

Come work with us. Or let us help support you. Either way, we can work together and make our nation and our communities stronger.

--Bruce Schuman
bruce@sharedpurpose.net

New Users guide to Twitter:
Part II Hashtags, Retweets, and Replies

Twitter<br />
                                                            iconIn the previous installment, I described how to sign up for a Twitter account and find the first accounts to follow. In this one, I will describe three functions that will greatly improve your experience in finding useful information as well as improve your value as a source of information--hashtags, retweets, and replies.

Hashtags
Hashtags are topics that start with a hash mark or pound sign (#) that allow people to find posts about that topic more easily. For example, the hashtag for posts about Coffee Party USA is #coffeeparty. Clicking on a hashtag or typing in the hashtag in the search box at the top of the page both lead to a page with all the posts using that hashtag.

For a breaking event, it can be the best way to find out the latest information from people tweeting (posting via Twitter) about it. During the current protests in Wisconsin, one can look for the hashtags #solidaritywi and #wiunion to follow the latest news.

In addition to using hashtags to find tweets about a subject, one can also add hashtags so people can find your tweets about the subject. If you're tweeting about a Coffee Party event, be sure to add the #coffeeparty hash tag to make it easier for people to find your tweet!

Retweeting
What happens when you read someone else's tweet that you think is so good that the people following you should read it too? You retweet it! The fastest way to retweet is to mouse over the tweet you want to broadcast. A brief menu (Favorite, retweet, reply) will appear at the bottom of the tweet. Click on retweet.

Another way to retweet is to copy the original tweet, paste it in the box below the "What's Happening?" prompt at the top of the page, and then add "RT" and the username of the person you're retweeting. Remember to start the user name with the @ symbol. For example, the username of Coffee Party USA is @coffeepartyusa. Finally, add any hashtags you think the original post was missing (this is about the only reason to retweet manually, as the automated process is so much simpler).

Replying
If you want to respond to a tweet, mouse over the tweet as you did to retweet it, but click on reply instead. A dialog box will appear saying "Reply to @username" with the @username already posted for you. Add your response (remember, you only have 140 characters, including the user name) and click the "Tweet" button. There, you've replied!

If you want to see who has been replying to you, on the Home screen, click on @mentions. There you will see all the tweets that include your username, including all the replies to you. If you want to engage with the person replying to you, just click reply yourself. There, instant conversation!

Stay tuned for the next installment in which I will tackle more topics to make your Twitter experience more fun and useful. If you want to learn more in the meantime, Mashable has an online guidebook to Twitter.

--Vince Lamb


LA Coffee Party Building Community and Presence

The Los Angeles Coffee Party started, as all chapters did, when Coffee Party meet-ups first began a year ago, with discussion groups focused on finding common ground. We have continued those discussions, but with every issue that arose, so appeared the need to build community. And as we have chosen a handful of issues to focus our attention, the discussion on how to build community has always been present.

Things started to take off for our chapter when Coffee Party national introduced the "Clean Up K Street" campaign in the midst of the financial reform debates taking place across the nation and in Congress. We talked about how we could call attention to the need for financial reform. We thought rallying support for the financial reform effort was going to be challenging because most people don't see the direct impact Wall Street has on their everyday lives. So we began to explore issues that would clearly illustrate the connection between Wall Street's destructive gambling and The People's struggles. We finally came to the conclusion that nothing is more blatantly apparent to The People than the foreclosure crisis, which has been widespread and destructive especially in California. The foreclosure crisis has affected people of all backgrounds; and Wall Street had a direct hand in causing millions of people to lose their homes.

LA Coffee                                                             Party Demo against foreclosuresWe started our campaign by holding weekly foreclosure demonstrations in front of Bank of America, just before our chapter meetings. This has not only helped our visibility in the community, but also been beneficial to our members, as a regular action like this creates a strong bond. The sad truth of the matter is that American culture doesn't exactly encourage us to get together with strangers, like our neighbors, and work together towards a common goal. Whether we realize it or not, I think we all have a desire to contribute to community; something as simple as coming together to speak out against social injustices can be very empowering! So one could say this is a self-serving activity, but we have used it as a vehicle for service in many ways, and the people who approach us at the demonstrations have presented us with countless opportunities for dialogue and for us to provide resources too.

Shortly after we started the demonstrations we formed a Foreclosure Committee, made up of few members who volunteered to develop our foreclosure campaign. That group guides all of our work on foreclosures, from outreach and education to demonstrations and contacts with local officials. (More on our strategic use of committees in the next newsletter.)

As most of us are still active in other groups, we have developed relationships with several community organizations. At the end of every chapter meeting our members talk about upcoming events of these organizations. Whenever they are having events related to issues our members have agreed to support, then we participate to support their effort and to network with like-minded activists. These types of collaborations have not only played a pivotal part in building community, but by lending bodies to each others' efforts, it also makes for more powerful and effective actions for ALL.

Forming alliances with organizations has also led to coalition creation! At the beginning of this year, Coffee Party LA became a founding member of the "MLK coalition for Jobs, Justice and Peace." The coalition's first goal was to participate in the annual Martin Luther King parade, in response to the increased military presence in the parade, to help bring it back to its original purpose. The coalition intends to continue working together on our common causes. We started with about a dozen organizations, and now we have well over 30. By combining our forces, each group can add a slightly different focus for addressing the same or related issues. The coalition has provided us with the means (people power) to address issues we simply did not have the resources to address alone.

--Heather Meyer, LA Coffee Party Chapter Coordinator



Member Commentary: Can Democracy Be Tweeted?

After hearing NPR's Fresh Air interview with Twitter's cofounder titled "Twitter's Biz Stone On Starting a Revolution," I was reminded of the old saying, "When the wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at the wise man's finger". We've been informed from all sides that what's going on in the Middle East is another one of many "Twitter Revolutions" that we've seen over the past few years. Those questioning such a notion, most notably Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker last fall, have been roundly ridiculed-especially since the uprising in Egypt, after which Gladwell's detractors waved the headlines in his face pronouncing victory for their side.

But in the frantic pace of their online lives they've failed to read the headlines themselves and see that while the Mubarak regime has fallen, it's been replaced by its military-a point perfectly clear to Egyptians. Exuberant to be rid of the dictator, they still know there is hard work ahead to complete a democratic revolution, and that Twitter, while helpful, will be a minor player.

In fact, nothing that's happened yet refutes Gladwell's point: social networking creates "weak tie" relationships-very important in some ways, including disruption and shaking up regimes, but not the same as the strong relationships, hard work, and hard-learned skills that actually establish democratic change. As Gladwell says, "We seem to have forgotten what activism is." That the technophiles ignore the heart of the article-a description of the sacrifice and commitment that shaped the civil rights movement in the south in the '60's-begs the question, have we forgotten what activism is, or are we so intoxicated with our technology that we're blind to it?

MSNBC's Richard Engel on the ground with protesters in Cairo reported, "This didn't have anything to do with Twitter and Facebook. Demontrators on Tahrir Square, Egypt This had to do with people's dignity, people's pride. People are not able to feed their families." Even the blogosphere has proven to have a few clear heads. In his post "A Guide: How Not To Say Stupid Stuff About Egypt," Sarthanapolos includes "'The Twitter Revolution'. No, this is the Revolution of the Egyptian people. Egyptians resisted for decades. They were tortured, jailed and repressed by the Mubarak and Sadat regimes. Twitter and Facebook...did not stand in front of the water canons, or go to jail for all these years... Does it sound a bit arrogant to take credit for a people's struggle?"

The wiz kids at Twitter have nothing on an 83 year old named Gene Sharp who hardly even knows how to send an email. Yet according to the New York Times, "[F]or decades, his practical writings on nonviolent revolution.have inspired dissidents around the world." One activist training group slipped into Cairo several years ago to hold a workshop which relied in part on Sharp's "'198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,' a list of tactics that range from hunger strikes to 'protest disrobing' to 'disclosing identities of secret agents.'"

Yes, these books are online and the links may be Tweeted, at which point activists can get together and begin learning and practicing some of the important skills described. And in that process they will forge real relationships and commitment, get a glimpse of what leadership takes, and through such workshops gain a small sense of the hard work of democracy. And yes, that all may begin with a few Tweets. But to mistake Tweeting for the revolution is, if not idiocy, way off the mark. This revolution doesn't belong to an American company but to the people longing and working for democracy.

--Tim Holton, Emeryville, CA

 

 



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