|March 25, 2011, Vol. 1 No. 6
From the Editors
We have some amazingly thoughtful readers. We have been receiving many long and astute e-letters to the editors. There are just too many to put in the newsletter, so we will try to publish these as a separate website blog.
We thank you for your care and support. We are all here because we care about our country's future. Nothing more, nothing less.
--Lynda Park, Barb Bull, and Tim McDonough (Newsletter Co-editors)
Introducing Coffee Party 2.0
Members of the Coffee Party National Team, along with advisers and professional consultants, have begun the process to transition the Coffee Party infrastructure into its permanent form. The activities the Coffee Party 2.0 Team will be engaged in include: the installation of a permanent Board of Directors; setting up internal committees and processes to manage ongoing business; installing management and administration personnel to perform member services duties; providing organizer training; and designing a process to effectively integrate the input of members at large at various levels. The team has gotten off to a quick start and have begun planning in order to implement the skeleton required of an efficiently functioning national movement. The current timeline for completion of the various objectives is July 1, 2011, but we would like to complete it sooner. In the mean time, expect full transparency from the team as we will provide ongoing progress reports.
Thank you all for your continued support, we look forward advancing the cause and becoming the platform for civil, reasoned and effective action you demand.
Team members are:
- Barbara Bull
- Eric Byler — Vice Chair
- Vince Lamb — Secretary
- Gloria LeBlanc
- Diane Owens — Chair
- Lynda Park
- Billy Sears
- Leah Spitzer
- Eric Whinery — Treasurer
Phone: (301) 259-1869
Become a Member
Becoming a contributing member of Coffee Party USA for as little as $10! Click here to become a member.
Let's Choose Reality over Ideology
Let's choose reality over ideology. Trickle-down economics (aka supply-side economics) is a failure. This economic theory/political ideology led not only to the worst income inequality in America since the great depression, it also paved the way for the financial crisis of 2008.
Since the collapse, we have witnessed morally bankrupt Wall St. executives lavish themselves with multi-million dollar bonuses after receiving bailout money from taxpayers. At the same time, we witnessed millions of Americans, taxpayers who paid for that bailout, hit skid row without even a "thank you" or "sorry" from Wall St or Washington.
Here are some startling facts about America today:
- In 2010, total compensation and benefits at 25 publicly traded Wall firms hit a record of $135 billion.
- In addition to the $700 bilion in bailout, $9 trillion was disbursed t by the Federal Reserve in overnight loans to major banks and Wall St firms including foreign banks during the financial crisis with little oversight. This was done without any oversight or input from Congress. You can try to track the combined trillions we have spent to bail out major American and foreign firms here. Even the Supreme Court just ruled for more transparency on details.
- 44 million Americans are on food stamps.
- More than 25 million Americans are now either jobless or underemployed.
- 25% of our nation's children live in poverty.
While you wrap your head around those numbers, consider this child's description of her hunger:
It's like a black hole. And sometimes when I don't eat, my stomach, you can hear it's like growling. You can hear it.
This is not a third world country. This is America in 2011.
No wonder Michael Lewis wants to know why there is no social revolution.
If you had told me in early 2009 that all these big Wall Street firms would be back even bigger and paying big bonuses and essentially socializing their losses but their gains privatized and that the American people put up with it — that’s the incredible thing — is that there isn’t a social revolution.
Here is the real bottom line: survival. We must correct the destructive political and economic path we are on right now. We can no longer afford to have this debunked and outdated ideology drive our policy-making.
If we continue to maintain policies that benefit multi-national companies and the richest 1%, we're not going to survive. If we continue to allow ideology, partisanship, and the election cycle to determine our policies, we're not going to survive.
The reality of our struggles, worries, concerns, needs, and well-being must drive policy-making.
Elizabeth Warren stated the problem starkly on the Daily Show:
It is simple. This is America's middle class. We've hacked at it and chipped at it and pulled on it for 30 years now. And now there's no more to do. Either we fix this problem going forward or the game really is over.
She does not mince her words. You can watch her explain this in detail here.
In a recent column in Time magazine, Fareed Zakaria warns all of us that we must think long-term about our future:
Washington is likely to make across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending, where there is much less money and considerably less waste...But reducing funds for things like education, scientific research, air-traffic control, NASA, infrastructure and alternative energy will not produce much in savings, and it will hurt the economy's long-term growth. It would happen at the very moment that countries from Germany to South Korea to China are making large investments in education, science, technology and infrastructure. We are cutting investments and subsidizing consumption — exactly the opposite of what are the main drivers of economic growth.
We are currently on a path to divest in our future and further undermine economic growth. This means more children experiencing black holes for the foreseeable future.
It seems Washington is currently incapable of self-correction because we have a broken system corrupted by money.
Bill Moyers resigned from PBS and he is now shouting it loud and clear to the world.
Everyone knows millions of Americans are in trouble...Why isn’t government working for them? Because it’s been bought off. It’s as simple as that. And until we get clean money we’re not going to get clean elections, and until we get clean elections, you can kiss goodbye government of, by, and for the people. Welcome to the plutocracy.
(continued from above)
It is truly time to evict Wall St and K Street from Congress and reclaim our government.
How do we do that? We need institutional fixes and we need an informed and engaged citizenry ready to find ways to resist the current system of power.
Close power- and wealth-grabbing loopholes. Our system has lost integrity in part because it is riddled with legal loopholes that are exploited by the ruling elite. Along with tax loopholes, Citizens United is a giant loophole in our campaign financing laws undermining the integrity of our system. Too-big-to-fail is a giant loophole in our financial system that guarantees eternal life for companies if they're simply big enough. It doesn't matter how financially and morally bankrupt they are, if they're big, we're going to cover their losses.
These loopholes are used to hide accountability and culpability. They are exploited to attain more wealth and power and create more loopholes of disappearing accountability.
This isn't to say all regulations are good. It is an exhortation to stop worshiping at the altar of deregulation.
In order to change the power structure, we must close loopholes and reform three areas of our politcal and financial system.
- Campaign finance
- Wall Street regulation
- The tax code
Every time you see a power- and wealth-grabbing loophole, we must think of the "black hole" of hunger experienced by millions of children. These two holes are directly connected. We need to close the loopholes exploited by Wall St and the wealthy few for their bottom line (profit and power) and lift our children out of the black hole of hunger.
The American people are too-big-to-fail. The only sensible path forward is to invest directly in the American people instead of believing and pretending to believe that it will trickle down if we give it away to Wall Street.
How is this an American value? AIG is too-big-to-fail, but 25% of our children can go hungry. I don't know about AIG, but our children are definitely too-big-to-fail. We the people are too-big-to-fail.
According to the Federal Reserve, most of that money was supposedly paid back. Great! Now lend us $9 trillion in low-interest emergency loans. Seriously, the Federal Reserve should give us emergency low-interest loans that they gave to Wall St and foreign firms. Even a fraction would help stop our children's growling stomachs. If that isn't an emergency, what is?
The most heinous part about the myth of trickle-down economics is that it makes the victims blame themselves for being poor, unemployed, or even nowadays, a public sector worker!
Not seeing the corrupt system, the victims focus on what they believe to be their personal failures instead of focusing on the failures of this system. Their hunger and desperation to just survive then turns into self-loathing, depression, and even suicide.
Our Mubarak. We must get ourselves and our fellow citizens to take a step back and look at the whole picture: this corrupt political and financial system with giant loopholes of accountability for the rich and black holes of hunger for our children. That is our Mubarak. That is what has to go.
They have money, but we are many. Despite our current broken system, we have power — more than we realize — as voters and as consumers. We are an essential part of this broken system. If we resist, there will be consequences to the rest of the system.
Our system is broken in part because as citizens, we have been disengaged from the process. The owner of this House has been away too long and now there are corporate squatters. It's time to remove them.
The more united we are, the easier it is for us to aggregate our voices and our impact and restore self-governance to the People.
Make the truth go viral. Once institutional actors know that they cannot deceive, manipulate and misguide the American people, it changes the game.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.- Martin Luther King, Jr.
With emerging web technology and the democratization of media, we have the power to get the American people to:
- Wake up to the reality that we are on a destructive economic path driven by the interests of the wealthy few. Nobel prize-winning economists, Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, have been doing their best to sound the alarm bells. Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, has said the trickle-down rhetoric dominating discussions about tax cuts is demagoguery.
- Wake up to the reality that we can and must do something about it, and, that if we make the effort, we will win. They have money, but we are many.
- Wake up to the reality that our strength will come from unity and resolve. We must not submit to the divide and rule tactics deliberately designed by political strategists to distract us from the real struggle, win elections and maintain a dysfunctional two-party system.
- Wake up to the reality that "there is a war going on for your mind." Our profit-driven mass media misinforms and disinforms the American people on a regular basis to manufacture consent. Our mass culture is a product of an ancient bread-and-circus tactic designed to delude us into "taking comfort in celebrity culture" and suppress demand by the people for real economic security, fair opportunity and democracy.
We're all part of an interconnected online and offline social network. We can all help make the truth go viral.
Together, we can make sure that we not only survive these hard times, but pave the way so that our children, our grandchildren, the next generation, can thrive.
Join us for the first action of our campaign: Coffee Break to Save America.
Meet a National Team Member
Leah Spitzer, Media Outreach Coordinator
I am so excited to be a part of the National Team. I am currently serving as one of the acting Southeast Regional Coordinators as well as one of the Media Outreach Coordinators. As one of the newer members of the National Team, I am in awe at the depth of knowledge and commitment of the team, and having the opportunity to be a part of that is an honor. My background is in Education and Administration, and I am also a retired Dog Trainer and Behaviorist.
I am frustrated with the atmosphere of our politics and fearful of the path we are on. We have become a nation where those on the right blame the left and those on the left blame the right. The left and the right no longer talk to each other, and the left-right paradigm is no longer simply a generalization of political platforms, but a way to put walls up, stifle conversation, and shut down progress.
When I heard about the Coffee Party on CNN back in April of 2010, it was like a breath of fresh air. I truly believe that the Coffee Party has a strong message and it’s up to all of us to help that message spread both through example and actions. We need to bring civility and transpartisanship back to our country.
Coffee Party Regional Coordinators
Contact us. We will help you organize locally.
Northeast - firstname.lastname@example.org
States: CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA, VT, WV
Southeast - email@example.com
States: AR, AL, GA, FL, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN
Midwest - firstname.lastname@example.org
States: IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, OH, WI
Southwest - email@example.com
States: AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX
West - firstname.lastname@example.org
States: AK, CA, HI, ID, MT, ND, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY
Extended Deadline for Survey on Draft Guiding Statements
To accommodate a new "bounce" of interest, the Principles and Purpose Working Group is extending the deadline for its Survey on Draft Guiding Statements of the Coffee Party until Sunday, March 27, at 12 midnight EST.
To take the Survey, please click here.
--Principles and Purpose Working Group of the Coffee Party
Let's Make Truth go Viral - Help us with our April Video Series!
As one Coffee Party volunteer put it, "Americans are entertaining ourselves to death." Desperate Taxpayers and Survivor: Trickle-Down Economics should be America's most watched TV shows. We don't have corporate funders to produce a TV show, but we are producing a series of Survivor web videos that give voice to the other America that lives outside the confines of that shiny box in our living rooms. We're inspired by an exploding student-led movement to demand reality-based policy instead of ideology-based policy from Congress.
It's time to speak up and show up!
1) You can call our speak-out line (301) 259-1869 and record your message or story.
2) You can email us a photo holding signs such as "Survivor of Trickle Down Economics" or "Desperate Taxpayer." Or you can create your own message and send the photo to: survivor@ coffeepartyusa.com.
3) If you can shoot video, please do, and upload it to YouTube. Send us the link and we can pull it down from the web and add it to our video.
Here are some addional lines you can say, or write on a sign to hold in a photo:
- "I pay taxes."
- "I've paid taxes all my life."
- "I work hard."
- "Aren't I too-big-to-fail."
- "Invest in me."
- "I'm ready to work."
- "I'm ready to start my career."
- "Where are the jobs?"
- "Corporate welfare has failed us."
- "Invest in our future."
- "Cancel the Corporate Welfare reality TV show."
- "Time to invest in America."
Send your photos and/or video clips to: survivor@ coffeepartyusa.com.
Join our new Taxpayers Take Action 2011Facebook, and contribute an incredible exchange of ideas for action and information on which to base action. strategy group on
And, our primary Facebook page just topped 350,000 fans. This will be the engine that pushes out our videos and all our April actions.
Coffee Party Blogtalk Radio
All Coffee Party blogtalk radio shows are archived. Listen to these recent shows to get better informed:
"In Pursuit of Corporate Accountability," with Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen (click here)
"If I had Trillion Dollars," with John Feffer of the Institute for Policy Studies, to discuss the Global Day of Action on Spending on April 12, 2011 (click here)
New User's Guide to Twitter:
Part IV Setting Up Your Profile
In the previous installments, I described how you can use features of Twitter such as hashtags, mentions, and retweets to improve your reading and tweeting experience. In this issue, I describe how to do some housekeeping that will still improve your reading experience and potentially help you communicate even when you are not tweeting.
It is important to have a good profile to attract more followers. To set your profile, click on Profile. There, you can upload an image you wish to use as your picture, add in your website if you have one (if you are running a local or regional Coffee Party USA group and you have a webpage, be sure to use that for any Twitter account you are running in support of the group), and type in a biography. Your biography must be less than 160 characters, so be succinct. If you have room, include the most common hashtags you use--remember to include #coffeeparty and #4ThePeople among them!
Don't discount the power of a good biography. Other users will decide whether or not to follow you based on it. Just having a biography is helpful; people without biographies might be clueless newbies not worth following or, worse yet, spammers and bots.
If you wish to customize the background you see on Twitter, as well as the background others see when they visit your profile, the easiest way is to visit Design and pick one of the backgrounds there. Should you wish for a background not on the menu, Mashable lists some outstanding sites and applications you can use to find or create custom backgrounds. Warning, Twitterbacks.com does not seem to be working, but the rest still are.
Mashable also gives some excellent rationales for using custom backgrounds, including:
1. Personalization and expression;
2. Contact info (including how to find your Coffee Party group online);
3. Personal branding (or Coffee Party branding, if this is a local Coffee Party twitter account);
4. Artistic creativity.
Many people use Twitter from their mobile phones. To join them, click on Mobile. There you can enter your mobile phone number. While this is a free service with Twitter, normal texting rates apply to your tweets from your phone. If you tweet a lot, be sure to get an unlimited texting plan from your cell phone provider.
Connections lists all of the sites to which you've given permission to use your Twitter account information. These include sites that allow you to use your Twitter identity as a login or that attach your Twitter identity to an existing account (Huffington Post and LiveJournal are prime examples) or from which you frequently share links. Stay tuned for both future posts on both account linking and link sharing!
Don't forget. Mashable has an online guidebook to Twitter. Follow us at @coffeepartyusa!
Coffee Party Austin Organizes Talk by Lawrence Lessig
Coffee Party Austin began organizing around the issue of Money in Politics in May of last year. After several members heard Lawrence Lessig’s presentation at the Coffee Party USA Convention in September, we were inspired to invite him to speak in Austin on the corrupting influence of private money on our democracy.
We began preparations in October, asking our members for donations and seeking sponsors. Every meeting seemed to attract new people wanting to know more about the Coffee Party as word went out about our plans. One of our board members, Joanne Richards, recruited sponsors to help with funding and publicity: the University of Texas Law School and School of Government, The LBJ School and Public Citizen. Over the next few months, members raised money from friends, designed an event program and Coffee Party Austin “Money in Politics” issue bookmark to pass out at the event. Every step we took brought us closer to our goal and drew more volunteers wanting to help. Finally on February 28, Lawrence Lessig and a panel of experts spoke to a standing room only crowd consisting of over 240 University students, faculty and invited guests from Austin, San Antonio and Houston.*
Planning this event was both a challenge and a privilege for our small group of volunteers as we learned how to leverage our talents and limited resources by forming partnerships with academic and public interest groups. This experience has given us the confidence to begin a long-term strategy to educate the public on the need for reforms in our state of Texas. As Professor Lessig pointed out during his talk, elected officials are keenly aware of their dependence on large campaign donations and know they must “lean to the green” when making public policy if they want to win the next election.
As we move forward, Coffee Party Austin hopes to partner with other Texas Coffee Party groups and civic organizations to sponsor deliberative community conversations and build an irresistible public demand for reforms in our state and nation that will restore the “proper” dependence of our government on the people alone.
*You can view Professor Lessig’s presentation in Austin at CoffeePartyAustin.org. You can also find us on Coffee Party Austin Facebook Page.
--Diane Owens, Interim Coffee Party Austin Board Member
Shareholders, Stand Up!
Following last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision on Citizens United v FEC, spending by outside groups has exploded. These groups, funded largely by corporate interests, spent more than four times as much money to influence the 2010 elections as they did in 2006, the last mid-term cycle. Many believe that this is just a drop in the bucket compared to what we will see in the 2012 presidential elections.
Corporations with their massive profits now seem to have no limit on what they can spend on these political expenditures. But to whom are these corporations accountable? The shareholders. When we talk about shareholders, we are no longer just talking about a small group of wealthy investors. Today almost 50% of American households own stocks. The shareholders are us, the public.
The idea that corporations can make unlimited political expenditures without their shareholders’ consent and knowledge of the spending is unacceptable. We as shareholders and citizens must call for greater corporate accountability and transparency. There are a number of ways that this can be achieved. We must ask our state legislatures to pass laws that require shareholders have a say in their companies' political spending. At the federal level, we must ask Congress to pass Representative Mike Capuano's soon-to-be-reintroduced Shareholder Protection Act. At the corporate level, shareholders should press for the corporation to adopt resolutions to grant the shareholders the right to consent or oppose political spending.
Shareholder protection will not undo the Court’s decision, but it is a step to limit its impact. Both transparency and shareholder protection are non-partisan issues. Overwhelming majority of Americans support greater transparency.
The Coffee Party is working with Public Citizen, Common Cause, and other organizations to promote shareholder protection. We will post more information as actions are finalized. If you are interested in helping us work on the shareholder protection issues, please contact Lynda Park at email@example.com or join us in Shared Purpose, group entitled Campaign on Big Money in Politics.
Meanwhile please go this site and tell your representative that you support Shareholder Protection Act, and read an interesting commentary on the subject by Ciara Torres-Spellicy of counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.
--Lynda Park, Coffee Party Pittsburgh