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Coffee Party Newsletter • Dec. 20, 2011

Hi from Jeanene Louden, Secretary for our newly elected Board of Directors

by Jeanene Louden

Hi. My name is Jeanene Louden. I'm a retired business owner, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, AND I'm a thoughtful American who believes democracy is in trouble and it is my job as a citizen to intervene!

I joined Coffee Party USA because the message rang true: money has replaced votes in our government and the resulting mischief is killing the country I know and love.  Now, on January 1st, 2012, I will be seated as a member of the Coffee Party's first elected Board of Directors.  I am enthusiastic about volunteering for Coffee Party at the highest possible level of involvement and responsibility.  I believe in my heart that the Coffee Party can, in solidarity with like-minded organizations, face the challenges of the coming years and help our America come out on top.

Our Board of Directors is made up entirely of everyday Americans like you.  None of us are political professionals.  None of us are experts.  So, we're going to need you to contribute to the collective wisdom of our membership.  This is the only way we can live up to the promise of this one-of-a-kind grassroots organization, and, more importantly, the promise of America.

In the first few weeks of 2012, the new Board of Directors will need to answer some pretty tough questions.  At the center of it all: how can the Coffee Party effectively perform its role as a doorway for civil, fact-based, and trans-partisan civic participation in the middle of one of the most bitterly contentious and momentously important election years in our history?  What sort of initiatives, what sort of messaging, and what sort of insights can we chart out that will allow us to fulfill our mission to inform and engage fellow Americans in our democratic process without leaning on the usual tropes of partisanship, negativism, and demonizing the "other"?

As incoming Secretary, I pledge to ensure that the lines of communication between Official Members and the Board of Directors remain a two-way street, so that we can benefit from the diverse experience and perspectives that define the Coffee Party community.

Here are three steps I am taking to do this:

  1. I am in training to become a Coffee Party Radio Talk Show Host!  You can listen to my recent appearance on Coffee Party radio, along with Annabel Park, by clicking here.  Starting in January, I will have my own show once a week.  I invite you to join me and tell me what's on your mind.
     
  2. I would like to invite you to join our "Class of 2012" Membership Drive, so that we can all start fresh, together in the first month of 2012.  If you join the “Class of 2012” before Jan. 31st you can receive some special gifts like bumper stickers, coffee mugs, and T-shirts.
     
  3. I invite you to email me with your ideas, concerns, and suggestions.  I am particularly interested in hearing from  Membership, but if you are a person who cares about our country's future, I am interested in what you have to say whether you are an Official Member or not.

[MORE, including video of Jeanene, and a photo of her husband and her dog!]

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Contact the Editor
Egberto Willies
egberto@coffeepartyusa.com

 

Coffee Party Radio:
Annabel Park welcomes foreign policy expert John Feffer to talk about the "Axis of Evil" in 2012: the end of the War in Iraq, North Korea after Kim Jong Il, and U.S. saber rattling over Iran. 

Full Schedule for Coffee Party Radio.

The Movement Is You

EgbertoWillies(144X144)by Egberto Willies

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a very peaceful rally in my town of Kingwood, Texas. We called the rally Occupy Kingwood. The rally was comprised of many organizations in town working for change to re-buttress the middle class. We had a few members of Coffee Party participating as well. We decided to rally without any overt signs that named our specific organizations but instead presented a unified front based on the actual problems afflicting the poor and the middle class.

I am sure by now you have seen the recent report that the census data reveals that nearly half of Americas live near or below the poverty level. These are not first world country statistics but stats for third world countries. Members and contributors to the Coffee Party have defined the problem. We know the problem is partially the corporate control of our politicians and all that it entails. Most importantly, however, we must accept the fact that the problem is us.

It is easy to identify a problem. It is easy to complain about a problem. It is easy to be a victim. What is difficult is taking the steps necessary to be a part of the solution. Why? It is difficult to be engaged in the political process while we must take care of our families. It is difficult to get the information about when and how to take action.

That is where the Coffee Party, your Coffee Party, is designed to play a part. You have just elected a Board of Directors of which I a proud to be a part.  We will hit the ground running on January 1st, ready to support your cause. This is an election year and the Coffee Party's primary goals of Wall Street Reform, Tax Code Reform, and Campaign Finance Reform must be a part of the dialogue.  Your Board of Directors will be watchful and ready to direct our engagement in the body politic to have maximum effect.

Coffee Party brothers and sisters, let us get the New Year started on the right foot. We are coming off a gloriously successful rally in Washington DC that brought old and new Coffee Party members together and allowed us to bond. We began a process of strategic thinking for 2012, and we want you to be part of that process from now on.  We will be discussing ways to engage and have impact on our radio shows, through our blogs, and on our websites. You must be a part of it and you must be ready to help us by adding your voice.

Coffee Party is a volunteer organization. I volunteer my time, some Internet bandwidth, and money to support Coffee Party. Most of our active and visible members do the same. We have a very small paid staff to manage our infrastructure, Internet tools, and applications. I ask that everyone reading this newsletter become an official member as part of our "Class of 2012" Membership Drive, or to make a donation however small. I promise, we promise to be good stewards of your donations to ensure it all goes to promote our cause. This movement is you. You will determine its success.


“We are Wall Street” — Let the Fee-Takers Become Value Creators

by Mike Massey

I came across an interesting image a month or so ago. It was a photo of a leaflet allegedly “dropped” on Occupy protesters in Chicago. I’m not sure what to make of its authenticity, but when I read it I thought, “What a great idea!” The whole premise of the leaflet is a twisted cautionary tale. It can be summarized in a few brief points:

  • We are Wall Street, we’re smart(er than you), and we work hard(er than you).
  • If you make our business less lucrative, we’ll come and take your job instead, and we’ll do it better than you. (You’ll be out of work.)
  • If you make our business less lucrative, you won’t get to benefit from our largesse anymore. (Even if we don’t take your job, you’ll still be out of work, because we’re the rainmakers in this economy.)

As I’m sure many readers will recognize, there are a number of issues with this line of reasoning, but my overall response was, “Bring it on! Let’s make this happen.”

The fact is that the growth of Wall Street profits (and bonuses) does little to help the economy.  Most Americans know this intuitively, but let me try to explain why this is so by examining the concepts of “value creation” and “rent-seeking.”

Value creation is how economies grow, in real terms. One can take a tree, for example, and cut it into lumber. Then one could take the pile of lumber and build a house. Value was added to the economy several times: once when the tree was felled, once when it was turned into lumber, and once when the lumber was made into a house. Or consider the latte: a person takes a 50 cents worth of milk and coffee, steams it for a minute or two until it’s just right, and sells the result for four dollars. There can be value in a sequence of letters on a page, a series of bits in a computer, a particular arrangement of pigments on a canvas or notes on a page, new scientific knowledge, or a new critical perspective. Education is our investment in future value creators — the “value-creative class.”  Value creation is the root of real economic growth.

Rent-seeking, on the other hand, is a way to expand an individual’s share of the economy, without actually producing anything new – without producing much new value. Rent-seeking is not necessarily a bad thing; I don’t begrudge an innkeeper or a landlord the fee for a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head. Nor, indeed, do I begrudge a broker her commission, or the mutual fund company their expense ratio. All of these activities can enable value creation, and  everybody’s got to make a living. Rent-seeking just doesn’t really grow the economy that much, in comparison to value creation. [MORE]


Inoculate yourself from "1 Percent Media"
(and other products designed to mislead you)

by Egberto Willies

I was unable to listen to Annabel and Jeanene's show live on Thursday afternoon. So while writing this newsletter I decided to listen to the archived recording. A lot of the focus seemed to be on the word "truth." I few days ago a Coffee Party member sent me a piece she found titled “Twenty-Five Ways To Suppress Truth: The Rules of Disinformation" by H. Michael Sweeney.

I read through it and was simply amazed at the piece. It is in fact the playbook for those that must misinform in order to achieve their narrow agenda. Reading it with an open mind could inoculate you from the media content designed to mislead you.

Twenty-Five Ways To Suppress Truth: The Rules of Disinformation by H. Michael Sweeney.

These 25 rules are everywhere in media, from political debates, to television shows, to comments on a blog.

1. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Regardless of what you know, don’t discuss it — especially if you are a public figure, news anchor, etc. If it’s not reported, it didn’t happen, and you never have to deal with the issues.

2. Become incredulous and indignant. Avoid discussing key issues and instead focus on side issues which can be used to show the topic as being critical of some otherwise sacrosanct group or theme. This is also known as the "How dare you!" gambit.

3. Create rumor mongers. Avoid discussing issues by describing all charges, regardless of venue or evidence, as mere rumors and wild accusations. Other derogatory terms mutually exclusive of truth may work as well. This method works especially well with a silent press, because the only way the public can learn of the facts are through such "arguable rumors." If you can associate the material with the Internet, use this fact to certify it a "wild rumor" which can have no basis in fact.

4. Use a straw man. Find or create a seeming element of your opponent’s argument which you can easily knock down to make yourself look good and the opponent to look bad. Either make up an issue you may safely imply exists based on your interpretation of the opponent/opponent arguments/situation, or select the weakest aspect of the weakest charges. Amplify their significance and destroy them in a way which appears to debunk all the charges, real and fabricated alike, while actually avoiding discussion of the real issues.

5. Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule. This is also known as the primary attack the messenger ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach. Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as "kooks," "right-wing," "liberal," "left-wing," "terrorists," "conspiracy buffs," "radicals," "militia," "racists," "religious fanatics," "sexual deviates," and so forth. This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues.

[MORE]


Luck or Fate?  How Philosophy Impacts Policy

by Will Rice

We need the participation of people like you in the Coffee Party Commonwealth project if we’re going to effectively advocate for fair tax policies — one key way of restoring sanity to our nation’s public finances and revitalizing our economy by restoring purchasing power and upward mobility to America's middle class and working class.

Another goal of the Commonwealth project is to address some fundamental questions about money and life. For instance, how large of a role does luck, or fate, play in human affairs?  This is an age-old philosophical question — one that affects policy positions on taxation, public spending and the proper role of government.

Say you believe life is a lottery: outcomes are entirely beyond our control, with bounty and want scattered at random.  You might well support steeply progressive income and inheritance taxes as a result, based on the idea that the more fortunate should contribute a higher percentage of their earnings to the common good than the less fortunate, simply because they can.

But imagine that you believed success and failure are both entirely earned — that wealth is always and everywhere directly related to personal virtue and effort.  Then the same policy is no more than institutionalized theft, punishing merit and rewarding sloth. 

For some of us, the role of luck in financial wellbeing is beyond dispute, because we live by it.  We are inheritors, who were handed a living through the simple expedient of being born.  True, we are required to put forth some effort to fully enjoy our wealth.  We must find ways not to excessively anger or alarm our benefactors, for instance, and we must spend our money wisely so as not to squander it.  But these are relatively light duties in comparison to the workaday world.

I live by the assumption that this thing called luck works both ways: there must be at least as many instances of bad luck as good.  I further believe it is the appropriate role of government to employ some of that unearned good fortune to address unearned misfortune through progressive taxation on things like capital gains and inheritance, using the money collected for social investment.  [MORE]

Membership Update

by Billy Sears

The holiday season has arrived and Coffee Party USA would like to wish all of our members and supporters a very happy holiday. We have come so far, in such a short time, and this wouldn’t have been the case without the support of folks like you.

As your Membership Director, I would like to say a personal thank you for your support, your generosity and your patience over the past year as we have transformed Coffee Party from an all volunteer movement into a national non-profit organization with a Board of Directors and a small administrative staff. Rome obviously wasn’t built in a day, but as someone who began his career with Coffee Party as a volunteer local organizer, I am extremely proud of what has been accomplished thus far.

It is no secret, and is the case with a lot of non-profits, that our success is dependent on our members and contributors. You help us chart the course for Coffee Party. To show our appreciation, we would like to offer some incentives for any December contributions. We are offering some great stocking stuffers, courtesy of our Coffee Party store. We are also offering a 20% discount for purchases at our Coffee Party store for any contributions. To see the incentives, click here.

Coffee Party is also pleased to be able to offer gift memberships. A gift membership is a great way to introduce your friends and families to the Coffee Party mission and values. Please click here to initiate a gift membership.

If you are looking for other ways to support Coffee Party . . .

[MORE]


From The Desk Of Debilyn

by Debilyn Molineaux

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY. AND WE AREN’T DONE YET. NOT EVEN CLOSE

We’ve been reviewing the history of the Coffee Party lately. How long ago it seems since Annabel’s first Facebook post in January 2010. Or was it only yesterday?

In 2011, we journeyed together with actions in Washington DC in January and October, local events in many parts of the country including Austin, TX, Champaign, IL, Pensacola, FL and more. We developed a strategic plan in June that took feedback from you, the Coffee Party Community on the issue of Money & Politics. We focused on, and invested in building infrastructure to expand our reach, gather and deliver more information, provide local chapter services.

And of course, our Internet strategy continues to evolve as new technology emerges. Our Facebook fan page sends out four posts a day, averaging more than 200,000 impressions each, which means that in 2011 the Coffee Party message reached hundreds of millions on Facebook alone. We also have a small team sending out 10 to 15 Tweets per day @CoffeePartyUSA, and we are now capable of sending messages to more than 160 Facebook pages started by Coffee Party organizers around the country.

As we were planning the Citizens Intervention event for October, the Occupy Movement began and swelled. Within a couple of months, the work we had envisioned taking a couple of years to shift the country’s focus was accomplished. This is good news for Coffee Party. We’ve been thinking about this and will be asking for your input in the coming weeks.

That leads us to 2012. Where will we go together? We have three local programs emerging for 2012. Of course, we need your help!

  1. 2012 Elections--Get Out the Coffee Vote: organizing to educate voters, register voters and distribute voter guides
  2. Citizens Lobby: build relationships with Congress about concerns around Tax Code Reform, Wall Street Reform & Campaign Finance Reform at district offices around the country. In Washington, we are looking to engage our own team of Coffee Party lobbyists to make regular visits to Capitol Hill.
  3. Open Mic/Free Speech Events (Citizens Intervention Events) can be organized by any local group at any time. Let your community (and your Congressional Representatives) hear your concerns in a public setting. An online guide is available.

As we head towards the New Year, we’d like to express our appreciation to all of you for being part of the Coffee Party community. Your support is invaluable and important. Thank you for all you do.

Debilyn

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The Truth About Taxes and Job Creation — Great Reporting by

NPR

by Eric Byler

Okay, stop reading this now.  Stop reading this, and take 11 minutes to LISTEN TO THIS STORY.  It begins with a charming character sketch on venture capitalist Nick Hanauer (Amazon.com).  After that, it's 11 minutes of absolute genius.

As we watch the struggle within the Republican Party in Congress over extending the Payroll Tax Cut for America's middle class and working class, the argument we hear over taxation is shifting in a fascinating way. What used to be "taxes are always bad" is now "taxes on the wealthy are always bad but taxes on everyone else are okay if it means obstructing the Obama administration."

Partisanship is boring. Sometimes you have to look past it and get to the facts. Will Rice, who recently came out of the closet as a member of "The 1 Percent," recently wrote:

The reason usually offered for taxing passive income at a lower rate than wages, salaries, and small-business income is that such preferential treatment encourages investment and job creation. And that may be true of entrepreneurs who start businesses, seek investors, and then sell off their creations and start all over again.

But I don't do any of those things, and there are millions of rich people like me who don't either. Like a lot of them, I inherited stock in big companies like IBM and General Electric. I support myself primarily by going to my mailbox, picking up dividend checks, and depositing them. Occasionally I sell some shares at a profit. And conservative tax reformers believe I should be rewarded for this great exertion by exempting me entirely from taxation.

So not everyone in the "1%" creates jobs and shielding our aristocracy from the levels of taxation we had when our economy was strong and our budget balanced doesn't make a lot of sense.  Point taken.  But what about those members of the "1%" who do create jobs?  [MORE]