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Coffee Party Newsletter • Jan. 18, 2012 vol 3. #1

Introducing Christopher Ritter

Chris Ritter

by Christopher Ritter

My name is Christopher Ritter. I'm a user-experience designer from Dayton, Ohio. I used to design software for a living until the Internet changed the way we look at everything. Now I design solutions that extend far beyond the software side of things, and work in collaboration with customers to solve issues that they are experiencing in the real world.

I am now making the transition from a member of the Coffee Party USA to a position on the Board of Directors. One of my duties will be to provide strategic guidance on our websites and social media outreach. I am truly honored to be given the opportunity to help lead the direction of a political movement that is focused on people-powered democracy. This is an historic moment, not only for our country but also for the people of many other, rapidly transforming countries who are also a part of this global democratic movement. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy Movement, people in every corner of the world are standing together in solidarity, to not only demand a seat at the table, but to create their own seats at their own tables.

My goal for the new year is to build upon the incredible amount of support that we’ve seen from our members and participants online — especially in the social media space, where we’ve had close to a quarter million active users on our Facebook page each and every month! By focusing on the grassroots level we can ensure that our members and supporters are not only connected and informed through social media, but also have access to the tools and knowledge they need to effect change in their local communities and at the national level. This includes expanding the number of Americans who have access to and utilize the online teleconferencing software, content management systems, and collaborative document management applications that the Coffee Party uses on a daily basis.

In order to make this happen we could really use your support! Please take a few moments to look at the special offers available during our January membership drive, "The Class of 2012."  Whether you support us by donating your time and talents or by donating money, remember that you are making possible a movement that is dedicated to returning the reins of government into the rightful hands of the people.

Thank you,
Christopher Ritter
Coffee Party USA Board of Directors



Help us grow 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.


Romney Tax Rate Now an Issue

by Will Rice

It's only a matter of time before America is comparing Mitt Romney's "15%" tax rate to that of his employees, including his secretary.  Romney was born into wealth, and is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and as The Atlantic's Derek Thompson reports, 15% is the effective tax rate of a family earning $50,000 a year.  This might be bad news for Romney, but it's good news for America because, with the economic challenges we face, we very much need to have a conversation about tax policy and sound public investment.  

Two months ago, I decided to come out of the closet as someone who is fortunate enough to benefit from the Romney tax rate, but I would prefer to see tax policies that benefit American instead.  I oppose the preferential treatment given passive investment income (dividends, capital gains) versus wage and salary income.  It is simply unfair that the tax rate on passive income is capped at 15%, while money earned from working can be taxed up to 35%.  That's why, in addition to my music videos, I am organizing a national initiative called Coffee Party CommonWealth.  A lot of people have already signed up, and many are contributing their own experiences and ideas to the project.  Perhaps you'd like to join us.

Focusing on the twin issues of tax equity and public investment, CommonWealth seeks to make the national debate on taxes and spending more real and relevant by making it less abstract and more personal.  Project participants make the case for greater fairness in the tax code and wise public investments, drawing from their own stories, their values, their feelings about the common good.

The CommonWealth project’s first job is collecting personal “Money Stories,” in which participants describe their personal financial situation in whatever detail they feel comfortable, and go on to describe how national taxing and spending decisions affect themselves and their families.  These stories — valuable in their own right — will also be the basis of public advocacy, including letters to the editor, blog posts, op-eds, videos, and communications with elected officials.  Already, contributors such as college student Dylan Moore have transformed their Money Stories into published Letters to the Editor.

Money Stories also include Cathy’s (she leads a comfortable “8%” lifestyle in Texas after a modest upbringing), Phil’s (his family had money but lost it, and he now fights for social justice in Maine), Richard's, and Mike's.



From the Desk of Debilyn

Debilyn Molineaux is executive director of Coffee Party USA and Co-Founder of
Changing the Game (Power, Politics, Participation).

What are you reading? Recommending to your friends?

As I start the New Year, I’ve been reviewing my life’s purpose which is facilitating our new social contract with each other. To that end, I’ve been re-reading “The Fourth Turning.” It’s a fascinating, some might say prophetic look at our current socio-political climate through the lens of two generational historians, William Strauss & Neil Howe. Published in 1997, “The Fourth Turning” looks at a 500-year trend that predicts our current level of economic and political unrest as part of a larger cycle that has repeated itself before and will do so again.

Personally, I take great comfort in this knowledge. For me, it means this period of unrest is predictable and will end. In the meantime, it’s about managing the stress and moving our country in a positive, and forward-looking direction instead of regressing. All-in-all, the outcome of this unrest will be our new social contract with each other with a clearly defined role of government and balance of individual / community responsibilities and rights.

But until then, we have unrest, anxiety and much work to do together. Let’s support one another as Coffee Party members and as Americans to create an environment where we want to engage with one another, and seek new social contract possibilities.

So what would you like to see? If you were to write the new social contract and define the role of government, what would it be? I’d like to blog about this over the next month and continue the dialogue.

It’s a New Year! Time to explore, empower and engage. We are the change we want to see in the world. (Thanks, Gandhi!)



Citizens United the Musical

Celebrating Corporate Personhood with Song

January 21 is the second anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, "Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission," and advocates on both sides of the corporate-personhood issue are making their voices heard.   Pro-democracy organizations like Move to Amend are protesting the decision with rallies at 100 Federal Court Houses, including the Supreme Court, on Friday Jan. 20.  
Meanwhile, United 4 the People is organizing protests at symbolic corporate locations around the U.S. on Saturday Jan. 21 to voice opposition to unlimited and anonymous money influencing our political process in favor of The 1 Percent.

But now there is a new organization fighting for the rights of The 1 Percent, and those who personally identify with them.  They call themselves the Corporate-Person American Movement, and they are determined not to let the American people have the last word on whether money should equal speech, or whether corporate entities should have the power to purchase election results and lucrative legislation.

Corporate Person American Will Rice has been pressuring Move to Amend leader David Cobb to allow equal time for 1 Percent advocates at Friday's rally at the US Supreme Court.  Cobb said he would consider allowing Rice to speak "in the spirit of fairness," but would not make any promises.  Rice has threatened to "occupy" Occupy the Courts, saying he simply cannot pass up on the opportunity to serenade the high court with praise for the Citizens United decision.


The People Reject Citizens United

On Friday Jan. 20, the Coffee Party is joining Move to Amend and democracy advocates across the US to hold more than 80 rallies in front of federal court buildings, including the US Supreme Court. These rallies will launch grassroots campaigns for ballot initiatives and resolutions rejecting the "Citizens United" decree for unlimited, anonymous spending to influence our elections.

Momentum has been building in recent months, with resolutions passed by city councils in Los Angeles and New York City, and the Montana Supreme Court asserting that states have the right to prevent the corporate purchase of their governments. Let's make this happen in states, towns, and cities across the country.

Here are some actions you can take:

  • Look for a Jan. 20 event near you by clicking here.
  • Join the United 4 the People protests at symbolic corporate locations around the U.S. on Saturday Jan. 21.
  • Organize locally for a ballot initiative or resolution!
    **Check out the toolkit and sign up here for an organizing webinar.
  • Learn more about this initiative by listening to our Town Hall with Coffee Party and Move to Amend leaders hostedbyEgberto Willies on Coffee Party Radio December 28.
  • Join Occupy the Courts by signing up here.



Why We Must Defeat SOPA

by Eric Byler

Excerpt:  Members of both parties have been backing away in recent days, with President Obama implying a veto threat over the weekend, and today's on-line strike led by Wikipedia.  

And, as Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times reported this morning, two Republican Senators publicly withdrew their support.

...Although it's annoying that the films I've made have lost out on revenue due to off-shore piracy, freedom of expression is more important in this precarious time for democracy in America, and, for the right to self-determination around the globe.  

The success of the SOPA pushback has proven the fact that, while Congress and the plutocrats who control Congress might not have much respect for We the People, they DO fear us when we work together, and, when we amplify our voices using the Internet.  It's not a coincidence that the Global Democracy Movement is happening now, just a technology is emerging to allow the People to stand up to military dictators and banking oligarchies using Facebook and Twitter.  You see, the fate of democracy and the fate of the Internet are intimately linked.  This is why the movement to stop SOPA has been so powerful, and, it is why it must succeed.  [MORE]


The Movement Is You

Egberto Willies is a self-employed software developer/engineer & political activist who lives in Kingwood, TX and is the author of the book, As I See It: Class Warfare the Only Resort to Right Wing Doom and the founder of the Coffee Party 2.0 program Americans for Racial Equality & Economic Justice.

I just got back from my local Coffee Party meeting. On the 35-mile or so drive back, I was thinking about Merry, our new facilitator and the subject she was discussing. You see she was discussing our healthcare system. Interestingly enough, Merry is neither enamored with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), nor the pre-Affordable Care Act system we are still partially in.

Merry had Wendell Potter’s book Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans. She also had a few other books and handouts along with websites presenting factual information about our healthcare system.



Cantor Haunted by Reagan Ghost

Although it did not go entirely as planned, it's clear what Cantor and his press team wanted: Cantor presented as a nice guy, a family man, a reasonable politician who is trying to do what he thinks is best for his country.House Majority Leader Eric Cantor set out to "humanize" his image by doing a 60 Minutes interview with Leslie Stahl that aired on New Year's Day. This is how Stahl explains the context of the interview: "President Obama has made Eric Cantor the face of Republican inflexibility."

The interview contains the usual elements of a Washington PR makeover: Cantor the "cool" dad who listens to rap, Cantor the devoted husband, Cantor the cyclist, Cantor as a boy who wanted to fit in at school, Cantor the statesman who stands for his principles, Cantor the straight-shooting populist who rails against those who game the system and include "provisions in the tax code that favor their industry," etc

But, something goes awry: the Ghost of Ronald Reagan makes an appearance and, like x-ray vision, reveals the cracks in Cantor's story.



Cost of the Bush Tax Cuts

by Eric Byler

The 2000 Presidential campaign included a fight over what to do with the budget surplus — that's right, we had a surplus only 11 years ago. Since then, our government has grown. But more importantly, we decided in 2001, and every year since then, not to pay for the growth of our government.  This decision is popularly known as the Bush Tax Cuts.  

America is right to focus on decreasing our deficit, but to do so, we need to begin by focusing on what creates deficits. The 2012 Presidential campaign will include a fight over whether or not we want to continue to tolerate the deficits and debt created by the Bush Tax Cuts, in particular tax cuts afforded to the wealthiest of the wealthy (see whirring numbers below).  [MORE]


What Is a CEO Worth?

by Eric Whinery

What is a CEO worth in relation to the employees who make up a company?  In many large companies, a CEO is a more political position with some decision making authority over the direction a company takes. A CEO may have connections with congressional staff, an above average understanding of the industry space the company inhabits, and in some cases, he or she is the highest level sales person and public face of a company.  A CEO certainly requires a strong skill set, and there is definitely some risk for the individual.  As the public face of a company, a CEO caught up in scandal can have a very negative impact on the bottom line.

When the highest corporate vision is set, the CEO relies on a few direct subordinates to plan strategy and then act on it. Those subordinates have, in some cases, thousands of operations managers and staff to carry out those plans.  These men and women on the staff are responsible for innovating, producing, selling, shipping and ensuring quality control for processes, among other important duties.  They interface directly at the customer level, and thus can have a direct impact on the product or service a company delivers.  



Exposing the Abuses of A.L.E.C.​

by Dillon Culbreth

As we emerge from the season of giving, the American people are faced with a system of taking, thanks in no small part to the hidden hands of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).  In 2011, we saw information begin to surface about this elite and shadowy lobbying & lawmaking syndicate.  It caught my interest.  Maybe I can interest you.

ALEC has been around since 1973 and their influence on the People’s business has been growing ever since. Their tactic is simple: throw a bunch of big, swanky resort vacations for elected officials and call it a “legislative exchange.”   Regular folk aren’t invited, of course; all the exchanging is done between our elected representatives and corporate profiteers who pay a pretty price to keep this racket going.  Lobbyists and special interests tell our elected officials what sort of legislation they’d like to see in return for campaign donations and presto — we have a new kind of government.  Take that, Founding Fathers!

ALEC has done a good job keeping its influence peddling machine out of the limelight over the decades.  But during the past year, as ALEC-style government began to clamp down, famously, on the people of Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, investigative journalists and democracy advocates began to take a closer look.  One informative resource to emerge is ALEC Exposed, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). It is set up in a wiki format, so you can search and dig to your heart’s content, and believe me, what you find will literally turn your stomach. 

ALEC has been successful at passing laws preferred by “The 1 Percent” on things like taxes, education, law enforcement, healthcare, energy, voting, and the environment — all the policies you’d prefer to see decided with the general welfare in mind, not based on how to maximize profits and increase influence for those who already have it. 


Contact the Editor
Egberto Willies


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