Monday, June 15, 2015

Working and winning with the energy around #FeelTheBern

So I think something of interest and value is happening with the Bernie Sanders campaign.  I can't put my finger on it, and I think we need to be careful in thinking that online activism and a few meetings of former occupy activists (like myself, who has joined in) are what "winning" will look like.  This isn't about what personality is sitting in the White House.  We need to think bigger than that if we want to win.

But I still think something of value is happening that we need to be thinking about and building from.

We push, rather than nitpick at the imperfections.

With that in mind as I was reading Jodi Dean's book Democracy and other Neoliberal Fantasies she hit upon a theme that resonates with me.  That the left gave up and much our our weakness is from our own actions, not big monsters defeating us in the arc of moral history.

I see and hear (and sometimes too often share) in the defeatism.  But also that we cannot confuse our membership within the "typing Left"--whatelse is the netroots but clicktivists and writers who want to talk rather than actually organize?--for action.  You can't be building power by yourself, there has to be other people  involved and typing and reading are isolated actions that actually help to inform those with power what we think so that they can better sell their product to us via Public Relations spin.

Insert extended quote (my emphasis):
Left Enjoyment or Victory in Defeat 
The political, economic, and social changes associated with the decline of disciplinary society, obsolescence of Fordist production, and defeat of the Keynesian welfare state have been accompanied by increased emphases on the singular, individual, and personal.  Commodities are no longer marketed to broad types--housewives, teenagers--but are individualized such that consumers can specify the features they desire in a product: I'll take a grande half-caf skinny lattee with extra foam: I'll design and order my own sports shoes; I'll save television shows, edit out the commercials, and watch them when it's convenient for me. Media, ever smaller and more integrated, are not just many-to-many, as early internet enthusiasts emphasized, but me-to some-to me.  The rise of the consumer as producer hyped as Web 2.0 and signaled by Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube designates a shift in media such that increasing numbers of people present their own artistic work (videos, photography, music, writing), express their own views, and start in their own shows.  They want to make themselves known and visible--not just read or hear or see others (one example: 93 percent of U.S. teenagers use the Internet; 39 percent of them post their own art, stories, and ideas online). At the same time, the experience of consuming media has become progressively more isolated--from large movie theaters, to the family home, to the singular person strolling down the street as she listens to the soundtrack of her life or talks in a seeming dementia into a barely visible mouthpiece.  This isolation in turn repeats the growing isolation of many American workers as companies streamline or "flexibilize" their workforce, cutting or outsourcing jobs to freelance and temporary employees. Insofar as too many on the academic and typing left have celebrated isolation as freedom and consumption as creativity, we have failed to counter the neoliberalization of the economy.  Even worse--we have failed to provide good reasons to support collective approaches to political, social, and economic problems.  it's easier to let the market decide.
Rather than accepting responsibility for this failure and for our own enjoyment of the benefits and pleasures of networked, consumer-driven entertainment and communication media, though, we continue to blame the other guys--conservatives and neoconservatives, Republicans, mainstream Democrats, neoliberals, religious fundamentalists. After all casting blame is infinitely easier than envisioning alternatives to global capitalism, combating climate change, or securing peace in the Middle East.  As long as leftists see ourselves as defeated victims, we can refrain from having to admit that we are short on ideas--or that the ones we have seem unpopular, outmoded.  Thus, we need a strong, united enemy.  if the right is weaker than we are prepared to admit, then our retreat, our cowardice, is all the more shameful: We gave in, gave up, before we needed to.  We actually didn't lose. It's worse than that.  We quit.
                                                  --Jodi Dean Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics
We need to be organizing in our local communities.  The meme we are utilitizing, so to speak, is the Bernie Sanders campaign.  But the task at hand is to build local networks of power around an agenda that focuses on the need to make sure everyone has their basic needs met when it comes to food, shelter, health care, education.  Groups of people talking and organizing around those principles can't be stopped.

At this moment we are working with the energy built around #FeelTheBern.  But we can't reduce it to emotions we share on social media--we have to leave our houses and organize.

This isn't about what personality is sitting in the White House.  We need to think bigger than that if we want to win.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Does Obama have national security problems or information flow problems?

So Thomas Ricks over at Foreign Policy posted about  retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn's recent swipe at the White House foreign policy, Ex-DIA chief Flynn goes into opposition against Obama Administration on ISIS, commenting:
It is striking to me how many security officials have gone public against this administration after leaving. This is not a normal pattern, and by this point amounts to a non-partisan indictment of how Obama’s White House has dealt with a variety of national security issues. Among other things, it makes me appreciate the restraint that the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, must be exercising on a daily basis.
It could be.  Or might this be an effect of the aggressive position the Obama Administration has taken towards internal leaks?  Obama has been the most aggressive since Nixon in going after leaks.

By not allowing civil society to discourse on viable but unconfirmed information and criticisms ("leaks") are we harming our ability to properly get to the correct policies? Should critics be able to float information in public without threat of being thrown in jail when they disagree with higher ups? Do we end up getting better outcomes when the public has more information during the debate than after the fact?

Ricks may be correct, that Flynn and others, are an indictment of the Obama tactics in the quote unquote War on Terror; but maybe they are sending a more Hayekian signal about information flows within the national security apparatus?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The final push for Jim Nichols for State House

This truck loader put his name on the ballot for State House this year to address a number of issues, but for only one purpose: To prove to those that have given up on the political process that participation is not futile. That money and connections are beatable when you have better ideas, a better grasp of the challenges facing your community, and you are willing to put in hard work.

Not voting, not voicing your preferences about our collective future, is not rebellion, but victimhood, at a time when we need to be working together to move our state forward.
I have lost too many friends over the years to drugs, hopelessness, and the jail cell; and we as a community have too much potential that is needlessly being wasted, to just allow out of touch power brokers to steal our future through shortsightedness and greed.

When people organize, participate, and vote in the political process the politicians will follow their lead--everytime. It is how history has always moved forward and it is how we will not only overcome these challenging times in front of us, but how we will come out on the other side a stronger, healthier, more educated, and more prosperous society.

Tonight is an important fundraising deadline.  Please chip in what you can to help me get my message out to voters these last few days of the campaign.  No matter if it is $3, $25, or $500--every dollar truly does make a difference.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fox News reporting doesn't make one a religion of peace and the other not.

The three major Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are fundamentally the same--in their core structure and historical and metaphorical linage.  

To lift up one as a religion of peace is tautologically to lift up the other two as religions of peace as well. You can't have it both ways just because Islam is portrayed in the media another way.  If you don't believe me go read Karen Armstrong or Karl Jaspers and then come back and lets talk.  

Fox news may report otherwise but they do so with sloppy sources and biased talking heads promoting militarism and death at a time when we should go back to the Golden Rule and lift up what we share with one another across geography and human history.

Enjoy your Sunday... 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Submerged State and American democracy

Going door to door has opened my eyes to the importance of this book.

So rather than sleep I was reading my copy of The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy

Here is a talk I just tracked down...
 If you think our elected officials should understand and think about these issues chip in a few $$$'s to my State House campaign and help send a truckloader to the Gold Dome in Atlanta Georgia.

Now I'm going to go load some trucks.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What I learned on 9/11...

Paul Tilich wrote that the first duty of love is to listen. Try to be thoughtful to your social media friends and followers, however they may choose to reflect and remember 9/11. Trauma's cut deep and the response, no matter in what form they appear, are vitally important--in that they need to be heard and respected.
As I've read friends FB posts I can't help but wonder what my Dad would say today, and how he would want me to remember.
The memory of that morning is still clear as yesterday, as Dad and I watched the second plane hitting the Twin Towers. The fear, anguish, anger and powerlessness of watching from a TV screen in real time swell up from deep inside me, even now. That morning taught me that in politics there is no left and right in the small details; there is only Tyranny and Freedom.
It also taught me that in the day-to-day affairs of the human spirit; there are those who use fear and hatred and fly planes into buildings, and there are men and women who without second thought run towards burning buildings or at hijackers with boxcutters, to protect and help those in need.
The lives lost that day must never be forgotten; but it is important to also do a quick head count and recognize we have nothing to fear from those trying to destroy civil society and attack what we hold dear. There are way too many good people standing in front of Freedom, defending it from tyranny and hatred, in whatever form it heads our way.
The fabric of our nation and the character of our people is quite strong.
That is what I'd tell me Dad as I look back. I'd tell him that the fabric of our nation, and the character of our people, was stronger than I had ever realized before that day. It was a lesson about the American experience which Dad had always tried to articulate to me; which I'm only now appreciating.
So lets just say I think he's smiling down on me today; with that enthusiastic wag of a finger and grin he'd get when he was excited, saying to me, "now you see what I've been trying to teach you!"
Those simple but profound details of fact about our nation and the character of our people, that one simple lesson is something I feel like many of us learned for the first time that day. Sadly its a truth about our nation and our people that doesn't get a lot of attention in our consumer driven media culture. It is a truth we learned that day in the actions of so many brave men and women, many of whom lost their lives as we watched on our TV screens.
It is a lesson our culture seems to have already forgotten; but it still remains true about our nation and our people nevertheless, I am certain of it. And for that, I am thankful.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Who said blogging was dead?

My alarm clock goes off in less than 3 hours so I don't know why I'm posting this.  But I'm a blogger and this is a really quick point.

I'm pondering (and learning) from Noah Smith responding to Brad Delong's excellent dialogue (which left me utterly perplexed and in need of a second reading) on philosophy of probability.  Then before I get a chance to take a deep breath the next thing to cross my RSS feed is round 4 (I think) of Dean Baker vs Jared Berstein on corporate income taxes.

I haven't even had a chance to digest any of these items at a level they deserve (I just hit save and will be reading all the posts again tomorrow with fresh eyes) but all I can wonder is: who actually thinks blogging is dead?

While its not like with was pre- Facebook and Twitter where micro-blogging sucks up most of the navel gazing and self congratulatory cheerleading; there are still quality blogs and bloggers.  The ability of smart people to write smart things and the likes of folks like me to read, follow up, ponder, link, and question--otherwise known as learning from said smart folks and trying to point other people to and draw attention to smart things happening online--is still very much alive.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Good Hayek and the failure of my State Rep to learn from him.

So the other day Brad Delong sends us over to Robert Solow to remind us of the difference between the Good Hayek and the Bad Hayek
there was a Good Hayek and a Bad Hayek. The Good Hayek was a serious scholar who was particularly interested in the role of knowledge in the economy (and in the rest of society). Since knowledgeabout technological possibilities, about citizens’ preferences, about the interconnections of these, about still moreis inevitably and thoroughly decentralized, the centralization of decisions is bound to generate errors and then fail to correct them. The consequences for society can be calamitous, as the history of central planning confirms. That is where markets come in. All economists know that a system of competitive markets is a remarkably efficient way to aggregate all that knowledge while preserving decentralization.
But the Good Hayek also knew that unrestricted laissez-faire is unworkable. It has serious defects: successful actors reach for monopoly power, and some of them succeed in grasping it; better-informed actors can exploit the relatively ignorant, creating an inefficiency in the process; the resulting distribution of income may be grossly unequal and widely perceived as intolerably unfair; industrial market economies have been vulnerable to excessively long episodes of unemployment and underutilized capacity, not accidentally but intrinsically; environmental damage is encouraged as a way of reducing private coststhe list is long. Half of Angus Burgin’s book is about the Good Hayek’s attempts to formulate and to propagate a modified version of laissez-faire that would work better and meet his standards for a liberal society. (Hayek and his friends were never able to settle on a name for this kind of society: “liberal” in the European tradition was associated with bad old Manchester liberalism, and neither “neo-liberal” nor “libertarian” seemed to be satisfactory.)
The Bad Hayek emerged when he aimed to convert a wider public. Then, as often happens, he tended to overreach, and to suggest more than he had legitimately argued. The Road to Serfdom  was a popular success but was not a good book. Leaving aside the irrelevant extremes, or even including them, it would be perverse to read the history, as of 1944 or as of now, as suggesting that the standard regulatory interventions in the economy have any inherent tendency to snowball into “serfdom.” The correlations often run the other way. Sixty-five years later, Hayek’s implicit prediction is a failure, rather like Marx’s forecast of the coming “immiserization of the working class.”

It reminded me of one of the reasons why, at a very basic level, I'm running for State House.   

My current State Representative has failed to utilize social media and public forums in the district to bring information to the district about what is actually going on under the Gold Dome.  In fact within two months of starting my campaign I had already organized more events in the district than he had his entire two years in office.

Check out his Facebook Page--no mention or real engagement with the issues, just lots of pictures and people being honored.  He has fundamentally failed to grasp what the Good Hayek has to teach us about how information is and should be transferred so that inefficiencies and corruption can be reduced and problems can be properly solved.  

Unfortunately the Gold Dome is a massive black box where what the Republicans running the state actually think is hidden behind platitudes and right wing nonsense.  There is no way to figure out where the compromises can be found, nor a way to shine a light on the bad ideas running around as legitimate--when anyone paying attention can tell they aren't.

While my opponent may be a nice guy, he was failed to understand the Good Hayek and is harming the ability of our markets and our Government to efficiently function.  

Look, i'm no fool, hosting meet up's and discussion groups throughout the year in the district; having an active social media that creates a Habermasian space online for discussion and debate; working to pass IRV so we don't waste money and time in run-offs (that no one votes in anyways); these things aren't going to radically reform our broken process.  But these are the small positive steps towards creating more efficient transmission of information to and from the political class and the citizenry;which helps to sustain and strengthen a market based society for a better more responsive Government and improved social outcomes for all of us.  

Its either we shine a light on the corruption, waste, and mismanagement and start to better address the massive inequities and lack of responsiveness from the political class--or we'll see pitchforks doing the heavy lifting for us.

I don't think my State Rep really understands whats going on at a structural level.  That is why I decided to work to take his job.  Chip in a few dollars if you'd like to help.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Its about jobs--we haven't been creating enough of them for a long time.

All the bad things you see on your TV and in your culture and community that you don't like are in ways the result of a longterm jobs deficit. 
We’ve been experiencing a stagnant economy in varying degrees for more than 40 years now.
I have written about this before. The austerity caucus in both parties has been at this for decades.

It's part of the reason why we've chosen to mass warehouse young males with lots of energy and nothing productive to do.  We haven't created meaningful work for them. The wage stagnation and wage inequality we've seen has been a policy choice, not the whims of a free market.

The militarization of police--directed at young black males predominantly--has been systematic and ongoing and has intellectual roots from right wing radicals.

I mean just look at Michael Brown's high school; its disgusting.   Its about an agenda of creating a permanent underclass.

The answer is to put good jobs and good infrastructure back on the agenda.  Thats why I'm running for State House here in Georgia.

You can chip in to my campaign if you'd like to be a part of this movement to take back our country from an out of touch political class.  This is about movement building.