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December 15, 2009

Health Insurance Reform

Posted by tunesmith at 01:20 AM

So, there's been quite a bit of drama with Health Insurance Reform this week. This was the week where Reid thought he had a breakthrough with Medicare Reform, but today was the day when Lieberman insisted he'd filibuster it. In return, it appears that Rahm told Reid to give Lieberman whatever he wanted, which means we are probably going to have the Senate pass a bill that doesn't have a public option or a medicare expansion.

It's worth reviewing what has happened up to this point, and who the big winners and losers are, if things go forward from this point.

Winner: Sick people. We've still got a huge expansion of Medicaid going on here. This is huge addition of people to public insurance - bigger than the public option or the medicare expansion ever would have been by itself. We've got the end of rescission, and the end of pre-existing condition exclusions. We've got improved out-of-pocket maximum rules. And the mandates don't matter to them, because the sick people are going to be glad they have insurance.

Winner: Health Insurance companies. They don't have to risk being put out of business by a public plan marketed towards people with money. And, the mandates mean more people will get on their plans.

Winner: Congressional moderates. They've expressed their power and have really split the difference between Progressives and Republicans.

Loser: Republicans. Progressives might howl that Republicans are winning here, but really - they have to deal with a massive expansion of health care that people will feel they have a right to, given to them by the Democrats. And them getting an expansion will be contagious, and they'll feel like they can get more.

Winner: Pragmatic Progressives. See Republicans, above.

Loser: Harry Reid. Maybe there's something I don't know, but we have the spectacle here of Reid getting embarrassed by both Lieberman on one side, and the White House on the other, in agreement and ganging up on him. Meanwhile, progressives are blaming him for not getting the job done, probably unfairly. What Reid seems most guilty of is getting too clever for his own good. By putting the public option and then Medicare in the bill, a lot of his own decisions get gutted and pulled out, embarrassing him and making him look ineffectual. And now, if the bill ends up better than what is in the Senate bill, it is likely it will seem to be in spite of him rather than because of him. I still may not be seeing this clearly, though - his role has done more to expose Lieberman's cynicism than anything else, and there may be advantages in that.

Loser: Daily Kos and the netroots. What a bunch of idiots the daily kos community has become. My own political attitudes have remained largely static over the last few years, but my reading habits have changed a lot. The only places I can go to get any of those "yes, finally someone said it!" relief feelings are Paul Krugman, Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Brad DeLong, and others. I used to get that with Daily Kos - particularly back in the days when several smart Daily Kos columnists were explaining the ins and outs of GWB's Social Security cons - but no longer.

Even Markos - a more pragmatic citizen - is getting sucked in to the mentality. He's off on his twitter feed railing against the bill, saying it's a "bloody abortion" that should be pulled entirely. Ezra Klein makes the point that even as is, the bill will still save over 150,000 lives over ten years. End 150,000 lives because you're not getting what you want politically? What have these progressives become? What is really the bottom line here? What is really more important than saving lives?

Daily Kos and other parts of the netroots have been off on the wrong foot here since the beginning of the Health Care debate. The netroots are great for passion, and mobilizing for things like elections. Causes that require energy, but not a whole lot of logic and deep policy knowledge. But the netroots suck eggs at this kind of thing. What happens is that you get a collection of people with their own petty collection of non-negotiables, people with a talent for rabble-rousing that has no relationship with their ability to deeply understand policy, and they set the terms of war. What follows is a long pattern - large groups of people reinforce to each other that they have power, power they really don't have. They then fail, and then there is a lot of anger, bargaining, and finally a greater sense of bitterness, disengagement, and cynicism. They don't leave the community, they just dial up the snark and tear each other down. I think it's possible that as powerful a platform as the internet was for an out-of-power progressive netroots, it may be just as powerful at creating cynicism and bitterness while the Democrats are in power. At least, unless a major platform change occurs.

What the netroots need to accept is that just because we may have the power to affect elections, it doesn't mean that we have a proportional ability to affect policy. It's not our skill set. Our skill set is in numbers, and in money. Not in our ability to come up with stunning insights about policy, not yet. Any congressional staff can run circles around us. All we can hope to do is positively affect an election cycle, and then see how the results turn out legislatively. If they're not ideal, then all we can do is positively affect the next election cycle, and so on. Maybe someday an open netroots community will pop up that will be able to analyze bills correctly, and lobby, and even write new bills, but we're not even close to that point yet - and it'll take longer if people start sitting out elections just because they didn't get everything they wanted after one year.

You'll notice there's one small player in this drama that I haven't judged: Obama. The man is so far above the fray that it's impossible to judge him until the bill is on his desk. Will he get the credit for a massive positive change in health insurance reform? Or, on balance, will he look weak for not being able to offer a public plan to more segments of the population? I think this will basically come down to messaging and posturing in the late stages, and that is still to be played out.

September 30, 2005

Barack Obama and the Netroots

Posted by tunesmith at 07:39 PM

It was a big day over at dailykos today. In the runup to Roberts' confirmation vote, Senator Obama criticized the partisan elements that excoriated the senators like Leahy who pledged Yes votes. There were several diaries at daily kos that wondered about Obama's motivations, and many members who felt betrayed by Obama's stance.

Today, Barack Obama wrote a diary over at dkos, explaining and defending his views. Here's the main section:

According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists - a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog - we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party.  They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda.  In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in "appeasing" the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda.  The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.

I think this perspective misreads the American people.

First, I'm now officially on the Barack Obama bus. There's probably room for me now that many of the people who merely saw him as a black progressive savior jumped off.

There were two response diaries to Barack's diary, both disagreeing in different ways. One immediately accused everyone of sucking up to Obama.

Anyway, first can I say, isn't this just all exhausting?

There is a huge partisan element to the GOP success. Poisonous and unfair. And rising to meet it is a huge partisan element among the Democratic side. And they are both growing, when, in my opinion, what we really should be working towards is shrinking both of them.

I imagine Senator Obama might be feeling discouraged at reading the the response to his words.

Part of the problem is that even as many of the activists at dkos protest and fight against the negative frames asserted onto the Democrats, they are also reinforcing them.

For instance, the thing about Democrats having no vision. Here's a snippet from Rena's response diary.

Ask yourself this: why is it that the vast majority of progressives who frequent Daily Kos are able to sum up the Republican party's platform in six words?  Strong Military.  Lower Taxes.  Family Values.  Yet this pool of often brilliant thinkers can't do the same for our own party.

Well, duh. Maybe it's because "Strong Military. Lower Taxes. Family Values." is dumb policy. And maybe it's because Democrats tend to actually be interested in fashioning smart policy. And maybe it's true that smart policy tends to be a tad more complicated than dumb policy.

But the diarist and many of the commenters insist on playing into the "Democrats are visionless" frame. It's hogwash. What they're actually whining about is that they aren't being spoonfed enough.

We have a long way to go to get past our own liberal self-hatred before we can be more effective. It should be obvious that the Republicans currently have far less of a positive vision for America than the Democrats do, but instead we fall into the trap of describing the Democrats as disorganized, ineffectual, weak, and visionless.

The activist base is guilty of everything that they accuse the Democratic leadership of being guilty of. They cannot communicate a standard by which the Democratic leadership should be held, and yet they criticize them for failing to meet the standard. The activist base prides themselves on being united in partisanship, not policy, as if it's a good thing. When the truth is that while the activist base is united in excoriating the Democratic side for not living up to their vision of a progressive vision, every activist's progressive vision is different. Yes, that's a good thing, but how do you expect ideological purity if there isn't even supposed to be a pure standard to live up to?

I understand the narrative. If you've already bought into the narrative that our leaders are weak and that they fold under pressure and sacrifice too much, then every vote - every vote - is going to be further confirmation of that narrative. But frames are harmful. That's what a frame does to you - it restricts your ability to see beyond its edges.

What I saw today at daily kos was Barack Obama trying to break a frame, and then being shouted down by those still within the frame.

September 26, 2005

"I'm So Stupid"

Posted by tunesmith at 03:11 PM

Boy, when you've lost the six-year-old vote....

June 21, 2005

When Democrats Turn

Posted by tunesmith at 02:16 PM

A couple of more bits of evidence of Democrats getting extreme enough to bear a convincing resemblance to extreme Republicans...

I silenced a voice of hate is a dkos diary about a guy who was getting anonymous hateful right-wing evangelist comments on his weblog. The guy was clearly a dick, saying stuff like "I wish you had been aborted" and saying we should kill muslim leaders and convert their followers to Christianity. He also had his own blog, which he wrote to anonymously.

Said diarist researched the guy's weblog, put some miscellaneous facts together, and figured out his real identity. He then contacted him and, depending on how you read it, either made the blogger aware that it was possible to find out his real identity and tell his employers, or, threatened to do exactly that. The blogger was a teacher of seventh graders in a private Christian school.

In the diary, several people defended outing this guy on various grounds, from protecting the children to just the fact that he was a right wing freak. I wrote that it was really creepy that progressives would defend such an act, and got quite a bit of opposition in return.

I'm usually pretty darn good at using my own words, but here's a case where Atrios says it better:

Anonymity allows people the freedom to speak without fear of reprisals in other elements of your life. On the internet, where every little comment can potentially hang around forever, it allows people to communicate views without worrying about what current/future employers or customers may think of them. People do get fired/not hired for this kind of stuff. Without anonymity many people would not be able to talk politics on the internets. It allows people to separate their personal political/religious/whatever views from their personal/professional lives otherwise. It's truly a gift.

[...]

Anonymity can be abused if it's being used as a cover for illegal activities or actionable speech (libel). In both cases anonymity provides little cover - one subpoena to your ISP or web hosting company and it's all over. Anonymity could also be abused by posing as an "outsider" of some sort when you're actually an insider, or if you use it to mask some sort of hidden personal agenda or financial interest. To the extent that anonymity prevents knowing if those apply it can be criticized.


People divide their lives all of the time. Sally the business owner can to some degree separate herself from Sally the parent and Sally the activist. The ability to keep aspects separate is generally respected by people who are not assholes. On the internet, anonymity, while not strictly necessary, is close to being required to maintain that in the age of Google (not all people feel the need). Non-internet personal activities can be separated from your professional life simply by not socializing with colleagues. But, internet activities are always google-able.

This was in reference to a certain journalist who threatened to out the true identity of a certain progressive blogger(SKB), in practically the same way that the dkos diarist did: by simply alluding to the possibility that he could... if he wanted to. As far as I'm concerned, that's a threat. Dishonest people would say, "No, that's not a threat! He's just saying he could! Nothing more!" Which completely lies about the desired impact of saying the words.

What was SKB's crime? Hosting a weblog that had comments that insulted the journalist. What was the conservative freak's crime? Insulting the diarist on his weblog with various bits of right-wing hate. There was also the thing about him teaching children, but that's a bit of hindsight logic, since the discussion of that requires the outing first. Even so, there's no evidence to suggest he was using such viewpoints inappropriately in the classroom. (And the people that justify themselves saying, "But you just know he is!" are part of the problem.)

Regardless, when it comes down to simple speculative value judgments, it's irrelevant. The value judgments are the privilege of those judging the content. Anonymity exists to protect people against that very treatment. Like Atrios says, there are certain exceptions to anonymity, but this guy's weblog comments didn't meet those standards.

It's unethical to agree with Atrios while also agreeing with trying to ruin this guy's career.

By the way, the journalist who threatened to expose SKB's identity (leading SKB to out himself) apologized, spurred no doubt by a very large outcry among progressives.

Second case:

In An opportunity for Assrocket to shine, kos trumpets another blogger's satirical letter noting that a certain conservative warblogger's son has just turned eighteen, and that the blogger should encourage his son to become a Marine rifleman in the Al Anbar province, the "cutting edge" of freedom.

I'm feeling really disgusted with the state of discourse these days. That's just low. You leave your blogger enemies' children out of it. Said 18-year-old isn't a public figure like Mary Cheney.

Right now I appear to be the only person making that point over there. It's pretty disgusting.

Besides, I do not believe in the current foreign policy over in Iraq. I don't want anyone to enlist to fight on the front lines in Iraq, because I don't want anyone to die unnecessarily. And excuse me for being ethical, but that includes conservatives and the sons of conservatives. I understand it's just a rhetorical trick, but that doesn't mean it's honest.

June 11, 2005

Gilligan, Pie, and Community

Posted by tunesmith at 03:31 AM

Over on Daily Kos, there's been a many-diaried argument and discussion about a certain ad for the Gilligan's Island television show. I won't link to it, you can easily find it. Actually, I think it's gone now because the show already aired. But it was pretty stupid. The ad is two strippers dressed as Mary Ann and Ginger having a food fight and acting like they're turned on while they are fighting. For those that are into that sort of thing, be warned that the production values aren't anywhere near as good as the Paris Hilton ad, the girls aren't as good-looking as the ones in that one Budweiser ad (power-suited women fighting in the fountain), and it's not really even funny - the jokes fall flat. Even its badness isn't any good.

So there's not really even much reason for our baser sides to like the ad. And of course there are the other reasons for our more evolved sides to not like it. I noticed the ad a few times but never really even felt tempted to click on it and watch the video.

Until the outcry, which made me (and others) curious enough to actually watch it. A couple of diaries had been posted, written by women who were mad about it.

Now if you're reading along and are already rolling your eyes at these offended women, you are part of the problem. "Oh, here we go again," goes the reaction, mentally replaying old arguments with the militant feminists of one's imagination. That's not to say that there aren't a few college sophomore women out there that are a bit hopped up on hostility and haven't yet balanced their new understanding of womanhood with any significant understanding or respect for manhood. But this is where the problem starts - the generalizations.

Let's briefly review the problems with generalization and discrimination. It is not bad to recognize a grouping of people and identify patterns within that group of people. It is not really even bad to attempt to apply those patterns to groups of people in an attempt to understand those groups further. The main responsibility there is just to be careful not to confuse correlation with causation. (No small feat.)

The problem with generalizations is when you take these patterns of groups and try to apply them to an individual. It never works and it is always stupid. It's the problem with racial profiling, racism, sexism, and many other variations of stupid arguments that are a waste of time since they can so easily be avoided by actually listening to the person who's right in front of you.

This is what started happening on Daily Kos. Someone would post their own personal feelings in being upset by an ad. Someone else would react, complaining about generic feminist hostility. First person would (rightly) feel unreceived, and would then feel like their suspicions of sexism were being confirmed, leading to more accusations that the other person would roll their eyes at since they've heard it all before. And it would escalate.

The escalation culminated with Kos choosing to address the mini-controversy on the front page. It's important to recognize that at this point, the argument transformed from being about the ad, to being about the reaction to the ad. The ad was far less important than the discussion. The ad never had much power, but it immediately became a symbol, touchstone, and catalyst for all the later discussions and opinions.

Kos addressed it by venting aggressively about how stupid an issue the ad was. Now, that's true, in a way. The ad is stupid, and these kind of controversies only contribute to the success of an ad campaign. So I had a funny experience reading his response because I could feel a bit of a cackle in myself at the beginning: "Oh man, now they're gonna get it." By "them", I certainly didn't mean the women offended by the ad, I mostly meant the hand-wringing of an online community that sometimes gets too carried away with its own self-importance. I can imagine a website host that takes his site seriously, but has to deal with a bunch of people that turn it into a cause and take everything more seriously than he does. So I could definitely understand the impatience, and even enjoy the expression of that impatience. I probably got some satisfaction because of my own frustration with the site, which I believe has been going subtly downhill (in discussion quality) for quite a while - I think it could be better than it is at generating wisdom, and I can get frustrated that it doesn't meet my own judgments of its potential (understanding the irrelevance of them being my judgments), so I probably liked Kos' frustration in hopes it would lead to constructive changes.

So, for that variety of reasons, I wanted to eat popcorn when I started to read Kos' response, but that ended really quickly as I saw what he was actually writing. I think my reaction went something like "heh heh... hunh.... uhhhhh.... geez. ... holy crap."

Kos' theme was "sanctimony". The basic point is that the only reason to express a negative reaction to the ad on his site is out of a hypocritical urge to display oneself as morally superior to others.

If you're skimming, now's a good time to stop and let that sink in.

It discounted emotion-based motivation. It mocked vulnerability. It denied the existence of constructive intent. It basically ran over the sincere feelings of anyone who felt hurt.

Over the next several days, the community was littered with some of the stupidest logic flaws I've seen in a long time - the kind of logic that would have been torn apart by any of the argument proponents had that logic been applied to any other subject. It was basically the mixture of straw men and fantastical extrapolation that litters debates worldwide, here used to prove that those who were upset about the ad were hypocritical or sanctimonious in some way.

What's interesting is how easily these arguments spring unbidden to the minds of otherwise intelligent fellows. It's like some bizarre kind of mind control, all these men reacting to the same stimuli and making the same unthinking, unbending points. I would see some hardy souls (including myself a couple of times) try to meet these points on their merit, challenging them methodically. They'd be met with no response, and the points would just be repeated again elsewhere, by the same person. Again, these are Democratic men that seem pretty darn cool in other arenas.

And it all started because of one failure.

Folks are tempted to misidentify the failure. The failure isn't that someone sought a confrontation. I believe in confrontation. I believe that in order to evolve, confrontation is required. The problems with our society - bubbles, delusions, and denial - are because of a lack of confrontation. Confrontation yields balance. Bubbles pop. Delusions lift. Denials are forced into the open. It happens when the delirium is forced to confront reality, and reality wins. For greater balance in our world, this confrontation needs to happen more often.

But in most cases, confrontation requires an agreement. Oftentimes, one party can seek to confront, and the other is able to weasel away. It merely serves to postpone the confrontation to a more painful time, but it happens all the time. In order to receive the confrontation, you have to listen.

So that's what the failure was here. The failure to listen. This debate was never about the ad. It was about people not feeling received - it was about them believing they might be received, enough to air their grievances, and then having their hopes dashed.

June 01, 2005

TPMCafe

Posted by tunesmith at 12:53 AM

Looks like TPMCafe has finally launched. Thank the stars. There is finally another go-to community site for Democrats. It's clearly more serious-minded than Daily Kos. If I see another "chickenhawks should go die in Iraq!" post at dkos, I'm going to scream.

April 14, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill Press Release

Posted by tunesmith at 03:01 PM

This press release was just sent out by DebtSlavery.org. It looks like the online activism actually did result in some switched votes. There's a dkos diary about the aftermath where this can be discussed. Some recommendations would help give it visibility.

Progressive Leaders say Bankruptcy Bill Battle is Just the Beginning

Bankruptcy Bill Opponents Thank Congress Members Who Voted No, Promise to  Hold Accountable Those Who Voted Yea, and Prepare for Upcoming Battles

Following Senate passage of the bankruptcy bill on March 10, Democrats.com  and Progressive Democrats of America created a coalition at  www.DebtSlavery.org to work against passage in the House. 

Today that effort fell short by a vote of 302-126.  But compared to the 90  Democrats who voted for a nearly identical bill in 2003, only 73 Democrats  voted Yes this time.  Of the 22 Democrats who campaigned for the bill and  whom DebtSlavery.org targeted to change their votes, three reversed their  positions and voted No - John Larson (D-CT), Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Adam  Smith (D-WA) - while a fourth, Shelley Berkley (D-NV), did not vote.

When Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) proposed to return the bill to committee  to make it less horrendous, her motion failed narrowly by a vote of 200- 229.  The Democratic vote on that motion was 198 to 1, with only Rep. Rick  Boucher (D-VA) joining Republicans.

"Working Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Rep. John Conyers and Rep.  Barbara Lee for their leadership in this struggle," said Bob Fertik,  President of Democrats.com.  "We also thank Rep. Lynn Woolsey for speaking  against this bill in Wednesday's Democratic caucus, and Rep. Jim McDermott  for speaking so eloquently against this outrage on the floor of the House.   Those who rose to speak against the bill on Thursday deserve our thanks,  including Rep. Bill Pascarell, who said he was switching from a Yea vote  to a No, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi."

"But still we must ask: Where was Rep. Pelosi before today?  Why did  Minority Whip Steny Hoyer support this outrageous bill?  Why did Senate  Minority Leader Harry Reid even try to take credit for this Republican  bill?" Fertik said. 

"And why did 'New Democrats' Ellen Tauscher, Ron Kind, Artur Davis, and  Joe Crowley push this bill on their colleagues?  What party do they  imagine they belong to? Who do they think elected them to Congress?"  Fertik asked.

"DebtSlavery.org is just getting started. In three short weeks, we built a  broad and determined coalition of progressives who will fight for economic  justice and will fight against Republican class warfare from above. We  have served notice to 'New Democrats' in the House and Senate that we will  hold them accountable for selling their votes to Big Business and selling  out America's working families," Fertik said.

"We will move on to new bread-and-butter battles, including the Paris  Hilton Estate Tax Cut battle in the Senate, the Loan Shark Predatory  Lending Act in the House, and the Gasoline Price Gouging Energy Bill. We  will unite the Democratic base and reach out to grassroots Independents  and Republicans who want to end Republican class warfare from above. We  will give hardworking Americans a voice - and a choice," Fertik concluded.

"We will remember who voted against the Democratic base," said Tim  Carpenter, Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America.  "Those  73 House Democrats and 18 House Senators have a year in which to try to  make up for this.  It's hard to see how they'll be able to do it, but  we'll be watching and remembering, and we'll be ready to promote  challengers in 2006."

CONTACT:

David Swanson, Coordinator of www.DebtSlavery.org 202-329-7847,  david@davidswanson.org

Bob Fertik, President of www.Democrats.com 718-424-7772, bob@democrats.com

 Kevin Spidel, PDA Political Director, www.pdamerica.org 602-373-6990,  kevin@pdamerica.org

The DebtSlavery.org coalition includes:

Democrats.com, Progressive Democrats of America, AFL-CIO, The Nation,  National Organization for Women, American Progress Action Fund, National  Community Reinvestment Coalition, People's Email Network, Public Citizen,  Democracy Week, Black Commentator, Thom Hartmann Show, Milwaukee Labor  Press, Politology, Fly By News, Billionaires for Bush, Evans Media USA,  Take Back America, United Progressives for Democracy, Rapid Response  Network, Public Campaign Action Fund, Progressive Populist, ACORN, Drum  Major Institute, Campaign for America's Future.

April 13, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: Update

Posted by tunesmith at 11:42 AM

It appears the press conference this morning went over well, with coverage from several press organizations.

This blog over at democrats.com is good to read up on to find more information and status about the bill.

The vote in the House is now expected to happen on Thursday instead of Wednesday, so there is that much more time to make phone calls and talk to your reps.

April 12, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: Oregon Reps

Posted by tunesmith at 01:40 PM

If you're living here in Oregon, there's definite reason to make some calls today. I just contacted my own Rep, Blumenauer, and confirmed he will be voting against the bill. But I called Wu and he still supports it. There's probably mileage to be had in pestering Wu's office about this. His local phone is (503) 326-2901, or you can find his other contact information here.

Hooley from Salem is a cosponsor and I'd love to hear of some people giving her grief. I haven't checked with Walden (our only Republican). DiFazio is almost certainly voting against it.

Bankruptcy Bill: Today Is The Day

Posted by tunesmith at 01:00 PM

Today is really the last full day to call and pressure your representative to oppose the bankruptcy bill. There are plenty of easy things you can do to oppose this bill - the Action Kit over at debtslavery.org is a good one-stop resource.

You can check the sidebar for lists of representatives to target - clicking on their names will give you their contact information.

If you do not feel educated to be able to be able to argue about the finer points of the bankruptcy bill, don't worry about it - you don't have to justify yourself. If it determines whether or not you will call, you can simply call them, tell them you are opposed to the bill, and angry about it, and that will be better than nothing.

The vote will be tomorrow and we'll have them on record.

Bankruptcy Bill: Congress Members Speak Out

Posted by tunesmith at 12:53 PM

There will be a press conference on Wednesday. 9:30 AM EST at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2237. Here are the details:

Participants will speak briefly and be available after 10 a.m. to answer questions.  Representatives of many organizations not speaking will also be introduced, will hand out statements, and will be available to talk after the event.

 

SPEAKERS:

A number of Congress Members will speak.  They will be joined by:

Travis Plunkett, Legislative Director of the Consumers Federation of America, moderating and speaking on behalf of consumers.

Patricia Friend, President of the Association of Flight Attendants, CWA, AFL-CIO, speaking on behalf of workers.

Robert Gordon, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress.

Joan Entmacher, Vice President of National Women’s Law Center, speaking for women and children.

David Swanson, Coordinator of DebtSlavery.org, PDA Board Member, speaking for grassroots activists.

And a speaker from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

 

ALSO PRESENT:

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)

American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)

Center for Responsible Lending

Consumers Union

Demos

National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys

National Consumer Law Center

National Community Reinvestment Coalition

National Organization for Women (NOW)

Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)

Public Citizen

United Auto Workers (UAW)

United States Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG)

 

BACKGROUND:

Many of the organizations represented at this event have worked for several years against this bill.  Many of them have recently formed a coalition at www.debtslavery.org , a website that contains a wealth of information about the bankruptcy bill.  Below are comments from a few of the organizations involved:

 

Association of Flight Attendants President Patricia Friend:

"At a time when over half of our members are working for an airline in bankruptcy, having their wages, their health care and their retirement benefits slashed and being pushed toward bankruptcy themselves, this Congress is preparing to vote to cut off their avenue of personal financial relief."

 

Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook:

"The bankruptcy bill is emblematic of what this Republican Congress is all about: coddle big business and the wealthy at every turn, even when the least fortunate are trampled in the process. Many, many people who land in bankruptcy court end up there because they or a family member got sick and lost their job and medical insurance. A better way to end bankruptcies is to ensure that every person in this country, rich or poor, has access to health care."

 

NOW Action Vice President Olga Vives:

“The federal bankruptcy bill is a gift to the U.S. credit card industry at the expense of women and their families.  Unless we defeat this bill, Congress will simply become the policy arm of Visa and MasterCard – who will soon want their logos on the Capitol Dome in return for all the money they have spent.  In truth, this bill should be called the Credit Card Protection Act, because it downgrades or ignores the economic anguish that overwhelms people – mainly the elderly, our service members, parents receiving child support and families facing ruinous medical emergencies."

 

Public Campaign Action Fund Political Director David Donnelly:

"This bill is nothing but a pay back for the $43 million the credit card, finance and banking industry has poured into the campaign coffers of this Congress.  Leaders in this Congress, like Tom DeLay, have used the credit industry to obtain personal campaign cash advances. And now we're stuck with the debt. Instead of 'reforming' the bankruptcy laws for the rest of us, they should reform the politician-for-hire campaign finance system."

 

ACORN President Maude Hurd:

"The bankruptcy bill is nothing but another giveaway to corporate interests.  The bill will devastate thousands of people who are forced to file for bankruptcy by circumstances beyond their control, like medical emergencies or predatory loans.  We stand firmly against this bill.  But this debate is just one battle in the fight for economic fairness.  We will continue the fight as we take on the Ney bill, which would eliminate laws against predatory lending."

 

RALLIES PLANNED AROUND COUNTRY:

Members of DebtSlavery.org, led by Progressive Democrats of America, plan to hold rallies against the bankruptcy bill at noon local time on Wednesday in at least 14 cities around the country.  For more information, see www.debtslavery.org.

 

CONTACT:

David Swanson, Coordinator of www.DebtSlavery.org 202-329-7847, david@davidswanson.org

Bob Fertik, President of www.Democrats.com 718-424-7772, bob@democrats.com

Kevin Spidel, PDA Political Director, www.pdamerica.org 602-373-6990, kevin@pdamerica.org

 

The DebtSlavery.org coalition includes:

Democrats.com, Progressive Democrats of America, AFL-CIO, The Nation, National Organization for Women, American Progress Action Fund, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, People's Email Network, Public Citizen, Democracy Week, Black Commentator, Thom Hartmann Show, Milwaukee Labor Press, Politology, Fly By News, Billionaires for Bush, Evans Media USA, Take Back America, United Progressives for Democracy, Rapid Response Network, Public Campaign Action Fund, Progressive Populist, ACORN, Drum Major Institute, Campaign for America's Future.


April 11, 2005

Bankruptcy: MoveOn Finally On Board

Posted by tunesmith at 01:35 PM

A few weeks ago, MoveOn was unapologetic about ignoring the bankruptcy bill. They said there were more important things to focus on, blah blah blah. Evidently they've reconsidered - this is a testament to the grassroots activism against this bill and the attention we've paid to it. MoveOn is organizing a pledge to finance radio ads against those who vote for the bankruptcy bill. Check it out.

The vote is evidently going to be on Wednesday.

April 06, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: New Schedule

Posted by tunesmith at 02:37 AM

The Rules Committee Meeting was postponed at the last minute, with no date set for rescheduling.

Also, the vote on the bankruptcy bill was put off from this week because of representatives traveling to the Vatican. It will happen next week.

Keep calling.

April 04, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: Rules Committee

Posted by tunesmith at 10:43 AM

This Tuesday, April 5, at 5 p.m., the House Rules Committee will decide whether to  allow any amendments to the Bankruptcy Bill that was passed by the Senate (S. 256).

The House currently has an awful record at allowing debate on bills. As this editorial from Louise Slaughter (D-NY) explains:

The "closed rule" became standard fare when DeLay took control of the House leadership from House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., seven years ago. Gingrich promised two-thirds of the bills would be considered under an "open rule" that allowed amendments and plenty of debate.

Now only a handful of bills reach the floor under the "open rule," sometimes as low as 7 percent, the report says.

When the Senate passed this bill, it rejected a dozen crucial changes to make the bill humane - such as exemptions for serious medical problems, exemptions for those in the military, an interest rate limit of 30%, protecting the homes of the elderly, and comparably strict treatment of those who are rich.

A "closed rule" would not give anyone a chance to offer crucial amendments like these.

It is urgent that everyone call the Republican Members of the House Rules Committee to demand an "Open Rule" on S. 256, the Bankruptcy Bill.

DAVID DREIER, CA – CHAIRMAN (202)-225-2305
LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART, FL (202)-225-4211
DOC HASTINGS, WA (202)-225-5816
PETE SESSIONS, TX (202)-225-2231
ADAM PUTNAM, FL (202)-225-1252
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, WV (202)-225-2711
TOM COLE, OK (202)-225-6165
ROB BISHOP, UT (202)-225-0453
PHIL GINGREY, GA (202)-225-2931

There are only four Democratic members of the House Rules committee (anyone know why the ratio is only 9-4 in this committee?) and they're expected to vote for "Open Rule" already.

April 02, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: Week Zero Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 10:52 PM

This week is the week when the bankruptcy bill (H.R. 685 or S.256) could be voted on in the House.

To put it simply, this bill illustrates our broken Congress. A representative government exists so we can empower our representatives to make the decisions that we don't have to think about. They are to make decisions on behalf of the public, on behalf of the people.

But the people did not lobby for this bill. Furthermore, this bill is not a necessary sacrifice, like taxes for defense, or laws for the public good.

Congress will pass this bill, and it will only pass for one reason - they are able to sneak it by us and reward their lobbyists. The only way to oppose a bill like this is to attain critical mass in public opposition. But the bill is not sexy. It is politically boring. It hurts the public, but quietly. And therefore, it doesn't capture the public imagination, and the public gets abused by Congress.

It proves that our representative government does not function as it should. To abuse a public, all you need is a sleeping public, and a government that does not act in the interests of the public and cannot be held strictly accountable. We have all that.

This will continue to happen, more often and more intensely. The Schiavo affair just underscores that reality. The upcoming judicial appointment battles could drive it to an even greater extreme.

Call your representative to tell them to oppose the bill.

Call the cosponsors to get them to unsponsor.

Call the Democratic Letter Signers to educate them and tell them to vote No.

And think about the greater issues. Think about how we can make ourselves heard more clearly, how we can hold our Congress to greater accountability, and how we can force the government to represent us instead of them. On this weblog, we'll continue to explore ways to make it easier for the grassroots to engage and replace the dysfunctional.

March 28, 2005

Bankruptcy Action Items: Final Week

Posted by tunesmith at 12:04 AM

This is the final week of recess before the House returns to vote on H.R. 685, the Bankruptcy Bill. This is the right time to call your congresscritters and tell them to vote No, or ask them to defend their intended Yes vote.

The House is so far gone that it's not realistic to expect that the bill will be stopped. But Congress is unprincipled on this matter. They know it is a bad bill and are only passing it because of the lack of opposition. Registering your opposition is important.

Refer to the sidebar for the appropriate list. If you get any interesting information, leave a note and it will be incorporated into the list.

Also, I wrote about protest ideas in the past. There is a new site named Plastic Revolution that tracks efforts to mail credit card applications back to to the credit card companies. Check it out.

March 23, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: Letter-Signers Get Defensive

Posted by tunesmith at 01:25 PM

Atrios and AmericaBlog have details on the Democratic letter-signers getting a bit defensive. Here's why:

John Podesta, president of the progressive Center for American Progress (CAP), faced pointed questions from lawmakers at last Thursday’s New Democrat Coalition (NDC) meeting about an inflammatory e-mail his organization sent to liberal activists and bloggers.

In a March 9 e-mail, David Sirota, a fellow at CAP, accused 16 pro-business Democrats of supporting bankruptcy-reform legislation because they received political contributions from the commercial banks and credit-card companies that stand to benefit if the legislation becomes law.

Check the full article here.

I'd love to see them get even more defensive. I'd love to see even one of them back down. Here in Oregon, both Wu and Hooley signed the letter.

Find all the letter-signers here.

March 22, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill: Ongoing Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 09:51 PM

According to GovTrack.us, the House is due to meet again the week of April 4th. The bill has already escaped committee, so it will be subject to full debate, and then a vote.

At this point the best option is to contact your representative, no matter who it is, tell them not to vote for the bill, and ask them how they are going to vote.

Here in Oregon, I'd like to hear the results of people talking to Wu and Hooley. Hooley is a cosponsor, and Wu signed a letter asking for fast scheduling. You can see all cosponsors and letter-signers by looking at the sidebar on the right, which will remain until this is over. Click on names to find contact information.

You can also use this page to fill out an email form and have the letter automatically sent to your Senators and Representative.

If you have anything interesting to report, please do so - I will have the capability to update the congress-tracking lists on the right to track how people are voting.

Contacting the Media

Posted by tunesmith at 02:26 AM

Congress.org seems to have a tool that makes it very easy to contact your local media organizations. I asked about this about a week ago and I just stumbled across it tonight. Here's the page for Oregon.

Political Tools

Posted by tunesmith at 12:09 AM

Adina Levin of SocialText comments (here, here) on my earlier post, Activism on Weblogs.

I had mentioned the many political organizations sending out "action alerts" that compete for our attention. Levin notes rightly that this could be cobbled together through a mixture of RSS feeds.

This is correct, however there is a larger challenge about action items that would remain unresolved. When people have an urge to volunteer, it's usually abstract and not very targeted. We usually just go and sign up. In a sense, a bombarding mailing list is the perfect match for that, because it's similarly untargeted.

So there remains the problem of the nonspecific nature of the action alerts - sending money, signing a petition. That needs to be solved from the requesting side.

Nevertheless, if you are an online political organization, it is a very good idea to create a feed of your action alerts. If you're a subscriber, request it from anyone who sends out these emails. People could then subscribe to individual feeds, or intermediary services could aggregate them.

Yochai Benkler's classic "Coase's Penguin" theorizes that "peer production" will arise where there is a vast supply of decentralized skills, low transaction costs, and low communication costs. It stands to reason that these dynamics will come into play with political action as well.

In the political blogosphere, we've definitely got the first and third. If I define the "transaction cost" as being the distance between feeling "someone's gotta do something!" and ranting about it on a weblog, and then actually figuring out how to do that something, then that's where we have to make progress.

Here's how one such system would look:

It would start as a discussion site, probably more like Scoop than a normal weblog. The site would have to be membership-driven. I believe the pages would have to be promoted from within, but using user-defined trust metrics. But at any rate, the site would have to start with discussion - the motivation to do things starts with discussion and identifying need. Then, at any point, someone might identify an action item.

At that point, they could create a project. The project would be closely tied into the discussion site. It would be similar to a bug-tracking system, except more freeform. They could identify an objective, and then brainstorm about it through a related forum and/or wiki with other members interested in the project. The entire project could be made public or private.

The project would yield tasks that could be linked together in a variety of ways. The tasks could be assigned to particular members - if no one is available, the task would be advertised as a form of job opening that would advertised on the site for the community.

Tasks and projects could be "tagged" with many tags, labels, or categories. And so could users. At any point, a user could search for projects that match their interests or skills. A project manager could also search for users that match the tags of their project. At any point, these users could approach each other to explore a potential match. (Users would undoubtedly also search for users for other side-benefit purposes.)

Beyond that, it's just a matter of adding gear. You could create reports, you could find projects with common objectives, you could create very pretty flowcharts with technologies such as dot and graphviz. And all of it would be driven by an active community that first enjoys blogging and discussing together, but second is interested in going further by taking action. That is where the critical mass would come from.

The online action community is very small and young. Even now, when people determine they need to take action, there is very little understanding in the blogosphere of how to do it. Even with the bankruptcy bill, there weren't a lot of ideas that didn't require somehow inspiring a massive sea change of public opinion within days. With greater maturity and sophistication, the community will be able to identify actions that are actually doable with the resources they have. With more powerful tools, we'll be able to increase our resources dramatically.

The question is, which publishing toolkit is closest to this combination of features? The two that I know of are Scoop and Drupal/Civicspace. There are also plenty of CMS systems I know less about. I could write one from scratch in perl or php but it would take hundreds of hours.
March 21, 2005

Credit Card Protests

Posted by tunesmith at 12:46 PM

There's been a fair amount of talk about things people could do to protest against the credit card companies.

Consumer protests can be problematic, because they often require a massive critical mass to make any difference whatsoever. But, if they're fun in the meantime, who cares?

First, don't confuse "protesting" with "shooting yourself in the foot". Protesting the credit card companies by refusing to pay your credit card bill kind of... misses the point. You want to cost them money, not make them money.

So, here are some ideas and inspiration materials:

  • Does anyone really check the signatures on credit card receipts? According to Zug, there's a lot of opportunity for mischief here. Go check it out, it's hilarious. They've got a sequel here. Doesn't seem like anything seriously bad can happen if you replace your signature with an anti-Congress screed.
  • Lots of credit card applications have "postage paid" envelopes on them. I've seen a lot of suggestions to just stuff the envelopes with the rest of the mailing material (or with heavier materials) and drop them off in the mail.
  • Or, you can simply forward the applications, or your bills, or your old credit cards (minus sensitive information) to your local Yea-voting congresscritter. Everyone could do it on one day. Back in college, I was part of a group that decided to all anonymously mail coconuts to David Letterman on the same day from different parts of the nation. Over 100, I think. (What can I say... there's a time and a place for everything, and it's called college.) I think we got mentioned on the top ten list, so, uh, that means it works!

Now, the legality of stuff like that is probably questionable. If you really want to hurt the credit card companies, you really just have to do things that are a bit more boring.

  • If you're at a college, tear down any credit card marketing materials you see that are posted on bulletin boards or at other public places.
  • Cancel/close almost all your credit cards. If you want to keep one for emergency purposes, freeze it in a block of ice in your freezer. If you want to use it, you have to wait for the ice to melt - no more impulse buying.
  • Pay your balance every month. The credit industry calls these people "freeloaders". They hate them. Make them hate you.

Incidentally, you don't want to throw your credit cards away entirely. I got myself out of a lot of debt a few years ago - and had stellar credit because of all that debt. I spent two years on debit cards, and then I promptly almost had my mortgage declined for "lack of recent credit history". I had to accept a higher interest rate. Since then I've forced myself to use a credit card sparingly, but I just had a refi declined for the same reason - lack of enough credit history. It's completely backwards.

By the way, the brief rules of debt management everyone should know, step-by-step:


  1. Renegotiate your credit card interest rates. Demand lower rates, claim a competitor is offering the lower rate (even if they aren't).
  2. Fund the company-matched portion of your 401k first. It's free money.
  3. Pay minimum payments on all credit card bills except for highest-rate bill.
  4. Fund rest of 401k or IRA if possible
  5. Pay maximum amount you can to your highest-rate credit card bill.
  6. When paid off, transfer same amount of money to your next-highest-rate bill.

I would usually keep student loans fairly low priority in the chain because you can ask for allowances on them if you get in financial trouble.

March 19, 2005

Bankruptcy Bill Talking Points

Posted by tunesmith at 12:51 PM

Tom over at BizzyBlog has a great summary of talking points against the bankruptcy bill. They're supported by a thorough rebuttal against Todd Zywicki's arguments for the bill. BizzyBlog has done a ton of great research about this bill - it would be a good idea to review his thoughts and then use the talking points on your rep.

March 18, 2005

Bankruptcy: Town Hall Talking Points

Posted by tunesmith at 01:08 PM

An email is circulating by a "Marc Stern" with some ideas on how to deal with any upcoming town halls. The email is directed to bankruptcy attorneys, but most of it is relevant to any concerned citizen.

Congress is in recess.  Our Representatives are coming home to campaign, hold Town Meetings and talk, they think, about Social Security Reform, with their constituents.  They view their vote on BARF as a "free vote," i.e. there is no future debtors lobby so that can give a special interest a gift with little or no consequence.

It is time to let them know that there will be a downside to their support of the bill.  Take some clients.  Don't talk about the means test.  Everyone thinks that debtors who legitimately can pay their bills, should.  They are ready to talk about responsibility and it sounds good.  Don't let them derail the discussion with talk about how people should file Chapter 13.  Even though most of think that it will not work, there is little or nothing to be gained on this issue.

There are other things tucked in the bill that can be extremely hard to defend and they should be put on the spot.  For instance:

Why should investment bankers be exempt from conflict of interest laws? (The Leahy Sarbanes Warner amendment)

Why should some creditors who file frivolous and vexatious motions be immune from 9011 sanctions? Section 102 of the bill dealing with "small businesses" that sound like debt buyers and collection agencies?

Some Representatives have never heard of the "universal default clause" that allows a credit card company to increase your interest rate because you were late on another bill, not theirs.  It is time that they found out.

The attorney liability stuff, especially the debt relief agency materials are another example.

Representatives are not used to being questioned and are not certainly not used to being held accountable.  The time is now.  Even if this thing passes, as we start trying to figure out how or if we are going to practice under the new order, it will be a source of some relief to remember how they couldn't explain it and how embarrassed they were that they did not even know that some of this stuff was in the bill.   More information can be found here:

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/bankruptcy/

Go out, visit your Representative and ask them.  It might be enlightening, it will almost certainly be fun, and maybe it will do some good.


Bankruptcy Lists

Posted by tunesmith at 03:29 AM

You'll see we've added the following list to the sidebar:

Bankruptcy Lists

It will be there for the duration of the bankruptcy campaign.

I've updated some status - I put Sensenbrenner in the "Definite Yea" category because he's the bill's sponsor, and Conyers in the "Definite Nay" category because he was seen railing against the bill on the House Floor on C-Span.

It's never too early to harangue your congresscritter. From an earlier action post:

Action: Click the above links to find the representatives, and then click their names to get their contact information. This tool makes it very easy to contact them.

Then, tell us what you find out. It is not sufficient to simply give them a piece of your mind. Make your case, and then ask where they stand. If they are one on of the lists, ask them if they will withdraw. Ask them how they are going to vote, and let us know if they are voting yes, no, or are thinking about it. I will then be able to go to the pages for the campaigns and update the status for the representatives in question.

Make your calls. Change some minds. Report back.

March 16, 2005

Activism On Weblogs

Posted by tunesmith at 01:01 PM

Think. Say. Do. That's the basic cycle we all go through when we want to make big changes.

Think: It could merely be a growing sense that something ain't right. That something needs to change. You might not know exactly what yet, or maybe you're considering possibilities.

Say: This is where we enter active negotiation with ourselves, and identify exactly what it is that is wrong. Rather than simply mulling the matter in the background, we tackle it head-on. Cynicism and self-defeatism shrinks.

Do: Finally, we take action to cause the change.

This happens with communities and nations, too. The rise of populism is always related to this process in a large population.

Our political system is overdue for a reshuffling. Congress has been too split apart from the interests of the public for too long. The bankruptcy bill is a perfect illustration of that.

How does the blogosphere fit into this cycle?


The blogosphere has thus far mostly been about "Say". As people get more engaged, they start sharing their opinions and discussing them online - they reinforce each other's views, pile on to causes, and start engaging in that dangerous practice - idealism. The blogosphere is perfectly built for this because it is so easy to find someone else with the same whacked-out crazy mix of interests. Hundreds of thousands of small ponds, with all of us as big fish.

So far, however, the blogosphere has not been a great fit for "Do". There are a myriad of cynical ways to say it - pajama-clad bloggers agreeing that something needs to be done, and then not doing anything - but the truth is simply that there is often still a long distance between "Say" and "Do".

However, the blogosphere broke down the barriers for "Say" already. Anyone can go to blogger.com to create a free weblog, and there are clear upgrade paths.

Similarly, it's just a matter of time before more barriers are broken down for "Do". All it takes is the creation of more tools. The tools that will work best are the ones that can easily be dropped in to a person's existing weblog, regardless of platform. This requires open standards. Eventually all weblogs could have a spruced up open "plugin API" that supports more functionality than simply posting to a weblog.

In order to break down the "Do" barrier, here are some possible tools we could see:

  • A congress tracking system: Thomas sucks. There should be a system where any bill can be readable as text, annotated by the public, with discussion underneath. It should be hooked up to a congressperson-tracking system so we can track how they have been contacted by the public, what they think of the bill, and how they are likely to vote. It should be easy to look up a congressperson's complete vote history.
  • A public issue-tracking system: These have existed for software developers for a while - bugzilla; mantis - but they're so obtuse that only geeks get into them. Plus, they tend to only be for actual bugfixing of existing issues. There needs to be a new system where a community can
    1. Identify an objective
    2. Start working to publicly create tasks supporting that objective
    3. Assign those tasks to willing community members
    4. Track progress and make reports
    It's similar to bugtracking, but instead for public use and activism.
  • A better "volunteer tracking" system. A marketplace for matching up projects with specialized needs, with people that have specialized skills. Someone who needs a thirty-second music soundtrack for their political ad, or a large tab-delimited text file of precinct data put into a mysql database, should be able to define those needs somewhere for someone else to snap up. I can do either of those things, but no one would know it without that service.
  • An action aggregator: Right now we're being bombarded with tasks to call about this or that, and it's like they are competing with each other. It's nonsense - a service could be created to let people subscribe to daily missives for all the causes they care about.

Many of these tools are in development, and some are further off into the future. There are some closed systems like CivicSpace that require a certain weblog platform to take advantage of their tools, and many other standalone tools that can be dropped right in to any weblog. In addition, the blogosphere always jumps around in strange directions - will we be seeing a blog-driven public lobbying organization with paid lobbyists? An actual blog-driven shadow democracy with elections and office-holders?

Politology will be tracking these developments and analyzing how they are affecting politics. We'll also be actually working on developing some new tools; write if you want to be part of a development team.

Bankruptcy: Wednesday Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 03:14 AM

Today is House-targeting day, and we have a very cool tool to help us.

Congresstrack.org has developed a tool to enable groups to track where congresscritters stand on particular issues. CongressTrack's creator is allowing the tool to be used by anyone (whether conservative, liberal, or anything else) for the bankruptcy bill.

I've set up three trackers for groups of representatives in the House. I have several categories for the representatives, and they are all currently in the "Uncontacted" category.

The first group is The Cosponsors. It would be a real accomplishment to get someone to unsponsor, the sort of thing that could start feeding on itself. If you go through the list, you might find some real surprises. I am personally very surprised to see Rick Boucher (D-WA) on that list; one of his specialties is internet law and he's always been on the side of the little guy in those battles. There are six other Democrats on the list.

The second group is The House Judiciary Committee. It's likely that many of these are definitely voting against the bill, but they need to be contacted to make sure.

The third group is The Democratic Letter Signers. I just don't understand these people; many of them are asking for a quick turnaround, but have not endorsed the bill. It would be progress if we can get any of these folks to promise to vote No.

Action: Click the above links to find the representatives, and then click their names to get their contact information. This tool makes it very easy to contact them.

Then, tell us what you find out. It is not sufficient to simply give them a piece of your mind. Make your case, and then ask where they stand. If they are one on of the lists, ask them if they will withdraw. Ask them how they are going to vote, and let us know if they are voting yes, no, or are thinking about it. I will then be able to go to the pages for the campaigns and update the status for the representatives in question.

I'll be out part of the day - I have a weekly trip to Seattle to take a film orchestration class - but will keep tabs on comments and status. On Thursday, we'll catch up with the state of things around the blogosphere.

March 15, 2005

Bankruptcy: Tuesday Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 01:33 AM

Today's action items are to continue with Monday's unresolved items.

We're hearing hints that the House vote may be after Easter recess, the week of April 4th. If that's true, how should we fill the time?

The main ideas I have on my list and have not implemented are:

  • Implementing a Congress tracking tool that someone wrote me about - it allows a group to easily track the positions of a group of congresscritters on an issue. If you call yours, you would update the tool with what they say. We'd probably do this for the judiciary committee members.
  • Identifying a list of hometown newspapers of representatives, and the addresses for letters to the editor.

Other loose ends: I know of interest in South Dakota to put together a delegation to visit Stephanie Herseth, but they need more people. Contact me if you'd like to be put in touch.

There is also an effort to visit reps in Illinois to certain representatives to unsponsor.

Here in Oregon, Wu and Hooley both deserve a visit.

Keep checking out BizzyBlog, which has some great coverage about the effects of this bill, including a rebuttal to Todd Zywicki's recent defense of the bill.

Some posts not about bankruptcy will probably show up here and there, as this blog was originally formed to be about "Politics and Technology in the United States".

March 14, 2005

Bankruptcy: Monday Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 12:11 AM

Your assignment - work on at least one of the sections below. Make progress today, and report any meaningful news, either through comments or private notes. Enlist your contacts and link freely.

Bookmark Politology. (RSS feed)

House

Here is the summary. The House bill number is H.R. 685. Go to that page and then click "Cosponsors" to view the 83 cosponsors - you might be surprised. (Darlene Hooley in Oregon?)

The bill has been referred to committee. According to Thomas, it has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee (some think the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law) and the Committee on Financial Services.

Finally, a group of twenty Democrats have written a letter to Hastert asking for quick movement on the bill, saying, "It is our hope that the House of Representatives will consider this important piece of legislation in an expedited manner." In a way this is worse than being a cosponsor because one gets the sense they are worried about the political cost of due consideration. (Note the signatures that are not on the cosponsor list.) It's a cynical dismissal of their duties as our representatives. Check the bottom of this post for the letter and the list of representatives that signed.

There are a lot of implicit action items in that chunk of information, so let me spell them out.

  • If there is a cosponsor on this bill that has no business being a cosponsor, contact them immediately and tell them to withdraw. Note that many of these reps cosponsored en masse on 2/9 - they might not have been paying attention. Getting someone to unsponsor would be a major coup.
  • It is still not clear where the bill is and where it could be frozen. Find out exactly what subcommittee(s) the bill is in (if any), and report back.
  • Go ahead and start contacting the representatives that are in the full Judiciary and Financial committees to apply pressure.
  • For liberals - contact the letter-signing Dems that are frightened of due consideration, and tell them to vote Nay.
  • Enlist your contacts.

Email is okay - if you'd rather simply contact your assigned Senators and Rep, you can use our tool (information). Calling is better. Google a rep's name to find their (206) phone number. From the comments:


Also effective are postal letters to their district (non-DC) offices, letters to the editor, and prepared questions at in-district 'town hall' meetings (call the district offices and ask about the schedule).

Fax your postal letters to get around the delivery delay.

Senate

Keep telling the "Yea" voters what you think of their votes. I really think there is mileage to be won here. Joe Biden has already written a defensive-sounding letter (bugmenot) to the Los Angeles Times defending his vote, so they are feeling heat. Turn it up. Among Biden's points:


In 2001, a similar bill passed the Senate 82 to 16. The provisions affecting consumer bankruptcy were identical to those Chait criticizes.

Someone needs to inform Biden that just because something was wrong yesterday doesn't mean it is right today.

I'm also curious what Reid's statement will say. Keep asking.

Check here for the list of Senators that voted Yea, and check here if you only want to see the ones who are up for re-election in 2006.

What would be ideal is turning a Senator; getting them to admit they misjudged the opposition and join the call to oppose the bill's movement. So, don't be so rude that you undermine that objective.

Media

I need information on a tool that will enable us to easily send Letters to the Editor to certain targeted newspapers. Barring that, when we identify the correct subcommittees, we will need information on the hometown newspapers of representatives, and the address to write or email to.

Conservatives, call Rush and gently register your opposition to the bill while making clear that you are not a plant. Liberals, do NOT call Rush, it's just counterproductive.

Contacting Lou Dobbs is definitely worthwhile as he is already talking about the "assault on the middle class". Getting him to mention politology and the coalition could help build more momentum.

Finally, keep letting us know of visible media mentions of this effort.

Medium Term

I would love to hear about people putting together personal lobbying visits to the offices of their Representatives. From the comments:

Time-consuming but powerful are personal lobbying delegations with the Congressperson -- four to six constituents, ideally people with some weight in the community, even better if they are active in the Rep's party. This will require persistent letter and phone work with the Congressperson's scheduler (see congress.org), as well as recruiting and preparation of the group. They can happen in the DC office or at a district office.

The public doesn't really have a lobbying organization, so it's up to average citizens to set up meetings. Here in Oregon, Wu and Hooley definitely need to be paid a visit, and I'd love to hear of the results.

There are also some interesting musings from a legal perspective about this bill. First, Just One Minute has an idea about a "killer amendment" for the bill. I don't know who to contact in the House about ideas such as these, but I will link to and track efforts from people who want to follow up.

Second, via a private note:


There is one large legal flaw in the bill no one seems to have noticed. The means testing provision separates people by state. Simply put, there's no equal protection under the law. A different standard is applied to citizens from different states. That appears unconstitutional from the start.

I don't know if that is inconsistent with equal protection or not, but it's worth considering.

Support Materials

Here is the text of the letter that twenty Democrats sent to Hastert. See the bottom for their names. Contact them to tell them what you think.


The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We write to encourage you to bring bankruptcy reform legislation to the House floor as soon as the Senate completes its consideration of the bill. The New Democrat Coalition has backed common sense bankruptcy reform in the past and helped in passing the bankruptcy reform bill by overwhelming margins in the House of Representatives during the 108th Congress.

Over the last several years, we have worked to advance reasonable and balanced legislation that would require individuals who have the ability to repay their debts to do so, while preserving the important safety net of bankruptcy under Chapter 7 for those who truly need it. We believe that responsible bankruptcy reform embodies the New Democrat principle of personal responsibility, while at the same time adding important new consumer protections such as requiring enhanced credit card disclosure information and encouraging participation in consumer credit counseling.

It is our hope that the House of Representatives will consider this important piece of legislation in an expedited manner. We stand ready to work with you and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass bankruptcy reform into law.

Sincerely,

Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher
Rep. Adam Smith
Rep. Ron Kind
Rep. Artur Davis
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy
Rep. John Larson
Rep. Stephanie Herseth
Rep. Dennis Moore
Rep. Mike McIntyre
Rep. Joe Crowley
Rep. Jay Israel
Rep. David Wu
Rep. Diane Hooley
Rep. Melissa Bean
Rep. Jim Davis
Rep. Harold E. Ford, Jr.
Rep. Ed Case
Rep. Jay Inslee
Rep. Shelley Berkeley
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks

Bankruptcy: Write Your Congresscritters

Posted by tunesmith at 12:01 AM

Thanks to The People's Email Network, we now have a tool up to easily allow you to write your Congresscritters from Politology.

Visit our Write Your Congresscritters page to send emails. You will type in your address and your message, and the message about the bankruptcy bill will automatically go to your own Senators and your own Representative.

In addition, PEN will be giving updates to members of the House Judiciary Committee about the level of opposition to this bill.

Note - it's viral. You can include email addresses to contacts that you want to enlist, and they will be sent information.

March 13, 2005

Bankruptcy: Bipartisan Letter To The House

Posted by tunesmith at 10:15 PM

A large, bipartisan group of law professors who teach bankruptcy law have drafted a letter (pdf) to be sent to the House Judiciary committee, where the bill currently resides. They strongly oppose the bill - it's worth a read if you want a methodical outline of the case against this bill.

The bankruptcy filing rate is a symptom. It is not the disease. Some people do abuse the bankruptcy system, but the overwhelming majority of people in bankruptcy are in financial distress as a result of job loss, medical expense, divorce, or a combination of those causes. In our view, the fundamental change over the last ten years has been the way that credit is marketed to consumers. Credit card lenders have become more aggressive in marketing their products, and a large, very profitable, market has emerged in subprime lending. Increased risk is part of the business model. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that as credit is extended to riskier and riskier borrowers, a greater number default when faced with a financial reversal. Nonetheless, consumer lending remains highly profitable, even under current law.

The added risk of Chapter 7 bankruptcies is already built into their financial models. This bill rescues no one.

March 12, 2005

Bankruptcy: Weekend Action Items

Posted by tunesmith at 05:34 PM

This weekend is mostly about researching and preparing for the House. We're need to identify where the bankruptcy bill will begin - it appears it is the House Judiciary Committee or a subcommittee - and identify their members. There's already some work being done to that end in the comments. Please weigh in. Rep. Cannon appears to have a key role. From my limited impression of him, he's not devoid of reason. We also need to know the bill number, if it exists yet.

If anyone is willing to do some typesetting work or marketing writing, I'd love to host a pdf flyer that we can print out and drop off in public places. Cribbing the main statement from the original entry is fine. I don't care whether it is politology-branded or not, but it should have directions on where to go to participate. In that vein, if a graphic designer could come up with a badge, brand, or 150x200 box that other blogs could host on their weblog to express support, that would help as well.

I would like pointers to whatever tools there are these days that allow easy creation of Letters to Editor, to focus on local media.

Finally, I'd like more thoughts on exactly how to target a couple of media opinion leaders or PACs; ones that we have a good shot at affecting. I want instructions on how to call into Rush's show, when he's on, and whether he could be convinced to weigh in against this bill with enough prodding from conservative listeners. Any other such organization that could release a statement of opposition after some prodding would be good to target, but we shouldn't get spread out too thin.

This will take us through Sunday. In the meantime, use the comments and private notes to help come up with action items for the first few days of the week.

Bankruptcy Coalition: How This Will Work

Posted by tunesmith at 01:30 AM

We're doing a good job at sticking to this so far. We didn't have major A-list "new links" on Friday, but traffic actually rose from the previous day, so the site is proving sticky. Keep up the interest.

The "coalition" so far has meant many, many blogs linking to this site and expressing support. There are a lot of otherwise-partisan bloggers that are positively thrilled to be working with their counterparts on this issue. This is obviously newsworthy by itself.

But the other newsworthy aspect is that there is a lot more latent opposition to this bill that everyone first thought. We need to work fast for it to have any affect.

This means putting the coalition to work. Here's what we will do:

I will be creating "Action" posts, hopefully one per weekday and weekend. I do not have a mailing list set up to send out Action Items by email - I always thought that was fairly lame, anyway. Instead, this effort will need to rely on weblogs continuing to read the site, and passing on the links to the Action entries. Bookmark the site, or subscribe to its RSS Feed.

The content of the Action posts will basically be determined by reader input. So, send ideas, either in comments, or through private notes.

At this point, it looks like a four-point effort:

The Senate

Yes, the Senate voted. But I'm coming more to the belief that there is real potential here. There was gross cynicism in that 74-25 vote. Expedience was not appropriate in this matter, and we could make it play into our hands. If we are of the belief that we could have changed the Senate vote if we had had more time, then let's use that time to make them regret it. I don't mean that as hyperbole, I mean to actually elicit statements from Senators, forcing them to defend their votes. I'm going to look more into a congress tracking tool over the weekend so we can track what they say.

The House

There will first be committees to focus on. Then it will be the House in general. Evidently, there are several Democrats that wrote an anxious letter asking for quick passage on the Bill (anyone have a link?); it could be beneficial to target them especially. (One of them, Wu, is right here in Portland.)

The Media

Targeting the politicians directly isn't enough. It might be possible to peel off a couple of Republicans, but in general, the Republican majority is far too disciplined - they vote as a bloc. The only way to turn the Republicans is to push them to a critical mass where they found a politically feasible way to change their approach. Their tipping point is invisible, so it's a matter of finding as many different pressure points as possible.

I am thinking: target local media. And also try to turn conservative opinion makers. Just One Minute had earlier asked if Rush could be turned. It's worth exploring. I already saw Lou Dobbs talking about the "assault on the middle class".

There's a separate part to this - PACs. There are a ton of conservative PACs that could possibly be convinced to share public reservations on the bill. And maybe MoveOn can be convinced to reconsider their stance.

The Offline World

I think this needs an offline component. I do not know how effective visits to Congressional offices are when the Congresscritters are in Washington. Interested in opinions here. We also need something that can be printed out and dropped off in public places. I am not a graphic designer, so if you have graphic design or marketing-writing skills, please volunteer with some publication materials. It would be beneficial if they were written from a centrist or conservative perspective. Finally, some have expressed interest in things like marches or boycotts or mass protests. Those sorts of things need far broader support to be meaningful, but I will highlight those with proven momentum.


I recognize that 95% of us are interested in being given assignments so we can get to work. But, I do need help from those that are interested in actually designing tactics and strategy and fashioning an action plan that has a chance at leading to results with the resources we have. Contact me if you can help in that regard. (Please show your hand; if you write with "I can help come up with ideas, sign me up!" you've missed the point entirely. :-) )

Weekend Action Items coming soon.

March 11, 2005

Bankruptcy: Comment Follow-up

Posted by tunesmith at 07:09 PM

We've had some great participation today in the comments and in private notes.

First, Scott Lewis has done some great research comparing the votes of the various Senators to the campaign contributions they got from the credit card companies. One such stat: "Yea" votes got $26,389 in their peak years. "Nay" votes got $14,888. The spread was greater among Democrats alone. Go read.

There's a lot of anger and embarrssment on the Democratic side about Reid's "Yea" vote. He did not set a good example to his colleagues. From the comments:

I just got off the phone with Senator Reid's office. I asked why he voted for the bankruptcy bill. The woman who answered said that the senator has a statement that will be going up on his site. [...] Long and short, she eventually checked with the press office and told me that the statement may go up later today or tomorrow or Monday. She also said that it might not go up at all. I told her that it would be more efficient for the senator to post the statement, rather than have folks keep calling to about this bill. She said, "well I guess people are going to have to continue calling." I think we need to have the phones ring off the hook at his office before we will see any statement. Please ask anyone you know who cares about this to call Senator Reid.
And, a comment from Fact-esque:
I talked to his office too. The line that got me was "It's an improvement over current law. " Yeah? Prove that, Harry.

Among the left, there's been some curiousness about the blogs linking to this site - specifically, a lot of popular conservative blogs, a lot of smaller liberal blogs, and almost no A-list liberal blogs (aside from the public-driven Recommended List over at daily kos). I basically attribute this to there not being an extremely popular liberal blog that enjoys regularly linking to folks outside its immediate network. (Update: I spoke too soon, and missed the support from Talking Points Memo. Wonderful!)

Continue checking out BizzyBlog for more details on how the bill will impact consumers. BizzyBlog makes the point that the companies that will be advantaging from this bill are the same ones that are proving so incompetent in protecting our personal, private information from identity theft.

This is not the only left/right coalition out there. We'll link to other such "orthogonal politics" sites. The Online Coalition is about the FEC. More blogs want to inhabit translator roles; this new blog expressed such a desire in the comments.

Since Chapter 13 doesn't mean low fees, it would hurt the economy:

When you have people paying outrageously high fees and outrageously high interest on their credit card debt, you drain money away from productive portions of the economy. When people fall behind in their bills it is not rare nowdays for credit card companies to charge interest rates on the order of 30%, plus high late fees, plus overlimit fees.

Finally, taking a suggestion from Simian Brain, here is the same table as before, limited by the Senators that are up for re-election in 2006.

AZKyl (R): (202) 224-4521
DECarper (D): (202) 224-2441
FLNelson (D): (202) 224-5274
INLugar (R): (202) 224-4814
MESnowe (R): (202) 224-5344
MIStabenow (D): (202) 224-4822
MOTalent (R): (202) 224-6154
MSLott (R): (202) 224-6253
MTBurns (R): (202) 224-2644
NDConrad (D): (202) 224-2043
NENelson (D): (202) 224-6551
NMBingaman (D): (202) 224-5521
NVEnsign (R): (202) 224-6244
OHDeWine (R): (202) 224-2315
PASantorum (R): (202) 224-6324
RIChafee (R): (202) 224-2921
TXHutchison (R): (202) 224-5922
UTHatch (R): (202) 224-5251
VAAllen (R): (202) 224-4024
VTJeffords (I): (202) 224-5141
WIKohl (D): (202) 224-5653
WVByrd (D): (202) 224-3954
WYThomas (R): (202) 224-6441

Also, Lieberman and Feinstein deserve mention, because despite their "Nay" vote, Lieberman voted for cloture, and Feinstein voted it out of committee.

March 10, 2005

Bankruptcy: Friday Action

Posted by tunesmith at 08:43 PM

Update: Please check the main weblog regularly to keep up on new action items! Bookmark or subscribe to the rss feed.

House efforts will happen next week. I'll be working on this a bit over the weekend. If you have ideas for a good web tool that would help with this, let me know. Or if you have perl/php/mysql skills to donate.

For Friday - express your displeasure to the Senators who voted yes. Up to you as to how, but phone calls are better than email. No, this doesn't exactly make a difference in the vote, but it's Friday, and it's a good way to vent and reset for next week. Plus, it might do some good.

Here's the table of the Senators who voted yes, and their phone numbers. Note: you do not have an ethical obligation to limit yourself to your own party! Make the point this is a bipartisan issue to the public. If they live in your state, call them, even if they aren't of your party. (Use your judgment on calling an out of state Senator.)

AKMurkowski (R): (202) 224-6665
Stevens (R): (202) 224-3004
ALSessions (R): (202) 224-4124
Shelby (R): (202) 224-5744
ARLincoln (D): (202) 224-4843
Pryor (D): (202) 224-2353
AZKyl (R): (202) 224-4521
McCain (R): (202) 224-2235
COAllard (R): (202) 224-5941
Salazar (D): (202) 224-5852
DEBiden (D): (202) 224-5042
Carper (D): (202) 224-2441
FLMartinez (R): (202) 224-3041
Nelson (D): (202) 224-5274
GAChambliss (R): (202) 224-3521
Isakson (R): (202) 224-3643
HIInouye (D): (202) 224-3934
IAGrassley (R): (202) 224-3744
IDCraig (R): (202) 224-2752
Crapo (R): (202) 224-6142
INBayh (D): (202) 224-5623
Lugar (R): (202) 224-4814
KSBrownback (R): (202) 224-6521
Roberts (R): (202) 224-4774
KYBunning (R): (202) 224-4343
McConnell (R): (202) 224-2541
LALandrieu (D): (202) 224-5824
Vitter (R): (202) 224-4623
MECollins (R): (202) 224-2523
Snowe (R): (202) 224-5344
MIStabenow (D): (202) 224-4822
MNColeman (R): (202) 224-5641
MOBond (R): (202) 224-5721
Talent (R): (202) 224-6154
MSCochran (R): (202) 224-5054
Lott (R): (202) 224-6253
MTBaucus (D): (202) 224-2651
Burns (R): (202) 224-2644
NCBurr (R): (202) 224-3154
Dole (R): (202) 224-6342
NDConrad (D): (202) 224-2043
NEHagel (R): (202) 224-4224
Nelson (D): (202) 224-6551
NHGregg (R): (202) 224-3324
Sununu (R): (202) 224-2841
NMBingaman (D): (202) 224-5521
Domenici (R): (202) 224-6621
NVEnsign (R): (202) 224-6244
Reid (D): (202) 224-3542
OHDeWine (R): (202) 224-2315
Voinovich (R): (202) 224-3353
OKCoburn (R): (202) 224-5754
Inhofe (R): (202) 224-4721
ORSmith (R): (202) 224-3753
PASantorum (R): (202) 224-6324
Specter (R): (202) 224-4254
RIChafee (R): (202) 224-2921
SCDeMint (R): (202) 224-6121
Graham (R): (202) 224-5972
SDJohnson (D): (202) 224-5842
Thune (R): (202) 224-2321
TNAlexander (R): (202) 224-4944
Frist (R): (202) 224-3344
TXCornyn (R): (202) 224-2934
Hutchison (R): (202) 224-5922
UTBennett (R): (202) 224-5444
Hatch (R): (202) 224-5251
VAAllen (R): (202) 224-4024
Warner (R): (202) 224-2023
VTJeffords (I): (202) 224-5141
WIKohl (D): (202) 224-5653
WVByrd (D): (202) 224-3954
WYEnzi (R): (202) 224-3424
Thomas (R): (202) 224-6441

Update: Politology had its first programming bug. ;-) There will be many, many more. My perl script (not me!) confused the phone numbers for Senators Nelson. Apologies, corrected, and thanks for letting me know.

On The MultiPartisan Blogosphere

Posted by tunesmith at 07:32 PM

Excuse a "meta" post before we get back to the bankruptcy action. It's been a pretty active day - this weblog didn't exist a few days ago, and today it was mentioned live on two cable tv shows and a radio show (that I know of). I don't even have blogads up yet.

There's been an odd pulse to this bankruptcy issue. There's been a bit of swagger and confidence lately in the blogosphere because of all the coverage of Rather, Guckert, and Eason. I don't exactly think it was about overconfidence, but realizing that the blogosphere kind of missed the boat on the Senate bankruptcy vote elicited a collective feeling that ran counter to that swagger. It didn't jibe.

And I think it just bugged a lot of us. Others have written about why we didn't affect the process as much as we think we could have. My own theory is that thus far, the blogosphere has a lot of the same qualities as the open source community. It's the sexy things that get the attention. Programmers will write fancy desktop software for free no problem. But they haven't come up with open source tax software.

The bankruptcy bill just wasn't sexy. It took us a while to look at it voluntarily. It was civic duty alone that revved us up, and it took us a while to get around to it.

I think there's some collective realizations to be made here. First is that the blogosphere is, in a sense, representatives of the public. We are the citizens that somehow, as a group, can get Congress's ear without having to go through a PAC. We're elected by our readers, and the elected positions we hold change all the time as our popularity rises and ebbs. It's very much the kind of "emergent democracy" that Joi Ito writes about all the time.

And, the second - again, just my opinion - is that this isn't as free a game as it first seems. It's not as simple as just choosing to focus on what we want to focus on. Make fun of me for alluding to Spider-Man, but we manage to gain a bit of power, and with that power comes responsibility. There's a civic duty we have to keep tabs and do research, on behalf of others. We have some responsibility to protect the public's interest, and in cases like the bankruptcy bill, we're more trusted than Congress. I think knowing this helps explain why there's been such appetite to form a coalition, even while we hurl so much poison at each other on other days.

It's of course impossible to force or create a direction towards which the entire blogosphere will flow, but I wonder if we'll be seeing more of a push to identify more blogs that are guardians of the public trust for particular issues, or more blog-funded nonpartisan research. There's a lot of different possible forms, but the point is that if there is a growing recognition that: Congress isn't there for the public, that someone has to be, and that blogs can be... then, that demand will be met somehow. I imagine we'll be seeing cross-blogosphere coalitions more often.

This weblog will continue to be about the intersection of politics and technology, which will often involve nonpartisan subjects, of interest to both (all) sides of the political blogosphere. I invite you to check in regularly.

Bankruptcy Bill Passes Senate 74-25

Posted by tunesmith at 03:43 PM

At the last minute several Senators made what they judged to be an expedient choice, and voted "Yes". Senator Clinton abstained due to her husband's surgery. I'll defer to others to capture the ridiculousness of today's vote in their ventings, and perhaps quote some of them here.

We knew that it was late enough that we probably wouldn't be able to affect the Senate vote - we knew that this was more about Taking Names than Kicking Ass. Gear up for the next step. At this point there looks to be more reward in targeting the media than targeting the House, but both should be done.

The media, the house, the committee, and the President. Feel free to suggest ideas.

Update: Here's the roll call.

MSNBC Connected on Politology

Posted by tunesmith at 02:30 PM

Thanks to Jeff Jarvis and MSNBC Connected for the mention (video) today.

We can talk about left versus right until we're red (or blue) in the face, but there are some matters that are about the politicians versus the public. The blogosphere is on the side of the public.

Contact your Senators offices right NOW (they are still debating) to register your disapproval to this bill. There are many Senators making a political judgment that a "YES" vote is a safe vote, and they need to be warned that they may be in for a rude surprise.

The bill's passage needs to at least be delayed so there is more room for public comment.

The Motley Fool on Bankruptcy

Posted by tunesmith at 01:53 PM

The Motley Fool has an article on the bankruptcy bill, as well. They've always struck me as nonpartisan, but are coming out against this bill.

Bankruptcy Bill: Statements of Opposition

Posted by tunesmith at 01:46 PM

From the comments:

As a conservative GOP bankruptcy lawyer, I oppose the proposed changes. However they are couched, they are based upon reactionary social attitudes we haven't heard since the 1920s: that it's somehow "dishonest" and "immoral" for consumers to file bankruptcy. The idea that our entrepreneurial and credit-happy economic system encourages taking risks and borrowing on credit, and that some risk-takers will fail, or credit card holders overextend themselves, is the foundation of the bankruptcy system. If an honest debtor goes into debt to take an economic risk, whether wisely or foolishly, and fails, he or she can get a bankruptcy discharge, and a fresh start in life. The fresh start is not cost-free: the debtor must surrender all assets (except for homestead and exempt property) to the bankruptcy trustee. Among the mean-spirited aspects of the legislation is its attack on bankruptcy lawyers, with requirements that we certify that our clients are telling the truth on their bankruptcy schedules. Clients already swear that their schedules are true under penalty of perjury; lawyers generally lack the resources to audit their indigent clients' books and records for accuracy. Under the current bankruptcy system, creditors willing to pay for audits can do so. Requiring routine audits, and shifting the costs of those audits to indigent consumer debtors and their lawyers adds an additional and cruel economic cost to bankruptcy filings without any real corresponding benefit, a result clearly contemplated by this legislation. Creating the potential to set lawyer against client is only one reason these proposed amendments are offensive.

And the other side of the legal aisle:

The Stinging Nettle is in full support.

Thanks for doing this. I am a Bankruptcy practitioner, usually representing creditors. This law is horrible.


Bankruptcy: The Cost of a Yes Vote

Posted by tunesmith at 12:24 PM

The Senate is still debating this turkey. Our best hope for the Senate right now is to convince them to delay passage. They need to be told that there is significant, late-breaking opposition to this bill.

Congress needs to understand that there is a cost to ramming a bill through so quickly. Some are voting on strong views, but many congresscritters are going to vote Yes on this because they have made a political judgment that it is a safe vote. They need to understand that it could very be very dangerous in hindsight. Threats of supporting a primary opponent might have weight.

If any of the conservative high-traffic blogs want to try and whip up some phone opposition to conservative Senators, it'd be interesting to see what happens.

March 09, 2005

Bankruptcy Protest: A Coalition

Posted by tunesmith at 11:40 PM
Be sure to bookmark or blogroll Politology.US to keep track. Read the main blog for new entries!
Next Action: here.
Bill Passes, 75-24: Remarks here
2:24 PM PST: This coalition was featured on MSNBC Connected's "blog roundup" today - thanks to Jeff Jarvis for the mention. Here's the video. Brief mention on CNN too (video).

The opposition against the bankruptcy bill crosses party lines, among the grassroots.

The support for the bankruptcy bill crosses party lines among Congress.

This is clearly an example where the interests of Congress are divorced from the interests of the public. This bill is about politicians and lobbyists, not the American public.

So we should call them - a lot. Let your congresscritters know that you do not support the bill, that it does nothing for American citizens, and that if the politicians let the credit card companies dictate their vote, we will hold them responsible.

There's appetite for a blogosphere-wide effort against the bankruptcy bill. I will be including a list of conservative and liberal weblogs that are signed on to this effort. All you need to do is leave a comment, preferably a trackback (now enabled), or drop an email, and endorse the effort on your own weblog.

The final Senate vote is expected for today, March 10th. Call your Senator's office today. The House battle is coming soon. For more details, click "Continue Reading".

Updates:

BuzzMachine will be discussing the emerging opposition.

Read this weblog for future updates on the same subject. Bookmark, rss feed...

Instapundit links to the effort.

JustOneMinute has good ideas:

Folks who plan to fight on (don't rush me) ought to check something - where is Rush Limbaugh positioned on this bill?  Could he be re-positioned? (...) Last point - I am not going to instruct activists in how to boil water for coffee, but - is there a House committee this bill needs to clear?  Are there Congressman who might be swayed by phone calls, e-mail, and a letter campaign to their home-town newspapers?  Who are the targets?

Tacitus and Redstate have front-page action alerts on the bill:

The bankruptcy bill before the Congress is bad law, bad practice, and an example of bad faith with the common people whom elected officials presumably serve.

Other sites linking up:
PowerPundit
Think Progress
Heretical Ideas
Centerfield
Insane Troll Logic
Pinko Feminist Hellcat (heh)
(links taken from Technorati)

Here is some of what conservative bloggers are saying about the bankruptcy bill:

Instapundit says:

I'm deeply skeptical of the bankruptcy bill in front of Congress now, and this report on credit-card industry practices goes a long way toward explaining why. Credit extended to people who can't handle it, absurd hidden fees, high interest rates, etc.: There's a lot of scamming here. The argument, of course, is that people who sign up for credit card accounts ought to know what they're getting into. But shouldn't the companies that extend credit to people who obviously can't handle it be held to the same standard?

bizzyblog has a rundown of cross-blogosphere opposition.

RedState has a discussion that shows a lot of conservative opposition to the bill.

Free Republic has opposition to the bill.

Here are the top ten states in terms of bankruptcies - meaning, the states that will be hit hardest by this bill:

1 Utah
2 Tennessee
3 Georgia
4 Nevada
5 Indiana
6 Alabama
7 Arkansas
8 Ohio
9 Mississippi
10 Idaho

Leave comments for more examples of bipartisan grassroots opposition to this turkey, and suggestions for a unified action we could take. Right now the best suggestion is a branded "call-in" day.

Garrett Article at Daily Kos

Posted by tunesmith at 03:37 PM

I wrote an expanded article on Laurie Garrett over at Daily Kos. Read and discuss.

March 08, 2005

Laurie Garrett quits

Posted by tunesmith at 11:36 PM

Daily Kos has an article about journalist Laurie Garrett quitting the profession after sharing some doom and gloom about journalism in general. There are a lot of fans of Laurie Garrett, it appears; she seems to be one of the "good guys".

And yet, you may recall that Laurie Garrett was the main character of a rather interesting dust-up a couple of years ago. Seems she had attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and sent her off-the-record thoughts to some friends. Those thoughts promptly got forwarded throughout the entire net.

Here is the article that describes the entire saga. But I was especially struck by this rant she sent along to the online crowd that became passionately involved with the matter:

Do you imagine for a moment that the participants in the WEF - whether they be the CEOs of Amoco an IBM of the leaders of Amnesty International and OXFAM - waste their time with Internet chat rooms and discussions such as this? Do you actually believe, as you type your random thoughts in such Internet settings, that you are participating in Civilization? In Democracy? In changing your world?

I remember this moment. For those participating, it was one of the watershed moments of the then-young blogosphere gaining access to "privileged information". It was huge, an emergent realization of what kind of power the new community could possibly have. And I imagine that for some, Laurie's vent was probably met with an internal, steely resolve to prove she didn't know what the hell she was talking about.

Bankruptcy Fallout

Posted by tunesmith at 11:09 PM

It's hard to be sure, but I believe March 8th, 2005 will end up a key date for the 2006 and 2008 elections. But it may have even more of an impact on the blogging community.

First, let's define terms. Blogging is going to end up much bigger that people writing entries in reverse chronological order and commenting on them. The blogging community refers both to those who are doing that in the present day, as well as those who participate in what we evolve to be.

Today was a key day for the bankruptcy bill. I'll tell you, I don't know a lot about the bankruptcy bill. A lot of us don't. That's part of the problem. But we all do know that there is something very, very wrong with it. You can just tell by the stench from Washington.

We did what we knew how to do. Josh Marshall set up a Bankruptcy page, but only a couple of days before the key votes. Atrios hosted a "bankruptcy day" where participants were to call and nag various congresscritters. And there were a handful of diaries over at Daily Kos, as always.

It wasn't even close to enough. And today, the blogosphere got a big dose of reality. We're alone in this, and we do not yet have near the amount of power we need to do things right.

First, here is the list of Senators who voted for cloture, which did away with the filibuster threat:

Biden (D-DE)
Byrd (D-WV)
Carper (D-DE)
Conrad (D-ND)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Salazar (D-CO)
Stabenow (D-MI)

In addition, Feinstein (D-CA) voted to let it proceed from committee.

On a purely political level, some of these Senators made the right play. But some of them miscalculated. It's too early to tell who's who yet, but the hints of fallout have already began. There is not a lot of Democratic cheerleading going on in the online community today, and to many, a line was drawn by people with long memories. Atrios and Max have predictions of Senators who will never be President because of this.

It's a fair criticism to say that the bloggers are just being dramatic at this point. But I think it's whistling past a graveyard to dismiss it too quickly. We fueled the transition of financing from big corporations to grassroots this election cycle. And the influence of our opinion leaders isn't exactly shrinking. We are the future fundraisers, technology leaders, and PR folks of future campaigns. At the same time that we're forced to accept the lack of power we have now, one gets the sense that the community has recommitted to taking more power in the future.

Now, what caused this failure? We'll explore this in a future post.

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