Posts

Coffee Party Update

This post is aimed primarily at letting everyone who expressed an interest in the Grants Pass Coffee Party but has been unable to attend know what’s been happening.  First a brief history:

  1. March 13 — Party #1.  Was just me.  Used the time to practice getting a table, setting up my laptop, calling people I knew to let them know about the party.  It was great to talk to some of my activist friends, some of  whom I hadn’t heard from for years.  Got emails afterwards from 2 individuals who indicated they were interested and wanted to be kept in the loop.
  2. March 20 — Party #2.  Was me plus one=2.  Much more productive.  We learned about the coffee sphere, compared our results, and decided that we had broad areas of agreement in most areas of public policy from Health Care to Education and the Economy.  This we actually knew in advance, but it was interesting to see it verified more or less objectively with the Coffee Sphere.
  3. March 27 — Coffee Party Summit.  I was in Portland for the weekend and attended a local coffee party up there.   What a surprise!  I found out that, Dave Varner, the local organizer, had put out exactly the same amount of effort as I had, i.e., basically entering an announcement on the National Coffee Party Website, and here in the coffee shop were TWENTY interested people as a result.  Wow.  Lots of good conversation.  The group was able to come to a consensus of sort that the most important area for improvement is in the area of funding for leglislative / political processes.  Areas touched on were corporate personhood, campaign finance reform, the lobby system, life after public service (corporate-Congressional revolving door).
  4. April 3 — No party.  Just recovering from last weekend.
  5. April 10 — That brings me to today’s party.  Total attendance: Four!  All right!  The numbers are moving in the right direction.  One of today’s attendees, Dale Matthews, is a candidate for County Commissioner.  So, predictably, much of the conversation revolved around local politics.  We learned there is a candidates forum being sponsored by The Daily Courier on Tuesday, April 20 at the Anne Basker Auditorium at 6PM.  There was the expected grumbling about the lack of political education and general apathy of the County’s electorate.  But there was general sense that the corrupting influence of money in evidence at all levels of our politics from national to local is less the cause than a result of a general decline in standards of public behavior in politics.  To me, this suggests that the Coffee Party may be on the right track in insisting on civility in public discourse, as one area where standards seem in a precipitous slide at the moment,  as a fundamental priority.

In attempting to come to grips with this reality, we observed there are certainly other areas of concern, e.g., dishonesty, cronyism, irresponsibility, i.e., lack of accountability, and excessive secrecy or lack of transparency in the handling of the People’s money.  Not even going to mention incompetence or lack of managerial know-how.  We generally agreed with the importance of a two pronged approach to addressing the preceding flaws:

a.  Shine a bright light on the wrongdoing and

b.  Run and elect better, more virtuous leaders.

Other suggestions that were made for improvements:

  • Full public funding of County elections.
  • A petition drive for amending the County Charter to allow election finance reform
  • Better use of social networking technology to aid in achieving point a., above

I would add the following suggestions (not discussed directly today) which I intend to follow myself.

  • Read the National Coffee Party Website on a semi-regular basis to learn of changes in scheduling, information, briefing papers, and navigation.  I have to say that I was grumbling about a loss of focus by the national “politburo” and had posted a suggestion for national strategic planning on the forum that emphasized the need for  bottom-up channels of communication, as well as better organization of the Forum itself.  Well today I see that, in fact, the Forum has been reorganized in a more logical form and does include a strategic planning topic.  All in one week’s time.  Well done to whoever did the work!
  • Please take a look at the Money in Politics Briefing Paper and also the Wall Street Reform Briefing Paper for talking points and, most importantly for ideas for action that can be applied to local politics right here.
  • Advertisements

    Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook

    The Coffee Party deserves more space than I can give it right now, but I want to post their link here to boost their chances of breaking the 200,000 fan mark on Facebook by tomorrow night.

    Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook.

    The following quote right off their Facebook page is pretty good synopsis of what the Coffee Party is all about:

    We the People demand: Reason and civility in public affairs; A government accountable to the People; Liberty & Justice for All.

    Join a local chapter, and participate in our discussion boards at:
    http://CoffeePartyUSA.com

    As Promised . . .

    As promised in my last post, here is a link to Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates’s official biography as it appears on the Whitehouse website.

    Perhaps the Obama Administration is using all available attention units in dealing with the meltdown in the economy despite the fact that the President was recently quoted as saying that he is capable of doing more than one thing at a time. Of course, that was in the context of answering questions about his planned appearance on the Jay Leno show when the economy is tanking. Be that as it may, the White House has been strangely silent about any progress, or lack therefof, in the wake of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell’s and former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrook’s visits to the Middle-East as special envoys of SecState, Hillary Clinton.

    In fact the only mention of any substantive change in relations between the Israeli’s and Palastinians was this statement, sent to reporters, by the chief Palastinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei, that the peace negotiations with Israel “will be suspended until getting a substantial change in the Israeli policy.” Hardly a very promising development. On the other hand, much of the rhetoric that came out of Ms. Clinton’s visit (see, for example, this article from Scoop World) with Mahmoud Abbas was very positive in tone, if a little short on specifics.

    So, the question of whether there is sufficient interest or energy in the U.S. State Dept to address the issue of arms sales to Israel is still open.  Nevertheless, Amnesty International is calling for an investigation into Israel’s use of U.S. arms in Gaza and a suspension of arms transfers to Israel.

    Arms Merchant U.S.

    What is the U.S. doing supplying Israel with white phosphorous?

    A recent Amnesty International report states that both the Israeli government and Hamas are employing arms from foreign sources. It is no surprise that the U.S. is supplying Israel with most of its weaponry. However, the report also tabulates, citing Janes Defence Weekly, the use of Russian, Iranian, and Chinese rockets by Hamas. It does point out that it is unlikely that these rockets are being imported directly from the countries of origin. Rather they are being smuggled in from neighboring countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, such as Egypt or Lebanon.

    Although I have relatives in Israel, I find it repugnant that the U.S. government is supplying Israel with a substance that is banned for anti-personnel use, but that nevertheless is not being controlled effectively to prevent such use. The Amnesty report states:

    Amnesty International found that the Israeli army used white phosphorus, a weapon with a highly incendiary effect, in densely-populated civilian residential areas in and around Gaza City, and in the north and south of the Gaza Strip.

    I have no direct way to influence Hamas. But I feel I must at least speak out against the irresponsible actions of my own country’s government. In this respect, I support Amnesty’s recommendation for a multi-lateral embargo on foreign arms sales to both Israel and Hamas.

    Support for Stimulus Now

    Republican Senators are apparently unaware that the last election repudiated Reagan-Bush macro-economic theory and are still desperately and pathetically attempting to implement trickle-down policies and impede speedy implementation of the Administration’s stimulus package.

    While browsing in the stacks at the university library where my daughter studies, I came across an article in the March 2007 issue of the Journal of Macroeconomics by Keiichiro Kobayashi.

    Forbearance impedes confidence recovery

    Many countries have experienced financial crises. Recent research indicates that a quick policy response (e.g., resolving nonperforming loans, recapitalizing the banking sector, reorganizing failed firms) will be followed by quick recovery of economic growth. Countries that take a slow approach to reform [i.e., forbearance] during a financial crisis run into problems of persistent stagnation . . . Forbearance impedes the recovery of confidence that is lost during a financial crisis.

    There is, according to the author, an abundance of historical evidence supporting the idea that the last thing you want to do in financial crisis is take a cautious, wait-and-see approach toward resolving questions about how bankruptcies will be handled.

    For example, Bergoeing et al. (2002) compare the quick and sustained recovery of Chile with the long stagnation of Mexico after the external debt crises at the beginning of the 1980s. . . Other episodes of financial crisis include the bursting of asset-price bubbles in Sweden and Japan in the early 1990s. Both Sweden and Japan experienced price declines in their real estate markets at the beginning of the 1990s. Sweden quickly disposed of nonperforming loans and recapitalized the banking sector from 1992 to 1994, while Japan delayed the resolution of nonperforming loans until 1997. Asset prices in Sweden picked up in 1994 and have continued to rise, while asset prices in Japan have
    continued to fall for more than a decade.

    In their continuing effort to live in an alternate reality from the vast majority of working people, Republican Senators in particular are either ignorant of these and countless other historical examples that could be cited, deliberately ignoring them, or are having a psychotic episode characterized by delusional thinking and irrational behavior.

    Your call. . .

    More on Financial Crisis

    Found this alternative view on the financial crisis at Hassanmarghub’s Blog on WordPress.com.

    What Really Lies Behind the Financial Crisis?

    What was the true cause of the worst financial crisis the world has seen since the Great Depression? Was it excessive greed on Wall Street? Was it mark-to-market accounting?

    The answer is none of the above, says Jeremy Siegel, a professor of finance at Wharton. While these factors contributed to the crisis, they do not represent its most significant cause.

    Here is the real reason, according to Siegel: Financial firms bought, held and insured large quantities of risky, mortgage-related assets on borrowed money.

    The irony is that these financial giants had little need to hold these securities; they were already making enormous profits simply from creating, bundling and selling them. “During dot-com IPOs of the early 1990s, the firms that underwrote the stock offerings did not hold on to those stocks,” Siegel says. “They flipped them. But in the case of mortgage-backed securities, the financial firms decided these were good assets to hold. That was their fatal flaw.”

    So, the whole meltdown comes down to a simple simultaneous misjudgment by every investment banker of note in the world.

    Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief now that Siegel has taken the burden of causal analysis for the crash off our shoulders with this sweeping bit of reductionism. But shouldn’t any true explanation of a catastrophe contain within it a clue to preventing its repetition? Siegel’s begs the question, “why” did the bankers decide to hold on to these “assets”?