Monday, November 28, 2011

Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Explains What Happened to the US Economy

'The Commission concluded that this crisis was avoidable—the result of human actions, inactions, and misjudgments. Warnings were ignored. “The greatest tragedy would be to accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing could have been done. If we accept this notion, it will happen again.”'


"(FED Chairman) Bernanke in an April 2009 speech said that the Fed provided emergency loans only to “sound institutions,” even though its internal assessments described at least one of the biggest borrowers, Citigroup, as “marginal.”

On Jan. 14, 2009, six days before the company’s central bank loans peaked, the New York Fed gave CEO Vikram Pandit a report declaring Citigroup’s financial strength to be “superficial,” bolstered largely by its $45 billion of Treasury funds. The document was released in early 2011 by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a panel empowered by Congress to probe the causes of the crisis."


Secret Fed Loans Gave Banks Undisclosed $13B

"The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing. 

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue. 

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse...

“When you see the dollars the banks got, it’s hard to make the case these were successful institutions,” says Sherrod Brown, a Democratic Senator from Ohio who in 2010 introduced an unsuccessful bill to limit bank size. “This is an issue that can unite the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. There are lawmakers in both parties who would change their votes now.”

The size of the bailout came to light after Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, won a court case against the Fed and a group of the biggest U.S. banks called Clearing House Association LLC to force lending details into the open...

Read the entire article here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Buy Nothing Day - 2011

Is it possible for you to spend any day without spending? Have you ever tried it?

Well here is an opportunity.

Tomorrow happens to be the International Buy Nothing Day. It is observed every November 26 internationally and on November 25 in North America.

It is a global holiday from consumerism; spend a day without spending! Lock up your wallet, ignore your credit cards and dump the love of your life - shopping. It is a day where you challenge yourself, family and friends to switch off from shopping and tune into life. The rules are simple, for 24 hours you will deter from shopping. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.

People around the United Kingdom and different parts of the world will make a pact with themselves to take a break from consumption as a personal experiment or public statement.

Everything we buy has an impact on the environment. Buy Nothing Day highlights the environmental and ethical consequences of consumerism. The developed countries - only 20 per cent of the world population are consuming over 80 per cent of the earth’s natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage, and an unfair distribution of wealth.

As consumers, we need to question the products we buy and challenge the companies who produce them. What are the true risks to the environment and developing countries? It is generally believed that recycling is okay for the environment, but consuming less is better and Buy Nothing Day is a great way to start.

According to its proponents, it is not about changing your lifestyle for just one day - it is expected to be a lasting relationship with your consumer conscience - maybe a life changing experience. People are encouraged to make a commitment to consuming less, recycling more and challenging companies to clean up and be fair. The supermarket or shopping mall might offer great choice, but this should not be at the cost of the environment or developing countries.

A day of international protest against consumerism observed by social activists, it was founded in Vancouver by artist, Ted Dave. His idea of getting people to say no to shopping for one day has spread around the world. This year as every year since 1991, The Media Foundation and Adbusters (from British Columbia) are inviting consumers to give their desire to buy and buy and buy a rest, at least for 24 hours.

The first Buy Nothing Day was organised in Mexico in September 1992 as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.

In 1997, it was moved to the Friday after American Thanksgiving, also called Black Friday, which is one of the 10 busiest shopping days in the United States. Participation now includes more than 65 nations. 

In observing the day, various gatherings, shenanigans and other forms of protest have been used to draw attention to the problem of over-consumption.

One of such is where participants stand in a shopping mall or store with a pair of scissors and a poster that advertises help for people who want to put an end to mounting debt and extortionate interest rates with one simple cut.

Zombie Walk: Participant ‘zombies’ wander around shopping malls or other consumer havens with a blank stare. When asked what they are doing explain through gesticulations.

Whirl-mart: Participants silently steer their shopping carts around a shopping mall or store in a long, baffling conga line without putting anything in the carts or actually making any purchases.

Wildcat general strike: A strategy used for the 2009 Buy Nothing Day where participants not only do not buy anything for 24 hours but also keep their lights, televisions, computers and other non-essential appliances turned off, their cars parked, and their phones turned off or unplugged from sunrise to sunset.

Criticism: While critics of the day charge that it simply causes participants to buy the next day, Ad busters state that it “isn’t just about changing your habits for one day” but “about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste.”

Activists commended a store in Ottawa for doing something to celebrate the day. The store stayed closed, a poster of the International Buy Nothing Day was placed in the window and the employees had a paid holiday. The year after that, they opened the shop and served cookies and coffee to the customers, but refused to make a sale. That sounded cool didn’t it?

A statement from the activists stated: “Come on, take the challenge! The last Friday in November is “International Buy Nothing Day”. People come on, show Mother Earth some respect! Don’t buy anything on that day, instead sit down in a chair and think to yourself, “Do I actually need this stuff I am buying?” You’ll be helping yourself as you help the planet.

To them being a consumer hero is all about standing up against the pressure to buy! Buy! Buy.

So, if you had a shop would you close down for the day? And as a consumer, would you sit still just for one day?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Troubled Louisiana lawyers & judges allowed to teach children in public school classrooms?

Attorney Clair White teaches a law class to students at
Ridgewood Middle School, Shreveport, LA

"The Lawyers in the Classroom and Judges in the Classroom programs provide volunteer professionals from the legal community an opportunity to enhance civics and law related education in Louisiana classrooms. In 2010 and 2011, over 9000 students statewide have benefited from this program."

This is the most bizarre thing I've seen since the Tea Partiers were allowed to teach the Constitution in Caddo Parish!

NOTE: The "teacher/lawyer" pictured above is currently under investigation for demolishing a parent's car window with his fist at Byrd High School in Shreveport, LA. 

His trial date was scheduled for this morning, but the victim was told by the judge that "nothing is happening today." 
In lieu of punitive consequences, the court is allowing this "lawyer/ teacher" to take anger management classes & perform "community service" for a year so he can keep his license to practice law in the State of Louisiana. 

We have to get these corrupt people 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New York Churches Shelter Occupy Protesters - Now Monitored By New York Police

United Methodist Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew
With Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) ratcheting up police crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street this week, the New York Times reports that several churches in New York City are sheltering protesters who can no longer stay in Zucotti Park.

About 46 protesters spent Wednesday night in the United Methodist Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew. However, instead of respecting the sanctuary, police in plainclothes are entering churches to monitor their conduct.

According to church officials, two police officers (one later identified as belonging to the intelligence division) asked to use the bathroom but instead “entered the sanctuary, one remaining near the door while the other advanced down the aisle, apparently counting the demonstrators in the pews.”

Then, one officer went downstairs to a homeless women’s shelter and “asked for information about who was sleeping there” without identifying himself or showing his badge. The church’s Rev. James Karpen called the police actions “invasive”:
“It is disconcerting that they would actually enter the sanctuary,” said the Rev. James Karpen, known as Reverend K, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, on West 86th Street. “Here we had offered hospitality and safety, which is our business as a church; it just felt invasive.” [...]

They are welcome to come in if they just say who they are,” Mr. Karpen said. “We have never had that kind of issue with the police before. Usually, they are very respectful of church-state issues.”
Church officials said two other police intelligence officers visited earlier in the day, claiming they were following up on “an anonymous report of vandalism,” which, according to the church, had not taken place.

The officers warned associate Pastor Siobhan Sargent that they did not want anything to happen to the church and that that was a “risk” with the protesters sleeping there. Sargent replied, “that’s what the church is for.”

While this degree of confrontation did not occur at the other churches in the area, the Judson Memorial Church said “several plainclothes police officers had entered the hall where about 100 protesters were sheltering, but elected not to ask them who they were.”

This church’s Rev. Michael Ellick said, “We thought if the police want to come in, then let them spy, then let them look.”

Lobbying firm's memo spells out plan to undermine Occupy Wall Street

A well-known Washington lobbying firm with links to the financial industry has proposed an $850,000 plan to take on Occupy Wall Street and politicians who might express sympathy for the protests, according to a memo obtained by the MSNBC program “Up w/ Chris Hayes.”

The proposal was written on the letterhead of the lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford and addressed to one of CLGC’s clients, the American Bankers Association.

CLGC’s memo proposes that the ABA pay CLGC $850,000 to conduct “opposition research” on Occupy Wall Street in order to construct “negative narratives” about the protests and allied politicians. The memo also asserts that Democratic victories in 2012 would be detrimental for Wall Street and targets specific races in which it says Wall Street would benefit by electing Republicans instead.

According to the memo, if Democrats embrace OWS, “This would mean more than just short-term political discomfort for Wall Street. … It has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy and financial impacts on the companies in the center of the bullseye.”

The memo also suggests that Democratic victories in 2012 should not be the ABA’s biggest concern. “… (T)he bigger concern,” the memo says, “should be that Republicans will no longer defend Wall Street companies.”

Two of the memo’s authors, partners Sam Geduldig and Jay Cranford, previously worked for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Geduldig joined CLGC before Boehner became speaker;  Cranford joined CLGC this year after serving as the speaker’s assistant for policy. A third partner, Steve Clark, is reportedly “tight” with Boehner, according to a story by Roll Call that CLGC features on its website.

Jeff Sigmund, an ABA spokesperson, confirmed that the association got the memo. “Our Government Relations staff did receive the proposal – it was unsolicited and we chose not to act on it in any way,” he said in a statement to "Up."

CLGC did not return calls seeking comment.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel declined to comment on the memo. But he responded to its characterization of Republicans as defenders of Wall Street by saying, “My understanding is that President Obama is the single largest recipient of donations from Wall Street.”

On “Up” Saturday, Obama campaign adviser Anita Dunn responded by saying that the majority of the president’s re-election campaign is fueled by small donors. She rejected the suggestion that the president himself is too close to Wall Street, saying “If that’s the case, why were tough financial reforms passed over party line Republican opposition?”

The CLGC memo raises another issue that it says should be of concern to the financial industry -- that OWS might find common cause with the Tea Party.

“Well-known Wall Street companies stand at the nexus of where OWS protestors and the Tea Party overlap on angered populism,” the memo says. “…This combination has the potential to be explosive later in the year when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast it with stories of millions of Americans making do with less this holiday season.”

The memo outlines a 60-day plan to conduct surveys and research on OWS and its supporters so that Wall Street companies will be prepared to conduct a media campaign in response to OWS. Wall Street companies “likely will not be the best spokespeople for their own cause,” according to the memo.  “A big challenge is to demonstrate that these companies still have political strength and that making them a political target will carry a severe political cost.”

Part of the plan CLGC proposes is to do “statewide surveys in at least eight states that are shaping up to be the most important of the 2012 cycle.”

Specific races listed in the memo are U.S. Senate races in Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Mexico and Nevada as well as the gubernatorial race in North Carolina.

The memo indicates that CLGC would research who has contributed financial backing to OWS, noting that, “Media reports have speculated about associations with George Soros and others.”

"It will be vital,” the memo says, “to understand who is funding it and what their backgrounds and motives are. If we can show that they have the same cynical motivation as a political opponent it will undermine their credibility in a profound way.” 

By Jonathan Larsen and Ken Olshansky, MSNBC TV 
Jonathan Larsen is executive producer of "Up w/ Chris Hayes"; Ken Olshansky is a producer for the show.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Message to Women: You Are Not "Crazy"

"Judge Not" exhibit - D.E./A.D.

You're so sensitive. You're so emotional. You're defensive. You're overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You're crazy! I was just joking, don't you have a sense of humor? You're so dramatic. Just get over it already!

Sound familiar?

If you're a woman, it probably does.

Do you ever hear any of these comments from your spouse, partner, boss, friends, colleagues, or relatives after you have expressed frustration, sadness, or anger about something they have done or said?

When someone says these things to you, it's not an example of inconsiderate behavior. When your spouse shows up half an hour late to dinner without calling -- that's inconsiderate behavior. A remark intended to shut you down like, "Calm down, you're overreacting," after you just addressed someone else's bad behavior, is emotional manipulation, pure and simple.

And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It's patently false and unfair.

I think it's time to separate inconsiderate behavior from emotional manipulation, and we need to use a word not found in our normal vocabulary.
Shelley Booker, LCSW in Shreveport, LA,
uses "gaslighting" when evaluating clients.

I want to introduce a helpful term to identify these reactions: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a term often used by mental health professionals (I am not one) to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they're crazy.

The term comes from the 1944 MGM film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman's husband in the film, played by Charles Boyer, wants to get his hands on her jewelry. He realizes he can accomplish this by having her certified as insane and hauled off to a mental institution. To pull of this task, he intentionally sets the gaslights in their home to flicker off and on, and every time Bergman's character reacts to it, he tells her she's just seeing things. In this setting, a gaslighter is someone who presents false information to alter the victim's perception of him or herself.

Today, when the term is referenced, it's usually because the perpetrator says things like, "You're so stupid," or "No one will ever want you," to the victim. This is an intentional, pre-meditated form of gaslighting, much like the actions of Charles Boyer's character in Gaslight, where he strategically plots to confuse Ingrid Bergman's character into believing herself unhinged.

The form of gaslighting I'm addressing is not always pre-mediated or intentional, which makes it worse, because it means all of us, especially women, have dealt with it at one time or another.

Those who engage in gaslighting create a reaction -- whether it's anger, frustration, sadness -- in the person they are dealing with. Then, when that person reacts, the gaslighter makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure by behaving as if their feelings aren't rational or normal.

My friend Anna (all names changed to protect privacy) is married to a man who feels it necessary to make random and unprompted comments about her weight. Whenever she gets upset or frustrated with his insensitive comments, he responds in the same, defeating way, "You're so sensitive. I'm just joking."

My friend Abbie works for a man who finds a way, almost daily, to unnecessarily shoot down her performance and her work product. Comments like, "Can't you do something right?" or "Why did I hire you?" are regular occurrences for her. Her boss has no problem firing people (he does it regularly), so you wouldn't know from these comments that Abbie has worked for him for six years. But every time she stands up for herself and says, "It doesn't help me when you say these things," she gets the same reaction: "Relax; you're overreacting."

Abbie thinks her boss is just being a jerk in these moments, but the truth is, he is making those comments to manipulate her into thinking her reactions are out of whack. And it's exactly that kind manipulation that has left her feeling guilty about being sensitive, and as a result, she has not left her job.

But gaslighting can be as simple as someone smiling and saying something like, "You're so sensitive," to somebody else. Such a comment may seem innocuous enough, but in that moment, the speaker is making a judgment about how someone else should feel.

While dealing with gaslighting isn't a universal truth for women, we all certainly know plenty of women who encounter it at work, home, or in personal relationships.

And the act of gaslighting does not simply affect women who are not quite sure of themselves. Even vocal, confident, assertive women are vulnerable to gaslighting. Why?
"Of course they're too small" by Debbie Buchanan Engle

Because women bare the brunt of our neurosis. It is much easier for us to place our emotional burdens on the shoulders of our wives, our female friends, our girlfriends, our female employees, our female colleagues, than for us to impose them on the shoulders of men.

It's a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don't refuse our burdens as easily. It's the ultimate cowardice.

Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: It renders some women emotionally mute.
These women aren't able to clearly express to their spouses that what is said or done to them is hurtful. They can't tell their boss that his behavior is disrespectful and prevents them from doing their best work. They can't tell their parents that, when they are being critical, they are doing more harm than good.

When these women receive any sort of push back to their reactions, they often brush it off by saying, "Forget it, it's okay."

That "forget it" isn't just about dismissing a thought, it is about self-dismissal. It's heartbreaking.

No wonder some women are unconsciously passive aggressive when expressing anger, sadness, or frustration. For years, they have been subjected to so much gaslighting that they can no longer express themselves in a way that feels authentic to them.

They say, "I'm sorry," before giving their opinion. In an email or text message, they place a smiley face next to a serious question or concern, thereby reducing the impact of having to express their true feelings.

You know how it looks: "You're late :)"

These are the same women who stay in relationships they don't belong in, who don't follow their dreams, who withdraw from the kind of life they want to live.

Since I have embarked on this feminist self-exploration in my life and in the lives of the women I know, this concept of women as "crazy" has really emerged as a major issue in society at large and an equally major frustration for the women in my life, in general.

From the way women are portrayed on reality shows, to how we condition boys and girls to see women, we have come to accept the idea that women are unbalanced, irrational individuals, especially in times of anger and frustration.

"He Finally Tamed Me" by Debbie Buchanan Engle

Just the other day, on a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a flight attendant who had come to recognize me from my many trips asked me what I did for a living. When I told her that I write mainly about women, she immediately laughed and asked, "Oh, about how crazy we are?"

Her gut reaction to my work made me really depressed. While she made her response in jest, her question nonetheless makes visible a pattern of sexist commentary that travels through all facets of society on how men view women, which also greatly impacts how women may view themselves.

As far as I am concerned, the epidemic of gaslighting is part of the struggle against the obstacles of inequality that women constantly face. Acts of gaslighting steal their most powerful tool: their voice. This is something we do to women every day, in many different ways.

I don't think this idea that women are "crazy," is based in some sort of massive conspiracy. Rather, I believe it's connected to the slow and steady drumbeat of women being undermined and dismissed, on a daily basis.

And gaslighting is one of many reasons why we are dealing with this public construction of women as "crazy."

I recognize that I've been guilty of gaslighting my women friends in the past (but never my male friends--surprise, surprise). It's shameful, but I'm glad I realized that I did it on occasion and put a stop to it.

While I take total responsibility for my actions, I do believe that I, along with many men, am a byproduct of our conditioning. It's about the general insight our conditioning gives us into admitting fault and exposing any emotion.

When we are discouraged in our youth and early adulthood from expressing emotion, it causes many of us to remain steadfast in our refusal to express regret when we see someone in pain from our actions.

When I was writing this piece, I was reminded of one of my favorite Gloria Steinem quotes, "The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn."

So for many of us, it's first about unlearning how to flicker those gaslights and learning how to acknowledge and understand the feelings, opinions, and positions of the women in our lives.

But isn't the issue of gaslighting ultimately about whether we are conditioned to believe that women's opinions don't hold as much weight as ours? That what women have to say, what they feel, isn't quite as legitimate?

"Trophy Wife" by Debbie Buchanan Engle
 Yashar will be soon releasing his first short e-book, entitled, "A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy -- How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts." If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Those on the Christian Right are so eager to have the government force their morality on the rest of us when it comes to birth control, abortion and gay marriage (things never mentioned in the Bible); but when it comes to feeding the hungry and taking care of the sick (things demanded of us in the Bible), they say it should just be voluntary and the government should have no part in it. Their views are hypocritical and they must be called out." ~John Starr, member of The Christian Left
The Cult of Done Manifesto
  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion. 
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.
  5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you're done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  13. Done is the engine of more.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Jindal Loses $80 Million Grant (Because He Couldn’t Find a Private Company to Give It To)

by Lamar White, Jr. on November 9, 2011

Screen Shot 2011-11-09 at 1.50.02 AM

At some point, people may start to notice that Governor Jindal has, either due to ideology, incompetence, or both, deprived Louisianans of hundreds of millions of dollars of benefits to which it was owed or deserved. The most recent example is, most assuredly, a reflection of both ideological intransigence and complete incompetence.

Louisiana was set to receive an $80 million federal grant to expand broadband access in North and Central Louisiana. I know, for an absolute fact that, behind the scenes, Mary Landrieu’s staff worked diligently to ensure Louisiana had an opportunity, and I’m not at all surprised that Senator Landrieu has been so vocal about this issue. You see, last week, the Commerce Department rescinded the grant because Louisiana couldn’t get its act together. More specifically, Governor Jindal and his administration couldn’t get their acts together.

Here’s the way I see it: Senator Landrieu and her staff have been fighting tooth and nail to get money for broadband roll-out in rural Louisiana. No doubt, she hears complaints about a lack of service every time she visits rural Louisiana, and North and Central Louisiana are particularly underserved. I’ve complained about my home region’s abysmal broadband infrastructure here on this blog several times over the last few years. It’s called the Digital Divide, and it’s real. North and Central Louisiana’s lack of broadband access greatly diminishes its competitiveness. From The Times-Picayune:
The grant, announced in March 2010, would have provided for 900 miles of fiber optic cable that would stretch broadband to 100,000 households, 15,000 businesses and 150 institutions such as schools, universities and medical centers. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has said a third of Louisiana residents don’t have access to the Internet — and many others are still using dial-up connections.
A few decades ago, we built the Interstate Highway System. I know no one is using the term “Information Superhighway” anymore, but it’s still instructive: The Internet is both the present and the future of global commerce.

What would have happened if, in the 1950s, Eisenhower had still realized that the automobile represented the future of American commerce, but, instead of creating the Interstate Highway program, he decided that the federal government would build only the highways that would be profitable enough for a private company to quickly pay for their construction via tolls? More than likely, we’d never have had an Interstate “system;” we’d have even larger swaths of a forgotten America. I am not a fan of the type of developments that were encouraged and bolstered by the Interstate highway– ubiquitous suburbanization and, with it, a disconnection from community– but I am a fan of the Interstate (except for I-35).

The Internet is not ether. It is, to quote the late Ted Stevens, “a series of tubes.” Well, maybe not literally, but the point is: There is a direct relationship between the quality, reliability, and capability of broadband and your community’s investment in broadband infrastructure. You want high speed internet? You’re going to have to turn over some dirt. Wires and boxes need to go in the ground, and on a large-scale, particularly in a rural and geographically expansive area, that may be expensive.

So, while Landrieu and her staff are working to secure this money for Louisiana, Bobby Jindal and his administration are hatching up plans to divert that money to someone, anyone, in the private-sector who would sign a lease. Jindal’s plan was simple: He’d take the $80 million to build the infrastructure and then, once built, immediately lease it out to a third-party private-sector service provider. The State could be reimbursed, and the private company could make money. Simple. Quoting from Education Talk New Orleans (bold mine):
The original grant approval was based upon Louisiana’s agreement to bring high-speed Broadband to universities, K-12 schools, hospitals, libraries and other hubs in unserved and underserved areas of Louisiana.  The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency awarded a grant for a project that proposed to construct 900 miles of new fiber-optic  infrastructure.  The new network would have connected with the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative, a more than 1,600 mile network connecting Louisiana and Mississippi to a national network.

A year after the state began the project NOAA, with $5.3 million of the initial $15 million in state funds and $431,747 in federal funds already spent, the State took control and changed the entire plan to rent rights-of-use from commercial providers.  Problem is that there are no commercial providers to provide the services required, no 900 miles of fiber-optic and few commercial providers willing to invest $90 million to do so.
So, originally, we had an awesome plan to expand LONI. We had money in the bank. And then, the State (the Jindal Administration) decided they could just outsource the whole thing to commercial providers. Unfortunately, when they couldn’t provide for any data backing up their assumptions and projections (a nice way for the federal government of saying to Jindal that his administration’s work was incompetent and completely insufficient), Jindal and company lost an $80 million broadband infrastructure grant. Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell is also critical:
“I meet with people in every parish (in his district), and the number one priority by far is high-speed Internet, and how do you lose $80 million coming from the federal government to do that?” he asked. “How do you drop the ball, and if they did drop the ball was it because someone whispered in their ears, `it’s going interfere with big companies?’ I want to know about that.”
In my opinion, it’s because they failed to realize the reason the grant was necessary in the first place; Jindal and his administration simply do not appreciate the ways in which both rural and disadvantaged Louisianans are disproportionately affected by the Digital Divide; they don’t understand that, in order to shrink the divide, we must invest in expanding broadband infrastructure, particularly in rural and inner-city urban areas; and, most assuredly, they do not believe in government. I will never understand why anyone would ever vote for someone who proudly believes that government does not and can never work as a service provider. But I digress.

Commissioner Campbell smells the rat when he asks about whether or not this would “interfere with big companies.” Of course, it does. An $80 million grant to improve infrastructure in an area in which there is only one or, at the most, three entrenched service providers? That could only open up competition and that could only lower profits for the big companies who have been squatting on the North and Central Louisiana markets as “caretakers.”
Jeffrey sums it up nicely:
(This), in a nutshell, is what Louisiana voters (well the 36% of them who turned out anyway) just signed up for another 4 years of. No service or infrastructure project… even one backed by millions of dollars in free federal grant money… is going to get done unless it can be sold off as a private money mine.

Same story with your prisons, same with your health services, same with your schools. If it can’t be run as a privatized scam for someone’s commercial benefit, your Governor’s position is it’s just not something you really need.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

'The Bread You Possess Belongs to the Hungry'

Russian icon of Basil of Caesarea
by St. Basil

"They say: Whom do I wrong by keeping my property?

What, tell me, is your property? Where did you find it and brought it to your life?

Just like someone in the theatre, who had a seat and then stopped those who entered, judging that what lies common in front of everyone to use, was his own: rich men are of the same kind. They first took possession of the common property, and then they keep it as their own because they were the first to take it.

If one had taken what is necessary to cover one’s needs and had left the rest to those who are in need, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.

Isn’t it true, that you fell off the womb naked? Isn’t it true, that naked you shall return to the earth? Where is your present property from? If you think that it came to you by itself, you don’t believe in God, you don’t acknowledge the creator and you are not thankful to him who gave it to you. But if you agree and confess that you have it from God, tell us the reason why he gave it to you. ...

Who is the greedy person? It’s him who doesn’t content himself with what he has. And who strips? He who steals what belongs to the others. And you think that you are not greedy, and that you do not strip the others? What was granted to you, in order for you to take care of the others, you took it and you made it your own. What do you think?

He who strips the clothed is to be called a thief. How should we name him, who is able to dress the naked and doesn’t do it, does he deserve some other name? The bread that you possess belongs to the hungry. The clothes that you store in boxes, belong to the naked. The shoes rotting by you, belong to the bare-foot. The money that you hide belongs to anyone in need. You wrong as many people as you were able to help.”

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The More Things Change...

The Legislative Belly

Honoré Daumier  (French, Marseilles 1808–1879 Valmondois)

....the more they stay the same.

From the exhibit:

Infinite Jest

Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine

September 13, 2011–March 4, 2012

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Poem for Anita Hill

October 27, 2011 by
Photo by Jenny Warburg
Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, asked me to write a piece, as a man, for the conference Sex, Power and Speaking Truth: Anita Hill 20 Years Later that she was co-producing at Hunter College in New York. Hard to believe it was 20 years since the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings. I went back and reflected upon that time, about how badly Ms. Hill had been demonized by many Americans. 

My family roots are in South Carolina. Calling someone Miss or Mister in the South is a sign of respect for that person, which is why I say Miss Anita Hill in the poem. As I thought about the piece, I reread many of the accounts about the hearings and all the mean-spirited attacks on Ms. Hill. As a man I wanted to go in a very different direction and say, no, she is a very valuable human being in our nation. She is a hero.

A Poem for Anita Hill
written on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Ms. Hill’s testimony at the Supreme Court hearings of Clarence Thomas in October 1991

miss anita hill
what happens
when a woman
dares to split
her lips and use
the tongue
the universe
and the ancestors
gave her to
fingerpop the flesh
from lies
and expose
the truth
of a manhood
gone mad

miss anita hill
i thank you
as a man
for being
one of my teachers
for having the bottomless bravery
of sojourner truth
susan b. anthony
helen keller
ida b. wells
annie besant
frida kahlo
dorothy height
eleanor roosevelt
simone de beauvoir
fannie lou hamer
ella baker
audre lorde
angela davis
bella abzug
sonia sanchez
gloria steinem
susan taylor
alice walker
bell hooks
eve ensler
patti giggans
shelley serdahely
ani difranco
lynn nottage
debby tucker
april silver
dj kuttin kandi
dj beverly bond
cheyla mccornack
malia lazu
aishah shahidah simmons
laura dawn
pratibha parmar
maisha morales
richelle carey
blanca elizabeth vega
asha bandele
jessica care moore
my grandmother
my mother
my aunties
and all the women
whose names
we will never know
and all the women
who are not yet born

miss anita hill
do you know the
saga of my mother
a young woman
birthed from the scorn
of the old American South
oppressive Carolina clay of Jim Crow
hammered between her toes
with poverty and gloom
bookending the braided hair
of her youth—
first chance she got my ma
borrowed a greyhound
bus ride to freedom
worked odd jobs
like the one where
a rich man, a rich white man,
thought it his civic duty
to erase his skin of
everything except
his robe and his penis
sat on the synthetic sofa with
his legs wide open
so my mother could
see his private parts
they didn’t call it
sexual harassment
back then in the early 1960s
they called it a job
and if you wanted
to keep that job
you had to scotch-tape
the disgust gushing from
your throat and pretend
your womanhood had
not just been used
and discarded like a
soda can with pubic
hair spit-stuck to the rim

miss anita hill
what about my friend
who, just two weeks ago,
did the good deed of
checking on one of
the young people
from her youth program
because the girl’s school
asked her to
little did my friend know
that she was moonwalking
into the den of
a dream deferred named stepfather
a poor man, a poor black man
he didn’t like the questions
my friend was asking
him about the girl
so his manhood threw
kitchen chairs at my friend
like they were nuclear missiles
and when he had abused
those chairs he took the pieces
of the chairs and beat
my friend with those
when the pieces had
disintegrated in his hellish hands
he beat my friend with his fists
slapboxing with jesus
one rapper called it
except stepfather
wasn’t jesus he was the devil—
a devil in redwhiteblue boxing trunks
and my friend an unwilling sparring partner
stepfather jabbed and sucker-punched
my friend with body blows
beat her across the face
as her braces stabbed and
daggered the gums
of her mouth, the blood
bumrushing her brain the
way them busted levees
flooded new orleans in ‘05
miss anita hill, could
you hear her sorrow songs
for him to stop?
could you see the songs
of freedom in her black-and-blue eyes
as she slapboxed
with the devil, every hit
he gave she returned best she could
determined that her funeral
would not be in the rotted and ruined
home of a madman?
but stepfather beat my friend so bad
that the 16-year-old girl
stood upright and frozen
in the track-marks of
her own nightmare
for 3 long years
stepfather had raped
this girl like it was
his divine order to do so
for 3 long years
stepfather had beaten
this girl like it was
his destiny to be a
domestic terrorist
9-1-1 the girl
called 9-1-1
to rescue not only my
friend but herself
she called 9-1-1
as stepfather slashed
and burned
my friend’s clothes from her body
and readied his penis for invasion
the girl called 9-1-1
as my friend’s mind and
bones were body-slammed by trauma
and the greasy, sweat-stained floor
prepared itself for the receipt of her life
and it was right then that
the police came through the door—

miss anita hill
my friend spent a week
at a rape recovery center
she and that 16-year-old girl
I learned all of this
when my friend texted me
one day sharing what happened
she had been hung so high
from a shock tree
that she could not remember if
it happened on a
thursday or friday
but it was one of those
days, she was sure
miss anita hill
the stepfather is in
jail now and that girl
has been freed from her
just the way
you’ve liberated so many
women and girls
from man-made boxes
20 long years ago
simply by having
the audacity to
set sexism on fire
miss anita hill
have you ever thought
of how many women
and girls would not
be free now if
your voice had
not freed them?
you are like
harriet tubman
your life
the underground railroad
that has taken
so many to a place
they did not know exist

and when the
closing chapters of your
life are penciled into the moon
miss anita hill
they will say
that you were a human
being a woman
a black woman
a sister a friend
a leader a mentor
a teacher who
they tried to mock and malign
and crush and defeat
who they
said did not see
what she saw
did not feel what she
felt but who
because of the
convictions in her
lone tree, oklahoma soul
got up anyway
because that is
what the selfless do
they martyr
even their own
sanity their own lives
and in so doing
they know they
birth a child called change
a new birth day
a new v-day
where women and girls
like you, miss anita hill
like my mother
like my grandmother
and my aunts
like my friend
and that 16-year-old girl
and all the women
and girls whose names
we will never know
can say I too can be
free I too can use
my power and my voice
because miss anita hill
said so—

© 2011 Kevin Powell

3 Things That Must Happen for Us To Rise Up and Defeat the Corporatocracy

Most Americans oppose rule by the corporatocracy but don't have the tools to fight back. Here are three things we need to create a real people's movement.
Transforming the United States into something closer to a democracy requires:
1) knowledge of how we are getting screwed;
2) pragmatic tactics, strategies, and solutions; and
3) the “energy to do battle.”

The majority of Americans oppose the corporatocracy (rule by giant corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials); however, many of us have given up hope that this tyranny can be defeated. Among those of us who continue to be politically engaged, many focus on only one of the requirements—knowledge of how we are getting screwed. And this singular focus can result in helplessness. It is the two other requirements that can empower, energize, and activate Team Democracy— a team that is currently at the bottom of the standings in the American Political League.

1. Knowledge of How We are Getting Screwed
Harriet Tubman conducted multiple missions as an Underground Railroad conductor, and she also participated in the Union Army’s Combahee River raid that freed more than 700 slaves. Looking back on her career as a freedom fighter, Tubman noted, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” While awareness of the truth of corporatocracy oppression is by itself not sufficient to win freedom and justice, it is absolutely necessary.

We are ruled by so many “industrial complexes”—military, financial, energy, food, pharmaceutical, prison, and so on—that it is almost impossible to stay on top of every way we are getting screwed. The good news is that—either through independent media or our basic common sense—polls show that the majority of Americans know enough about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Wall Street bailouts, and other corporate welfare to oppose these corporatocracy policies. In the case of the military-industrial complex, most Iraq War polls and Afghanistan War polls show that the majority of Americans know enough to oppose these wars. And when Americans were asked in a CBS New /New York Times survey in January 2011 which of three programs—the military, Medicare or Social Security—to cut so as to deal with the deficit, fully 55 percent chose the military, while only 21 percent chose Medicare and 13 percent chose Social Security.

In the words of Leonard Cohen, “Everybody knows that the deal is rotten.” Well, maybe not everybody, but damn near everybody.

But what doesn’t everybody know?

2. Pragmatic Tactics, Strategies and Solutions
In addition to awareness of economic and social injustices created by corporatocracy rule, it is also necessary to have knowledge of strategies and tactics that oppressed people have historically used to overcome tyranny and to gain their fair share of power.

Even before the Democratic-Republican bipartisan educational policies (such as “no child left behind” and “race to the top”) that cut back on civics being taught in schools, few Americans were exposed in their schooling to “street-smart civics”—tactics and strategies that oppressed peoples have historically utilized to gain power.

For a comprehensive guide of tactics and strategies that have been effective transforming regimes more oppressive than the current U.S. one, read political theorist and sociologist Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy, which includes nearly 200 “Methods of Nonviolent Actions.” Among Sharp’s 49 “Methods of Economic Noncooperation,” he lists over 20 different kinds of strikes. And among his 38 “Methods of Political Noncooperation,” he lists 10 tactics of “citizens’ noncooperation with government,” nine “citizens’ alternatives to obedience,” and seven “actions by government personnel.” Yes, nothing was more powerful in ending the Vietnam War and saving American and Vietnamese lives than the brave actions by critically thinking U.S. soldiers who refused to cooperate with the U.S. military establishment. Check out David Zeigler’s documentary Sir! No Sir! for details.

For a quick history lesson on “the nature of disruptive power” in the United States and the use of disruptive tactics in fomenting the American Revolution, the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, and other democratic movements, check out sociologist Frances Fox Piven’s Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America. Piven describes how “ordinary people exercise power in American politics mainly at those extraordinary moments when they rise up in anger and hope, defy the rules that ordinarily govern their daily lives, and, by doing so, disrupt the workings of the institutions in which they are enmeshed.” In the midst of the Great Depression when U.S unemployment was over 25 percent, working people conducted an exceptional number of large labor strikes, including the Flint, Michigan sit-down strike, which began at the end of 1936 when auto workers occupied a General Motors factory so as to earn recognition for the United Auto Workers union as a bargaining agent. That famous victory was preceded and inspired by other less well-known major battles fought and won by working people. Check out the intelligent tactics (and guts and solidarity) in the 1934 Minneapolis Truckers Strike.

For an example of “the nature of creative power” that scared the hell out of—and almost triumphed—over the moneyed elite, read The Populist Moment by historian Lawrence Goodwyn. The Populist movement, the late-19th-century farmers’ insurgency, according to Goodwyn, was the largest democratic movement in American history. These Populists and their major organization, commonly called the “Alliance,” created worker cooperatives that resulted in empowering economic self-sufficiency. They came close to successfully transforming a good part of the United States into something a lot closer to a democracy. As Goodwyn notes, “Their efforts, halting and disjointed at first, gathered form and force until they grew into a coordinated mass movement that stretched across the American continent ... Millions of people came to believe fervently that the wholesale overhauling of their society was going to happen in their lifetimes.”

In Get Up, Stand Up, I include the section “Winning the Battle: Solutions, Strategies, and Tactics.”
However, a major point of the book is that, currently in the United States, even more ignored than street-smart strategies and tactics is the issue of morale, which is necessary for implementing these strategies and tactics. So, I also have a section “Energy to Do Battle: Liberation Psychology, Individual Self-Respect, and Collective Self-Confidence.”

3. The Energy to Do Battle
The elite’s money—and the influence it buys—is an extremely powerful weapon. So it is understandable that so many people who are defeated and demoralized focus on their lack of money rather than on their lack of morale. However, we must keep in mind that in war, especially in a class war when one’s side lacks financial resources, morale becomes even more crucial.

Activists routinely become frustrated when truths about lies, victimization and oppression don’t set people free to take action. But having worked with abused people for more than 25 years, it doesn’t surprise me to see that when we as individuals or a society eat crap for too long, we become psychologically too weak to take action. There are a great many Americans who have been so worn down by decades of personal and political defeats, financial struggles, social isolation and daily interaction with impersonal and inhuman institutions that they no longer have the energy for political actions.

Other observers of subjugated societies have recognized this phenomenon of subjugation resulting in demoralization and fatalism. Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator and author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Ignacio Martin-Baró, the El Salvadoran social psychologist and popularizer of “liberation psychology,” understood this psychological phenomenon. So did Bob Marley, the poet laureate of oppressed people around the world. Many Americans are embarrassed to accept that we, too, after years of domestic corporatocracy subjugation, have developed what Marley called “mental slavery.” Unless we acknowledge that reality, we won’t begin to heal from what I call “battered people’s syndrome” and “corporatocracy abuse” and to, as Marley urges, “emancipate yourself from mental slavery.”

Whether one’s abuser is a spouse or the corporatocracy, there are parallels when it comes to how one can maintain enough strength to be able to free oneself when the opportunity presents itself—and then heal and attain even greater strength. This difficult process requires honesty that one is in an abusive relationship. One should not be ashamed of having previously believed in corporatocracy lies; and it also helps to forgive and have compassion for those who continue to believe them. The liars we face are often quite good at lying. It helps to have a sense of humor about one’s predicament, to nurture respectful relationships, and to take advantage of a lucky opportunity—often created by the abuser’s arrogance— when it presents itself.

For democratic movements to have enough energy to get off the ground, certain psychological and cultural building blocks are required. Goodwyn, from his study of the Populists in the United States, Solidarity in Poland, and other democratic movements, concluded that “individual self-respect” and “collective self-confidence” constitute the cultural building blocks of mass democratic politics. Without individual self-respect, people do not believe that they are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and they accept as their role being a subject of power. Without collective self-confidence, people do not believe they can succeed in wresting power away from their rulers. There are “democracy battlefields” —in our schools, workplace and elsewhere—where such respect and confidence can be regained every day.

No democratic movement succeeds without determination, courage, and solidarity, but modern social scientists routinely ignore such nonquantifiable important variables, and so those trained only in universities and not on the streets can, as Martin-Baró pointed out, “become blind to the most important meanings of human existence.” Great scientists recognize just how important nonquantifable variables are in certain areas of life. A sign hanging in Albert Einstein’s office at Princeton stated: not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

The battle against the corporatocracy needs critical thinking, which results in seeing some ugly truths about reality. This critical thinking is absolutely necessary. Without it, one is more likely to engage in tactics that can make matters worse. But critical thinking also means the ability to think critically about one’s pessimism—realizing that pessimism can cripple the will and destroy motivation. A critical thinker recognizes how negativism can cause inaction, which results in maintaining the status quo. Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), an Italian political theorist and Marxist activist who was imprisoned by Mussolini, talked about “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” —a phrase that has inspired many critical thinkers, including Noam Chomsky.

Can one have hope without being an insipid Pollyanna? Until shortly before it occurred, the collapse of the Soviet empire seemed an impossibility to most Americans, who saw only mass resignation within the Soviet Union and its sphere of control. But the shipyard workers in Gdansk, Poland, did not see their Soviet and Communist Party rulers as the all-powerful forces that Americans did. And so Polish workers’ Solidarity, by simply refusing to go away, provided a strong dose of morale across Eastern Europe at the same time other historical events weakened the Soviet empire.

Today in Iceland, citizens have refused to acquiesce to the demands of global financial institutions, simply refusing to be taxed for the mistakes of the financial elite that caused their nation’s recent financial meltdown. In a March 2010 referendum in Iceland, 93 percent voted against repayment of the debt, and Icelandic citizens have been drafting a new constitution that would free their country from the power of international finance (this constitution will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections). Yes, participatory democracy is still possible.

The lesson from the 2011 Arab spring in and other periods of history is that tyrannical and dehumanizing institutions are often more fragile than they appear, and with time, luck, morale, and our ability to seize the moment, damn near anything is possible. We never really know until it happens whether or not we are living in that time when historical variables are creating opportunities for seemingly impossible change. Thus, we must prepare ourselves by battling each day in all our activities to regain individual self-respect, collective self-confidence, determination, courage, and solidarity.

Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist and author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite  (Chelsea Green, 2011). His Web site is

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Obama health care law has unexpected beneficiaries

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's health care law created a $5 billion fund to shore up coverage for early retirees, and some of that money is flowing to places you might not expect.

Two Texas public employee programs are among the top 25 recipients of the federal subsidy despite Texas Gov. Rick Perry's opposition to the law Republicans derisively call "Obamacare."

And records show the Huntsman family business, where GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman sharpened his executive skills, received about $1 million.

It highlights the gap between dire Republican rhetoric about the health care overhaul and the pragmatic impulse to cash in on a new government benefit.

Employer-sponsored health insurance for retirees has been shriveling for years, ever since companies were required to report the estimated liability to investors. Democrats who wrote the new law wanted to provide an incentive for employers to keep offering coverage. Only about 6 percent of private companies currently offer such a benefit for early retirees, according to the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute.

But that still works out to more than 400,000 companies. Add state and local government agencies, as well as union plans, and the number swells. Indeed, the Obama administration's subsidy program got so many applications it stopped accepting new ones after approving more than 6,000. The program pays 80 percent of the claims amount for early retirees ages 55 to 64 whose care costs between $15,000 and $90,000.

The top beneficiary: the United Auto Workers retiree medical plan, which has collected more than $220 million.

"Some people have described this program as 'Cash for Clunkers,' in the sense that if you want it, you have to get in line first," said Paul Fronstin, an economist with the research group. "There was a lot of advice given to be first in line." The original Cash for Clunkers was an Obama administration program that paid people to trade in gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient transportation. It created a marketing sensation before running out of cash.

Texas, it seems, heeded the advice. So did Huntsman International.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bluegoose Music Fest - Shreveport, LA

My favorite holiday: Buy Nothing Day

Source:  Adbusters

Dreading the holiday season? The frantic rush and stress? The to-do lists and sales hype? The spiritless hours trapped in malls?

This year, why not gather together your loved ones and decide to do things differently? With the simplest of plans you can create a new rhythm, purpose and meaning for the holidays. Why not take the spirit of Buy Nothing Day and morph it into Buy Nothing Christmas?

With catastrophic climate change looming, we the rich one billion people on the planet have to consume less! And if that's too extreme for grandma and the kids, try for a Buy Less Christmas. And maybe a buy local, buy fairer, buy indie Christmas. Whatever you decide, 'tis the season to reclaim our year-end celebrations and make them our own again.

Buy Nothing Xmas Actions 

If you want to go one step further off the consumer treadmill, consider one of these actions from previous holiday seasons:
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court may treat corporations like people who can spend whatever they want on elections, but the American people don't have to accept it, said Democratic senators who proposed a constitutional amendment Tuesday to retake control of campaign spending.

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), doesn't directly address the justices' legal finding that corporations have a right to free speech that was curtailed by election law. Instead, it would add to the Constitution language that says Congress and the states can regulate campaign contributions and expenditures.

The amendment would effectively reverse two landmark Supreme Court decisions -- the 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which said spending money in elections is a form of speech, and the 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled it unconstitutional to regulate the money spent to influence elections by corporations and unions.

The Citizens United ruling has unleashed a flood of cash from corporations and super PACs, which can spend as much as they want and do so nearly in secret.

"Letting this go unchecked is a threat to our democracy. Campaigns should be about the best ideas, not the biggest checkbooks," Udall said at the press conference.

The amendment has three main focuses: to authorize Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaign contributions and expenditures (including independent expenditures), to allow states to regulate that raising and spending at their level, and to permit Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that could withstand constitutional challenges. It does not specify what the reforms should be.

Also at the press conference, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the proposed amendment, called the Buckley case "one of the worst decisions that the Supreme Court has rendered in the last hundred years" and described the Citizens United ruling as "Buckley on steroids."

A constitutional amendment could be a welcome proposal for the thousands of demonstrators involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, which holds a reversal of the Citizens United ruling as one of its oft-repeated demands.

"The extent to which money and corporations have taken over the [campaign] process is reflected across our cities in the Occupy movement," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), another co-sponsor. "It is something we have to do something about if we are going to reclaim American democracy as the shining light to other countries that it has always been."

The amendment faces a long, unlikely path even to win initial congressional approval. Senate Republicans last year opposed a Schumer measure, the Disclose Act, that would have just required more disclosure about campaign spenders.

Hayley Miller