Monday, August 27, 2012

The Mutant Offspring of the PATRIOT Act

A fundamental premise of the commons is freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.  The privatization of public space includes enclosing both of those so significantly that dissent does, in fact, become outlawed. 

Unfortunately, Barack Obama is as bad as anyone on these issues, as this article from Chris Hedges details(excerpt below).

Criminalizing Dissent
By Chris Hedges

I was on the 15th floor of the Southern U.S. District Court in New York in the courtroom of Judge Katherine Forrest last Tuesday. It was the final hearing in the lawsuit I brought in January against President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. I filed the suit, along with lawyers Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran, over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We were late joined by six co-plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg.

This section of the NDAA, signed into law by Obama on Dec. 31, 2011, obliterates some of our most important constitutional protections. It authorizes the executive branch to order the military to seize U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists or associated with terrorists. Those taken into custody by the military, which becomes under the NDAA a domestic law enforcement agency, can be denied due process and habeas corpus and held indefinitely in military facilities. Any activist or dissident, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can be threatened under this law with indefinite incarceration in military prisons, including our offshore penal colonies. The very name of the law itself-the Homeland Battlefield Bill-suggests the totalitarian credo of endless war waged against enemies within "the homeland" as well as those abroad.


There is, in reality, no daylight between Mitt Romney and Obama about the inner workings of the corporate state. They each support this section within the NDAA and the widespread extinguishing of civil liberties. They each will continue to funnel hundreds of billions of wasted dollars to defense contractors, intelligence agencies and the military. They each intend to let Wall Street loot the U.S. Treasury with impunity. Neither will lift a finger to help the long-term unemployed and underemployed, those losing their homes to foreclosures or bank repossessions, those filing for bankruptcy because of medical bills or college students burdened by crippling debt.


Head here to read the full article by Chris Hedges on

Friday, August 17, 2012

Make the Common Good a Common Conversation

For almost a decade now, I have become increasingly aware of how the voters’ perceptions of taxes influences who gets elected, who in turn influence voters.  Each year of this century, the United States has moved to a more and anti-tax, anti-government stand except for taxes that pay for the military or Social Security and Medicare.  (And now, with Paul Ryan on the Republican ticket, the latter are in serious danger of both privatized and cut.) 

 For the first five years of the 21st century, I puzzled over what I could do to have any influence on a such a huge topic.  With the help of many other people, I decided on a course of action which has been very successful.   Through the Building Movement Project and CompassPoint Nonprofit Services,  two colleagues and I created “Nonprofits Talking Taxes.”  We reasoned that 1) we had access to nonprofits and 2) nonprofit staff and board are probably not completely anti-tax since our ability to exist at all depends on the tax structure,  3)  many nonprofits rely on government grants to do our work, and 4) we knew how to create fun and interesting training on a topic that many people immediately think will be boring.

 We also looked at the math of how many people vote in any given election, particularly on specific tax issues (millages, bonds, property tax increases, sales tax increases and the like) and found that the actual number was very low, often lower than the number of people who worked for nonprofits.  Clearly, nonprofit staff were voting at the same low rate as the public at large.  And why?  We believe one big reason is that we never take the time to really have a robust and civil conversation about taxes:  about what should be funded publicly and what should be funded by foundations, corporations or individuals.   About the role of government in taking care of people who can’t fully take care of themselves.  In short we don’t talk deeply and honestly about the common good.   Our tagline, “Make the Common Good a Common Conversation” reflects our point of view.

 In doing some research about how other organizations were approaching this topic, we discovered a range of excellent popular education materials and a lot of information telling nonprofit staff and board that they should vote and why, generally aimed at federal tax policy.  We decided to limit ourselves to our state, California, which also happens to be the world’s 8th largest economy. 

 Since we started the project we have reached almost 3000 people through workshops, webinars, and social media.  I have given keynotes on the topic and we are more and more stressing the need for nonprofits to take our place as stewards and promoters of the common good.  We encourage people to check out the video below giving a short demonstration of the training and to visit our website for more information.  If you live in California, you can request a training.  If you live in another state, maybe you want to do something similar and we are happy to help.