Author Archives: Janos Marton

Visit Our Revamped Library!

One of our goals is for folks new to the site and new to   activism generally to learn about all the major issues of corporate influence in our politics and policies.   When I first got the activist bug in 2001, I spent hours googling, trying to soak in as much as I could.   Well, it’s now 2010, and there’s no excuse for us not to have a compendium of articles dissecting issues, holding corporations and their political enablers accountable, and promoting reform.

As with everything else here at the Bull Moose Movement, the Library will be a work in progress, but we hope that down the road it will serve as a useful tool for everyone from the veteran organizer brushing up on an issue to the young person trying to get involved for the first time.  While the layout in the Library link itself is not ideal, the more user-friendly issue sorting is available on the right-hand side of the main site.

Suggestions welcome!

Sense of Entitlement

John Liu, New York City’s first Asian-American City Councilman, had always been described as ambitious, not an unusual adjective for a politician. With hunger for power was on full display last year when he flirted with running for Mayor, ran for Public Advocate, and then dropped out to enter the more winnable Comptroller race, which indeed he won. Now he asks staff to stand when he walks into a room and has people address him as “Mr. Comptroller.” This is staggering hubris for a second-tier New York political hack, who saw the last days of his election plagued by his own mother’s revelation that he had lied about working in a sweatshop as a child.

Mr. Liu is a particularly egregious example of the swollen-head political class, but he is far from alone among elected officials in forgetting that he is a public servant, whose job and many amenities are paid for by hard-working taxpayers. Again, to Liu’s credit, he at least is vocal on many issues, though he is behind the curve on most of them. A lot of politicians simply coast through their terms, accomplishing little outside of the constituent services their underpaid staffers and unpaid interns deliver for them. Such politicians fail to acknowledge their own mediocrity. Witness New York state politics, where the dance goes on, pretty much irrespective of which party controls the legislature and which people lead the legislature, let alone who represents pockets of Queens or Westchester.

Very few elected officials demonstrate the intelligence, hard work and leadership that should be a prerequisite for the job. The sense of entitlement that envelops these unimpressive individuals allows them to ignore their communities and more readily succumb to corporate influence. The Bull Moose Movement does not endorse candidates, and it will not focus on electoral results. We believe that voters need to learn the truth about their elected officials, many of whom are too lazy to even regularly schedule events in the district outside of high-end fundraisers. In future posts we discuss reforms that could improve the caliber of our elected officials, but in the end, voters have to make better choices than sending the same people back to City Hall, Albany and Washington. One of our goals this summer will be encouraging communities to start demanding the same kind of access that top lobbyist dollars can buy. After all, aren’t taxpayers already contributing more than lobbyists ever will?

The Bull Moose and the Sneaky Corporate Beast

There is nothing surprising about major corporations pouring millions of dollars into the political process to secure favorable results for their bottom lines.  What makes corporate influence particularly dangerous, however, is the inability of the American people to recognize the corrosive corporate impact on our politics and policies.  In debates over all of the major issues affecting our country today- war, healthcare, financial reform, jobs, energy and educations, corporations have a vested interest in an outcome, and exercise due care to keep their fingerprints off that outcome.

During the health-care debate, pharmaceutical and insurance companies, not the most popular bunch, got most aggressive behind closed doors, and funded TV ads for sham citizen groups (not unlike Citizens United).  In the run-up to the war in Iraq, dozens of retired military commanders went on news shows to press the case for war without disclosing their role as paid consultants to major military contractors, due largely to a lazy media that did not expose these ties.   Last year, Bank of America’s CEO chaired private conference calls with other industry leaders on how to defeat the pro-worker Employee Free Choice Act.  Big lender lobbyists have swarmed the Hill, particularly the offices of centrist Democrats, to block popular student loan reform.  Just today, we learned that corporations are putting major resources into 2010 efforts under the banner of the Chamber of Commerce, so the negative ads that will inevitably spew cannot be traced back to them.

There is nothing conspiratorial about these corporate efforts.  They lobby for their own benefit and for the benefit of the shareholders- the people who give them bonuses.  I cannot envision a system where people of such skewed character no longer engage in this behavior.  What I look forward to is an awaked populace that sees these tentacles of influence and mobilizes to cast them off by pressing for tough reform laws.   A brutal recession is when people need the support of an aggressive regulatory government more than ever, and that means educating the American public both about why their government isn’t there for them now and how it could be.

The Bull Moose Movement is committed to exposing the anti-democratic corporate forces that fight to the bitter end for legislation Americans actively oppose.  There are many groups like us all over the country, and it is imperative that we work together to share resources and coordinate our community outreach.  If Bank of America, an institution with vastly more resources than all the progressive and reformer groups in the country combined, is organizing its buddies for conference calls, surely we should be too.

Today’s Stories of Interest

After the dust settles, ACORN is cleared of all charges. Their community organizing work will be tougher, however, after major cuts in public funding and private donations following the “scandal.”   http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/08-12

“We saved the economy, but we kind of lost the public doing it.” -Simon Johnsonhttp://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/3/9/844311/-Simon-Johnsons-Most-Powerful-Words-Since-The-Quiet-Coup

Regardless of how you feel about Iran sanctions, it seems that a number of corporations are flouting U.S law by doing business with Iran, and still winning federal contracts. Next time you hear that “sanctions aren’t working,” ask how of it has to do with corporations not respecting them: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/0…

Internet Organizing- the Power of Email

A simple person to person email remains the most undervalued tool in the rapidly evolving world of online political organizing.  Major political campaigns and advocacy groups have gotten into the rhythm of sending out impersonal mass emails spouting the outrage de jour, coupled with a donation request.  Facebook Groups and Causes allow mass groups of strangers to commiserate and vent.   But as with any form of organizing, nothing trumps person to person contact, a tool increasingly available to strangers online.

When our group declared the Bull Moose Movement’s mission: empowering communities through civic education to reduce corporate influence, we were pretty sure that Google, Facebook and indie media would turn up a number of likeminded groups, and they have.

Rather than simply adding a likeminded group to a blogroll, or joining all the right Facebook sites, we have been trying to reach out personally to all writers, activists and organization that share our values.

As obvious as that strategy sounds, it represents a distinctly minority view of online organizing, in contrast to the more pervasive “get rich quick” schemes, like “1,000,000 people for X.”   The Coffee Party initially seemed quite unprepared to handle the explosion in its membership in the aftermath of New York Times and Washington Post articles, though it smartly began pushing for March 13 meet-ups to test the actual people strength of its 80,000 person online membership.

Online platforms like Facebook, MyBarackObama and the Coffee Party allow a lot of people to get on the same page in a hurry.  But progressive change is always a slow, laborious process, and organizers should be constantly looking for and reaching out to long-term allies in the fight, particularly to bridge geographic and generational gaps.  Organizations, even large ones, should make themselves accessible by email, and not have visitors fill out pre-set forms that get sent into the void.  Indie journalists unquestionably should have email contact information at the end of their articles so readers can interact with them.  If all these elements are sharing information, collaborating on actions, and working off the same playbook, change will come faster than if isolated grassroots groups go it alone against powerful, organized adversaries.

All it takes to get things started is a simple email. The tool stares us in the face all day- now we just have to learn how to use it.

-Janos Marton (rovingstorm@gmail.com)

The Impending Commercial Real Estate Calamity

and what we can do about it…

Commercial property values are down 40% since 2007.  Elizabeth Warren explains that a commercial real estate storm is brewing, because as these stores struggle to get by, their loans are coming due.    Warren predicts that banks are set to losing over $300 billion in the coming years from commercial real estate defaults, especially local banks, which will in turn either need government help or risk serious instability.

The banks are thus still in hot water with all these mortgages underwater, but commercial real estate renters are in trouble too.   It comes as no surprise to anyone who has walked around an urban neighborhood, driven past a strip mall, or waltz through a major mall that business is way down.  The recession has seriously cut down on consumer spending, particularly on niche items that make up so much of the small business sector.  Nevertheless, commercial landlords have often kept rents as high as they were during boom times.  In New York City, for example, rents skyrocketed year after year, and even freezing them now is of no comfort to small businesses that have seen such a drastic decline in revenue.   Small business have to respond by cutting costs, which means cutting back hours and health-care benefits for employees, or laying them off.

The 2008 crash taught us a lesson on the interconnectedness of all things financial and political in America.  The commercial real estate crash, which will either be a decent sized problem or a major one, will affect local banks, small businesses, jobs and health-care.  So what can we do?

Well, at the Bull Moose Movement, we start with the basics.  To me, that means reaching out to small business in the community to find out how they are doing.  What are their rent situations?  What are there mortgage situations?  Is there a way they can work together better, the way the Chamber of Commerce facilitates business in smaller towns?  Get creative in the questions you ask.  I’m not going to pretend I have answers to a calamitous impending economic crash, but I do know that if we call ourselves communities, we could do a better job checking in with our local businesses to see if they are going to be ok.

Today’s Stories of Interest

Michael Wilson discusses a potentially terrible byproduct of the Citizens United decision- will it allow employers to put more political pressure on their employees? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-j-wilson/businesses-can-now-legall_b_480028.html

Reposting a Joseph Stiglitz interview on why proposed banking reform is completely inadequate. This is a long, substantive interview with the Nobel prize-winning economist who has been a booming voice for reform, and this interview should be reread till it’s seared into your brain: http://www.alternet.org/story/145773/joseph_stiglitz%3A_bankers_made_reckless_bets_on_the_economy%2C_kn…owing_taxpayers_were_going_to_pick_up_the_tab/?page=entire

Sebastian Jones wonders why it’s so hard for media outlets to make “commentators” and “analysts” to disclose their corporate ties when they arebeing interviewed: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100301/jones.  Jones’ interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman is here: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100308/jones_video

Today’s Stories of Interest

Recent news stories worth reading….

In an act of bi-partisan bravado, Congressmen let themselves off the hook for earmarks abuse: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/05/us/politics/05ethics.html?ref=us

In a somewhat related story, the decline in public trust in America has declined from 76% in 1964 to just 17% under President Bush, bouncing back to only 19% today. This is the pessimism we will face, and that will be our biggest challenge, and require us to think about new ways to engage people: http://us.ft.com/ftgateway/superpage.ft?news_id=fto030320101534009307

Joe Conasan does a great job taking Republicans to town for this “phony indignation” over Charles Rangel’s actions, including a recap of their stalling during the DeLay investigations and John Boehner’s golfing junkets with commodities traders. http://www.salon.com/opinion/conason/2010/03/04/rangel/

Michigan is heading in the right direction on prison reform. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/05/us/05parole.html?hpw

Weclome to the Bull Moose Movement

Welcome to the movement that is fighting to bring our core democratic values back into our communities and stopping corporations from hijacking our political system.  On this website you’ll find:

* How you can get involved with the Bull Moose Movement, including our events, actions and meet-ups.

* A library where you can read the Bull Moose Movement’s  favorite articles about the corporate influence on American government, and groups fighting back.

* The Bull Moose Movement platform.

* How to get in touch with the Bull Moose Movement.

Bull Moose Movement Platform

The Bull Moose Movement Platform

The Bull Moose Movement will combat the corporatism and corruption of Washington politicians by working with neighborhoods across America to fight for progressive values.   In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt broke off from the Republican Party to form a new party, the Bull Moose Party, which was committed to reducing corporate influence, fighting corruption in both major parties, and making politics more democratic.  One hundred years later, those values are needed more than ever.

The Bull Moose Movement will go into neglected communities to focus on civic education and organizing.  Rather than focus on the perpetual election cycle, the Bull Moose Movement will work to bring honesty, transparency and democratic principles to government.

The Bull Moose Movement will vigilantly expose the ties between corporations and the candidates they fund.    Both major parties are heavily bankrolled by corporate interests, affecting the way Congress treats every issue, including financial regulatory reform and campaign finance reform.   Lobbyists are not only power, but they conduct much of their dirty work in darkness.  We will educate our communities about which politicians are doing the work of corporations, and which politicians are doing the work of the people.

The Bull Moose Movement will hold politicians of both major parties accountable. We will hold rallies and attend town hall meetings.  We will perform street theater and catch the sleeping politicians off-guard.  We will work with allies on outreach campaigns and lawsuits.  We will remind politicians that they are public servants, who must answer to the people of their communities.

The Bull Moose Movement will be decentralized.  Every community in America should and will have a Bull Moose chapter that shares these values, and these chapters will not be run by an executive board based in New York or Washington.

The Bull Moose Movement will collaborate with all willing partners.  Many groups out there have overlapping goals and values, and we will gladly stage actions, share research and just hang out together when our interests converge.

These are intense and difficult times in America, and we need people to work together.  Anyone with the progressive spirit stirring in her or himself will find a home here.   Working against enemies of democracy is joyous, and there will be no dour moments in the Bull Moose Movement.  Like the movement led by Teddy Roosevelt 100 years ago, this Bull Moose Movement will provide a frustrated public a voice to fight against an increasingly rigged political system.     Like the progressives of yesteryear, “We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.”