9/11 Patriotism: Why is this still a thing?

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September 11th, 2016 is the 15th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. These attacks were the catalyst for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and countless displays of patriotism around the country.But 15 years later, why are we still so consumed with these images of destruction? Why is the flag and other symbols of nationalism intertwined with the calendar date 9/11 ? Is there a purpose for all of this pageantry? Why is this still a thing?

Reason 1: People have suffered.

Many Americans lost their lives, jobs or loved ones in the attacks, therefore there is a psychological need to talk about this trauma. This is why there are still 9/11 memorials to remember the victims. Those who were harmed but survived bear the physical reminders of the attacks to this day.

Reason 2. We went to war out of vengeance.

Immediately afterwards, we went to war with a sovereign nation because they refused to extradite the allege mastermind of the attack. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives were lost on top of the few thousand Americans lost on 9/11. We later went to war in Iraq because they had weapons of mass destruction and we weren’t going to wait for the next attack on America soil. We became proactive. We were the aggressors and thousands more had to die in the name of American security.

Reason 3. Industry benefitted from war.

America had to buy the bombs from somewhere and defense contractors lined up in droves to fill that need. They also created new services and technology to feed the war machine. Everything from drones to security forces, the companies that offered these services raked it in big time.

Reason 4. War is a good military recruitment tool.

It so good that the military pays for and provide personnel for stadium flyovers and 9/11 memorials in their marketing budgets. It also has the benefit of keeping the military in an exalted position in American society.Our troops and later firefighters and policemen are heroes, remember?

Reason 5. 9/11 patriotism obscures our leaders rationale for perpetual war.

15 years later we are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan to name a few. As we get further from 9/11 our justification for the war machine became national security and our national interest. Still, 9/11 gives us a warm fuzzy feeling for spending billions of dollars around the globe killing people. Our national security has rarely been tested, and our national interest, which is making record profits for corporations, has rarely been better.

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Health Tips for the Protester on the Go…

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Fighting for your rights and those of your comrades can be hard work. During an average protest you could be on your feet for hours. Depending on what type of direct action you collectively decide to take on, you may find yourself physically in uncomfortable positions. There are weather concerns such as heat, cold, rain and snow. If things get a bit rowdy there is the very real risk of being tear gassed or having a police boot to the head. After everything is said and done, you might need to take some time for a little self care.

Jim Chambers, owner of the East Atlanta Barbell Club created these tips to keep you up on your feet and to fight another day:

1) Get these things into your body: Turmeric, Magnesium, Vitamin C, Glucosamine Chondroitin.
2) Bump up carb intake like crazy during the day, bump up fat intake at night.
3) Take contrast showers (super hot to super cold for 1-2min at a time, back and forth)
4) Ice your ankles, get on a foam roller, get your feet on a tennis ball.
5) Mild yoga poses, if you’re familiar with them.
6) Traction the low back.
7) Sleep when you can. Hard.
8) Drink EXCESSIVE, UNREASONABLE AMOUNTS OF WATER
9) Cannabis at night, for stress, sleep and muscle relaxation.

If you want to get more information about Jim Chambers or the East Atlanta Barbell Club feel free to contact them here or by phone at 470.242.1328.

Take care out there and remember that the arch of history is long but it bends towards justice.

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Let’s Talk About the Westminster Dog Show

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Tuesday night was the 140th Westminster Dog Show and I could not help myself to feel that this was the same old, same old. Like every year, there was the usual drama of the most beautiful bitch in the room against a scrappy underdog. But not unlike the recent years, there was a strict adherence to the breed standard.

The breed standard has been defined as a set of guidelines covering specific externally observable qualities such as appearance, movement, and temperament for a dog breed. Breed standards are not scientific , but are written for each breed by hobbyist and their breed clubs for their own specific requirements.  These qualities are what breeders use to select and mold traits in their dogs. Essentially they are designing the ideal dog based not on science or the health of the creature but for cuteness and funzies!!

How would we feel if we had the same approach with humans? What would be the breed standard for the American Negro male? Would it be Cam Newton? Cam Newton has great hind quarters and smooth skin. Although fun loving, his temperament runs counter to the docile breed standard. Does he know any tricks? I will just check the NFL combine. Maybe we can breed him with a mate that has the proper temperament. I think Gabourey Sidibe would fit the bill? If not, Cam’s mother temperament is much more suitable and offspring between the two of them would ensure Cam’s physical attributes would be passed on.

There were a group of people whose approach to humans were similar. They were the Nazis.  It’s no coincidence that formation of the Nazis racial theories and the creation of the Westminster Kennel Club were around the same time. They both bought into the same psuedo-science of social Darwinism. So the question is , if we debunked these racial theories in humans why not dogs?

I am not advocating abolishing the dog show, but maybe doing away with the breed standard. The Miss America pageant doesn’t have a breed standard (that I know of) and its doing just well.

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Why We Need Bernie’s Revolution…

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“Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.” -Bernie Sanders

The war is on. The corporate media, dying for another establishment democrat to challenge Clinton, lost all hope when Joe Biden decided not to run.  They are left now to confront their fear of the fact that Bernie Sanders has a shot. The informal polls believed he won the debates, despite what the corporate pundits state. He continues to raise significant funds despite not having a super PAC or Wall St. money. Why is this man a factor in this election cycle? Obviously, a socialist from the ice cream state of Vermont can’t be a serious candidate? He is a factor due to you.

The citizens of the United States are fed up with politics as usual. We understand that something is wrong with the system. From the criminal justice system, healthcare, environmental abuse, campaign financing,  public education, stagnant wages, immigration, LGBTQ rights, and the fact we have to explain why Black lives matter is enough cause us to seek out a new path.  Bernie will explain before the next Democratic debate that this new path leads us directly to a more democratic socialist future. However, with so much opposition one man cannot do it alone. We as a country need Bernie’s Revolution, but the question remains: Who is willing to fight with me?

~ Brandon Payton-Carrillo

Building Socialism: The Trouble With Digital Organizing in the Modern World

Recently, available technology options for organizers has been a topic on our DSA listserv. I was going to fire off a response, but it occurred to me that the topic deserved a longer, more thoughtful answer and that the blog was the right forum for this. I have worked as a non-profit information and database consultant for the last five years, and as I have become more experienced, I have also become more cautious about the adoption of new programs and systems.

Without question, social movements present their own challenges. We are oftentimes talking about people and groups with limited time/money/structure, but there is also pressure to be timely and agile in our communication and management of data. Security is a concern, as some people may not want their political or social views made public, and there is always the potential threat of the opposition using that information in a negative way. Another factor is the wide range of ability and resources that members present, so the question becomes how do you make changes that don’t exclude anyone while at the same time reaching new members and striving for increased efficacy?

I read a great article from Jen Schradie in the Berkeley Journal about this last year, and the author notes that “what was most striking in my fieldwork was how activists, whether Tea Party, union, or student leaders, never talked about how technology is a liberatory new way to organize, absent leadership or hierarchy. In fact, they often emphasized how it takes high levels of organization to bring people and keep people together. One activist talked about how they needed more organizational effort to ensure that working class people without Internet access can stay in the information loop. She had to put in more time and use a variety of communication channels to make sure that everyone can participate in the organization.” She also goes on to say that Internet activism can actually promote isolation if organizatonal roles are not transparent. This is all very important to consider as we strive build multi-generational, inclusive, highly effective movements.

Technology is changing at such a rapid pace, and we are presented with new apps, programs, and websites all the time. So what do to with all these possibilities? Should we just cast a wide net, try everything, and see what sticks?

Here are a few things I’ve found helpful:

  • The best course of action is to first examine the specific goals. Oftentimes, it’s tempting to look at what technology is available, and then imagine how you’ll use it. I find that this creates lots of false-starts, where a project will have lots of support at the start, but then it is either not fully implemented or no one uses it when it’s set up. If, on the other hand, you start with your goals and then work backwards, you are more likely to have the buy-in of the people who will be using the system and this is what creates truly robust data and communcation.
  • Recognize that no system will ever be perfect – you will inevitably be leaving someone out or have some amount of inconsistent data. That’s ok, the goal should just be to get it as good as possible.
  • Think about cultivation – in what ways are different members touched by your movement? What is the ideal level of involvement you’d like to see for your members? Try to see your own “blind spots” and fill those in – so, for example, what happens when someone first joins? Do they receive an email? an  invitation to like on facebook? At what point do you invite them to an event? Etc.
  • Consider different ways to be inclusive – for example, putting a buddy system in place for your group where you have volunteers who are tech-savvy and have access to technology who are willing to work one-on-one with those in your group who want more help.
  • Ask for feedback! Even a quick survey can be helpful. Do your members know where to get information? Are there things they wish they could do but aren’t currently able to? For example, in a recent meeting a member asked if they could watch archived webinars that they were not able to attend in real-time. I think that’s a great question, and something worth looking into.

It’s an exciting time to be an activist, and I’m so impressed with the varied and amazing talents that people willingly share in order to make the world a better place. We all have a spot at the table, so to speak, and it is going to take all of our efforts to move the needle even a bit.

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Building Socialism: Start a Cooperative!!

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   A few weeks ago, I was sitting around drinking a nice cold one while thinking of ways in which I could better society. How can we move our society to be  more democratic and socially just ? In different words, how can we build socialism without the aid of the state? That is when the ideas started to flow. So many came, in fact, that I decided to write an ongoing series on how we can build better communities, cities, and nations, which I am calling “Building Socialism.”The first entry in the series is about cooperatives and why you should join/start one!

  So what is a cooperative? Well, a cooperative is a business or organization created by individuals who voluntarily cooperate for their collective economic, social and cultural benefit. These are often legal entities that are governed by a one-person, one-vote democratic structure. This principle contradicts the idea that an individual’s input on the direction of an organization should be based on the amount of capital that person has invested.

  There are different types of Co-ops and they are defined by who runs and own them. Some co-ops are own by those who use their services, like credit unions, and are called consumer co-ops. Others are owned by the workers themselves and these are called worker co-ops. Housing co-ops are owned and run by those who occupy a particular structure.  Practically, any business that exist in the private sector could operate as a cooperative.

So why should you join/start or work for a Cooperative? Well here is a short list provided by the U.S. Small Business Association on the benefits of being a part of a Co-op:

  • Less Taxation. Similar to an LLC, cooperatives that are incorporated normally are not taxed on surplus earnings (or patronage dividends) refunded to members. Therefore, members of a cooperative are only taxed once on their income from the cooperative and not on both the individual and the cooperative level.
  • Funding Opportunities. Depending on the type of cooperative you own or participate in, there are a variety of government-sponsored grant programs to help you start. For example, the USDA Rural Development program offers grants to those establishing and operating new and existing rural development cooperatives.
  • Reduce Costs and Improve Products and Services. By leveraging their size, cooperatives can more easily obtain discounts on supplies and other materials and services. Suppliers are more likely to give better products and services because they are working with a customer of more substantial size. Consequently, the members of the cooperative can focus on improving products and services.
  • Perpetual Existence. A cooperative structure brings less disruption and more continuity to the business. Unlike other business structures, members in a cooperative can routinely join or leave the business without causing dissolution.
  • Democratic Organization. Democracy is a defining element of cooperatives. The democratic structure of a cooperative ensures that it serves its members’ needs. The amount of a member’s monetary investment in the cooperative does not affect the weight of each vote, so no member-owner can dominate the decision-making process. The “one member-one vote” philosophy particularly appeals to smaller investors because they have as much say in the organization as does a larger investor.

 If all the people in America worked for and used Co-ops, we would have a much more socially and economically democratic country. The workers, regardless of the type of work they do, would own their means of production and have more control over their lives. Another benefit would be the reduction of income inequality in our society, which would be awesome! So I highly encourage you to support your local Co-op whether it be a grocery store, bar, or restaurant. If you have a trade and have been considering going into business for yourself, start a cooperative. You have the power to make positive change by doing the stuff you are already doing, but in a smarter and more socially conscious way.

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Why the Democrats are Losers… And Why They are Ill- Suited for the Left.

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   The Democrats lost the midterm elections in 2014 and the only people they can blame are themselves. While the Republicans are popping champagne in front of the warm glow of Fox News on the television, we all hear excuses abound from the Democrats. We heard that the Democrats had an unpopular President, have to play defense on so many states, and that Democrats didn’t excite the base to come out and vote. Well, they were wrong on all fronts. Here is why the Democrats are losers.

1. They separated themselves from their own success.

Despite four years of economic growth, the spread of marriage equality,  falling unemployment, and with Wall St. trading at near record highs, most Democrats ran away from their successes when they ran away from their President. Especially the Southern politicians (Here’s looking at you, Clay Aiken!). The follow up excuse was that the American people don’t feel the economy improving. That is why making the issue of solving income inequality would have been beneficial to their cause. Argue that the economy is growing, now it is time to make it fair.

2. Nobody plays offense anymore.

How can you send a message of moving forward to make Americans’ lives better when you are backpedaling? Someone tell me what did any of the loser Democrats campaign in favor of? Minimum wage? Most Americans are for it but not many democrats made it a cornerstone of their campaign. Building roads and infrastructure? Not at all!! Running on having nothing to do with the President? You betcha!!

3. Lack of party unity.

This is what the Republicans do well. They move in lock step to things that they value, whether it is abortions, tax cuts or corporate welfare. The Democrats have not displayed such party discipline and moreover have an eagerness to move towards the center and towards corporatism and away from traditional party values.

4. Corporatism is leading the Democrats away from its base on the Left towards business and money.

When the Democrats were running things in the post- New Deal era, they were the party in favor of social justice and human rights. Now, some of the most prominent Democrats are war hawks of the highest order, in favor violating weak nations sovereignty in the name of American interest, under the guise of terrorism. The fight for equal pay for women, and fighting the battle against voter discrimination has been tepid at best. Both are casualties of the Democrats pursuit of sweet corporate dollars.

All of these things are horrible but there is hope. Let’s get back to the values that have made the party successful in the past. The party can return to speaking about a vision for America where all Americans are paid a living wage, have access to quality healthcare, safe roads and where the people’s civil liberties are respected.

Happy May Day!!

Happy Labor Day !! Did your boss steal some of your wages??

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    Happy Labor Day!! I hope everyone who is fortunate enough to have this day off is enjoying the fruits of a previous generation’s labor. Those brave individuals who fought and died for the right to earn a living wage, better working conditions, and the 40 hour work week.  Those workers and Union members would be proud that such a holiday exist in America. They would also be disgusted at the attempts of corporations to steal wages from those very people who generate those profits. Their own workers.

  The New York Times recently ran an article about wage theft and its victims. Increasingly, companies are having their employees work overtime and not paying them their time and a half wages. Some employers would not pay at all by convincing their employees that their overtime pay would be on their next check and would never appear.  The latter is a tactic used by a popular bakery in the Atlanta area to cheat its primarily Latino back of the house staff out of what is due to them.

   Because of the nature of the service industry, employees are required to work extended hours and holidays. This is to be expected, however it should not be expected that workers’ rights be trampled. Many of these victims share the American dream. They want to work hard, save money and support a family with 2.5 children, all without being screwed by their boss. Often these victims look brown, black and may have funny names. What can be done about this injustice?

  The Government could enforce its laws, but let’s focus on what we as individuals can do. We can not buy services or products from companies accused of wage theft. We can support employees who are taking their destinies into their own hands by unionizing. You can ask a company if they pay their employees a living wage. If they don’t pay an adequate wage, simply walk out. In order to protect our own rights, sometime we may need to protect the rights of others. If there is one lesson to be learned from the Labor Movement of the 1930s, it might be that we are indeed our brother’s keeper. Protecting those who are voiceless and disenfranchised are in essence protecting who we are as a society. As evidence of this, most of us are at home writing blogs and drinking beer, right??

Happy May Day!!