GOP Prez Candidate Regrets Repealing Glass Steagall

 

At the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention in Myrtle Beach, I asked GOP presidential candidate and former Senator Rick Santorum whether he would break up the banks and reinstate Glass Steagall, the Depression-era law that created a firewall between commercial and investment banking. The idea was to shield traditional banking assets from risky, speculative trading activities.

Glass Steagall was partially repealed under the Clinton administration in 1999, with the passage of the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act, a supporter of which was then-Senator Santorum. The repeal allowed for already big banks to become Too-Big-to-Fail behemoths, and thus has been widely cited as a cause of the 2008 financial crisis.

Although Santorum regrets his GLBA vote, he would nonetheless repeal Dodd Frank.

Sun., Jan. 17, 2016.

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Tea Party Congressman Wants to Roll Back Clean Air and Water Acts

This piece was originally published in The Huffington Post.

At the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention on Sunday, Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC 3) told me he wants to roll back the Clean Air and Water Acts and shrink the EPA. Meanwhile an enormous methane gas leak is poisoning the air in Southern California, and a state of emergency has been declared over the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Plus there are a couple of other agencies Rep. Duncan would like to eliminate entirely…

Steve King: World Was Right in the 1950s and 60s

At the Citizens United Iowa Freedom Summit co-hosted by Rep. Steve King (R-IA 4), the congressman drew a comparison between President Obama’s upbringing in Indonesia and his own. King referred to a statement made by Obama that the call to Islamic prayer was “the most beautiful sound in the world” (King’s mis-quote), and seemed to imply that the president is a closet Muslim. The congressman said that both men were dramatically impacted by those formative years, and that for himself, “that’s that time in my life when the world was right.” Shark Tank reporter Javier Manjarres had asked King why he thought it was so hard for Obama to use the words ‘Islamic jihadists.’

Rep. King is known for opining on President Obama’s upbringing, and sowing seeds of doubt with regard to his religion, with remarks like “[Obama] doesn’t have an American experience.” In this 2011 interview with Lawrence O’Donnell, King said that he took Obama at his word in terms of his faith, but that the president needed to work harder to dispel the notion that he is a Muslim.

At the Freedom Summit, Manjarres told me of the encounter, emphasizing that he understood King’s implication to be that Obama is a Muslim. After watching the clip, I was struck by a more subtle aspect of King’s statements… Given that King was born in 1949, he would be referring to the 1950s and 60s — decades that were great for white men, but not so much for blacks, women, and gays. They are also decades in which U.S. tax rates were near their highest, with a top rate of 92% (they briefly hit 94% during World War II in the 40s). Does King yearn for a return to those glory days? And if so, is it for the rampant discrimination or the high tax rates?

Ted Cruz Pressing Congress to Defund “Unconstitutional” Amnesty

At the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention in Myrtle Beach this weekend, conservatives gathered to rally the troops ahead of the 2016 presidential race. Possible contenders included Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump. I broke through the mob around Cruz to ask him whether or not he would vote for a clean funding bill for the Dept. of Homeland Security, i.e. a bill without the Republican riders that would defund President Obama’s executive order on immigration…

Tea Party Congressman: John McCain Hasn’t Found a Conflict He Doesn’t Think We Should Arm or Bomb

On Friday, July 5, Tea Party Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ 6) said of John McCain, “I love John, but he hasn’t found a conflict he doesn’t think we should arm or bomb.” The comment was made backstage at the FreedomWorks’ Free the People event in Salt Lake City in a conversation about Egypt and Syria between Schweikert, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and FreedomWorks’ president, Matt Kibbe. The two Arizona legislators have a bit of a history—according to Schweikert, when McCain made statements about “Tea Party hobbits” who voted against the sequester, the senator was referring to him.

The Free the People event was part of a three-day July Fourth celebration organized by the Tea Party group FreedomWorks, and Glenn Beck’s Mercury One Radio Arts and Mercury One charity. The centerpiece of the Beck-stravaganza was ‘Man in the Moon,’ a stage spectacle combining the summer church revivalist tradition with political performance art.

The RNC Debate: The Occupy Movement vs. The Tea Party

UPDATE:  Due to circumstances beyond our control, The Young Turks and I have pulled out of negotiations with Christine O’Donnell’s Troublemaker Media. We wish that the debate could have moved forward, and thank everyone involved for their efforts.

On Monday, August 27, activists and political advocates from the Occupy movement and Tea Party will come together for an honest, open debate on the social, political, and economic problems that ail America. This event is a joint venture between Christine O’Donnell’s Troublemaker Media Film Festival and Cenk Uygur’s The Young Turks media network. Some attempts have been made to open such a dialogue in the past, but none with the same scale and scope. The genesis of this particular project can be traced back to Occupy Congress in January, but the idea of dialogue and coalition building is inherent in the concept of “the 99%.”

Former Delaware Senatorial candidate and Tea Party activist, Christine O’Donnell, and Young Turks correspondent, Michael Shure, will co-moderate the debate to ensure fairness and balance in the lines of questioning. Each panel will consist of a political advocate in support of the respective movement and three activists. I am a producer for this show, and will be a panelist for the Occupy side. We will be crowd-sourcing some questions from activists on both sides in an effort to be as inclusive as possible. Disclaimer:  I am not speaking on behalf of Occupy, nor are the other panelists—we all speak to our own experiences within our respective movements. This event has not been endorsed by any particular general assembly, though there has been discussion about holding such a debate since at least January… which brings me to the topic of the debate’s genesis.

I have worked on the Occupy Los Angeles (OLA) media team since last fall, by producing articles, graphics, and videos for the movement. Many of us in media discussed the possibilities of opening dialogue with the Tea Party vis á vis our common ground on financial reform, campaign finance, and the patently unconstitutional National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the U.S. military to indefinitely detain American citizens on American soil without trial. To that end, I went to Occupy Congress in D.C. in January, and discussed the NDAA with Tea Party favorite and Congressman, Allen West. Two weeks later, I attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) for a blogger briefing of the Citizens United film, Occupy Unmasked.

CPAC also featured a panel entitled “Taking Back Wall Street:  The Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street,” wherein there were five Tea Partiers and no Occupiers. The lack of Occupy presentation on this panel maddened me, and so spawned our upcoming debate. Afterward, I approached one of the panelists, Dana Loesch, about opening a true dialogue between the movements, and met Ryan Rhodes, a Tea Party activist and political consultant, in the process. Ryan and I shared the vision of bringing together the movements in debate, and maintained contact after CPAC with the goal of making that vision a reality.

A couple of months ago, Ryan found our opportunity, while he was working to help Christine open her film festival with some truly unique and inspiring content. Ryan approached me for help with coordinating the Occupy side of the debate. As I had just been a panelist on the The Young Turks’ web show, The Point, I thought that the Turks would be ideal partners for co-production. Ryan and I put together a pitch to have The Young Turks produce the debate, and Steven Oh, the Chief Operating Officer of The Young Turks, showed immediate interest.

Somewhere along the way, Ryan had spoken with Gordon Gebert, a representative of Chuck Woolery, about having Woolery host the debate. (Gebert has produced a Survivor-like reality television series called Occupy vs. The Tea Party, with Woolery as the host. His show has not, as of yet, been picked up by a network.) Unbeknownst to Steven and me, Gordon was invited onto what was supposed to be our last teleconference to finalize negotiations between Troublemaker Media and The Young Turks. When we got on the call, Christine outlined the agenda, with Gordon to speak briefly at the beginning regarding Woolery’s requirements to host. Gordon was told that he would leave the call immediately thereafter.

Cue the controversy… Gordon refused to leave the call despite requests from everyone present that he do so, citing his need to be aware of all financial negotiations. He apparently thought that he would be taking on a producer role. I informed Gordon that we could not proceed with discussion of his role between the parties without ironing out an agreement between the principals, i.e. Troublemaker and The Young Turks. Gordon then began his threats… that he owned the trademark to Occupy vs. The Tea Party, that we could not proceed without him, that he would enforce his ownership of said trademark… as if one person could claim ownership to the idea of discussion between two political movements.

Gordon has proceeded to air his grievances via Twitter and the conservative blogosphere, with a comical piece of hackery entitled “Christine O’Donnell Climbs into Bed with Al Gore.” It should be noted that although The Young Turks has a show on Current TV, Al Gore and Current TV have not participated in our negotiations whatsoever and are not connected to this debate in any way. This is an independent project of The Young Turks. Gordon’s injection of Mr. Gore’s name is just a desperate and tawdry attempt to engineer a fake controversy and agitate the conservative base. I cannot speak to what conversations were held between Gordon and Troublemaker, but I can tell you that there is no contractual obligation between them.

Despite these speed bumps, we are proceeding full-steam with what we all think is an amazing opportunity for dialogue. After several lengthy discussions amongst the parties, I can honestly say that everyone involved is committed to making this a great debate! I hope that you all will tune in, and that it will in turn spur you to engage your neighbor, regardless of political affiliation. We cannot solve our biggest problems in this country without opening conversation, finding common ground, and building coalitions. My greatest hope is that this debate will move us forward in that journey.                       

Brother, Can You Spare A Paradigm?

The Occupy movement has prided itself on being non-partisan and non-hierarchical in its quest to transition the world into a Post-Consumer Age from the current political, economic, and cultural paradigm that is American capitalism. There is a stubborn fear within Occupy of co-option, whether by the Democratic Party or MoveOn.org or the unions. This fear, while warranted to a certain degree, quite frankly obstructs progress. Vicious infighting occurs over things like citizen journalists getting paid for their work, activists working with the unions, and the appearance of Occupy endorsing political organizations—with which it should be building coalitions anyway.

The internal strife plays out along two divisions: the Anarchists, who generally believe that real change can only occur if the current system is destroyed and who refuse to partner with political groups; and the Reformists, who generally think that coalition-building is an absolute necessity. Further, there is division between activists and citizen journalists, whom the former often suspect of profiting off the Occupy brand through donations or sponsorships they receive, at least in Los Angeles anyway. I fall into the latter camps, and I certainly have not profited monetarily from this movement. Equipment and travel expenses to attend protests are costly—not to mention the personal gifts of time and energy. The vast majority of those receiving compensation for their work are not even breaking even.

The people, typically anarchists, who bitch about citizen journalists getting funding for their work, usually do so in the context that they themselves are economic martyrs for the cause; that Occupy is really anti-capitalist; and that the goal of the movement is to transition to an open-source direct democracy. Basically, “If you’re getting paid, I should be paid, too… What’s yours is mine… Media is common property.” Anyone who can obtain funding should. Occupy is powered by the hard work of both activists and citizen journalists, who devote their time, energy, and money to creating actions and the media to promote them, mostly for free. Both parties have bills to pay in the meantime before they can frolic around in some communal utopia—which, by the way, not everyone is advocating.

The movement was built on a foundation of anti-crony-capitalism, to see justice done in the financial sector to the actors who caused the economic meltdown, and to address growing wealth disparity and pervasive corporate influence in politics. The demonization of media and reform-minded activists must stop in the name of solidarity. I have witnessed the defection of many sorely needed media members because a few bad apples wanted to rant and rave on e-mail threads. Hell, I’ve defected to other Occupies myself because of it. No one wants to put up with abuse no matter how passionate they are about the cause.

We, as individuals and as a movement, must take advantage of every resource that will allow us to perpetuate the cause. Much ado was made in Occupy Los Angeles (OLA) about using an SEIU union hall for media meetings. Should OLA be taking advantage of that offer? Absolutely. We can only change the system through unity. Using resources provided by unions does not mean we endorse unions themselves. Occupiers must start to be able to identify strategic partners, and to differentiate between short- and long-term goals. Accepting help allows for dollars to be allocated elsewhere, with less money coming out of the pockets of already cash-strapped activists. This fight will not be won in months, but in years, and I dare say decades. Care must certainly be taken in order to avoid co-option, but the greater threat at this point is losing motivated participants, and thereby losing relevance.

Thus, Occupy must build coalitions with other organizations of the progressive left. This statement alone has provoked much ire from people who don’t believe that Occupy is a progressive movement—“We are non-partisan! We’re not progressive! We are the 99%!” Okay, well, to those not in the movement, Occupy is progressive. Its major issues are social justice issues, i.e. progressivism. So deny the label, but it will still be applied by outsiders. I may want to be called ‘Caucasian-American,’ but people will call me ‘white’ regardless.

The militantly anti-partisan/anti-voting stance of many within the movement is corrosive to gaining the traction necessary to effect major change. If we don’t mobilize the movement into a voting bloc and offer a focused progressive vision, we don’t represent a real threat to politicians. To a politician, that translates to voting, not camping. Right now the Tea Party poses a bigger danger to President Obama than we do. Armed with registered voters and ultra-conservative values, the Tea Party has become a major force in electoral politics, and it has Congress by the balls as a result. Just witness the sharp right turn of Mitt Romney’s campaign during the primary to prove his record as “a severe conservative,” or the defeat of old-guard Republican Senator Dick Lugar by Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock. Hence, politicians do not take us seriously, nor do the mainstream media and the average people we seek to persuade. The common refrain is, “What does Occupy want? What are your demands, objectives, etc.?” When you see Occupiers themselves unable to answer those simple questions on camera, who can blame them?

I’ve heard some say that Occupy doesn’t need to have the solutions, that it is enough that the movement is a show of resistance to the current power structure. But that line of thinking is dangerously naïve. The rigid idealogues calling for radical systemic change, bypassing the electoral process, risk any progress that can be made in the short term. For example, getting corporate money out of politics, ending corporate personhood, and instituting public campaign financing have widespread support, and they have to be done first for any other reform to be remotely successful. The movement must coalesce around these specific policy initiatives en masse. Introducing legislation and running candidates committed to those goals should be the top priority. Barack Obama campaigned for presidency seeking change. For progressives, we envisioned and expected him to usher in, not just change, but a new paradigm. Now we must force him to deliver it.

Dropping the N Word

The American Conservative Union hosts the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) annually as the premier DC networking event for the Republican elite and its adoring activists. Presidential candidates and political heavyweights like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, John Boehner, and Sarah Palin were all in attendance to galvanize the troops against the progressive left. CPAC featured such egalitarian fare as “The Failure of Multiculturalism: How the Pursuit of Diversity is Weakening the American Identity” moderated by white nationalist Robert Vandervoort; “The ‘Right’ View,” a dissection of “The View” and diatribe against ‘radical feminists’ Joy Behar, Gloria Steinem, and Planned Parenthood; and the Red Carpet Blogger awards featuring Chris Loesch performing his rap song “Mr. America” with the charming play on “knickers” for the N word…

But that’s not the N word I want to discuss. That N word is Nazi, a word that both Chris Loesch and his Tea Party blogger wife Dana Loesch employ with great abandon. Dana is the Editor-in-Chief of Andrew Breitbart’s Big Journalism and a co-founder of the St. Louis Tea Party. Breitbart, you might recall, is the blogger who famously launched the entirely fictitious attack on Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod, whom he accused of making anti-white remarks in a speech, when he knew in fact she was promoting racial tolerance.

I had the opportunity to speak with the couple following the Saturday panel “Taking Back Wall Street: The Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street,” featuring six Tea Partiers, and no Occupiers. Seeking to open dialogue with the Tea Party and to address allegations that I knew to be patently false as a member of the Occupy LA Media team, I approached the pair and their entourage. I immediately apologized for interrupting the group and identified myself in name and affiliation. They were startled, but amenable to conversation, a sketch of which follows…

Me: Hello, I’m so sorry for interrupting you all. My name is Lauren Windsor, and I’m a member of the Occupy Los Angeles Media team. I was hoping to open a dialogue with you since you had no Occupiers on your panel.

Dana: Of course, of course, I’d be happy to talk to you.

Chris: We love to talk to Occupiers who are actually civil. Normally they shout and chase us.

Dana: Yeah, I get called “Jew-bitch” all the time. I don’t know where they get that—I’m not even Jewish.

Me: Well, I certainly don’t condone that. We are a peaceful movement. I wanted to address some of your earlier statements. You said that we needed to be protesting the White House rather than Wall Street, which in fact we did—two weeks ago for Occupy Congress and Occupy the Courts.

Dana: Yes, and the Occupiers shot at the White House.

Me: Um, no, I was there, and no one shot at the White House.

Dana: Well, they threw smoke bombs.

Me: You also said that Tea Partiers protest for free, but that the Occupiers get paid $60 a day… Actually, the vast majority of Occupiers are not getting paid for their work, they protest because they have personal experiences that have led them to action. Like you, we are fed up and not going to take it anymore! I am not getting paid to do this!

Dana (looking into my eyes, and sizing me up): No, I don’t believe you are getting paid. I think you are doing it from passion.

Me: We have a lot of common ground on financial issues. Anger at the banking bailouts started with the Tea Party. Would you be willing to participate in a debate with both Tea Party and Occupy members?

Dana: Yes, of course, I’d be happy to help facilitate that.

Me: Would you be willing to say that on camera? (As I’m pulling out my camera, I realize the battery is dead!)…

Dana: Yes, of course.

Me: Wow, my camera isn’t working, I must have left the switch on.

Chris: You don’t need it on film. Just e-mail Dana, and give me your e-mail. We’ll set something up…

Me: Ok, great, I hope you really mean it, because there really is a lot of common ground.

Chris: Yeah, there is for sure, but the fundamental difference is that you guys want government to take care of you from cradle to grave…

Me: Well, I’m a libertarian—a civil libertarian—and I believe in single payer because healthcare should be a right and not a privilege. There is a fundamental conflict of interest in a healthcare system that places profits over people.

Chris: See, that’s the problem. You get the government in control of our healthcare—the best healthcare in the world—and it’s a slippery slope to Nazi Socialism.

Me: Whoa! Nazi Socialism!? In what respect?

Chris: That’s the correct term for it! That’s where Socialism originated.

Me (bewildered): Um, no, it didn’t.

Dana: Yes, it did. Look it up. He’s technically correct.

Me (scratching head): Uh, ok… Can we at least agree to drop the term ‘Nazi’?

Dana & Chris: But it’s technically correct!

Me (more bewildered): Dropping the word ‘Nazi’ in any political conversation automatically discolors the dialogue…

Dana & Chris: No, but you really need to look at history. Nazi…

Me: We are really going to have to agree to disagree on that and move on…

Former military guy in their entourage: You think everything is okay until it’s not. Like the guy sitting in a café in Cuba before Castro got elected, or in Venezuela before Chavez. See, if Obama gets another term, he’s going to repeal the 22nd amendment. Then he won’t have to deal with term limits, and will install himself as Dictator.

Me (head reeling): Um, ok, wow… I really appreciate the dialogue, but I think we should continue this conversation in the debate. I really look forward to it…

As we exchanged farewells and thanks, I walked away with the fantasy of a Tea Party/Occupy debate full of Hitler, Nazis, Castro, and Communists playing in my head. I pondered the cognitive dissonance that is required to believe that progressives are somehow both fascist (what Nazis really were) and communist. But it’s not cognitive dissonance that is required at all—it’s either ignorance or deliberate calculation, and fear mongering—to conflate disparate boogeymen to advance divisive propaganda.

When I arrived home to my computer to tweet the day’s adventures, I found that Dana Loesch had quickly blocked me as a Twitter follower… so much for a real debate between the Tea Party and Occupy… so much for opening dialogue and finding common ground… I still won’t call her a Nazi, though.

Footnote:  A quick history lesson for Chris & Dana Loesch… Socialism and Nazi Socialism are two quite different political ideologies. The former is rooted in the French Revolution of 1789, the Industrial Revolution, and The Communist Manifesto authored by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848. The latter, a variant of nationalist fascism, emerged in Germany after WWI with the rise of totalitarian Adolf Hitler, who it should be noted, also killed Socialists (known as Social Democrats) and Communists.