MA Budget Amendments

Our friends at Progressive Massachusetts are urging support for the following budget amendments:


Senator Mark Montigny <Mark.Montigny@masenate.gov>

Dear Senator Montigny,

I am writing to support budget amendments that support a strong Commonwealth. While the following budget amendments make a big difference in the short term, it is important for the Commonwealth to raise more revenue in the long term, including taxing the wealthiest in our state.

Please support:

  • Amendment 16, which expands the earned income tax credit
  • Amendment 23, which increases badly needed revenue by eliminating a tax break for the mutual fund industry
  • Amendment 75, which puts the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission into statute and pressures the Legislature into giving our schools the money they need
  • Amendment 286, which increases the state match for the Community Preservation Act, including affordable housing and open space protection
  • Amendment 389, which eliminates an outdated and punitive law that harms women with children who are receiving welfare assistance
  • Amendment 507, which supports women’s health by increasing funding for family planning
  • Amendments 641 and 645, which increase funding for housing vouchers and assistance for those experiencing homelessness
  • Amendment 790, which increases funding for environmental protection
  • Amendments 883, 896, and 906, which increase access to legal services and reentry services
  • Amendment 1025, which strengthen regional infrastructure

Please support these line items.

Thank you,

[signed]

The Platform Sideshow

The Massachusetts Democratic convention is two weeks away, and there is now a working version that will be discussed in Worcester on June 3rd. Some have applauded the new draft — including three progressive groups that contributed amendments — for being the “most progressive” Massachusetts Democratic platform in history.

Good Stuff

To its credit, the 2013 draft includes calls for

  • single-payer healthcare — although it’s not clear why it also propose a hodgepodge of other healthcare programs
  • making the Commonwealth a sanctuary state
  • public funding of elections — but will the state’s Democrats really give up their PACs?
  • paid family leave
  • free college education — well, maybe, because it also calls for “exploring” debt-free models of higher education
  • a “decent living wage” — though a specific amount is not given
  • infrastructure development, including broadband — though no mention of regulating monopolies like Comcast or ensuring net neutrality within the state
  • a “millionaire’s tax” — along with tax breaks for “job creators”
  • universal background checks for guns —”balanced” by more money for law-enforcement
  • more money for veterans — which irks me for the same reason as the Commonwealth subsidizing ICE

And, to be fair, there are many good things in the platform. But some caution.

Their hearts weren’t in it

Massachusetts Democrats have been pushed to embrace many progressive positions they would normally have rejected — and they have been translated into ambiguities and weasel-words. Some positions are just a road too far for Democrats in a state that thinks it’s much more liberal than it actually is. The hearts of those who had to draft this “progressive” platform just weren’t in it.

In a previous post I looked at what was missing in the 2013 MassDems platform — and some things have indeed been fixed in this 2017 draft. At the time I observed that “the 2013 platform isn’t bad as a statement of liberal values — and the 2017 Progressives’ changes aren’t so radical as to give Democrats much heartburn.”

I was wrong. Apparently there was heartburn.

For example, the platform committee deleted the following plank from the 2013 final version:

“We want strong diplomacy and support nonviolent conflict resolution as a first resort in our domestic and foreign relations and call for a reduced military budget that allows for investment in human needs”

Attempts by progressive delegates to insert anti-militarism and foreign policy language into the platform were flatly rejected. The word “military” only appears in the Veterans section. Thank you for your service. Here, have some state money.

What’s still missing

  • Foreign Policy and Militarism — stop supporting autocratic and undemocratic regimes — no more weaponry for Saudi Arabia — slash the military budget — end undeclared wars — insist on Congress’ right to declare wars — no more aid to Israel until they end settlements — no more aid for Egypt’s dictatorship
  • Democratization of the Democratic Party — will we ever be rid of superdelegates?
  • End the Surveillance State — enhance citizen privacy (a word that doesn’t appear even once in the document) — get rid of the Patriot Act — eliminate FISA courts — get rid of or make No Fly lists transparent — breathe life back into the 4th Amendment
  • End useless tax breaks — remove vague language guaranteeing favorable tax rates for “businesses that generate community growth and participation” — Wal*Mart? really?
  • Environment — now that EPA and Superfund money has been slashed, Massachusetts should sue for remediation (for example, Aerovox dumped PCBs in New Bedford’s harbor and then moved to Mexico) — strengthen our own MA Dept of Environmental Protection
  • Healthcare backup plan — create with other Blue States a Single-Payer Healthcare system
  • Restore Net Neutrality to the FCC
  • Create a Citizen’s Data Bill of Rights guaranteeing that your personal and online data belongs to you and not to Comcast (Europeans have had this for years)

The platform is really the side-show

While the platform appears to be the main attraction, anything ironed out like this amounts to so much word salad. Modifying the party’s charter may appear to be a side-show, but it is arguably the more important objective. It turns out the platform is really the side-show.

Though there will be thousands of delegates and guests at the convention, the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee is the body that actually makes the decisions — think of it as your friendly Politburo. It’s also a fund-raising machine, so whatever values the platform holds are completely separate from those of the candidates the Committee funds.

The MassDems State Committee is the nation’s largest, weighing in at 418 members. Of this number only 80 members are actually voted upon by town delegates. Over 120 have permanent status and cannot be unseated as long as their bodies continue to twitch. Every year the number of these functionaries grows larger.

So let there be no confusion: the platform we are voting upon in two weeks is theirs, not ours. And in the long term, it’s changing the party charter that will actually make the difference.

SouthCoast #Resist Calendar

All events here are from the #Resist: New Bedford Meetup calendar.

Coalition for Social Justice 22nd Annual Banquet & Awards Ceremony
When Thu, May 18 6pm – 8:30pm
Where Venus de Milo (75 Grand Army Highway (Rt 6), Swansea, MA) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239119661/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Thursday, May 18 at 6:00 PM $30 ticket Dinner & Ceremony Tickets must be purchased in advance http://www.coalitionforsocialjustice.org Info: Marlene Pollock 508-982-8751 https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239119661/
 
1st Annual Sen, Tom Kennedy- BDCC Legislative Reception
When Thu, May 18 6:30pm – 9:30pm
Where The Perfect Place Brockton (2039 Main Street, Brockton, MA, USA 02301) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240051322/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Thursday, May 18 at 6:30 PM The Reception will be hosted by Senator Michael Brady, 2nd Plymouth/Bristol; Representative Gerry Cassidy, 9th Plymouth; Representative Michelle M. Du… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240051322/
 
Black Lives Matter Boston comes to Stow, MA
When Fri, May 19 7pm – 9pm
Where Unitarian Universalist Church (353 Great Road, Stow, MA) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965868/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Friday, May 19 at 7:00 PM Friday, May 19, 2017 Doors will open at 6:30 PM. The presentation and discussion will begin at 7:00 PM. Black Lives Matter Boston will be speaking … https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965868/
 
March Against Monsanto: New Bedford
When Sat, May 20 10am – 1pm
Where Lawler Branch Library (745 Rockdale Avenue, New Bedford, MA, USA 02740) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965867/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Saturday, May 20 at 10:00 AM Join us for New Bedford’s BIGGEST March Against Monsanto yet! We will meet in front of the Lawler Library on Rockdale Ave this year. We will march… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965867/
 
No LNG in PVD Art Build!
When Sat, May 20 12am – 7pm
Where The FANG Collective (545 Pawtucket Ave, #113, Pawtucket, RI) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965864/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Saturday, May 20 at 12:00 PM Join us on May 20th // 12pm – 7pm (come for the whole day or just a part of the day!) for a No LNG in PVD Art Build! We will be making signs andbann… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965864/
 
CAIR Media Interview Training
When Sat, May 20 1pm – 3:30pm
Where Yusuf’s mosque (186 chestnut hill ave , Brighton, MA 02135) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050913/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Saturday, May 20 at 1:00 PM This workshop, the second CAIR Ambassadors training, will focus on interview basics such as staying on message, responding to difficult questions, cre… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050913/
 
RCV Southeast MA Region Chapter Kick-Off!
When Sat, May 20 2pm – 4pm
Where 105 Jordan Rd (105 Jordan Road, Dartmouth, MA, USA 02748) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050918/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Saturday, May 20 at 2:00 PM This is the first meeting of our Southeast Mass Regional Chapter! Meet some amazing volunteers working to promote Ranked Choice Voting, learn about o… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050918/
 
Rally for Public Education – Boston Common
When Sat, May 20 2pm – 5pm
Where Boston Common (2 Park Plaza, Boston, MA) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239905379/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Saturday, May 20 at 2:00 PM Join us to Rally for Public Education! Boston Common – @ Beacon and Charles St.2-5PM Last year, we won a landslide victory in Massachusetts against … https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239905379/
 
We Won’t Go Back – General Meeting
When Mon, May 22 7pm – 8pm
Where GSM Labor Council (560 Pleasant Street, New Bedford, MA) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239905508/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Monday, May 22 at 7:00 PM Be part of the solution! Come to the next We Won’t Go Back meeting! https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239905508/
 
Race, Power and Privilege Workshop
When Tue, May 23 6pm – 8pm
Where YWCA Southeastern MA (20 South 6th Street, New Bedford, MA, USA 02740) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239930646/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Tuesday, May 23 at 6:00 PM RSVP or for more info call 508-999-3255 or email gfortes@ywcasema.org by 5/22 https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239930646/
 
350 Mass South Coast Node Meeting
When Tue, May 23 7pm – 8:30pm
Where First Parish Church (76 Church Green, Taunton, MA, USA 02780) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050916/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Tuesday, May 23 at 7:00 PM 350Mass Action is a statewide volunteer network dedicated to eliminating the influence of fossil fuel special interests over our political processan… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050916/
 
Intro to NVDA Training
When Wed, May 24 6pm – 9:30pm
Where The FANG Collective (545 Pawtucket Ave, #113, Pawtucket, RI) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240051321/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Wednesday, May 24 at 6:00 PM Intro to NVDA: This brief workshop offers an introduction to the history of Nonviolent Direct Action and its implementation as well as examples of int… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240051321/
 
The Constitution, Conflicts of Interest, and the Presidency
When Sat, May 27 9am – 10am
Where Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs (111 Thayer Street, Providence, RI, USA 02912) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050597/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Saturday, May 27 at 9:00 AM A conversation with Ambassador (ret.) Norman Eisen ’85, former Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform in the Obama White House, on current t… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050597/
 
STOP Trump’s “Death Budget” March and Rally!
When Wed, May 31 11:30am – 1pm
Where Thomas P. O’Neill Federal Building (10 Causeway Street, Boston, MA) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050926/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Wednesday, May 31 at 11:30 AM Join us to protest Trump’s budget cuts and support The People’s Budget! 11:30am: Assemble at Tip O’Neill Federal Bldg. 10 Causeway St., Boston (Nort… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050926/
 
Massachusetts State Democratic Convention
When Sat, June 3 10am – 3pm
Where DCU Center (50 Foster St, Worcester, MA) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239236729/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Saturday, June 3 at 10:00 AM Please note the Massachusetts State Democratic Convention will be held inWorcester (not Lowell). See,… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239236729/
 
Protest Israel’s 50 Year Military Occupation of Palestinian Land
When Mon, June 5 5pm – 8pm
Where Cambridge City Hall (795 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050920/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Monday, June 5 at 5:00 PM On June 5th 2017 Israel will have occupied the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights for 50 years. The Palestine Advocacy Project, Je… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050920/
 
Mobilizing Against Anti-BDS Legislation
When Sat, June 10 10:30am – 1pm
Where Cambridge Public Library – Central Square (45 Pearl Street, Cambridge, MA) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050925/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Saturday, June 10 at 10:30 AM Legislation has been filed in the Massachusetts legislature which aims to penalize supporters of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050925/
 
Jose Antonio Vargas on Immigration and Identity
When Sat, June 10 6pm – 8pm
Where Congregational Church of Needham UCC (1154 Great Plain Avenue, Needham, MA) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050923/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Saturday, June 10 at 6:00 PM Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and filmmaker whose work centers on the changing American identity. He is the founder of De… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050923/
 
Say What You Wanna Say (Part 3)
When Mon, June 12 7pm – 9pm
Where Fay’s Restaurant (613 Dartmouth Street, Dartmouth, MA, USA 02748) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965869/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Monday, June 12 at 7:00 PM Dartmouth (and Southcoast) Massachusetts Democrats! We’re got together to break bread and share our thoughts on Thursday, 12/1 and Wednesday, 3/1. O… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965869/
 
Automatic Voter Registration Lobby Day
When Wed, June 28 9:30am – 12am
Where Massachusetts State House (24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02133) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050921/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Wednesday, June 28 at 9:30 AM It may be a trainwreck in Washington DC, but here in Massachusetts we have a tremendous opportunity to advance democracy by passing Automatic Voter Re… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/240050921/
 
Green Party US 2017 National Annual Meeting
When Thu, July 13 1pm – Sun, July 16 4pm
Where New Jersey Institute of Technology (154 Summit Street, Neward,NJ) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965871/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Thursday, July 13 at 1:00 PM This year’s Annual National Meeting of the Green Party of the United States will be held on the campus of the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Ne… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965871/
 
17th International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA 17)
When Wed, July 26 6pm – Sat, July 29 2pm
Where UMASS Dartmouth (285 Old Westport Road, North Dartmouth, MA) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965866/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Wednesday, July 26 at 6:00 PM The Department of Crime and Justice Studies at UMass Dartmouth and the Young Abolitionists present: ICOPA 17 – Abolition and its Ghosts; Historic Memo… https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239965866/
 
2017 Leadership Breakfast – Women’s Fund of Southeastern Massachusetts
When Wed, October 25 8am – 10am
Where University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (285 Old Westport Road, Dartmouth, MA 02747) (map)
URL https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239236774/
#Resist: New Bedford, MA Wednesday, October 25 at 8:00 AM The Women’s Fund mission is to advance the educational attainment andeconomic security of women and girls in Southeastern Massachusetts. https://www.meetup.com/resist-new-bedford/events/239236774/
 

More going on here

Poor Heather Mac Donald. She didn’t get quite the reception she wanted at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) outside Los Angeles. She had come to speak on “The War on Police,” another of her frequent attacks on Black Lives Matter (BLM), and the students weren’t having it. A FOX News video shows what appear to be white allies locking arms and peacefully blocking access to the school’s Athenaeum. Mac Donald’s talk had to continue with whomever had already entered. President Hiram Chodosh live-streamed the talk and put it online. Ironically, as the media and two organizations which sponsored her talk pointed out, more people heard Mac Donald than if no protest had taken place.

Sarah Sanbar, a student fellow, introduced Mac Donald, apologized for the almost empty room, and placed the talk in its proper context. She said that Black Lives Matter opposes systemic racism and that Mac Donald was there to deny it and to paint BLM as dangerous. And that turned out to be a fairly accurate introduction.

Although Heather MacDonald is ostensibly a conservative intellectual and a “fellow” of the Manhattan Institute, she spends a lot of time on the talk show and cable television circuit. Here is Mac Donald being interviewed by Rush Limbaugh. There she is with Dennis Prager. Here she is visiting Frontpage Magazine. Mac Donald is a regular on FOX News and in virtually every far right publication. Her book on Black crime is a recommended read of the John Birch Society and the white supremacist group VDARE.

Mac Donald, who studied English and law and who is not actually a social scientist or criminologist, frequently veers into white supremacy. She believes Black communities need to be aggressively policed (occupied) to keep them safe (the White Man’s burden), and Mac Donald calls affirmative action programs “racist.” On FOX News Mac Donald and host Laura Ingraham held a pity party for white student “victims,” with Mac Donald going so far as to claim that “underprepared” blacks don’t actually want to be on these college campuses “when in fact the only reason they’re there is because the campuses want so-called diversity so much that they lower their standards.”

Such rhetoric might have had more to do with the protest at Claremont McKenna than with the pseudoscience Mac Donald tossed into her book “The War on Cops,” which Newsweek dismissed as “flawed logic and fantasy.” The Libertarian magazine Reason found Mac Donald’s logic “deficient” and took her central thesis to task: “America does not have an incarceration problem; it has a [Black] crime problem.” Police reform, prison reform, legal reform, and social reform are therefore all unnecessary because – when Mac Donald drills right down to root causes – well, the root cause is Black people.

I found it ironic that Mac Donald claims to revere the Bill of Rights while finding nothing wrong with police depriving Black teenagers of Fourth Amendment rights. She richly deserves the monicker that Black Lives Matter has given her – racist and fascist. But interfering with someone’s First Amendment rights is a problem and it’s also become an unfortunate trend. And liberal publications from the Atlantic to the LA Times and the New York Times, as well as civil liberties groups like the ACLU, have condemned such liberal intolerance.

Yet if the American Right are the true friends of the First Amendment, as they claim to be, let us see a flurry of Conservative letters to the editor defending protections for whistleblowers, journalists, rights for those boycotting Israeli occupation, support for net neutrality, and ending press bans in the White House. Let us hear fevered calls to stop restricting the right of people to demonstrate except in “free speech zones.” Let the Great Right wing rise up and repeal their own laws permitting vehicular murder of protesters (google it!). Let there be a torrent of letters demanding an end to gag orders on physicians providing women’s health services.

And let us see the nation’s editorial pages flooded with defenses of Kashiya Nwanguma, a Black woman who protested at a Trump rally and was assaulted by a white supremacist at the behest of the white supremacist candidate.

For this is what it’s really about. There’s more here than Heather Mac Donald’s First Amendment right to heap insult and advocate repression on an entire race.

Now that the entire government is doing it.

Human Rights: a line in the sand

While Democrats argue whether issues like a woman’s choice really are “core Democratic values” they remain pretty comfortable ignoring the human rights of non-Americans. This week Human Rights Watch documented extra-judicial killings by Egypt’s army – let’s ditch the euphemism and call them what they really are – death squads. HRW is calling on the United States to cut off funding to Egypt’s dictator (and Trump Rat Pack bro) Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. But Democrats are in an awkward position because, while they were running the circus, Clinton and Obama coddled Egyptian dictators as much as Trump. A GAO report written during Obama’s administration alluded to Egyptian human rights abuses. And they are worse now under Trump.

Last Month Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin proposed legislation that would violate First Amendment rights of those boycotting Israel for its military occupation and settlements. There is a similar bill in the House, co-sponsored by a number of Democrats, including one representative from Massachusetts. In the Massachusetts legislature there are two more of these “anti-BDS” bills being considered. In fact, these AIPAC-sponsored bills have popped up all over the country like the plague of ALEC legislation. In New York, governor Andrew Cuomo set up a blacklist to punish those using the constitutional right to boycott.

My point – foreign policy is not just national. It pulls states and even cities into controversies over everything from human rights to free speech. And out in the states and cities, we ought to have a voice.

The boycott controversy recently came up in Massachusetts Democratic Party platform discussions. Progressive Democrats want to insert language into the platform stating that “Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank are obstacles to peace.” Settlements have been condemned by virtually every nation outside the US, by the UN, and even members of Israel’s security establishment see the problem. If you can see how “gentrification” might be a problem, now imagine gentrification plus martial law, ethnic cleansing, and land theft. I’d call that an obstacle to peace. It’s as much a fact as global warming. And the reality is denied just as doggedly by Democrats.

Former AIPAC lobbyist Steve Grossman thinks the issue is “divisive” for Democrats and broadly hints that he couldn’t possibly remain in a party that won’t support Israel’s Occupation. Barney Frank’s former aide James Segel thinks the party needs to hold fast to “protect the values and commitments we hold dear” – meaning another half century of occupation and land theft? Rubber-stamp vetoes in the UN?

Democrats are on the wrong side when they attack free speech and human rights. And this has got to stop.

The Democratic Party’s platform may be the “most progressive” ever written. But this does not include its foreign policy section. That part was written by Hillary Rodham Clinton and reflects her neo-conservative and neo-liberal views. Traditionally, state parties have deferred on matters of foreign policy to a presidential candidate. But the approaches both parties have used for generations are not working. And despite Democrats calling for more “soft power” it’s hard power they always use. Invading new countries each year and spending our national wealth on war is bankrupting us, not making us safer. Right now, 53 cents of every dollar of discretionary spending goes to “defense.” And Trump wants even more.

So if Republicans are on the wrong track, what’s our plan?

One state Democrat Party – Washington – actually thought about it and did something. Progressives from this state wrote their own foreign policy platform, and it’s based on the golden rule, not on golden contracts for Raytheon and Boeing:

http://www.wa-democrats.org/issues/foreign-policy

In 2016 the two truly “divisive” issues separating progressive Democrats from Hillary Clinton-ites were her hawkishness and support for corporate-friendly trade deals. While we may all want to put the 2016 election behind us and join the unity tour with Bernie Sanders and Tom Perez, issues of Democratic support for neo-liberalism and neo-conservative foreign policy are not going away. They have to be resolved.

Democrats from each state need to weigh in separately. Like Steve Grossman, there are certain lines in the sand for some of us. I’ll never find a home in a party that turns its back on human rights. As a newbie delegate to the Massachusetts Democratic convention in June I’m optimistic that important changes can be made, at least in this state. But I’m not blind to the reality that Clinton and Obama people still own the party.

I hear the #DemExit and Draft Bernie calls, though impatience and the right wing seem to be driving many of them. I am reminded by my progressive brothers and sisters in the Greens and elsewhere that I may be on a fool’s errand. And maybe they’re right. My sixth sense tells me they are right. But I think patience and a certain amount of blind optimism are warranted right now. Now is a unique opportunity to move the center of gravity toward the left in a party that has lost its way – and admits it.

By the 2018 midterms we should have an idea of what the party is really committed to, how democratic it’s prepared to be, and how welcoming to progressive values it is.

And that should begin with a renewed commitment to Human Rights and new ways of formulating foreign policy.

Which side are you on, boys?

There are a number of things wrong with the Democratic Party. Lack of a 50-state strategy and undemocratic party rules come to mind. Big donors and selling out to Big Pharma say a lot too. Their enbrace of neo-conservative foreign policy and neo-liberal globalism alienated both progressives and Candidate Trump’s supporters. But the thing that fries many of us most about the DNC is its habitual refusal to stand up to Big Business, to name the source of our pain.

Last week Chris Hayes interviewed Tom Perez and Bernie Sanders, both of whom are on a Unity Tour to shore up the shaky relationship between centrist Democrats and progressives inside and outside the Democratic Party. Perez wants Americans to know the DNC has a positive vision for America. Whatever that specific vision is, it’s not clear Perez himself has any notion.

Sanders, on the other hand, wants the nation to know that we have to fight back against Trump and an American kleptocracy, oligarchy, autocracy — choose your phrase. Sanders chose “billionaire class.”

But, despite the many hits the American working class has taken, Perez just could not be pressed by Hayes to admit that we are in the middle of a class war. Hayes asked him point-blank, “Do you have to name the enemy?” Perez waffled. This revealing moment told me the DNC was not quite ready to abandon its funding from Big Donors, that the DNC was not quite ready to trust its grassroots. The interview continued in this vein when Hayes asked Perez if the DNC supported single payer healthcare and — once again — Perez waffled and mumbled. He’s a man with no answers.

In contrast — hate him or distrust him — there’s no question which side Trump is on. With Tom Perez, you’re never quite sure which side the Democratic Party is on.

One of my favorite blogs is Robert Paul Wolff’s “Philosopher’s Stone.” The other day Wolff wrote about what he had learned from a lifetime of studying Marx — what Marx got right, and what he got wrong. It’s a worthwhile read. According to Wolff, the thing Marx got most wrong was his conviction that the working class would rise up and fight back. He ended his meditation with this:

“I know all about gerrymandering and voter suppression, but that is no explanation. Bernie Sanders, God bless him, was the only candidate in the last Presidential cycle talking about the fact that the rich are screwing the poor. Why didn’t he pull 80% of the total vote of both parties? I don’t get it.”

Tom Perez can answer that question without saying a word.

They never heard the future calling

When I was a twenty-something, just entering the computer world of the early 1970’s, computer languages to watch were Fortran, PL/1, COBOL, Lisp, Algol, APL, Pascal — and a hundred types of assembly language.

Even back then, one language was especially reviled for its ugly syntax — or rather the fact that no one could program with it without using special pads of coding paper. This was a language developed by IBM in 1959 called Report Program Generator (RPG). RPG was really only good for one thing — generating boxes and boxes of “greenbar” — thirty pound stacks of computer printouts. Even in 1971 the preferred business language was COBOL.

Fast forward a mere thirty years to 2000. RPG programmers were already recognized as an endangered species — endangered by evolution. One article provocatively (“RPG — the Walking Dead?”) asked: “Is RPG dead?”

So there you had it — a generation ago, on the cusp of a Y2K apocalypse (that never happened) — a forward-looking author counseling fellow programmers to abandon relics like RPG, learn computer languages of the next millennium — and be prepared for the wave after that — Object Oriented Programming:

Unless you’re ready to retire, you should stop by your favorite bookstore, pick up a copy of UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modelling Language or a similar book, and start learning the ubiquitous language of OO designs. Also download the Whiteboard edition of Together/J (www.togethersoft. com) and start familiarizing yourself with an OO design and analysis tool. Besides helping you learn OO concepts, Together/J will help you learn Java by reviewing the source code it generates. With this knowledge, you should be in a better position to learn the next OOP language in vogue with minimal effort. The clock is ticking. Where will you be when it strikes midnight? Hopefully, not with the walking dead.

The clock certainly was ticking, as it always is. Coal miners received similar advice a century ago — as New Bedford sperm oil whalers did a century before that — after prospectors found petroleum in Pennsylvania.

But after millions of years of human existence, is anyone really surprised that change is practically the only constant?

Besides the president?

This is a guy who’s made political pets of coal miners. Instead of actually helping them by rolling out alternative energy infrastructure projects and training miners for jobs with a future, Trump and his Republican Congress will simply give them federal pensions and hope they go quietly into the night. But as Alana Semuels writes in the Atlantic — why stop there?

If it bails out the miners, why stop there? Why not bail out all of the other pension funds, private and public, that are on the brink of insolvency?

Why stop there, indeed. The Trump administration could also create special programs to save the nation’s remaining 283 RPG programmers.

Like the miners (and the coal owners) who were warned a century ago that petroleum was coming, the poor pioneering RPG programmers were so hard at work on their coding pads — keeping American business humming — that they never heard the future calling.

* * *

Next week — how to make America GREAT for elevator operators and movie theater projectionists!