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Maat's Feather

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10.2.10 - Pushing Back Against our Training

by: Shanikka

Sun Sep 26, 2010 at 19:27:37 PM PDT

On Thursday morning, California time, my youngest daughter and I are boarding a plane.  We are leaving what are supposed to be the highly sunny, highly warm shores of California (warm for one of the few times ever this year - I know that global warming folks always focus on extreme weather events and overall heating trends but they have ignored that it has been blooding FREEZING in California this year and I am convinced it is related!).  We are coming to Washington, D.C.  A place where I have lots of relatives and friends, even as I won't have time to see them since we'll be there for just over 45 hours.  

We - my baby that is ½ foot taller than I and likes to lay her elbow on my head as a way of trying to equalize our status  --  are coming to march.  

On the appointed day, 10.2.10 (which I hope is not rainy or too cold, but I'll be there either way), my baby and I will be marching along with I'm not sure how many others.  Who knows? To hear the media tell it, there isn't anything special going on in Washington on 10.2.10.

But I know better.  

Shanikka :: 10.2.10 - Pushing Back Against our Training
Now, this will not be my first time marching on Washington.  I attended, of course, the March for Women's Lives.  Before that, I was at the original March on Washington (although only 2 years old at the time and completely clueless as a result.)  So I have some experience with this, although I'm older and have bad ankles and a really low tolerance for fatigue due to health issues these days.  I'm certainly not going to be alone, I do know that.  For example, a number of diarists here have taken the time to share why they are going to march on Washington on 10.2.10.  People like Aaraujo, War on Error and DiegoUK have made sure that even when it seemed that 10.2.10 might be forgotten even before it happened, that it remained on the radar and that we knew that they, too, would be there.  It will be an honor to march with them, even if I never meet them (and I hope I do.)  Each of them has at one time or another eloquently stated their reasons why they will be in DC on 10.2.10.  For what it's worth, I figured I'd share mine.  

I am a regular participant in political activity, I admit this.  I have been at one level or another since I was a young woman.  Yet increasingly I am turned off completely by politics, including electoral politics.  It is because I have yet to see politics pay off for those most like those who I grew up with.  Politics is supposed to be a means to an end.  It is not THE end.  Yet we treat the political game as if it were so.  As if the mere election of a particular individual, and more importantly the preservation of that individual's power, truly accomplishes change.

When, sad but true, most true social change does not emerge from Washington or its politics.  It does not emerge from most state houses, either.  It never has.

It has almost always emerged at the local level, from the grassroots.  A grassroots who historically has not shied away from asking for change not with a whimper, but with a roar, when the stakes were high enough.

Today, the stakes are about as high as they can get for most folks who did not inherit their wealth without having to rename America the latest banana republic.

Yet despite this hour of crisis for those who cannot count on tomorrow because their house, their job, their security can be gone at any moment - for as trite a reason as, for example, shoring up a year-end corporate balance sheet - today we as Americans have been silenced into whispers.  Retrained to beg, not demand.  Taught to hide our angst and fear and anger about where our country is going and definitely not to speculate publicly too much about the "why" behind those whispers, because to do anything else, especially publicly, displeases those who have the lion's share of the money, and the power - and who therefore now truly control much of the average American's life.   Much the way a dog is taught not to bark as a means of general communication because it displeases its masters, we are taught that the only change we are entitled to expect as individual Americans may be asked for only politely, incrementally and with great respect for the existing system that creates our need in the first place.  And we are taught that, even when we do all the right things, like vote for those who say they are on our side, most of it is entirely dependent upon the largesse and self-interest in those who either control or outright own the means to our survival:  those who write our paychecks, hold the mortgages on our homes, issue our student loans to finance our education and decide whether our life's mistakes might cost us both our freedom and our franchise.

Several years ago, after we first learned of Bush's spying program (and I first began seeing the justifying reactions to it, as opposed to the mass arrests and folks going to jail as I'd originally assumed) I first theorized the possibility of a New America.  At that time, the country was being actively enslaved by the regime that was Dubbya and his sidekick from hell, Richard B. Cheney.  At that time, I wrote:

In New America, nothing -- other than money, power and those who own both - is sacred.  Those in control have proven that they are willing to let one of America's cultural crown jewels die an internationally-viewed and ignoble death if saving it takes a buck that Bush wants given to someone else.  They are willing to drag their feet on warming the cold, or feeding the hungry; sheltering the homeless or healing the sick; and they will never feel shame for systematically transferring the wealth and power which made America's middle class great from the hands of the working class and electorate to a select class: those who needed nothing from America they didn't already have (at least economically), but still want more anyway.  

All of it excused, because of the Executive Branch snatch and grab job commonly known as "Funding The War on Terror".


Today, Bush is Gone.  Cheney is Mostly Gone.  And we have a President who I genuinely believe cares, wants to do the right thing, and has tried to do the right thing.  I would never attempt to compare President Obama to President Bush (who I fondly referred to as our resident fascist-in-training) and feel that anyone who does is simply engaging in baseless hyperbole.  Yet it is also true that President Obama is not 180% away from President Bush's approach to solving what he views as Americans' problems either - particularly as it relates to the Great Recession.  From where I sit, the trouble seems to be that the President has been trained to believe what Dubbya believed, and what the rest of us are being trained to believe:  that it is the free market, industry, business, capital and wealth (all today in the hands of a tiny elite group of people) that are the foundation, the engine, the backbone, and therefore the savior, of the American dream.  Rather than its working people.  Thus, President Obama's vision has been limited by, IMO, as much by these limitations in his own thinking when it comes to what was wrong with America and needed to be made right as every other politician.  

The fact that one has to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to get re-elected, usually from the very folks who are trying to retrain Americans while they purchase America, plays a role, I am sure, in that.  

Nonetheless, I was wrong, 5 years ago, to blame what was happening to us as a nation entirely on The War on Terra.  

And no, I don't blame President Obama.  At least, I don't blame him for any more than his limited role in the current situation deserves.  He didn't create our nation's financial crisis, and I do believe he is fighting to get the country out of it.

But he doesn't escape blame for himself subscribing to the very same false narratives about what, and who, are important when it comes to righting this country.

[This is the defensive part - the last year on DailyKOS has made it, unfortunately, necessary to say.   Make no mistake, those of you who skim but do not read thoroughly before going off intro histrionics:   I am definitely not going to Washington on 10.2.10 to protest against President Obama.  Even as I recognize that had we not been first softened up as a country through 8 years of Dubbya, more in the grassroots that elected him might reject much of President Obama's approach to some things based on an evaluation of their objective merits rather than reject people who are still pointing out that "Yes, Houston, we have a Problem" because of their legitimate concern that he is being judged by unfair, and at times, racist standards that we all recognize from our own lives.  

I'll paraphrase what I said, for those who remain unclear.  There is nothing to protest about this President, per se.  He's done a decent job so far having inherited the most miserable economic and political situation left to any President in recent memory, if not worse than ever (yes, even FDR - because nobody questioned FDR's being an American or qualified for the job.)  For those things he has done right, President Obama deserves thanks credit - credit that too often is not forthcoming - even as there is legitimate room for discussion and disagreement for those things that could and should have been done differently, and should be seen differently, for the sake of the grassroots of America.]

So there is still plenty to protest about where this country is heading, even with President Obama's efforts (good faith effort or no - and I have no reason to doubt his good faith.)

What requires protesting against is the systematic effort of those in power, in America, to retrain America into accepting the crumbs of our own society - crumbs falling from the laden dining table that our labor and our sacrifices set -- with a whimper than fight back and go out, if necessary, with a roar demanding the equal place at the table of success this country seemed to call for just 23 months ago.  And yes, we have a right to demand it, not beg for it as it seems we are being trained to believe.  We have a right as Americans to demand, secure in the knowledge that without us as the majority of Regular Americans, those who right now have their boots on the necks of those who might envision a more just and equitable America - including, I believe deep down, President Obama himself -- would otherwise be fucked.

I've spent a lot of time in the last couple of years observing, and asking myself, how did this happen - that the majority would be trained to seeing its strengths as weakness?  And I've come to at least a tentative conclusion:  The instrument of our training has been conditioning our very survival on being willing to whimper, rather than to yell, for what we want.  To sit, to roll over and, yes, to play dead if necessary to get our daily bread.  For fear that our lives will be steamrolled over from their foundation if we do not.  In a nation where employment is at will, there is no social safety net, millions are permanently unemployed, millions are poor, hungry, homeless or all three, we incarcerate more people than any other nation on earth, most people still believe that those who have nothing deserve everything they have, increasing rates of suicide and murder-suicide by those who have lost it all through no fault of their own is no longer a big enough deal to report in the newspaper, and yet we spend billions on fighting over who should represent us in Washington each year I believe most Americans are well aware of our New Deal, in our New America:  buy in, suck it up, and be happy -- or be forced off the grid, forever.

Thanks to Horatio Alger, nothing terrifies Americans so much as that they might be deemed a "failure", when so many were able to "make it" in this country.

That is fertile ground for housebreaking us, as pets, in New America.

So, IMO we as Americans are being retrained in terms of our expectations from our country.  Retrained about what is "normal."  Retrained in terms of how we think about power and wealth, and definitely in terms of how we think about the stark disparities in both between Americans which IMO lie is the heart of our country's current level of dysfunction.  It is the shifts in our perception of what should be acceptable in America that have IMO hamstrung Americans, in terms of action, from thinking about or imposing bold solutions that at least in theory could rain down success on the many instead of trickle them to a few only on terms acceptable to the financial elite of this country.  

And we're falling for it - too many of us.  Especially on the Left.  This has led to many folks contending (pretending) that 1 in 7 Americans being below a poverty line that almost guarantees homelessness and hunger is less important news than the fact that an average of 50,000 non-farm private sector jobs got added in each of the past 8 months in a country that requires 150,000/month just to be at parity and there are nearly than 15,000,000 people in this country who we officially count as "out of work."  We pretend that leading indicators actually mean anything in terms of whether the Great Recession is over when the number of completed foreclosures continues to rise and our government admits that the reason the official unemployment rate is remaining stable is because Americans are just giving up and dropping out of the work force.  We rhetorically spin credit card company charge-offs into consumers having "less debt"; an increase in new housing starts into the recovery of the housing industry even while ½ million homes in REO status sit (until they are pillaged for their raw materials, anyway, as folks in hard-hit neighborhoods like Vegas, Detroit and St. Louis can confirm), with millions more (on a yearly basis) on the verge of being foreclosed -- with never a mention of what has happened to the millions of families displaced from them, btw.  We shrug off 1.5 million Americans who have exhausted nearly 2 years of unemployment insurance benefits, and the continuing decrease in workforce participation ratios, and accept with a sigh the jettisoning of the idea that one isn't supposed to retire until around age 65-70.  All while cheering on the increase in the number of folks who can find a job - as temps (and we all know what that means -- no benefits, no status, no job security.)

There are a number of examples in American discourse over the past few years that have lead me to feel this way, and which led to my conclusion that me being in DC on 10.2.10 was important as a way to show that not everyone is, in fact, falling for it.  To show that there is a critical mass of people who know the truth, yet still believe in an American dream that does not require accepting the status quo of inequality, unfairness, and economic security that we are rapidly coming to accept as normal in New America.  So, here's just a couple of the non-obvious ones:  others have written eloquently about the virulent propaganda fomented by Fox, News Corporation and its scion Rupert Murdoch, and the Right Wing Noise Machine.  I don't need to repeat their efforts - I just encourage people to read them, wherever you find them.  But the examples in this diary bug me because I think they are good examples of what I see as the problem that must be fought back against - the retraining that is teaching Americans to think rhetorically only in the terms favored by the masters of global capital, at the expense of the thinking of the wo(man) on the street - if we don't want to truly write the last chapters of the Great American experiment's demise.

My examples first focus on the retraining that has taken place when it comes to how we view the question of employment, including unemployment.  There was a time, once, when one of the things we celebrated about America was the idea that we were a country where a person who was willing to work hard could ensure her family a decent living.  Reasonable stability.  Wealth was not what most people aspired to - it was far more modest standards like owning a home, sending one's children to college, being able to take a vacation.

But no more.  

The first example has to do with the use of layoffs, stealth and otherwise, to manage worker expectations.  Any of us, at any time, who works for someone else can be subject to a layoff.  Even at a large company.  Whether because a company is truly hurting and it is either shed jobs or close the doors - or just because an acknowledged profit still isn't quite high enough for the stockholders and the corporate managers whose annual bonuses depend upon it.  Indeed, there are people who are handsomely rewarded if they can manage to shave a few (or a lot) of jobs each year - often somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  (Talk about Christmas spirit, huh?) With almost no consideration of the serious ethical/moral questions raised by the practice of canning people just to make an extra buck.  We all know this - yet we have been trained to accept it as just a part of "doing business."  There are lots of individual anecdotes about layoffs and anyone who wants to pretend that things are all right in Denmark need only spend 1/2 hour a day sampling them anywhere on the Internets to get bitch-slapped right back into reality.  But we don't talk much about the numbers of the desperate unemployed which those layoffs we hear about generate - perhaps because we don't like to talk about still throwing people out of work even though the Recession. Is. Over.  (And has been for more than a year to hear economists tell it!)

The numbers matter - because they appear to be either stagnant or deteriorating no matter how many "private sector" jobs are being reported as created now that the Great Recession is officially over.  Although the definitions vary state by state, "mass layoffs" are generally defined in two categories:  (1) A regular mass layoff (just called "mass layoff" by BLS, go figure) occurs when at least 50 initial claims are filed against an establishment during a consecutive 5-week period.  (2) An extended mass layoff occurs when at least 50 initial claims are filed against an establishment during a consecutive 5-week period and at least 50 workers have been separated from jobs for more than 30 days.

In August 2010 in America, 150,192 people lost their jobs through a mass layoff.  That's more than 2x the number of private sector jobs than the number of jobs created by the private sector, estimated at 67,000, in the same month.

Now, of course, you can't actually go to the publicly-funded government website at BLS and find out WHICH employers have had mass layoffs, either itty-bitty or extended, so you can try and avoid their phantom ads in HotJobs or Yahoo or wherever else online you're searching for a job.  That's because the federal government refuses to tell you, even though it knows.  Nyah.  So there.

There will be no outing of those who are engaged in stealth layoffs too small to make the news.  Perhaps because layoffs are too often associated with a pay raise for the CEOs who decide to make them happen?

Yet, even as mass layoffs are on the rise, lo and behold some of the biggest perpetrators of the mass layoff are now hiring!  Hiring by the thousands! Hallelujah! Thank the Lord!

Or not.  

You might want to check out the fine print, first:

It's obviously good news for workers that some firms are cautiously hiring, while layoffs abate elsewhere.  Companies cut so aggressively during the recession that layoffs are now at a 10-year low, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.  The catch is that companies are hiring much differently than they did before, forcing workers to make uncomfortable adjustments.   Companies that need to staff up are taking their time to hire, to make sure they match worker skills with long-term business strategy.  They're hiring more temps and project workers and fewer full-timers, even at professional levels.   And with lots of applicants for most jobs, companies can offer lower pay than they once did.

It's a miracle.  

Before those of the majority here at DailyKOS who make a comfortable, professional, living, conclude "yeah but" you should consider another, quiet example, in a profession previously considered to be a good indicator of whether big business was thriving:  the current state of the elite commercial law firm.

You see, if what is going on in my firm and others is an indication, it is true that the AmLaw 200 is again indeed hiring.   They are hiring partners.  Lateral partners.  Very expensive partners.  Firms in a growth mode are fighting over partners like red meat at a shark banquet.  Why? On paper it is because they say they have a robust book of business and are rainmakers who at least theoretically bring in new business.  To date, about 25% of them have.  The rest? Well, the theory has been very shaky lately - so there have been a lot of de-equitizings, loud and quiet.  You add that to the fact that most serious elite law firm clients haven't been presented with a bill that did not have not have write-offs or "most favored client" discounts in 2 years and that even those clients who get discounts are trailing, depending on the firm, somewhere between 180 and 240 days before paying at all and you begin to see why leverage matters a lot.

What is leverage? Why, leverage is how a single human being can nonetheless be credited with a few million in business generation each year (the basis upon which partner compensation is decided.)  Since there are only so many hours a day, one can either bill clients or drum up business, but even the best lawyer can't dedicate more than 2,500 hours/year or so to doing that without being at risk of alcoholism or a coronary - and that number of work hours times the hourly rate that a client is willing to pay couldn't pay the guaranteed annual draw of the partner (at the low end somewhere between $450,000 and well over $1 million for senior partners), let alone the share of costs for the other workers necessary to do the job.  Thus in elite-law-firm speak, leverage is the structure of an elite law firm that has at least 2 associates (wage earning lawyers) for every partner (equity/profit earning lawyer).  In most commercial law firms, leverage has been either 3:1 or higher in the past 15 years.  

But thanks to the Great Recession, thousands of associates were summarily fired from the crème-de-la-crème (the AmLaw 200) during the past 2 years.  No matter how good they thought they were.  And now, the firms aren't by and large hiring many associates, the attorneys that create the fundamental "leverage" that underlies the economy of a large law firm.  Even though most of them brought in very few summer associates or made permanent offers to any since 2008.  Even though nearly 5,000 lawyers were laid off in 2009 alone - those not stealthed, anyhow.  And, now that work is picking up? Instead of hiring more associates, bringing in all those that firms already made offers to then deferred because of the economy, or even bringing back those mostly talented who were laid off last year, firms are now hiring  "contract attorneys."  By the bushel.

That sounds like that's OK on the surface after all, hiring is hiring?  Maybe.  Scratch the surface and you find the same thing you are finding more generally in the workplace when it comes to debasing and devaluing hard work.  At elite law firms, contract lawyers make between 1/3 and ½ of what "associates" (who themselves make no more than ½ of equity partners ) make.  Contract attorneys do not get benefits.  Contract attorneys do not get perks.  Contract attorneys do not get 36 months severance and an office to job search from when they are let go so that nobody knows.  Indeed, in the east coast elite law firms that first perfected the use of "contract attorneys" several years ago, some contract lawyers don't even get windows, pee rights, or freedom from cockroaches.  All they get is placed under the supervision of junior associates who get their rocks off practicing their "I'm the man/woman" authoritarian streak on attorneys who are usually senior to them in terms of experience and skill.  With zero authority.  Zero chance of advancement.  And zero respect.  All because they were unfortunate enough to have needed a job, badly.  So who cares that you can't pay your law school loans on $16,000 - $40,000/year these days?  (Or about outsourcing and offshoring, officially endorsed as A-OK by no less than the American Bar Association itself?)

By the way, these same firms with millions to spend on lateral partners are not hiring the lower status workers either - and some firms are still laying them off.  There are no new paralegals.  No new IT people.  No new legal secretaries (our firm has a 5-1 ratio right now).  Even management positions are being consolidated, streamlined, eliminated.

We're celebrating stories like this right now.  I can think of no rational reason - but see it as evidence that Americans have been retrained about what it means when a business "creates jobs".  We are being taught that job creation is willingness to accept a marked deterioration in the conditions of that job - especially pay - based not upon a negotiation between a willing worker and a willing employer, but solely upon the emotional whim of the employer.  Which might change at any given moment.

Another example relates to our nation's apparent acceptance of the systematic undoing two of the largest unions left in the United States:  auto workers, and teachers.  

In the case of auto workers, America is currently celebrating the "return of the Big Three," as part of celebrating the End of the Great Recession.  Stories abound highlighting, in particular how their renewal has "saved jobs."  Even here on the Left, the predominant narrative is joy over the return of GM, Ford and Chrysler to profitability.  Yet we celebrate with little recognition that in doing so, we may be celebrating symptoms of our country's demise, when it comes to being a leader in establishing what is, or is not, an acceptable standard of living - one previously envied by many throughout the world.

Nobody appears to have taken a serious look at what it cost to effectuate this miracle "turn around" at our nation's auto makers - and certainly has not studied closely the relinquishment of power, and resources, that were necessary.  Nobody focuses on the transfer of wealth that was required to accomplish this "turn around" either.  Yet the miracle of the birth of the Big Three is grounded firmly in what can only be described as a national phenomena:  the transfer of wealth laid squarely on the backs of workers, and consumers, rather than the wallets of those who undeniably were making a killing even when the companies were going bankrupt and still are today.  

If you want to confirm whether what I say about the transfer of wealth is true, one need only spend just a few minutes of spare time perusing one of my newly-favorite websites, courtesy of the AFL-CIO, Executive Pay Watch.  Click on any of these publicly-traded companies and hold onto your hat.  And, while you do, remember that this is just a list of public companies.  The privately held companies, the vast majority of American business, have to answer to no one - and thus have to disclose their CEO pay to no one.

This now-touted "success", where the Big Three are again "profitable", overlooks that a key component in the "recovery" was the forced deterioration of wages earned by those in the American auto industry.  But it appears that nobody cares, left or right, other than the union.  Not that it seems to matter:  despite the central role of unions in creating the middle class in this country, Americans have been retrained to ignore (if not recoil against) anything said by a union about what is right ever since Reagan busted the union of those charged with making sure they did so safely - but who cares that for the past 2 years that industry has been BEGGING for new blood, but only at a Congressionally-enforced 30% pay cut, as the scabs hired to replace the striking air traffic controllers fired in the 1980's are now themselves aging out of their jobs?)  Since we have been retrained starting nearly 30 years Reagan's anti-union power play to increasingly ignore anything that begins with the word "union" and ends with the words "rights", it is easy to understand the success of the constant drum beat that Americans were fed about why, allegedly, GM, Ford and Chrysler became unprofitable to begin with - and thus what was necessary to save them.  That drum beat was repeated so often with so little non-union push back that IMO its message became subliminal, which eventually caused Americans to gladly acquiesce to - and repeat with glee -- a complete falsehood.  

The falsehood was that our Big Three could not compete primarily because auto workers made "too much" compared to their Asian counterparts.  We were told - and sold -- that if only greedy and corrupt unionized auto workers wouldn't be so greedy, things would change.   Not that American auto manufacturers were uncompetitive because they continued to cling to old ideas in everything from computer engineering to aesthetic design  - to the point where one of the Big Three made it its mission more than 10 years ago to remove the first truly viable electric car (its own product!) from the marketplace by whatever means was necessary.   Not because Japan was (despite its equal whining) already implementing the necessary reality of oil efficiency and clean emissions while our auto makers did nothing more than double down fighting for the preservation of poor fuel cleanliness and gas mileage standards as if they were fighting for the last ice cream cone for sale on a 105-degree day in Sacramento (or worse, Washington DC in August).  We were told that the primary reason American car companies were in trouble was that American auto workers made more than $75 an hour on average while Toyota and company needed to pay just over ½ that to build their cars.  

We were told that the future of our nation's flagship industry, automobile manufacturer, lie in the unions and their members that had to sacrifice, had to change, or be blamed for the death of the entire sector.

Well, lo and behold, they have changed.  The unions did (reluctantly) agree.  The Big Three are profitable again.

Of course, it's largely thanks to the unions being forced to accept concessions so big that the average hourly wage of an entry-level auto worker is now $14.00 - $16/hour.  What we were not told was that this new hourly average wage for an entry level auto worker at the Big Three is approximately 20% below what Asian companies were paying Americans for the same work three years ago.  (For example, Toyota's base entry level wage for workers in the United States was approximately $18 in 2007.)  We were not told was that the constantly harped-upon figures of $71 to $75/hour for auto workers included the retirement pensions of each and every worker that ever became eligible (aka the "legacy workers") for the entire life of these companies.  

Nor that, post bankruptcy, the CEOs of the Big Three would soon thereafter once again be riding tall in the salary saddle. (Except this time, they were very careful not to take most of it in cash.)

We weren't told any of this.  Indeed even now you can still hear the myth of the overpaid American auto worker to this day no matter who tries to tell us differently.  Including the Big Three themselves.

But hey, at least they've won the race to the bottom when it comes to American jobs - and what made them different than jobs elsewhere.

Now they are attacking the teachers unions.  

We are at our crossroads of identity, when it comes to education.  With the systematic national rollout of  Waiting for Superman and the lining up of the MSM behind it (thanks for being objective, Oprah - NOT), the country as a whole is now being asked to accept as gospel that public and publicly-funded school education has "failed" - primarily because its teachers have failed.  Now, more than ever, when it comes to the future of public education we as Americans are being asked to choose what we will BE in the future- through being asked to decide how this nation will educate American children.  I believe that the powers that be, from Washington on down, are counting on American acquiescence to the retraining of our psyches when it comes to what Americans should expect from education - whether in our work life or our personal lives -- that has been ongoing ever since Ronald Reagan was unleashed upon the country and sowed the first serious seeds of our New America when his administration advocated saving money in the nation's subsidized school lunch programs by reclassifying ketchup as a vegetable.

(BTW, this is one area where I do hold President Obama just as accountable as anyone else - for believing the corporate free-market hype about education, and putting demagogues and "free market" thinkers with no damned experience actually teaching in charge, knowing his own daughters are completely secure, either way their experiments pan out for largely poor and minority children.)

In case you didn't know, this administration has put in charge of the nation's education policy putting a man who referred to himself as a CEO, whose only professional legacies were playing Australian basketball and running a charter school -- while not having spent not a day in the classroom as a teacher.  A man who despite his lack of experience holds the gate key to hundreds of millions of dollars of federal education money.  But that's part of our retraining - accepting a free market incompetent's word for what is best for our kids - no matter that this person could not get hired in any truly free market world based on actual job experience.  Those that are in power are, I believe, are counting on the masses accepting the scapegoating rantings that blame teachers first, teachers last, and teachers only.  Such as those of the woman who is the heroine of Waiting for Superman.  A bloviating bully who can't even properly plan her own wedding without being tacky and didn't have the good sense to take the hint and go low key when her mentor got tossed out on his privatizing ear recently for similar tone-deafness.  In other words, an underqualified camera hog who after a stint with Teach for America nonetheless managed to be put in charge of educating tens of thousands of minority children and to become the face of "education reform" despite having spent almost no time actually teaching children.  They are counting on us to follow the prescriptions of a "CEO" who had what can only be described as mixed results with the Chicago Public Schools as his primary qualification for his job.  Prescriptions grounded in a now decade-long national experiment grounded in disempowering teachers and families through the funding - or withholding thereof - for education.  An experiment called "No Child Left Behind" as it existed his Republican predecessor (based upon the "Texas Miracle" now widely recognized for the fraud that it was - even as folks are still trying to just tweak it around the edges rather than throw it in the trash) or "Race to the Top" or it's kinder, gentler, version, "Promise Neighborhoods" now.  

For those who may not know, both Race to the Top and Promise Neighborhoods - the latter an envisioned expansion of the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) and its visionary, Geoffrey Canada, who originally undertook his work for all the right reasons yet quickly found out that his truly-comprehensive program's success is absolutely conditioned on the willingness of private investor capital to play ball ("investors" provide 2/3 of the funding for the admittedly wonderful programs within the HCZ) - are the Obama Administration's versions of NCLB.  An honest assessment of both programs might lead a cynic to conclude that both programs amount to federal economic blackmail -- conditioned on busting teacher unions, because no matter how you slice it, a public school district can't get money to undertake "innovative education programs" from this Administration unless it agrees in advance to undertake one of 4 different approaches to "reforming" failing schools, all of which have at their center firing/demoting teachers and administrators as a core element and, where possible, taking the school itself quasi-private, i.e. charter.  All of the methods endorsed by this Administration are grounded in a willingness to jettison union teachers as the primary method for "innovation" if test scores aren't high enough.  Without regard to whether there is ANY objective data to support this approach grounded in test scores, and at least some data to contradict it as appropriate.  Each and every education initiative in this Administration requires a virtually complete overhauling of a local or state public education system through "incentives" (and punishments) designed to force the conversion of public schools to charters as a condition of getting financial help - starting with the gutting of the teachers despite the classroom having been systematically starved to death in terms of curriculum diversity and teacher supports for at least the last 20 years.  

It's all part of the retraining too.  This time, we are being retrained into accepting that what is truly best for American children to effectively jettison the idea of a public education system guaranteeing for ALL children an education, and definitely the idea of a teacher's union --  in favor of a system that has no worker protections and no guarantee of a quality education for all but those children who can survive the gamut of charter schools paid for largely by "business philanthropists," (as if that type of private wealthy largesse is permanent, as opposed being completely, utterly dependent upon those doing the paying getting what they want from education, when they want it, with no regard to what anyone but themselves think.)  

I could go on with many other examples of how we are being rhetorically reshaped and retrained into accepting a bargain basement America where working people are concerned, complete with the complicity of those which insist on celebrating mediocre news and and push back against those who voice misgivings about a so-called "economic recovery" that structurally has eliminated almost 10% of the workforce from consideration.  For what looks like permanently, if I believe the public rhetoric about "structural unemployment" resulting from American workers' need to retrain for the "skills of the future"  -- as opposed to the truth.

These are just some of the are reasons that I am planning to be in DC on 10.2.10, even if the only people who show up are my daughter and I.  I refuse to be retrained.  I refuse to believe that unions being busted, jobs being offshored, and professionals being reduced to windowless rooms with cockroaches after having spent $100K for an education are signs of a healthy, successful, America.

But, more fundamentally, I refuse to believe in an America where I've been retrained by NewSpeak into believing that down is up, and wrong is right.  I refuse to acquiesce to a narrative where a political campaign to destroy what is left of the country's theory of income fairness can be waged by (if I believe Rachel Maddow) three billionaires falsely described in the media as "disparate business, nonprofit and interest groups"

I do agree with Karl Rove, scion of the Bush Apocalypse, about one thing though:

We are at an "American Crossroads."

I am going to DC on 10.2.10 to show that I am prepared to fight against the privatization of America itself.  Fight against the idea that the ideals of America are forever hence forth, for sale.  Sale to the highest bidder, on that bidder's terms.  Whether it be sale of education.  Sale of health care.  Sale of housing.  Or even sale of subsistence.  Whether at the federal or state level.  

Because when only 3 out of 403 people apparently can afford to, and are permitted to, try and buy (and therefore set) the official narrative on what is best for America for the rest of the 335,000,000 of us Americans, we are no longer America.

We are instead truly approaching the end of our retraining, having been taught en masse that the cost of any meaningful refusal to acquiesce to the institutionalization of wage slavery on the terms of those who "own capital;" refusal to buy the idea that working more hours for the same pay in the name of "increased productivity" is a net positive; refusal celebrate the jettisoning of tens of millions of people from the work force just so that we can personally stay employed; and refusal to accept wages far below those which a job is worth; is being cast off entirely in favor of those more "eager to work" or "with a better attitude."  

The desperate.  The undocumented.   The un-degreed.  And the just plain old frightened.

None of who have any money and thus, in New America, appear no longer to count.

Just in case you still don't see what I'm concerned enough about to get to DC for, and why you should if at all possible hightail your tochis there on 10.2.10 as well, maybe this little nugget that's been sitting in my archives for a couple of months, begging for a diary, will convince you:

Many Democrats say the economy needs more stimulus. Business lobbyists and their Republican allies say it needs less regulation and lower taxes.

But here in the heartland of America, senior executives say neither side's assessment fits.

Wait a minute.  Hold the phone.  Since when did "senior executives" become the equivalent of "the Heartland" of America?

Since they finished paying the down payment on it, it seems to me.

I am going to show that, even if I am just a middle-aged fat Black bisexual woman who worries every day that today is the day the system will jettison me, because I refuse to be retrained into believing that executives are "the heartland", wrong is right, down is up, or that self-interest is altruism.  There IS strength in numbers, if we just recognize it.  

I don't know whether numbers will actually show up on 10.2.10, particularly now that there is "entertainment" scheduled for 10.30.10 in the form of another march.  A march which claims to be to "restore sanity", introduced to the world as follows:

"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Who among us has not wanted to open their window and shout that at the top of their lungs?

Seriously, who?

Because we're looking for those people.  We're looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat. . .

Ours is a rally for the people who've been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) -- not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority.  If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence... we couldn't.  That's sort of the point.

Think of our event as Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement; the Million Man March, only a lot smaller, and a bit less of a sausage fest; or the Gathering of the Juggalos, but instead of throwing our feces at Tila Tequila, we'll be actively not throwing our feces at Tila Tequila.

In other words, there is going to be a rally for those Americans who may have seen hell, but don't raise hell.  Who, indeed, appear to look down on those who raise hell.  

Isn't being willing to NOT to raise hell, in the face of living hell, the epitome of retrained?  Where survival is an instinct, not an idea, how else do you explain the comparative silence of America's streets?

And yet we don't fight back.  Those in the worker class our corporate masters seek to emulate fight, though.  Workers in damned near every other nation, those privileged, those not, know when it is time to stand up and be heard.  Not just in Japan or China.  But in Canada, fighting against the unilateral destruction of public worker benefits.  In England, fighting against the privatization of the mails if it meant a reduction in worker security.  In Germany, against the very same behemoth we now celebrate the "renewal" of, conveniently forgetting both its gutting of former worker protections and breach of faith with its formerly loyal customers as an inherent part of that renewal.  But yet somehow we, American workers, do not.  We are worried about how we will be seen.  Perceived.  Judged.

Or at least, that's what we used to be worried about.  Now, I think, what we're really worried about is homelessness and starvation.

But why protest what has happened, why demand, why scream when you can just be entertained?

After all, entertainment is what keeps them Paid.    

(And no, one of them deciding to testify on behalf of migrant workers the other day does not make it OK to me.)

Finally, I admit that my decision to go to 10.2.10 was made for two other, deeply personal, reasons.  The first is to to demonstrate to a certain segment of our non-white blogging demographic who I shall not name that, no, the NAACP (a key convener of 10.2.10) and other Black organizations are not "irrelevant" to our future success as a people in America.  Neither are the unions, of which Black Americans are a sizeable part.  Neither is in-the-streets activism, Old School.  The work of change done by all these has not been replaced by Twitter, Facebook blogging or appearing as an "also special guest" at convenings like Netroots Nation.  No matter how imperfect each of them has been at times, and no doubt will be again.  All of the blogging fame in the world has done very little for those of us in the 'Hood and I was extremely irritated a few months ago to hear folks actually contend that somehow they are doing more for us collectively by blogging than organizations that have existed for our benefit for more than 100 years.  That is the type of youthful delusion that will be the death of us collectively if it spreads.  So I'm going to show that, in part, young brothers and sisters who realize this, have the right of it- we need each other to not just be heard and read, but be seen.  I am not holding my breath on how many of the Important Black People will be there - those brothers and sisters who seem to think that their pontificating on a blog has more impact on Black lives than their being in the streets.

The second is for my children.  My children, despite many ups and downs including economic, have been children of comparative privilege.  They have never been hungry, like their mother.  They have never sat in the dark after ConEd turned off the lights for non-payment, like their mother.  They have never worried about roaches, rats, holes in the ceiling or the furnace man not delivering to the ghetto in the wintertime.  They all are progressives, all interested in politics - but not activists.  (They worked on President Obama's campaign, and nothing since.)  I am going to show at least one of them that it is never too late to put one's boots on the ground for what one believes in.  And to show them if an old fart with bad ankles and fatigue like their mom can do it, so can they.  Particularly if they believe in the power of people and in strength in numbers, no matter how worried those numbers are about a job, about tomorrow, about their future.  Their forever.  

Why? Because, otherwise, if we don't stand up now, in the end  (to quote a dear, blogging friend who I have sadly not been in touch with for nearly two years -  entirely my fault, not hers):

We.  Are.  Fucked.

I hope to see some of you there, at the Lincoln Monument, on Saturday, 10.2.10.  Bright and early.  With your game face on.  Because even if I don't know you, and never will one-on-one, I will still recognize brothers and sisters participating in what I increasingly believe is the last great struggle for the soul of our country.

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