• No Sweat
  • Tuesday, September 11, 2012

    The Deeply Corrupt Brooklyn Democratic Party Machine

    I am embarrassed by this diary. I live in a place where the DEMOCRATIC party is massively corrupt and that corruption is poised to continue far into the future. I fight REPUBLICAN corruption. How can I do that when I live in an area where the Democratic Party is so massively corrupt.

    I grew up in Los Angeles. I remember a friend of mine from Chicago who was amazed that she couldn't find someone to bribe to hurry up her remodeling plans for her house. Los Angeles was the least corrupt place she had lived. That is my background.

    I now live in Brooklyn. I am amazed that the national Democratic Party hasn't come to Brooklyn and kicked our asses because we are among the most corrupt party machines in America. We look like a third world country when it comes to corruption.

    Our previous County Leader, Clarence Norman, served a full jail sentence for corruption. Our current County Leader, Vito Lopez, has done almost ALL of the same things Clarence Norman went to jail for, and is under active investigation by pretty much all levels of government for corruption. He ALSO recently was accused of sexual harassment by several women from his own staff...and apparently the NY State government settled some other sexual harassment suits against him at taxpayer's expense.

    I spend a lot of time attacking Republicans for corruption. And nationally Republicans are FAR FAR FAR more corrupt than Democrats. But I find myself embarrassed by the local corruption in the Brooklyn Democratic Party.

    Vito Lopez, due to health reasons and the sexual harassment suits, is on his way out. So now we are faced with a chance for reformers to make a difference. But I see the reformers acting disorganized and defeatist before our most important meeting. The anointed successor to Vito Lopez is disgraced Judge Seddio. More of the same corruption. Brooklyn is set to continue to be a corrupt blight within the Democratic Party.

    Why is the national party allowing this corruption? And our local party machine is actually really bad at electing Democrats, so there is NO REASON WHY THE NATIONAL PARTY SHOULD TOLERATE THE KINGS COUNTY MACHINE!!!!

    What is the role of a local Democratic County Committee?

    It is to elect Democrats. Period. End of sentence.

    Vito Lopez, our second County Committee Leader in a row to be disgraced (soon to be followed by ALREADY disgraced Seddio) actually AS DEMOCRATIC COUNTY LEADER endorsed a third party candidate (one of his cronies) against a DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE (someone who refused to agree to his corruption). Get that? The LEADER of the DEMOCRATIC PARTY endorsed a THIRD PARTY candidate AGAINST the DEMOCRATIC candidate for PERSONAL reasons. And the National Party let it slide.

    Going more deeply into Brooklyn Politics, I am friends with many people who are head of several political organizations. Several of these people sought to find candidates and support candidates against Republican Marty Golden. Vito Lopez, the HEAD OF THE BROOKLYN DEMOCRATIC PARTY, supported Republican Marty Golden and discouraged ANY challenge to him by Democrats until VERY recently.

    Furthermore, in two recent elections, we LOST Democratic seats to Republicans because Vito Lopez and the Democratic Party machine sat on their hands. David Weprin and Lew Fidler SHOULD have won. But Vito Lopez didn't care about Weprin and did NOTHING for him. Lew Fidler had recently stood up to Vito Lopez in a local primary so Vito publicly denounced Fidler. Vito officially endorsed Fidler, but did nothing at all to help him win. And this is the supposed LEADER of the Democratic Party in Brooklyn. Weprin and Fidler both lost to extremist teabagger Republicans thanks to the incompetence of the Kings County Democratic Party.

    I plug Democrats across the country but I feel my local Democratic Party is an embarrassment. I am starting to feel like I have nothing to say politically because I can't make my own local Party better...despite almost a decade of trying.

    I believe one of the main differences between the Republican and the Democratic Party is THEY stand by their most corrupt members while we oppose our most corrupt members. The Clarence Norman, Vito Lopez and soon to be Frank Seddio machine in Brooklyn looks a LOT like the Republican model of corruption, supported and perpetuated year after year.

    Our local corruption has been tolerated on both the state and national levels. Our local incompetence at electing Democrats over Republicans has been tolerated on both the state and national levels. Why? The Kings County Democratic Party is both blatantly corrupt AND unable and unwilling to elect Democrats against Republicans in the few close races we have. Why are we tolerated?????

    Our current County Leader, Vito Lopez, is on his way out because of sexual harassment charges. But he has anointed Seddio as his replacement and the reformers I am a part of can't do much about that. Seddio is an already disgraced judge. He is already PROVEN by LAW as corrupt. But the Democratic Party is going to accept him as leader in Brooklyn.

    If I was a Republican this whole Clarence Norman, Vito Lopez, Frank Seddio corruption would be red meat to feed on. I would hold Brooklyn up as the most corrupt place in America and embarrass the Democratic Party with these corrupt assholes.

    So far the reform movement (currently led by the likes of Chris Owens, Jo Anne Simon and Lincoln Restler) has been working hard but without support from the state or national party.

    Now that we have a SECOND party leader facing major charges, can we get some help in reforming the Kings County Democratic Party??? And the next anointed Party Leader ALREADY has faced corruption charges.

    Can I get some help from the NY State Democratic Party? Can I get some help from the national Party? What I have been trying to do is get my local Party to be LESS CORRUPT. Why is it so hard to get State and National help?

    Clarence Norman, Vito Lopez and Frank Seddio are all corrupt scum. Why does the Democratic Party tolerate them as major power brokers? If we tolerate this level of corruption within our own party, how can we criticize the Republicans for their even greater corruption????

    Saturday, August 11, 2012

    Let's Embarrass Rom/Ry in November

    So I long ago realized Obama will win. It may or may not be close. A good friend, Rock Hackshaw, a local blogger and politician, predicted "it won't even be close" some months ago. And he was one of the first people I know to have predicted an Obama win in 2008.

    The Rom/Ry ticket advocates a return to the horribly failed Bush policies that gutted the American economy and created our largest deficits ever. America still is angry at the Greedy Oil Party for the stupid failures of the Bush years and they realize that Rom/Ry want to go back to those failed Bush policies. But we need to do more.

    It is Congress I am worried about. We need to hold the Senate and make gains in both the Senate and the House. Ideally we would win big in both, but that will take a lot of work. But it is work worth doing.

    But I also think we have a real shot of embarrassing the Republicans on their home ground, and this dovetails with gains I would like us to make in Congress and on local levels. Looking at the race for the presidency we have:

    Mittens "1%" Rom, former governor of Massachusetts

    Paul "teabagger elitist" Ry, congressman from Wisconsin

    Barack "making history" Obama, former Senator from Illinois

    and Joe "I don't plagiarize anymore" Biden, former Senator from Delaware.

    Now I don't know of any close races in Delaware, but I do know that Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Illinois are states with some pretty darned critical races, and in addition to simply seeing Obama/Biden defeat Rom/Ry, I would love to see the Greedy Oil Party SLAMMED into defeat in the same states that these Pres and VP candidates come from.

    I want to see us come as close to sweeping every close race possible in Wisconsin (a key battleground state for several years), Massachusetts, and Illinois. In the process we can help some really damned good Democrats win over really sleazy GOPers.

    Here is my new (partial) strategy for November:

    To donate to the following candidates, please visit my Embarrass Romney/Ryan 2012 Act Blue website. I will match at least partly the first three donations made. Our future hangs in the balance this year, so I am hoping you guys make me shell out a LOT of money on this. I can't afford it but I feel I can't afford NOT to.

    If we win most of these races, we will be REALLY kicking ass this year.

    NOTE: I base my choices partly on candidates I like, partly on Democracy for America, partly on Progressive Majority, and partly on a conservative-website-I-tend-to-follow's view of what they consider close races.

    Let's begin with the Rom's own state of Massachusetts. He was Gov there, and not as bad as most Repubs, but not great. Now Romney won't win Mass even though he is a former Gov...but it will be so much more satisfying if he not only loses himself, but his party loses two close and key races for Congress: Senate and MA-6. Both are close races.


    This is one of our most important fights this year. It is a toss up race that is really neck and neck. Winning a major Senate seat race in Romney's own state would be really, really sweet.

    Elizabeth Warren is a great candidate. Check out her profile on Democracy for America's website.


    This is a close House race in Massachusetts. Holding onto this seat helps us in Congress.

    Now let's turn to one of the most important swing states in the country. We have been fighting anti-union extremism here for 2 years now, and we have been winning several recall elections on the state level. Paul Ryan comes from Wisconsin. Wisconsin has a strong progressive, pro-labor, pro-farmer background that could turn so solidly against the Republicans their heads would spin. Democrats haven't fought hard enough for this state's heart and soul. The Rom picked Ryan because they want to make us fight for Wisconsin. Well let's turn the tables. We WILL win Wisconsin for Obama. I have no doubt about that. But let's make our win go deeper. Let's win every close Congressional seat and let's defend our new lead in the state senate.

    My family first moved to Wisconsin (Milwaukee) after coming from Europe. So I feel some personal, family connection to winning in Wisconsin. My visits to Wisconsin (pretty much Madison for conferences) have been very enjoyable experiences. I would love to see Wisconsin follow its strong progressive history right about now and solidly reject the Rom/Ry advocacy of returning to failed Bush policies. Here are the key races:


    The tea party is really aiming for this seat. We need to defend it if we want to hold onto the Senate. We also need to show Ryan that his greedy and cruel vision for Wisconsin and America is a failure and that his own state prefers the more progressive vision of Tammy Baldwin.

    You can read more about Tammy Baldwin at Democracy for America.


    Rob Zerban is running for Paul Ryan's own seat. I say lets fight the right on their own territory. If we can give Ryan a run for his (ample) money right in his own district it will send a clear message how sick America is of his extremist views.


    This is a key House race. This is a real chance to pick up a seat from the Republicans.

    Patrick Kreitlow has been endorsed by the Intl. Association of Firefighters, Steelworkers Union, National Farmers Union, NARAL Pro-Choice America Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters, AFL-CIO, League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood Action Fund Sierra Club, United Auto Workers, WI Federation of Nurses, and WI Alliance for Retired American, among others.


    This is another pick up opportunity for Democrats in the House.

    Jamie Wall has been endorsed by Green Bay Firefighters, the Alliance of Retired Americans, the Teamsters, Human Rights Campaign, American Federation of Teachers- Wisconsin, American Nurses Association, United Auto Workers, and many others.


    Jessica King is one of my favorite Democrats. And she has been for several years.

    Jessica King is one of the best things to happen to the Wisconsin State Senate, winning one of the hard fought recall elections against the right wing extremist Republicans. Jessica King is intelligent and very capable and will make an excellent State Senator.

    She has been endorsed by Progressive Majority and is one of America's best progressives. Let's make sure she wins re-election.


    Jennifer Shilling is another Progressive Majority endorsed candidate who won one of the recall elections. And this is another seat worth defending.


    Bob Wirch was one of the Democrats targeted by Republicans for recall...but we beat them, defending Bob's Senate seat. Let's show him we still have his back. Bib Wirch is also endorsed by Progressive Majority.


    Dave Hansen was also one of the Democrats targeted by Republicans for recall...but again, we beat them. Let's show him we still have his back. Dave Hansen is also endorsed by Progressive Majority.

    NOW I want to turn to the state that elected Obama to the Senate: Illinois. It would be great to sweep the close races in Rom's Massachusetts and Ry's Wisconsin. But it would ALSO be sweet to sweep the many close races in President Obama's Illinois. Here they are (sorry Biden...don't find close races in Delaware):


    This is a seat we can pick up from the Greedy Oil Party. But it's going to be close.


    This is a close race and one that we absolutely have to win to make gains in Congress...particularly if we want Congress to start accepting global warming as an issue we need to deal with.

    Bill Foster is one of my favorite candidates. He was a renowned scientist turned businessman who has already served in Congress. It is time to send him back to Congress. We need more people with Bill's intelligence, practicality and scientific outlook.

    Bill Foster has been endorsed by the Associated Firefighters of Illinois, AFL-CIO State Federation of Illinois, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Amalgamated Transit Union Local #308, and many others.


    This is another very close race and an important pick up opportunity for Democrats.

    Dr. David Gill has been endorsed by the United Auto Workers, AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Sierra Club, United Mine Workers of America, Democracy for America, Progressive Democrats of America, National Nurses United, and many others. He is a true progressive and would be VERY valuable to have in Congress.


    Captain Tammy Duckworth was a Black Hawk helicopter pilot fighting in Iraq. She lost both legs and part of the use of her right arm when her helicopter was shot down, and was awarded the Purple Heart for her combat injuries.

    President Obama appointed Captain Duckworth to be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs where she sought to improve the standard of care for Vets. She oversaw VA's effort to end Veteran homelessness and lead initiatives for female Vets and increased accessibility and accountability with the new Office of Online Communications.

    We have a REALLY good shot at picking up this seat.


    This is a seat we could lose. If we want to make gains in the House, we need to defend it. The Greedy Oil Party is really trying to take this seat from us.

    Bill Enyart is the former head of the Illinois National Guard. He is pro-labor and would be a committed Congressman.


    This is a close race but one we have a good shot of winning.

    Brad Schneider has been endorsed by the Associated Firefighters of Illinois, United Auto Workers, League of Conservation Voters, NARAL, Human RIghts campaign, United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners, and many others.

    Help me win these critical races and in the process embarrass the Greedy Oil Party.

    Again, you can donate through my visit my Embarrass Romney/Ryan 2012 Act Blue website. And I will try to match at least partly the first three donations made.

    Thursday, August 02, 2012

    Flashback to the depths of the Bush years...

    At the depths of the Bush years, when the economy was starting its nose dive, when censorship became common, when our freedoms were compromised routinely by Republicans, when Bush and Cheney let Osama bin Laden go free to dance on American graves...Eric Idle of Monty Python came up with this little number protesting Bush/Cheney attacks on American freedoms:

    To anyone who complains about Barack Obama, let's remember how awful the Republicans are when they have power. Censorship, a ruined economy, failed foreign policy and self-righteous attacks on basic American freedoms are all Republicans have to offer us.

    Saturday, June 02, 2012

    NYC Comptroller John Liu

    I want to present a somewhat biased, but carefully thought out, view of Comptroller John Liu and the accusations against him. I know John Liu personally, though not well. He and my son get along great. He is a brilliant mind and he is one of the few politicians I know who genuinely listens to people and learns from people he talks to. During his City Council years he consistently ranked highest amongst his peers on Human Rights issues. He is solidly pro-union and has stood up to developers one behalf of communities more than most of the mayoral candidates. He is smart, progressive, energetic, and not afraid of taking difficult positions. I like him and I think he would make an excellent mayor. One of our best.

    He is being accused of violating campaign finance laws. As a reformer I very much support a full investigation into these accusations. I do not intend to be an apologist if the accusations prove to have merit.

    But I also look at these accusations in the context of what I know and have experienced about John Liu and also in the context of NYC politics in general. First off, I look at the accusations against John Liu in the context of the scandals that Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio have been mired in. Both have, shall we say, very creatively shuffled money and have gotten huge quantities of developer money, clearly in exchange for the very pro-development, largely anti-community stands they take. In the context of NYC politics, what John Liu is accused of is minor compared with the slime surrounding Bill de Blasio and Christine Quinn. In my mind if Liu is taken down by these accusations it is unfair if de Blasio and Quinn aren't put through just as much scrutiny and are held equally accountable for their scandals. So far that has not been the case. The media seems to be far easier on Quinn and de Blasio than they are on Liu.

    However, to me that is a weak argument. I have never believed that "well everyone does it" is an adequate excuse. If John Liu seems guilty of these accusations, even though I believe Quinn and de Blasio are far, far more corrupt, I would probably switch my support to Scott Stringer of no one better comes up. But I also have, on a very gut level, a sense that John Liu is largely innocent of the accusations made against him. Maybe his brilliance and his effectiveness as Comptroller are influencing my opinion, but I and people I know have worked side by side with his campaign and observed his campaign in action, and I want to emphasize that of ALL the campaigns we have worked with, John Liu's was by far the most careful and most transparent about money.

    I have donated to many campaigns and worked with many campaigns. John Liu's is the only one that seemed to check each signature, scrutinize every donation, and send back money if there was ANY question about the donation. I have personally seen this and I know others who had the exact same experience. We experienced this during is run for Comptroller and we have experienced it again during his run for mayor. People commented on his campaign's care and transparency LONG before the accusations started. I have never seen a campaign that was so careful about donations. I also found it telling that John Liu avoided the WFP scandal where WFP violated campaign finance laws and many candidates (including Bill de Blasio) had to scramble to correct the WFP-generated violations in order to avoid scandal. John Liu did not participate in the shady dealings of WFP. Now WFP denies wrongdoing, but the truth is the only reason no one was indicted was the judge allowed them to correct the violations to avoid indictment. But those violations were real, were massive, and were widespread. And WFP and the accused candidates never owned up to them but rather hid behind denial and excuses. John Liu did not participate in those violations despite being endorsed by WFP. I always wondered if this was good sense and care regarding campaign finance laws on his part.

    I have also found his campaign and John Liu himself very open and transparent about these accusations. Most politicians I talk to who face a scandal avoid talking about it and get angry and evasive when scandals are brought up. John Liu and his campaign have discussed it with me in a very open way unlike any other politician I have known. Not making excuses and not trying trying to deflect the discussion. I once made the statement that I thought if Bill de Blasio had done the same thing the press would have given him a pass...the people on his campaign I was talking to didn't even take that easy way out. They said they didn't agree with me and have always welcomed a fair investigation. Even when I handed them an easy excuse (and I still think I am Blasio and Quinn get a pass from the media for their scandals when Liu does not) they refused to take it.

    This personal experience and the experiences of many I know who are very sensitive to any whiff of corruption do not fit with the accusations being made. This, more than anything, is the reason why I have a gut level feeling that the accusations against John Liu are false or exaggerated, are politically motivated, and standards are being applied unfairly given the very dubious and far less transparent campaigns of Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio.

    I do think Oliver Pan may have violated campaign finance laws, though I have never worked with him as far as I am aware and can only say that the accusations seem plausible to me in a way that the accusations against John Liu do not. I feel like people like Oliver Pan skirt gray areas of finance laws and should never have become a common part of political fundraising. But they HAVE become a common part of political fundraising. We need better campaign finance laws. But that in itself is not John Liu's fault. Quinn and de Blasio use bundlers as well and I am willing to bet those bundlers use similar practices as Oliver Pan. Quinn's campaign has CERTAINLY had the exact same kind of scandal (bunlder Norman Hsu) but funny how THAT has not generated the same media attention as Liu's association with Oliver Pan.

    Bottom line is, I would welcome careful investigations into the campaign finances of Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio, AND John Liu. Fair and unbiased investigations into any questionable practices are good things. But based on my experience and my conversations with John Liu and with his campaign, I have found them to be among the most honest and transparent campaigns I have found in politics. If HIS campaign is brought down by scandal despite what seems to be unusual care and transparency, then God help us all because I still think John Liu is at the more honest end of NYC politics. Maybe that is even more damning with faint praise than I realized, but I still think it is true.



    Democrats Routinely Better for the Economy

    I have covered this before, but it seems it is always good to review the facts. From the Democratic Policy Committee:

    Since 1929:

    · An investment of $10,000 in the S&P stock market index during only Republican administrations would have yielded a return of just $10,506 (this includes the abysmal 36.7 percent drop in returns over the eight years of the George W. Bush Administration).

    · That same $10,000 invested during Democratic administrations would have grown to $389,320 (this includes the 29.5 percent increase in returns over the [first] 281 days under President Obama’s Administration).

    [New York Times, Opinion, 10/14/08, updated by author Tommy McCall 10/28/09*]

    This is a striking 37-fold difference in performance.

    According to this analysis, annualized returns under Republican presidents through the end of the George W. Bush Administration, who presided over a 4.4 percent annualized drop in returns, were only 0.1 percent.  By contrast, Democrats presided over a nine percent annualized gain for investors.  

    Stocks do better under Democrats.

    The fact is that the economy has performed significantly better under Democratic administrations than Republican administrations.  Between 1960 and 2008, Democratic presidents presided over stronger economic growth, larger increases in median family income and higher job creation, as well as lower federal spending, federal deficits, and inflation. [Slate, 9/16/08; New York Times, 8/30/08]

    For example, over the past 48 years, Democrats have presided over:

    ·         Stronger growth in the economy.  From 1960 to 2008, real GDP grew faster under Democratic presidents (4.1 percent per year on average) than under Republican presidents (2.7 percent).


    Better household incomes for all.  Between 1948 and 2008, annual incomes grew for all income classes under Democratic Administrations.  By contrast, under Republican Administrations, the richest Americans enjoyed a disproportionate share of income growth.

    Over this same period, real median income, representing the exact middle of American households, grew more under Democrats (2.2 percent) than under Republicans (0.6 percent).  In fact, under President Bush, real median income actually fell $2,197.  Looking back as far as we have data (back to President Kennedy), only two other Administrations have had a decline in real median household income.

    · Largest decreases in poverty.  Since the census began tracking the poverty rate in 1959, Democratic presidents have often produced the largest drops in poverty rates, while Republicans have seen the largest increases.  As an example, during the eight years of William Jefferson Clinton Administration, the poverty rate decreased by 21.17 percent and the number of Americans living in poverty decreased by 19.57 percent.  Unfortunately, those gains more than reversed in the George W. Bush Administration, when the poverty rate increased by 12.82 percent and the number of Americans living in poverty increased by 21.04 percent.  More than numbers and percentages, these figures reflect that, while more than 7.6 million Americans rose out of poverty during the Clinton years, nearly 7 million fell into poverty during the Bush years.

    Economic Growth is BETTER and more EQUITABLE under Democrats

    Lower unemployment and more robust job growth.  The unemployment rate has been lower under Democratic presidents (5.3 percent on average) than under Republicans (6.2 percent).

    Moreover, in the eighty years between the start of the Hoover Administration and the end of the George W. Bush Administration, job growth was higher under all six Democratic Presidents than under any of the seven Republican Presidents.

    The statistical probability of that happening through random chance is more than 1,700 to 1.  

    Democrats Create More Jobs

    And let me add (not from the same source): Even in terms of fiscal responsibility, that thing Republicans like to harp on, it is really a Democratic value as proven by the numbers:

    Republicans do FAR more deficit spending that Democrats.

    The numbers don't lie. It is very clear that Democrats are better for ALL aspects of the economy.


    Return to I Had a Thought

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    The Lesson South Carolina Taught Us

    Newt "traditional values, nudge nudge, wink wink" Gingrich's success in the South Carolina Republican Primary taught us that Southern Republicans hate traditional marriage. I expect them to finally endorse same sex marriage very soon.

    Either that or this whole Republican lip service to "traditional values" is nothing but a load of hypocritical bullshit. Then again their claims of "fiscal responsibility" are about as credible as Newt's support for "traditional values."

    Why would ANYONE trust a Republican anymore?

    Friday, December 30, 2011

    A Sad Note!

    One of my first and most brilliant readers has died and I want to honor her memory.

    Margaret was a Culture Kitchen blogger for awhile and, while there, was one of our best bloggers. She moved on long ago, and I always missed her presence at CK. But she went on to what she considered bigger and better things. In her 80's she discovered her public voice and I am proud I was one of the people who encouraged and helped her find that voice.

    This comes late because I mainly interacted with Margaret Bassett by email. So if I didn't hear from her, I didn't think much about it. But I knew she was over 80. She was a subscriber to my Progressive Democrat Newsletter from the beginning soon after the 2004 election. She had seen me as something of a hope for the future in messaging, something I think she overrated me on, but I was flattered and tried to live up to.

    Today I sent out a message to my subscribers that my writing of the Progressive Democrat Newsletter had clearly been on hold for over a month and I wasn't sure if/when it would come back.

    One email bounced. It was the first time Margaret's email bounced in all the time she read my stuff. So it caught my attention immediately. It sent a shiver down my spine. So I did a quick google search and discovered what I feared...Margaret had died, back in August, at the age of 89. I cried.

    [NOTE: Damn! In the preview I realize that a lot of the old material I post has formatting problems, but it is midnight and I am sad at her passing, and I don't have the attention span to fix everything...Margaret's brilliance speaks for itself even with formatting errors!]

    Margaret was an original FDR progressive just like my grandmother. She was about 20 years younger than my grandmother, but clearly they had experienced many of the same things and their political lives had been very similar. Margaret somehow connected with my blogging and for a brief period I was her connection (from where she lived in Red Tennessee) to liberal politics. She wrote me often and we had long discussions by email from which she drew inspiration and I learned a lot. I quoted her in my writing, seemingly to her surprise and pride. She forwarded my newsletter to others, to my surprise and pride.

    Eventually her blogger presence developed beyond my newsletter, extending to MyLeftWing, Culture Kitchen and Political Cortex, and then to OpEdNews where she became something of a force of nature. Most of my writing that ended up at OpEdNews was thanks to her. And she sent me a lot of their stuff as well.

    But my favorite material from her was on the blog Culture Kitchen. I recruited her for Culture Kitchen. She was on it for only a brief period, but she participated in some amazing discussions about race in America that blew everyone away. I am sorry I can't link to these amazing discussions because Culture Kitchen is currently in limbo because of a conflict between our wonderful publisher and the (evil?) site host, but trust me, people of ALL races were moved by Margaret's comments on the history of race in America.

    She left Culture Kitchen, to our loss, when she became active with OpEdNews. From what I gather OpEdNews gained from our loss. From then on she would occasionally comment on my Progressive Democrat Newsletter, more occasionally post something from my newsletter to OpEdNEws, and also would send me info from OpEdNews. For some years if I didn't hear from her for awhile I would get worried. In fact she was one of two people I would worry about if I didn't hear from. Margaret I worried about because of her age, and another blogger I recruited for Culture Kitchen, Leo Igwe of Nigeria, I worried about because he was a Humanist activist fighting Christian and Muslim fanatics in Nigeria. Leo has been beaten, arrested, and generally attacked over the years I knew him, so I learned to check in with him from time to time. Margaret always seemed so alive and almost immortal, so I stopped worrying if I didn't hear from her.

    So it didn't even register that I had lost touch with her. I guess it doesn't matter, since she seems to have been alert and emailing up to the day before her death, so it isn't like I missed that she was dying. But somehow I wish I had caught on SOME time between now and last August. But I didn't and so today I found out. It hit me like a punch in the stomach.

    This is the last article Margaret shared with me in the very last email I got from her back in May:

    But previous to that she had particularly thanked me for the intro I did to a December 2010 issue of the Progressive Democrat. She just commented on how much she liked it. This was the intro she liked:

    Last week this headline was overlooked by too many people:

    Auto Industry Bailout Saved 1.4 Million Jobs

    Remember, Republicans OPPOSED this! Democrats passed the Auto Industry Bailout over Republican objections and THANK GOD they did because that saved 1.4 million American jobs. Now we need a Green Energy Stimulus, because that could CREATE a large number of American jobs, but of course Republicans tend to oppose ANYTHING that creates American jobs and instead support policies that help foreign oil companies, offshore banks and multi-nationals who outsource American jobs...

    We must never let the voters forget this fact.

    Democracy for America recently reminded me, in our of their fundraising letters, of a VERY important fact for all Democrats to keep in mind:

    Looking at Congressional races in 2010, 96% of the Progressive Caucus won re-election while only 47% of the Blue Dogs won.

    I happen to like some Blue Dogs, but the basic fact is that as a caucus they have made the dismal mistake of becoming too much like Republicans and when Democrats start to look too much like Republicans they eventually lose. Democrats win by clearly differentiating themselves from Republicans. Which leads me to another reminder...

    For those who have read this newsletter for some time you know that I have often plugged a book that in some ways should be required reading for ANY Democrat: Drew Westen's "The Political Brain." Simply put the book analyzes how people vote and why, and shows how Democrats too often campaign in away that does not appeal to most voters even when most voters agree with the Democrats more on issues. Republicans, even though they usually take unpopular stands that hurt middle class and working class Americans, can often win the voters over because they campaign in a way that works better at getting votes. Drew Westen then outlines how Democrats can better appeal to voters while still being true to their values. For any Democrat who wants to win, read this more than ever. And pass the book on to any Democrat you know of running for office or working on a campaign.

    We're going to miss this guy:

    Alan Grayson was one of the VERY few Congressional Representatives who really was completely up front, honest and told it like it is. He didn't hide the truth even when it made him unpopular. As I recall Harry Truman was admired for the same quality, even though it hurt him politically. I am proud that it is usually Democrats who are willing to put truth before popularity. Popularity comes and goes. But the truth is far more valuable. We need more people like Alan Grayson in Congress!

    To me this was a run of the mill, off the cuff intro to my usual newsletter of facts, links and organizations to get involved with. In retrospect it was the last time my writing inspired her. That means something to me.

    But looking back through our correspondence, I want to share a key email from 2007:

    Article published Aug 29, 2007

    We are all in this world together

    Dear Editor:

    Thank you for the editorial in the Aug. 22 issue, and also for the two thought_provoking letters you printed. Perhaps it is because the weather has been very hot and I spend time indoors reading, finding news online, and watching C_Span, but it seems to me that we are all more sensitive to a wider world with many troubles. Bridges fall. Hurricanes wreak havoc. Drought or floods destroy. And there’s war.

    So I’m glad you take pen to paper, so to speak, to point out that reporters track the making and selling of weapons. This is not what we think of when we proclaim that a person should have the right to bear arms.

    And through it all, we are talking about America in Iraq. I personally was adamantly against a pre_emptive strike into Iraq. I watched and listened as I heard how many months it would take to get the gear all in place for the invasion. What I wondered about was how difficult it would be to get the stuff back out. Of course, some would be used up. But how about explosives? Might they not be used for destructive reasons? The editorial, based on an AP report, gives numbers which make me think that guns multiply faster than rabbits.

    It’s our country, and all of us in it need to think of ways to put an end to the folly. Would impeachment help? Should we just ride it out and then let the Democrats take the heat if they win the next election? So many questions.

    To me, we must recognize that we are in this together. Let’s get real and waste no time in trying to shove the blame on someone else. Let’s think of positive solutions and expect our leaders to carry them out.

    So I hope you will continue to lay out facts. During these past six years it seems that the media has given us few solid facts and a lot of opinions. And I hope if you do give us the hard truth that no one will shoot the messenger.

    Yours truly,

    Margaret Bassett

    That was one of her letters she was proud of and sent me to circulate, and I DID circulate it.

    Here is an email she sent me on immigration and a global perspective:

    As a school girl, I spent summer Sunday afternoons in our empty schoolhouse, wondering what the pastel countries around the old globe were like. And I would pick a country and study what I could find in the World Book. All the while, I thought that the change of colors did not mean a big wall. More confusing still was whether various colors of people were expected to stay in their designated nations. Perhaps I came to this quandary because I saw real life evidence contradicting the lines. We all were from other states. Homesteading in our part of Wyoming happened after World War I. Our neighbors were from other states–Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, mostly. I reasoned our parents pioneered because they were looking for a better place to live.

    In high school, I learned enough history to understand how religious freedom and better working conditions brought people across the oceans. They were largely the working poor and willing to become scullery maids and ditch diggers until they learned English and studied the Constitution. Then they could become citizens. Except—Orientals were discouraged and could work on railroads, but could not bring their families or gain citizenship.

    In college, I learned the details of the 1924 immigration law. It was necessary to make a change because women had become voters in the US. They could become citizens of another country by marrying an alien, but they would have to give up their American citizenship. As a matter of fact, it was generally believed that all persons lost their citizenship of another country when they were naturalized. One way for men (women were still not in the military) to gain citizenship was to join the army and serve honorably. There were a lot of "ifs" in common lore about US citizenship.

    After college and WWII, rules changed quickly to allow for those who sought relief from being displaced from earlier homes. They were generally referred to as DP’s, displaced persons. Prelude to that was the arrival of refugees during the war, if lucky enough to reach the other side of the Atlantic. My personal experience included weekends at Scattergood, the Quaker settlement at West Branch, Iowa which is the home of Herbert Hoover. Some of us students would spend time helping the Friends who were orienting recent arrivals of Jewish families. And there went my ditch digger analogy! Many of the men were doctors or professors. To polish their English was what they craved mostly, for they saw language as necessary to regain their former positions. It seemed incomprehensible to some that they would have to take refresher courses and pass new examinations to become licensed when they were well-established in their professions.

    The Cold War brought other refugees, usually referred to as dissidents. And then the tide turned when Cubans and Haitians and later Central Americans claimed refugee status. By that time we had to recall what we had learned in high school history. The Monroe Doctrine had clearly emphasized that the Americas were for the Americans. During WWII, under the Good Neighbor Policy, those south of the border were courted for the contributions they could make in fighting totalitarianism. It became more than just semantics when my Latin American friends reminded me that it was incorrect to refer to citizens of the United States of America as Americans. They were Americans, too.

    Fast forward to the demonstrations of the past few months. The rhetoric was heavy during the 2004 presidential campaign, but by 2006 there was action in the streets. I guess our country had a Latino problem.

    Latino has become a term to describe someone who lives in the Western Hemisphere in some place other than Canada and the United States. So those who speak Spanish, Portuguese and French have an inclusive adjective. It tells nothing about country of origin. The term Hispanic narrows citizenship to those nations where Spanish is the official language. And still there is little that the words tell about a group of people who live in America and want to come to the United States.

    The question of political importance at this time is how does the United States respond to a surge of population which comes from other countries, whether by legal or illegal means. They chance to make a living in our country better than in theirs, or else they wouldn’t uproot themselves from a culture they like. Their religion is universal. They may differ on who the next Pope should be, but they recognize that the Pope has a commanding presence in all parts of the world.

    But, oh, us Gringos! We don’t understand that for centuries we have sent in the Marines to do what James Monroe, Teddy Roosevelt, and others declared to be in the interest of ourselves. After all, we stole a good part of our territory from the Mexicans.

    And then there are the folks in places like Tennessee. Without Tennesseans perhaps the Panama Canal would not have been built, because that is where much of the labor came from. In that regard, I have an interesting story from my days of studying Constitutional Law in Iowa. One of my fellow students had a father from Tennessee and a mother from Panama. He was born in Panama, but not in the Zone. Did he have US citizenship? Should they have taken him to the Consulate when he was 21? (Never heard the end of the story, because by then 1945 had come and things were changing.)

    I’ve lived in Tennessee since 1977 and I never hear about how Tennesseans helped make the Panama Canal. We do celebrate how Sam Houston, who once taught school a few miles from here, fought in Texas. He was Tennessee governor and is a big name in history.

    But I’m hearing a lot about "those," "them people" or "Latinos." Folks who have lived here all their lives, worked hard, and enjoyed some success will speak about "the ones coming in" as though there is a threat. Largely it has to do with language. Why don’t they speak English? And why do they rent an apartment and then bring a whole bunch of others to live there too? It’s classic concern for "there goes the neighborhood." But the language makes a starting point for a debate over educating their children, providing welfare, and more classic gripes that have confronted other new groups of immigrants.

    For my part, I don’t worry about the language. In my young, innocent college days I was pretty good in Spanish, even to translating El Cid, not that it helps me anymore than it does others who complain about not understanding. I do have a slight ability to detect country of origin according to accent. But dialect! Those people who espeak Espanish can’t understand each other at times.

    So now we have to talk about a delicate issue. Is there animosity between Hispanics and African-Americans. In Chicago there were many Puerto Ricans when I lived there, and no love lost between them and blacks. After a couple of friendly attempts, I backed off from the explanation that Borrenquenos are US citizens, too. There was the reaction I have come to recognize as "hair standing on the back of neck." At some point in discussing generally how all people have good points and some a few strange ones, there comes a superstitious fear. And that will be what will accompany many voters to the booth this fall. I feel truly baffled about what politicians should and can do to make firm commitments on their position. We may decide that there was an ironic e1oquence in the Senate’s vain attempt.

    But all of this has been a digression from my first paragraph. Where my heart was in the 30's is where my moral values take me in this century. However, I long ago gave up on believing that nations solve real problems of people who decide to breach borders. Actually, it can be said that nationalism is itself the problem. At this time, the Bush administration is looking at the enemy as having no borders. Why not? We have journalists without borders. Doctors without borders. Why not banditos without borders? Manuel Noriega and Osama bin Laden are both enemies of our Nation.

    I get a little facetious about Nafta. Consider: now the textile industry moves its operation to Honduras; natives can no longer make a living in those factories so they go to Mexico; Mexicans are having a harder time of finding work so they cross the Rio Grande; and the "illegals" work for peanuts and make the Anglos mad for ruining the wages on their old jobs. And the irony is politicians talk about Nafta as needing a tune-up to see that labor is paid a decent wage and enjoys healthy working conditions. Duh!

    I also want to post an email she sent me in Dec. 2005 that is interesting to review given what has happened since:

    Your newsletter this week was, in Christian-speak, almost an epiphany. It reminded me of how much I took Al Gore's book to heart before the 2000 campaign. To be good stewards, the three ingredients of living are sometimes referred to as giving of time, talent and treasure. When you think of it, there isn't enough money in the world to heal an injured planet. Some can get jollies by taking their excesses to the recycle bin. But really all we have is ourselves in whatever form. And for a lot of us these days it starts at the keyboard. As long as we don't buy everything on the pop-ups.

    There is a stealth issue, which most don't care to address. Rampant consumerism is what is messing up the nation. Any time one-third of GDP is considered to come from production and twice that much from consumers, we are headed for a meltdown. Yet, should we all start living within our means while saving some for our old age (Money can be described as congealed energy.), it's not just WalMart's stock which will plummet. If Bernanke refuses to print money for spendthrifts, those with the least of it are hurt the most. Before they beatify Greenspan I hope I can say that he did us no favor by making a red hot housing market. My observation is that Boomers, those who worry most about their entitlements, were conned by low interest rates. They cashed in 401k money to put in real estate. From my perspective their peers are the wheelers and dealers in politics and finance. I hope someone learns how to make a soft landing. And, for those who are raising young families, they've got a lot to think about before they answer all the Christmas ads with their plastic.

    Well, that's my Scrooge message of the day. Keep up the good work!

    You can see she was a bright, thoughtful woman!

    Here is another fascinating email she sent me in 2005 while we were, over many months, still getting to know eachother:

    David: There’s more heat than light coming out of Washington these days, and I tune in c-spans and PBS and wonder where we’re headed. Then I log on to my favorite back fence sites and that doesn’t help much either. Jim Lehrer tonight featured a piece asking editors from other part of the country how their readers saw the filibuster question, to which they mostly replied only the activists cared and it hadn’t touched most of the folks. "Grassroots" came into my head and I wondered about the term. The Nashville paper (not the Tennessean) said "folks" just hadn’t got interested in it yet. And then there’s little old me!

    I’m a walking time warp. When my father homesteaded in Northeastern Wyoming in 1918 he was in his mid-thirties. My mother, whom he met out there was younger, but she too was 18 when WWI ended. My three siblings and I were all born before the stock market crash. When FDR declared a bank holiday I already knew about how some people in other states had lost their farms when the banks went out of business. By the time I was through high school, many of my men teachers had left for the service to get a better commission. Times were tough on the farms still. I worked my way through college for five years at the University of Iowa and got out just as VJ Day came. In Washington on my first real job, I saw government workers re-align their assignments because all returning veterans were given extra points when they applied for jobs. After that, I spent a maturing period in the City, with a year’s timeout in Copenhagen. I met my husband in 1952 when I took a trip out West for the summer. The sour taste of Joe McCarthy’s capers shoved me away from a future in international education. But I could always work. I was a good typist, and the first thing I learned in college was to be a good waitress. My husband and I followed resort restaurants in the beginning and then moved to Chicago in 1955 where we made a stake through 1977. Then we bought a fixer-upper in Maryville, TN. We had no company pensions, and I was too young for SS and Medicare for what seemed like a long time. We made it on the proceeds of a few investments and his Social Security check. I would be in deep trouble today except that in the 90's I was able to get ahead of the curve on inflation. It nearly flattened us during the 80's when double digit increases came for material to re-model the house. Now, I manage to pay fair market rent in the elder housing where I moved six years ago. I’ve been widowed 12 years (today, as a matter of fact) and could have moved easily, but I like it here. No family in the State but lots of friends.

    When I took up gardening and canning and making our everyday clothes again, just as we had done in Wyoming, I didn’t feel out of place. My neighbors were just like the people I grew up around. Many of them were a few years older than I and I learned the way to live on Social Security and to fight the Medicare rules. After my husband died, and there were new younger families with children, I became involved in the lives of the young. It was not easy for working class families in the 90s. I could supplement their scarce time by giving what I hope would be enrichment. The children had things, but little else in my view. I cancelled all but basic cable and ordered edutainment CD’s after my sister gifted me with a computer. It is what I consider to be my way of paying back for 21 years of Social Security checks.

    I lived in early life what can best be described as 19th Century. After formal schooling and some jobs I jumped to the 20th. I was just about ready to believe I was ready for Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st, when all of a sudden it feels like I’m somewhere after WWII. I mean everyone is hellbent on acquiring whatever has just been invented. Now, with credit cards, they don’t have to wait for payday. Many in the child-nurturing period are so busy trying to keep body and soul together that they don’t remember what they learned about the three branches of government. Some are anxious to get to the welfare office for supplemental help, as others are too proud to even let their neighbors know when they need food. It’s always been that way. I’m just talking about our county, which is surely not one of the poorest in the State.

    Through all these years I have only been able to become a little educated because of my husband, who grew up in San Francisco. Orphaned at 9, he knew the ways of city living and, in good paperboy fashion, was also well aware of the ways of the world. It took him a long time to realize that the depression was hard for us country people too. Actually, he didn’t really understand until we moved down here. Oh, yes, he fell out of love with the Republican party and read Howard Fast’s novels during that time. When he reached maturity he moved to LA and worked in a defense factory during WWII, the same kind of work he followed in Chicago. I became a bookkeeper there and changed over to computer programming in 1966. The greatest job I’ve ever had was teaching high school graduates to program or operate computers. The students were many of them directly from housing projects on student loans and grants. I can’t say enough for LBJ’s Great Society. It made some real changes. The problem was it was not carefully monitored. Of course, there are excesses and Clinton was right to help rein it in. I have a hunch that Bush shoots for FDR’s programs because if he mentions LBJ’s he’d lose his so-called base. John Edwards wants to talk disadvantaged, and he may just be making some traction with his poverty group. I could make a case for myself as well. But no one can outdo Johnson’s upbringing.

    What brought this on? It was when I wrote you about the Earth Day celebration in the Smokies and you replied that tourism is not a good economic base. Or something about like that. And I remembered that you said you were a city kid. Then I thought about the way the media learned to morph the map in red and blue. Sure enough, those states adjacent to water are bluer. Actually, they are wealthier because of global trade. The nation mimics the old tradition of town and country, meaning the people at the county seats ran the banks and sold the merchandise and elected the officials. Those in the country produced the goods (originally mostly food, but later industrial supplies) and climbed up the social ladder by sending the children to school and getting them jobs in town. Culturally, the rural folks knew they were superior because their kids worked hard and didn’t dance or gamble–or so the story goes. But those they called city slickers knew they had better homes and nicer clothes and could travel more. I recently read several of Sinclair Lewis’ novels, which are older than me. Whenever I re-read Elmer Gantry I realize how little things change.

    So here I sit, still a country bumpkin worrying over whether Section 8 housing will be cut even more, and how the children should learn to like to learn, and whether there will be any channel on TV that the tired, hard-working, underpaid parents will watch besides Fox. In my spare time I check out MSNBC’s articles about why Wal-Mart stock is down and the predictions aren’t rosy. That gets me to thinking about the many hours I’ve pounded away on the Wal-Mart predicament. Is it possible people in Peoria, or wherever, are going to have to listen to what happens in Washington? Best regards, Margaret

    Now here is the first email I have a record of, though I know we must have connected before. It is from November 2004, so it was one of the first interactions we had. Again, much insight and background from someone who has been around for some time:

    The first tells about previous progressive movements which supplied candidates. I realize that Vermont has an existing party, and there is some movement around Madison, Wisconsin.

    The second is something with which I have little experience. It catches my eye because the working poor (hard-working poor) are certainly the forgotten man and woman as far as I can see.

    In the Teddy Roosevelt age, an economic shift to heavy industry created robber barons, and thus a need to come back to a sense of fairness. In the second phase, labor was becoming organized. World War I created more jobs, but more discontent with working conditions. To avoid the revolutionary trends in Europe, especially Russia, a more benign form of organization came about here through unions.

    The curious part of the aborted movement in 1948 with Henry Wallace produced the same kind of Bolshevik scare, but I believe that unanswered civil rights questions were what drove the scare to a frenzy. My experience at that time was that to be associated with rights for colored people put one in the same cubby hole as with communist and fellow-traveler groups.

    About the only advantage of being old is that one can see three waves, described by Toffler. The first, agrarian, required decent shipping facilities for livestock and crops as well as reasonable prices for farm implements. (I grew up on a homestead in Northeastern Wyoming, where we battled dust storms and the depression.) The second wave was the industrial age where a combination of machine and men mass produced a never-ending supply of labor saving devices. From the end of World War II to the advent of cybernetics, more and better planes, locomotives, trucks, etc. shortened distances and made goods accessible to more people. Workers were lured into corporate loyalty with the promise of retirement benefits and medical insurance. Not until the 70's did the price of company affiliation begin to backfire for both sides. We talked about the rust belt. Lifelong union members began to question the Democratic party and Reagan welcomed them to his shining hill. The third wave, incubated during World War II, became all important as soon as computers advanced past tubes to transistors to the current microchips. (I started programming computers in 1966 and worked on three generations of IBM equipment within the spate of a few years. The Olivetti ten-key adding machine I pounded 8 hours a day had over 50 precision springs in it. My husband worked in a plant making such parts. We escaped job crises only because we retired to East Tennessee from Chicago after 22 years.)

    By the last quarter of the 20th Century, the global village concept was real. And thus we come to what will have to be dealt with before a progressive movement can flourish again. Just as in the past, when Americans could not ignore people of the ghettoes and slums forever, so now no nationality can ignore the cry of other nationals for a share of the earth’s treasure. I recommend reading Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber’s The World Challenge (Simon & Schuster 1981) which tells about the Near East’s rising up to assert that technology as the price we pay for oil and other basic materials. And it’s not just oil (OPEC) but other raw materials, and it’s not just the Near East but many underdeveloped nations.

    Another author who has influenced me is Lester Thurow, an economist who in 1995 wrote a book on the future of capitalism. He outlined what he considered the main changes over the ensuing twenty-five years. Changes in demography (mature countries have a high percentage of mature citizens) and communication and transportation (commerce can cross national boundaries to grow wheat in Siberia as well as North Dakota) affect voters in real time. Globalization, which is here to stay, can be criticized but there is no way to stop it. Countries can help their nationals to adjust, but recognizing how to corral unbridled world commerce takes more than tweaking the safety net. With world wide business comes the need for world wide rules governing it. On a line stretched from competition to cooperation regarding this challenge, there must be very astute negotiation. The WTO and the IMF are acting from a position of weakness, which allows laissez faire to flourish.

    How a new facet of progressivism can come about is problematic. It espouses a mixture of innovation and conservatism. If the rest of the world wants to have goods, services and opportunities equal to what we Americans have learned to cherish, it goes without saying that super-consumerism should be nobody’s first goal.

    Under the surface I think citizens in this country realize the truth of sharing or fighting. Wars only use more of the precious resources. The twin realities of Iraq and economic well-being were debated in this campaign as though it were an either/or proposition. George W. Bush's assertion that both must be achieved–his recognition that people having a stake in their future will not have time to fight each other--has validity. That’s all well and good, but he’s trying to convince the Iraqis his war is different. Imperialism is the ultimate outcome from the way he goes about it. If we take a look at the article in The Nation, we can see that fighting each other is a recipe for decline of leadership.

    With a long history of solving problems in the USA by going to a place farther away, it’s not surprising that Bush would like to get to the Moon and Mars.

    If you and I pursue this line of reasoning, I believe we must organize small groups of individuals, preferably online, who will help to shape the real issues for 2008. My summer was spent with a yahoogroup who answered the media when members perceived that it was giving false information. With a mixture of professional backgrounds and serious interaction we, and others doing similar work, probably did have some impact on the outcome of the election. Because Kerry lost, we have not known how to proceed. I suspect this group is not the only one which is essentially inactive but still so committed that it is trying to find a new approach to carry on.

    Finally, I suggest the article in the Nation about Paul Wellstone. Possibly his legacy has something to help us in progressing toward new insights.

    I will end with the obituary from her beloved OpEdNews:

    The following obituary was provided to Opednews by Dr. Annabel Agee to be shared with Margaret's beloved online community:

    Margaret Ems Bassett

    02/14/1922 -- 8/21/2011
    "Margaret Ems Bassett, age 89, quietly passed away at her residence in Maryville, TN, on Sunday, August 21, 2011. Born in Gillette, WY, on February 14, 1922, the eldest of four, Ms. Bassett is preceded in death by husband William John Bassett, parents James Edwin and Fanchon Rosenstiel Ems, sister Norma Agnes Ems Cotter, and brother Robert, and niece Roberta Ems Salley. She is survived by her brother Morris Ems, niece Janeth Cotter Hernandez, niece Connie Cotter Rasmussen, niece Colleen Ems Morrison.

    Ms. Bassett graduated from Campbell County High School in Gillette, WY (1940), received a BA degree in political science from State University of Iowa (1944), studied as a graduate student until August 1945, worked in international education until 1950, spent a year in Denmark, took numerous computer science classes, and completed an MS degree from Roosevelt University (1975). Ms. Bassett worked in Chicago from 1955 to 1977, at which time she and her husband retired to Tennessee.

    Her lifelong interest in political philosophy was reflected by her active role as editor for almost five years on OpEdNews (OEN), an online platform for which she wrote 68 articles and posted almost 4000 comments. Also to her credit, the content she generated for OEN was viewed over 700,000 times. Margaret's most recent OEN activity was logged on the Friday evening before her passing on Sunday. In her own biographical statement for OEN profile, she noted that her early introduction to computers (1966) has served her well in keeping up with "the requirements for modern communication." She said that she hoped to find "some good coming off her keyboard into the lives of those who come after her."

    She will be missed by many of the residents of Maryville Towers, a senior housing facility where she has resided since selling her home in 1999. Many of her neighbors and friends will remember Margaret as the long-time organizer/leader of the Reminiscing Writers Group at Maryville Towers."

    I would like to remember this wonderful woman. I think a fitting tribute would be a contribution to Wellstone Action or Progressive Majority. I know these were groups we both discussed and admired a lot, though I think more because they were my favorites. I am not sure what she would say was her favorite tribute, but I know these would be good enough in an imperfect world she knew and loved so well. Please join me in donated to these groups in Margaret Bassett's name.

    Wednesday, October 05, 2011

    Taking on Wall Street Every Day

    I have personally been switching my money (credit cards, accounts, mortgage) away from the big bad mega-banks that screwed Americans with predatory lending and took taxpayer handouts with better banks and financial institution. And I invite you to join me. It is a way of moving your money at least a step away from the worst of Wall Street.

    In particular I pick four banks to target: Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo

    I base my recommendations on three things:

    1. Customer service complaints. The banks that get the most customer service complaints are as follows: (according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, I think these numbers are from 2009)

    Bank of America: 7,230 complaints (25.5% of total)
    J.P. Morgan Chase: 4,890 complaints (17.3%)
    Citigroup: 3,742 complaints (13.2%)
    Wells Fargo: 2,695 complaints (9.5%)
    HSBC North America: 1,963 complaints (6.9%)
    Wachovia: 1,265 complaints (4.5%)
    U.S. Bancorp: 1,027 complaints (3.6%)
    National City: 586 complaints (2.1%)
    The Royal Bank of Scotland Group: 537 complaints (1.9 %)
    Key Corp: 343 complaints (1.2 %)

    Total Top 10 complaints: 24,278 complaints (85.7%)
    Total complaints: 28,316 complaints (100%)

    Furthermore, the numbers of complaints are getting worse. Chase, Bank of America and Citicorp in particular declined seriously in terms of customer service in 2010, according to the Comptroller of the Currency, the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, and Better Business Bureau.

    I advocate avoiding the banks that are around 10% or more of the total complaints (Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Chase and Bank of America). Why patronize companies that treat their customers like crap? Particularly since they have been giving even WORSE service since we bailed them out!

    2. Predatory lending. The same banks that rank highest in customer service complaints are among the worst offenders when it comes to predatory lending. That is strike two against them. Why patronize companies that have bad, greedy business practices that lead to national and international economic crises? And furthermore the predatory lending was carried out by these same banks in a racist manner, charging higher interest rates for blacks and Hispanics than for whites and Asians. And it is the SAME four banks that were the most racist in their predatory lending.

    3. Welfare Banks: The same banks are also ones that eagerly took taxpayer funded bailout money while also advocating for cuts to services for poor and middle class Americans as being "big government". They are selfish and hypocritical as well as lousy businesses.

    Also, I should note that two of these banks, Bank of America and Citigroup, also are two of the top ten tax dodging companies in America. They love to take our tax money, but hate to pay their fair share.

    So I advocate boycotting at least Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Chase and Bank of America. However people need alternatives. I personally have switched to USAA and TD Bank, both of which are famous for customer service, did no predatory lending, and took no bail out money. But I am learning about even better options through Green America.

    Green America (which I have been associated with since they were Co-op America) has some resources:

    * The basics about socially responsible investing

    * How to retire with one million dollars in a just and sustainable world

    * How your savings and checking accounts can build healthy communities through community investing

    I personally have been divesting myself of these big bad banks like Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo and Citibank and instead switching my mortgage, accounts and credit cards to USAA (which only works with Veterans and their families) and TD Bank (a large bank that actually has excellent customer service and did not engage in predatory lending). Other people I know have been switching to local credit unions. I have particularly liked TD Bank who refinanced my mortgage at a much better rate and much simpler than the big bad banks. By comparison, Chase dicked me around so much, constantly upping the interest rate every time I talked to them, that I finally told them where they could stuff their refinance. TD Bank offered me a better rate and stuck by it.

    But so far my wife and I still haven't been able to get rid of all our Chase and Bank of America credit cards. Paying off the debt is tough, but we are working on it. But I would like to find better credit cards to use.

    Well, Green America has some suggestions I would like to pass on to you.

    Cards Connected to Better Banks
    There are socially responsible banks and credit unions that exemplify responsible lending practices—as well as community investing institutions that take the social mission one step further by also investing in low-income populations.

    Wainwright Bank Visa Cards (fees and rates vary): Wainwright, a Boston-based bank with a tradition of “socially progressive” banking, offers six different Visa credit cards with different rates and terms. All of these cards are issued and managed by Elan, a financial services company. Steven F. Young, senior vice president at Wainwright, says they “chose Elan because we felt their consumer practices were best.”

    Permaculture Credit Union’s (PCU) Visa card (13% apr, no annual fee): Based in New Mexico, PCU is committed to Earth-friendly and socially responsible loans and investments. PCU’s card is issued by the Illinois Credit Union League to anyone, whether or not they are a PCU account holder, though applicants should mention they are “affiliated” with Permaculture Credit Union.

    ReDirect Visa (15.15% apr, no annual fee): The ReDirect card is issued by Washington state’s ShoreBank Pacific.Depositors fuel the bank’s lending programs, which enable sustainable community development. ShoreBank Pacific issues the card by way of TCM, which is owned by ICBA Bancard, a subsidiary of the Independent Community Bankers of America.

    Your card fees support ShoreBank Pacific’s community investing mission, and half of the card’s proceeds go toward reducing CO2 emissions through Sustainable Travel International’s “MyClimate” high-quality offsets. In addition to a conventional rewards program, the card also earns cardholders discounts at the sustainable businesses listed in regional “ReDirect Guides” for Denver/Boulder/Fort Collins, CO; Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA; and Salt Lake City/Park City, UT. Those businesses that offer Internet purchasing will extend ReDirect discounts to any cardholder. There’s no need to have a ShoreBank Pacific account to apply.

    Salmon Nation Visa (15.15% apr, no annual fee): This card, also from ShoreBank Pacific, directs a percentage of its income to growing a community of citizens that practice environmental stewardship of “Salmon Nation,” a bio-region stretching from Alaska to Oregon where wild salmon live. Like the ReDirect card, Salmon Nation Visa isn’t benefiting a mega-bank, and you don’t need a ShoreBank Pacific account to apply.

    The Loop Card (11.99% apr, no annual fee): A Visa from Albina Community Bank in Oregon. Profits from this Visa from Oregon’s Albina Community Bank not only support Albina, but one percent of every purchase goes to Portland’s neighborhoods, funding education, health, social services, environment, the arts, or economic development projects. You do not have to have an account with Albina to get the card, and it is not connected to a mega-bank.

    Shorebank’s Elan Visa Consumer Card (variable apr, no annual fee): ShoreBank, in the Midwest, is a community development and environmental bank that issues a credit card available to anyone nationwide through Elan, the same company servicing Wainright Bank’s cards, at a rate determined by your credit history.

    Self-Help credit union cards (9.95–12.95% apr, no annual fee): Self-Help, headquartered in North Carolina, works in communities traditionally underserved by conventional financial institutions. It offers Classic and Platinum Visa credit cards to members, and through online banking, anyone nationwide can become an account holder and apply. The cards are issued by Self-Help, a community development bank.

    For those purchases you make by credit card, using one of these best-option cards can make your charges a force for good.

    One of my goals once we can pay off most of our current credit card debt is to switch from my current credit cards, which are still mega-bank linked, to one or two of these cards. I hope you will all join my in making the switch.

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