October 11, 2018

Multitudes: The unauthorized memoirs of Sam Smith: Forward

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself.
I am large -- I contain multitudes
-- Walt Whitman


FORWARD

Sam Smith - On a warm September evening in 1994, approaching the corner where you turn towards Old Rag Mountain -- just this side of the Exxon station that is both on the edge and near the center of Sperryville, Virginia -- I hit a cow. The bovine miscreant had wandered from behind some bushes onto Route 237, exploded into the frame of my windshield, rolled over, careened off the front fender and scudded by, pausing only long enough to look me directly and critically in the eye. The cow then completed its original mission -- namely to cross the road and enter the pasture on the other side.

My wife Kathy and I were wearing seat-belts and so the encounter between a Plymouth Voyager doing 40 mph and a 1300-pound cow doing 2.5 left us stunned but mobile. We stepped out of the car and were soon joined by a state trooper, the local rescue squad, a fire engine, a sheriff's deputy as well as a small swarm of men wandering silently with transmitters in the night.

Having quickly, almost perfunctorily, ascertained our good health, the rescuers asked which way the cow had gone. We pointed towards the field and most of the figures in the dark, much as the cow had before them, rapidly faded into the pasture as though they, too, had been interrupted in their true errand. Later, I would recall Frost's ending to Out, Out - : "And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs."

I had already reached an age in which such intimations of mortality (as well as of the ephemeral nature of that which proceeds it) were becoming less rare, although never before had the specter so convincingly assumed the guise of a cow.

Such events are a remarkable spur to retrospection and encouraged me to keep writing what follows. In doing so, I have adopted the corollary of the rule of libel, which is to say that one should only tell the full truth about the dead and the famous. The weak, the private, and those whose only fault was to have crossed my path deserve to be left largely in peace. Thus, I have changed a few names, omitted many tales and even bowdlerized here and there. My wife and sons, in particular, have been spared as much as possible despite the fact that they are the true happy ending of this story. Kathy has been my love, my friend and my resident angel and my sons an endless source of joy and, increasingly, of wisdom. But they deserve to tell their own tales.

I offer this story without, I hope, bedizening it unduly with meaning and judgments. Those psychologically inclined can analyze for themselves. Those of a historical bent can provide their own context. I'll not pander by pointing out, say, metaphors of empire rising and slowly imploding. If, as James Wood once wrote, you find here proof that even "the happiest of lives are only splendid wrecks of what used be a future," I've noticed it, too. To those friends who wonder why I have never told them some of these things before, I can only say that I wasn't ready. As for the ideologically priggish who find this all too disorderly, I offer no apologies. It just happened that way. The accidental novel we call life.

I would rather sit on a pumpkin
and have it all to myself
than be crowded
on a velvet stool -- Henry Thoreau

Introduction
Georgetown
Ghosts
Becoming
Friends: a Quaker education
Summer
Harvard U: Magna Cum Probation
The Canaries in Studio A
Suspect
Hooligan Navy days
How the trouble began
Seeds
FirePlace
DC Diary: the 1970s
Almost running
DC Diary: the 1980s
DC Diary: the 1990s
DC Diary: the new century
Going Green
The loneliest mile in town
Rebel

 

August 28, 2018

Corruption as a culture as well as a crime

Sam Smith - Corruption is not just a crime, it is a culture. And, by its nature, it can have different effects. I have become convinced, for example, that contemporary culture is, in no small part, the direct effect of the culture of television, in that corruption used to be a feudal system in which communities were served even as they were being scammed. With the major force in politics becoming one's televised public image, and with advertising replacing community familiarity, you have candidates come to the fore like Trump (and Bill Clinton) whose real record and real past disappears in a media-supported fictional image.

Among the people who could change this are those in the national media. But over my lifetime the cultural  role of this media has  drastically changed. When I started, over half the reporters in the country had only a high school education. As I wrote over a decade ago:

Even in sophisticated Washington ten years later, I kept quiet about my Harvard degree as I learned the trade. Then the trade stopped being a trade as not only a college degree but a masters in journalism became increasingly desired. Further, journalists - with the help of things like the Washington Post's new Style section - began joining the power structure by increasingly writing themselves into it.
Then came yet another transition: the journalist as a professional was replaced by the journalist as corporate employee, just another bureaucratic pawn in organizations that increasingly had less to do with journalism.
By standard interpretations the trend - at least from uneducated tradesman to skilled professional - was a step forward. But there is a problem with this interpretation. First, with each step the journalist moved further socially and psychologically from the reader or viewer. Reporters increasingly viewed their stories from a class perspective alien to many of those they were writing for, a factor that would prove far more important than the ideological biases about which one hears so many complaints.
Absent a criminal investigation, it became against the rules to undermine the media image of someone as powerful as a Trump or Clinton. In covering the Clinton Arkansas story I thought I was just doing  what a good reporter was meant to do, but I found myself instead banned from CSPAN and from the DC public radio station not because my facts was wrong, but because I was challenging the accepted view of the establishment media.

This helps to explain why the coverage of Trump was so unrevealing until a special prosecutor came along. You weren't meant to challenge the false media image of the man even with stuff like the record of his bankruptcies, his untruths, and his dubious real estate dealings. He was a TV star and that was enough.

I don't know how we break out of such delusions, only that they extend far beyond Trump. Corruption as a culture is ours as well as his.

August 26, 2018

The end of home rule

Speech by Sam Smith at the conference of DC New Democracy, February 25, 1995 

Whatever it was that was optimistically called home rule is now gone. It died when our mayor offered to give much of it away. It died when our congressional delegate first suggested trading it for tax relief, and then proposed turning it over to a tyranny by accountants.. It died when much of the media — led by the Washington Post — decided that democracy was just an experiment that had failed. It died when our city council was unable to propose a single workable alternative and when we found ourselves without elected officials who would speak for us.

Most of all, it died last November when the lobbyists and influence peddlers of Gucci Gulch slid from the corridors of Congress into the majority seats on the floor of the House and the Senate. When Newt Gingrich walked through the front door of the Speaker’s Office, democracy and justice walked out the back.

Now it is proposed that the functions of the mayor and council be replaced by an appointed control board — a meritocracy of the best and the brightest. I have heard, for example, Robert McNamara’s name mentioned — yes, the same guy who brought us the automated battlefield of the Vietnam War. And investment experts from New York — maybe some from Goldman Sachs fresh from advising the Mexican government. And local accountants and management consultants — perhaps the ones who told the city to build a sports arena but forgot to say that it wouldn’t fit on the proposed site or that what Abe Pollin wasn’t going to pay would cost the rest of us hundreds of million of dollars. Or people like Alice Rivlin who have yet to figure out a way to reduce the Pentagon budget below Cold War levels. Or maybe they’ll just keep it simple and use the list of names undoubtedly already provided by the Post’s non-profit subsidiary, the Federal City Council.

Eleanor Holmes Norton and others say that giving direct power over the budget would not end home rule. Maybe that’s why we have so much trouble with finances in this city. We don’t understand what a budget is. The budget is the government. It is, as the sociologist Rudolph Goldshied, well put it, “the skeleton of the state stripped of all misleading ideologies.”

A financial review board — limited to auditing, approving contracts and vetoing overall spending plans — is one thing. And, if chosen by our own officials a wise and prudent move some of us urged long ago. But a control board reduces the mayor to the level of a department head and the council to that of a super neighborhood commission.

But let’s be honest. The fault doesn’t all lie with Congress, even if it did approve every line of every budget it now reviles. Even if in the private world of business, it is those with ultimate responsibility — in this case Congress — who get the blame and the boot. Even if the financial control board represents yet another attempt by Congress to jettison responsibility it refuses to give to the city and is unwilling to assume itself.

But it is also true that for the entire time of home rule and before, local officials have let the budget and bureaucracy get out of hand, and used every accounting gimmick known to modern capitalism to avoid dealing with financial facts. It is also true that high and low officials have lied, stolen and cheated leaving us to pick up the tab.

But now another truth. Over the years I have become something of an aficionado of urban corruption in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago. I can tell you a simple fact: DC has miles to go. The DC government is to waste and corruption as Pat Robertson is to sex. He may engage in it, but probably couldn’t ‘t teach you much.

Let’s remember that Orange County just lost one billion dollars on a few bad investments. No one is talking about taking away its home rule. Let’s remember that the current cost overrun on Boston’s third harbor tunnel — this is federal money now — is ten times that of the current DC deficit. And no is taking way Boston’s home rule.

I don’t excuse Marion Barry or the city council or Sharon Pratt Kelly at all. I don’t even feel sorry for them any more. But let’s stack their $720 million deficit up against what Congress has wrongfully denied us. Say $250 million a year to provide a fair federal payment in lieu of service fees and taxes. Or the $300 million annually we’re losing because we’re not allowed to impose a non-resident income tax. Or the $300 million annually in local taxes Congress said that Fannie Mae doesn’t have to pay. Or the $70 million in sales taxes we lose by not being able to charge military or diplomats. All that before we add in the billions Congress has cheated DC workers out of by not funding their pensions.

Or look at it another way: shortly after Barry first took office, there developed a combined current and past deficit of more than $500 million. Adjusted for inflation, this would be a deficit $120 million higher than today’s. Yet nobody panicked. No democratic rights were taken away. It was a different time, though, with a different sort of Congress and a different sort of President.

It is important, as we view the wreckage of decades of hope and effort, to remember that we are not dealing with just a local problem. In this town of bureaucracy and civility, in which the most awful events are discussed with bland dispassion, it is easy to not notice that DC’s story is a national and international one. The other day an official at the South African embassy told John Capozzi that “We are very interested in your struggle for liberation.” Even after all his country has been through, this diplomat saw more significance in DC’s problems than many of us do.

The city’s basic status conundrum was noted near the beginning of its existence by a shrewd observer who warned of the dangers of mixing small and large concerns. Ever since, DC has been hostage to the ebb and flow of national tendencies, often getting the worst in bad times and having that much further to go in the good ones. We enjoyed some of the fruits of Reconstruction after the Civil War but when that collapsed. so did the progress we had made. We found ourselves for the first time unable to vote for anyone for a whole century. When America got dreams of empire, its ambition was reflected in the neo-imperial architecture of government buildings from the Lincoln Memorial to the Federal Triangle. When World War II broke out, Washington became the chaotic, crowded hub of a country united in its cause, even turning over the Mall for temporary buildings.

When the war was over, Washington early felt the force of economic pressures that would eventually leave many American cities in ruins. We had the country’s first major urban renewal project in Southwest. We were told we could not survive without freeways stabbing the urban heart and we had to fight them off. And we watched the suburbs bloom as government housing funds drifted outward.

Then with the war on poverty and the civil rights, peace and self-determinations movements, DC regained vibrancy and hope. This town was one of a handful — such as Berkeley and Madison — where, as a matter of course, you expected something important to happen. And it often did.

With the Vietnam War sucking life out of that hope and vibrancy and with the murder of Dr. King, there followed an national urban insurrection. And in the wake of that insurrection, DC was shortly granted first an elected school board, then a non-voting delegate and finally an elected mayor and council. For once, someone in power was actually afraid of this city.

Now the shroud has fallen again. And could we really expect more local decency from a Congress that proposes to do away with school lunches across the land, that is repealing even the social reforms of its own Richard Nixon? For better or worse, our fate is inexorably linked with that of other Americans. We not only symbolize that fate, many of our citizens will suffer it to a disproportionate degree.

It was recently reported that the number of welfare recipients here had gone up 20% in three years. This does not represent poor families moving into DC to enjoy what the Post calls “Cadillac” Medicaid benefits. No, these are citizens who have fallen into poverty as a result of the most disastrous national economic policies since the 1920s.

These are more victims of the political stampede of the 1990s, in which many Americans have been convinced that if they don’t immediately flee from simple justice, compassion and common sense, then first their government and then they themselves will become bankrupt. Leading this stampede are the largest corporations and investment firms and their politically indentured servants. Many of these firms increasingly owe their livelihoods to profits earned abroad. To the stateless corporation, a strong nation is an obstacle, an annoyance, propping up high standards of living with demands for better pay and social conditions. The Reagan-Bush-Clinton era has brought the third worlding of America, an attempt to make us accept lower pay and lower expectations in every aspect of our lives. This era has already been remarkably successful at reducing wages and weakening labor unions. Now it proposes to destroy the social programs that have protected our citizens for decades. In the cause of “global competition” we have become an undeveloping country and the new welfare recipients in DC are part of a growing line.

So as we start the struggle again, let’s make it not only our own fight but also part of what must be a national reclamation of decency and justice. Let’s make our cause one with all the other Americans who are victims of the self-righteous, self-aggrandizing yuppie yahoos who have seized — and are now selling off — our national assets to better the profits of their campaign contributors.

We are, after all, experts at what happens when democracy is sacrificed for a balanced budget, when the poor are punished for not being successful, when ethnic prejudice hides behind the cold numbers of a financial worksheet, when access to fairness is privatized, when the dream of a cooperative commonwealth is smashed with the cry, “I’ve got mine, Jack,. You’re on your own.”

If we are once again to be a full and unmitigated colony, let’s return to our obstreperous, vigorous ways of those times before they sedated us with a weak elected mayor and council. We were more alive when we were in revolt than we have ever been since becoming appeased. Keeping in mind Albert Camus’s dictum that the one sin we are not permitted is despair, let’s make DC both a symbol of what the rest of the country stands to lose and the hub of those who refuse to let it happen..

The story Spike Lee didn't tell

Sam Smith - Watching Stokely Carmichael pictured in BlacKKKlansman brought back memories of sitting in a Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee meeting in the mid Sixties listening to Carmichael tell us that white SNCC members were no longer welcomed in the civil rights movement. As he had put it elsewhere, "Integration is an insidious subterfuge for white supremacy." And he told a crowd in Greenwood, MS, "We been saying 'freedom' for six years and we ain't got nothing. What we're gonna start saying now is 'Black Power.'"

The voices of black power of the time were varied. Two months after being replaced as SNCC chair by the more militant Carmichael, John Lewis had explained:

I support the concept of black power and I have tried repeatedly to articulate it to people in terms they can understand, so that they will know it is for civil rights, not against whites.
For me being kicked out of SNCC meant months of frustration and the loss of black friends. But once segregated DC, unlike the rest of the south, was already emerging as a multi-cultural city in which ethnic differences were complex, and often also based on neighborhood and class, and ethnic similarities were discovered from time to time in striking ways. Thus even as black power was in ascendancy, blacks and whites were joining in a major successful campaign against freeways and later forming a movement for DC statehood that now has the support of 80% of the city. And DC hasn't had a white mayor in over four decades.

One of the things I learned from this experience is that while you have to fight for civil rights, anger and conflict can only reduce wrongs; it doesn't build the decent culture that must be part of lasting diversity. The latter comes from a community of fairness, concern and enjoyment of ethnic variety.

In recent months I have been struck by how much time the media have given to ethnic conflict and how little to ethnic solutions. This is not to say that a tale like Spike Lee's is not important to know and understand, but as I watched it in a nearly all white crowded theater in Maine, I wondered how many people in that room might be encouraged, but didn't really have to be convinced, by Spike Lee. But I also imagined what a white nationalist might think seeing David Duke surviving four decades to once again become a major voice in America.

The answer is not to deny history but to also improve upon it, and this requires a media that tells us not just the worst of the past and present and what the future could look like.

As just one example, only 3% of marriages in 1967 were cross-ethnic; by 2015 the figure was 17%. Public approval of such marriages was 5% in the 1950s and 80% in the 2000s. This gets virtually no attention in the media. In fact, Barack Obama was consistently described as black when he actually spent more time at Harvard Law School than he had with a black parent.

The reason this plays into ethnic nationalism is that one of the gross errors is to ignore the real complexity of ethnicity. In truth, race is scientifically a racist concept, unsupported by biological informaton such as DNA. It oversimplifies factors that are not only affected by marriage but by one's nation,, community and class. If we taught our children to understand this, their view of cross-cultural experiences would be much different than it often is now.

Spike Lee told an important story well. But we need to match it with tales of how a cross-cultural society can function better. It's far from a perfect story but it is one too often lacking these days.

August 24, 2018

How to jump start a progressive movement

Sam Smith

Define your politics issue by issue, not icon by icon. One reason progressive politics fares so poorly is because we spend too much time on individual campaigns and not enough on issues. While the former tend to drive away the independent, the skeptical and those who don't like a particular a candidate, the latter can attract all sorts to join with others who may agree only one issue.

Define your politics by issue by issue, not by ideology. It's a lot easier to get a cross section of people backing a particular issue than it is for them to buy into your whole philosophy of life. Use the former approach on the streets and save the latter for the bar. You don't need common ideology if you have common causes.

Use fewer experts from the Ivy League and more from Iowa.

Remember that most minority voters don't get to even look at a glass ceiling. But many of them run into locked doors every day. Pay much more attention to the latter.

Don't dis' those whose votes you need. Convert them with policies that actually help them. Do a good enough job and they'll forget about abortions and gay marriage.

The red states are not your enemy; they are an undeveloped market.

Remember that minorities have diversity, too. Just because a black politician talks about hope and change doesn't mean he's Martin Luther King. Especially if he's from Chicago.

Support small business. Nobody else does.

Support labor unions. Nobody else does.

Go after credit card usury. Nobody else does and everyone else would love it

Move economic issues back to the top of the list. Since the 1980s, liberals have forgotten this basic part of their heritage, which brought us things like an end to the depression, Social Security, a minimum wage and Medicare. Besides, economic issues are ones that best cut across geographic, cultural and ethnic lines.

Sing about it. Just about every successful great movement has moved along to the sound of its own music.

Stop harping on Glenn Beck. You're only helping to build his base. Follow Samuel Goldwyn's advice and "don't even ignore him." The more he becomes the issue the less important real issues become.

Personal to Keith Olbermann and Rachel Madow: A progressive movement can't be built on the mirror image of Bill O'Reilly or with endless sarcastic comments about your opponents. It can be built by people understanding and becoming enthusiastic about the policies you support.

No more stimulus packages for grad school liberals. One of the things many people don't like about traditional liberals is how federally oriented they are. This is due in no small part to an elite class that longs for jobs in Washington. Let them get these jobs on their own. Stop constantly designing stimulus packages for them with new federocentric legislation.

Rediscover subsidiarity: All national legislation with state and local impact should meet the standards of what the Catholic Church used to call the principle of subsidiarity: government power should exercised at the lowest practical level. There lots of ways to do this in federal legislation. Here are a few:
- Revenue sharing

- Giving money instead of orders for public education and other programs.

- Decentralizing government agencies like some of the best existing ones such at the National Park Service, Coast Guard and US Attorney - all highly decentralized and involved with local governments and communities.

- Not making too many decisions at the federal level.

- Supporting the 9th and 10th amendments that clearly limit the federal government's role but which traditional liberals routinely ignore.
Support the Second Amendment for three good reasons: it works, gun prohibition laws don't and you'll make all sorts of new friends. If you really want to change American politics, start a group called Gays for Guns.

Change the rules as well as the game. Support instant runoff voting, public campaign financing, more states, a larger House of Representatives with mixed proportional and district representation like Germany, state banks, and a constitutional amendment to end corporations' legal status as "persons."

Distinguish between good regulation and good jobs for regulators. New laws often favor the latter which is why we keep adding regulators but can't bring the Glass-Steagall Act back.

Sleep with the devil and your offspring may be crooks. Stop selling out so cheaply.

Support a shorter work week. It sure helped progressive populists in the past.

Don't forget the forgotten. Everyone talks about having a black president, but hardly anyone does anything about the huge number of young black and white males to whom we offer two main futures: incarceration or pain if not death on the battlefield. It is similar with the poor in general. They have not only been deserted by conservatives and centrists but by liberals as well.

Ditch the war on drugs. A great recession is a wonderful time to get rid America's most unsuccessful and expensive policy this side of foreign wars. It will save money, reduce the police state, limit prosecutorial discrimination against the poor, lower the crime rate and attract a lot of young voters who didn't even known they were progressives.

Don't be afraid to lead: When your movement is pretty much down to Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich at the national level, you know there's plenty of room for you. Most great movements have been led by those most hadn't even heard of a few years earlier. You could be one of them.

Don't be afraid to follow. One of the most useful techniques in organizing is to support the work of others. A mass movement is built by groups alternately leading and following each other. And one of the best ways to get respect is to give it.

Go local for both your lettuce and your democracy: One of the great failures of liberalism has been its great disinterest in local power. The closer government is to the people the more they like it and the more responsive it tends to be. Besides, if you can't be an effective progressive in the 'hood, then you'll be a pretty lousy one in Washington.

Turn public schools back to their communities. It worked for some 200 years until we decided to turn them into human drone development and detention centers where the young are taught to pass tests rather than to learn things.

Try to do the most for the most. If your politics clearly help the most, then they won't mind so much when you also help smaller groups within our society. But if you help minorities while ignoring the majority you're in trouble. Remember, everyone wants to be in show business.

Don't let anal retentives, turf protectors, budget bullies, ambitious lawyers and CYA bureaucrats kill good ideas. Given the state of contemporary political culture, it would be unlikely that Social Security, Medicare or a minimum wage could be passed today. That's not so much a reflection of our politics as it is of our culture. We have mainly learned how to say no. Progressives need to reintroduce the concept of yes.

Keep in mind the great 1960s saying: Our goal is not to overthrow the system but to make it irrelevant.

The history of our country has involved repeated conflict between the specifics of the soul and institutional abstractions -- between people and places on the one hand and, on the other, a succession of systems desiring to exploit, subjugate or supplant them. We need to oppose not only the bad systems of the moment but unnatural systems in general - all those that revoke, replace or restrain the natural rights of human beings and the natural assets of their habitats.

The first rule of staying free is to act free. The number of liberals and progressives that follow this rule is sadly small. Everyone these days seems to prefer to talk about balancing rights instead of exercising them. But the rights outlined in the Constitution weren't bargaining chips; they were permanent guarantees.

Don't surrender the Bible to the right. Progressives leave the right's phony theological arguments largely unchallenged, but even an atheist can point out that the Ten Commandments doesn't say anything about abortion or gay marriage but sure as hell is down on adultery, stealing (even on Wall Street), bearing false witness (even in political ads) and coveting anything that belongs to your neighbor (even in the name of capitalism). The Bible also doesn't like usury and strongly suggests that the earth is the lord's and not the property of multinational corporations. The ultimate irony of right wingers is that that they are comprised in no small part of despoilers, usurers, war-mongers, hypocrites, idolaters and groupies of false prophets - all of whom are frowned upon by the book it pretends to follow. And its opponents, who are more faithful to the words that the conservatives only quote, are often such good Christians that they never say a mumblin' word about it all.

One of the best ways to revive democracy is to make sure that every organization, church, school, or club is run according to its principles.

Use the word 'progressive" and not 'liberal.' There are still a lot of nice liberals around with whom to make common cause, but the word itself carries too much baggage. Progressives are activists; liberals are a demographic. Progressives emphasize economic change; liberals in recent years have largely ignored it. Progressives convert their opponents; liberals rant about them. Progressives are grassroots; liberals are federocentric.

Encourage citizens to practice reciprocal liberty. No, we don't all agree on how things should be done, but we can all understand that we can't have our liberty unless others do as well. Both right and left spend far too much time trying to stop others from doing things their way. The trick is how as many as possible can do things their way as long as it doesn't hurt others.

Value tolerance. It's a word that isn't heard much any more but could ease a lot of our pain. Tolerance is often a necessary waypoint for people on the way to accepting new ideas. It's the trial period before full acceptance.

Create an alternative culture - Part of the misery of today's America is that there are too many people unhappy with the system who have live their misery alone. Part of the beauty of the 1960s was in varied alternative communities. Put down your Ipod and join with others who agree with you.

Educate more and scold less. Issues like climate change are complicated for many and hard to grasp, especially since our schools have devoted more time to teaching driving and creating drug free zones than they have to science. Help people understand issues and don't blame them for not.

Make change from the bottom up - Part of the illusion of mass media is that change can be organized like a TV series. Try it and typically one of two things happen: it fails or it becomes just more political mush. Too many web-based liberal organizations are simply more lobbying groups. They don't change politics, souls, or history. Despite TV and the Internet, change still comes from the bottom. Build from up there.

Be tough on leaders, not on followers. Those with tightly defined ideas about how we should behave often make little distinction between people who merely accept the values of their culture and those who market and manipulate them. It helps to remember that we are all creatures of our cultures and often speak in their voice. This may not be an admirable characteristic but it certainly is a human one. After all, if it weren't for Rush, dittoheads would have nothing to ditto.

Forget the capitalist-socialist conflict obsession. Two questions help understand the futility:


- Do capitalists ever ride the public subway?

- Who will run the restaurants in the Marxist utopia?

Mix and match based on the reality of the situation and not on somebody's theory. And learn about co-ops, credit unions and community banks.

Define America. If you don't like the way the right does it, come up with your own description, stories and role models.

Speak United States. Most Americans don't talk about stimuli, transparency or infrastructure. But you'd never know it listening to typical Democratic politicians. Avoid the language of the corporate executive, pompous academic, hustling preacher, or boring lawyer. Have fun. If you don't enjoy your cause, how can you expect others to?