The collapse of credit derivatives was the result of one thing - many of the firms buying derivatives never had the capital to actually cover these loans if they went belly up. But that was hidden by the complete lack of regulation of the credit derivative market; only the actual credit collapse revealed the problem.
The point is that this speech is fine it's analysis. Credit derivatives were a good way to increase capital flows into the credit market, diversify risk, and expand lending IF they were backed by sufficient capital. The second half of Geithner's speech talks to that point - namely that the worries about derivatives were due their lack of transparency (which of course stemmed from the lack of regulation).
Overall, this is not a speech to get worked up about, especially since it's really just an academic speech. The theory of derivatives expanding capital was right, and in May 2006 they were performing quite well at expanding the credit market. If anything, Geithner gets credit for identifying the transparency issue as a concern back in a time when almost everyone else thought derivatives were beyond reproach.
My criticism isn't aimed at Obama or his handling of the situation. First, he was the target of Lieberman's attacks so any public indication of him looking to ouster Lieberman would have come across as personal retribution. Second, he is now the executive branch and always has to be focused on a larger audience; he's the President of all the people and not the Democratic party. If, especially after the Bush years, he acts otherwise he'll just squander his political capital.
But this being a party discipline matter, it was never Obama's responsibility to determine Lieberman's fate to begin with. The President distancing himself from party matters has been standard operating procedure for decades. Whether or not Lieberman was going to be ousted, it was the responsibility of Democratic leadership outside the executive branch to handle this and keep Obama insulated from the fallout. And considering they weren't sure how the vote would go up until the last few days, it's appalling that they failed complete to develop a case for ousting Lieberman without it seem like a petty political maneuvering, tainting the whole party's image (and Obama's by association) and spending down the political capital we need them to wield in order to get those results.
I've done my nasty on this and I think you know this was my personal reactions b/c obviously it's shit messaging on the org's behalf. I don't want to get endless on this so hopefully I'll be able to cut off here.
From me to you, no audience in mind:
I don't care that when someone is outside the org what they say. I care when they're in the org what they say. And you said it yourself, "silenced my share of dissent." I haven't - I disagree with things large and small all time - it's a big org and it's going to have stuff you don't end up thinking is working right. But your job is to build it, so if you're here you speak up. You could have anytime - all the meetings were public, all the doors were open, I know I walked into them. You scared yourself out of it for some reason and I do not at all understand why an activist of all people, would ever let that be the case. I know and I would think you would too looking at all the top people in PIRG, that none of them are of the mold where they would ever not speak their mind. I mean seriously - can you actually imagine that there would be a time in her life when say Janet didn't speak her mind fully and bluntly? To me there are first and foremost 2 rules of activism: always speak truth and always listen before you talk (too bad for me I suck at the latter).
I do not understand at all how anyone who worked with the people I work with would inherently have a criticism that paints them as intellectually limited, careless, heartless, and uncommitted to democracy as human beings. Now the objection to the top-down model or strategy or tactics, that I get. But when it comes to PIRGbot, drink the Koolaid, is that out of the manual, etc, when those who say "I like working here and I believe x,y,z works" are immediately dismissed, there is no respect on a human level granted to any of us.
See, I didn't start my professional activism at PIRG. I came to PIRG and was just blown away. I have never before, with the exception of some family, met in my life people this caring, this kind, and this supportive, as I the ones I met here. I literally didn't think some of the people I have met here actually could exist on earth before I walked in these doors. Honest truth. And I don't care about myself but to see those folks, who have done so much for me, not just in mentoring but genuine emotional support, inherently discounted and degraded - well the person who does that started a very personal war with me and I will give them no quarter and I cannot give them any respect. That and that alone is what everything I've written addressed to you has been about.
Moving on - as I've said I don't know you. Which honestly weirds me out to begin with because I've been here for many years and I've met almost everybody. But put on your old PIRG cap right now and see what I see:
1) I see a criticism that is devoid of financial analysis (which again it's publicly filed), continuously underplays or ignores facts like the huge alumni network which inherently shows how much staff PIRG produces for the overall movement, does not factor in the reasons for the model in terms of political goals/roles PIRG conscientiously does and does not play and why, or anything that is so very basic and someone with your experience should know easily. And that has led me to question very much whether you bothered to pay attention, to ask, and to learn outside of structured parts of your job. Maybe that's totally wrong, but from what I see online I thought it quite likely. Most importantly, you ignore what you absolutely know is true. A lot of folks like PIRG and their work, a lot of alumni moved on at some point for some reason, but look back fondly, etc. Lots don't too, I know it - some weren't worth hiring and some were greats and it broke my heart when they left - but that doesn't mean there aren't tons of us here from Year 30 throughout Year 1 who love what we do. Maybe you think we're all holding back our criticism, scared into silence, and hey maybe some are, but lots aren't, you know it, and they are worthy of respect.
But most importantly it shows you don't want to do a balanced thing here - because a balanced piece would be here's argument x and here's argument y and since you should know both, you'd reference them (and prove or disprove them or whatever). Now obviously there are a set of points on the canvass you wanted to make, and fine that those are the main arguments, but without context (especially to folks who know the context) they stand as nothing more than a hit job.
2) And that gets us here. I question your abilities because this is the crappiest strategy I could imagine. This is supposed to stimulate a discussion about the Fund, with the Fund weighing in? Posts with "Strangling" in the title, endless diaries attacking the Fund again and again? This was to reach people who've dealt with corporate Kill PIRG efforts on campuses for decades? The people who wrote the rule that you can't organize everyone so move on when you have to? And on blogs of all things? They work 10 hours a day. You actually think they read blogs?? So now what - they're now going to get on a hostile medium, populated by folks uninterested in anything but attack and go into the data side of it? PIRGers who are going to do that? I mean even after leaving you had direct inside access for personal contact and instead you turn to a medium they don't read, go into an attack stance (jesus that's breaking first day of canvassing training on how to engage), and sacrifice meaningful access for the worst medium possible? Seriously what good organizer would even bother with this?
Finally, I get folks posting in that they didn't like their job. I get some of the GCI analysis stuff. But you and Greg have been going on this with a new thing every few weeks for what a year now? Two years after at least he left the job? I've worked truly shit jobs in my life and I never did anything but walk away at the end and get on with living. I can't possibly imagine how a person could actually spend this much time on this stuff. So when I wonder if you guys are a bit off, it's neither invective nor dismissive - I'm dead serious on that.
So again, me to you, no audience. And I write this only because you have served and I wonder if really you don't get folks like me or if I'm just totally fucking wrong and out of my head in what I see when I read your and Greg's stuff. I don't hold a candle to the folks working here all around me but I asked the questions, I spoke my mind, I never ever have or will blame anyone but myself for any lack of success.
Does that make me a PIRGbot? What's an activist look like then?
"But none of that shoule be construed as base-building organizing of a targeted constituency. The best way that I can think of to show this is to use the examples of labor unions, espeically those that activley promote leadership and participation by their members. These include some of the best locals in SEIU, CWA, CA. Nurses Assoc, UNITE HERE, and the UFW to name just a few."
Thank you - I love this post. Do you work for ACORN BTW - thought maybe so from your post? (If so gods bless and keep on rocking !) Labor completely dwarfs PIRG and where the amped up tone on PIRG canvassing staff wigs me out (especially since lots of them are not looking to go into activism, just applying for summer jobs and in fact we convert some of those into the field).
Now this ended up being really long and is not quite the overall discussion you are referencing above and which I'd like to have myself, but I'll go into some stuff from the PIRG side in regards to this:
From a PIRG perspective, the answer is that we are not and have typically not looked to be a constituency building organization. Labor certainly comes from that tradition - they work in contained areas (workplaces) and build up a constituency. PIRG comes from that in the student arena where we started (but since students are constantly revolving through a campus one that is more cyclical and shallow than labor in a workplace). But from the get go, the canvass was not a conceived to be a constituency-building mechanism. When the student PIRGs joined together to found a new group the role was to be a statewide watchdog group and the canvass was to be purely two things - 1) a pressure mechanism on legislators (interestingly it's part of a reason we aren't connected to some of the funder world because our distribution of legislative scorecards worries a set of connected donors) and 2) reaching the middle and beginning the conversion process. Education is then handled later through newsletters, email alerts, phone trees - all the usual stuff but the design is to get a broad base that is aware and takes limited action. PIRG has in fact traditionally and explicitly stated it's role is not citizen leadership development but the across-the-aisle broad base advocacy role. And it has happily ceded leadership development to other community groups, viewed that as their turf not to infringe upon, while we play the broader statewide lobbyist role. It's not that we don't see value in it, in fact as I mentioned before we've even layered in support for community groups - some help with funding connecting them to foundations and such (even direct gifts), some political help, etc - also Toxics Action Center whose job is in the Northeast to help usually all-volunteer, unfunded groups working on NIMBY issues learn the political, media and funding world so they can get off the ground.
I see how in the context of the electoral realm, where a whole new farm of citizen leaders is really needed that model can wig progressive activists out and a quick-initial contact can interface poorly with those folks. But for our issues and for the vast majority of citizens (and especially when the goal is to get people from soft-enviro to highly aware of money in politics and corporate control of government - a very long conversion) this low-key go-slow approach works quite well.
On the lack of connection stuff in staff: Overall, I think that's not the case for a lot of folks, there are tons of meetings, lots of trainings (including the big Denver training which is for everyone from the bookkeeper to an executive director) way too many internal email updates honestly, and lots of socials (not even counting the week in Aspen) so beyond just going to your director, there's info everywhere and non-stop networking. Now certainly there are folks who don't take advantage of all that. But I think the two issues in play here, and ones worth exploring, are that since PIRG does have intense standards and eliminator-style staff development strategy and since we focus mostly on hiring young activists, we end up with a whole set of folks who leave after short-timing it; folks who've come out of the most structured initial roles and they have less perspective out of the gate. And then and I think this is something we'll need to grow past, as each part of PIRG has taken off, it's gotten regimented enough that folks cannot be as connected and stay in only their realm (especially a problem with canvass directors and campus staff who are more remotely based - but a problem inherent in going for presence in 50 states).
However, promotion and ability to change roles in PIRG is huge. We promote quickly and folks (if they have the skills required) can move from anywhere in the org to anywhere else that has an opening. So not only have we had a lot of CDs and campus folks who are now in the top level of leadership or in advocacy roles all over, we even have leaders that have come from the administrative side because they had the chops to do it. That's pretty broad in the opportunities realm but it does require sticking around longer than a year and wanting to try other roles.
Obviously of course the eliminator method in staff development has a decent amount of blowback, especially as PIRG has become larger as of lateTo me, it really comes out of the origin of the group - back in the 80s founding era organizers for environmental and corp. responsibility were in short supply and PIRG tried to fill the void. We focused on breeding top-tier organizers as much as possible. Which means loading up the responsibility and the roles staff play building toward all around executive director types. And that's why you're increasingly seeing ex-PIRGers assuming top roles in other groups (more recently as the second wave of folks from the 90s have gotten around since PIRG was smaller in the 80s - interestingly one of the things I've felt has been really left out in the "stagnant issue groups" discussion I've seen online is that the rest of the movement's increasing focus on organizing coincides with the ascension of organizers from groups like ACORN, US Action, PIRG, and others into other power centers of the movement. Certainly though the ascension of blogs and their organizing focus is another huge part of it). I don't think that the effects of such accelerated responsibility affects folks that much a few years into the org because lots of roles are comfortably available (although I've definitely seen folks ended up in the wrong role and have a hard time of it), but in the beginning there is definitely a hard pace.
Also, you're absolutely right that the job market for organizers is way too small. I think it's the funders. Way too much emphasis on policy, way too little understanding of organizing and it's importance (a bunch get it but they are a minority of all that's out there). Maybe I'm wrong but all the groups who are really organizing-oriented out there are the ones who first focused on financial independence. So PIRG as an example we didn't get into the foundation side until early 90 - first we built up the student fee on campuses and then the broad membership base. Same thing I see in ACORN, Greenpeace (which also has Europe $), labor (which has dues), Sierra Club (which has the businesses and hiking club as well as the canvass), CWA and US Action with their canvasses, etc. Again, maybe I'm leaping but it seems like all the groups embracing organizing had to build their financial independence on their own and many of the groups that don't do it are the ones with more foundation and large donor contributions as their financial base.
Hopefully that will change more as blogs play up organizing and more folks from organizing groups ascend into the foundation world (I myself worry a lot about what will happen with the funders on this issue post 2008 if the Dems take it).
yeah, bash Phelps - I always love that one. He did jail for Native American rights, started up earning a salary of what $10K or less and works something like 12 hours a day all his life to build his groups for little biddy student orgs to an organizing powerhouse. Oh and he gives back his salary to PIRG because yes he has money now.
Then he exports the knowledge to the groups that need that expertise and don't have it themselves - the DNC needed tons of new small donors b/c they barely had any while the RNC was loaded. Phelps founds GCI, then deliver 750K new members, more members than the DNC had ever hoped for, at lower cost than the DNC had expected, and that makes Phelps a moneygrubber.
Canvassing is expensive. That's just how it is. But it delivers a larger more diverse swath of members than any other form of fundraising. Membership building is a long-term game and the DNC found it to be money well spent.
I don't Phelps on a personal level, but I've seen his mind in action and he has earned my respect many times over. He walks the walk.
Respect your elders young man - they have much they could teach you, but only if you have respect.
I do want to apologize to all the regulars of MyDD for my hard-tone in this thread. I am a newbie but I've been excited to find MyDD for all the electoral insight (especially since I come out of the issue-group world) and I don't want to be a snarky little commentator attacking people all the time - that's why I wanted to bow out of this thread before. As you can see on my accounts here and on Kos I'm out there commenting on other stories unlike greggish and Lockse who are hijacking this site to write on nothing but their personal grudge. In fact, I'm starting work on my first diary post (nothing related to this) so I hope to get deeper in to blogging and really contribute.
But this is a slanted hit job on my friends and colleagues and I've got to stand up on this one. If you don't stand up, you'll get put down - we all know that one. I hope as I try to join the blogging community you'll understand my anger on this and forgive my harshness here.
OK, I'm going to log back in a) to thank Proletariat Blues for his comment and b) because really there is more I want to say.
Proletariat Blues is right - it is personal for me. Not that I'm being attacked - so what, but that my co-workers busting their ass are. And that everytime I log in to MyDD I have to see this shit - you can only hold out so long on something like this before you lose it.
And what really infuriates me is what (I think it was psifighter) was calling them out on a while back - that it's just them going back and forth recommending this string, hijacking the site because all they have is 3-4 person audience. So Liese, when you're the one promoting any and all of these stories, no matter how off-the-mark don't give me this faux "I still have loyalty" smokescreen stuff.
These posts aren't about canvassing at all - there's no analysis of all the community groups that used to do canvassing and had to bow out in the 80s, they don't talk about Greenpeace having to close down their own canvass in the 90s because they still lost money after even the renewal gift (and I love you Greenpeace, please don't be offended it was long ago and I'm just mentioning it as a lesson learned progressives should know - keep on kicking ass!) and EVERY PIRGer knows that story (so why doesn't Liese context it?) as a way of working through the financials and possibilities of various canvass models . In short they aren't doing any analysis of how to build various models. It's all PIRG/GCI/Fund named directly, attacked directly, and done so from day 1 - it's a hit job and nothing more.
And it's a half-assed hit job. They don't analyze the advocacy roles PIRG plays (canvass is only 1/4 of it's operation you know), talk about the other organizers that focus on member activation and relationship-building after the initial canvass, that PIRG's field strategy is not that much direct member stuff but coalition-building so the community groups mobilize and PIRG pulls them all into the campaign, that then PIRG tends to be the muscle for those community groups in an overall coalition where the well funded groups with weight to throw around are at the table. For all their community organizing focus, They don't at all mention the community organizing strategies are in the PIRG world but housed in their own groups (like the very well-respected Toxics Action Center) and then extrapolate what the limitations of a community organizing model when your groups is playing the role of a statewide legislative group. Do they mention that in the entire national movement PIRG (focusing on broad outreach as it does) has the smallest portfolio of large donors, that it didn't even start getting grants until the early 90s, is there anything at all the acknowledges that PIRG is far from the big dog on the progressive movement but instead one of the lesser funded enviro groups, now just finally coming into it's own and gaining the financial ability to take things to the next step? Hell they don't know the financials (it's called a form 990 folks - what every non-profit has to file and anyone can find).
Why - because they don't know this stuff and they aren't looking to find out. Greg canvassed for three months - barely basic training. Liese obviously never did anything else besides canvass (and I'm pretty sure 4 or her inflated "8" years is just being a student volunteer but I'm not entirely sure - I really don't remember ever meeting her) and obviously never walked in to the always open offices of her directors and asked questions on this (guess what - I did, and learned half this shit in Year 1 for chrissake), never really stood up in all staff NAOPI meetings (where any staffer can chime in) and talked through her stuff. She could have still after leaving walked in and talked directly to PIRG VIPs and asked strategy questions - are they interviewing PIRG higher ups here? Do they have any hard data at all? Are they even looking for hard data beyond a couple blog comments?
No - this is Faux News style journalism, write a tilted post but in a nice audience-pleasing reasonable sounding tone, hear only from a handful of short-time canvassers and other low-level people, don't follow up with anyone who doesn't support your worldview so you get deeper and deeper in your self-reinforcing world of just a small group of people, and then collude to inflate the rankings of your stories to give the appearance of popular interest. And tacking on inflated credentials to bolster their creds (8 years of executive management my ass). Shit - have you seen their stuff on Kos - now it's just threads about why can't they get it recommended.
So I'm answering their hit job the only way you can. I'm not going pretend it's a debate, I'm not going to pretend they are either allies, friends, or even interested in truth. And I am going to do what the Left needs to do every day with every sorry fuck Right Wing pundit playing the same game - shine the spotlight directly on who's behind it, In this case, just two disgruntled ex-employees with limited perspective.
Alright there, I got my snarking out of my system, and I can tell why folks do this - felt good I'll tell you. Anyway, feel free to get a good shot in as a response, but I come to mydd to learn and input positively on the electoral stuff, so I'll be bowing out of this thread.
PIRGbot, hmmm. Now honestly - all those folks you hung out with at Aspen, worked with for years, knowing them in person and all - is that how you think of them?
This stuff is why I don't respect you. I went back and read your and Greg's stuff and some of Greg's early work was interesting (especially in the context exporting a pressure canvass model to purely electoral fundraising work and tensions therein) but after a while it's just endless bitching and increasingly mean-spirited and just way too hystrionic in the importance it places on PIRG in the overall movement. I've known my co-workers for a while and they're good people. But I never met either of you, except for your writings and what I see I don't like.
But me, I'm a little less cuddly than most of my co-workers, so I'll call you on your bullshit. You're a low level political staffer and boyfriend is a writer wannabe. The nonprofit world can hire a thousand of you to consult on a model any day of the week but it tends to ask for a lot more in qualifications. Maybe that's why you're just sitting on the blogs, recommending each other's posts, hoping to get noticed...
It's Liese, right? And if rumor mill serves you're dating Greg Bloom, so then this really is all just you two going off isn't it?
I've read some of your stuff and it comes off pretty low-level analysis and overblown rhetoric to me. And the "PIRG is the whole progressive movement" tone vs. actually just a bunch of state legislative groups is pretty damn laughable.
Nope. Management would never bother with these postings anyway. I mean I work at PIRG, have for a bunch years, love the work, love the folks here, etc. But I'm just a regular schmoe - not a bigwig in the least.
Point is - I don't know who these folks are, but I've worked in enough jobs and met enough people that I know anyone who spends months ranting about an organization they worked for is a few tacos short of a combination plate. So I'm betting they hit the "merit" ceiling in their workplace to begin with.
And I've gotten fed up going to mydd for all the real content and then end up seeing these guys keep promoting their little grudge, so I couldn't hold off teasing them any longer...
Seriously, time to let go. I mean I see your profile and it's all this stuff - so you're just somebody who spends all their free time is trashing their former employer. Really think that's a profile anyone of merit would take advice from?
Jerry needs help? I thought he had it sowed by a huge margin? Last I heard (and this was a while ago so outdated and maybe misremembering) he was at 75%. I'd think Angelides or Garamendi or Chiang could likely use the help more - or am I mistaken and now it's gotten close?
smeyers is right - Walmart is doing some pretty big things on the environmental front, and for the enviro community it's a big important target b/c of their massive effect on vendors and economies of scale. Ford is a greenwasher who cozied up to big enviro groups, built nothing more than one green factory, and still has nothing in it's product line that is environmentally-friendly at the level of it's Japanese rivals. Walmart however (as far as I've been able to follow it so far) is making massive changes with huge ripple effects across the industrial sphere. Certainly, there are legitimately areas where the big box model is in essence environmentally problematic, but it's also (probably irreversibly) dominant in our society and to date there's nothing we can do about it.
I write this in part, b/c I don't tend to like how greenwashing is used in this context - Walmart isn't greenwashing to date (how they meet their commitments will determine if they end up doing greenwashing) - they're anti-labor for sure, not at all progressive certainly, but not greenwashing.
I'm not a fan of Walmart and I say keep hammering them on labor, but seeing a set of comments on their latest stuff I worry (and from other comments) that folks in the progressive sphere don't really get their relationship with enviros. First of enviromentalists are not inherently progressive. Many are but MANY aren't and I know that from meeting environmental group members for years. The leadership of many enviro groups is progressive, moreso than their members, which is the opportunity for the movement in converting enviros to general progressivism.
The other point, is that in the political world I see much more an environmental movement than a progressive movement. For example - the religious right is a movement, folks come out of a culture with it's constant reinforcement rituals (going to church, bake sales, bible study, teaching Sunday school) and become politicized and then add in political rituals (GOTV, following issues, writing letters, etc). Progressive have no such identity - they come in for campaigns, maybe in the interim they send in LTEs, donate, write on blogs, but that's not a culture becoming politicized it's already politicized people doing more. Even labor, I think doesn't have that cultural level of identity that made it a movement in the early Mother Jones days where it was a community first, politically active second. BUT, enviros are a movement. Folks are redesiging all aspects of their personal lives on their own - what they buy, what they eat, composting, green burials, green weddings, etc. And many are not politically oriented while doing this, their politics is coming out the culture. And more than any other group enviro is reaching out to new cultures (evangelists, hook and bullet, etc) and working to get them in the enviro culture.
I know this is sort of a big tangent. But I put this all in under Walmart, b/c a) this is going to keep happening. Enviromental principles for many industries make economic sense, and as enviros and labor team up against a target, the target will split them off, appeasing enviro and not labor. And while that will annoy progressive enviros, for the enviro movement as a whole it will be a mighty and celebrated victory. So, while I'm happy with folks pounding on Walmart for labor, I guess I'm just putting in a caution using Walmart as an example, from stuff I've seen on them and in the blogs on issue groups overall. It's not just about groups being narrowly issue oriented - it's about the identities out there. And as identities among the public both labor or enviro are far bigger groups out there (and not per se progressive) than self-defined liberals or progressives. As the constituencies get split off on tangible legislative or corporate victories, as they always will, progressives must be careful that they aren't just talking to the loser but also the winner and acknowledging the good things that have come to pass for them. Because enviros do not need to convert progressives, but progressives do need to convert a lot of the enviros.
Right - the point of call for change as I understand it is that you can be directed with the system to call anywhere in the country. So if you're in an area where little is in play, then you can volunteer for a more competitive/key race without having to travel. So for sure, get connected with good local candidates, but folks should get into the Call for Change network as well.