kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dr. Anonymous

As promised, I'm letting a guest blog here for this entry. His or her name is "Dr. Anonymous," which is sort of like the book that has the title "What is the Name of this Book?"

I posted Dr. A's comments, then followed up with a couple of my own.

I'm happy to let others take advantage of this almost-universally ignored space. And tell your friend!

I was reading Frank Rich's Saturday column in the Times

Slumdogs Unite!

and was struck by the following sentence.

Most ordinary Americans still don’t understand why banks got billions while nothing was done (and still isn’t being done) to bail out those who lost their homes, jobs and retirement savings.
So how do we force the powers that be to help the little people? How do we place our demands front and center? Here's a thought:

Let's organize a grass roots Home-Owner's Bonus movement. The idea is to get millions of homeowners who have mortgages to organize across the country and withhold payment on their mortgage for one month, say, logically, next December. (We could also extend it to, for example, student loan payments and other such obligations).

If 50 homeowners do it, they'll get sued by the banks and incur penalties, etc. But if five million do it, then it becomes a movement, and there's nothing the banks can do about it, particularly if (when) the story gets national press coverage. The banks would not dare complain about low and middle income families saving $1000 or $1500 for their Christmas bonus in light of their $18 billion fiasco. Columnists and pundits (like Frank Rich) would come to our defense, and the administration would have no choice but to back us.

The banks might turn around and recoup their losses from the TARP or stimulus package, but that's the point. It would redistribute the aid to all strata of society, not just reward the very wealthy who screwed up the economy.

We have ten months to organize this. Any thoughts?

Dr. Anonymous


Thanks, Dr. A. Rather than making snide remarks about Arlo Guthrie's account of conspiracy in Alice's Restaurant, I thought I'd post the following article about French students protesting, doing much the same as you propose. Perhaps this tells us something about the different political traditions that inform the U.S. and France?

Protests in France

AFP - Protesting French students joined forces with teachers Tuesday to force President Nicolas Sarkozy to abandon contested reforms, amid fears the movement could touch off wider social unrest.

Lecturers on both the political left and right have been staging sporadic strikes for several weeks in faculties and research labs across the country, in protest at government plans to overhaul their working conditions.

Seven teachers' unions were to lead marches on Tuesday in Paris and other cities, from Marseille to Strasbourg, for the second time in a week, backed by four of France's powerful student unions.

Ten days after massive crowds marched to demand state help on jobs and wages, and with a three-week-old general strike in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, the government is desperate to keep a lid on the student protests.

"The air smells of gunpowder," the left-wing daily Liberation warned in an editorial. "The movement gripping France's universities could well be the spark that sets off the explosion."

France's Higher Education Minister Valerie Pecresse on Monday appointed a mediator to defuse the situation, and has offered to "rework" the contested reform decree, which is set to come into force in September.

But commentators suggest Sarkozy may shelve the reform to prevent the conflict escalating, as he did with a planned high-school reform last year.

"Retreat is in the air," wrote Liberation.

Battered by economic crisis, Sarkozy's approval rating has collapsed to 36 percent, its lowest since he came to power 21 months ago, a poll showed Monday.

The president is already facing a tense few weeks as he prepares for talks with unions on February 18 on helping working families through the economic crisis -- hoping to defuse the threat of further strikes and protests.

The French university row centres on a decree that would transform academics' work conditions.

Chief among the bones of contention, it would force academics to submit their research for assessment by university officials every four years, in addition to the normal process of peer review.

Experts estimate that up to a fifth of French academics, whose time is officially split between teaching duties and research, are no longer productive, but say this goes undetected unless they apply for a promotion.

While accepting the current system needs to change, academics deeply object to being assessed by officials from outside their field, and worry that university bosses will gain huge powers to promote or demote staff at will.

The row has brought to a head wider resentment of Sarkozy's drive to shake up the state university system.

Students are fired up over changes to the syllabus for trainee schoolteachers, as well as planned job cutbacks in education and reforms boosting the financial independence of French universities from the state.

Many researchers meanwhile feel they are being made scapegoats by a government intent on trimming down the public sector, and were stung when Sarkozy described French academe as "mediocre".

On Monday, a dozen of France's 85 universities including the Paris Sorbonne formally asked the government to scrap the reform and relaunch talks with the profession.


Blogger Jefferey said...

It sounds like the French politicians are well aware of their history, particularly the May-June Days of 1968. The students played a big role in those protests, which came close to toppling the de Gaulle government.

In the US no such luck. Past things like the bonus marchers and Coxeys Army were pretty much put down. Same would happen with a homeowners march or some such thing.

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm afraid Jeffrey is right. In Europe, the people do actually have some power. Here it's corporate America that rules. The good Doctor's grass roots movement is doomed to failure.

-Anonymous (no relation)

12:51 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

Let us consider, however, Viet Nam and the Civil Rights movement, large popular movements (distinct, to be sure) that got sufficient attention to bring about substantial change.

Viet Nam, one might argue, took far too long to convince anyone that our strategy was misonceived (and the Viet Cong helped), and the fact that it was often white, upper class and educated people protesting has to be factored in.

Clearly civil rights took way to long to establish what are now seen to be basic human rights, and it took images of things like firehoses being used on young schoolchildren and ministers being beaten by cops to bring some attention to the issue. And, again, freedom riders got more attention when they were white Yankees, relatively privileged.

But things can get done. Can't they?

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