Friday, August 26, 2011

Leaving DC, And Already Planning A Return Trip

As many of you know, this trip to D.C. has been enormously productive. I will be providing a detailed report on what I accomplished, whom I met with, where I was when the earthquake hit (ha!), and so forth. This trip has made me realize that I need to return for another one in October or thereabouts (What I really need to do is relocate to the East Coast. It's going to happen. I will get out of exile in Texas, but I am not sure when).

As for this next trip to D.C., I don't want it to be solo. I get lonely in those long, marble corridors, so having company would be very much appreciated - a Blackberry is no substitute for human interaction. That means we have to come up with a strategic plan that will enable people to join me and walk the halls on the House and Senate side to meet with our leaders and demand change.

One of the things I am going to bring up on my return trip is this: why not go after these schools for defrauding students? I think a number of you feel like you were defrauded, and that is something that hasn't been brought up during my meetings. We need to take aim at the institutions who have been responsible for creating the student lending crisis (and I am not just referring to the proprietary schools; I am talking about the non-profits, too), so I am going to get to work on this angle for my return visit. I just spoke to someone on this trip who had an outrageous story about what his financial aid office did to him - I realize the legislation has been written as such that it makes it nearly impossible to prove that the promissory notes we all sign are part of the scam. Once you sign those promissory notes, in many cases, schools adjust and change your funding at will. Yeah, they might call you in for "counseling: and inform you of changes, but there's a lot of fine print that these folks fail to cover. It's deeply troubling how much of the whole scheme is designed to put the student borrower at a disadvantage.

Returning to the October trip, if I had it my way, the next trip would look like this:

(a) 1-2 people from each state - I am realistic, and know that won't be possible, but a girl can dream, right?

(b) Those 1-2 people will set up appointments with their Senators and Representatives.

(c) I will set up specific meetings with my current contacts on the Hill (that's now close to 15 offices), and student debtors will join me for those talks.

(d) Lodging would be provided - again, AEM is on a shredded shoestring budget, so this wouldn't be remotely possible, even for a team of 10-20 participants . . . unless we were to raise an extraordinary amount of money. But . . . perhaps we could find student debtors in the area who would be willing to house people.

(e) Transportation - while I don't think this could be done if we were to have 1-2 people show up from every state, if, say, 10-20 people came, it could be possible to cover the cost of buses and metro. Cabs, as most of you know, are outrageously expensive here (on a side note, whenever I think about this, I get angry and think about how cheap it was to travel by cab in Seoul - why the hell can't it be like that here?!?). So if you were to "cab it" places, you'd have to shell out your own money for that. Sorry!

(f) Lunch/snacks - again, if 10-20 people came along, I think we could figure out a budget that would allow us to have at least one meal covered. It would be great to cover dinners, too, but I don't think that is realistic.

As you can see, if we succeeded in recruiting 10-30 people to come with me, it would essentially be a small army of student loan debtors in DC. They would be representing AEM and millions of other student loan debtors. How great would that be?!? We would go to as many offices as possible, share our stories, and urge our leaders to do something about the crisis.

I am also aware that the White House visits AEM from time-to-time. It is quite an honor to know that someone is visiting me from the White House! Whoever you are, let Mr. Roberto Rodriguez know that there are a number of people on the Hill who are deeply concerned about the student lending crisis. Let him know that I look forward to working with him in the future. (I've heard he's a really great guy).

In terms of applied activism, AEM is just getting started in this next phase. But I can see the change, and it's good. Indeed, I can see how much more progress has been made since I was last here in mid-January, and on that trip I met with Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC)!

Stay tuned for a more detailed update.

Related Links

"Member Notes: Meetings, Legislation, the hope of institutionalizing AEM, Inc.," AEM (January 18, 2011)


Hilary said...


I believe that the supporters of this group AEM and the Support Group for the Indentured Education Class can pull together to raise money to fund this October trip. I would think the first thing to figure out would be logistics. How many people would be going? Plane fare? Lodging? Transportation? Meals? The question is will people be willing to help contribute to this to help solve the student loan crisis? I would think a separate fund should be set up for this trip. Even if people can't give much, every dollar counts. It can add up very quickly. Who would be willing to help fund this trip? It is time to put your money where your mouth is. Unfortunately, IOU's are not accepted.

CheckMark said...

Could savings be had by renting a van at the airport for the period over the cost of cab and public transit?

Peter Duffy said...

I can get you an audience with Das Williams, Assemblymember, 35th District out of Santa Barbara, California. I'm also sure of some other individuals that would like to join you in the meeting, including myself. I know we haven't spoken in some time, thank you for all of your dedicated work on this nightmare. -peter

One Who Survived said...

"I will get out of exile in Texas"

Hm, to each her own, fair enough. And I'm no great lover of Texas, but nonetheless my American side is marginally but preponderantly Southern, so if I ever return to America I'll gladly trade your new (may you attain it soon!) place in metro DC and/or anywhere in true Yankeeland (north of around the 40th parallel, the southern parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois are de facto Dixie) for somewhere in the Anglophone parts of Texas. ;-) :-)

In defense of my Texan cultural half-siblings:

1. Texas produced the semi-Divine Alison Kraus:

2. And The Dixie Chicks:

3. And Don Williams; this song of his was close to my heart when I was a boy:

But to each her own, that's the whole point of E Pluribus Unum! Cryn, may you return to and settle in whatever land is closest to your heart, ASAP.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Peter - good to hear from you. Let's talk, and no worries about being out of the loop. That's why I'm here - it my job to keep folks up to date. :)

@OneWhoSurvived - you should not equate my comment about being in exile Texas as meaning that I hate Texas. On the contrary, I enjoy the state, but it is not the place for me and for a lot of reasons. I enjoy VISITING Texas, but it makes no sense for me to live there.

@CheckMark - I like the idea about renting a van at an airport. That makes a lot of sense.

One Who Survived said...

" should not equate my comment about being in exile Texas as meaning that I hate Texas."

My above comment implied nothing of the kind. Re-read it, with its emphasis on "to each her own".

Hm, now WHY would a highly educated American of your age (I estimate around age 25-35, basically old enough to be my younger sister) ASSUME that the main reason to feel out of place in a certain region/community would be because of "hatred" of it?

I'm not certain, but I suggest one probable explanation might be because the rhetoric of equating difference with "hatred" has been drilled into the minds of most highly educated Americans for the past 20 years or so.

Or more simply, Cryn, I didn't use the word "hate", YOU did! Hmmm... ;-)

The above is just some food for thought. And now here are two more songs in defense of Texas and Dixie:

1. "Bonnie Blue Flag", from movie "Gods and Generals", excoriated by all present day bien-pensants because it contemplates the possibility that the Confederate States of America were not categorically evil:

2. Elvis' "American Trilogy":

And I share those two songs here, in accord with Cryn's desideratum of being "playfully subversive"!

One Who Survived said...

Cryn, I would like your friends Mike and Morely - whose surnames indicate a 99 percent probability that their grandparents or great-grandparents were Jews who emigrated from the Russian Empire - to read this:

1. Good on ya, Cryn, for posting my above comment despite (OR BECAUSE OF?) its antipathy to the conventions of mainstream American "intellectuals";

2. In my experiences as a young lawyer (the point here being that I belonged to the class of "professionals", in other words the top of the American social pyramid) in an East Coast American city in the 1990s, the majority of my Jewish-American peers (mostly of recent Russian-Jewish descent, which is significant in terms of the diversity of Jews)... I was saying, the majority of my Russian-Jewish-American colleagues/peers regarded Poor White Christian Americans (especially rural and southern ones) with contempt.

But the truth is that the heritage of the majority of Jewish-Americans - whose great-grandparents were mostly semi-literate and almost 100 percent desperately poor - was very similar to the heritage of the majority of rural "White Trash" Americans, whom many (not all, but all too many) of them (second or third generation Jewish-Americans) regard with contempt and scorn.

Here's a reminder, that around year 1880, there was less than a dime's worth of difference between the kinds of poverty and social injustices suffered by the poor Jews of the Russian Empire (back then including Poland) and the "White Trash" of America. THIS song is the "White Trash" equivalent of what most of the ancestors of today's Jewish-Americans sang around a century ago:

And so we are, or we OUGHT to be, joined at the hip, ALL of us Americans who have EVER suffered from social injustice, are joined at the hip.

Hoo boy, this is why I still love Karl Marx after all. Because HE understood that the REAL political conflict IS BETWEEN ECONOMIC CLASSES!

One Who Survived said...

But now I think I owe Morely and Mike some comic relief.

Ah, Morely and Mike, IF you're not yet familiar with "Cthulu", well just google it. "Cthulhu" was imagined by the Anglo-Calvinist-Yankee HP Lovecraft (1890-1936) in several of his wonderfully American Gothic Horror stories.

Well, you don't need to be expert on Lovecraft's stories to appreciate this spoof of them. This song is a spoof of the song in "Fiddler on the Roof", "Tradition", where Tevye talks about his village and its traditions.

Ah, for good measure, first here's a clip of that "Fiddler on the Roof" song, "Tradition" (which means a BIT to me as one of my great-grandfathers was the son of a Prussian (Eastern German) Jew who, living in Berlin in circa 1850, was probably the son or grandson of a Russian Jew:

And now here's the spoof, "Tentacles":

One Who Survived said...

And to my above comment, I must add that as a disciple of Edmund Burke, I agree with Tevye, that "Without traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof!"

I have more faith and trust in the 1,700 year old traditions of the various kinds of Islam, and the 1,980 year old traditions of various kinds of Christians, and the 2,500 year old traditions of various kinds of Buddhism, and the (depending on when we posit the beginning of Judaism) 2,000-5,000 year old traditions of Judaism, than I have in any ephemeral political "ideology" concocted by any generation's opportunists.

Today, within living memory of Hitler's lifetime, Hitler's name is accursed all over the world. And Lenin is regarded with scorn, and Marx is marginalised for good reasons. Meanwhile, the truth-tellers Siddarta-the-Buddha, and Jesus, and Muhammed, remain revered and loved all over the world today...

...because in the long run, lies decay and die, while truth survives.
In the long run. Cf Gandhi:

"Whenever I despair, I remember that the way of truth and love has always won. There may be tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they may seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail. Think of it: always."

But Gandhi was not a "social scientist", he was a man of Faith.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Martin Luther King Jr. was also a man of faith. Cornel West wrote a very moving piece about what he would want right now. He would not want a memorial, he would want a revolution.

One Who Survived said...

AND for extra measure (because as one of my mentors taught me, "everything in moderation, INCLUDING moderation!")...

...a bit of GOOD excess, for Mike and Morely, re my above comments re "Fiddler on the Roof":

Here's my favourite scene, where Tevye and his friends celebrate and are joined by their neighbours the Russian Christians. To my mind, the most beautiful part is when the Russian Christian offers his hand to Tevye - inviting him to dance - and then Tevye takes that hand of friendship, and then the Jews and Christians all dance together in their differently accented yet FRATERNAL ways:

Hilary said...

Cryn, we could do a fundraiser using the paypal account as there is now, just having people specify the October DC trip. Do you think that would get too confusing for people? They could specify it in the notes section.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Hil - I think that's a great idea, but let's talk about it by phone on Tuesday. I have to estimate how much this current trip has cost AEM! :)

Hilary said...

To all supporters of AEM and the Support Group for the Indentured Education Class:

I think it is time we pulled out all the markers we possibly have. Do you know someone in DC that could help? Now is the time to call in those favors and make it happen. I truly believe this is going to a historical event one day that they will talk about in history books. Although,we have to get there first. Is everyone willing to help?

DJ said...

If you think the cabs are expensive now, just wait. DC is considering switching to a medallion system.

Incidentally, the average cab driver in DC earns 32k a year.