« November 2006 | Main | January 2007 »

December 31, 2006

Saddam Hanged By Pro al-Sadr Shiites

From In Hussein's Last Minutes, Jeers and a Cry for Calm,

Hussein said, "Ya Allah," preparing himself for the platform he stood on to open up.

Suddenly, witnesses recalled, the room erupted in Shiite religious chants as the Shiite Muslims in the audience seized the moment they had long sought. One man yelled, "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada," unveiling his loyalty to radical anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Hussein smiled, the witnesses said, and asked sarcastically, "Moqtada?"

..."Long live Muhammad Bakr Sadr," yelled another voice. Bakr Sadr was the uncle of Moqtada al-Sadr and founder of the Dawa party, of which Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a senior leader.

Some explanation: Moqrada al-Sadr is the "terrorist" we are now preparing to "surge" our troops to fight. The Dawa party is tied to the Sadrists. The Shiites are what Saddam and the "insurgency" calls "Persians" because they are allied with Iran.

Bush invaded Iraq, and this group now leading that country is the inevitable result of Bush's - and America's - terrible, terrible mistake.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:32 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 29, 2006

Saddam Hanged

Following a sham trial Saddam Hussein was executed today for executing 148 people following a sham trial.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:56 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Voting Machines Story - Who Are Our Elections FOR?

Usually at Seeing the Forest we ask, "Who is our economy FOR?" We do this to point out that in a democracy the people are supposed to be in control, make the decisions, and decide on rules that make things better for the public. Corporations are supposed to exist to serve US, not the other way around.

Today Seeing the Forest is asking a different question: Who are our ELECTIONS for? Here is why: Florida judge rules against Democrat in disputed election,

A judge ruled Friday the Democrat who narrowly lost the race to succeed U.S. Representative Katherine Harris in Congress cannot examine the programming code of the electronic voting machines used in the disputed election, saying Christine Jennings' arguments about the possibility of lost votes were "conjecture."

... State officials have declared Republican Vern Buchanan the winner by 369 votes. But 18,000 electronic ballots showed no votes cast in the House race, and Jennings contends the machines lost the votes.

Well one way to take it past "conjecture" is to look at the code running on the machines and SEE if it screwed up! Then we'll KNOW, instead of having to "conjecture" about it.

So we are NOT ALLOWED TO KNOW how our voting machines even WORK? We are not allowed to ask if the code in these machines WORKS?

WHO ARE OUR ELECTIONS FOR if we're not even allowed to know how the votes are "counted?"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:23 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 27, 2006

Ford's Mistake

Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, which prevented a full criminal investigation and trial. He felt it would help to heal the country, which had been through assassinations, riots and the divisive Vietnam war. But the pardon had the unintended consequence of creating an impression that those in the highest office really aren't accountable to the public if their actions violate the law.

Four years later the Reagan administration picked up right where Nixon's had left off, and got caught. Other select insiders made the decision not to pursue Reagan.

As chair of the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, Hamilton chose not to investigate President Ronald Reagan or President George H. W. Bush, stating that he did not think it would be "good for the country" to put the public through another impeachment trial.
At a time when thousands were being sent away for years for smoking a joint or doing a line, the country was learning that things really are different for those at the very top.

Bush1 then pardoned everyone involved, especially those being pressured by Lawrence Walsh to testify against him for his own possibly criminal part in it. The public got the message clearly that time.

So by the time Clinton took office the public was ready to believe that all of the country's leaders are corrupt and pay no price for it. The conservatives had an opening to demand that a President finally be held to account. It's the old Seeing the Forest Rule: Republicans accuse others of what they are in fact doing themselves. They accused Clinton of everything, but the investigations found nothing. They impeached him anyway. Now the public understood just who the rules were for and not for. After what Nixon, Reagan and Bush1 had gotten away with, Clinton didn't even have to break any rules, yet he was impeached.

And so here we are. Bush2 can do anything with impunity - and says so with a smirk. His cronies loot, lie and steal. The public and especially the Washington insider class are conditioned to accept that this is the way things are done. All partly tracable back to Ford's subversion of accountability. A mistake. A big one.

Let's learn from Ford's mistake. HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE! Demand that the actions of those in power in the last six years are investigated and any crimes discovered are punished to the fullest extent of the law. Let's set the country and democracy back on course.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:23 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

A Great Read - Blog Hero Award

THIS is why I love reading blogs: Daily Kos: The Culture Wars in America

The extent to which you believe what you’re told, or even allow it to register without rigorous questioning is the extent to which you are sadly misinformed. This concerted campaign of disinformation is so pervasive in our culture that it can’t help but affect us all, disorienting individuals and distorting every issue to the point that knowing the truth in modern day America is nothing less than a Herculean task - and yet knowing the truth, as elusive as it may be, is our solemn duty as citizens.
One Pissed Off Liberal, the author, hereby wins an extremely coveted Seeing the Forest Blog Hero Award. Stop by and pick it up.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:01 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Government or Corporations?

Angry Bear is having a discussion about which is better at making decisions, corporations or government?

Some folks think just about everything should be left to the private sector, some think that government should do a lot more. Presumably, that must mean there are big differences between a modern American corporation, say, and a government.
Go join the discussion.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:31 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 26, 2006

Today's Voting Machines Story - The Payoff?

The BRAD BLOG : Georgia Election Director Reportedly Takes New Job With Diebold,

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Georgia state officials are claiming that Kathy Rogers, the recently resigned Director of outgoing Secretary of State Cathy Cox's State Elections Division, is going to work for Diebold.
We need to demand information about her salary, stock and other payments received.

Remember, Georgia is the state where exit polls showed Senator Max Cleland winning, and then the paperless voting machines reported he lost.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:51 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Health Insurance Companies WILL Oppose Your Plan Anyway

With a Democratic Congress coming in January, obviously several health care plans are going to be introduced. Here is some free advice to legislators. Don't even bother including private insurance companies in your plans.

Conventional Wisdom thinking is that you have to include private insurance companies in any plan, or they'll put so much money and effort into opposing your plan - and you - that nothing can pass. In the 90's the Clinton administration offered a comprehensive health care plan that involved private insurers instead of a "Medicare-For-All"-style national health plan, hoping to ward off industry opposition. This was an example of what I call the "Afraid Rush Will Say Something Bad About You" syndrome - the point being that Rush will say something bad about you anyway, no matter what you do. And of course the private insurance companies did oppose the Clinton plan anyway, putting so much money into opposing it that it never even came up for a vote. The effort went beyond just opposing the plan and became personal, with smears and take-no-prisoners tactics directed against anyone involved in trying to bring health care to the public. So much of that money and venom was left over that it helped bring in a Republican congress the following year.

So here is some news for Democrats who are offering health care plans that offer tribute to private insurance companies: They are going to oppose your plan.

Do you think that it is more efficient to use a private insurance company to provide health insurance? Then take a look at what the big corporations do when offering health insurance to large numbers of employees. The big companies "self-insure." They set up their own little internal national-health-care plans for their employees and administer them themselves rather than use private insurance companies because private insurance companies cost too much. Face it: Medicare-For-All is the only plan that will work. These days the private insurance companies are designed to deliver profits and enormous CEO salaries, while delivering the absolute minimum benefit to the public that they can get away with without personally being put in jail -- fines and civil judgments being already factored in.

Do I have a low opinion of insurance companies? You bet. Am I alone? Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:02 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

They Never Stop Smearing Our Leaders

This AP story, Candidates turn to Web to reach voters, begins,

Al Gore claimed he invented it. ...

Ah, the Internet.

They just never stop. It just doesn't matter how many ways we try to get the truth out about how the Right's smear machine works... They STILL tell the public that Al Gore is a liar who claimed he invented the Internet.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:24 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 24, 2006

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

Looksalotlikexmas.jpg
From the Johnsons!

Here is last year's card.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:27 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Shooting Iraqi Civilians For Sport - WHISTLEBLOWERS Fired

Mercinaries, Halliburton-subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root, shooting at civilians for fun, whistleblowers fired for reporting it.

In other words, the usual.

Did American fire on Iraqis for sport?

"There's been no follow-up whatsoever by any government agencies," says Schmidt.

And its not just this incident. Despite similar allegations involving other companies, not a single security contractor in Iraq has yet faced charges for attacking civilians.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 23, 2006

The Right's March

Paperwight's Fair Shot: Lather, Rinse, Repeat,

It's not that the Republicans view Mein Kampf as an instruction manual, but rather that the march toward religio-corporatist totalitarianism tends to pass through the same towns each time.
My comment: What is "the base" hearing? When has Bush ever condemned a surrogate for promulgating the far-right's messages of hate?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Who Is Our Economy For?

Here is a "Who Is Our Economy For?" question. What responsibilities do / should American companies have to America and Americans?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 22, 2006

Put the Bush Foreign Policy into Receivership

Two very good pieces suggesting what can be done to restrain Bush and Cheney: Putting the Bush Foreign Policy into Receivership I and Putting the Bush Foreign Policy into Receivership II. This is the kind of thinking we need to be doing -- it's much more important than strategizing the 2008 election or betting on the 2008 nomination horserace. Bush and Cheney still have the power to bring on disasters which will make our present situation in the Middle East seem wonderful in comparison.

Posted by John Emerson at 9:35 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 20, 2006

Iraq - Where From Here?

I ask everyone to go read this diary at DailyKos about a family in Iraq, and the local reaction to the sense that American troops will be leaving. Daily Kos: A Sobering, Agonizing Reality.

My family in Baghdad - it's bad. They can't go out and go to get food. We call and they are in their house because they can't go out. They have separated Baghdad and put Sunnis in one area and Shi'ia in another. And they have people there to keep them apart. But now with your report, they are going to leave and the Shi'ia are going to come over there. I talked to one family member and he told me 'they are going to kill us when the Americans leave'. They don't want electricity and food and jobs anymore. They just want to be safe. It's the only thing they want. And now the Americans are going to leave.
Yet at the end of the day, to simply pack up and go home means that my friend's in-laws get slaughtered. Literally slaughtered. Whatever tiny semblance of control there is in Baghdad exists at the end of an American rifle. No more Americans, and those people are GONE.
We all need to come fully to grips with the situation Bush has caused. It isn't a TV show that ends in an hour with everything neatly wrapped up. It's people's lives.

Yes, it's a terrible situation. We should not have invaded Iraq and the people involved need to be tried for war crimes. But what do we do now?

We started a war, and the war continues. If we "just leave" it gets worse. If we stay it gets worse. But we all have to stop thinking that it can be made to just go away, and start thinking about where we go from here.

Here is a fact - the Geneva Conventions require an occupation force to provide for the security of the occupied region. That's international law, too, just like invading was against the law. Bush and everyone involved in the invasion and aftermath should be tried for their part in it - but from now on the US government STILL has the legal - and moral - responsibility to bring security to the people of Iraq. THAT is what our conversation needs to be now about because that is the most serious need today.

WE invaded - America, not just Bush. We said, "Not in our name!", but it was done - in our name. Citizens in a democracy share responsibility for what that country does. We, the people of the United States, finally lived up to our responsibility to get rid of the Republican majority in the Congress. But that takes us only part of the way back home. It is still our responsibility to impeach Bush and then fulfill our obligation to find a way to protect the people of Iraq.

Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:57 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Expose Right-Wing Radicals

Kevin Drum said something smart:

Most people -- including a lot of rank-and file Republicans, I think -- simply don't realize just how radical the modern, Texified GOP is. But with majority control Democrats now have the institutional power to expose this at every turn, and Republicans have far less ability to hide it. If they're smart, Dems will use this newfound power at every opportunity.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:47 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bill Scher New Commonweal Fellow

Bill Scher Is Now a Commonweal Institute Fellow (Commonweal Institute Blog)

Bill Scher, the Executive Editor of the popular political blog LiberalOasis.com and a regular commentator on Air America, has accepted our invitation to become a Commonweal Institute Fellow. With his professional background in media strategy, Bill has been outspoken about the need for political activists to redeem the word "liberal". Read his new book, Wait! Don't Move To Canada!: A Stay-and-Fight Strategy To Win Back America (Rodale, 2006), about why this will be critical if we (liberals, progressives, moderates, and independents) intend to take back the country from the conservative political machine. Expect him to expound on his ideas here. Welcome, Bill!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

America's Two Party System: The Marketing Party and The Product Party

Co-written with James Boyce, first published at Huffington Post.

We do have a two-party system in America: The Product Party and The Marketing Party. We have one party that spends its energy and its resources creating a product that will improve the lives of its supporters, and then we have a second party, one that invests its energy and its resources managing perception.

One party offers substance but without the sizzle, and one is so incredibly adept at selling that it can charm you into supporting an agenda that helps only those who don't need it, and actually hurts you and your family.

By mastering the management of perception and with an utter disregard for facts and reality, the Marketing Party's agenda and vision gets implemented - despite its horrendous consequences for the country, and the world. It has never been worse than it is now. The chasm between their vision, its consequences and the lifestyle and security of the average American is mind-boggling.

Do not underestimate the power of marketing. With enough money, a good campaign and some time, you really can make people think and do almost anything. Exactly why do you think Coke and Pepsi outsell all the other brands - because their sugar water is vastly superior to others? Exactly why do you think one brand of shampoo is "premium" and another is $5 a gallon - is it because they have different ingredients? No, it is because marketing works, especially on a public increasingly trained to respond.

Marketing works so well that some businesses have grown so accustomed to looking for marketing solutions rather than product solutions that they have developed a mindset that it is cheaper to manage perceptions than to fix a product. If people think the product tastes bad - market it as the best-tasting product and make the rubes think THEY're the problem. The result is they can spend millions on the symptoms and nothing on the disease.

Our "CEO President" Bush appears to be cut from this mold. As it became clear that the Iraq occupation wasn't proceeding as intended, Bush didn't change the product - he changed the sell.

The administration spent $20,000,000 on hiring a PR firm to plant positive stories in the press - instead of spending $20 million on body armor to actually reduce the casualties that fostered the public relations disaster. It created "Vets For Freedom" and planted bloggers among the troops in Iraq to send back positive posts. President Bush made major speech after major speech. And top officials made surprise trip to Iraq after surprise trip to Iraq.

But now we are in a time with the marketing no longer is sufficient to solve the problems. Increasingly, the American people have stopped buying the sell. Just as the American automobile manufacturers are forced to increasing amounts of dollars selling a product that increasingly the public does not want to buy, so too did the Administration have to step up the marketing of a war that the public no longer is willing to support.

Sadly, the past two weeks have showcased the collision of perception and reality. Tragically, the administration continues to hold a cult-like belief in the power of perception management, regardless of circumstances and the politically acceptable options that it has provided itself.

The Iraq Study Group recently came forward with a lifeline for the administration, but their recommendations did not sync with the administration's vision for a moment of victory - again, cheaper to change the marketing. So instead of working with the ISG, Baker and other members were - characteristically - smeared in the right-wing's echo chamber to "soften up" public perceptions in advance of the coming Bush rejection of their advice.

Last week, James appeared as a guest on MSNBC's show THE MOST, and was asked how President Bush could improve the "public's impression" of the war. He said,

"The president doesn't have a problem with the perception of the war, the President has a problem with the facts. ... Eventually the product has to speak for itself, and I think the American People are rapidly coming to the conclusion that we have an Edsel on our hands here. They want a solution, they don't need a new slogan."

Between us, we have more than forty years experience in marketing and advertising, and we both know, all too well, that it is exceedingly common for companies to approach product failures as marketing and advertising failures - it allows them to continue to live in denial about the weakness of their product.

With today's Republicans the first instinct is always about the marketing, and not about the country. According to Bob Woodward, Karen Hughes reportedly said, when she first saw the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center, that it was "the perfect backdrop" for a photo opportunity. Even in tragedy, the instinct is toward the marketing instead of the managing.

In the current tragedy the Bush image makers continue to search for the photo-op moment in Iraq. They are looking for the right image - the kiss in Times Square from World War II or the Japanese Admirals on the deck of the aircraft carrier, signing a treaty.

The fact that no such moment exists or ever will exist only increases their desire for it.

Why is their first instinct to market rather than to manage? And how exactly have they gotten away with this total management of perception? How have they been able to sell the American people over the past five years?

The answer may lie in the study of how the "conservative movement" took control of the Republican Party. As Dave wrote last week in Are Progressives Good? Then TELL PEOPLE!,

There are literally hundreds of conservative organizations that primarily exist to persuade the public to support conservative ideas (and, therefore, conservative candidates.) The people you see on TV or hear on the radio or who write op-eds in newspapers are paid by, or at the very least draw upon resources provided by, these organizations.

You might or might not have heard of the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute or Americans for Tax Reform or the This Institute or the That Foundation or the Government-and-Taxes-Are-Bad Association - but there really is a machine or network of well-funded conservative organizations marketing the conservatives-are-good-and-liberals-and-government-are-bad propaganda every hour of every day and they have been doing so for decades.

Yes, marketing. They have been doing this solidly for over three decades and they've been doing it well, and with an incredible amount of money, resources and talent behind it.

The people in power in the Republican Party got there by marketing and perception management, and using a $ell and $mear strategy to demolish and humiliate their opponents, and that is what they know. They come from a culture of saying anything as long as it keeps the rubes buying. Why would a company spend all that money to clean up the product when you can instead spend less and sell the idea that Toxic Sludge is Good For You.

The conservative movement understands this. They understand if they are going to cut student loans, hand over the management of Social Security, arguably the most successful government assistance program in our history, to the private sector, give away valuable public resources and then, on top of everything else, wage a war without reason or basis, the spend must be astronomical.

The American people are a living focus group to the success of their plan. The past thirty years has seen a slow and steady decline in the public's understanding and acceptance of progressive values - like equal rights for all our citizens or the acceptance of all religions.

It's important to point out another old expression: great products sell themselves. And while in practice, it holds that to reach great heights, great marketing combined with great products is actually the key - think Apple and the iPod - the better the product, the less marketing dollars need to be applied to drive sales. YouTube, Facebook, MySpace... If you're selling the best made car in America, the press reviews, customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing greatly enhances your paid advertising. If you're selling a lemon, you better have tens of millions to spend.

This brings us to the other party in our two-party system - the well-meaning Product Party that doesn't understand marketing. The Product Party stands in bewilderment as time and time again, The Marketing Party works its perception management magic to win elections, control the debate and lead the media and public to diss its leaders and policies. As Dave wrote last week,

We can see the results of the conservative marketing campaign all around us: War. Debt. Crumbling infrastructure. Falling wages. Loss of pensions. Loss of health insurance. Declining union membership. Massive trade deficits. Distrust of government, courts, schools and other institutions of community. The list just goes on and on.

But really, after decades of conservatives pounding out their message and progressives keeping their message to themselves, what should we expect?

And to make this problem worse, the Marketing Party is very good at shifting the blame for their bad product. For example: take a moment and look at the reality of the financial mess that is being handed to the new Congress - it is stunning. And yet, if the Democrats don't explain this clearly and succinctly to the American people, the result will be that the mess will land - squarely - in the wrong party's lap.

The Product Party's product is responsible and involved government: a government that can fix the schools and patch up the potholes. A government that would actually practice hurricane rescue not just preach it.

The Katrina debacle laid bare the failure of the right wing's anti-government agenda. The reason they didn't do anything for the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is they don't really care. Government - or product - is just not what they do - marketing is.

However, they cared deeply when they began to lose the public relations battle - like 9/11 and Iraq, the reality is inconsequential - managing the perception of the reality is paramount.

The Product Party is known for fiscal management and international diplomacy and building mass transit and roads and bridges and schools. This is the party that brought us the middle class and the weekend and Social Security and inspections for e-coli.

But the Product Party is a political party full of boring policy "wonks" holding community meetings where hours are spent arguing the best and most democratic ways to provide services and, well, fix those potholes and even working on the finer points of health care finance administration management policies subsection 3, paragraph... ... and who wants to hear about THAT?

So where the people in the Marketing Party got there using marketing pizzaz, the people in the Product Party got there by plugging away and delivering a product. They're not the most adept at marketing. Whereas the people from the Marketing Party don't understand - or care - about the actual product, apparently the people in the Product Party don't understand - or care - about marketing - reaching and persuading the public. Democrats have long had the product but are woefully unskilled in the marketing and the willingness to spend and support the marketing. There is something to the idea of marketing and selling people on something that goes against the nature of the wonky democracy idealists of the Product Party.

Which leads to their problem. Don't people realize that almost all the veteran leaders in America are Democrats? They ask this - thinking of Max Cleland, Wes Clark, John Kerry, Joe Sestak, Chris Carney, Tim Walz, Jim Webb and more. Don't people understand the Democrats want to raise the minimum wage, improve health care, make global warming a priority, enact the recommendations of the 9/11 commission and more? Don't the understand how much better the Democratic product is for their families and the future?

No, the people don't.

Because you can't just be the party that does the boring work of cleaning up the toxic waste left behind by that wrecking crew - the people known for marketing, selling and heading for the county line. If you want the public to understand what you are about you have to be the party that does the work, and communicates the fact in clear simple English to voters who have better things to do with their lives than listen to the nuances of toxic waste policy.

In fact, The Product Party is not only running against the sell and smear tactics of the right, they're running against a coordinated program that says "government itself is bad." The Republicans have spent 40 years running down government. Ronald Reagan famously said that "government is the problem" and then left for the county line leaving us with 4 trillion of debt. George W. Bush, the "CEO President" emulated Enron, and implemented "no-bid" contracts while the Republican Congress got rid of the system of oversight.

So what can be done? The Democrats have to understand that people respond to marketing, and that building a better product doesn't always mean that the people will flock to you if they don't find out about it. They must remain the party of the Product, but they also need to be the party of the Marketing. Only we can be both, the Republicans can not.

Why? Because the last six years has not only demonstrated the Republican mastery of their marketing but it has shown the misery of the product. From not implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to the absolute abandonment of our fellow Americans in the aftermath of Katrina, and the outrageous lies regarding the solvency of Social Security, the product that we are being sold is dangerous and destructive. "You can't fool all the people all the time." And on November 7, 2006, the marketing plan fell apart.

So now the Product Party has the ball and there is no question that the Democrats will deliver the goods. However, the danger lies not in the performance but in the perception of the performance and especially in how we clearly communicate the mess we inherited.

If Democratic leaders believe that all we have to do do is do a better job, and surely the American voters will reward us with the White House in 2008 and continued control of Congress, watch out.

Our moment in the sun, and moment in power, will be very short-lived indeed.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:38 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

WSJ Says You Are "Imbeciles"

In The Blog Mob, Assistant Features Editor Joseph Rago doesn't like democracy -- not one bit. He thinks what you read should be controlled by gatekeeper "journalists." Himself, namely.

He says blogs are mostly awful, appalling, boring. He says "The petty interpolitical feuding mainly points out that someone is a liar or an idiot or both." So at least we know what he is afraid we will discover if blogs write about him and the rest of the WSJ editorial page.

I suspect the online WSJ needs traffic and is "trolling for hits." Accommodate them - go read it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:30 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 19, 2006

When News Becomes A Corporate "Product"

In the new corporate-owned America a newspaper owner tells people in the newsroom what to print. They quit - or are fired when they won't do what the owner wants because they consider it unethical. Journalists write about the story and are sued for libel and "product disparagement." See Publisher of Santa Barbara paper sues journalist over AJR story

A local barber puts a sign in his shop window supporting the workers, and is threatened with a lawsuit. See Santa Barbara News-Press Owner Threatens Hair Stylist Over Sign

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Dollar-Falling Post - Doomed?

Is the dollar doomed?

There are plenty of big economic questions that will be answered in 2007. Will there be a global trade deal? Can the German economy shrug off the impact of higher taxes? Can China continue to grow at 10% a year? Will oil prices stay high or come crashing down? But they are all sideshows to the main event. The really crucial question for 2007 is whether it is the year when there is a run on the dollar. There are plenty of people out there - me included - who think the US currency is going to take a beating over the next 12 months.

... A high dollar meant exports into the US were cheap, and that kept both inflation and interest rates low. Easy credit terms meant that the US has had not one but two speculative booms over the past decade, the first in dot com shares, the second in the housing market. Growth has been artificially boosted and the trade deficit has exploded.

Now, though, things have started to change.

Go read

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Carnation Revolution?

At this point I'm hoping for a tacit sitdown strike by the military. They almost seem to be a more likely source of resistance than the Democrats. Certainly a more likely source than the media, which is made up of people very much like Bush: "Look good, repeat slogans, be loyal to the program."

Without the media, mass resistance is unlikely to happen, and in the wake of the Vietnam War mass resistance was publicly discredited and jokified by a well-planned disinformation campaign. Even though the Iraq war now has only about 20% approval, a fair chunk of the 80% disapproving are super-hawks worse than Bush, and the militant anti-war group is very, very small.

Bush's actions have partially discredited the principle of civilian control of the military. Behind that principle has always been fear of a military coup d'etat, or of free-lance military aggression by loose-cannon generals, but there have also been times when generals have been accused of fighting too timidly . McClellan in the Civil War is the example neocons always use -- but WII Germany on the Russian Front is more apropos today. We're hoping that the military will restrain and neutralize our incompetent Armageddonist Commander in Chief.

The "Carnation Revolution" in Portugal in 1974 is an example of good military men who resisted bad civilians. This event has been forgotten by history because it was successful and almost bloodless, but it deserves much more attention. A fascist dictatorship was brought down by a military mutiny, and nothing bad happened afterwards. (I'm grasping at straws, of course.)

The Democrats have been steadily improving, but not fast enough, and in time of war Congress has almost no leverage over the CinC anyway (as Bush keeps reminding us). The only thing that will work at this point would be strong, forthright attacks on the war, backed by the threat of impeachment -- this issue can't be nickel-and-dimed with quibbles and reasonable responses like Reid's.

And it can't be done in a civil way any more, either. The people who brought us this war (including the media people and think-tank spokesmen) have to be removed from their positions of power or influence, and their reputations have to be destroyed. They can't maintain their credibility if the war is seen for what it is, and their own careers are more important to them than anything that happens to anyone else.

But what are the chances?

Posted by John Emerson at 9:05 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The Chiefs of Staff aren't buying Bush's lame bullshit

One thing that has to be repeated and repeated, and I think that this is what is motivating the generals: there's no way that a 10% increase in forces, with no significant change in strategy, can change anything militarily. I don't know where the slogan "one last push" came from -- from the media or from the administration -- but the word "last" is a dead giveaway. It cues you to ask "And after that, what?" (To my knowledge, no one in the administration has disavowed the "one last push" meme).

The reason that the increase of forces is so small -- and everyone knows this -- is that we've already committed everything we have. The proposed increases just amount to stretching existing troops farther and pushing them harder, with longer tours and shorter breaks. We have no reserve.

The "surge" is an obvious desperation window-dressing move, and the strategists on the other side have to have figured this out already. That means that if they've got anything up their sleeve (and how could they not?) we'll see it before, during, or immediately after the buildup.

My guess is that either that a.) the Bush people are hunkered down in their bunkers and losing it, b.) they're buying time so that they can properly set up the "stabbed in the back" accusation, or c.) they're so committed to spin, misinformation, and politics over policy that they're doing the only thing that they know how to do.

Posted by John Emerson at 8:42 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 18, 2006

Ten Years In Prison For Oral Sex

The Georgia Supreme Court just upheld a sentence of Ten Years in Prison for 17-Year-Old Who Had Consensual Oral Sex with 15-Year-Old -- even though Georgia later changed the law to a misdemeanor. That's ten years with no possibility of parole, by the way.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:58 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Who Will Be Our 'Bar Fight' Candidate?

Matt Stoller has a great post at MyDD, The Bar Fight Primary. He writes about looking for a candidate with the core progressive instincts you want backing you up in a bar fight.

When Ronald Reagan announced his Presidential run in 1980, he did it in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town where three Civil Rights workers were killed. ... Reagan, a genial and sunny Californian, could have it both ways because he had proved to the base that he was 'with them'. Opening his campaign on a site that fully repudiated equal rights for blacks, that in a very real sense murdered liberals, was a way of saying to the emergent right-wing Confederate base that 'I am with you, I hate who you hate'. ... It was a statement that Reagan would play the role of President, but in a bar fight, in a close vote, where it really mattered, in all those small appointments, his sympathies would instinctively lean towards his base.
He says now we need a leader like that, one we know is with US,
We need a leader committed to responsible governance, anti-cronyism, social justice, an expansion of the Bill of Rights to include infrastructure changes, and a humble and morally powerful foreign policy. But governing this way is not a matter of expressing the desire for unity and hope to all Americans, but expressing solidarity with the people who will help create such an America. Those people are liberals. We are the ones who want a different America, and who will help build it and push the right out of the way.

[. . .] Just as Reagan said he'd unify the country by pushing the liberals out of the way, we need someone who will unify the country by pushing irresponsible right-wing power centers out of the way. They crushed our unions, we need to crush their talk radio, you know, that kind of thinking.

Who does he see on his side in a bar fight? So far there's Clark and maybe Edwards:
In a bar fight, Obama and Hillary are not on our side.

[. . .] There are two candidates who can pass the bar fight primary. One of them, Wes Clark, passes the test clearly. He is a genuine liberal, and has fought the right clearly and consistently for the last four years, most recently in Connecticut when he was the only real surrogate against Lieberman. ... And then there's John Edwards. I think Edwards is split. He's spent much of his time working with unions, on the road, in low-key meetings. Elizabeth Edwards has done outreach to bloggers, so there's at least acknowledgment of the dirty hippy crew. He's announcing in New Orleans, which is dog whistle politics on our issues. He knows he was wrong on the war, and feels our betrayal. Unlike Clark, though, I still haven't seen him stand up for us in a real way. I haven't seen him attack McCain, for instance, or go after the politicians who supported the Bankruptcy Bill. I haven't seen him challenge any right-wing interests in a serious way, and so while I acknowledge he's in the ball park, he's not there yet.

BUT he says this about Bill Clinton, and I want to come to Clinton's defense:

Without a real commitment to weaken irresponsible elite actors, 'unity' simply means a replay of Clinton, only without the credit and power that we had in the 1990s, and with a much more advanced case of global climate catastrophe, peak oil, and nuclear terrorism capacity on its way.
And later,
Clinton was a very smart President who thought that he and his small crew had all the answers. We know now that he (and all of us) misunderstood the nature of the role. It isn't the job of the next President to have all the answers, that's up to the American people. It's up to the next President to show that he's going to clear the way for us to take back our country.
I'd like to come to President Clinton's defense a bit. Sure, with hindsight we can see some things Clinton should have done. But remember - he didn't even have US. He didn't have anyone watching his back and he knew it. Few Dems back then were ready to take a hit for progressive policies, and there was no organized progressive base to fight for those things. He should have started building that - yes. But that was the 90s and the fact is most of the leadership of the big organizations and the Dems still today don't get it about the right and about how there isn't a majority progressive base anymore and that we need to market to the public to rebuild one. That's why the netroots is what it is.

President Clinton had a Republican Congress and that 1990s Democratic Party. When he got in he did have the Dems, but he wanted to start with camaign finance reform and they wouldn't. He wanted a BTU tax and they wouldn't. Etc. So politically, Clinton recognized some realities - the country HAD been moved to the right, the Dem party and old progressive structure was almost useless, so he was a politician and played to where reality was. Hence his "triangulation" strategy - to manage public perceptions while fighting for a degree of progressive advancement in policies.

Matt is correct that Bill Clinton failed to BUILD a movement for us -- to work to CHANGE where reality was. That is somewhat hindsight. No one else did either. As I said, that is what the netroots is about. It wasn't until the middle of his second term that we all started to get an inkling of what the "conservative movement" was about, the funding and organization of it, etc. Remember it was Hillary who coined the term "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy," and that was based on some of the early research into what was going on. And NONE of us were getting it yet and responding yet. We are now. It is slowly starting to make a difference. So that's why I say hindsight and give Clinton some credit.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Builder Confidence Falls

Home builders' confidence falls in December,

U.S. home builders were a bit more pessimistic about the housing market in December, but they're growing more hopeful that home sales could perk up in six months, the National Association of Home Builders reported Monday.
... Economists had expected the index, which measures builder sentiment, to improve to 34 in December, according to a poll conducted by MarketWatch.
A reading of 50 shows that half the builders surveyed think the market is good and half think it's poor.
The index had fallen to a decade-low of 30 in September, the sharpest decline in the index's 20-year history. The index stood at 57 a year ago and peaked at 72 in June 2005.
It has been affecting Home Depot: Weathering The Housing Storm,
The recent slowdown in the housing market shouldn't scare off investors in Home Depot.
...While the tough environment is projected to slow Home Depot's sales growth to 2.8% this year, following a five-year run that saw the company average 11% growth, Trott points to a growing supply business and promising opportunities in China as big reasons for optimism.
Opportunities in China?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:02 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 17, 2006

Vacation Days Off - Who Is Our Economy FOR, Anyway?

In the United States there is no legal minimum number of vacation days for workers. I guess we're all supposed to be thankful to the rich for "giving us jobs."

The rest of the world? Different. (As you read this, remember that 20 days means minimum four weeks vacation by law, not three.)

Here are a few examples:
Austria: 5 weeks, for elderly employees 6 weeks
Belgium: 20 days, premium pay
Brazil: 30 consecutive days, of which 10 can be sold back to the employer
Bulgaria: 20 business days
Croatia: 18 working days
European Union: 4 weeks, more in some countries
France: 7 weeks
Tunisia: 30 work days
Saudi Arabia: 15 days

Who else gets none? China...

So a question: Who is our economy FOR?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:43 AM | Comments (8) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 16, 2006

How To Win In Iraq

See Army Captain's Simple Demonstration: How to Win in Iraq. (Note - it's a PDF slide show.) This slideshow is of course three years too late - and it is a crime that we are there in the first place. It references the idiocy from "the 25-year-olds" that the Republican ideologues sent over to run things.

The story behind it is here,

But Patriquin [the author of the slide show] will not see victory in Iraq. He was killed by the same improvised explosive device that killed Maj. Megan McClung of the Marine Corps last Wednesday.

Patriquin had fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. A gifted officer, he spoke numerous languages, including Arabic.

Count this as one more item in a long list of things we should have done... History will not be kind to the conservatives.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:45 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 15, 2006

The Dumbest Juror?

The Mahablog : Free at Last,T

he Dumbest Trial of the Century has been discharged with a hung jury. Now that I’m free to talk about it, I’m going to vent.
Go read why.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Are Progressives Good? Then TELL PEOPLE!

Every time you turn on the radio or a cable news show you hear one form or another of the same old message, “conservatives and their ideas are good and liberals and their ideas are bad.” Think about how often you hear one or another variation of that theme.

But how often do you hear that liberals and progressives are good? How often do you hear that liberal/progressive ideas are better for people than a conservative approach? And if you are reading this you're looking for progressive ideas. So how often do you think the general public is hearing that progressives and their values and ideas are good?

The public does not hear our side of the story very often – if ever.

Why is that? Maybe it’s because we aren’t telling people our side of the story!

There are literally hundreds of conservative organizations that primarily exist to persuade the public to support conservative ideas (and, therefore, conservative candidates.) The people you see on TV or hear on the radio or who write op-eds in newspapers are paid by, or at the very least draw upon resources provided by these organizations. You might or might not have heard of the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute or Americans for Tax Reform or the This Institute or the That Foundation or the Government-and-Taxes-Are-Bad Association – but there really is a network of well-funded conservative organizations marketing the conservatives-are-good-and-liberals-and-government-and-democracy-are-bad propaganda every hour of every day and they have been doing so for decades.

Click this link to visit a collection of links to articles, studies, reports and other resources for learning about the right-wing movement, its history, how it is funded and how it operates.

Now, can you think of any organizations that exist to tell the public that progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates are good? Do you know about any organized effort to persuade people to support progressive values and ideas?

People respond to marketing, and conservatives have been marketing their cause while progressives have not. This has been going on for decades, and as a result of this the public’s understanding and acceptance of progressive values - like democracy and community - has eroded. We can see the results of the conservative marketing campaign all around us: War. Debt. Crumbling infrastructure. Falling wages. Loss of pensions. Loss of health insurance. Declining union membership. Massive trade deficits. Distrust of government, courts, schools and other institutions of community. The list just goes on and on.

But really, after decades of conservatives pounding out their message and progressives keeping their message to themselves, what should we expect?

So it is time to change the game. It is time to start funding organizations that talk to the public about the benefits that progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates bring to them. $1000 given today toward building public appreciation of progressive values could have greater impact than $100,000 spent in support of a candidate in the days before an election.

Helping the public understand and accept progressive values will help the efforts of "issue organizations" like environmental groups, pro-choice groups, and others. As the public comes to understand and accept the underlying progressive values they will naturally support organizations that promote particular issues that are based on those values. And as the public begins to demand progressive solutions to problems the candidates they support will also naturally support the efforts of these organizations.

Marketing creates demand. Let’s create a demand for progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates.

The Commonweal Institute wants to tell people that progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates are good for them. (Commonweal means "the public good" or "the common good.")

As I wrote the other day, I am an unpaid Commonweal Institute Fellow. Let's change that. Click here to help.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:07 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 14, 2006

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Rules Don't Apply?

Remember the stock market bubble and all the talk of a "new economy" that meant stocks would just keep going higher? With that in mind, read this: Housing, auto slumps may defy usual role as recession harbingers,

New home construction is plummeting. Car sales are weakening. Investors have driven long-term interest rates well below the short-term rates set by the Federal Reserve. All these factors are present today, and all have been precursors of past recessions.

But the U.S. central bank and much of Wall Street are now betting that the old rules don't apply, and that a recession next year, while possible, is unlikely.

Ah, the stock market bubble? And what happened to the "new economy?" What happened to stocks? What always happens to speculative financial bubbles?

Whenever you start hearing that "the old rules don't apply" that's the signal to sell while you still can. Another warning sign is when you hear that "this time" things will be different.

"This time will be different," Ed Leamer, who heads the forecasting center at the University of California at Los Angeles's Anderson School of Management, predicts in a report. "This time the problems in housing will stay in housing." It's a prediction, he admits, that "keeps us up at night."

Many Fed officials and private economists believe home builders and auto makers are curbing production to trim excess inventories as a temporary response to a drop-off in demand that was unsustainable -- not because climbing interest rates are eroding affordability. If the optimists are right, the industries' troubles wouldn't be signs of broader forces tipping the entire economy into recession. Meanwhile, U.S. exports are benefiting from strong growth among U.S. trading partners, especially in Europe.

So, will it be different this time? We'll see.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:04 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Do Prisons Create Crime?

Does Prison Harden Criminals ? - Christopher Hayes' blog talks about a study that shows "harsher prisons do make people more likely to commit crimes once they’re released."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

It's Not The Bloggers, It's The Blogs

A quick comment on all the big-name pundits and Washington insiders who criticize "the bloggers" and question their legitimacy: Anyone can start a blog.

(pause)

Here is what I am saying. When you criticize "the bloggers" and question the legitimacy of what they are saying, you are questioning the concept of democracy itself. ANYone can start a blog -- so everyone is a blogger. If it makes you uncomfortable that the rabble is allowed to speak and express their opinions you need to think about your own understanding of and commitment to democracy. The blogs that reach prominence do so through an entirely democratic process - people have chosen to read or echo what is being written on them.

It's not the bloggers you have a beef with, it's the blogs themselves -- the tool that lets the public have a say.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:04 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 13, 2006

More Troops

So the word is that Bush is planning to send more troops to Iraq. This could be a good strategy if we are sending enough troops to truly secure the country, calm things down, stop the ethnic cleansing and death squads, stop the insurgency, let people just go to work and the park, allow POLICE to investigate crimes and arrest perpetrators and put them in jail, etc. and allow Iraq to develop institutions of justice and government. This was the moral and legal obligation that the Bush warmakers ignored. We could have done this from the start, and didn't.

My question is, how many is enough? If we send enough, it means the violence abates. Seriously, if there are troops on every corner, that has to cut way down on the violence. But if we do not send enough, we're just making things worse. At this point we might be talking about needing at least 400 or 500,000 troops to accomplish this.

So, if we're going to send more, are they going to send enough more? Or is this just another stopgap measure? We all know the answer.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:00 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

What's unthinkable in Iraq?

I'll tell you what's not unthinkable. A three-sided war between Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey with the US forces caught in the middle. That's not unthinkable. A bloody Turkish occupation of the Kurdish areas is not unthinkable. Al Qaeda rule in Saudi Arabia isn't unthinkable either. These are among the real possibilities that Bush has given us.

What's unthinkable is that any American should suffer adverse career consequences because of their advocacy of the war. Bush and Cheney will be untouched and will finish out their terms. The rabble of advisers from PNAC and other groups who promoted the war with lies, distortions, and wishful thinking will continue to pull down their salaries and will continue to appear on TV. The journalistic cheerleaders who stovepiped misinformation will continue to collect hefty salaries and will continue to share their opinions with us.

We've been hearing a lot of talk about Democrats "taking political advantage of the situation", but the ball is really in the other court now. The ones who are behaving shamelessly and destructively right now are the ones who are trying to salvage the Bush administration. We cannot allow the Bush administration to be salvaged. If Bush and Cheney remain in power, they will make things much worse.

Bush and Cheney stand condemned by history, and their enablers and apologists (including the Democrats among them) stand condemned too. But I doubt that a single one of them will suffer any real consequences during their own lifetimes, and I fear that the world twenty years from now will be as strange to those of us who remain alive then as the world of 1934 was to anyone who could still remember 1914.

Posted by John Emerson at 9:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 12, 2006

Building a Progressive Movement -- If Each Of Us Gave $100

You might have heard that progressive organizations are starved for funds, while the hundreds of right-wing organizations like The Heritage Foundation that pound us with the right-wing message every day are all flush with corporate and wealthy-donor money. You might have heard that people who work for right-wing organizations are well-paid, well-trained and have access to the latest technology and resources, while people who fight for OUR values have to work for a pittance and barely get by, use ancient technology, etc.

It's true. Progressive organizations ARE starved for funds, and as a result many of them primarily reach out to their membership lists - to appeal for funds - instead of reaching out to the public to broaden the progressive base. Meanwhile the conservative organizations are always out there making the case for conservative ideology and candidates. So the public - and resulting government policy - understandably leans right.

Because of this lack of funds many progressive organizations depend on a select few donors and have to be cautiously "centrist," moderating their message and mission rather than risk giving offense by reaching out with a message that would resonate with more people - and grow the base.

Here's a thought. If everyone who reads DailyKos, Huffington Post, Eschaton, Common Dreams, AlterNet, BuzzFlash, Smirking Chimp and all the other online progressive sites and blogs each gave at least $100 to a progressive organization - ANY progressive organization - it would end the dominance of the corporations and the conservative movement once and for all. There would be enough money for good jobs and internships for anyone interested in working to support progressive activities and candidates and policies.

If everyone who calls themselves a progressive gave $100 to a progressive organization there would be training programs for activists, resources for reaching the public, new pundits writing op-eds and appearing on TV, speakers for groups across the country... An infrastructure would develop to build a progressive movement that takes back our democracy. There would be outreach to the general public explaining what progressives are about and why progressive values and policies and candidates are better for them.

And then the second year there would be a flowering of new, focused, innovative organizations exploring new ways to benefit society and grow the progressive base.

IF every progressive gave $100... That is a big 'if.' Do you remember hearing about all the money raised online for the Paul Hackett campaign in Ohio? It sounded like a lot. Did you know that less than 1% of the blog readers contributed? Did you know that only a fraction of progressives gave to Dean? Imagine what could happen if we ALL gave at least $100 every year!

And another thing. The REASON that "big money dominates politics" is because often it is pretty much the ONLY money available. We could END the dominance of big money if each of us gave at least $100 to progressive organizations. In fact, by providing the resources to go up against the corporations we could create an environment where laws banning corporations from giving ANY money could be passed.

Give $100 to a progressive organization today, and tell every like-minded progressive you know to do the same. I, of course, suggest starting with the Commonweal Institute. Disclaimer: I am an unpaid Commonweal Institute Fellow. Let's change that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:03 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

War On Darkies

Townhall.com::It's not just about the Koran or the Bible...::. Apparently it's also about darkies reading the Koran:

It’s about all the books and documents that follow—like the Constitution. It’s about being on the same page, for the one who takes office with his hand on the Koran, as Congressman-elect Keith Ellison proposes to do, makes a profound statement. By rejecting the Bible, he rejects its and our country’s principles of reason and free will. ... Keith Ellison wants to govern in a country whose values he rejects. Keith Ellison rejected American values quite deliberately and not insignificantly as a college student at Wayne State University in the early 1980s. He made that choice in the tradition of the 1960s radicals who turned to other religions in their wholesale rejection of Western values--with white radicals turning to Eastern and pagan religions repackaged as New Age “spirituality,” and black radicals turning to the putative religion of their African forebears: Islam. This is about someone who followed the lead of a black separatist, Malcolm X … [emphasis added]

… Most recently, he rushed to the defense of the six imams kicked off a U.S. Airways flight for suspicious behavior. Consider his ties to these imams through their mutual terrorist-linked organizations, CAIR and NAIF, at whose conferences he gave speeches just days before the removal of the six imams.

Consider the fact that he has a long association with black supremacist Louis Farrakhan and publicly echoed his anti-Semitism under pseudonyms, such as Keith Ellison-Muhammad. Consider the fact that this has been well-documented, but that he was elected anyway. DiscovertheNetworks.org

Consider the fact that he has downplayed this association for the benefit of the useful idiots, the left who celebrate his election as an example of “diversity” and “inclusiveness.”

… In spite of decades of civil rights legislation, affirmative action, and special funding for minorities, professors are still repeating the same lectures about the terrible Western hegemony.

… The multiculturalists presented reason and truth as notions of a Western imperialistic culture; as a result, now reigning in our educational institutions is the unquestioned dogma of multiculturalism that dismisses debate about the dangers of Keith Ellison as merely “intolerance.”

Yikes! Muticulturalists!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:56 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Al Gore

In Al Gore Again, Taylor Marsh speculates that he will run - after he gets his Oscar.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:35 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Global Warming and Positive Feedback Loops

It is confirmed: Arctic ice is retreating. Arctic sea ice 'faces rapid melt'

The Arctic may be close to a tipping point that sees all-year-round ice disappear very rapidly in the next few decades, US scientists have warned.

... Last month, the sea that was frozen covered an area that was two million sq km less than the historical average.

"That's an area the size of Alaska," said leading ice expert Mark Serreze.

Ice reflects sinlight, and keeps the water cool. As ice retreats, more heat is absorbed by the planet, and the water is warmer, both leading to even faster melting the following year.

The new study, by a team of scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the University of Washington, and McGill University, found that the ice system could be being weakened to such a degree by global warming that it soon accelerates its own decline.

"As the ice retreats, the ocean transports more heat to the Arctic and the open water absorbs more sunlight, further accelerating the rate of warming and leading to the loss of more ice," explained Dr Marika Holland.

"This is a positive feedback loop with dramatic implications for the entire Arctic region."

Eventually, she said, the system would be "kicked over the edge", probably not even by a dramatic event but by one year slightly warmer than normal. Very rapid retreat would then follow.

This article only talks about the effect on Arctic ice - it goes away, along with Arctic wildlife and the sea life it supports. Oh yeah, and coastal land and the cities on it. But this feedback loop also means the rest of the planet warms up quickly. Which means the Antarctic as well...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:31 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 11, 2006

How Long Will The Right Let Us Love Obama?

Co-written with James Boyce, first published at Huffington Post.

Senator Barack Obama is a man to be admired, respected and liked. He is more than worthy of consideration for the Democratic Nomination in 2008 and if we were advising Senator Obama, and his equally impressive wife Michelle, our advice would be to run, and run now. A Vice Presidency certainly looks attractive on one's resume, and a national campaign brings valuable experience.

Senator Obama is admired and he is loved. Look at the recent favorability polls and there he is, the Number One Democrat in America. But why? Why is a junior Senator, nationally a virtual unknown just two years ago, now at the top of the national favorability ratings? Is it because of his new book? His great 2004 Convention Speech? His appearance on Oprah? All of these, of course, but in fairness, does Barack Obama truly deserve to be the Democratic leader with the highest national favorability in a recent poll? Hardly.

With complete respect to Senator Obama, where are the long-time Democratic leaders who have dedicated their lives to the service of our country? Where are the other possible Presidential contenders? What about Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry? Where are Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid? Are they not leaders that deserve at the very least to have decent favorability ratings?

Why is Barack Obama "favorable" and not any of the better-known Democratic leaders? And why - of all people is Rudy Guiliani at the top of the list as the Number One leader in our country? The answer is simple, and dramatic.

This favorability poll proves the power of the Right Wing's ongoing and successful strategy of "SELL and SMEAR."

Of course, pundits and commentators fell over themselves to see who could be the first or the wittiest in their ridiculing of John Kerry for his place finish. They pondered Guiliani's victory and Senator Obama's high rating. But they missed the point.

With concentrated and coordinated efforts between the conservative movement organizations, political leaders and the press, we have been SOLD the myth of Rudy Guiliani as a strong leader just as they've SMEARED John Kerry to the point where he is, sadly, damaged goods contemplating the potential end of a thirty-plus year career of service.

Three Democratic leaders on the poll have faced the full wrath of the smear machine, two as the Democratic Presidential Nominee, the third as co-target of the attacks on President Clinton. And where are Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton? All are near the bottom of the rankings with favorability of under 50%. That is the power of the smear machine. This is what the machine does to our leaders - the leaders of the party of the people. It smears and attacks and destroys them.

Our point here is not whether you will vote for them, or volunteer for their campaign, or give them money, but do you, the American voting public, have a favorable impression of these leaders?

The sad and resounding answer is no. This is what the machine does to Democratic and Progressive leaders. It smears, and attacks and destroys them. It leaves millions of Americans with an uneasy feeling about John Kerry or Hillary Clinton, a bad taste in the mouth, "I don't know. I just don't like him." It's emotional. It's not rational. But it is very, very real.

And it's not just these our most recent leaders. As we wrote last week, President Jimmy Carter left office virtually in disgrace. What about Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis? Are they perceived as what they really are - respected leaders who are both true American success stories? Hardly. They are perceived in the "conventional wisdom" as jokes and afterthoughts.

Those powerful negative stereotypes were carefully created by the use of brilliant marketing, coordinated messaging, virtually unlimited budgets and a complete lack of morals.

To understand how powerful, coordinated and most importantly effective this system is and to fully appreciate what it means to have faced the wrath of the machine, next time you're having dinner surrounded by Democrats, say this:

"John Kerry is an authentic American war hero."

Watch the reaction. At best, people will acknowledge that he served. At worst, they will laugh at you. But he is. If anyone can claim to be an authentic American war hero it's John Kerry. He volunteered for the Navy out of Yale. He volunteered for Vietnam. He volunteered for Swift Boat duty. He was wounded three times and received three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star with Combat V.

Wait a minute. We know what you're thinking. But call anyone you know who has served in combat with the Navy, in World War II, in Vietnam or since. And ask them: does the Navy just hand out Purple Hearts like jelly beans? They'll laugh at you and tell you 'Of course not. There are procedures and paperwork.' No one gave those medals to John Kerry - he earned them. He is a war hero. But people "just don't like him."

And then there's Al Gore. Al Gore is one of the most remarkable leaders our country has had over the past twenty-five years. A Vietnam veteran, Congressman and Senator, Al Gore was visionary on Global Warming and the environment, actually did lead the development of the Internet, was an active Vice President fully participating in the administration that gave this country its finest years of the last forty.

Next, look at the background of Gore's opponent in the 2000 Presidential Election. And imagine that, remarkably, when all was said and done character emerged as the dominant theme of the 2000 campaign and it was Vice President Gore's character that was being called into question!

Just think about that for a minute - consider what kind of psychological manipulation of the public had to happen before that could be the case.

Now we are seeing the same pattern repeated with another 2008 hopeful, Senator Hillary Clinton. Every single American should have a favorable impression of Senator Clinton, regardless of whether or not they are supporting her as a potential candidate.

Hillary Clinton is the first woman in our nation's history, the very first, to have a legitimate shot at becoming President. She is an inspiration. She has the chance to make history. And yet, we repeat the Right Wing talking points about her. We say that she is "polarizing." And we say that she is "hated in her own party." And then there's that omnipresent, "I don't know, I just don't like her."

What about the image of the Democratic Party itself?

Have you ever wondered how exactly it is that the Democrats are perceived as "weak on defense" when Nixon was the one who surrendered in Vietnam, and Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy were Democrats? When so many of the leadership and candidates of the Democratic Party are veterans while so few of the Republicans are?

Did you know that George McGovern was a World War II bomber pilot? And remember, in the debate on Iraq, we have John Kerry, Jack Murtha, Max Cleland, Joe Sestak, Chris Carney, Patrick Murphy, Richard Holbrooke, Wesley Clark, and more - all veterans. Our party collects war heroes as leaders. Their leaders collect deferments. And yet? They're perceived as the party of National Security. Why? Because they have spent billions telling us that it is so.

Look at any stock market or economic historic growth charts. The second half of the 1990s, under the leadership of Bill Clinton and brilliant business minds like Bob Rubin and Erskine Bowles, gave us a time of incredible growth. And historically Democratic Presidencies have higher economic and stock market growth. And Democrats reduce budget deficits while Republican increase them. Yet people perceive that Democrats are bad for the economy? Why? Because they've spent billions telling us that it is so.

How about character and morals? The Right tries to tell us there is a "culture war" and they are on the side of morals and character. But look at the corruption scandals of the Nixon, Reagan and Bush presidencies and the Republican congress, or the parade of sex scandals involving Right Wing and Republican leaders. How many members of the Carter or Clinton administrations do you think were found to be corrupt? So why the oddly skewed perceptions? Because they spent billions telling us so.

This story is far greater than a blog post.

Over the past several years - through the attacks and fruitless investigations of Bill Clinton, the "ozoning" of Al Gore and the fateful Swift Boat attacks - we have spent considerable time analyzing and investigating the process by which the Right Wing, systematically and with complete coordination, destroys Democratic leaders. With tragic consequences like the deficit, the war, the loss of manufacturing jobs, the deteriorating environment and health care and wages and infrastructure - how long is this list?

Imagine if Al Gore had been President the last six years. Would we be farther along in solving global warming, the greatest challenge to face our nation and the world? Would we have paid down more of our debt instead of going back to massive budget deficits?

Absolutely.

Imagine if John Kerry had been President the last two years. The Iraq Study Group's proposals contain many of the elements of John Kerry's 2004 Iraq plan he championed during the campaign. Would we be further along the road to a resolution in Iraq?

Absolutely.

Working on The Patriot Project this fall along with the indefatigable Taylor Marsh and fighting back against the smearing of candidates in the 2006 election, we wrote many posts and coordinated press coverage on the Right Wing attacks on candidates and incumbents across the country. We researched the backgrounds and connections of the people and organizations behind the smear operations. This work is the basis for some news that we will be announcing soon.

Finally, back to Senator Barack Obama. Or is that "Balak HUSSEIN Osama" - as some Right Wing commentators are saying it already? What will happen when he faces the wrath of the Right's machine? Will we still love him then?

Will our fellow Americans start saying, "I don't know, I just don't like him." Will we let him be smeared? Will we let Senator Clinton and Vice President Gore be smeared again? Will we let John Kerry's legacy be destroyed?

The answer has to be a resounding no. The Right's $mear machine is one of the most powerful, destructive and pervasive forces of our time. It has to be understood for what it is, fought back against, exposed and destroyed. Not just for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and everyone else who will or has faced its wrath. But for us, our children, our future and most importantly, our democracy.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:55 AM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 10, 2006

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Mortgage Market Problems Increasing

This post also welcomes the new Bonddad Blog.

Housing Update: Mortgage Market Problems Increasing,

Tuesday, Ownit Mortgage Solutions of California shut down, citing "the unfavorable conditions of the mortgage industry." That's a euphemism for subprime home borrowers getting into trouble and defaulting on loans at unprecedented speed. ...
Here’s a brief overview of the mortgage market. When you get a home loan from a bank, the bank doesn’t keep the loan on its books. Instead, it sells the loan to a larger institution. These mortgages usually end up with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Freddie and Fannie take similar mortgages (mortgages that have the same interest rate, maturity etc…) and “pool them”, or puts them together in one giant mortgage bond. Then, these institutions sell the mortgages to pension funds, mutual funds and other investment companies. When people state that Fannie and Freddie have added liquidity to the mortgage market, the above-mentioned process is what they are talking about.
There's much more over at Bondad Blog so go read. In summary, we're seeing some very bad indicators that major financial trouble is on the horizon. The old saying, "If something is unsustainable it can't be sustained" is starting to come true.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:57 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 9, 2006

OUR Tax Dollars At Work

Your GOVERNMENT spending tax dollars to "debunk" global warming "alarmism." Just out from the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works: “A Skeptic’s Guide to Debunking Global Warming Alarmism. Hot & Cold Media Spin Cycle: A Challenge To Journalists who Cover Global Warming.”

Here is some wording about the document, from a press release from YOUR GOVERNMENT:

The color glossy 64 page booklet -- previously was only available in hardcopy to the media and policy makers -- includes speeches, graphs, press releases and scientific articles refuting catastrophe climate fears presented by the media, the United Nations, Hollywood and former Vice President turned-foreign-lobbyist Al Gore.
My wife asked if I'm reading from a joke site.

The press release reads like a parallel universe of a weird cult. My wife says it's like Dr. Who, and you travel in the Tardis and arrive in America in 2006 in December, but everything is strange. Some alien force is in control of things.

“The American people are fed up with the media for promoting the idea that former Vice President Al Gore represents the scientific “consensus” that SUV’s and the modern American way of life have somehow created a 'climate emergency' that only United Nations bureaucrats and wealthy Hollywood liberals can solve,” Senator Inhofe said in October.
We need the Doctor.

Maybe Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are the Doctor!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:56 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 8, 2006

Look at this map

Does this map (from Kos) remind you of anything? Maybe the Red / Blue electoral map?

The Americans dying in the Iraq War overwhelmingly come from the blue states. A lot of them may come from the red areas of the blue states, but they don't seem to come from the red states.

The Southern / Southwestern / Great Plains/ Rocky Mountain demographic is able to win elections for the warmongerers, but the only red states that seem to be pulling their share of the military load are Ohio and Indiana. Effete, latte-sipping California is making the biggest sacrifice

Like electoral votes, troops come from the heavily-populated areas (mostly in the Northeast, the Midwest, and California). Not from David Brooks' "Heartland".

Posted by John Emerson at 9:29 PM | Comments (9) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Don't Like The Democratic Party? Then BECOME The Democratic Party!

This is California-specific, but the same applies where YOU live. The Party really IS democratic. The party is only the people who show up at meetings and vote. Go look up how to BECOME the Party in your state!

And read MyDD :: Silent Revolution: Become The California Democratic Party. (Note - Chris BECAME the Democratic Party where HE lives, in Pennsylvania.)

About one in every seven or eight members of the netroots is from California. Given this, the upcoming elections for the Democratic State Central Committee of California should be of great importance to the netroots. If my little reformer ward in Philadelphia can sneak two members onto the Pennsylvania State Democratic committee through a local write-in campaign, we the netroots should be able to put several new reform Democrats in the California Democratic Party with more than a month to campaign. Here are the details:
The California Democratic Party is governed by the Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC) of California, membership of which is a two-year position going from odd-year Convention to odd-year Convention. Starting with the November 2006 election, the state party starts its reorganization, determining the new DSCC, which meets for the first time at the April 27-29, 2007 Convention in San Diego. As the DSCC members meet annually at the State Party Conventions, they are also referred to as delegates to the State Party.
Go read, and get involved. BECOME the party. BECOME the government!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:40 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

There Are Lives In The Balance

I've been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war

And there's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs

On the radio talk shows and the T.V.
You hear one thing again and again
How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends--
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can't take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
There are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can't even say the names

They sell us the President the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

-- Jackson Browne

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Smugness, arrogance, insufferable moral superiority

Who could this be?

"In all my time in Washington I've never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority....self-congratulatory. Full of himself."

Too easy. It could only be William Bennett.

Posted by John Emerson at 6:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 7, 2006

HOW Stupid?

Just HOW stupid does Bush think people are? Just WHAT does he think people will fall for? President Bush said this today, about 9/11,

"And one of the things that has changed for American foreign policy is a threat overseas can now come home to hurt us"
Today is Pearl Harbor Day. Which reader will be the first tell us in the comments what happened on December 7, 1941?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:13 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Boy, am I looking forward to seeing Waxman at work!


As the new chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, Waxman will have free rein to investigate, as he puts it, "everything that the government is involved with." And the funny thing is, Waxman can thank the Republicans for the unique set of levers he will hold. Under a rules change they put through in the days when they used the panel to make Bill Clinton's life miserable, the leader of Government Reform is the only chairman who can issue subpoenas without a committee vote. (Kos)

Start the popcorn!

Posted by John Emerson at 1:14 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bush: "Jim Baker can go back to his day job."

I guess we know the answer to "Will Bush listen?"

James Baker's New Test In Diplomacy, Co-Chair Of Iraq Study Group Has Been A Political Operative And Statesman, Often To The 1st President Bush - CBS News,

But this president may not be in much of a hurry to accept Baker's ideas about that — or much else. Asked if Baker would help implement the report, a spokesman for Mr. Bush said, "Jim Baker can go back to his day job."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 6, 2006

I guess it's our fault after all

From Salon:

At the Iraq Study Group's just-completed press conference, a reporter noted that the group's members had "considerable experience" in "helping presidents change course" and asked Baker what the group could or would do to "help Bush embrace the wisdom" of its report. Baker's response? A punt. "I think it would be appropriate for President Clinton's former chief of staff to answer that question."

Leon Panetta took to the microphone to say that he thinks Bush "understands that he won't be able to achieve the policy goals he wants if the country remains divided."

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor chimed in to say that the problem of what comes next is "really out of our hands" now that the group's report is done -- and that it's the media's job now to bring the country together behind Bush's goal of standing up an Iraqi government that can sustain and defend itself. "It's up to you, frankly," O'Connor told the reporters in the room. "You are the people who speak to the American people."

Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson followed along with a rambling lament about the lack of bipartisanship in Washington....

In other words, the real problem here is that the Democrats are too partisan, and the American people are not supporting Bush. (Even the Democrat Panetta as much as said that, but then he's a Clintonista.)

All the evidence is that Bush will ignore the report, bland as it is, and continue to hang tough, improvise, throw tantrums, and behave erratically. And the Baker commission's members will then take that as their cue to lecture us some more about disunity and partisanship.

Posted by John Emerson at 6:48 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Edwards for President?

Kos has a list of Democratic presidential pretenders up.

Widely-hated triangulating corporate liberal (tons of $$): Hillary Clinton.

Obscure triangulating corporate liberals: Joe Biden, Evan Bayh.

Can't campaign worth a dime: John Kerry, Wesley Clark (maybe Clark has learned something?).

Who is he?: Mike Gravel, Tom Vilsack.

I sorta know who he is: Christopher Dodd, Bill Richardson.

This leaves Barack Obama and John Edwards (and Clark if he's improved his skills). Obama seems to be playing the triangulation game and is having success talking to church people, which makes him a tremendously powerful candidate, but one who cannot be trusted -- since he'll probably stab us in the back. So for what it's worth, Edwards is it for me.

Here on the left wing of the Democrat Party, we're still pariahs. Everyone on the list (except Kerry, I suppose) is a centrist, and a lot of them are/were liberal hawks. I hope that someone pops up to rabblerouse a little bit. Even if he doesn't win, if his message starts getting across with the voters, the others will have to respond.

Posted by John Emerson at 2:44 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Cleaning up the mess

That should be the Democratic Congress's slogan: "Cleaning up the mess."

There's a lot of work to be done, and it won't be pretty: Iraq, international relations, fiscal policy, New Orleans, environmental policy, habeus corpus, everything.

If the Republicans whine, they should be asked to sit down and shut up. They had their chance, and they blew it.

Posted by John Emerson at 12:56 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Do we want a bipartisan solution?

Over and over I keep hearing about how wonderful it is that the ISG report is some sort of bipartisan consensus. There certainly is a time and place for compromise and bipartisanship, but it's a means not an end. Good advice and good policy is what matters, not political asscovering. Splitting the baby is not always a very smart thing to do. (Atrios)

Let's push this a little further. Who is it that wants a bipartisan solution? Above all, it's the perps -- the media people and politicians who led us into this mess. They want to be able to drop the whole thing, mumble "Mistakes were made", and carry on as before -- still in the drivers' seat.

But that would not be good for the country or good for the world. Accountability is what we need. Heads should roll -- the guys who screwed things up should be demoted, removed from office, or otherwise punished. Above all, they should never get the chance to screw up again.

A partisan solution is what would be good for the country. The only reason we're talking about a bi-partisan solution at all is that most of the media and many of the Democrats have been implicated in the disaster, and they're afraid that if the Republicans are called to account, they might be too.

This is really blackmail. We're being told that if we don't get too mad at the perps, maybe they'll quit making things worse. (Maybe.) This isn't even an Idi Amin solution. Amin was never punished for anything, but at least he was removed from power. The Iraq War bad guys aren't willing to give up anything at all.

Feingold

Posted by John Emerson at 7:30 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

We The People, Through Our Government

In the post Conservative Capitalism Vs. Liberal Socialism, John Hawkins responds to my earlier post about sick pay. He writes,

It is not the job of a company to provide benefits for society or health care or sick days or anything else. It's the job of a company to make a profit for its owners and in the process of doing so, it will create things like jobs, taxes, health care for workers, value for its customers, and other such things that are beneficial to society.
And I agree with him 100%. I'll go even further. Wal-Mart is not "bad" because it pays low wages or skimps on providing health care. If they did that, Target could charge lower prices and customer might go to Target instead. They're just doing their job, as WE, the people, through our government, define it through our laws.

So whose job IS it to provide for higher wages and health care? It is OUR job - the people - through OUR laws and regulations. WE are the ones who have dropped the ball on higher wages and health care. WE tell companies what to do - or the system doesn't work. If WE, through our government, require ALL companies to pay higher wages and provide health care that levels the playing field for Wal-Mart's competition with Target.

Here is where I differ with Hawkins. Hawkins writes,

...the government shouldn't get involved with things like what sort of health care a company is providing, sick days, or the minimum wage...
This is the standard Libertarian view - keep the people (government) out of the decisions. But I say that is exactly where the people, through our government SHOULD get involved! We need to keep that playing field level. Companies MUST work to provide the highest profits. Therefore WE must set a playing field that provides the greatest benefit to US from this system. WE must level that playing field on which the companies compete. We MUST tell them to pay higher wages or the system doesn't benefit us. WE have fallen down on the job, not the companies, by not doing OUR part, through our government, which is to set the minimum wages and benefits at a level that is high enough. And that is why wealth is concentrating at the top and the rest of us are working longer hours for fewer benefits.

Hawkins writes that people can always quit and get a better job elsewhere. But there is a problem with that approach, and we have seen the problem play itself out over and over throughout history. There are more people in the world than jobs, so without our intervention wages would necessarily sink to the lowest level to sustain the necessary employees - and the rest starve. Of course, in a consumer economy the companies would be drying up long before that because the consumers won't have money to spend. We have learned from history that if we, acting through our government, "stay out of it," it is a formula for worldwide poverty - a race to the bottom. Historically it is the periods of greatest involvement that have been the periods of greatest economic growth. This is because in a consumer economy policies that provide greater disposable income to the consumers grow the economy. Duh!

The system that Hawkins admires is ENTIRELY a creation of government - of us. We defined what a corporation IS. We give the owners limited liability so they can take risks without losing everything. (Imagine if buying a share of stock meant that you could become a defendant in a lawsuit.) We set up the infrastructure of the internet, and the roads, etc. upon which the companies conduct commerce... And now we need to give ourselves a raise and health care, and maybe longer vacations and shorter workweeks.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:34 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 5, 2006

Paid Sick Days

There is a move to require companies to pay for sick days. Conservatives say this is "Socialism."

If basic human rights is "Socialism" then I guess I'm a Socialist! How about you?

In Europe people get several weeks paid vacation each year - by law. They get generous pensions and fully-paid health care for everyone.

What sorts of things should we, the people, require of the companies we, through the laws we pass, allow to operate? Who is our economy FOR? Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:04 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The Rich ARE Richer

Richest 2% hold half the world’s assets,

Personal wealth is distributed so unevenly across the world that the richest two per cent of adults own more than 50 per cent of the world’s assets while the poorest half hold only 1 per cent of wealth.
You often hear that it wouldn't matter if the wealth of the rich were divided up - there would still be poor people. That's not the case:
So much of the world’s wealth is concentrated in few hands that if all the world’s wealth was distributed evenly, each person would have $20,500 of assets to use.
We're talking everyone IN THE WORLD here. Every single poor, starving African, Indian and everyone else would be relatively rich if only the top few percent would settle for only millions.

Should the people of the world do something about this? Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:25 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Africa

Just for the heck of it, I put some Africa pics at Smelling the Coffee.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Think Equal

Think Equal

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Kicking An 82 Year Old Man: The Right Attacks Jimmy Carter. Again.

[Co-written with James Boyce, originally at Huffington Post]

Jimmy Carter is not remembered as a great President. Most folks might even consider him a failure, the peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia. But why exactly do we hold one of the two Democratic Presidents of the last 38 years in such low esteem?

Isn't this the man that held the country together in the years after Watergate? Didn't he bring decency and honesty back to The White House?

Yes.

Isn't it a great American success story for a man to come from such humble beginnings, serve in defense of his country and then ascend to the highest office?

Yes.

Isn't it remarkable that back in 1979 he declared "The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them." Isn't that leadership and vision?

Yes. But it was legacy destroying as well. Our memories of Jimmy Carter are memories laced with the poison of a right wing smear campaign because when Jimmy Carter encouraged us to face the facts of the energy crisis, he faced off against the Oil Companies and as the decades passed, it has become sadly clear that the nuclear physicist Naval Officer peanut farmer came out the worse for it. He was portrayed as naive and as a simpleton. He was routinely mocked. A good man's legacy was taken down.

What some would view as terrific achievements, such as reducing America's oil imports by 1.8 million barrels a day or getting the Crude Oil Windfall Profits tax passed to help fund his energy policies (Any spare copies of that bill around by any chance?) others viewed as terrific challenges to their businesses.

According to AmericanPresident.org, a "comprehensive non-partisan resource available on the history and function of the American presidency," Carter accomplished a great deal as President, particularly his energy packages, but:

"Carter gained a reputation for political ineptitude, even though his actual record in dealing with Congress belied that image. His success rate in getting presidential initiatives through Congress was much higher than that of his predecessors Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and successors Reagan and Bush. One might expect a president with a majority in Congress to do better than presidents facing the opposition party majorities. But Carter was also close to Johnson's success rates, and higher than Kennedy's record. Carter did not like to bargain and remained arrogant and aloof, but at the end of the day, he usually wound up with much of what he sought from Congress. His major problem was that the perception of his leadership did not correspond with the reality of his performance."

Let's repeat that: "the perception of his leadership did not correspond with the reality of his performance." Millions of dollars of smears and attacks will do that to a man. We see the same happening to others, over and over again, to this day. Ask Michael Dukakis or Al Gore or John Kerry or any of the multitude of victims of the right's $mear machine.

We know now that companies like ExxonMobil have created what investigative author George Monboit has called The Denial Industry, consisting of PR attack firms, phony grassroots "astroturf" organizations, think tanks, political front groups and others, all well-paid to confuse the public over the facts of global warming. According to Monboit,

"By funding a large number of organisations, Exxon helps to create the impression that doubt about climate change is widespread. For those who do not understand that scientific findings cannot be trusted if they have not appeared in peer-reviewed journals, the names of these institutes help to suggest that serious researchers are challenging the consensus."

We can see all around us the effect of this kind of operation and the tragic consequences of the resulting delay in dealing with problems like global warming. We can see the effect of similar operations on our health care policies, our disappearing pensions, our low minimum wage, our campaign finance system, our reduced job security and so many other areas.

With this in mind the question has to be asked: Does our negative perception of Jimmy Carter come from the same kind of corporate-sponsored manipulative operation? Does it come from the same kind of smear operation as the one that led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the "swiftboating" of John Kerry? Was our preception of Carter formed by an attack campaign from the then-newly-forming web of right-wing "conservative movement" organizations funded by extremely wealthy individuals, corporations and foundations?

Jimmy Carter has spent his years since The White House as admirably as any former President. He's focused on hunger and poverty and promoting democracy around the world. He spent years far from the public view.

But now, Jimmy Carter has again been doing interviews and press. Now, at age eighty-two, he seems to have been moving towards a respected elder statesmen role.

So just this week, an anonymous caller called into a C-SPAN interview and ranted at Jimmy Carter, calling him "a bigot, and a racist and an anti-Semite." The caller continued, accusing Carter of "cozying up with every dictator, thug, Islamic terrorist there is."

The rantings of a lunatic who made it through the pre-call screening somehow right? Time to check the systems and make sure it never happens again? No. This was the result of a coordinated smear where the charges of Jimmy Carter being an "anti-Semite" echoed through the right wing blogs and straight to Drudge Report.

This attack was amplified by numerous current right-wing online attacks on Carter at sites such as www.frontpagemag.com. From the right came a wave of attacks, Carter's been "trying to (expletive) the Jews." He's friends with terrorists. He's this and this and isn't it a little pathetic?

Not to the far right. Not to those who have spent forty years developing a machine that sells us the myth of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush and Rudy Guiliani while giving us the smearing of Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry.

No, even if Jimmy Carter is eighty-two years old, a dedicated public servant and American hero in the twilight of his career, if people are actually listening and liking what they hear, it's time to smear.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:10 AM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 4, 2006

The Taliban Is Back

Bush and the Republicans decided invading Iraq - the people who did NOT attack us - was more important than stabilizing Afghanistan - the people who DID attack us. So now the Taliban is returning to Afghanistan.

Disembowelled, then torn apart: The price of daring to teach girls

The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.

The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over, he was part-disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes, the remains put on display as a warning to others against defying Taliban orders to stop educating girls.

Mr Halim was one of four teachers killed in rapid succession by the Islamists at Ghazni, a strategic point on the routes from Kabul to the south and east which has become the scene of fierce clashes between the Taliban and US and Afghan forces.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:12 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Letter From Senators To Exxon Mobil: Stop Supporting The Deniers

Senators Rockefeller and Snowe have written a remarkable letter to the Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, (and cc'd the Board of Directors), asking Exxon to stop funding the global warming "denial industry."

From the letter, "It is our hope that under your leadership, ExxonMobil would end its dangerous support of the "deniers."

Here is the text of the letter:

Mr. Rex W. Tillerson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
ExxonMobil Corporation
5959 Las Colinas Boulevard
Irving, TX 75039

Dear Mr. Tillerson:

Allow us to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your first year as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the ExxonMobil Corporation. You will become the public face of an undisputed leader in the world energy industry, and a company that plays a vital role in our national economy. As that public face, you will have the ability and responsibility to lead ExxonMobil toward its rightful place as a good corporate and global citizen.

We are writing to appeal to your sense of stewardship of that corporate citizenship as U.S. Senators concerned about the credibility of the United States in the international community, and as Americans concerned that one of our most prestigious corporations has done much in the past to adversely affect that credibility. We are convinced that ExxonMobil's longstanding support of a small cadre of global climate change skeptics, and those skeptics access to and influence on government policymakers, have made it increasingly difficult for the United States to demonstrate the moral clarity it needs across all facets of its diplomacy.

Obviously, other factors complicate our foreign policy. However, we are persuaded that the climate change denial strategy carried out by and for ExxonMobil has helped foster the perception that the United States is insensitive to a matter of great urgency for all of mankind, and has thus damaged the stature of our nation internationally. It is our hope that under your leadership, ExxonMobil would end its dangerous support of the "deniers." Likewise, we look to you to guide ExxonMobil to capitalize on its significant resources and prominent industry position to assist this country in taking its appropriate leadership role in promoting the technological innovation necessary to address climate change and in fashioning a truly global solution to what is undeniably a global problem.

While ExxonMobil's activity in this area is well-documented, we are somewhat encouraged by developments that have come to light during your brief tenure. We fervently hope that reports that ExxonMobil intends to end its funding of the climate change denial campaign of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) are true. Similarly, we have seen press reports that your British subsidiary has told the Royal Society, Great Britain's foremost scientific academy, that ExxonMobil will stop funding other organizations with similar purposes. However, a casual review of available literature, as performed by personnel for the Royal Society reveals that ExxonMobil is or has been the primary funding source for the "skepticism" of not only CEI, but for dozens of other overlapping and interlocking front groups sharing the same obfuscation agenda. For this reason, we share the goal of the Royal Society that ExxonMobil "come clean" about its past denial activities, and that the corporation take positive steps by a date certain toward a new and more responsible corporate citizenship.

ExxonMobil is not alone in jeopardizing the credibility and stature of the United States. Large corporations in related industries have joined ExxonMobil to provide significant and consistent financial support of this pseudo-scientific, non-peer reviewed echo chamber. The goal has not been to prevail in the scientific debate, but to obscure it. This climate change denial confederacy has exerted an influence out of all proportion to its size or relative scientific credibility. Through relentless pressure on the media to present the issue "objectively," and by challenging the consensus on climate change science by misstating both the nature of what "consensus" means and what this particular consensus is, ExxonMobil and its allies have confused the public and given cover to a few senior elected and appointed government officials whose positions and opinions enable them to damage U.S. credibility abroad.

Climate change denial has been so effective because the "denial community" has mischaracterized the necessarily guarded language of serious scientific dialogue as vagueness and uncertainty. Mainstream media outlets, attacked for being biased, help lend credence to skeptics' views, regardless of their scientific integrity, by giving them relatively equal standing with legitimate scientists. ExxonMobil is responsible for much of this bogus scientific "debate" and the demand for what the deniers cynically refer to as "sound science."

A study to be released in November by an American scientific group will expose ExxonMobil as the primary funder of no fewer than 29 climate change denial front groups in 2004 alone. Besides a shared goal, these groups often featured common staffs and board members. The study will estimate that ExxonMobil has spent more than $19 million since the late 1990s on a strategy of "information laundering," or enabling a small number of professional skeptics working through scientific-sounding organizations to funnel their viewpoints through non-peer-reviewed websites such as Tech Central Station. The Internet has provided ExxonMobil the means to wreak its havoc on U.S. credibility, while avoiding the rigors of refereed journals. While deniers can easily post something calling into question the scientific consensus on climate change, not a single refereed article in more than a decade has sought to refute it.

Indeed, while the group of outliers funded by ExxonMobil has had some success in the court of public opinion, it has failed miserably in confusing, much less convincing, the legitimate scientific community. Rather, what has emerged and continues to withstand the carefully crafted denial strategy is an insurmountable scientific consensus on both the problem and causation of climate change. Instead of the narrow and inward-looking universe of the deniers, the legitimate scientific community has developed its views on climate change through rigorous peer-reviewed research and writing across all climate-related disciplines and in virtually every country on the globe.

Where most scientists dispassionate review of the facts has moved past acknowledgement to mitigation strategies, ExxonMobil's contribution the overall politicization of science has merely bolstered the views of U.S. government officials satisfied to do nothing. Rather than investing in the development of technologies that might see us through this crisis--and which may rival the computer as a wellspring of near-term economic growth around the world--ExxonMobil and its partners in denial have manufactured controversy, sown doubt, and impeded progress with strategies all-too reminiscent of those used by the tobacco industry for so many years. The net result of this unfortunate campaign has been a diminution of this nation's ability to act internationally, and not only in environmental matters.

In light of the adverse impacts still resulting from your corporations activities, we must request that ExxonMobil end any further financial assistance or other support to groups or individuals whose public advocacy has contributed to the small, but unfortunately effective, climate change denial myth. Further, we believe ExxonMobil should take additional steps to improve the public debate, and consequently the reputation of the United States. We would recommend that ExxonMobil publicly acknowledge both the reality of climate change and the role of humans in causing or exacerbating it. Second, ExxonMobil should repudiate its climate change denial campaign and make public its funding history. Finally, we believe that there would be a benefit to the United States if one of the world's largest carbon emitters headquartered here devoted at least some of the money it has invested in climate change denial pseudo-science to global remediation efforts. We believe this would be especially important in the developing world, where the disastrous effects of global climate change are likely to have their most immediate and calamitous impacts.

Each of us is committed to seeing the United States officially reengage and demonstrate leadership on the issue of global climate change. We are ready to work with you and any other past corporate sponsor of the denial campaign on proactive strategies to promote energy efficiency, to expand the use of clean, alternative, and renewable fuels, to accelerate innovation to responsibly extend the useful life of our fossil fuel reserves, and to foster greater understanding of the necessity of action on a truly global scale before it is too late.

Sincerely,

John D. Rockefeller IV
Olympia Snowe

Cc:
J. Stephen Simon
Walter V. Shipley
Samuel J. Palmisano
Marilyn Carlson Nelson
Henry A. McKinnell, Jr.
Philip E. Lippincott
Reatha Clark King
William R. Howell
James R. Houghton
William W. George
Michael J. Boskin

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:04 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 3, 2006

Is This Legal

In a continuing series, STF asks if it is legal for the Secretary of the navy to decide contracts based on the politics of the locality?

Michelle Malkin: Navy to San Francisco: See ya, haters! references a news story, Navy scuttles plan to commission warship here, citing local politics,

Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter vetoed plans to commission the Makin Island, the Navy's newest and most powerful warship, in San Francisco in 2008 because of a perception that the city is anti-military.
So San Francisco is not Republican enough to get military contracts? Didn't we just have an election in which the public voted AGAINST corruption?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:47 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Democracy and Corporations

In a democracy the public should have the power to require to companies to act in the interests of the public and to the benefit of the public. Corporations are a creation of the people, through our government and laws, and the people have the right to say what corporations can and can not do.

Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:35 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Good For Dean

Howard Dean says that Democrats may have won the election, but shouldn't think that means the public demands Democrats in power. I agree. Democrats have not explained to the public what they are about, and as a result I don't know very many people who voted in this last election FOR Democrats. I think most people voted AGAINST Republicans and their failed policies and corruption and authoritarianism and fear and war...

Now there is an opportunity to start reaching out to the general public-at-large and explaining what progressives and Democrats are FOR and what they are ABOUT. (Hint: Democracy and community.) Will they be smart enough to start building the kind of "progressive infrastructure" organizations that will do that -- that will reach the public to explain the benefits of democracy and community and progressive values and policies and candidates?

Democrats Face a Tough Job, Leader Says,

“The other party made mistakes in the past claiming that elections are mandates,” Mr. Dean said. “Elections are not mandates. The voters of this country loaned the Democrats the power of the country for two years. Now it’s our job to earn it back again.”

In a speech to the party’s executive committee here, Mr. Dean said “governing is more difficult than campaigning,” and declared that Democrats must not squander opportunities to keep building the party. The modest gains winning over evangelical voters, he said, should be strengthened by asserting that “moral values are an important part of foreign policy.”

“If George Bush made any single huge mistake,” Mr. Dean said, “it’s that he thought he could be president by being president for half of America and by treating the rest of us with contempt. That is not a mistake I ever want Democrats to make.”

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:58 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 2, 2006

While Bush is President Things Can Only Get Worse

The Iraq War seems to be spinning out of control -- a regional war involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, and maybe Turkey and Syria is now a very real possibility. Our positive options are very limited, but it makes a difference what we do, because we still have the power to make things worse.

Whatever the least-bad option is, Bush cannot choose it, because if he did he would have to admit that almost everything he's done so far has been wrong. As it stands, he's going to be President for another two years, and he's far more likely to make things worse than he is to make them better. He's already forced the Baker Commission to dumb down their already-weak report -- and even so, he'll probably ignore it when he finally gets it.

At this point, Bush is incapable of doing the right thing. We need someone in office who is not tied to the mistakes of the past. Bush and Cheney must be impeached.


Posted by John Emerson at 7:00 AM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

December 1, 2006

Today's Voting Machines Story


Security Of Electronic Voting Is Condemned: Paper Systems Should Be Included, Agency Says
,

Paperless electronic voting machines used throughout much of the country "cannot be made secure," according to draft recommendations issued this week by a federal agency that advises the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

... In a report hailed by critics of electronic voting, the institute said voting systems should allow election officials to recount ballots independently from a voting machine's software. The recommendations endorse "optical-scan" systems in which voters mark paper ballots that are read by a computer and electronic systems that print a paper summary of each ballot, which voters review and elections officials save for recounts.

I don't agree. I think that we can use the machines as input devices to print paper ballots which the voter looks at and puts in a separate ballot box. This gets rid of all the problems associated with people mismarking the ballots, drawing circles instead of lines, etc.

But to be clear - the machines should only be used as input devices leading to the printing of a ballot, and that ballot, placed by the voter in a separate ballot box, is the official count.

More from the story,

Computer scientists and others have said that the security of electronic voting systems cannot be guaranteed and that election officials should adopt systems that produce a paper record of each vote in case of a recount. The institute report embraces that critique, introducing the concept of "software independence" in voting systems.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:01 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack