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March 31, 2008

Why I Am A Vegetarian

I was volunteering at the Santa Cruz SPCA and took care of a pot-bellied pig once. It came up to me, wagging its tail, and liked to be scratched behind the ears. Just like a dog. I haven't eaten red meat since that day. I miss it but I can't eat it, especially pork.

Now watch this -- an elephant painting a self-portrait:

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Inexcusable

This is just inexcusable. This site has imprisoned a woman, forcing her to stare at your cursor as you move your mouse around. Go see for yourself!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Higher Interest = Higher Risk

Anyone reading this who still has any money anywhere other than federally insured bank accounts, this is another warning: you can lose money in a money market fund. And, of course, you can lose money in stocks. And people are realizing that you can lose money in real estate.

The REASON you get higher interest rates or other returns is because there is more RISK. This is not a time to have any money anywhere where there is any risk.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

80-Year-Old Church Deacon Arrested For Anti-War T-Shirt

This is the new America.

Police arrest anti-war protester, 80, at mall,

An 80-year-old church deacon was removed from the Smith Haven Mall yesterday in a wheelchair and arrested by police for refusing to remove a T-shirt protesting the Iraq War.

Police said that Don Zirkel, of Bethpage, was disturbing shoppers at the Lake Grove mall with his T-shirt, which had what they described as "graphic anti-war images." Zirkel, a deacon at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, said his shirt had the death tolls of American military personnel and Iraqis - 4,000 and 1 million - and the words "Dead" and "Enough." The shirt also has three blotches resembling blood splatters.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:44 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 30, 2008

McCain and "Gooks"

From 2000: McCain Criticized for Slur / He says he'll keep using term for ex-captors in Vietnam,

Arizona Sen. John McCain refused to apologize yesterday for his use of a racial slur to condemn the North Vietnamese prison guards who tortured and held him captive during the war.

"I hate the gooks," McCain said yesterday in response to a question from reporters aboard his campaign bus. "I will hate them as long as I live."

McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent five years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp, was questioned about the language because of a story last month in the Nation magazine reporting his continued use of the slur.

Since then, reports of McCain's language have been circulating on Internet chat sites and e-mails among Asian Americans, many of whom find the the term offensive and inappropriate for an elected official.

[. . .] The word "gook" was first used in 1899 by American soldiers fighting Filipino insurgents. During the Korean War, the term was aimed at Koreans and Chinese. It was directed at the Vietnamese when Americans were fighting in Vietnam. It is now used as a slur toward any Asian or Pacific Islander.

Understandable on a personal level, but from a potential President?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:49 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 29, 2008

What kind of defining moment?

Both Bush and Maliki have put all their chips on the attack on Basra:

Bush called the operation "a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq," saying the government is fighting criminals there. "It was just a matter of time before the government was going to have to deal with it," he said.

The president also hailed the operation as a sign of progress, emphasizing that the decision to mount the offensive was al-Maliki's.

"It was his military planning; it was his causing the troops to go from point A to point B," Bush said. "And it's exactly what a lot of folks here in America were wondering whether or not Iraq would even be able to do it in the first place. And it's happening."

It's tempting to say that Cheney ordered the attack when he was in Iraq a week or so ago, but that's not certain. Some speculate that it was Maliki's initiative and was intended partly in order to put the Bush administration on the spot.

If the attack had been immediately successful, that would have proved that the Iraqis are indeed independent now, and capable of standing on their own two feet. It wasn't successful, however, and is requiring increasing amounts of American and British support. Bush's statement that it was Maliki's initiative would also make it possible to disavow the attack and blame Maliki, but that would destroy the Bush team's overriding message -- that the Iraqis are ready.

So does Bush try to walk back his claim that this was a defining moment? Or does he stick with it, and redefine the defining moment? Bush never walks anything back, so we must expect the latter. (I am assuming that Maliki's military situation will not suddenly improve -- that remains possible, though it doesn't seem likely.)

So how will he redefine it? First, he can demonize Sadr and the Mehdi Army and use them as an excuse to devastate Basra -- a scorched-earth policy. Second, he can use the new violence as proof that we need to attack Iran. Both Bush's friends and his enemies are speculating about the latter (though the two courses are not mutually exclusive at all).

At times like this it would be nice if the U.S. had a two-party system. It would be even nicer if the Bush policy had collapsed during a hotly-contested Presidential campaign, because in that case the candidates of the opposing party could loudly point out that the "defining moment", like the rest of Bush's Iraq policy, has been a disaster. But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Posted by John Emerson at 8:23 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 28, 2008

Why Have A Union?

Why should you join a union? I've been looking around online for info and arguments to help make the case, and here is a compilation of some of them. (Each link means the following info is from a different website.)

Cause trouble where you work - print this out and stick it on bulletin boards around the workplace when no one is looking.


Union Workers Have Better Health Care and Pensions

Union workers are more likely than their nonunion counterparts to covered by health care and receive pension benefits, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In March 2007, 78 percent of union workers in the private sector had jobs with employer-provided health insurance, compared with only 49 percent of nonunion workers. Union workers also are more likely to have retirement and short-term disability benefits.

Dignity: The presence of a union means employees must be treated fairly by their employer, and that you have a voice and vote in important decisions that effect you.

Power: An employee has little power and almost no way to improve wages, benefits, or working conditions. Collective Bargaining balances the power that an employer has over its employees even in a "Team" or high performance work environment.

Protection: Without a union there is no due process at work. Unions provide a grievance & arbitration procedure which ensures fairness for all employees.

Here are five good reasons to join your co-workers in uniting to form a union:

# 1 - Working together, union members have the strength to win better wages, affordable health care, a secure retirement, and safer workplaces.

# 2 - The "union advantage" is substantial. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, union members are much more likely to have health benefits and pensions.

# 3 - For people of color and women workers, the union impact is even greater. Women workers who are union members earn nearly $9,000 a year more than their non-union counterparts. For African-American workers, the union differential is also about $9,000, and for Latino workers the yearly advantage is more than $11,000.

# 4 - In addition to helping workers win better wages and benefits, unions help all workers by giving working families a stronger voice in our communities, in the political arena, and in the global economy.

# 5 - By joining together, we can build the strength to hold elected officials accountable, stop the "race to the bottom" by employers who cut wages and benefits in favor of bigger profits, and win improvements such as affordable, quality health care for all.

Union members earn better wages and benefits than workers who aren't union members. On average, union workers' wages are 30 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts. While only 14 percent of nonunion workers have guaranteed pensions, fully 68 percent of union workers do. More than 97 percent of union workers have jobs that provide health insurance benefits, but only 85 percent of nonunion workers do. Unions help employers create a more stable, productive workforce--where workers have a say in improving their jobs.


Unions are making a difference. With most of the economic benefits of our economy going to corporate America, working people are using the power of collective action to get their fair share.

Workers never got anything without uniting for it.

* The 40-hour workweek
* The 8-hour workday
* Overtime
* Sick Leave
* Paid Vacation
* Employer-paid health insurance
* Pensions
* Safety and health protections
* Grievance procedure for wrongful discharge and discipline
* Fairness in promotions
* Higher wages

Just think of what you and your coworkers may be able to win if you had a union contract.

And, finally,
Income for the Wealthiest Is off the Charts.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The Republican Party's Pastor

We've been hearing a lot about Barack Obama's pastor, but very little about the Republican Party's pastor.

So go read about it over at Talk to Action: The King of America: A True Story of Washington Gone Mad,

When members of Congress bow down to a foreign cult leader who publishes a major newspaper, and no one seems to care, just how crazy have our politics become?
At the same site, read Neil Bush, the Rev. Moon, Paraguay and the U.S. Dept. of Education,
Over the past several years, Neil Bush, the younger brother of President George W. Bush and the son of former President George H.W. Bush, has made several international trips of behalf of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's assorted enterprises. In late February, Bush called on Paraguay's president while in the country as a guest of a business federation founded by the Rev. Moon.

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March 27, 2008

Recession the Movie

From the people who brought you "The Iraq War"...

... comes a sequel unlike anything you've ever seen:

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March 26, 2008

McCain Old

How old is John McCain?

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Will Hillary be the new Nader?

Hillary's meeting with Richard Scaife, perhaps the slimiest of the Republican media lords (and the one who most enthusiastically promoted fact-free smears of Bill Clinton) makes one suspect that the rumors are true, and that she has decided that, while she can't win the Democratic nomination, at least she can hurt Obama badly enough that he can't win, leaving Clinton a clear shot in 2012.

You know -- "The worse, the better". (Though based on what she and her beloved husband have been saying, it's by no means certain that she is bothered by the prospect of a McCain Presidency.)

Someone has to convince that Clintons that it's now or never for her. If neither she nor Obama is elected President this year, it will be time for us to look for someone new. If a broad range of Democrats tell her that she'll cut her own throat if she sabotages Obama, maybe she'll decide to retire with a little dignity left. And one doubts that Bill Clinton wants the destruction of Barack Obama and the election of John McCain to be his legacy.

If Clinton plays scorched earth politics against Obama now, she should know that the rest of us will play it against her four years from now.

James Carville should have his mouth washed out with soap.

CAVEATS:

1. Yes, I did vote for Nader in 2000. I repented in early 2002 and have been a servile Democrat ever since. After all the shit I had flicked at me for my Nader vote, it annoys me no end to see the Clintonistas relying on the same sabotage strategy that Nader did.

2. No, I'm not an Obama loyalist. There are some things about Obama I like, and some that I'm not so sure about. I supported Edwards while he was in the race, or maybe Dodd (though his campaign never really got off the ground), and only switched to Obama after it had become a two-person race. Until a couple of days ago I even tried to calm down the anti-Hillary militants, and if Hillary wins the primary, I'll support her in the general, no matter how hard she tries to convince me not to.

3. Should we really be surprised? Bill Clinton defeated the Congressional Democrats so thoroughly during his terms as President that the Republicans ended up gaining control of Congress. With the dog-in-the-manger DLC, you always have to ask whether their goal is to take office, or whether it's just to make sure that no one to the left of them ever wins. They talk as though their centrism is a response to political necessity, but they often act as though they're motivated primarily by a bitter hatred of anyone more liberal than they are.

Posted by John Emerson at 5:01 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 25, 2008

Seen Bees?

I saw a honeybee this weekend. A week before that i saw two. That's it.

It's flower season in California. Usually we would be swarming with bees. So far this year I have seen three honeybees.

How about you? Seen any bees?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:19 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Conservatives Opposed To Rule Of Law, Our Constitution And Good Education

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Conservative leader and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich writes about the California court ruling that children - even home-schooled children - must be educated by credentialed teachers, saying it is an example of "Judicial Supremacy." In his article he quotes a Wall Street Journal editorial calling the ruling a "strange new chapter" in the "annals of judicial imperialism." Later in the piece he writes,

The decision represents yet another case of a special interest -- in this case, the education unions and bureaucracy -- using the courts to get what they can't get through the popular vote.

This is yet another example of judicial supremacy: Rule by an out-of-control judiciary rather than the will of the people. It joins court rulings such as the removal of "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance on a long list of usurpations of the freedom and self-determination of the American people.

Lets take a moment to examine what Gingrich is really complaining about here.

Here's how the American system of law and justice is supposed to work: We have a Constitution and we have laws that we are all supposed to follow by mutual agreement. And we have in place a judicial system for interpreting our Constitution and laws, again by mutual agreement. So when there is a dispute we take that dispute to the courts, and the judges rule according to the Constitution and laws. And then we agree to follow their rulings.

Newt Gingrich and the conservatives complain that this is "Judicial Supremacy" and "judicial imperialism." Wow, this sounds pretty bad! But look at the meaning of these negative-sounding words. Isn't "Judicial Supremacy" really just another way of saying that we agree to follow "rule of law?" When Gingrich uses language that casts a negative frame on the concept, isn't he undermining public respect for the rule of law? Gingrich and other conservatives are happy enough with our American system when it works in their favor but when it rules against their agenda they launch another anti-government screed.

This post is not written in opposition to home or private schooling, but to point out the importance to all of us that we all operate under the same set of agreed-upon rules. At least in California, another agreed-upon rule is that our children should receive the best possible education. Article 9 of our California Constitution states that a good education is "essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people." The wording at the beginning of Article 9 is as follows:

A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement.
To this end Article 9 describes how California will manage a system of free, public schools. And Article 9 makes it clear that to this end our children deserve qualified, "credentialed" teachers.

Once again, We, the People of California have decided that a good education is "essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people." This is what we want. Just what is it that Gingrich and other conservatives want instead if it doesn't involve qualified teachers providing education to our state's children?

Click to continue.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 24, 2008

Moon And The Republicans

Please watch this video about the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and his organization's political influence with the Republicans. This is an important story. Moon, for example, owns the Washington Times. Front groups set up by his organization have been receiving millions of tax dollars from the Bush Administration.


Online Videos by Veoh.com

And definitely get the new book on Moon, Bad Moon Rising, by John Gorenfeld

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 23, 2008

Defending the Constitution

A very good op-ed in the Washington Post, Mickey Edwards - Dick Cheney's Error, defending the Constitution and democracy. But reading it, I have to wonder where this guy has been for seven years?

It is Cheney's all-too-revealing conversation this week with ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz. On Wednesday, reminded of the public's disapproval of the war in Iraq, now five years old, the vice president shrugged off that fact (and thus, the people themselves) with a one-word answer: "So?"

"So," Mr. Vice President?

[. . .] When the vice president dismisses public opposition to war with a simple "So?" he violates the single most important element in the American system of government: Here, the people rule.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:33 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 22, 2008

Someone should wash Carville's mouth out with soap

“Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic,” Mr. Carville said, referring to Holy Week. Link

Carville is a mercenary, and he's a specialist in the kind of personal-loyalty racketeer politics that the Bush machine also specializes in. Whenever possible he'll double-cross the majority of rank and file Democrats in order to cut a deal, in the same way that the Bush administration is always willing to betray Republican principles for the sake of a little graft. To Carville everything is deals and payoffs, so when Richardson dared to defy the family that had made him, Carville decided he was a traitor who must be smeared. Thank God that Richardson has more smarts than the average gangbanger.

Carville's lovely wife, Mary Matalin, is part of Dick Cheney's inner circle. Why would anyone ever trust the guy? Whoever washes his filthy mouth out should also swab it for second-hand Cheney semen.

Posted by John Emerson at 11:07 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 21, 2008

Today's Housing Bubble Post - The Fine Line

There is a fine, fine line between a gain and a crushing decline:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 20, 2008

Obama Endorses the McCain Brand

I'm still stuck in the Atlanta airport, where they have CNN on. I just heard Senator Obama say that the country needs a little more "straight talk" right now, and that Senator McCain is a true American hero.

I think the second part is a great thing to say, but I have to wonder if Sen. Obama understands that "straight talk" is McCain's brand? He just reinforced McCain's campaign slogan to the country.

This is just as bad as Senator Clinton saying the other day that McCain is ready to be President and Obama isn't.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Stuck in Atlanta 24 Hours - Airline Says Too Bad For You

My flight from Washington DC to Atlanta landed late. The connection to San Francisco still wasn't due to take off for a few minutes but the airline (AirTran Airways) didn't hold it.

So I go to the counter and ask what I can do? They only have one flight to San Francisco a day, and the next one is in 24 hours.

Can I get on another airline? Try Orbitz, she says.

Can you get me a room? She gives me an 800 number of a discount service.

Can I get some food? There are concession stands in the airport.

Too bad for you. We've already got your money and you're on your own.

There is nothing I can do, they already have my money.

Welcome to the New America. Welcome to the You're On Your Own (YOYO) society. Welcome to corporate domination. Did you know that it used to be illegal for airlines to treat their customers like this? But now it is expected.

We, the People used to be in charge. We set up the legal, financial and physical infrastructure that enables corporations to serve our interests. You know, that pesky "We, the People" thing. Why else would we have set up corporations except to serve us?

But now it is the other way around. Now the corporations are in charge of us. A select few grew fabulously wealthy from the system we set up to serve all the people, and have used that wealth to manipulate the system to bring all the benefits to themselves at the expense of the people.

When are we going to do something about it?

(Note - the airline employees were not nasty, considering who they have to work for and the policies they have to work under. They seemed resigned to having to tell people this stuff. That's another part of this system -- if you want to have enough money to feed your kids and pay the rent (but not get health care) you're forced to serve the corporation, and be their agents in telling people "too bad." There is a harm that comes to people from being compelled to treat others this way. And if you think you have too much integrity to do that, well we can find someone in India who is hungry enough.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:09 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 18, 2008

Take Back America - Tuesday

This was originally posted at Speak Out California

I am at the Take Back America conference in Washington DC. This is an annual gathering of a couple of thousand progressives. You see lots of familiar names and faces here, people you see on TV and in magazines. Just five minutes ago I was saying "Hi" to Arianna Huffington. Earlier today I said Hi to Jesse Jackson...

I was thinking about why people do this. I don't mean the overnight flight with a three-hour layover in Atlanta. (But really, why did I do that?)

I mean, being a progressive is not a big-money gig. So I am attending these great panel sessions and the speakers are very sharp, productive people, who speak very well, and who have dedicated their lives to helping other people. Yes, some make pretty good money, but nothing at all like they could make out there in the corporate world.

Trust me, nobody does this for the money.

I was watching one particularly good speaker yesterday. She was very good, very persuasive, interesting to listen to... and I thought, "I used to do this for products." Now I can't do this for products. Something inside of me will not let me.

It is about being a citizen. In a morning session today Taylor Branch was talking about lessons from the civil rights movement. One thing he said resonated with me. He said, "Citizens in a democracy are all supposed to have an equal share in that democracy, so we ought to act like it." We all have a duty, a responsibility to be involved in bettering our country, and to work to stop the wrongs we see.

That's why.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:22 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Obama's Speech

I watched Senator Obama's speech today from the press room at the Take Back America conference. I'll comment on it later. Right now I''ll only say that I believe this was one of the great speeches of American history. But maybe more than a speech. Maybe a change event.

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama

"A More Perfect Union"

Constitution Center

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:45 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Shame

This diary at MyDD, calling Michelle Obama a "welfare queen" is actually on the site's recommended list: MyDD :: Michelle Obama: "Give Us Something Here". This is beyond outrageous and must be condemned, rejected, repudiated and any other words you can find. It shames all of us.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:15 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 17, 2008

From Take Back America - Monday

This was originally posted at Speak Out California

I am at the Take Back America conference in Washington DC.

One common discussion here at Take Back America is that conservative economic policy chickens are coming home to roost. Another phrase I am hearing is Wild West Banking. People here are talking about the big story in the news right now: an economic and financial crisis that some economists are saying is the worst since the depression.

For decades, as conservative economics increasingly led to lower wages, loss of pensions and health insurance, and general "you're on your own" economic insecurity many people have been using up their savings while other people turned to borrowing to make up the difference, taking out second mortgages or running up credit cards.

Meanwhile the financial system, increasingly deregulated, cooked up riskier and riskier schemes -- like loaning money to people and companies to use to make their payments on their existing debt.

Now we appear to be reaching the limit of people's ability to borrow. And when people and companies have been borrowing to meet their payments this can mean a collapse. When people can't pay the mortgages the financial companies aren't receiving their payments. So they can't make their payments, and the companies they aren't paying can't make their payments. Think of this as a spiral of debt extending from the overextended consumer at the bottom to the biggest financial companies at the top. Now that spiral is beginning to "unwind."

This is happening because of so many years of conservative government focused on deregulating and on protecting the interests of the corporations and the wealthy instead of protecting the interests of the public from the moneyed interests. This is what conservatives do. A while back I wrote a very short post titled Republicans and Economics:

...there was a REASON that Americans were loath to elect a Republican into the government for an entire generation after the Great Depression: They remembered.
But eventually the public forgot, and the moneyed-interests used their money to again become the dominant voice in the public discussion. They used this dominance to persuade people to dislike unions, accept 401Ks as alternatives to pensions, and all the rest of the things that have led to another economic crisis. But even many of my progressive readers didn't understand what I meant. So I had to add an update,
Previous generations REMEMBERED. There was nothing to add. Over time people have forgotten how Republican economics caused the depression, and how they fought every single program that helped the people at the expense of the wealthiest and the powerful corporations. (And in fact led to the prosperity that the wealthiest and corporations enjoyed since.)

But now people do not remember how concentration of wealth, corporations preying on citizens, anti-union policies, etc. LED TO the economic collapse.

The depression was ended by pro-union policies, redistributive taxes, REGULATIONS on businesses and the fuinancial sector, and an understanding that We, the People run the government, and the reason we have corporations is for OUR benefit, not just the benefit of the few.

Over time, as I said, people forgot. And here we are again.

How do we help the public understand what is happening and how conservative policies are responsible?

Click to continue

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Financial Crisis Post - Get Out Of Money Market Funds!

For years and years and years people have been saying that Americans are taking on too much debt. The government has been borrowing too much. People are using credit cards too much. Second mortgages used for consumption are too much debt. There is too much corporate and financial system debt.

Debt has been fueling the growth we have been seeing for some time. It fueled the housing bubble. And now with the housing bubble bursting the debt bomb might also be exploding.

You might be hearing about problems on Wall Street and with the big financial firms. You might be hearing about the mortgage market having problems.

Well today you'll be hearing about big financial firms having serious trouble. Over the weekend a number of things happened. The big firm Bear Stearns basically went under and the government helped JP Morgan buy them for $2 a share. And the Federal Reserve did an emergency rate cut last night, with another expected tomorrow.

Asian stock markets are way down, and when the markets open this morning there are fears that it will drop.

Part of what happened with Bear Stearns is there was a "run." People were worried that the company would go under and asked for their money. And Bear Stearns didn't have it. This means that other people will be wondering if their money in other firms is also at risk, and might be asking to get it out. This might be what happened over the weekend.

If you have any money in money-market accounts, move it into federally insured bank accounts. You can lose money if it is in these accounts. You shouldn't have any money anywhere that is not federally insured until this thing blows over. Federally. IF, if we are looking at a systemic problem the private insurance companies will also be affected.

Have I mentioned that you shouldn't have any money anywhere that is not federally insured right now?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:38 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 15, 2008

Overnighter

I'm flying overnight to DC for next week's Take Back America conference. Maybe see you there.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

A Song For Wall Street: Under Pressure

Mm ba ba de
Um bum ba de
Um bu bu bum da de
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure - that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets
Um ba ba be
Um ba ba be
De day da
Ee day da - that's o.k.



It's the terror of knowing
What the world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming 'Let me out'
Pray tomorrow - gets me higher
Pressure on people - people on streets
Day day de mm hm
Da da da ba ba
O.k.
Chippin' around - kick my brains around the floor
These are the days it never rains but it pours
Ee do ba be
Ee da ba ba ba
Um bo bo
Be lap
People on streets - ee da de da de
People on streets - ee da de da de da de da
It's the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming 'Let me out'
Pray tomorrow - gets me higher high high
Pressure on people - people on streets
Turned away from it all like a blind man
Sat on a fence but it don't work
Keep coming up with love
but it's so slashed and torn
Why - why - why ?
Love love love love love
Insanity laughs under pressure we're cracking
Can't we give ourselves one more chance
Why can't we give love that one more chance
Why can't we give love give love give love give love
give love give love give love give love give love
'Cause love's such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And loves dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
Pressure

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:22 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 14, 2008

The Obama Smears

The Nation has a great article out on the Obama smears that are circulating, and looks at where they come from.

Smearing Obama

The purpose of the smear is to paint him as an Arab-loving, Israel-hating, terrorist-coddling, radical black nationalist. That picture couldn't be further from the truth, but you'd be surprised how many people have fallen for it.

[. . .] We may not know who started the smears, but we do know who's amplifying them. The "Obama is a Muslim" rumor began in the fringe conservative blogosphere. "Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always a Muslim," blogger Debbie Schlussel wrote on December 18, 2006. Schlussel had a history of inflammatory rhetoric and baseless accusations. She said journalist Jill Carroll, who was kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents in 2006, "hates America" and "hates Israel"; labeled George Soros a "fake Holocaust survivor"; and speculated that Pakistani terrorists were somehow to blame for last year's shootings at Virginia Tech. Yet her post on Obama gained traction; one month later, the Washington Times's Insight magazine alleged that Obama had attended "a so-called Madrassa" and was a secret Muslim.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 13, 2008

Which Dem Has More Votes?

Here is a great breakdown of the primaries so far. WIt also breaks down the Clinton / Obama votes between Democrats, Independents and Republicans. Go read this, there are some surprises.

MyDD :: A Look at the Popular Vote

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:56 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Oil Tax Defeated, School Budget To Be Cut -- What You Can Do

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Tuesday's post began,

In Dubai, people get free housing, free medical care, AND $5,000 per month. The people of Dubai share in the country's oil wealth.

In Alaska, people not only do not pay state taxes, the state government writes every state resident a check every year. The people of the state of Alaska share in the state's oil wealth.

But in California the big oil companies get to pump our oil from the ground for free, and then sell it back to us. Right now these oil companies are reaping the highest profits of any industry ever in history, making a few people immensely wealthy, and are not giving back any of this wealth to We, the People of California!

Our state's budget reflects our priorities and our values. So I wrote that We, the People of California should ask big oil companies to give back some of the immense wealth they are generating for themselves with our oil, so we can fully fund our California schools. I honestly did not know that Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez was about to introduce a bill to do just that. Well, he did, along with a windfall oil profits tax, and this is what happened:

The bill, which required a two-thirds vote to pass, was defeated on the Assembly floor after Republicans refused to vote for the new taxes.
These are choices, and the people of California need to understand that a choice was made yesterday to continue to be the only state that allows oil companies to pump our oil and not pay anything for it. And instead of asking the rich oil companies to give back a bit they want to cut the school budget by another 10%.

Republicans said the bill was a publicity stunt, saying Democrats know that no taxes can pass as long as there is a rule allowing just a few Republicans to block the will of the vast majority. They mocked the effort as an "oil drill."

"I think this truly is a political drill on the eve of the layoff notices that will go out all across the state and on the eve of (the legislative) spring break when we will be at home in our districts talking to our constituents," Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, said during the Assembly floor debate that lasted about three hours.
But do the people of California understand this? Do they realize that just a few votes can allow oil companies to get their oil free, while their children face ever-worsening schools? We need more "publicity stunts" to help them understand the different values and priorities that are being reflected. Politics and life are all about our priorities, not just our choices. What is more important to our people: rich oil companies or well-educated kids?

A choice is being made here, priorities and values are being expressed: cut our schools by 10% rather than ask rich oil companies to give back just a bit. Say it over and over, and then do something about it. Write to your legislators and demand they ask the wealthiest to start giving back a bit.

And remember, this is an election year. This is the time when citizens can do something about it when their legislators are not responding. This is the time that you can remove legislators who give wealthy oil companies tax breaks while cutting school budgets. You can volunteer to work in election campaigns, and go from door to door in their districts, letting voters know that their legislator made a choice and voted to cut school budgets while giving tax breaks to oil companies.

Help spread the word!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 12, 2008

Bush Vows To Keep Airwaves One-Sided

At a convention of religious broadcasters Bush today vowed to keep progressive viewpoints off the nations airwaves. At issue is the Fairness Doctrine, which requires broadcasters using public airwaves to present different sides of issues. The doctrine was originally put in place because of concerns that wealthy corporate interests would buy up all the stations and use the power of mass broadcasting to dominate public discussion. The fear was that the corporations would then push public attitudes in the direction of their own interests.

And, of course, this is exactly what has happened. When was the last time you heard on the radio or TV about the benefits of forming a union?

Bush: ‘Fairness Doctrine’ unfair,

In Nashville today, during a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, President Bush said there’s nothing fair about the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” that once required broadcasters to offer air time for competing ideologies.
We, the People stiff have a few rights, and a bit of power. If you don't speak out about this, we will lose the last little bit of opportunity to present alternative ideas.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:23 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 11, 2008

Choices on Taking and Giving Back

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

In Dubai, people get free housing, free medical care, AND $5,000 per month. The people of Dubai share in the country’s oil wealth.

In Alaska, people not only do not pay state taxes, the state government writes every state resident a check every year. The people of the state of Alaska share in the state’s oil wealth.

Approx. 12 percent of America's oil production comes from California. As I write this oil sells for $108.14 per barrel. In 2005 the oil companies were pumping oil out of our state at a rate of approx 230 million barrels each year. Oil company revenues and profits are the highest ever from any companies in the history of the world, ever. Did I mention "highest" and "ever"?

But the people of our state, in our wisdom, have decided that instead of asking the oil companies to give back a bit, we will instead give them our oil. Give them. And then we buy it back to put in our cars, etc. Yes, we, the people of the state of California have made the choice to give away our oil to greatly enrich a select few. (And this post is not even a discussion of the dozens of other ways that we have made the choice to allow the few wealthiest among us to avoid giving back by paying taxes.)

Today in California we are facing a budget shortfall. And instead of asking oil companies and others to give back a bit we are on the verge of deciding instead to cut our school budget. Again. This time by 10%. We are on the verge of deciding to cut health care. Again. And courts, police, and every other state service by 10%, again, rather than ask oil companies and others to give back from what they take from the state.

The way we solve this budget shortfall is a choice we make. Our choice. Our choices reflect our values and priorities. And we all make these choices whether we think we do or not. If you don't vote, you are choosing. If you vote for someone because you would like to have a beer with him or her, you are choosing. If you choose to vote for candidates who tell you there is "waste, fraud and abuse" and then after they have been in office for decades, continue to claim there is "waste, fraud and abuse," you are choosing. If you choose to let your government borrow and borrow, you are choosing. You will have to pay that back with interest later, of course, but you are choosing.

And if you choose to let your state give our oil away to wealthy corporations so they can sell it to you and get even wealthier you are choosing to make up that potential tax revenue yourself, through cuts in your children's education and health care and law enforcement, or maybe through increased taxes in the future, but one way or another you are choosing.

What are our priorities? Further tax relief to the wealthiest corporations, or educate our children? Here you are on the verge of choosing to cut your schools by another 10%. Is that the choice you want to make?

There is something else you can choose to do today. You can choose to write to your legislators and let them know what your choice really is. You can choose to talk to your family and friends and explain these choices and ask them to write to their legislators as well.

Click here to find out how to contact your California legislators. If you so choose.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Spitzer

People do idiotic things. Not too long ago Republican Senator David Vitter turned up on a list of prostitution customers. How did the Justice Department respond? Well, it didn't. It helped keep his name secret. And good for them for doing that.

But this time it was a Democratic Governor who has been going after securities fraud cases. And the Republican Justice Department responded very differently. First of all, there are questions about how they found out about this at all -- questions that bring the letters FISA to my mind. Next, they organized a major prosecution of the Governor. Then, they gave his name to the press. Then they included details of wiretapped conversations intended to drive a press frenzy.

There is no question that this is another political prosecution. The Justice Department would not have gone full-steam into this if it were a Republican, and if it were not a Democratic Governor. A federal task force because a guy was seeing a prostitute?

Firedoglake has Some Questions About the Spitzer Incident. Please go read.

I have warned that political prosecutions are going to accelerate as election-time approaches. Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 8, 2008

How Does This Help Democrats Win?

Every time I think I might lean toward endorsing one or the other of the candidates things pop up that push me away again. I used to say I liked all of the candidates running for the nomination. Now I'm wondering about that.

And it isn't just the candidates, it's the stuff the people around them are doing. The people a candidate puts into leadership positions says a lot about how that person would run an administration.

My main concern in the primaries is winning in November. I can't support taking self-interest over the interests of the party in November. When you run a scorched-earth primary campaign you reduce the chances of keeping people motivated. You also give tremendous ammunition to the opposition. In California we had a scorched-earth primary campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor between Westly and Angeledes. Then, during the general election all Schwarzenegger had to do was run ads with the same scripts that Westly had used and coast to victory. The result is that now we have a huge budget deficit and the school budget is going to be cut 10%. And the health budget. And everything else. Thanks guys.

The same thing is happening now between Obama and Clinton.

Hillary says John McCain is qualified to be President but Obama is not. How does that help Democrats win?

Then a top Obama aide calls Hillary a "monster." How does that help Democrats win?

And then there are the comment trolls who are disrupting the blogs. My criticism on this one goes almost entirely to the Obama trolls, who are threatening and intimidating anyone who dares suggest Obama is not the progressive essiah. Yesterday, for example, Kos had a post about how there are too few women in high-level office. Obama supporters were actually complaining that a post like this gives Hillary an advantage, that women shouldn't be in office, etc. I know better than to determine whether a candidate should be nominated based on comments that supporters leave at blogs, but the Obama trolls have been disrupting so many sites ... You pretty much can't read the comments at DailyKos anymore, for example. How does this help Democrats win?

I'm not even sure that some of these are not Republican operatives being sent in to stir up trouble inside the Democratic party. In fact, I suspect that this is happening.

I think that both candidates have an obligation at this point to ask their supporters to back off, chill, lighten up, whatever
. Tensions are running high and a real leader would be working to unite the party, and bring people back together. Neither candidate is doing this today and neither candidate gets my endorsement until they do.

I have said this before: the candidate I want has the instinct to jump in and defend other progressives.

Now with that in mind, I want to address one particular meme that is circulating. Obama supporters accuse the Clinton campaign of "using race." I am so sick of this divisive, false accusation. It is not true and it divides Democrats. It is destructive to all of us. The same COULD be said of the Obama campaign and misogyny, by the way, if you applied the same standards - someone loosely associated with the campaign saying something that COULD be interpreted as such-and-such. At least, if you consider the word "bitch" and associated characterizations as misogynist. I haven't seen the "N" word used anywhere, but I HAVE seen the "B" word used.

People being stupid and saying stupid things is NOT a campaign strategy. People who support a candidate are not "the campaign." And everyone knows that racism and misogyny are not going to win over the base in Democratic primaries.

We are all in this together. There is really no substantive difference between Obama's and Clinton's policies. They are both solid progressives and either would be a great President. OUR goal must be to get the conservative movement out of the White House and Congress and start restoring our traditions of democracy.

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

Bush Vetoes Torture Ban

The President of the United States - YOUR United States - today vetoed a bill banning torture.

Bush Announces Veto of Waterboarding Ban,

President Bush said Saturday that he has vetoed legislation meant to ban the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics because it "would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror."
Congress can not override the veto because most of the Republicans voted against the ban, and continue to support torture.

It is time to be in the streets.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 7, 2008

New McCain Ad

So McCain has the nomination and the professionals are starting to shape his image. Here is a new McCain ad that is chock full of manipulative psychological gimmicks, code words, and the beginning of the narrative development for the campaign. How many things can you spot? What is the campaign going to be about? What is the overarching story?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:25 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Nowhere Near A Bottom

Hale "Bonddad" Stewart: The Housing Market Is Nowhere Near Bottom.

Go see his chart of housing prices, to see how far prices have yet to fall.

A house near us was offered at $800,000, after several months only one offer came in for $500,000, and they accepted it. But all I can think of is some sucker just spent $500K for a 3 bedroom house that is going to be worth about $300K next year. Another in our area, asking $750K, sold at $450K. Still way too high.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:39 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 6, 2008

On Bush and Moon

A very interesting piece here: News From Underground: Neil Bush is a Moonie. It begins,

The dark epic of Sun Myung Moon is almost totally unknown to most of us-- amazingly, considering how much power Moon wields throughout the world, and, especially, in these United States, where he has the Çhristianists in one pocket, the Bush family in another, and the UN firmly in his sights. The Bush Republicans would be nowhere without him; but, of course, the only billionairewhose vast political influence we ever hear of is George Soros, whose funds for liberal causes represent a tiny fraction of the endless cash cascading from Moon's global enterprises, which include weapons factories, the world's largest sushi supplier, certain joint ventures with the Yakuza and other sources of enormous wealth.
Well worth a read.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 5, 2008

A Line In The Sand -- Stop Cutting School Budgets

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Governor Schwarzenegger has declared a “fiscal emergency” and is asking the legislature to solve the problem entirely with budget cuts. He has asked for 10% “across-the-board” cuts which at first glance seems to sound fair, but really means avoiding decisions about what budget items are the most important. It means cutting schools 10%. And law enforcement. And medical care. (Of course, they can't cut the interest owed on Governor Schwarzenegger's past borrowing.)

And more than that -- much, much more than that -- it is a trick that leaves out the fact that the state is not collecting needed tax revenue because of loopholes that let big corporations and the wealthy off the hook while the rest of us make up the difference.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand and demand that our state government not cut the budget for our children's education any more.

Isn't there a lot of "fat" in the budget, just waiting to be cut? Most people think so. But think about this -- every time the state has a shortfall they cut spending, saying they are cutting out the "fat." As a result, in the decades since Proposition 13 passed they have trimmed and trimmed and trimmed, and we now are long past the point where there is anything left to cut. In fact, today California schools have the lowest number of administrators per student of any state. Our schools have squeezed and squeezed and dropped programs and forgone pay raises and they can’t operate any more efficiently.

I was listening to a radio show the other night, someone from the San Francisco schools said this budget cut could mean they have to have 61 students per classroom.

But the Republicans in the legislature won't let us talk about taxes -- not even the yacht tax loophole. You and I have to pay sales taxes but people who buy yachts and private jets do not. They keep California as the only state that won't tax the oil companies for the oil they pump out from our state. They won't find a way to make commercial property owners pay market-rate property taxes.

The Governor and a Republican minority in the Assembly and Senate are still willing to block all alternatives to cutting teachers and health care and roads and parks and those things that We, the People call our government.

So it is time to draw a line in the sand. No more cuts. It is time to ask the corporations and wealthy to start giving back some of the incredible wealth they have made off of the physical, legal and financial infrastructure that We, the People of California put in place that enabled their gains in the first place.

Here are steps you can take to help fight back:

First, join us. Click this link and join Speak Out California. This way we can keep you up to date on our activities, including our activities to help keep our schools funded.

Next, start Speaking Out yourself, writing letters to the editor and contacting your legislators, demanding that the state enact alternatives to budget cuts, like closing tax loopholes and making wealthy people pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay.

The California Teachers Association provides a web page that helps you find the correct contact information for your state legislators. Please write to your legislators.

The Education Coalition has a website with facts to help you make your points. Give them a visit, too.

And finally, this is Speak Out California's fundraising month. Help us out so we can continue the work we are doing. Help us keep the progressive voice alive.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Let's Have A Comment War

Note - This is an insider post, for people who spend a lot of time at other blog sites. If you don't spend a lot of time at other blogs, especially reading the comments, you won't get this and should iignore it. I apologize.

Let's have a war in the comments here. The vote count in the Democratic primaries so far is:
Clinton 13,521,832
Obama 13,497,175

OK, go at it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:25 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 4, 2008

Today's Housing Bubble Post - "Deepest decline since the Great Depression"

The bloggers were calling it a few years ago, talking about how this was a bubble, and that it would lead to a dramatic collapse. The professionals weren't seeing it. The lenders were acting like prices alway go up. (Remember the same thinking with the stock collapse?)

And now here we are.

Housing in 'deepest, most rapid' decline since Great Depression,

"Housing is in its "deepest, most rapid downswing since the Great Depression," the chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders said Tuesday, and the downward momentum on housing prices appears to be accelerating.
The NAHB's latest forecast calls for new-home sales to drop 22% this year, bringing sales 55% under the peak reached in late 2005. Housing starts are predicted to tumble 31% in 2008, putting starts 60% off their high of three years ago. "
And this is just the beginning. Prices always revert to the mean, and the mean is going to be mean.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:22 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

March 3, 2008

Iraq

We/re waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:21 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Been Away

A sudden urgent job came up that I have been working on about 20 hours a day so posting here has been light. Don't worry I'm not dead. More to come...

Meanwhile for tomorrow's primary, take a look at a couple of grassroots video sites, Hillary Speaks For Me and YouBama.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack