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April 30, 2008

Is The Corporate Media Deciding This Election For Us?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Are you following the election coverage? Here are some recent stories: The media pounds candidate Hillary Clinton to release her tax forms, because the public has a right to know. And she does release her and her husband's returns, going back a decade. The media trumpets how much income they have been receiving, how rich they are, and drills down into details. If you follow the news, it is inescapable. At the same time candidate John McCain releases only partial forms that show all assets are now in his wife's name, and he won't release his wife's tax returns. The media is mostly silent on this; most of the public has little opportunity to learn of this.

Another story: Candidate McCain won't release his medical records. Again from the media there is mostly silence; most of the public has little opportunity to learn of this.

And here is the big story: Unless you have been in a coma you know that for several weeks video clips of statements by Barack Obama's former minister have been aired nearly 24 hours a day on the news shows, especially on FOX News. These clips are considered scary by certain demographic groups who are not familiar with the speaking patterns of black ministers

Interestingly, at the same time as this "Obama's minister" story is saturating the news there is another Presidential candidate with a "scary minister" problem of his own. But the news media is not providing the public with any information at all about the things this minister has said. In this case the Presidential candidate is John McCain and the minister is John Hagee. This minister has issued statements condemning Jews, is described as "virulently anti-Catholic," and says that 9/11 and Katrina are examples of God punishing America. Yet John McCain sought out this minister's endorsement and insists that he is "proud" to have received it.

While saturating the airwaves with scary video clips of Obama's scary minister the corporate media is providing the public with almost no information about McCain's. In the article, The McCain-Hagee Connection, the Columbia Journalism Review asks, "Why is the press ignoring this hate-monger?"

Why, indeed?

A well-functioning democracy depends on an informed public. There is no question that the public deserves to know these things about Senators Clinton and Obama. The information in the examples cited here could and should have an effect on the election, because the public will weigh these factors into their voting decisions. But the public also needs the information about Senator McCain, presented with equal emphasis. And clearly this isn't happening.

So with nearly identical stories -- a relationship with a minister who makes scary and hateful statements -- the corporate media chooses to present the information about only one to the public, and does so in a way that is guaranteed to scare the ... excuse me ... bejeesus out of everyone. The other is given a pass and a free ride, and the public is left without the information it needs to make an informed choice.

Why is this happening? Here is some background on our media:

In the United States the broadcast media used to be required by law to serve "the public interest" ahead of profits. Use of OUR airwaves was licensed out to private interests that were allowed to use them to profit to a limited extent in exchange for providing the public with information and news. We did this because it served our interests and those of our democracy.

The rules allowed very limited commercialization of this public resource. For example, in exchange for the license to make a profit from the use of the public airwaves the companies were required to provide educational content for children, news coverage, documentaries, arts and other public interest content. And by law the information had to be objective and balanced.

At certain times of the day the companies could then present commercialized content. But even then the commercialization was to be limited. They were limited in how much time during a show could be used for commercial advertisements -- and the shows themselves were not allowed to be commercialized. There were even restrictions on what the commercial advertisements could say. Public benefit was the priority, commercial profits were limited.

It was an exchange - they get to make some money using our resource, and we get news and information that educates us and strengthens our democracy. Why else would we have allowed private companies access to our airwaves, but to serve the public?

This changed. In the early 1980s the Reagan administration unilaterally dropped the requirements that broadcast media serve the public interest and these companies promptly stopped serving the public interest and started serving their own corporate interests. As happens with any for-profit corporate interest commercialization became the only use of our public airwaves.

Shocked by this seizure of a public resource for corporate commercial interests the Congress immediately voted to restore the public benefit requirements, but Reagan vetoed this. Then, under President George H.W. Bush the Congress again voted to restore the public benefit requirements, and this was again vetoed. Under President Clinton the requirement was against brought before the Congress and again a majority voted to restore placing the priority on public benefit but Senate Republicans filibustered and blocked the bill.

So today there is no requirement that our mass media serve the public interest. Instead the only interests that are served are private, corporate interests and the only information the public receives through these outlets is information that benefits the corporations that control them.

Is this why we are seeing such dramatic disparities in the way information about the candidates is presented to the public? Should we be surprised?

Control of our information sources is now in the hands of corporations with no requirement that they serve the interests of democracy. So shouldn't we expect that corporate interests are placed ahead of the public interest? If for-profit enterprises control the information the public receives then why wouldn't they promote candidates who would be more favorable to their commercial interests?

Let me provide a clear example of how this affects all of us: When was the last time you saw or heard on a corporate outlet information about the benefits of joining a union? Of course you haven't, and you wouldn't expect to. And, in the years since the requirement that the broadcasters serve the public interest by providing balanced information, we have seen a dramatic decline in the percent of the workforce that is unionized. At the same time we have seen a dramatic increase in commercialization of everything, and in the power of corporations over the decision-making of our government.

What else should we expect?

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:05 PM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Limits On Treasury Bond Purchases?????

I just received this email:

Dear TreasuryDirect Account Holder:

The Savings Bond Purchase Limitation has been changed to $5,000 per series
and TIN per calendar year. Please cancel any pending purchases that exceed
the yearly $5,000 limit.

This is an automatic message from TreasuryDirect.

WTF?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:42 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Industrial Agriculture Bad

A new independent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says that the big industrial penal colonies for animals are causing long-term harm people and the planet. Never mind the horror inflicted on the animals and on our souls.

See You Animals! | Grist

The report (PDF) is: Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 29, 2008

Today's Housing Bubble Post -- How Low?

This morning I wrote,

We'll see a bottom when the average person can afford to buy an average house - and wants to. We are a long, long, long way from that now -- and keep in mind that we're about to see a big reduction in what the average person can afford as the recession takes hold.
CNN's Money.com today: No brakes on housing prices8
As housing price losses extend, he said, the fall-off in demand for homes will deepen. And Schiff expects to see a national price decline of 30% - and by as much as 50% in the worst hit markets.
50%? In my area a 50% drop from the peak would bring houses down to maybe $400K. Will the average person around here be able to afford a $400K house a year from now, after a year of recession and after a tightening of loan standards? Not a chance. The price runup here saw a tripling to quadrupling of prices. And then they build thousands and thousands of houses in areas surrounding the SF Bay. So prices will have to fall by more than 50% - and the recession will have to end, and loans have to be available, and gas prices will have to fall a lot so commuters can drive to these houses - before houses will start selling again. Sorry for the bad news.

Yes, I do understand the cascading implications of that. It means that pretty much everyone who bought a house (or borrowed money on their home equity) since about 2001 - at least in this area - is going to be owing more on their mortgage than the house is worth. In many cases they will owe a LOT more. And they will decide to either be "good consumers" and sacrifice to protect the bank's profits by making payments for 30 years on a house that is worth hundreds of thousands less than they owe (while their neighbors move in to the foreclosed house next door with payments that are less than half what they are paying), or they will make an economic decision to "walk away," giving the house back to the bank, and make a fresh start. What do you think most people will do?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Pentagon Pundit Scandal Broke the Law

Please read Pentagon Pundit Scandal Broke the Law | Center for Media and Democracy.

Note that "Pentagon" means the Republican Party appointees in the administration who run the Department of Defense, which resides in the Pentagon.

The Pentagon was conducting "information operations" targeting the American public. This program was blatantly illegal.

Note that almost NO news outlets involved are reporting on this story at all. What does that tell you?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:38 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post -- Prices Down 12.7% Feb. Year Over Year

It's just getting started and home prices dropped 12.7% in February from the previous year. Home prices fall record 12.7% in past year, Case-Shiller say,

The decline in U.S. home prices quickened in February, with prices down a record 12.7% in the past year for 20 key cities, according to the Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday by Standard & Poor's. "There is no sign of a bottom in the numbers," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor's. Prices in 19 of the 20 cities have fallen over the past year, with prices in all 20 cities falling month-to-month for six straight months. The biggest declines were in Las Vegas and Miami, with declines of more than 20% in the past year. Prices in Charlotte, N.C., are up 1.5%.
Remember, this is before the impact of a recession on housing sales.

When will we see a "bottom?" (The point where prices stop falling.) We're nowhere near a bottom. We'll see a bottom when the average person can afford to buy an average house - and wants to. We are a long, long, long way from that now -- and keep in mind that we're about to see a big reduction in what the average person can afford as the recession takes hold.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:57 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 28, 2008

Bring Back The 90% Top Tax Rate!

When Eisenhower was President the top income tax rate was 91%. But you had to have already made a LOT of money before you hit that rate. (Eisenhower, by the way, supported that 91% top tax rate.)

That 91% tax rate is what got us out of the depression, and helped create a middle class (with the help of strong labor unions). It payed for fighting World War II and the GI Bill, and helped build our highway system, education system and other infrastructure that is in place today (albeit crumbling now from maintenance deferral resulting from tax cuts.) We did all that without borrowing, and the rich still got richer.

Think about this: If tax rates at the top were 91% today, hedge fund managers would STILL be bringing in over $300 million EACH YEARbut the rest of us would be able to get health care, fix the roads, good schools, and the other benefits that were the reason we - yes, we - enabled this economic system in the first place.

And think about this. If that top rate is 91% it reduces the incentive for corporate CEOs to bribe politicians to put policies in place that funnel all the wealth up to the top.

Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:52 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 25, 2008

The Middle Class Squeeze Is A Result Of LOW Taxes

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

It is a popular misconception that taxes add to the squeeze on the middle class. But it isn't tax increases that have squeezed the middle class, it's tax cuts. It may be hard to believe (after so many years of constant anti-tax rhetoric) but here is why.

The middle class IS squeezed these days. There are pressures and long hours at work, long commutes, health insurance costs, housing costs, food and gas prices rising, and wages are not keeping up -- they haven't been for a long time. But it is not a coincidence that the middle-class squeeze began at the same time as the corporate-funded anti-government, tax-cutting fervor. In fact a good case can be made that many of the reasons the middle class feels squeezed are the result of pressures brought about almost entirely FROM the effects of tax CUTS and cutbacks in government services, regulations and enforcement that went along with the tax cuts.

There are direct and indirect relationships. One example of a direct relationship is the dramatic rise in the cost of a college education. Sending kids to college has become extremely expensive. And this places a very hard squeeze on parents who want their children to get a degree. But here in California tuition was very, very low before Proposition 13. Tax cuts directly led to this squeeze on the middle class. (And remember, most of the property taxes that were cut were on business property.)

Indirect results include rising energy prices from cutbacks in government R&D and subsidies for oil alternatives as well as longer commutes as the government cuts back on transit solutions like buses, trains and roadbuilding or improvements. Health care costs continue to rise because of government inaction and deregulation -- the result of the anti-government sentiment encouraged as part of the the anti-tax campaign. And insurance costs rise while coverage is reduced or even denied as the government cuts back on regulation and enforcement. (My wife is the one who brings in the health insurance for our family. Every year she gets a raise, but every year the amount taken out of her check to cover her portion of the health insurance payment goes up by more than her raise, and her take-home pay is lower. So more squeeze.)

Other areas where the anti-government, anti-tax campaign has increased pressure on the average person is at work. Anyone that works for a corporation is feeling the extra pressures there. As government of, by and for the people declines corporate power fills the vacuum.

And there are so many more areas where we are squeezed by this increasing dominance of corporations in our lives. As government -- the power of We, the People -- diminishes, the corporations swoop in to pick us clean. How many examples of corporate power coming to dominate over people power can you think of?

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:32 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Mail I Get - Subprime Crisis Hits Japan

This came in the mail just now:

Sub-Prime Rate Problems hit Japan

Following the problems in the sub-prime lending market in America and the run on Northern Rock in the UK, uncertainty has now hit Japan.

In the last 7 days

* Origami Bank has folded,

* Sumo Bank has gone belly up and

* Bonsai Bank announced plans to cut some of its branches.

Yesterday, it was announced that Karaoke Bank is up for sale and will likely go for a song while today shares in Kamikaze Bank were suspended after they nose-dived.

Samurai Bank is soldiering on following sharp cutbacks, and Ninja Bank are reported to have taken a hit, but they remain in the black.

Furthermore, 500 staff at Karate Bank got the chop and analysts report that there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank where it is feared that staff may get a raw deal.

Ouch.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:07 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Pentagon Propaganda Story

Did Anyone see John Stauber of the Center for Media and Democracy on the Newhour yesterday? PBS was the first outlet to even mention the New York Times story about the government waging a huge propaganda campaign to sell the war to the public. All the networks, the Pentagon and everyone else involved refused to take part in the segment.

Here is an article by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Pentagon Propaganda: So Much Worse Than We Thought,

Thanks to the two-year investigation by the New York Times, we today know that Victoria Clarke, then the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, launched the Pentagon military analyst program in early 2002. These supposedly independent military analysts were in fact a coordinated team of pro-war propagandists, personally recruited by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and acting under Clarke's tutelage and development.

[. . .] Since the 1920s there have been laws passed to stop the government from doing what Barstow has exposed. It is actually illegal in the United States for the government to propagandize its own citizens. As Barstow's report demonstrates, these laws have been repeatedly violated, are not enforced and are clearly inadequate. The U.S. Congress therefore needs to investigate this and the rest of the Bush propaganda campaign that sold the war in Iraq. (Emphasis added)


Ari Melber: PBS Breaks Media Blackout of Pentagon Propaganda Bombshell - Media on The Huffington Post,J
ohn Stauber, coauthor of "Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq," contended that the Pentagon's "surrogate" program violated federal law against domestic propaganda and called for a congressional investigation. "This war could have never been sold if it were not for this sophisticated propaganda campaign," he said.
Other news outlets are ignoring this huge story.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:15 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Flag Pins And Hypocrisy

I was thinking about the "flag pin" question, and went and looked at the video. Sure enough, the woman accusing Obama of being unpatriotic for not wearing a flag pin ... wait for it ... isn't wearing a flag pin. The smarmy anchorman implying Obama isn't patriotic for not wearing a flag pin ... guess what ... isn't wearing a flag pin.

And, of course, if you go to Google Images and look for pics of John McCain, none of them show him wearing a flag pin. Of course, that means that Google in unpatriotic.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:50 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The Republican Plan On Obama -- "Us" vs "Them"

Townhall.com::Is He One of Us?::By Patrick J. Buchanan. Buchanan lays out the basic story that the Republicans are going to try to tell in this campaign. Read the whole thing. Buchanan is telling it like it is for the Republicans, and lays out what they are going to do:

Journalists disagree on whether immigration, Iraq or the economy will be the major issue in 2008. The real issue may be -- and this is what is causing heart palpitations among Democrats -- is Barack Obama one of us, or is he one of them?
This is going to be one nasty, racist, smearing, fear-mongering campaign. It's all they have.

And from the comments:

"Hundreds of white Yankee Soldiers died for freedom for blacks and they never thank anyone."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:49 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Inflation Is 11.6% If Calculated The Old Way

The government changed the way it calculated inflation. If we mneasured inflation the same way we used to it would be as bad as it was during the Ford-Carter years. And we all KNOW this is true because we can see for ourselves that prices are rising so much faster than paychecks.

The Fed's inflation gauge isn't realistic, critics say,

John Williams, who spent more than two decades as an economic consultant to Fortune 500 companies, said the government figures understate the true rate of inflation.

Williams, who runs Shadow Government Statistics in Oakland, which tracks changes in inflation, unemployment, the gross national product and other data, said that over the past 25 years, the government has changed the method of calculating price increases in ways that have lowered the reported inflation rate.

The changes include measuring the cost of shelter by rental prices instead of home values, as well as giving nearly as much weight to high-ticket items such as cars and electronics as to daily necessities such as food and gasoline.

According to Williams, if the government measured inflation based on pre-1982 methods, it would be running at 11.6 percent right now, or 7.3 percent using pre-1998 calculations.

Click through to see a chart that will shock you.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:19 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 24, 2008

Today's Housing Bubble Post -- Sales Drop To Lowest Level In 16 1/2 Years

New home sales plunge to lowest level in 16 1/2 years,

Sales of new homes plunged in March to the slowest pace in 16 1/2 years as a two-year housing downturn extended into the start of another spring sales season. The median price of a new home in March compared to a year ago fell at the fastest clip in 38 years.

. . . The median price of a home sold in March dropped by 13.3 percent compared with March 2007, the biggest year-over-year price decline since a 14.6 percent plunge in July 1970.

This made me laugh out loud:
Some analysts said they believe the slide in sales may be close to ending although they said any rebound is likely to be slow and anemic with prices continuing to fall, possibly until this time next year.
Listen, the problems we have seen so far have come about BEFORE the economic slowdown. Think about what that means. These foreclosures and people otherwise needing to sell their houses, etc., are not the result of a stressed economy. And we're just beginning to have a stressed economy. So we haven't even started to see the usual problems that come from layoffs, etc. So no, I don't think we are at a "bottom." Sheesh.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Strongly-Worded Statement

A Senate committee issued a strongly-worded statement to Sen. Domenici for his involvement in the US Attorney scandal.

With that out of the way, the US Attorneys who didn't get fired (because they were willing to play along with Republican corruption and politicization) will now start indicting Senate Democrats in time for the election. And the Democrats will again issue strongly-worded statement. From prison. Because they just don't seem to know better than to bring strongly-worded statements to a machine-gun fight.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

McCain And The Smear Ads

John McCain says he can't stop the North Carolina Republican Party and other Republican groups from running ads that smear Barack Obama on race, religion and attack in various other ways. The nominee of the Republican Party says he wants to stop these Republican groups, but can't.

So doesn't this tell us what a McCain administration would be like? Everyone he is supposed to be in charge of will be running around doing whatever they want to do, with McCain saying he can't control them?

Isn't this a reason all by itself to vote against the guy?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:48 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 23, 2008

The Missing Word -- FILIBUSTER

Republicans block pay discrimination bill | Politics | Reuters,

On a 56-42 vote, mostly Democratic supporters of the bill fell short of the needed 60 in the 100-member Senate to clear a Republican procedural hurdle and move toward passage of the bill.
"a Republican procedural hurdle." Wow, that's some fancy wording in this "news" article. In fact the wording is designed to block the information about what happened here from reaching the reader.

What happened here is that the Republicans FILIBUSTERED the bill that would bring fair pay to women for the same work.

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

Republicans on Obama -- Yesterday A Gang Member, Today A Terrorist

The Republican campaign is cranking up. Yesterday they were saying that Barack Obama is a gang member. (Black guy, get it?) Today he's a terrorist?

Oh yeah, that's right, last week he was a Communist!

By summer the Republican campaign will be in full swing. I wonder what imaginative things they will come up with?

Too bad the same rules don't apply to McCain.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Breaking - Another Preacher Says God Damns America

Hagee Says Hurricane Katrina Struck New Orleans Because It Was ‘Planning A Sinful’ ‘Homosexual Rally’,

On September 18, 2006, Pastor John Hagee — whose endorsement Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said this past Sunday he was “glad to have” — told NPR’s Terry Gross that “Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.” “New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God,” Hagee said, because “there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.”

Hagee is McCain's preacher.

Will this also be on every news channel, repeated over and over, 24/7, for the next several months? Will reporters hound McCain with questions about his preacher? If not, then what is it that is different between this preacher and Obama's?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:21 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 22, 2008

Rockridge Closing -- Why Building Progressive Infrastructure Matters So Much

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

On the same day that Barack Obama raised one million dollars in one minute for his campaign George Lakoff's Rockridge Institute announced that they will be closing their doors.

In the comments at the OpenLeft blog post, The Rockridge Era Ends, Paul Rosenberg wrote,

As If We Needed Any More Proof That Democrats STILL Don't Get It!
This is really terrible news--not just because of the loss of Rockridge, as if that wasn't bad enough, but because it shows so clearly that there is NO recognition of the need to build progressive infrastructure.

Just look at how many millions have been raised by the Presidential campaigns this cycle. And just a tiny fraction of it could have not just kept Rockridge afloat, but DOUBLED it in size. ...

I want to say this about that:

Donating a dollar to a progressive infrastructure organization like Speak Out California and Commonweal Institute today is like giving ten dollars to EACH progressive candidate in every local, state and nation race this November, two years later, and every election following.

Let me explain what I mean. Progressive infrastructure organizations like Speak Out California and Commonweal Institute are working to help the public understand and appreciate what progressives are about. By explaining the benefits of a progressive approach they help build public acceptance of and demand for progressive policies and candidates -- across the board. As more people understand why progressive solutions benefit them more than conservative proposals, they develop a lasting positive identification with the progressive "brand." Then later, during the election cycle, they vote for progressive candidates -- across the board.

This is how the conservatives have been so successful. They work year-round to convince people to identify as conservatives. (You've probably complained or heard people complain that that have managed to turn "liberal" into a bad word in people's minds.) When election time comes around it's as though all that their candidates have to do is point at the opponent and shout "liberal" to win. They ride a wave of nationally-advanced propaganda convincing people to support "tort reform" or "tax relief." This has been going on for years, so at election time everything is laid out for them on a silver platter, with the public prepared and primed.

Progressive candidates, on the other hand, are generally on their own, starting from scratch for each election. Their general campaign begins in the late summer or fall, they have to decide what "issues" to run on, they have to develop a message from scratch, by themselves, and then they have to reach their voters from scratch. And they have to do all of this on their own in just a few months. No wonder conservatives, even with their awful "you're on your own" philosophy, have managed to do so well and gain so much traction.

This is why building up a national progressive advocacy infrastructure would leverage all of those campaign donations and help us build a sustainable progressive majority. A few dollars to progressive advocacy organizations on any given TODAY builds long-term support for every progressive candidate on any given TOMORROW. It provides leverage -- lowering the need for massive election-cycle funding.

The demise of Rockridge Institute demonstrates that the Democratic Party donor base hasn't yet gotten that message. Instead, masses of money have to be raised for candidates at the very last minute -- for example a million dollars in one minute, the day before the big Pennsylvania primary. And almost all of that money will just literally go up in the air to pay for TV ads that leave nothing behind to show for the money. They don't build the brand, they don't tell people about the benefits of progressive ideas, they don't help other candidates... But almost nothing for the Rockridges and Speak Out California's and Commonweal Institutes.

Please think about donating to help build a solid progressive infrastructure of organizations that will work year-round to help the public understand why progressive policies and candidate are better for them than the conservative solutions. This will help build a sustainable progressive majority in America. Please help these organizations grow. It's about building a progressive ecosystem that benefits all of us.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:32 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Republican Ad -- Obama A Gang Member

So Obama is not JUST a terrorist, he's a GANG MEMBER, TOO! (He's black ... get it?)

Here is a new Republican ad accusing Obama of supporting gang violence.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:46 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 21, 2008

Funding Progressives Long Term

On a day when Barack Obama is raising $1 million in a single minute the Rockridge Institute announces it is closing its doors because it cannot find funding.

You can read their message here. Excerpt:

The progressive infrastructure built so far does not include a cognitive infrastructure. It has not tackled the Big Job--reversing the dominance of conservative Big Ideas in public life. Policy institutes do not address cognitive policy--the ideas and values that have to structure the public mind in order for nuts-and-bolts progressive policy to be accepted as just common sense.

When Rockridge started on its mission, we knew there were huge hurdles -- not just from the Right, but within the progressive community itself.
• The Progressive Funding Problem: The 1997 Covington Report [Sally Covington, Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations] observed that conservative foundations tend to give large, multi-year block grants to promote conservatism in general. By contrast, progressive foundations tend to give small grants for a short time over a short list of specific issue areas. This results in small nonprofits having to constantly spend a lot of time and effort raising money, and all too often failing to raise enough.

When my mood improves I'll try to have more to say on this.

Update - In a post titled "Messiah Candidate Thinking" (no it wasn't about Obama, it was about Gore) I wrote,

I don't think that one person or one election is going to lead us out of the wilderness. I think there is a lot of work required before progressives can win again and turn America in a progressive direction.

. . . This right-wing assault has eroded the public's understanding of (and belief in) democracy and community. It has even eroded understanding of - and faith in - science and reason! So I think there is a lot of work that has to be done to bring things back. We have to spend the money and do the work and take the time to build the think tanks and communications organizations (like Commonweal Institute) that will reach the public and explain and promote the benefits of progressive values and a progressive approach to issues. Over time this effort will restore public demand for progressive candidates.

Messiah-Candidate Thinking is a way to avoid facing the changes that have occurred in America. It is a way to put off the work that needs to be done.

Obama is great, but the groundwork has to be in place if he is going to be able to get anything done. We have to fund that, too, and it si ALL OF OUR responsibility to do that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:09 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 20, 2008

Are Clinton and Obama Communists?

The right has been cranking up the communist charge in this election. I guess it worked for the 50 years ago, so why not trot it out again?

I came across this today at the Republican TownHall site: Townhall.com::Obama, Clinton And Capitalism: It's Okay For Them, But Nobody Else,

The big irony here is that while Obama has done extremely well for himself in our very unique free-market economy, he has the “audacity” to demonize others who have done well for themselves, and to propose economic policies that, if implemented, would radically change our nation into something more akin to a Western European socialist state.
OK, let's examine that for a minute. Aside from the implications that they are communists, what does "Western European Socialist State" really mean? European citizens get 5 weeks paid vacation per year for everyone, free full-coverage health care for everyone, generous pays and pensions for everyone (with retirement earlier than here), corporations required to benefit the public, modern public transit systems, child care, clean public-oriented cities, governments responsive to the people instead of the wealthy, the corporations and the big military contractors, ... oh I could go on and on about the terrible state of things for Western European citizens...

And what are some of the examples of Clinton and Obama's supposedly communistic policies?

Obama has proposed a federal crack down on what he deems “excessive pay” for corporate executives. He has proposed that the federal government begin taxing people’s capital (not just earnings or interest payments, but, yes, capital itself). He has proposed that the capital gains tax rate be raised to 28%, nearly doubling its current rate of 15%. And he has made it a constant theme of his campaign to lament “Bush’s tax cuts for the rich,”

. . .[Clinton] has berated the reality of America being an “ownership society” (despite the recent increase in mortgage foreclosures, home ownership in America is still at an all-time high), saying that in reality we are an “on your own” society. Her remedy for the “problem” is for us to become a “we’re in this together society,” a nation of “shared responsibility” AND “shared prosperity.”

Conservatives lament that people should have to actually give back a bit to the public by paying taxes, after the public's investment in roads and bridges and law enforcement and military and schools and the legal and financial infrastructure made them rich. The writer thinks that the roads and bridges and schools and everything else that enabled that ecosystem which enables people to get rich just magically appeared. The writer doesn't seem to know that it was taxes that built that system -- OUR taxes -- and thinks the beneficiaries of this public investment should just freeload off the rest of us.

Taxes are the reason we have a thriving economic ecosystem. Tax cuts make us poor. And people getting rich off of our public investment and giving nothing back is the reason we don't get 5 weeks vacation, health care, and all the rest here.

If the conservatives are trying to scare me away from voting for Clinton or Obama by claiming that if elected they will bring us 5 weeks paid vacation a year, free health coverage and the rest, and that the cost will be taxing rich CEOs and corporations -- well I gotta tell you I want to get me some of that!

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A Key Race - CA SD-19, Hannah-Beth Jackson

In California Hannah-Beth Jackson is running for the State Senate. This is a key race because this is the Senate seat that could flip from Republican to Democrat, finally giving the Dems a 2/3 majority and enabling them to finally pass budgets.

Her website is: Meet Hannah-Beth

Hannah-Beth is a former member of the California State Assembly who founded Speak Out California, where I post once or twice a week, and the Institute for the Renewal of the California Dream (which does not yet have a website) where I am a Senior Fellow. This should tell you that she is a solid progressive, concerned with advancing democracy, community, and the mutual prosperity of all Californians instead of the benefits of our work and investment being funneled to the corporations and wealthy. So she has my endorsement and I hope she can earn yours.

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Now That We Know They Knew

New song from max and the Marginalized. Go listen to Max and the Marginalized: Now That We Know That They Knew

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Are You Better Off?

John McCain says we're better off after these years of Bush. Do you feel better off? Does the world?

Here is The Democratic Party | Our First National TV Ad

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April 19, 2008

Chimes of Freedom

1963?, Bob Dylan

Far between sundown's finish an' midnight's broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An' for each an' ev'ry underdog soldier in the night
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

In the city's melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin' rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an' forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin' constantly at stake
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An' the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an' blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an' cheated by pursuit
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Even though a cloud's white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An' the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An' for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Starry-eyed an' laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an' we watched with one last look
Spellbound an' swallowed 'til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse
An' for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Another version

And, of course, the Byrds:

And check this one out:


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Found Bound and Gagged In Lake - Declared A Suicide

A Texas man ran a charity for Palestinian children that the FBI was "investigating." So he's found dead in a lake, bound and gagged, and police declare it a "suicide." Go read: Informed Comment: Palestinian Children

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ABC Interviews McCain

Following the right-wing-framed questions ABC presented the Democratic candidates with in this week's debate, here is a look a tomorrow's interview with Sen. McCain -- at The REAL McCain: Less Jobs, More Wars.


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Post A Sign

"If you just had one person in every city doing what I do you wouldn't be able to drive anywhere without seeing a protest against the war."

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April 18, 2008

John McCain Is Older Than...

Go see: Younger Than McCain

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April 17, 2008

Distractions

Sign the MoveOn petition on distractions.

Editor & Publisher called this week's ABC presidential debate "perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years."

Moderators George Stephanopolous and Charlie Gibson spent the first 50 minutes obsessed with distractions that only political insiders care about--gaffes, polling numbers, the stale Rev. Wright story, and the old-news Bosnia story. And, channelling Karl Rove, they directed a video question to Barack Obama asking if he loves the American flag or not. Seriously.
Enough is enough. The public needs the media to stop hurting the national dialogue in this important election year. Can you sign the petition to ABC and other media outlets and pass it on to friends who are also fed up?

A compiled petition with your individual comment will be presented to ABC and other media.

Sen. Obama's comments on the distraction debate are worth watching:

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Tax Cuts make Us Poor

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Some years ago the corporate-funded anti-tax, anti-government advocates paid their way to become the dominant voice in our civil discourse. They said there was a magic, simple formula that would lead to shared prosperity. All we had to do was cut taxes, and everyone would have more money.

Everyone wants to have more money so this sounded wonderful. It is always a seductive argument to tell people that you have a magic formula that can make things better for them. One example is machines that create as much energy as they use -- or more. A common myth is that doctors are conspiring to hide the cure for cancer because it would put them out of business. Another is that there is a formula that turns water into gasoline -- or lead into gold.

"Just cut taxes, and we will all have more money." "Taxes take money out of the economy." "It's your money and you should decide how to spend it."

"But," some people asked, "where will the money come from to pay for our roads and schools and all the things that have made us so prosperous?" The seductive response from the tax-cutters was that government is an anonymous, incompetent, inefficient "them" that spends too much money that we could all have in our pockets, and if we just cut out waste everything would be all right. Just cut the waste.

The thing was, whenever one tried to pin them down on specifics of this waste they would never really explain where all that fat really was that they were going to cut -- at least not in quantities sufficient to match their tax cuts. Don't worry, put us in power, cut the taxes, and it will all sort itself out.

So eventually we fell for it and cut taxes and put the anti-government people in power. When we noticed that their tax cuts went mostly for corporations and the very rich, they said don’t worry, the money would trickle down to the rest of us. So we quieted down and waited for the magic to happen. When we noticed that the corporations and wealthy were getting richer and richer while we were losing our pensions and health insurance and jobs, they said don't worry, tax cuts make us richer. We still didn't understand that you and I and the regular people of California were not part of their "us" that would get richer.

The fact is the public officials that We, the People had elected had done competent jobs and there just wasn’t really much waste to cut. Why would there be? The people that we had elected had been good managers of our money. Democracy and accountability require open, transparent processes that the corporate anti-government, anti-tax advocates labeled as "inefficient bureaucracy." That was the waste they had been talking about - the oversight and transparency of good government! Our elected officials had put these systems in place and they had made sure there was no waste -- it was a myth.

Our government had been humming along, paving the roads, educating our children and investing in projects that led to modern wonders like the Internet. And we had been enjoying the resulting prosperity. California had the best public schools, colleges and universities in the country. We had the best roads, courts, parks, libraries, health care system, water projects and most innovative and open government and this investment had led to a thriving economic ecosystem.

So instead of cutting imaginary waste we started cutting out this engine of prosperity. We cut the schools and the road maintenance and everything else. The education system started getting worse and the roads and other infrastructure started deteriorating. California fell from first to near the bottom on many scales. Companies started leaving the state because of the deteriorating infrastructure and lower education levels.

Then when cutting our own services wasn't enough we borrowed money to cover those tax cuts and pay for what government was left. We borrowed and borrowed and borrowed. We were just like the homeowner who refinanced every year as prices went up it seemed like the gravy train would run forever.

Today the borrowing is catching up with us. As so many homeowners are learning to their dismay: borrowing means payments. And borrowing more means larger payments. In California the payments on our borrowing just happen to be pretty close to the amount of our budget shortfall. The same is true of the federal government.

Now we approach a day of reckoning for our tax cuts. The bill has to be paid, and the people who received the big tax cuts are pointing the finger at you and me. We can continue to cut out government and lay people off. We can continue to cram more and more children into classrooms with fewer and fewer teachers. We can have longer and longer lines at the DMV. We can close parks. We can have fewer police patrols and fire stations and ambulances and health and safety inspectors. We can just get poorer and poorer.

Or, we can start to close loopholes like the one that lets wealthy people avoid sales taxes on yachts and private jets while the rest of us pay sales taxes on everything we purchase. We can start to close loopholes like the one that lets oil companies pump our oil out of the ground without paying us and then sell our oil to us. We can start to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations who prosper because of the roads and financial and legal system we built, and whose taxes were cut leading to this mess. They need to stop simply taking and start paying their fair share. We can do these things and start to restore the thriving economic ecosystem we once had.

Click through to Speak Out California

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April 16, 2008

One image, One moment - On the Road to the Beijing Olympics

Guest Post by Michelle Kraus

There is a promise of hope in the Beijing Olympics if global leaders come together for the Dali Lama and human rights. The image of the torch is not just the Olympic Torch, but rather the beacon of hope for the people of the world.

One image, One moment, a chance for peace.

Stepping back and taking a moment and to consider him carrying the Torch or stepping onto the podium at the Opening Ceremony - perhaps there is a chance for peace. Maybe what we must do is take baby steps and lobby for his presence at the Opening Ceremonies and that would be enough.

One image, One moment, a chance for peace.

A bold, online campaign launched today at www.humanitariandream.com proposing a solution to all the controversy surrounding the Beijing Olympics this summer. Amidst all the outcries for boycott and the resulting acrimony, businessman Steve Varon proposes a plausible solution.

"With controversy and strife surrounding the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay over the past few months, this proposal is the first publicly announced solution to the dilemma. Imagine the Dalai Lama carrying the Olympic torch along the torch relay route, past the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet - or anywhere else on the relay route. It has the potential to quell the violent protests and return the focus of the torch relay to a celebration of peace through sport, inspiring hope for all people around the world. Corporate, civic and government leaders globally have been encouraged to support this opportunity. The idea has been warmly embraced publicly and privately."


See the video and hear the words of this quiet man, a businessman, who has committed himself to this one moment of light.

Sign the petition online and form the human link to this one moment.

All the political and global forces are wrong for this to have a prayer of success. The Chinese own a substantial amount of the US debt at a time in which the economy is teetering on recession. Human rights activists have lost their spokesperson in the late Congressman Tom Lantos. A United States boycott of the games is impossible, and not the answer.

One image, One moment, a chance for peace.

Sports should be about freedom, not politics. So let's have the games and abide by this Call to Action. Sign the petition and consider the solution is of finding a way to unify the Dali Lama and the Chinese government on this one day.

"If constructive dialogue with China could result in the world seeing the Dalai Lama carrying the torch" said Varon "it would send a powerful message about the Olympics as a force of good, and truly symbolize the 'One World, One Dream' slogan of this year's Games."

One image, One moment, One World, One Dream - On the Road to Beijing.

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Republicans Kill Safe Voting Act

I don't want to get all conspiratorial, but why wiould the entire Republican Party be against a voting system that lets voters say, "Yes, that is how I voted," and otherwise making sure that votes are counted accurately?

Voting safeguards measure sponsored by Holt fails in House,

The bill, dubbed the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008, fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass, even after clearing a House committee unanimously. The vote was 239-178 in favor, with all but two Democrats supporting it and all but 16 Republicans opposed.

The bill would have allowed states and jurisdictions to be reimbursed by the federal government for converting to a paper ballot system, offering emergency paper ballots or conducting audits by hand counts.

The measure was designed to ensure that every vote is properly counted. Voters in all or parts of 20 states including New Jersey now cast ballots electronically without backup paper verification, according to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:44 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 15, 2008

Solving The Problem Of People Losing Homes With Huge Corporate Tax Breaks

The economic crisis is just another opportunity to raid the treasury on behalf of the big corporations. Like 9/11, Katrina, etc., making the vastly rich vastly richer. What else would you expect?

Big Tax Breaks for Businesses in Housing Bill,

The tax provisions of the Foreclosure Prevention Act, which consumer groups and labor leaders say amount to government handouts to big business, show how the credit crisis, while rattling the housing and financial markets, has created beneficiaries in the power corridors of Washington.
There is still time to fight this -- but only if we can get the public to start acting like citizens participating in their government instead of consumers watching a TV show.

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Sorry Joe, Time To Go

War on Greed: Starring Henry Kravis

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Tax Internet Sales -- Just Like Local Stores

This post was originally written for Speak Out California

Have you ever bought something online, had a problem, and tried to reach the company's customer support line? Could you even find a phone number to call? If there was a phone number to call did you reach a phone tree or a person? Were you on hold for a long time? If you ever did reach a human, was the person in the United States or did they at least speak English (or Spanish) clearly enough to be able to help you?

A local store employs people in your town, boosting the local economy. The local store either owns or pays rent for their space, which means they pay local taxes to support police and fire services and schools, etc. The local store has people who can help you when you have a problem.

But buying something from your local store usually costs a bit more. This is because they pay to have actual employees to help you, pay rent, pay to maintain a building, etc. And, finally, the goods cost a bit more because you have to pay sales taxes when you shop at your local store.

The state of California, in its wisdom, has chosen to provide a huge tax subsidy to anonymous internet businesses, at the expense of your local retailers. You pay sales taxes locally, but not online.

Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't the state want to promote local stores, local employment, local police and fire services, local schools and a prosperous local economy? Shouldn't the state be promoting a thriving local economic ecosystem? Instead the state provides a huge competitive advantage to anonymous internet businesses.

With a huge budget deficit, with the Governor calling for 10% across-the-board cuts in your children's schools, police patrols, fire protection, parks, and all the other things our state government does for us, the state still hands the anonymous internet businesses a huge competitive advantage over our local retailers by letting them no charge sales taxes.

You owe it to yourself and your local community to find out if YOUR Assemblymember or Senator supports a requirement that internet companies charge the same sales taxes as your local businesses charge.

Click through to Speak Out California.

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Has Obama "Cried Wolf" On Racism?

I have said that the charges by the Obama campaign and supporters that the "Clintons used racism" were bogus. Clinton's campaign manager Maggie Williams and plenty of her campaign staff is African-American and this accusation is an insult to them. (Either they are African-Americans using racism or they are allowing themselves to be used as tokens. Which is it?)

My real complaint about this charge is that it is "crying wolf." It uses up the accusation instead of holding it for use when circumstances really do merit. If Obama is the nominee he will be running against modern Republicans. You want your racism? They got your racism for ya.

Running against Republicans is when you will see racism, not some penny-ante nonsense about Bill Clinton being a racist. (Bill Clinton a racist?) Nope, this week we're starting to see the Republicans weigh in. Yesterday it was "that boy". And today the real racism starts - just starts - to show its head:

In Darkest Pennsylvania - HUMAN EVENTS,

It was said behind closed doors to the chablis-and-brie set of San Francisco, in response to a question as to why he was not doing better in that benighted and barbarous land they call Pennsylvania.

Like Dr. Schweitzer, home from Africa to address the Royal Society on the customs of the upper Zambezi, Barack described Pennsylvanians in their native habitats of Atloona, Alquippa, Johnstown and McKeesport.

But how does the Obama campaign now denounce the racism in this, after using the charge on the Clintons. "But you said that the Clintons are racist. Do you call everyone a racist?"

Update - I just discovered this from eriposte at Left Coaster yesterday:

That, folks, is an example of a real racist. Now, maybe some of you possibly understand my anger these past few months when the candidate I support, a longstanding Democrat who has done enormous good for minorities and civil rights was falsely tarred as a racist or race-baiter.

[. . .] These are the real scum that we are fighting. I know we are all fighting for the Democratic candidate we support in this primary, but let me be clear who the real political enemy is: The Republicans in Congress and in the White House who have trashed this country the last 7+ years, committed untold criminal acts, destroyed the very moral fabric of what makes this country great and made life much more difficult for the majority of the American public. When the Democratic primary is over, they are the ones we will fight together, because we must. This primary may be depressing - and some days it sure is - but it is nothing compared to the ugly s*** we will face in the general election from the Republicans and the ugly consequences for the country if we don't unite behind the eventual nominee (whether it be Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama).

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Today's Housing Bubble Post - Foreclosures Up 57%

Foreclosures jump 57 percent in last 12 months,

Home foreclosure filings surged 57 percent in the 12 month-period ended in March and bank repossessions soared 129 percent from a year ago, as homeowners struggled to make mortgage payments, real estate data firm RealtyTrac said on Tuesday.
This brings up something I have been thinking about. So many people are "looking for the bottom." (Signs the bottom is behind us?) They think things are "leveling off." Well guess what, all the problems, all the foreclosures, all the credit card debt, all developed before the economic downturn began. And now we are entering a recession. No question. And a recession means that people are going to lose jobs, companies are going to go under, etc. And those people and companies are not going to be able to make their payments.

So no, we are not looking at a "bottom." We're looking at the beginning.

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April 13, 2008

Under Republicans Corporations Audited Less, Regular People More

IRS eases pressure on Big U.S. companies, study says - International Herald Tribune:

The IRS's scrutiny of the biggest U.S. companies is running at a 20-year low, according to the study, conducted by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, a research group affiliated with Syracuse University.

The study, made public Sunday, points to "a historic collapse in audits." It found that major corporations - defined as those with assets of at least $250 million - have about a one in four chance of being audited, down from about three in four in 1990.

Individuals have about a 10 percent chance of being audited, more than double the odds in 2000, according to the IRS.

Did you know that our debt under Bush is getting pretty close to ten TRILLION dollars?

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April 11, 2008

Did They Gotcha Obama?

The corporate media pundit class thinks they 'got' Obama. I think it's just more silliness but it looks like they're going to run with it.

In Guns, God and Government: Obama Courts Bitter and Clingy Pennsylvanians the silly, snarky ABC News' The Note writes,

Did Barack Obama just hand Hillary Clinton and John McCain a nicely gift-wrapped, up for interpretation, potentially damaging quote?

... [Obama:] "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

So far, the Obama campaign is not confirming nor refuting the comments, but Clinton has already weighed in on the stump in Philadelphia.

"I saw in the media it's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who faced hard times are bitter. Well, that's not my experience," Clinton said. "As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They are working hard everyday for a better future, for themselves and their children. Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families."

And more,
Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist who leads an influential weekly meeting of conservatives, went as far as to argue that Obama's line would cost Democrats the White House.

"That sentence will lose him the election," Norquist told ABC News. "He just announced to rural America: 'I don't like you.'"

"Now you can vote against that guy not because you don't like him," Norquist added. "You can vote against him because he doesn't like you."

I think Obama did a good job of describing some of how small-town people have been tricked into voting for Republicans. And I think a lot of those people are going to see it, too.

Update - It is starting. Republicans Quickly Pounce on Obama Remarks,

Within moments, Republicans had pounced. Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign told Politico's Jonathan Martin that Obama's comment revealed "an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking." Schmidt added: "It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."

Within hours, the National Republican Congressional Committee had issued a release pushing Rep. Chris Carney -- a vulnerable freshman Democrat from Pennsylvania -- to condemn Obama's remarks.

Here is my take on how they'll use it. They' going to run with "Obama doesn't like you." This gives people cover for bigotry. It's not that they don't like him, they can use this to say he doesn't like them. But Obama does pretty well describe the "Reagan Republican" voters here. And those voters are coming to understand how they have been played. They vote for Republicans, Republican hand the treasury over the Wall Street. They have handed over their pensions, health insurance, jobs, and now their sons and daughters in Iraq so a wealthy few can have ever-bigger jets. And they are figuring that out.

Update - Hillary is also jumping on it, using the Right's talking points. Great. This sort of stuff only helps the Republicans if Obama becomes the nominee. And Obama is right.

Late update - Obama takes it and knocks it out of the park:

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Go Visit

Have you been to BAGnewsNotes lately? What a great site!

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Will McCain Condemn Reject or Denounce This?

Will Russert or Matthews or Broder any of America's other "opinion leaders" ask John McCain to condemn, reject and denounce this?

Townhall.com::Congressional Democrats: The Other Insurgents::By Michael Reagan,

The goals of the Democrats and both al Qaeda and al Sadr insurgents are the same: the defeat of the United States in the war in Iraq.
Senator Obama is held responsible for anything any black person anywhere says - even Harry Belefonte - and both Obama and Hillary are held responsible for anything posted at MoveOn, DailyKos, etc.

But John McCain gets a free pass, even on statements like this - the kind of statement which he has come pretty close to repeating himself. This is the son of a Republican President who said this, not some marginalized outlier. This is the kind of statement that is repeated frequently by other Republicans. This is the kind of statement that the Republican Party itself has used in previous elections - to the point of using pictures of candidates morphine into Osama bin laden in their candidates' ads. It is time once and for all for McCain to either embrace or condemn this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:17 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 10, 2008

Obama Needs To Apologize For ...

The Carpetbagger Report writes about The problem with comparing Obama to Tiger Woods. At a McCain rally a speaker says,

“Rest assured that people like Senator McCain will be the goal and the men that my two young boys will emulate an admire. You can have your Tiger Woods. We have Senator McCain.”
Then On Hardball,
The general consensus, the talking heads said, is that it’s “no harm, no foul,” because Tiger Woods is great at golf.

Consider the quote again: “Rest assured that people like Senator McCain will be the goal and the men that my two young boys will emulate an admire. You can have your Tiger Woods. We have Senator McCain.”

In other words, don’t admire the ethnically diverse golfer who reminds this guy of Barack Obama.

Am I the only one who finds this offensive?

No, I found it offensive, too. So I had an idea.

Maybe someone could produce a video with a Saturday Night Live style skit. In the skit Sen. Obama has a regular weekly session where he has to apologize for each thing some black person somewhere may have said or done that week, before he is allowed to move on to his topic... Script:

"Now before I begin I see that a black driver in Connecticut ran a stop sign and narrowly avoided colliding with a delivery truck. I sincerely apologize. And in Tennessee an accountant whose mother's grandfather is from Nigeria made a mistake and cost his client $650. I deeply regret that this incident occurred. Now, moving on today I would like to talk about agricultural policy ..."

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Al Gore - New Slide Show

Al Gore: New thinking on the climate crisis (video)

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Hating On We, the People

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

At Speak Out California, we have been writing quite a bit about democracy and about the meaning of the words "We, the People."

Decades of conservative/corporate marketing has convinced too many of us to think of ourselves as passive consumers rather than participatory citizens. This thinking has brought with it numerous negative consequences. But if we work to restore our understanding that WE are "the government" we can start to see our state and country the way the founders intended. We can see that we are in control and can make decisions that increase the benefits we receive as citizens.

In a recent post, The Power of the Words "We, the People", I wrote,

As an experiment, try substituting the words, "We, the People" every time you read or use the word "government." Or use the word "our" instead of "the" when you say "the government." Our government, us, we, the people.
Later in that post I wrote,
Conservatives have worked hard to make "government" a bad word. They complain about "big government." They complain about "government schools." But what happens when we substitute a form of "We, the People" into their slogans? The whole meaning seems to change.

With that in mind, lets take a look at an opinion column in April 2's Orange County Register by Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal: California Focus: No tax loopholes merit closing. The column is your standard conservative anti-government screed, arguing against closing tax loopholes that benefit corporations and the very wealthy to solve the state's budget problems. It begins,
In recent weeks, Gov. Schwarzenegger, legislative leaders and the Legislative Analyst's Office have called for eliminating what they term "tax loopholes" to help close California's staggering $16 billion budget deficit.

But one person's loophole is another person's legitimate advancement of public policy. This is especially true with those tax credits or deductions that are both broad-based – benefiting large segments of society – and which result in a significant societal benefit.

The specific tax loopholes under discussion include one that allows the very rich to avoid paying sales tax on new yachts and private jets, while the rest of us have to pay. Another lets oil companies pump our oil out of the ground without paying the state, and then sell it back to us. Another lets sales over the internet go untaxed, giving them a competitive advantage over local businesses that pay rent for a storefront, employ sales clerks, etc.

This discussion of tax loopholes occurs, of course, in opposition to the Governor's proposal to solve the budget problems by cutting all state programs -- the benefits that We, the People receive -- by 10% "across-the-board." That means cutting schools, police, fire, road maintenance, and everything else our state does. This, of course, means cutting the DMV staff by another 10%, making the lines more unbearable. It means cutting courts and prisons and environmental protection and parks and consumer and worker protections. It means, as we enter a recession, laying off thousands more workers.

But Coupal writes,

Those of us who represent taxpayers must remember our starting point. Specifically, that government is too big, too wasteful and too corrupt to be entrusted with any more money.
What is he saying here? Keeping in mind that our government is US, he is saying that you and I are corrupt! he is saying that you and I cannot be trusted!

Do you see here how our understanding of conservative arguments changes once we restore our understanding of democracy and our own role in our own government? In that light it certainly is insulting and contemptuous of conservatives to say that government is corrupt and cannot be trusted!

We, the People established this government that Coupal hates so much. And We, the People vote our representatives in to office to do as we ask. But it is this We, the People that Coupal and other anti-tax, anti-government advocates say cannot be trusted! They say there are too many schools for our children, that the lines are not already long enough at the DMV, that we should let prisoners go free, and cause the courts to have even longer backups when We, the People have issues that we need resolved. WE can not be trusted, they say, so they must impose restrictions on our ability to provide for our common good. They insist that 2/3 requirements be imposed on our ability to raise the funds we need to accomplish things like paving our roads and caring for our children!

In a recent post, Do Taxes 'Hurt'? Is Government Bad?, I wrote,

This anti-tax rhetoric results from an anti-government worldview that is pushed by conservatives, in which they portray our government as some kind of enemy of the public.

[. . .] So how can government and taxes be bad if the government is us? Looking at things this way, doesn't this all mean that taxes are like a savings and investment account where we get back so much more than we put in? And, building on that, since we use the taxes to our mutual benefit aren't we all better off if there are more taxes rather than less? Doesn't that just make us all stronger?


Finally, with a huge state deficit, what does Coupal want? He writes,
...even if some tax credits actually deserve the label of "loophole," government simply does not need more money.
We have a huge budget deficit, and he thinks We, the People don't "deserve" any more money. Think about that.

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Boycott Wyoming

Until a few days ago wolves were protected by the Endangered Species Act. The reintroduction of the wolves meant a restoration of the natural habitat. For example, elk herds learned to be more cautious, ate less of the vegetation in a single place, allowing beaver populations to recover, causing morewetland marshes to return, restoring bird habitats. Etc.

But the Bush administration, in their typical wisdom, removed that protection and the killing has started. So Wyoming is now allowing wolves to be shot on sight, no questions asked. Why give them your money.

A few days ago: Wolves lose protection,

Gray wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Area no longer enjoy the protection of the Endangered Species Act, but the delisting could be temporary if conservation groups successfully challenge the decision later this spring.

. . . In Wyoming, wolves are considered predators in roughly 88 percent of the state and can be killed by anyone using any means without a license.

Wolf kills reach at least 10,
At least 10 gray wolves have now been killed in Wyoming since the animals were removed from the federal endangered species list.

All of the canines have been killed in the state's new wolf predator management area, where it is now legal to shoot the animals on sight. All 10 have been taken in Sublette County.

See also Wyoming's wolf policies prompt call for boycott

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:17 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Why does anyone ever listen to Fred Kagan at all any more?

Why does anyone ever listen to Fred Kagan at all any more? On March 24th, only a day before the fighting broke out in Basra, he was telling us this:

The first thing I want to say is that: The Civil War in Iraq is over. And until the American domestic political debate catches up with that fact, we are going to have a very hard time discussing Iraq on the basis of reality.

Thirteen days later he was on On Sunday he was on NPR, putting the McCain spin on the Basra fight:

And it’s not the way — as Senator McCain rightly said, the side that’s winning a conflict like this doesn’t generally call a timeout and say, “Hey, you know, we’ve had enough. Thank you very much.” And it’s not the way it’s playing on the Iraqi street.

On NPR, no one bothered to ask him about his condescending, insulting, and completely wrong statement of only thirteen days earlier, and apparently no one confronted him about the falsehood of his new statement either.

I don't claim to have a perfect understanding of Iraqi politics, but it's pretty clear that Kagan not only is ignorant, but also is a shameless liar. His career should be over by now, but he keeps getting TV and radio time because he has muscle behind him. And the ones who actually do know something (e.g. Juan Cole) do not have muscle behind them.

After five years of lies and failure, with Bush's approval rating now at about 30%, the big media are almost unshaken. They're still pumping out the Republican Pravda disinformation, and their memory apparently doesn't go back even two weeks. The Republican monopoly isn't complete, and you will sometimes see accurate information mixed in with the lies, but that was true of Pravda too.

Many are scornful of conspiracy theories, but when Kagan appears again immediately after completely disgracing himself (and not for the first time), what non-paranoid explanation is there?

Posted by John Emerson at 6:24 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 9, 2008

McCain's Taxes

There was a huge media frenzy demanding that Hillary Clinton release her tax returns. And, of course, she did.

But McCain didn't. There is not a mention in the media of that, however. Of course.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:55 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 8, 2008

Justice For ... All?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

You hear a lot in the news about big corporate lawsuits. If you closely followed this week's business news, for example, you may have read about a jury ruling that Microsoft has to pay Alcatel-Lucent $367.4 million for violating patents. Imagine the money that must have gone into lawyers, research and experts -- even the copying bill must have been enormous. And these cases take months to hear.

There were also court rulings about the drug Prevacid, another covering dialysis machines, and many, many others.

All of them big-money corporate cases with millions, even billions of dollars at stake. These big companies have the money to take these cases to court.

But what if you or I need to go to court? Are we on an equal footing?

A recent issue of The Progressive States Network’s newsletter, Stateside Dispatch, says,

According to Access to Justice: Opening the Courtroom Door [PDF file] by the Brennan Center, federal funding for legal services in real dollars has declined dramatically over the last twenty-five years. In 2004, federally-funded programs turned away at least one person seeking help for each person served, leading to approximately one million cases per year being turned away due to lack of funding.
In fact, the Brennan Center report states that “most low-income individuals cannot obtain counsel to represent them in civil matters.” On top of that, government-funded legal aid services are now by-and-large prohibited from helping people when they are harmed by corporations.

What do you do if you are a regular person injured by a product, or denied a job because of your age, or defrauded out of money, or any of things that can happen to people? It used to be that a law firm might take the case based on a contingency fee, where they receive a percentage of any award resulting from your case. But more and more these fees are restricted or awards are "capped." So attorneys cannot afford to take your case. Even if you can find an attorney willing to take your case "pro bono" there is still the cost of research, depositions, expert witnesses, etc. to consider.

Is this fair? Is there anything more fundamental to our American concept of democracy than equal justice? Access to the courthouse is an example of democracy leveling the playing field and providing fairness. But we no longer have equal access. And this means we no longer have fairness.

So what can we do about this? First, we need to restore our own understanding of democracy and our individual stake in its preservation. We must all recognize that equal justice is a fundamental requirement of a democratic society. One reason this country was founded was to level the playing field between the rich and the poor. So we all need to demand equal treatment under the law.

In California we must demand a rollback of the "tort reform" measures that have taken away equal access to the courts and removed a regular person's ability to fight back when harmed by a big company. We must either remove the award "caps" and limits on attorney fees or implement a system of government funding for attorneys who represent regular people.

Click to continue.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:00 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 6, 2008

Whatever Happened To The Abramoff Investigation?

Firedoglake: More DOJ Politicization Questions Being Raised got me thinking: Whatever happened to the Abramoff investigation? The Cunningham/Wilkes investigation? Weren't they going to lead to wider circles of corruption? Weren't they looking at a number of other Republican Congressmen? Weren't they looking at Bush administration officials? Weren't they looking at contractors? It all just faded away -- after the prosecutor was fired.

And now, instead, we're reading about indictments of Democrats and progressives.

But, don't worry, the Democrats in the House and Senate issued strongly worded statements, so everything is OK.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:14 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Why The War Goes On

Maybe the Iraq occupation continues because there's so much money to be made.

Study finds lawmakers invested $165m in defense,

WASHINGTON - Members of Congress have as much as $196 million collectively invested in companies that do business with the Defense Department, earning millions since the onset of the Iraq war, according to a study by a nonpartisan research group.

. . . Several members earning money from these contractors have plum committee or leadership assignments, including Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, and the House minority whip Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri.

This is just members of Congress. What about others involved with keeing the war going? And I wonder how much money the Iraqi leadership is making off the war as well?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:05 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 4, 2008

Don't change before the empire falls

Lady, you keep asking why he likes you. How come?
Wonder why he wants more if he's just had some.
Boys, she's got more to play with in the way of toys.
Lady's eyes go off and on with a finger full of glue,
Lips are drawn upon her face in come-to-me tattoo.
Creamy suntan color that fades when she bathes.
Paper dresses catch on fire and you lose her in the haze.
Don't ever change lady, he likes you that way.
Because he just had his hair done and he wants to use your wig,
He's going off the drug thing cause his veins are getting big,
He wants to sell his paintings but the market is slow.
They're only paying him two grams now for a one-man abstract show.
Don't ever change people even if you can.
You are your own best toy to play with; remote control hands.
Made for each other. Made in Japan.
Woman with a greasy heart, automatic man.
Don't ever change people. Your face will hit the fan.
Don't ever change people even if you can.
Don't change before the empire falls.
You laugh so hard you crack the walls.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

April 3, 2008

If we only had a two party system!

I shouldn't be, but I'm astonished at the failure of Americans (especially the media and the Democrats) to ask some basic questions and draw some basic conclusions about the Basra attack.

1. Did Cheney approve the Basra attack? Almost certainly. Was it his idea all along? The timing of his visit to Iraq suggests that it might have been. No one's asking.

2. What about Fred Kagan's confident statement a couple of days before the attack: The Civil War Is Over. Why isn't everyone ridiculing Kagan now, the way he very recently ridiculed those who believed ago that the civil war was going to continue? Why didn't Kagan's career as a talking head and policy adviser come to an end the day the attack began? He obviously knows nothing about anything.

3. What about Bush's statement that the Basra attack was "a defining moment for a free Iraq"? What got defined in Basra was the extreme weakness of the central government and its lack of authority even over its own troops. Shouldn't someone be asking Bush about this? The Iraqis are clearly unable to "stand up".

4. What really happened? As more detail comes out, it seems that the failure of the offensive was even greater than the first reports had it. The mere fact that Maliki failed at what he tried to do, after having made grand proclamations about his intentions, should have left him crippled from then on out. But there's also evidence that the battle was much worse than just a standoff, and would have ended more disastrously than it was except for a last minute rescue by the Americans, the British, and the Iranians.

It's at times like this I wish that the U.S. had a two-party system. For example, just hypothetically: if we were in the middle of a Presidential campaign right now, one of the candidates from the opposing party would probably be saying something about the emptiness and falseness of what Our President has been saying about Iraq, and about the incompetence and destructiveness of Cheney's most recent intervention in Iraqi policy-making.

But just as there are no magic ponies in Iraq, there are none in the U.S. either.

Posted by John Emerson at 6:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack