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May 30, 2008

Top 10 Conspiracy Theories of the Religious Right

I LOVE this one: Talk To Action | Top 10 Conspiracy Theories of the Religious Right, including Al Gore's secret global warming plot to destroy capitalism and take over the United States, Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno's secret plot to destroy Christianity and take over the United States and make it a Lesbian country. (Or is it Thespian?)

They left out MY secret plot to use blogging to take over the United States and make everyone drink better coffee.

Go read.

Update - I just got an e-mail from Human Events titled, "Obama U.N. Global Tax Scheme Gaining Steam"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

SEIU Convention Next Week

I'm flying out really, really early tomorrow to cover the 2008 SEIU Convention. I'll be posting here and elsewhere. So I'll likely be "off the air" all day tomorrow. I fly back Thursday.

If you're at the convention, look me up. I'll be the tired, jet-lagged one with a computer.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:38 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Do It Live

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:35 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 29, 2008

Democratic Convention Credentials

I just found out I have credentials to cover the Democratic Convention in Denver this summer.

In 2004 I was the first person ever to post a picture of his dog from a national convention. What will I do this time?

In this post I have a picture of "reporters covering reporters interviewing bloggers while bloggers interview the reporters."

Balloon drop.

(It's the old Blogger site so you have to wait and wait while it loads and then scrolls to the right post...)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Wingers Say Book Conspiracy

A right-wing blog says Soros-the-Jew is behind the McClellan book.

Scott McClellan was Bush's press secretary, and has written a book saying Bush led us into Iraq with propaganda, admitting ordering the Valerie Plame leak, and many other things we all know. Now a right wing blog says it's all part of the great Soros-the-Jew MoveOn communist appeaser jihadist latte-drinking conspiracy that is behind everything else. See lgf: The Soros-McClellan Connection

And, heh, there are 1244 comments as I post this. They're worth scanning. Heh.

(H/T Down With Tyranny)

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

It comes from the top

From Glenn Greenwald:

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the press corps dropped the ball at the beginning. When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings.

And my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives -- and I was not at this network at the time -- but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president.

I am a big fan of the media critics Atrios, Brad DeLong, Eric Alterman, and above all Bob Somerby. For years (in the case of Alterman and Somerby', for at least ten years) they've been documenting the shallowness, inaccuracy, dishonesty and ultimate Republican slant of the media -- especially TV and radio, but also including such highly respected publications as the New York Times and the Washington Post.

However, they tend to be too willing to slip into the "Heathers" or "Villagers" explanation. Supposedly the media are staffed by a bunch of silly, shallow, people who only talk to each other and who, for example, did what they did to sabotage Al Gore's Presidential run because he annoyed their silly high school sensibilities.

I've always believed that it was a management problem, and I think that Greenwald's post confirms that I've been right. This does not mean that the Heathers are not silly people, and it doesn't mean that they're not culpable. But the people whose names we see are quite literally hirelings and lackeys (albeit very well paid hirelings and lackeys). They give management what it wants.

Greenwald gives several more examples, and over the years there have been dozens of reporters whose newspaper careers ended (or dead-ended) because of excessively accurate reporting -- Seymour Hersh is only the most eminent of them. (To Greenwald's list of recent suppressions, I'd like to add the case of Lara Logan, who tried to start an email campaign to keep her bosses at CBS from suppressing a story).

Every time that I make the claim that responsibility should be assigned to management rather than to individual reporters, the reflex "conspiracy theorist" accusation shoots back at me so quickly that I have to ask whether my statement even reached the cerebral cortex at all. All I claim is that management manages and that reporters can be hired, fired, promoted, and demoted, but people respond with abstruse theories proving that management does not, and can not, manage. And claim that I'm the crazy one, not them.

As for management's motives, I have no way of knowing them. My present guess is that the owners and managers of the big media are pro-war, are responsive to the favors that the federal government hands out, and want low taxes (and an end to the estate tax, which is a major factor for the few family-owned publications: see here). They are not right wing on most other issues, but the Bush administration really isn't either -- by now they've double-crossed most of their conservative ideological constituencies. (That is to say, the nativists, the cultural conservatives, the fiscal conservatives, and above all the little-government conservatives.)

I'm sure that organized winger pressure is a factor too, but the public opinion isn't the reason: the big media have always been more hawkish and more anti-tax than public opinion has been. A much bigger factor is advertiser pressure, since advertising pays all the bills for TV and radio and most of the bills for newspapers. Advertisers all have their own political agendas and have never been shy about pushing them; furthermore, a substantial proportion of high-end advertising is institutional advertising -- e.g., for oil companies -- which is intended to promote a company, rather than to sell any specific product.

Of course, Chomsky and company said all this twenty years ago. Maybe we shouldn't have been tuning those guys out all that time.

Posted by John Emerson at 8:00 AM | Comments (12) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Gas Prices and Taxes

The price of a gallon of gas at the pump is determined by a complicated calculation. To maintain the same profit level the companies have to balance demand with price. At a certain price point people finally begin to buy less gas. So if the price at the pump goes a bit higher they actually make less profit because people buy less gas.

That is how the price of gas is set.

The important thing to realize is that it is the price at the pump that rules this profit/demand equation. This is set by the demand for gas, not the price of the oil. This means that the idea of a "gas tax holiday" reducing or eliminating the taxes can't make a difference in the price of gas. If the equation shows the profit maximized at $4 per gallon, that is where the price at the pump will be. If they eliminate the tax the oil companies will say "thank you" and pocket the extra money. Because if the computers show the right amount of gas being sold at $4 at the pump, and people are buying a certain quantity of gas at $4 at the pump, then gas is going to be $4 at the pump whatever the taxes are.

In fact, it might enable to companies to raise the price at the pump, because without the tax their profit level is higher per gallon, so they can raise the price and sell fewer gallons to maintain that profit level.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:07 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

skippy Calls For Boycott Of Dunkin Donuts For Appeasing Right-Wing

Right-wing bloggers recently went nuts because a woman in a Dunkin Donuts ad wore a scarf that, if put on her head, might look like a Muslim woman with a scarf on her head. (No, I'm not kidding.) The called for a boycott of Dunkin Donuts.

Dunkin Donuts promptly gave in and canceled the ads. By doing so they demeaned women who wear scarves, not to mention supporting the right-wing blogger claims that a woman wearing a scarf (not even on her head) is a terrorist.

See actual photos here: skippy the bush kangaroo: time to stop buying the donuts - an action alert!,

we say, what's good for the batshit insane is good for the logical.

here's dunkin' donuts contact form. why not email them and let them know that you will no longer be buying their donuts or coffee or any product because their actions, at worst, in effect condemn all who wear scarves, and at best, are just plain looney?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:32 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 28, 2008

Today's Housing Bubble Post -- Where Is The Bottom?

When will the housing market reach a "bottom? I hear this question a lot. I hear a lot of people talking about "jumping in" when they think there is a "bottom" so they can "catch the next wave" and "make money." They want to "put some money into real estate."

The market will reach a "bottom" when you no longer hear about the market reaching a "bottom." This is because "bottom" is a term of speculation. The market will reach a bottom when all of the speculation and speculators have been squeezed out, and don't want to get back in again. And then housing prices probably won't and shouldn't go up more than the rate of inflation after that.

A house is not an investment, it is a place to live. You buy a house to live in it, not to get rich. You buy a rental property to make an income off of the rent, not from the increase in price. Price appreciation does not have a place in these calculations.

So here is the answer to when the bottom is reached: when the average person can afford the average house and when the rent you get from a rental unit is just right to yield a desirable rate of return on the investment, after figuring in the costs of maintenance, depreciation, property taxes and other costs.

We are a long, long way from that point. That point will be reached when prices revert to the historical mean. When you look around YOUR neighborhood and think that the average price is just right for the average person, and no one -- repeat: no one -- is talking about making money from housing, that is when prices will have settled back to where they should be.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:55 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Republicans Pretending To Govern

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

A good op-ed appeared Saturday in the Boston Globe, America's faux government. The writer discusses how many parts of our federal government seem to no longer be functioning.

They sent everybody home a long time ago, set timers to make the lights go on, and locked the doors. Government is so much more cost efficient if nobody actually does anything.
We read about drugs harming people while drug companies make huge profits -- where was the Food and Drug Administration? We read about the Federal Aviation Administration asking the airlines to inspect themselves, and the airlines having to cancel so many flights because they didn't,
Whoever is still pretending to work there must have made Employee of the Month.
Why is this happening?
So we're now living in a Libertarian country, where the government doesn't actually provide any services except defense. The problem? We're paying taxes as if we live in a social democracy where the government provides all services except defense. They don't need defense because they have found that if you stop teaching history in schools, people forget that you actually need it sometimes.

How can you tell that we are Libertarians now? Because business is not complaining all the time. When the government is actually showing up for work, business groups say that they are being Crushed By Overregulation. Choked by Bureaucracy. I haven't heard a word of that in a long time, but it used to be the anthem of American business. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was on the news every night - truly, every night. When was the last time you heard of OSHA showing up for a surprise inspection?

Please go read the rest.

The column is written partially as humor, but the reality is there. We elected people who hate government to run our government, and look what has happened. They said regulations are bad, inspectors are intrusive and oversight should be "voluntary." The have stopped the regulators and inspectors and overseers from regulating and inspecting and overseeing.

The last several years saw the libertarian dream realized. Government was largely shut down. And what happened? Did this experiment bring "liberty?" Did the working person prosper in an "ownership society?"

No, what happened was what all the reality-based, experienced, practical people said would happen if we implement a libertarian system: the corporations immediately filled the vacuum and began to enrich themselves at the public's expense. And when Katrina came around, people were left on their own.

So what do we learn from this? I think it is important to remember that "the government" is not some "they" that just showed up from nowhere and "tells us what to do." The government is US, you and me and the rest of us, organized together to help each other. And it is up to US to keep an eye on things, for each other. When we listen to smiling hucksters who offer easy answers using nice-sounding words we ought to be extra careful. Tax cuts have brought us mountains of debt. Government cutbacks have brought us bad roads, bad schools and really, really bad disaster relief. And deregulation has brought us a corporate state.

Taxes, services, regulation and oversight have all become bad words. But now that we have performed the libertarian experiment we can see the consequences of this kind of thinking. It turns out that taxes are an investment in our future. It turns out that government services are us taking care of each other. It turns out that regulations keep the marketplace playing field level, which allows to enjoy the benefits of innovating businesses. It turns out that oversight keeps our government honest. And it turns out that conservative disdain for all of these didn't make government better, it made government worse.


Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:26 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 27, 2008

Do You Want To Beat McCain Or Just Score Points Against Hillary/Obama?

Hillary made a statement the other day that can be interpreted different ways. Some people are trying to claim that she said she is staying in the race in case Obama is assassinated. Others say she was just saying that the Democratic primaries often extend until June.

I'm not going to get into the argument about this here, except to remind everyone that in 1972 the Nixon campaign pioneered the strategy of disrupting Democratic primary races. I think it should be clear that much of the conflict in this year's primary is being pushed by the right through the Drudge report, Washington Times, Fox News, etc. but for some reason in this election many Democrats seem willing to pick it up and run with it. This is a mistake.

Here's the thing. The Republicans and Bush cronies have a lot of money and the incentive that many will be going to jail (and/or The Hague) if there is an honest accounting of the Bush years. The corrupt crony machine stands to lose billions and billions of dollars. They have the conservative infrastructure's message machine of think tanks, information outlets, etc. They have the corporate media and the power of the entire American corporate structure that is siphoning so much of our money away to a top few. And they have a public conditioned to reflexively support conservatives after decades of unanswered right-wing, and pro-corporate propaganda. This combination is going to be hard to overcome. So it is going to take Obama supporters and Hillary supporters both voting for the Democratic nominee--whoever that is--to beat the Republicans in November.

To that end I want to write about how each "side" in the primaries could better approach the other, whether you believe they are right or wrong. Especially if you believe they are wrong.

Decide whether you want to beat the Republicans, or just score points against the "other side" in this primary battle. From what I can see many of the activists in this campaign are vastly more invested in beating the "other side" than they are in beating the Republicans in the fall. And they clearly have little interest in rallying the supporters of the other primary candidate to their cause.

The Commonweal Institute recently held a "salon" on cognitive dissonance, put on by Fellow Mary Ratcliff, who blogs at The Left Coaster and Pacific Views. Part of the discussion was about the psychological effect of holding contradictory beliefs and how to get people to leave behind beliefs that are harmful. Without going into depth here, when people know they have done something bad (or believed something that is wrong), they can can go through a process to justify to themselves what they have done, and thereby be driven very deeply in a bad direction in their thinking. The justification can be reinforced if the person encounters resistance.

For example, when a kid is being recruited by the Moonies (or bad boyfriend), a parent saying the kid is being "stupid" can drive the kid directly into the Moonie camp (or bad boyfriend's arms) because the kid is reacting to being called stupid instead of thinking through the logic of becoming a Moonie (or pregnant).

Or maybe a Bush-supporter can justify in his or her mind that invading Iraq was an OK thing to do by deciding all Muslims are evil -- and can become very fixed in those beliefs. You see that happening lately with a certain segment of conservatives.

In any part of the process, if this person is criticized it very strongly tends to force the person to cling MORE strongly to the wrong beliefs, and reinforce the justifications that are going on in the thinking. This happens especially strongly if the criticism itself is refutable.

So in this case, whether you believe Hillary's "RFK assassination statement" was saying that primaries have often lasted until June or calling for Obama's assassination, criticizing Hillary and supporters can have the effect of driving them deeply against Obama. Iif Obama is the nominee--as it looks like he will be--he is going to need those Hillary supporters. Not stepping up to her defense in this instance--and thereby reaching out to her supporters and letting them know that we are all on the same side--is a mistake that could cost him the election.

For background, this is from the salon invite, with some good sources:

Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me: Cognitive Dissonance in Politics and Personal Life

A salon conversation led by Commonweal Institute Fellow Mary Ratcliff


As background for this salon, you may want to read this explanation of cognitive dissonance and a few examples of how it can impact everything from your weight to major social conflicts: http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/cognitive_dissonance/

Wikipedia on cognitive dissonance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

Book: Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
Go read up.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:17 AM | Comments (7) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post -- Home Prices Falling At Record Rate

Home prices fell at record pace in first quarter,

Prices of single-family homes plunged a record 14.1 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, marking a pace five times faster than the last housing recession, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller national home price index reported on Tuesday.

. . . Falling home prices have become the scourge of the housing market that is seeing its worst downturn since the 1930s. Home values since last year have been dropping below balances owed on many mortgages, leaving borrowers with no equity and more likely to succumb to foreclosure.

And this is before the ripple effects of recession hit. They will ripple out from this to construction, automobiles, etc. And then the resulting job cuts will ripple back to the housing market. The fallout from the housing bubble's bursting is still only just beginning.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:05 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 26, 2008

Republicans Say Troops Not Patriotic

Republicans voted down benefits for veterans, saying if there are benefits, current troops will leave the military. Seriously, that's their argument.

See Senate Guru:: Senate Republicans Call Our Troops Unpatriotic,

As most of us know, twenty-two Senate Republicans voted against Senator Jim Webb's new G.I. Bill. The most frequently cited excuse given by these Republicans for trying to shortchange our brave fighting men and women was that Senator Webb's bill would "hurt retention." In other words, these Senate Republicans suggested that our soldiers would bolt the military if the benefits they were given for putting their lives on the line in service to our country were too generous.

Yes, it's both as disgusting and as illogical as it sounds.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Memorial Day

The War Prayer

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May 25, 2008

Memorial Day

Please read Informed Comment: Memorial Day, 2008

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Today's Global Warming Post - Wildfires In May

I live in the San Francisco Bay Are, a ways north of the Santa Cruz Mountains wildfire that you may or may not have been hearing about. The air here is smoky and my asthma is bad. It's a big fire and is nowhere near controlled. (A house my wife lived in for nine years may have burned down, and is very close to where the fire started.)

Here's the thing about this fire -- It is MAY! From the story, Summit fire burns into Santa Clara County after wind shift,

"There have been several fires here, dating back to the '50s. What is shocking this year is that it's so early," said Steve Peterson...
Yes, shocking. Wildfires in May. And even though we had plenty of rain this year the mountains have insufficient snowpack to provide water through the year because of warmer temperatures.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:57 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 24, 2008

Blogs Brought Attention To The Security Guard Strike

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about the plight of security guards working for a company called Inter-Con, a contractor at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals in California. One post I wrote on this was titled, Why Don't We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? and I want to get to that subject some more here. But first, I want to go over what was covered.

The security guards went on strike because their employer was interfering with their right to form a union. The first post, Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced

This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today's corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.
The second post, Why They (And You) Need A Union, asked,
How else are workers going to get back their rights, get health care, get pensions, and get paid? If you see a better idea out there, please let us all know because this strike and the things happening to these security guards shows that it is very very difficult to form a union. In today's environment where workers are afraid of employers moving their jobs overseas - or even just laying them off and telling everyone else to work harder - and then giving their pay out as raises to the executives and multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEO, this is a very brave action to take.
Then, in Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power,
You and I are individuals, alone. But corporations have the ability to amass immense power and wealth and influence. You and I as individuals must stand alone against this power and wealth. What can you or I or anyone else do on our own? The average person in our society has very little ability to stand up against this kind of power and wealth.

Over time people discovered that there are some things they can do that will work. One of these has been to form unions. By joining together the workers in a company can amass some power of their own. The company needs the workers in order to function so the workers -- if they stick together -- have the ability to make the corporation obey employee/employer laws, provide decent pay, and all the other benefits that the unions have brought us. This is why they are also call "organized labor." By organizing into a union and sticking together people have the ability to demand respect and compensation for their work.

There were also some other posts with news about the strike itself.

In the post Why Don't We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? I wrote,

A few local TV news broadcasts covered the story, and there were a few newspaper articles announcing that there was going to be a strike. But there was almost no actual coverage of the strike except on progressive sites and labor outlets. What's up with that?
This is a significant problem with today's corporate media. There is overwhelming coverage of business issues like the stock market, investment, mergers and CEO personality profiles. There is story after story pushing new products, cars, bigger houses, consumption, even listings of which movies are making more money than other movies - as if that was a concern to ordinary people.

But there is very little coverage of issues that might help regular people live their daily lives. And in particular there is no, none, nada, negatory, zero coverage of ordinary working people fighting back against the corporate domination of our democracy and other decision-making, including the commercialization of everything.

Labor issues are a big part of that equation. Organized labor is the vehicle that enables regular people to fight back against domination by the big corporations. Big corporations are able to aggregate immense wealth and power. Individuals have no change standing against such wealth and power on their own. But banding together they do. And the more that band together, the better the chance to stand up to the wealth and power of the corporations.

But not if people don't find out that they can't do this. And that is where the blogs come in. I was able to post the stories about the security guards' strike at Huffington Post, MyDD, Seeing the Forest, and in DailyKos and Calitics diaries. Other sites like AlterNet picked up these stories and passed them along to their readers. In this way literally millions of people were able to learn about this strike, which helped raise awareness of the situation as well as apply more pressure to Inter-Con, the employer as well as to government agencies responsible for enforcing the labor laws. If stories like this can be kept entirely quiet strikes like this would be completely ineffective. But if the blog-readers and other progressives start demanding that laws be enforced and workers be allowed to organize, we can start to make a difference.

Please visit StandForSecurity.org.

I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:09 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 22, 2008

Private Greed vs. Public Good

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

As I wrote the other day, the California Chamber of Commerce has come out with their annual list of "job-killer" bills. The list only targets bills by Democrats, and the bills are all acts that would help the people of California by improving the environment, worker wage and safety, public health, etc.

The California Chamber of commerce is a lobbying association. They represent their members: businesses, many of which are large corporations. This is about private greed vs. the public good. The Chamber's job is to convince the legislature to pass laws that enrich the owners of the corporations that fund them. Nothing more, nothing less.

If that involves convincing the public of something, then they do that. Hence the label "job killer."

But the companies represented by the Chamber are the real job killers. They outsource jobs to other countries. They lay people off when they calculate it will maximize their profits. They employ as many people as needed to maximize the income to and wealth of their owners. Nothing more, nothing less.

The very idea that the Chamber of Commerce would care if something is a "job killer" is ludicrous when you understand their function. They are a lobbying association that represents the interests of companies that eliminate as many jobs as they want to, at their discretion, and then use some of the money that would have been paid in salaries to pay the Chamber to convince us to support their interests -- and the rest of it to enrich themselves, which is their primary interest.

That is how corporations work in the modern, "free-market" world that we find ourselves in since the Reagan era. Not for the public benefit, not necessarily even for the company's benefit, but for the financial benefit of the executives and (some of) the owners of the company.

Private greed vs. public good. Nothing more, nothing less.

So there isn't really an argument about whether the "job-killer" bills on this year’s list really do or do not "kill jobs." That is not the point of the label. Instead it is up to us to understand who we are hearing from. If we get caught up in arguing about whether these bills create more jobs than they might cost, we’re missing the point. Their arguments are propaganda with no basis in reality, designed to do nothing more than sway opinion. The point of the "job-killer" label is to make people afraid for their jobs, not to actually argue that these bills will or will not actually "kill" any jobs.

For example, a bill to require energy efficiency in new housing construction obviously creates many new jobs in the new, innovative "green" industries. But such a bill might lower the profits that go into the pockets of the executives and owners of some of the companies that the California Chamber of Commerce represents. (The LA Times on Wednesday said the Chamber’s agenda "seems dominated by development and energy interests".) And, again, it is irrelevant whether the bill might or might not really cost jobs in some of those companies. The Chamber doesn't care. That is not their function.

The use of the label "job killers" is about scaring the public. Nothing more, nothing less. It is about fear. It is about creating a climate in which people who are afraid for their jobs will go along with measures designed to enrich the owners of the companies that the Chamber -- a lobbying association -- represents.

So please don't be fooled. Don't be swayed by propaganda designed to make you afraid. As I wrote above, it is up to us to understand who we are hearing from.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 21, 2008

Rest Assured

Rest assured! When I am not posting here I am out doing very, very important work for the progressive movement.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 20, 2008

How Republicans Campaign

Look at this Republican candidate's ad. Wow. That's some pretty nasty "San Francisco values' there.

Kind of pathetic. But that's what they do.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:46 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Security Guard Strike Interview - Learning To Be Proud

I had the honor of interviewing one of the Inter-Con/Kaiser security guards who went on strike to demand their right to form a union. I will identify him as E so there is no opportunity for Inter-Con to retaliate.

I asked what was it like to decide to join a strike?

E: It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. I got to know my coworkers more than I already did. Knowing that more than one location was going through this, that Inter-Con wasn’t screwing over one location only, but was a statewide thing, helped me. It was good to meet other officers from other locations and know that we are in this together.
I asked if E feels like the strike accomplished anything.

E: After the first strike, that was the new experience. After this second strike it felt like what do we do now, nothing is happening, but after going to the last meeting and seeing the third wave of tactics I feel like we will have a union. After the last strike it felt like, how long are we going to fight, until Kaiser and Inter-Con acknowledges our union? Now that is my feeling that we are going to win.

I asked why are you doing this? Why do you want a union?

E: We want better wages, sick pay, paid vacations. A lot of our officers have to have two jobs. There is no longevity. Any company wants employees to stay for a long time but when you get paid $10 you are in and out pretty fast. We want a union. Having a union is unifying all of us so we have that one voice, we are not standing alone.

We are striking because the company is not letting us have a union and we have a right to have a union. They are spying on us, things like that.

After the first strike I was afraid to go back to work, afraid I wouldn’t have a job. But after the second strike I walked in with my chest out.

I asked what is it like for people making $10 an hour.

E: I make more than that but a lot of them are on call, no fixed schedule. They walk parking lots. There are rovers who walk around. They get calls from the hospital site - code grey, that’s a security incident, a patient or an employee. Or code blue is someone going cardiac arrest, they call out to one of the rovers. Some codes all of the security guards have to go to that location. They’re there to do crowd control. You have some emotional patient families. Then after that whole ordeal we write reports…

There are people who do injury to themselves or others, a lot of them are alcoholics, brought in by the cops. We stand by them, hopefully they won’t lash out at us. We also do standbys at the morgue.

Me: You don’t get sick pay.

E: We call off, we lose money.

Me: So do people go to work sick?

E: I don’t. I’ve heard people go in sick.

Me: What about other people getting sick? You work in a hospital, doesn’t making people work sick endanger the patients?

E: I wouldn’t go in if I was sick. I just lose the money.

I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.

I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:22 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Job Killers -- Or Just More Fear?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

The California Chamber of Commerce has released its annual list of what it calls "job-killer bills."

Why is it that the Chamber's job-killer bills hit-list seems to only target Democrats? Not a single targeted bill belongs to a Republican. "Bad bills", like those designed to protect public health, climate concerns or consumer rights legislation, are all authored by Democrats. The chamber has always been a lobbying organization, but it has gotten so bad that the Chamber seems to have devolved into little more than just one more fear-mongering Republican Party front group.

The "job killers" on this list are any laws that protect consumers, reduce energy use, require worker protections or anything else that might hinder a very few corporate executives from reeling in another several-hundred-million dollars a year. The jobs that are "killed" are those of lobbyists for the energy industry.

The first group on the "job killer" list is bills that ask for any kind of energy or water conservation or environmental standards for new housing construction. For example, AB 1085. The bill describes itself as undating,

"building design and construction standards and energy conservation standards for new residential and nonresidential buildings to reduce wasteful, uneconomic, inefficient, or unnecessary consumption of energy."
But the Chamber's job-killer list says this
Substantially increases the cost of housing and development in California by implementing significant energy efficiency measures
Now, think about this -- if it costs less to heat and cool your house, this saves you money. If you want to add energy-saving technology like solar electric or water-heating on your house this creates good jobs. Maybe Exxon won't benefit as much from this as the new, upcoming solar industry, but heck, the solar companies aren't coughing up the big bucks and providing the good jobs to the Chamber of Commerce's lobbyists!

The next group of "job killers" is "workplace mandates" like paid sick leave for employees, disability pay for on-the-job injuries or providing California’s citizens with health insurance.

Ah yes, the money businesses pay out to provide sick leave and disability pay for those pesky employees "kills jobs." They could hire so many more people if they didn't have to actually pay them and keep them from getting injured! This is one of the oldest arguments in the books. Slaves are always cheaper. But why do we have an economy if not to provide US with good jobs and other benefits? Do we have an economy so a very few corporate CEOs get all the money and benefits, or do we have an economy so the people can also get good pay and benefits and safe working conditions? The evidence (this, for example) is clear that good wages and benefits do not hurt jobs or the economy.

Then there are “economic development barriers” like asking online retailers to collect the same sales taxes that you local business owner collects, asking the wealthy to help pay for our schools, raising fire standards in high-risk fire areas and protecting our environment. I guess the online retailers must be paying the Chamber more this year than the retailers who have to actually rent storefronts and pay wages in your town. I can't think of any other reason why SOME retailers should collect sales taxes and others should be exempt. Doesn't this change the playing field waaayyy in favor of online retailers and harm the prospects of businesses that actually set up in our local communities? God forbid we ask them to help pay for our schools and police and fire protection!

This “job killer” list is nothing more than the use of fear to scare us into allowing a few rich corporations to have their way. By saying that protecting workers or the environment might "cost jobs" they are trying to make us afraid to ask these big corporations to live up to their responsibilities to our communities. How long will we let these lobbyists make us afraid?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Pat Buchanan Goes After Bush Idiocy

Bush Plays the Hitler Card. Read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:

In that same speech to the Knesset, Bush dismissed the idea we could ever successfully negotiate with Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran:

"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them that they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before."

But did not Ronald Reagan's negotiations with the Evil Empire, as he rebuilt America's military might, bear fruit in a reversal of Moscow's imperial policy and an end to the Cold War?

Richard Nixon went to China and toasted the greatest mass murderer of them all, Mao Zedong, when Maoists were conducting a nationwide purge: the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Yet, Nixon ended a quarter century of implacable U.S.-Chinese hostility. Was Nixon's trip to China useless?

Three years after Nikita Khrushchev drowned the Hungarian revolution in blood, Ike had him up to Camp David. John Kennedy ended the most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, by negotiating with that same Butcher of Budapest.

Were Ike, JFK and Nixon all deluded fools? For the dictators they negotiated with -- Khrushchev and Mao -- were far greater mass murderers and enemies of America than is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Bush's father negotiated with Syria's Hafez al-Assad, the Butcher of Hama, and made him an American ally in the Gulf War.

Was President Bush's father a deluded fool?

And remember, McCain took Bush's side of this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:27 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 19, 2008

All You Need To Know about Republican Accusations

When you are deciding whether to listen to a Republican when they talk about Democrats as "appeasers," consider this. Crooks and Liars has the story of Oliver North on Fox News backing up Republican accusations that Democrats are "appeasers."

So who is Oliver North? Oliver North is the guy that Republican President Ronald Reagan sent to provide weapons and missiles to Iran.

Let me repeat that because many people today are either too young or don't remember what happened in the 1980s. Not long after the Iranians stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took several American diplomats hostage for 444 days, Republicans gave them missiles and other weapons. Oliver North, hero of the American Right and Fox News pundit, gave advanced weaponry to Iran.

And now they call Democrats "appeasers."

It's called the Seeing the Forest Rule: When Republicans accuse others of something, it usually means it is something they are doing. (See also.)

Is there anything else you need to know about Republicans?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:59 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 18, 2008

McCain -- Fire The Lobbyists!

John McCain says he is against having lobbyists on his campaign. Yet his campaign has at least 112 lobbyists as staff or fundraisers, many in top positions.

Recently it turned out that one of his top campaign people was a lobbyist for the government of Myanmar - Burma!! That is the government that is shooting the monks, and won't let aid come in for victims of the recent cyclone that killed tens of thousands of people. Others are energy industry lobbyists - in charge of McCain's energy policies. It goes on like that. It's like Bush Crony Campaign II.

So go visit and sign the petition at Fire the lobbyists!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Drum Major Institute Benefit - NYC

I'm a bit late in posting this, but if you are in New York City Tuesday you want to go to the DMI Benefit.

The Drum Major Institute's Annual Benefit will be held Tuesday, May 20 in New York at Cipriani on 23rd Street right across from Madison Square Park.. This year's honorees include City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, a founding member of Women of El Barrio, political organizer Steve Phillips, president and founder of PowerPAC.org, and David Simon, creator and producer of HBO's acclaimed series The Wire. Tom Watson has more details.

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

May 17, 2008

Doctoring Audio And Video Clips To Fit The Republican Line

Get ready for a new kind of attack in this year's campaign.

More and more I am hearing about doctored audio and video circulating. For example, on May 9 conservative news outlets were pushing a story that was based on an audio clip that "spliced and doctored an NPR interview of Al Gore in order to allege that Gore said something which he did not."

On May 15 ">CNN edited a video clip of Obama communications director Robert Gibbs to remove from the middle of a paragraph his statement about Bush's Defense Secretary calling for talks with Iran the day before Bush said Obama was an "appeaser" for saying exactly the same thing.

The right and corporate media are becoming more comfortable with this tactic, so check and double-check everything you are hearing to be sure it is true before you let it influence your thinking.

And watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:46 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Barack Obama As Author

The New York Times has a great article today on Barack Obama as an author. I haven't yet read his books, but this article will make you want to.

The article is Obama’s Story, Written by Obama. An excerpt (about the first book),

In a telephone interview on Friday, Mr. Obama said he would not be surprised if some people had gotten involved in his campaign “because they feel they know me through my books.” But he said he was not even thinking about political consequences when he wrote the memoir. In fact, he said, one editor warned him back then that his references to drug use could come back to haunt him — if he were ever nominated for the Supreme Court.

“This is an example of what happens when you look at things backwards,” Mr. Obama said when asked whether he had his political future in mind when he first began to write. “Then everything looks like, ‘Ah! Of course this was part of some well-calibrated consideration.’ But frankly, no. It would have been very hard for me to anticipate that I’d be where I am today, where a book that I wrote almost 20 years ago now would even be read.”

[. . .] The book came out in the summer of 1995, shortly before Mr. Obama announced that he was running for the Illinois State Senate. At 57th Street Books, in Mr. Obama’s neighborhood in Chicago, a few dozen people turned out for a reading. There were respectful reviews in newspapers including The New York Times and The Boston Globe. The book was shelved with memoirs and autobiographies in bookstores, Mr. Osnos recalled, and Times Books sold 8,000 to 9,000 copies.

“I joke that 290 million Americans did not buy the book,” he said.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The Dem Vote Total So Far

2008 Elections - Democratic Vote Count

Counting all votes cast so far:

Popular Vote (w/FL & MI)**
Obama 16,680,827 which is 47.6%
Clinton 16,710,298 which is 47.7%

So, leave a comment about whose votes should count and whose shouldn't.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:39 AM | Comments (12) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

A Good Laugh

If you want a good laugh and have a strong stomach go read the 2004 Republican Party Platform (NOTE - PDF document).

It really was just a collection of lies and misdirections. Really, read it with the hindsight of today to learn how this crowd uses propaganda to manipulate people.

See if you can count how many times it links Iraq with 9/11. It also says we invaded Iraq because they "refused to disarm."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 16, 2008

McCain's Preacher: "Jews Are Subhuman"

John McCain's preacher problem comes up again. Will the media play this over and over and over like they did with Rev. Wright?

Go read . Excerpt:

In the following audio sermon, which I have put into a video [and that includes other viciously anti-Jewish statement from John Hagee], Hagee says:

- Jews are not "spiritually alive".I have a copy of John Hagee's "Prophecy Study Bible", which makes quite clear Hagee is talking about all Jews now living - whom Hagee singles out, from among all other non-Christians on Earth, to note that they specifically do not have living souls. Indeed, Hagee says the souls of all Jews now living are dead. Dead souls. McCain endorser John hagee says Jews have dead souls.

- Hitler and the Nazis were sent by God, to chase Jews back to the land of Israel. Because that's where God intends them to be. So, the Holocaust was a gruesomely inefficient system of divine "persuasion", and Hitler and the Nazis were doing "God's work". But Hagee also depicts this divine ethnic cleansing imperative as a future project: it will happen [see bolded section of transcription, below].

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:16 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post -- Here We Go Again!

Haven't had enough of foreclosures and financial crises? Don't worry, there's more to come. This pretty much guarantees it: Fannie Mae eases down payment rules,

Fannie Mae said Friday it is easing rules on down payments on home mortgages, replacing a policy that required higher payments in markets where home prices are declining.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Why Don't We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore?

Last week security guards working at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California went on strike to protest illegal anti-union activities on the part of their employer, Inter-Con Security. Instead of hiring security guards directly in California, or using a union-friendly security contractor, Kaiser contracts with Inter-Con. The strike lasted three days.

A few local TV news broadcasts covered the story, and there were a few newspaper articles announcing that there was going to be a strike. But there was almost no actual coverage of the strike except on progressive sites and labor outlets. What's up with that?

Why does the media barely cover labor issues?

Of course, when I write "the media" here I mean the newspapers, TV and radio that we usually call the "mainstream" media and lots of us call the "corporate" media. This is where most people get the news and information that forms the basis of their opinions and understanding about what is happening - and why it is happening. And therefore for most people the information presented by this mainstream or corporate media necessarily forms the basis of their voting decisions, their opinion poll survey answers, and their overall acceptance of and consent for actions conducted in their name by government and other institutions of society.

When things are repeatedly reported in "the media" as problems, most people begin to become concerned and perceive that these "problems" need to be somehow "solved." We see cycles of this development of public concern. In recent years, for example, the media has done a great deal of reporting on the problem if children being kidnapped. And there is a great deal of concern about this among parents -- to the point that societal patterns are changing and children rarely are allowed out of the house unaccompanied. Fewer and fewer children walk to school, go to parks alone, etc.

In reality child kidnappings are extremely rare, which makes this a case study of the power of the major media to sway the behavior of the entire country. Over the years similar media-driven concerns about drugs, shark attacks and satanic cults have created waves of national hysteria.

If actual threats held sway, car accidents, guns, and other real threats would receive much, much more public attention and concern.

The other side of this ability to drive public attention is the power to hide real problems. The national debt is approaching ten trillion dollars, and interest on that debt is approaching half a trillion dollars per year, but is rarely mentioned as a concern. The military budget is greater than the military spending of all other countries in the world combined, much, much higher than when we faced down the Soviet Union, while a lot of people are making a whole lot of money from it with little public scrutiny. (This is not even counting Iraq/Afghanistan spending.) But this is never brought up.

And then there is the problem that labor unions are trying to address. This is the domination of our government by big-business interests and the accompanying concentration of wealth into the hands of a very few people at the expense of the rest of us. Workers like the Inter-Con security guards who are trying to organize to demand even minimal pay and benefits are absolutely invisible in today's mainstream/corporate media. The illegal tactics being used - with the assistance of the Bush administration - are not covered by today's mainstream/corporate media. But what else would you expect, as the media becomes further and further concentrated into the hands of a few very, very large corporations? Do you think for a minute that a large corporation would allow any kind of pro-labor stories to be carried on news media that it owns?

You hear that the reason for this is that "labor is declining." Well there are a lot more members of unions in this country than there are Fellows at neo-con think tanks, but you sure do hear from them a lot in the mainstream/corporate media. There are a lot more members of labor unions than there are members of the far-right Christian Coalition, but you sure hear a lot about their concerns the corporate media. And there are a lot more people who work for a living in jobs that pay too little, don't provide adequate health care or sick leave or other benefits and need to hear about the benefits of joining unions. That's for damn sure.

In fact any coverage of the plight of these security guards is necessarily pro-labor. When you hear about their living and working conditions you will understand what I mean. My next post will be about that, so stay tuned.

I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.

I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:18 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Good For Matthews

Chris Matthews on Hardball went after a right winger for mindlessly repeating talking points, clearly demonstrating that the right winger didn't have even a clue what he was saying. Good for him. It is worth watching if only because it is so very rare to see a right winger held accountable.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:03 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 15, 2008

Bush Authoritarianism Opens HUGE Corporate Security Problem

The Bush administration insists on the right to search and download to keep the contents of any memory device or hard drive taken across a border. That means that the government can now make copies of any laptop hard drive or "thumb drive" crossing the U.S. border.

Travel group warns: Corporate data at risk from laptop searches at border,

Companies need to review their policies to see if such searches will cause privacy problems for them or their customers, she said.

"For example, if you are carrying personnel information on your laptop, there are certain privacy violations that can ensue" if that data is accessed and downloaded as part of a border search, Gurley said. Other kinds of sensitive and proprietary information -- including intellectual property -- can sometimes be exposed via such searches, she said.

Many companies, especially in Europe, are having compliance officers look at the broader implications of such searches and have begun curtailing the kind of information their executives can carry on their laptops when traveling to the U.S, she said.

You can just imagine that big Republican corporate donors will see an opportunity here to get competitive info. "YCorp's patent guy is crossing the border at 11. Get us all the data on his hard drive." And if you and I can imagine it, you can be sure that YCorps' people are thinking about it, too.

So as a result of this every single corporate employee in the world is going to have to clean up everything on every device that might cross an American border. And this kind of cleanup is not easy. It is cumbersome, inconvenient, expensive, and might not be enough. I can foresee policies requiring installing fresh hard drives before any travel. (This includes Canada and Mexico.

All of a sudden corporate cronyism isn't looking so good to all those corporate types.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 14, 2008

Purity of Essence

"Full-blooded" Americans have purity of essence.

Like I've been saying, the racist attacks are going to get worse and worse. We have stuff like this, and it's only May. By September it will be full-on "mud people" attacks.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:33 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Do Republicans Believe In Free Markets?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

A news story on Monday, McCain urges free-market principles to reduce global warming. Which"free-market principles" does McCain mean?

McCain's major solution is to implement a cap-and-trade program on carbon-fuel emissions, like a similar program in the Clean Air Act that was used to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions that triggered acid rain.
Summary: the government sets a limit on how much CO2 companies will be allowed to emit. The government sets a fee for any emissions above that level. The government allows companies with emissions below that limit to sell "credits" to companies above the limit.

McCain describes this as a "free market" approach.

Conservatives always come up with nice-sounding ways to describe their ideas. They talk about "free markets." "Free" sounds so good. Has a nice ring to it. But is there really such a thing?

In McCain's example every single component of this market is defined, set up and regulated by government. But conservatives always say that government is the enemy of freedom and of markets. Do they not see the contradiction?

In fact, is there a market that is not defined, set up and regulated by government? Would markets even exist if there were no government? First, there is the money that is exchanged in a market. Unless we revert to a pure barter system where goods are exchanged money is entirely a creation of government. And it is entirely regulated by government. Next are the laws that, excuse the word, "govern" the market system. These laws are entirely a creation of government and it is government that enforces them and government that runs the courts that resolve disputes. And yes, these laws are "regulations."

So when conservatives complain about "government" and "regulation" and advocate "free markets" what is it they are really saying? The best way to understand what they want is to look at what they do, not what they say. If we look closely at the results of those times when conservatives gain power we can see that they really seem to mean they will use the power of government to protect the wealthiest people and biggest corporations.

For example, conservatives in government have always defended the big energy companies against threats to use of their products. They oppose mass transit, alternative energy research, even requiring cars to get better gas mileage.

A closer look reveals that what they really stand for is a protection of the status quo, defending the rich and powerful against the rest of us.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:34 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The Voters are Smarter than the Media

In a Mississippi special election the Democratic Congressional candidate won by 8% in a district which had gone for Bush by 20%+. Granted that white Southern Democratic Congressmen are usually more conservative than Democratic Presidential candidates (and Northern Democratic Congressmen), that's a tremendous swing.

What strikes me here is that the voters, including the fabled "heartland voters", are rejecting the Republicans even though the media still is not. To my knowledge, on national commercial TV and radio only Keith Olberman is reliably anti-Republican. There are a lot of weaselly centrists like Matthews and Stephanopolous, but mostly it's Limbaugh / O'Reilly / Savage types.

This definitely goes against the idea that the voters are slaves to the media. Even in conservative districts in Mississippi, the average ignorant voter is wise to the Republicans in a way that the media are not.

On the other hand, it confirms the idea that the media are in the tank for the Republicans. Maybe they're just sucking up to whoever's in power and actually have no principles of any kind, but they've been far behind the curve in admitting that Bush's semi-criminal gang has harmed the country.

And while this shows us the media don't control public opinion entirely, certainly the media's willingness to stovepipe Bush propaganda and their failure to confront the Republican slime machine have been very helpful to the Republicans, at the expense of the American people and democracy.

Next time someone tells you that America's problem is stupid voters, don't believe them. The American elite is stupider than the American mass.

David Broder, for example.....

Posted by John Emerson at 5:32 AM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 13, 2008

Buy High, Sell Low

Bush insists on buying oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at very, very, very high prices. Congress is trying to stop this.

Question, has there been a pattern of buying at high prices and selling at low prices? An enterprising investigative report might find a story here.

Is this a manipulation of oil prices, to the benefit of funders of the right and the anti-Gore global warming denial industry?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:47 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 12, 2008

Things People "Know"

Progressives have their work cut out for them for November. And even if they win the Presidency there's nothing that tells me they'll be able to get anything implemented because there is little supporting infrastructure out there that gets the message out, creating demand for progressive candidates and policies. In fact, progressive organizations like Rockridge Institute (see story) and Center for Policy Alternatives are going under because they cannot find funding.

Meanwhile the right-wing drumbeat is still finding its way to every corner of the country.

W Virginia keeps distance from Obama

Most people questioned said they mistrusted Mr Obama because of doubts about his patriotism and “values”, stemming from his cosmopolitan background, his exotic name and the controversy surrounding “anti-American” sermons by Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor. Several people said they believed he was a Muslim – an unfounded rumour that has circulated on the internet for months – despite the contradiction with his 20-year membership of Mr Wright’s church in Chicago. Others mentioned his refusal to wear a Stars and Stripes badge and controversial remarks by his wife, Mich­elle, who des­cribed America as “mean” and implied that she had never been proud of the US until her husband ran for president.

Conservative commentators have questioned Mr Obama’s patriotism for months and the issue is expected to be one of the Republicans’ main lines of attack if he wins the nomination. “The American people want a president who loves their country as much as they do,” said Whit Ayres, a Rep­ub­lican strategist. Obama supporters believe patriotism is being used as code to harness racist sentiment.

Hundreds of millions for candidates to run TV ads that literally just go up in the air -- but nothing for the organizations that make long-term change possible.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:27 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 11, 2008

On "Race-Baiting"

People are saying that Hillary is "race-baiting" because she mentioned "blue-collar whites." Save the racist accusations for what's coming -- because it surely IS coming.

Hillary is engaging in the standard old-style politics of looking at the electorate as a bunch of groups -- dividing the electorate up into groups and going after key targets. There are "soccer moms" and there are "blue-collar whites" in that view. It is similar to the "big states" view that says don't campaign in small states. It assumes you have a majority, it cannibalizes the voters you have instead of persuading new voters, and Dean's (and Obama's) 50-state strategy is proving to be a much better strategy.

It is the old way, and it worked for a long time, and it stopped working and the 50-state strategy is what we need now. But is isn't racist and isn't intended to divide us. Is going after "soccer moms" or "NASCAR dads" as a demographic voting block a sexist tactic? Yes and no, but it isn't intended to divide. She is just saying that voting patterns show that she is bringing in more of certain groups -- and confirming her unfortunate entrenchment in the old-style "big state" view.

Let's talk about real racism. Look at what has already started from the right. We already have seen them using "boy" and "darkest Africa." As November approaches you will be hearing about "our women." There will be stuff about how Obama wants the While House so he can lure in white wives of important Senators, etc. There will be a lot of "us" vs "them." And much, much worse. Believe me, much, MUCH worse. THAT is when you want to talk about people using racism as a campaign tactic. And when that happens you really don't want the right saying "well that's what you said about Hillary, too."

I was for Edwards. I worked for Richardson for a while. Between today's two candidates I lean Obama a lot and sense that he could be a historical transforming leader. I really want a strongly progressive candidate with an instinct to defend fellow progressives and that isn't Hillary or Obama right now, so I haven't endorsed anyone I'll work for Obama enthusiastically, and will defend him, and then when he is in office I'll work to push the country and Obama in a more progressive direction.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:40 AM | Comments (7) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 10, 2008

Kaiser Security Guard Strike

This week I wrote about the Kaiser Permanente / Inter-Con Security Security Guard strike.

The post Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced discussed why the guards are striking. They are employees of Inter-Con Security, Inc., which contracts services to Kaiser Permanente facilities in California. This company (not Kaiser) is trying to stop the guards from forming a union and the guards are striking to ask that laws allowing union organizing be enforced.

In Why They (And You) Need A Union a comparison with unionized security guards at Kaiser facilities in other states demonstrated the difference that forming a union can make to workers everywhere.

The post Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power discussed how individuals are unable to stand up against the immense power and wealth that corporations are able to accumulate. Over time workers learned that by organizing into unions they were able to also build enough power to fight back and demand fair compensation and benefits for their work.

Outside of the blogs there was remarkably little coverage of this strike. Here is a roundup of some of the other coverage:

This is a good story online at Urban Mecca, Three-Day Strike by Hundreds of Security Officers at Kaiser Hospitals,

"The public needs to know that the security officers responsible for making Kaiser hospitals safe and protecting vulnerable patients are being denied our fundamental civil rights. Inter-Con freely uses intimidation, spying and retaliation to harass its workers," said Shauna Carnero, a security officer in Hayward.

The strike, which began May 6 and included major rallies outside Kaiser medical centers in Oakland, Sacramento and Los Angeles, followed numerous federal complaints that workers have filed with the National Labor Relations Board in recent weeks charging Inter-Con with unfair labor practices over the past two years.

The Pasadena Star-News had Kaiser guards strike,
Hospital security guards went on strike statewide Thursday, citing poor working conditions and lack of health coverage.

About 200 Southern California employees of Inter-Con Security, which is contracted by Kaiser Permanente to provide security guards, joined their Northern California counterparts who have been on strike since Tuesday, Service Employees International Union officials said.

[. . .] Security guards have little legal recourse when they are denied the right to organize, an SEIU attorney said. A loophole in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gives security guards only one method of forming a union.

While most employees have the option of holding an election to bring in a union, security guards can only organize if their employers agree to recognize the union, said attorney Orrin Baird.

"It's sort of out-dated," Baird said. "If they were not guards they could file a petition with the (National Labor Relations Board) and then they would have to have an election."

While a few local TV stations carried news about the strike, there was a near-blackout of coverage in the corporate media. WHy do you think that is?


Please visit StandForSecurity.org.

I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:09 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 9, 2008

Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power

I have been writing about the strike by California Kaiser Permanente security guards working for contractor Inter-Con Security, who are demanding that laws be enforced and their rights be honored.

SEIU sent out a press release on the situation, titled, Workers With No Healthcare Protecting Kaiser Facilities, Security Contractor May Be Misleading California's Largest Healthcare Provider. In summary, the security guards at Kaiser are supposed to be provided with individual healthcare after working for 90 days, but it turns out that many are not. The security contractor Inter-Con Security has found a way around the promise: they classify workers as "on-call" instead of permanent.

As more and more workers report that Inter-Con is keeping workers on temporary or "on-call" status for months or years, it's still unclear whether Inter-Con is misleading Kaiser or if Kaiser is simply turning a blind eye to these tactics which short-change workers.

And their families are not provided with health insurance at all. The security guards -- paid as little as $10.40 an hour -- are supposed to buy it. The result is that 41% of the officers who responded to a survey cannot. And without paid sick days they cannot afford to take the time off to see a doctor anyway.

So here we are with a company finding ways around a promise by changing the classification of the workers to "on-call." This points out yet one more problem of workplaces that do not have unions. How many people are classified as "temporary" or "contractors"? This is one of the bigger scams that is going on these days. One reason companies do this is because if someone is not an employee the employer doesn't have to pay their share of the Social Security payroll tax. (There are other reasons as well, including avoiding paying promised benefits.)

How do you know if you should be called an employee or an independent contractor? For a quick guideline, let's go to the IRS. They say that by-and-large you are an employee,

if the organization can control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so even if the organization gives the employee freedom of action. What matters is that the organization has the right to control the details of how the services are performed.

Yet most of us see examples of people in this situation who are called "temporary workers" or "contractors" all the time.

Companies are not supposed to do this to us, but here's the thing: What can you do about it? You and I are individuals, alone. But corporations have the ability to amass immense power and wealth and influence. You and I as individuals must stand alone against this power and wealth. What can you or I or anyone else do on our own? The average person in our society has very little ability to stand up against this kind of power and wealth.

Over time people discovered that there are some things they can do that will work. One of these has been to form unions. By joining together the workers in a company can amass some power of their own. The company needs the workers in order to function so the workers -- if they stick together -- have the ability to make the corporation obey employee/employer laws, provide decent pay, and all the other benefits that the unions have brought us. This is why they are also call "organized labor." By organizing into a union and sticking together people have the ability to demand respect and compensation for their work.

This is what the security guards at Kaiser are trying to do. This is what you should do.

I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.

I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

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May 8, 2008

The 'L' Curve

Go see The L-Curve: A Graph of the US Income Distribution. Click Zoom Out a few times, as well.

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Right Wing magazines attack Cindy McCain

Go read about it: Right Wing magazines attack Cindy McCain

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ANOTHER McCain Preacher Problem

See for yourself:

So when do you think the corporate media will start running these scary preacher tapes over and over?

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May 7, 2008

McCain's Preacher Problem

See for yourself -- John McCain has a preacher problem of his own. They show a scary video clip of Barack Obama's preacher over and over and over and over and over again but you won't see THESE videos on the corporate media.

Talking about Catholics:

I was talking to someone today who says he can't vote for Obama because of "the people he chooses to associate with" like Rev. Wright.
Imagine of these were played over and over...

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Why They (And You) Need A Union

Yesterday I wrote about the security guards who are striking at Kaiser Permanente because their contractor-employer is engaging in illegal tactics while trying to block them from forming a union. The guards work for Inter-Con Security Inc., which is contracted by Kaiser to provide security services.

You can read articles with details about what happened with the strike yesterday here and here. (There is close to zero coverage of this strike in newspapers. But you wouldn't expect a corporate-owned media to provide information about labor, now would you?)

Please visit the site Stand for Security for background and details about the security guards' fight to form a union.

While this strike is about violations of workers' rights, there are very good reasons for their three-year effort to form a union.

In Oregon, the state just north of California, Kaiser Permanente security guards are employed by Kaiser, not by a contractor. They are unionized and here is a short chart of just some of the difference this makes.










In-House Union (ILWU)
Kaiser Security Officers
Inter-Con Officers at Kaiser
Wages$15 - $18 per hour
(Oregon has a much lower
cost of living)
As little as $10.40 per hour
Raises$.70 - $1.45/hour annually,

depending on seniority

(Guaranteed in writing!)
No schedule, no guarantee
Free Family Health CareYESNO
Health Insurance Elegibility20 hours worked“Full-time”, which for many

officers means 1-2 years of

working 40 hours a week before

qualifying for health insurance.
Bereavement Pay3 days paid time offnone
Sick Leave1.6 hours per pay period

(Time accrues)
none
Jury DutyPaid off as needednone
PensionYESnone
Grievance ProcedureYESnone
Shift Differential$.90/hour evenings
$1.25/hour nights
none

This chart is an example of the difference that a union makes. The column on the left -- the one with better pay, health care, sick days, pension and other benefits -- is the workers who are in a union. The column on the right is these security guards. So this is why these security guards have been fighting for three years to join a union. The employer, Inter-Con Security won't even give sick days! For people working in hospitals! What are these workers supposed to do? And they won't even pay when the workers have jury duty! (Shouldn't a company be concerned about the greater public good, like a court system that works?)

But this chart is also representative of other workplaces, showing the difference that forming a union can make for other workers. How else are workers going to get back their rights, get health care, get pensions, and get paid? If you see a better idea out there, please let us all know because this strike and the things happening to these security guards shows that it is very very difficult to form a union. In today's environment where workers are afraid of employers moving their jobs overseas - or even just laying them off and telling everyone else to work harder - and then giving their pay out as raises to the executives and multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEO, this is a very brave action to take.

On top of that, the Republican government has stacked the labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board to side with the big corporations. So it is even harder to form a union than ever. Which is, of course, why wages are stagnating and CEO pay is off the charts.

This is why these workers are striking -- to demand that their civil rights be honored and to demand that their right to form a union be honored. These security guards are placing everything on the line -- and doing this for all of us. If they win this fight, all of us are a step further toward our rights being honored, and toward our own jobs paying more and giving benefits.


I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2.gif

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 6, 2008

Teacher Performs Magic Trick, Gets Fired For "Wizardry"

Here we go... A Florida teacher performed a "disappearing toothpick trick" and a parent complained. The teacher was fired for "wizardry."

Substitute Teacher Says Wizardry Accusation Cost Him Job

She told Piculas there had been a complaint about his performance at Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes.

He asked what she meant.

"She said, 'You've been accused of wizardry,' " Piculas said.

He said the statement seemed bizarre to him, like something out of Harry Potter.

Piculas said he replied, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

He said he also told Sinclair, "It's not black magic. It's a toothpick."

Better not have a license plate with '666' on it in Florida!

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Elderly Indiana Nuns Can't Vote - Nuns Don't Have ID

Even though there has never been a case of voter fraud in Indiana the Republican Supreme Court upheld an Indiana voter-suppression law forbidding the elderly, poor and minorities from voting because they have trouble obtaining ID. (These groups tend to vote Democratic.)

It was estimated that this law would prevent approx. 43,000 people from voting. Here is an example of the law's effect: Indiana nuns lacking ID denied at poll,

About 12 Indiana nuns were turned away Tuesday from a polling place ... because they didn't have state or federal identification bearing a photograph.

. . . The nuns, all in their 80s or 90s, didn't get one [ID] but came to the precinct anyway.

. . . Some showed up with outdated passports. None of them drives.

They weren't given provisional ballots because it would be impossible to get them to a motor vehicle branch and back in the 10-day time frame allotted by the law, Sister McGuire said. "You have to remember that some of these ladies don't walk well. They're in wheelchairs or on walkers or electric carts."

So these were just 12 of the 43,000 who will not be allowed to vote now.

See Digby, too.

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Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced (updated)

There is a three-day strike starting today at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California. 1800 security guards are striking for three days in an "unfair labor practice" action. This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today's corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.

Here is some background:

Rather than directly employ security guards Kaiser contracts with a company called Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc. Inter-Con hires and manages the security guards for Kaiser, paying them very little and giving them few benefits - not even sick leave. So these security guards, even though they work at Kaiser, (some for many years), are paid far less than other security guards at Kaiser facilities in other states, and receive few benefits. Kaiser is one of the more responsible, unionized companies for its workers, which makes this situation even worse for these workers.

These security guards have been trying to form a union for three years and Inter-Con is trying to stop them. It is legal to form a union but Inter-Con has violated civil rights by "threatening, intimidating, and spying on workers who were trying to form a union for better conditions" and that is illegal.

"…They’re pulling us aside to ask us who is going to picket or strike, who’s a union supporter,” said Angelito Morales, an Inter-Con officer at Kaiser Union City Medical Center, near the Hayward facility.
That's illegal. Many other occurrences of i9llegal anti-union practices led the security guards to file a complaint with the (Bush) National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that Inter-Con managers have:
* Ordered employees to inform management when individuals at the job site were engaging in union activities.

* Interrogated employees, asking them to disclose the names of individuals who intend to engage in union activities.

* Spied on employees, photographing and/or otherwise recording employees as they participated in union activities such as picketing.

* Interrogated at least one worker about planned strike activities, asking whether or not the worker was planning on participating in the strike.

* Promised workers improved benefits (healthcare), to deter them from engaging in further union activities.

All of these are against the rules, but the NLRB has not acted.

Please visit Stand For Security, SEIU's website covering this strike and the security guards' fight to form a union.

Don’t get caught up in arguments about whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for employees to go on strike for money or benefits. That is not what this strike is about. This strike is about asking that laws be enforced, so the security guards can go about the legal business of forming a union to represent their interests.

These are the only workers at Kaiser -- subcontracted or not -- who do not have a union. Janitors and others are subcontracted but have unions. And being in a union makes a huge difference. For example, these are the only Kaiser workers without paid family health care. Inter-Con employees must be full time to get any health coverage, while other Kaiser workers get it for working part time. (And of course Inter-Con has lots of ways to make sure employees don't get classified as full-time, like having an "on-call" status that doesn't count.)

They don't even have paid sick leave. These security guards have to restrain patients, work in the psychiatric ward, etc., and some have been attacked, but they do not even get sick pay! And, of course, there is a dramatic pay difference between these Inter-Con contractors and the other Kaiser employees and contractors.

Rather than turn this into a comprehensive, 12-page essay I'm goign to write more over the next several days, as this strike unfolds. For now, please visit Stand For Security, SEIU's website about this situation.

I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2.gif


Update - Construction workers building a wing at the strike3.jpg


strike.jpg strike1.jpg strike2.jpg

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:18 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

May 5, 2008

McCain Didn't Vote For Bush!

Arianna Huffington: What John McCain Told Me, and What it Says About How Far He's Fallen

Yee-Ha, the wingnuts are going to go ... well they already are nuts! Can they go more nuts than they are?

Go read!

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May 4, 2008

Sun Ra!

Over at Eschaton they're watching SUN RA!!!

Some of you know that Sun Ra is the official Arkestra from Mars of Seeing the Forest. So the vision is spreading!

And for fun, Pink Elephants:

Now that you have been introduced, here's Sun Ra: (Sun Ra was not born. Sun Ra arrived.)

Beautiful, beautiful.


Part 2:

part 3:

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May 2, 2008

Teflon John (McCain)

Here's Teflon John from Max and the Marginalized

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Today's Jobs Report

We had a GOOD jobs report today from the ever-trustable Bush administration. Employers cut fewer jobs in April, jobless rate falls,

Employers cut far fewer jobs in April than in recent months and the unemployment rate dropped to 5 percent, a better-than-expected showing that nonetheless reveals strains in the nation's labor market.
All I'll say is that the Labor Department uses a model that said 45,000 jobs were GAINED in construction. As homebuilding nosedives and with commercial construction starting its own nosedive, the Labor Department's model says that 45,000 jobs were GAINED in the economy. We all know that construction jobs were lost, not gained. So we simply do not know what is happening with employment and certainly cannot believe this report.

Remember, since the 2001 recession they say we have had remarkably low unemployment. But we also know that most of the lost jobs never returned, and most new jobs pay much less. Most of the people I know who were laid off in the dot-bomb crash never found similar jobs, and are all making a lot less -- some never found ANY job. (Some work as bloggers, making $60 a month.)

So read this, about the screwy statistics: April Jobs - Another Report From Bizarro World,

Once again the BLS should be embarrassed to report this data. Its model suggests that there was 45,000 jobs coming from new construction businesses, 72,000 jobs coming from professional services, and a whopping 267,000 jobs in total coming from net new business creation.

. . . Repeating what I said last month, virtually no one can possibly believe this data. The data is so bad, I doubt those at the BLS even believe it. But that is what their model says so that is what they report. Just as there is mark to model in the investment world, there is mark to model in the BLS world.

. . . With housing falling like a rock and commercial real estate now following suit, the BLS is assuming that 45,000 new jobs were added in construction. With lenders blowing up and countless self employed real estate professional exiting the business the BLS is assuming 8,000 new jobs were added in financial activities and 72,000 jobs from professional and business services. The total number of jobs added in April by such absurd assumptions was 267,000 jobs.

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Mainstreaming Racial Hate

Take a look at this. This is an example of "mainstreaming" of white supremacist hate, over at the "conservative" Human Events site. Thjs is from MSNBC commentator Pat Buchanan. If this is what they are doing in May, imagine what we'll be seeing as the election gets closer.

The Way Our World Ends - HUMAN EVENTS,

In 1950, whites were 28 percent of world population and Africans 9 percent, a ratio of three-to-one. In 2060, the ratio will remain the same. But the colors will be reversed. People of African ancestry will be 25 percent of the world's population. People of European descent will have fallen to 9.8 percent.

More arresting is that the white population is shrinking not only in relative but in real terms. Two hundred million white people, one in every six on earth -- a number equal to the entire population of France, Britain, Holland and Germany -- will vanish by 2060.

The Caucasian race is going the way of the Mohicans.

Wow.

And be sure to scan the comments:

What have YOU been doing for the white race?

I never heard whether you are married. Are you, and do you have any children?

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May 1, 2008

Mission Accomplished Day

Today is Mission Accomplished Day. Great Job, Bushie!

Mission-accomplished.jpg

I think maybe 70% of the public thinks Bush actually flew the plane and landed it on the carrier. (120% of FOX viewers, of course.)

Bush was a passenger. He didn't fly the plane. He isn't allowed to fly planes. Back in his National Guard days he had to stop flying when he refused to take a drug test, and then stopped showing up for duty entirely, even though there was a war going on.

Bush-FlightSuit.jpg

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