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June 30, 2008

A Good Catch At BuzzFlash

Drudge Report of June 2000 Shows Bush Blaming Clinton for High Oil Prices: $20 - $30 a Barrel!

Click through and go see.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:59 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Obama On Defensive

Obama's campaign is starting to seem entirely defensive to me. This is a bad sign. He has lost the initiative. The effectiveness of the right's smear campaigns can't be underestimated.

Obama to Deliver Patriotism Speech

Dogged by Internet rumors about the Pledge of Allegiance and the flag on his lapel, Sen. Barack Obama today is flying to Harry Truman's home in Missouri to deliver an address on the meaning of patriotism.
He takes the White House position on FISA because he doesn't want to reinforce the rumors that he is weak on national security. He quits his church. Etc..

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:54 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 27, 2008

More War

Congress passes new Iraq war funds,

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved $161.8 billion in new funds to continue fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next year, without timetables for withdrawing combat troops.

. . . The Senate's 92-6 vote to pass the war-funding bill marked a victory for Bush, who has vigorously opposed any move by Congress to impose timetables for ending the Iraq war, now in its sixth year.

. . .The new money for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan puts the war tab since late 2001 at more than $800 billion, with most of that money going to Iraq.

It made me think of this:
Governor Howard Dean, M.D., Address to California State Democratic Convention, Sacramento, California, March 15, 2003

What I want to know, what I want to know, is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President's unilateral intervention in Iraq? [cheers].

What I want to know, is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting tax cuts which have bankrupted this country and given us the largest deficit in the history of the United States? [cheers].

[. . .] What I want to know is why the Democrats in Congress aren't standing up for us joining every other industrialized country on the face of the Earth in having health insurance for every man, woman and child in America? [cheers, chants "Dean"].

[. . .] As Paul Wellstone said . . . I'm Howard Dean, and I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. [cheers].

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:19 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 26, 2008

Remember When ...

Never forget:


Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:18 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Economy, Stocks, Housing, Oil - How Far Can It Fall?

Which way will the economy go next? Here's a hint: I just read that it will cost the average family in the North East U.S. an extra $2000 to heat their homes this coming winter.

So you tell me - is the economy going to be better? Are people going to be having a grand old spendup this Christmas season?

The public in 2000 chose to "elect" oil company executives to run the government. Immediately the Enron scandal ensued, with the obvious collusion of the recently-elected administration.

Then the public chose to re-elect them in 2004.

So let's not hear any complaining from anyone who voted for these clowns. OK?

Oh, and by the way, the National Debt, which was getting paid down quite rapidly before Bush was elected, is now approaching $10 trillion. That's trillion with a 't'.

Update - And the government run by oil company executives is refusing to allow solar power plants on government land in the Southwest. Are you surprised by that?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:12 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Supreme Court Strikes Down "Millionaire's Amendment"

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Nearly every Supreme Court ruling is 5-4 these days, with the far-right winning over the right. I guess they understand the need to dance with the wealthy corporatists that brung them. And I think they understand that this balance could change next year so they are rushing to establish as many far-right precedents as they can before that happens.

This one today is rich - literally. The Court ruled that allowing candidates to raise extra money if they face a self-financed millionaire violates the self-financed millionaire's freedom to use money to dominate all speech. Do you think I'm joking?

Supreme Court strikes down part of campaign finance law

The Supreme Court struck down on Thursday part of a U.S. campaign finance law that relaxes contribution limits for candidates facing wealthy, self-funded opponents, a ruling that could affect congressional elections in November.

By a 5-4 vote, the high court declared unconstitutional the provision known as the "millionaire's amendment" that Congress adopted out of concern that rich, self-financing candidates would have a competitive advantage.

Alito agreed with the arguments by [the rich candidate] that the law violated the constitutional free-speech rights of self-financed candidates, impermissibly burdening [rich candidate's] rights to spend his own money for campaign speech. [emphasis added]

Enabling the other candidate to raise as much money - from regular people - is "burdening" the rich guy. Wow.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:16 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 25, 2008

Obama's at the country club looking for the real killers

"Obama's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by" (Karl Rove).

"The key to the statement is that in the image he is with 'a beautiful date.' Not Michelle Obama .... When you think of a "beautiful date" specifically at a country club, do you picture an African-American woman? Would Rove's target audience? Or do you picture him there, a black man, smoking a cigarette indoors at a country club, with a white woman on his arm?" (HW at Talking Points Memo).

What you picture is O.J. Simpson at the country club with Nicole -- or, more recently, O.J. with a different white woman at the country club where he's looking for "the real killers", the way Obama will be using ineffectual police measures to find the terrorists.

Fortunately, the other black man in America's country clubs is Tiger Woods. But for that, Rove's meme would have won the election. Give him points for virtuosity and effort.

Posted by John Emerson at 11:37 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Money people unclear on the concept

Apparently Obama is talking to Hillary's money people, and they're not too happy with him. First of all, they want him to pay Hillary's campaign debts. Second, they want him to make some concessions on the issues.

WTF? Money people are asking Obama for money? It's like going in to a bank and having the banker ask for a small loan. Those guys seem to think they're playing hardball, but I'm trying to figure out what it is that they're threatening Obama with. Are they going to refuse to ask him for money in the future?

Posted by John Emerson at 11:27 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

What Is A Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

My post on the NASA climate scientist the other day mentioned a "revenue-neutral" carbon tax.

Here is the idea: You tax carbon-based "fossil fuel" energy at the source: when oil or coal or gas is originally extracted and sold you tax it. Then you divide up that tax money equally and give it to each citizen.

Giving the entire tax back makes it "revenue-neutral" meaning exactly as much that is taxed is given back. This means that the net effect on the overall economy is neutral. But it promotes the use of renewable, non-polluting energy sources which overall has a very positive effect on the economy whether you worry about global warming or not. (A more energy-efficient economy means everyone spends less to get the same results.)

What would this mean to most Americans? A $200 per ton carbon tax would roughly mean a $9000 check to each American family each year. This check offsets any higher prices that might be caused by the tax. If you use less carbon-based energy you come out way ahead financially. If you use more you pay more. Economists say that 4/5 of us would come out ahead. Only the richest 1/5 would pay more. And THEY can pay less by CHOOSING to using less energy. (What would a $9,000 check mean for families in this economy?)

This creates a huge incentive for everyone to become more energy-efficient, which means your costs go down. If you are a business energy-efficiency means you increase profits. If you are a family it means you spend less on electricity and natural gas. it's the same idea as buying a Prius and then spending less on gasoline. But becoming energy-efficient means that those costs go away forever. If you install solar panels you never pay another electric bill. If you add insulation to your house your heating and cooling bills go down forever.

A carbon tax means that WE get that money, not the Middle East. It means that we have incentive to start building mass transit again. It means that research into alternative energy sources (killed by Republicans) gets started again.

AND it means that we are putting less and less carbon into the air.

You can learn more at the Carbon Tax Center.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 24, 2008

Communicating With the Public

This post originally appeared at the Commonweal Institute Blog.

Many progressive think the public already understands a lot of what progressives stand for. But this is not the case. This thinking comes from already being a progressive, and talking to lots of other progressives. But we need to understand that the public in general is not well educated about progressives, and that communicating needs to start with basics.

I learned this in business, when I was doing direct mail marketing: It's a core mistake to think that the audience you want to reach thinks the way you and I do as we spend time on blogs like this one. You have to learn NOT to trust your instincts and instead trust market testing and other scientific methods to get a read on what the target audience is thinking - and what they hear when you talk to them. The mass market out there is very different from the people who want to reach them, both in products and political ideas.

If you think about it for a minute, this has to be the case or you wouldn't be trying to reach them in the first place - they would already know what you want them to know. The people who make a product already know what it does, how it is used, etc... So they just can't relate to people who don't yet. There are things they take for granted, but the target audience has not yet been exposed to. So in products you wouldn't need to market your product if the customers out there already understood what it is and what it does for them. In our case here we wouldn't need to explain progressive ideas and policies if the public already understood why they want them. But they don't. If we want to persuade the public to share our values and support our ideas we have to explain to them the benefits THEY will get out of doing so. To do that we have to learn what THEY hear, and how they hear things, before we can reach them.

We have to realize that the people who already understand these concepts today are fundamentally different from the rest of the public. (Try to write a product manual telling an elderly person how to use your software and you will see what I mean.) We seek out the blogs, and read lots of news. Much of the public is almost the opposite of this. They don't read newspapers, they don't watch the NewsHour, and they are not scouring the internet and critically evaluating what they find. (NO ONE but us knows about the billions in cash that were shipped to Iraq and disappeared, for example, but it is part of the foundation of our understanding of what is happening to our country.) But the right does reach them. They have figured out how to trigger the word-of-mouth channels through which people come to know what they "know." How many people STILL believe that Iraq attacked us on 9/11?

In direct mail I learned that the stuff that makes me and probably you retch is the stuff that sells the most product. I have to tell you I learned it the very hardest way because I would not expose my customers to that crap. And then a third party company did a test mailing and the sales tripled. So I learned from that.

I don't mean to sound like I am lecturing. I'm trying to share some lessons I learned in some very hard ways - that you just have to trust scientific methods to learn what your target audience thinks, and understand the we are often unable to know that ourselves.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:31 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 23, 2008

NASA's Climate Scientist Says Try Oil CEOs For Crimes Against Humanity

This is one of the most important things to read in a very long time. NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen spells out just how close we are to global warming tipping points. Then he says that CEOs of oil companies should be tried for crimes against humanity for spreading propaganda that is intended to boost their own wealth at the expense of the rest of us and the planet.

Dr. James Hansen: Twenty Years Later: Tipping Points Near on Global Warming:

Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including disguised funding to shape school textbook discussions.

CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature. If their campaigns continue and "succeed" in confusing the public, I anticipate testifying against relevant CEOs in future public trials

Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation, if we pass on a runaway climate to our children. Humanity would be impoverished by ravages of continually shifting shorelines and intensification of regional climate extremes. Loss of countless species would leave a more desolate planet.

Hansen says we need a big tax on fossil fuels, but that the tax be entirely given back as a dividend, equal amounts to each person.

Here is how it works. Let's say you collect $280 billion in CO2 taxes. You then give a $1000 check to each American. People who spend less than that in CO2 taxes benefit. People who spend more than that are given a huge incentive to cut back or switch to other forms of energy.

It is a great idea. It is one answer to the problem. It benefits everyone except the big polluters. Exxon will fight that tooth an nail.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:51 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Blog Heros

Tracy Russo is a hero. And so is Jane. Go read why.

Both receive the coveted Seeing the Forest Blog Her Award.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:07 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Speak Out California Is Back Up And Running!

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

One day your website is yours, and the next day it is someone else's. Organizations, businesses and regular people are at the mercy of a confusing deregulated system.

A little over a week ago the Speak Out California website suddenly disappeared, and viewers instead saw a website full of advertisements.

We had no way of even knowing what had happened. It was just a surprise. One day typing "speakoutca.org" into a web browser took viewers to our website, the next day it took viewers to an ad site that someone else managed.

Some of us are more sophisticated and internet-savvy than most citizens so we were eventually able to track down some information. I'm not going into details here, except to say that no one at Speak Out California received any notice that this was going to happen. It took several days to even track down where the domain name (this is what internet addresses like speakoutca.org are called) had been registered, who had registered it, and contact info for the registrar. Then it took several more days to restore the domain name to us and get it working again.

Here's the thing: the only way we were able to get this name back and get the site operating again is because some of us are much more internet-connected than most people. Most people would have no idea where to even start to look for information and help solving a problem like this.

This is certainly not an uncommon problem. My wife had a business named Dancing Woman Designs with a website at dancingwomandesigns.com, and then one day she didn't. She received no notice, nothing. It was just there one day and gone the next and if she wanted it back it was going to cost her. It was going to cost her a lot. And so she doesn't have dancingwomandesigns.com anymore and that address takes you to an ad site. A whole business that took years to get going and build is history now. It was wiped out in a minute because someone was able to get the web name.

A larger business is more likely to have the resources to hire the necessary experts to fight something like this. But it can be an expensive proposition and it can take time.

This is the difference between regulation and deregulation. Regulations protect regular people. Deregulation enables and protects scammers, schemers, and cons. The Internet is largely unregulated and is full of scammers, schemers and cons. Most of the businesses and organizations on the internet are good, honest, credible and legitimate but regular people are also left completely at the mercy of numerous cons, scams, schemes and rip-offs and the burden is on us to find a way to tell the difference.

We got Speak Out California back up and running. It only took us a week and a little money. But we are sophisticated, internet-savvy and connected -- and lucky. Hmm ... maybe some new legislation is warranted.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Driving 55 Saves Gas And Is Safer

You can save a lot of gas by driving at 55 on the highway. It's also a lot safer. And unless you are traveling a long distance, it doesn't add much time to your journey.

Many people don't know this, and the oil company executives who currently run our government certainly won't tell you. They'll instead tell you the government should let the oil companies have more free leases of our land so they can make a bunch more money -- all at our expense.

In the 1970s it was common knowledge that driving at 55mph saves a lot on gas. In fact, at one point the national speed limit on the freeways was lowered to 55, and it did reduce our oil imports a great deal. But in 1980 the Republicans got into office and stopped all of the energy efficiency activities of the government. They stopped all of the mass transit projects, too. Ronald Reagan's very first act as President was removing the solar equipment that President Carter had installed on the roof of the White House.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Gmail Problems

I've been having problems with Gmail for a few weeks. It's extremely slow, sometimes doesn't come up at all, sometimes won't send mail. Is anyone else seeing this?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:17 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 21, 2008

Not Happy With Dems On FISA

Like me, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks is not at all happy with Democrats, Hillary Clinton and especially Barack Obama on the FISA capitulation.

Here's the story: about half of the Democrats in the House caved yesterday and voted with Republicans to give the big telecom companies retroactive immunity for breaking the law and wiretapping us - potentially any of us - without warrants. This illegal wiretapping started before 9/11 so it has nothing to do with terrorism. Barack Obama is going along with it. Hillary hasn't said a thing about it. There is no leadership, only capitulation.

You really really should watch this:

If you can't beat the most unpopular president of all time in a simple legislative fight like this, how can you claim to be a strong and effective leader?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:29 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 20, 2008

Down With Tyranny

Have you been to the great site DownWithTyranny! lately?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:36 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Caving On FISA

The House just voted to pass a FISA bill that gives the Republicans everything they wanted - except one. See House votes to provide protection to phone firms,

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday that could shield phone companies from billions of dollars in lawsuits for their participation in the warrantless surveillance program secretly begun by President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks.
Here's the thing. This legislation specifically lets telecom companies off the hook for letting the Republicans wiretap us after 9/11.

The program started before 9/11, and therefore has nothing to do with terrorism.

And while we're all concerned about terrorists - did you know that the Republicans are still blocking gun background checks and letting anyone buy guns at gun shows?

Update - Interesting that all those Republicans voted to let President Obama spy on them.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:49 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Teacher Fired For Assigning Malcolm X

A teacher assigns students to read Malcolm X, is fired because her curriculum was too "Afrocentric."

Go read: Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap

Here is a video made by her students:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 19, 2008

War Crimes -- No Question, Says General


A general saying the White House is guilty of war crimes! Is impeachment still "off the table?"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:36 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 18, 2008

Drilling - See The Big Picture, Please

All of a sudden you can't get away from stories about the need to drill for oil in Alaska and off our coasts.

So what is going on? Why are there so MANY stories in the news, op-eds, blogs, columnists, letters to the editor and on the radio saying that drilling will solve the problem? Rational, informed people understand that it would take almost a decade before any new production showed up, that we are already at refinery limits and that we could have alternatives and conservation in place much faster with a much bigger impact. Why this huge push for drilling today?

People who look at this as a policy issue and try to respond with facts and logic are missing what is happening here, and misunderstanding how the corporate/conservative machine operates: SOMEone makes a bunch of MONEY if we open up drilling. And that SOMEone is paying to push a bill through Congress. It's just that simple. That's how the right's machine works today. It is entirely pay-for-play. I suspect that we are seeing a standard conservative multi-front coordinated PR push in support of an upcoming legislative agenda. This is how the corporate right organizes a campaign.

According to Google News there are 2102 news articles this morning under the heading, "Bush asks Congress to clear way for offshore oil drilling." Example, The Kansas City Star, Bush to Congress: Embrace energy exploration now,

With gasoline topping $4 a gallon, President Bush urged Congress on Wednesday to lift its long-standing ban on offshore oil and gas drilling, saying the United States needs to increase its energy production. ...

"There is no excuse for delay," the president said in a statement in the Rose Garden. With the presidential election just months away, Bush made a pointed attack on Democrats, accusing them of obstructing his energy proposals and blaming them for high gasoline costs

There are another 1000 or so under various other headings. This is just today.

People who watch the corporate right's machine have seen this bubbling up for a while. A couple of weeks ago there was a weird story circulating in theright-wing press about China drilling for oil off Florida. George Will got it into the Washington Post. Fox: China, Others Drilling for Oil Off Florida. Even Vice President Cheney repeated it. It didn't matter that it wasn't true: Cheney Acknowledges He Lied About China Drilling ‘60 Miles Off The Coast Of Florida’

At the same time, column after column has been appeared in the corporate right's outlets like but not limited to Townhall.com. (See a recent Townhall sampling here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and note this one: here. These and more just in the last few days and just at this site - which is one of so many.)

Also there are dozens and dozens of stories in other places most of us don't see. Please follow the link and read this one, it just follows the script so closely: Family Security Matters: A World Afloat on an Ocean of Oil,

The most fundamental fact about oil worldwide is that there is lots of it. . . For sheer insanity, however, consider a nation that has an estimated 31 billion barrels of oil offshore of its coasts and 117 billion barrels of oil under land owned or managed by the government . . . In just one area, a desolate place designated a wildlife refuge, there's an estimated 7.7 billion barrels untapped. . . . Most of the areas where oil is known to exist have been ruled off-limits to any exploration or extraction by the government.

In the areas where it is accessible, drilling for it is hugely encumbered and often denied by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act.
. . . the price of a gallon of gasoline or heating oil, is making everyone miserable thanks in great part to environmental legislation . . . just to make matters worse, the government requires that every gallon of gasoline include the additive, ethanol, which reduces its mileage and increases its cost.

Newt Gingrich is, of course, all over the "drill now" story: Our Declaration of Energy Independence:
While Washington elites can't or won't act, the American people see the first step to a practical, common sense way out of this crisis: Drill here. Drill now. Pay less.
(By the way, I think Newt is vying to be the Republican nominee this year. Not kidding - I don't think it will be McCain.)

And, of course, the other side of the story also hits the airwaves - the warm, cuddly oil companies: CBS Praises Oil Company for $50 Million in College Aid,

For once, “CBS Evening News” gave viewers a break from seeing oil companies demonized.

At a time when gas has topped $4 a gallon and the media are looking for someone to blame for “pain at the pump,” “Evening News” took a different approach and showed how one oil company is reinvesting its profits – not in politically correct alternative sources of energy, but back into the community.

So is this really a corporate/right PR campaign? For those of us who track this sort of thing here is the big clue. On Drudge today there is a link to a fresh, new Gore smear from the "Tennessee Center for Policy Research" with the long headline: Energy Guzzled by Al Gore’s Home in Past Year Could Power 232 U.S. Homes for a Month - Gore’s personal electricity consumption up 10%, despite “energy-efficient” home renovations ,
In the year since Al Gore took steps to make his home more energy-efficient, the former Vice President’s home energy use surged more than 10%, according to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.

“A man’s commitment to his beliefs is best measured by what he does behind the closed doors of his own home,” said Drew Johnson, President of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. “Al Gore is a hypocrite and a fraud when it comes to his commitment to the environment, judging by his home energy consumption.”

In the past year, Gore’s home burned through 213,210 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, enough to power 232 average American households for a month.

I haven't had time to turn on the radio, but I think I can safely bet that Rush and the rest of the radio crowd are on this, and have been plugging it for weeks. (Oh, and I'll bet they're planting stuff in online forums, especially sports forums. They use forums a lot for word-of-mouth generation.)

So see the big picture - see the forest - and learn from it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:47 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Written From A Desk In DC

Here's another illustration of the reasons people are turning away from corporate media and toward blogs, YouTube, etc.

Why We're Gloomier Than The Economy - washingtonpost.com,

Ask Americans how the economy is doing, and their answer is stark: It is not just bad, it is run-for-the-hills terrible. Consumer confidence is at its lowest level in almost 30 years. Only 12 percent of Americans think the economy is in good shape. On the Internet, comparisons to the Great Depression are widespread.

But the reality is different. According to most broad measures of how the economy is doing, it's not all that grim.

. . . But so far, the economy is holding up better than it did during the last two recessions in 1990 and 2001. Employers haven't shed as many jobs, the unemployment rate is still relatively low, and gross domestic product has kept rising. Things are nowhere near as bad as they were in the Great Depression, or even during the severe recession of 1982-83. The last time consumers were this miserable, in May 1980, the jobless rate was 7.5 percent and inflation was 14.4 percent. Now those numbers are 5.5 percent and 4.2 percent respectively.

OK. First, the jobs lost in the last recession never came back, so we're just starting from where that one left off.

Second, if you read blogs you know that the ACTUAL inflation and jobless rates -- if measured the way they were in 1980 -- are much higher than 5.5 and 4.2 percent. MUCH higher.

This has left economists trying to figure out why Americans' perceptions are so much more negative than the data analysts use to measure how things are going.
So the well-paid economists and Wall Streeters and Washington Post reporters are sitting behind their desks wondering why all those people out in the real world are yelling that tings are bad. THEY just don't see it, so things must be fine, and all those people out in the real world are just making shit up.

I mean, THEY don't get told every day to accept longer hours for less money because their jobs could be outsourced in a minute if the boss gets even slightly displeased with the amount of "Yes, Sir!" you're putting out. THEY certainly don't care if bread is approaching $5 a loaf.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:44 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 17, 2008

Not Alex

Go here to contribute to get this ad on the air.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:33 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 16, 2008

Bloggers - Time To Boycott Amazon?

Fellow bloggers - it looks like it is time to send readers to Barnes&Noble or somewhere else rather than Amazon for their books. It looks like Amazon is just another big corporation trying to use their market power to rig the system against publishers and consumers. Big is bad, and then they try to tilt the playing field in their favor to gain even more power, which they will use to tilt the playing field even more.

See Publishers feel pressure of Amazon's 'buy' button,

"Amazon seems each year to go from one publisher to another, making increasing demands in order to achieve richer terms at our expense and sometimes at yours," Hutchinson said in the letter. "If this continued, it would not be long before Amazon got virtually all of the revenue that is presently shared between author, publisher, retailer, printer and other parties."

[. . .] In the spring it started disabling the icons for some small publishers in the United States that resisted Amazon's demand that they use an Amazon-owned company, BookSurge, for print-on-demand services. Amazon is the dominant seller of such titles.

As a result, some smaller publishers in the United States have signed service agreements with Amazon. But a few refused Amazon's demand to shift the instant printing of their books to BookSurge, which they say has been demanding a discount of as much as 52 percent on the retail price.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:55 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 15, 2008

Connecting Dots

I'm surprised no one is making the connection between this: Global smuggling ring obtained blueprint for warhead, and this: Officials Fear Bomb Design Went to Others, and this: Tip-off thwarted nuclear spy ring probe, and this: What Valerie Plame Really Did at the CIA.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:09 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post -- How Far Will Prices Fall?

I was driving this morning and clicking through the AM radio stations. On one station there was a "financial advice" show, with a guy talking about how to make a "236% return" by buying foreclosed houses and renting them out until prices go back up.

In case you were wondering who is buying houses right now, it's the people who fall for this stuff.

Where will housing prices fall to? Prices will revert to the mean, and the mean is where prices were before they started going way up, plus a bit for inflation. Another way is to realize that the price of the house, if rented out, should be low enough that you have positive cash flow after all expenses, and that cash flow should be a lot better than you could get from buying bonds because of the work you are putting into it. (In my area that means house prices should be about a third what they still are.)

But before they do that they will fall a bit below the mean. Here is why. There are several factors that will pressure housing prices even when they reach the pre-bubble level.

  • Before prices can normalize people have to stop thinking that prices will go up again, and get rid of property they are "holding on to." So at the point where they reach the normal level there will be little buying interest. In fact people will understand that buying a house can be a good path to financial ruin.
  • Everyone who wanted a house really, really had a chance to buy a house. If they didn't buy a house when you could get money without even stating whether you had a job...
  • Next there is the huge buildup of inventory. There are many, many more houses out there than there were before the bubble.
  • There are all the housing developments built way outside of areas where people work, with the expectation that they would buy at as lower price there and when prices went up they could sell and make the down payment for a place closer to the job. Now that gas prices are up no one will want to buy these.
  • Then there is the coming rise in utility prices which means that the McMansions are going to cost too much to heat and cool.
  • The baby boomers are retiring, which means they will want to sell bigger houses and rent or buy smaller houses.
People have no idea how far prices are going to fall.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:12 PM | Comments (8) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Finally - But For The Wrong Reasons

Bush has FINALLY decided to go after Osama Bin Laden. But, of course, for all the wrong reasons. He has finally ordered the military to engage in an all-out effort to get Bin Laden, including raids in Pakistan. But he is doing it so his own legacy looks a little better, not to protect America.

If Bush and the Republicans had wanted to protect America he would have gone after Bin Laden from the start instead of retargeting most of the military on Iraq.

Actually, if he had wanted to protect America he would have listened to the Clinton people who were trying to get the incoming Bush administration interested in fighting al Queda. Instead they completely ignored the threat and let 9/11 happen.

See Get Osama Bin Laden before I leave office, orders George W Bush,

President George W Bush has enlisted British special forces in a final attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden before he leaves the White House.

Defence and intelligence sources in Washington and London confirmed that a renewed hunt was on for the leader of the September 11 attacks. “If he [Bush] can say he has killed Saddam Hussein and captured Bin Laden, he can claim to have left the world a safer place,” said a US intelligence source.

. . . One US intelligence source compared the “growing number of clandestine reconnaissance missions” inside Pakistan with those conducted in Laos and Cambodia at the height of the Vietnam war.

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June 14, 2008

Another Corporate Gimmick - Arbitration

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

Does your credit card or bank loan agreement have an "arbitration clause?" More and more consumer-oriented contracts and "agreements" have clauses specifying that disputes must go to arbitration rather than our civil justice system. The justification for this is that arbitration saves the time and expense of working within our legal system. But here's the thing: the corporations choose the arbitrators and every arbitrator knows they will never, ever, ever, ever (ever) get another job if they rule against the corporations. Never.

And guess what: 98.8% of arbitrations end up in favor of the corporations. This is not a surprise.

The Progressive States Network's newsletter has a story about this today, Arbitration: "Set up to squeeze small sums of money out of desperately poor people",

The headline above is a quote from former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Richard Neely, describing what his role was as an arbitrator at the National Arbitration Forum (NAF), a for-profit company hired to enforce mandatory arbitration clauses for credit card consumer loans. "NAF is nothing more than an arm of the collection industry hiding behind a veneer of impartiality," says Richard Neely.

In a devastating expose by BusinessWeek, Neely and other former arbitrators describe an arbitration system stacked completely against consumers-- a system where creditors win 99.8% of all disputes involving companies ranging from Bank of America to Sears to Citgroup. Arbitration clauses buried in the fine print of credit card offers means consumers lose the right to have disputes decided in an independent court and instead are forced into corporation-selected arbitration firms.

The BusinessWeek story mentioned in the Progressive States Network story is titled, Banks vs. Consumers (Guess Who Wins)

This story about credit card companies taking unfair advantage of consumers is one more attack on citizen rights to access our own legal system (one more of so many attacks). Think about what is happening here. First the big corporations fought against "regulations" which are the rules that We, the People set up requiring safe workplaces or environmental standards, or products that do not injure people, etc. Then when fewer regulations of course resulted in worker or consumer injuries or toxic spills or other harms the inured parties filed more lawsuits asking the companies to make good. So in response to these lawsuits the corporate-financed "tort reform" movement came along, working to limit the ability of citizens to be compensated for the results of corporate bad behavior. The result has been fewer regulations preventing harms and more restrictions on citizen access to courts where we can seek damages after we are harmed.

I didn't even bring up the corporate-conservative movement to install their own business-friendly judges in the courts.

But even those erosions of our access to justice has not been enough for the greedy corporations. Now there is arbitration: clauses that show up in contracts and agreements that remove your ability to take a dispute to the courts at all! And the judges in these courts are dependent on the corporations for their livelihood!

Deregulation, tort reform and now arbitration that is rigged against the consumer. Drip, drip, drip. One after another the big corporations are eroding the rights of citizens.

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:06 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 13, 2008

Obama Debate Position - I Don't Get It

Why is the Obama campaign turning down McCain's offer of ten real debates? I don't get it.

Obama's campaign countered with an offer of four infotainment shows - the nonsense "debates" we all hate, and one "townhall" infotainment event.

I don't get it. It's not like they have any reason to be worried about how Obama would do.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:52 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Denied Vet Benefits Because VoteVets member

Go read this DailyKos diary: Military Declares War On Obama, VoteVets. A veteran was denied PTSD benefits by the VA because he was a VoteVets member.

I don't know what's more troubling - that the VA KNOWS who shows up to political rallies ..., or that they're willing to use participation in an organization as the reason for denying care to the sick. We send these soldiers off to war to supposedly defend Constitutional freedoms, and then when the soldier upon returning home tries to exercise one, namely the freedom of speech, he is denied treatment.
The first part of the diary is about the military broadcasting anti-Obama smears from right-wing blogs to the troops.

Every branch of our government has been turned into a Republican Party-controlled propaganda-and-party-enforcement vehicle.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:41 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Invade Iraq!

I'm a moderate now and I would like to suggest a compromise answer to the question "Should we invade Iran?"

As it happens, the present government of Iraq is getting uppity, talking about "sovereignty", making deals with Iran, and refusing to accept our plans for a permanent occupation. What we need to do, obviously, is invade Iraq again, and liberate the Iraqis for real this time.

That will be easier than starting a new war in a new country, because all of our troops are already there. The new liberation government we set up can hang Maliki and Sadr and a bunch of the rest of them, we'll be welcomed as liberators, and Iraq will become peaceful.

Posted by John Emerson at 5:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 12, 2008


I saw something on DKos that reminded me... Remember "tubes?"

Remember Senator Stevens talking about the internet:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:00 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Obama's Fight The Smears Website

Conservatives campaign with smears. It goes back to the days when the tobacco industry was trying to discredit people who said their product was harmful to people. The way they campaign for office is to destroy their opponents rather than make the case for themselves.

They destroy our leaders. And they have been working to destroy Obama with lies and innuendo and smears.

The Obama campaign has launched a website to fight the smears that are circulating: Fight the Smears.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:36 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 11, 2008

Cut That OTHER Spending!

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

For decades people have been hearing that government "spends too much." They have been hearing that it's spending cuts that we need, not tax increases. They've been hearing that most of the government's money is spent on "waste, fraud and abuse." They've been hearing that it mostly goes to welfare, for people who won't work and sit around all day. They've been hearing that taxes are too high, the highest in the world, the liberals who run the world only want to tax and spend, etc. And no one has been reaching the public with the facts.

And after decades of this here is a surprise: people think the government spends too much, that we need spending cuts not taxes, that the money goes to waste, fraud and abuse -- and welfare and stuff like that. Who would have thought?

But ask for specifics like, "What specifically would you cut and by how much?" and you'll get a blank stare. Try that question on a conservative politician some time and you'll get the same blank stare. (Usually accompanied by an exercise commonly known as "the run-around.")

OK, occasionally when an elected official is faced with no choice but to cut or raise taxes you'll get an answer. We saw this recently when the Governor spelled out drastic cuts in schools and other government services -- the actual stuff that our taxes pay for. The public didn't like that one bit. They want that "other" spending to be cut instead. (Of course, the Governor also came up with that weird scheme to borrow from next year's lottery revenue. So what happens next year when we have to pay the bills and don't even have the lottery revenue because that went to this year's budget??? What do we borrow on then?)

Things might be changing. The public might slowly be coming around to understanding that taxes really do need to be raised -- at least as far as a temporary sales tax increase. The Public Policy Institute of California recently released the results of a survey titled Californians and Their Government. (The full PDF is here.) According to the summary,

Solid majorities of residents (58%) and likely voters (62%) oppose the governor’s plan to raise revenue by borrowing from future lottery earnings, but majorities of residents (54%) and likely voters (57%) favor a temporary increase in the state sales tax if the lottery plan fails.
And, according to the press release,
The potential temporary sales tax increase is the only tax increase included in the governor’s revised budget. Asked whether they believe tax increases should be part of his plan, residents are split (48% yes, 46% no), although the percentage favoring tax increases has risen sharply since December (30%). [emphasis added]
Of course, this doesn't get the budget solved. It's a start but as for real-world solutions today, the public still isn't ready to face facts. This may be because no one has dared explain that there isn't really some "other" spending yet to be cut. Also from the press release:
Californians fail budget math quiz — Page 12
When asked which area gets the biggest share of state spending, only 20 percent of residents correctly identified K-12 education. Asked where the biggest chunk of revenue comes from, only 32 percent give the correct answer: personal income tax.
Let me leave you with a few suggestions for helping solve the budget mess:

Proposition 13, an initiative that was sold as keeping little old ladies on fixed incomes in their homes, cut both residential and commercial property taxes. How about bringing commercial property taxes back to market rates?

Oil companies don't pay a "severance fee" when they pump our oil out of the ground to sell back to us. How about they pay for the oil before they sell it back to us?

How about we ask the wealthy to pay sales taxes - the same sales taxes that the rest of us have to pay - when they buy yachts and airplanes? And how about we ask the wealthy to pay their fair share of other taxes as well?

If you are talking to friends and family about the budget, point out that when Governor Schwarzenegger -- who solved previous budget problems by borrowing -- tried to balance the budget without raising any taxes he had to cut schools, health care, parks and much more, and still find ways to borrow. He is a Republican, not a "tax and spend" liberal, so if there were ways to cut "other" spending he would have done that.

There is no other spending to cut because it takes money to rin a government and provide the services we want and need. "The line at the DMV" is an example because if you cut DMV spending the line you hate just gets longer.

Take a look at the Next 10 site and consider how you would revise the budget.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:32 PM | Comments (9) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Will McCain Be Republican Nominee?

I think there is a growing chance that McCain will not be the Republican Presidential nominee. Their convention isn't until September and McCain just gets worse and worse. I really think they'll find a way to talk him out of running.

And no, I don't think it will be Larry Craig, even if their convention is in Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:22 AM | Comments (8) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Here It Comes

Professional smears - at far-right Media Research Center. This is from April and you're going to be seeing A LOT of this. Eyeblast.tv - A Video Portrait Of Barack Hussein Obama. (Warning, ugly smear video.)

(via Sideshow)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 10, 2008

Don't Ask Me

I stayed neutral between Obama and Hillary during the primaries. Now I'm staying out of discussions of who Obama should pick as VP. OK?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:06 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 9, 2008

Today's Obama Smear Attempt -- See Update

Here's one of the ways the right's smear machine works. Far-right blogs post something. Then a site higher up their food chain picks it up, like NewsMax, CNSNews, WorldNetDaily or Politico. Then the Drudge Report or Moon's Washington Times gets it from there and spreads the story further. Somewhere in there Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity talks about it on the air. Finally the corporate media picks it up and uses the excuse that "the story is circulating."

Here's an example today. "Someone" posted an anti-semitic comment at the Obama blog. (See if you can guess who posted a comment that a right-wing blog knew about a few minutes later.) A few minutes later the hate site Little Green Footballs wrote a post saying that the Obama blog says so-and-so. (If you don't know about this site, spend a few minutes there and you'll get the picture. No, it is not a parody of right-wing nuttiness.) Then dozens of far-right-wing sites quickly echoed the "story." It rapidly turns into a great big right-wing hissy fit.

Soon the right's Politico has picked it up. (Which shows they're spending time reading hate sites.) And then Rush Limbaugh talked about it on his show.

You see, someone (guess who) leaving a comment at the Obama site proves that Obama is anti-semitic. You'll be hearing about it from every direction very soon.

Here is what Politico wrote:

Little Green Footballs finds some eyebrow-raisin stuff on Obama's site with the search term "Jewish Lobby." Of course, it's not fair to hold Obama responsible for the occasional crazy post. But it seems reasonable to try to characterize the community, something I haven't seen done, and it's interesting to see what gets taken down and what doesn't -- inevitably a community and moderator choice.
So bloggers - watch out. Right-wingers are posting vile comments at blogs, and then claiming that blog's readers are saying vile things.

Update - Little Green Footballs is sending people over here to saturate us with nasty comments. This one is an example of what to expect from that site (And I do have the IP address proving who it came from): "It's pretty obvious that Davey is so blind queer for 'the boy with the
pickaninny dick' that he is willing to tell any lie necessary 'for the
cause'...even if it's laughably false on its face...maybe he's bucking to
be Barky's personal bitch faggot....if so,he's doing a good job of it"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:39 PM | Comments (183) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 8, 2008

Tobacco Money in California

Big tobacco is pouring money into the crucial California Senate District 19 race! See this story: Tobacco firm funds county GOP : Local News : Ventura County Star,

The nation's largest tobacco company has donated $50,000 to the Ventura County Republican Central Committee as the local party gears up to help GOP candidate Tony Strickland in what is expected to be a multimillion-dollar campaign this fall in the 19th Senate District.

[. . .] "There's an alarming trend of the tobacco industry increasing its influence by ramping up its political contributions," said Jim Knox, vice president of the American Cancer Society Action Network.

Knox noted the tobacco industry played "a major role in killing healthcare reform in California last year. They don't issue press releases, they don't testify at hearings, but they're hard at work in the halls of the Capitol."

Senate District 19 is the potential "flip" seat in the senate. If Hannah-Beth Jackson wins it could mean the vote that lets Democrats finally pass budgets.

So why is tobacco interested in keeping Republican ability to block budgets? Why did they fight to block health care reform?

Part of the financing of the healthcare plan was to have been a $1.75 per-pack tax increase on cigarettes.
Please go read the rest of the article if you care about health and politics - and the health of politics - in California.

Disclaimer - I do some work for Speak Out California, which was founded by Hannah-Beth Jackson, but this post comes from my own concern over this and is not related to that work.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Is John McCain Disabled?

AmericaBlog asks Why is McCain getting $58,000 a year in disability income?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:55 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Let's Go Change The World

This is the video everyone should watch as we go into the campaign:


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June 6, 2008

Prostitutes and Beer

The best place to spend your rebate check is on prostitutes and beer. Go read why: The Big Picture | Where Your Rebate Check Goes

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:01 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Corporate News Media Management Insanity

The new owners of the Tribune Co., which publishes the L.A. Times and the Chicago Tribune (among other papers), are going to be making widespread changes to their 12 publications, including massive layoffs, and balancing content and advertising in a 50/50 ratio on news pages, according to the New York Times, in an article entitled: Tribune Co. Plans Sharp Cutbacks at Papers.

Here's the "logic" they're using:

...the struggling company has looked at the column inches of news produced by each reporter, and by each paper’s news staff. Finding wide variation, they said, they have concluded that it could do without a large number of news employees and not lose much content.

This makes about as much sense as measuring computer programmers by how many lines of code they produce. In other words, none at all. Based on what I read in the article, you can kiss goodbye to serious journalism at any of these newspapers.

Mr. Michaels [chief operating officer] said that, after measuring journalists’ output, “when you get into the individuals, you find out that you can eliminate a fair number of people while eliminating not very much content.” He added that he understood that some reporting jobs naturally produce less output than others.

Yeah, sure. He "understands". That's why his metrics emphasize quantity over quality, and he puts a newspaper that has won 37 Pulitzer prices (the LAT) in the same category as one that has won two (the HC).

The Los Angeles Times produced 51 pages of news for each journalist there, while the figure for two other Tribune papers, The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant, is more than 300 pages.

In other words, the staff at the LAT are bleeped.

Surveys show readers want “maps, graphics, lists, ranking and stats,” [Mr. Zell, chief executive officer and chairman] wrote. “We’re in the business of satisfying customers, and we will respond to what they say they want.”

Who the BLEEP do they think bothers to pick up a newspaper at this point? High school dropouts?!?

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 11:31 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Dems - No Lobbyist Or PAC Money

The Democratic Party has announced that they will no longer accept contributions from lobbyists or PACs.

The Democratic Party | Democratic Party Will No Longer Accept Washington Lobbyist Donations:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and the Obama for America Campaign today announced that the DNC will no longer accept Washington lobbyist donations, making the same commitment as Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

"The DNC and the Obama Campaign are unified and working together to elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Our presumptive nominee has pledged not to take donations from Washington lobbyists and from today going forward the DNC makes that pledge as well," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "Senator Obama has promised to change the way things are done in Washington and this step is a sure sign of his commitment. The American people's priorities will set the agenda in an Obama Administration, not the special interests."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Washington Post Headline Calls Hillary a 'Ho'

Howard Kurtz - Hey, Ho, Please Don't Go - washingtonpost.com

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:16 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

You're Too Old To Work Here

Today the unemployment rate jumped,

The U.S. unemployment rate jumped by the most in 22 years in May, reaching its highest level in more than 3-1/2 years and underscoring the recessionary risk the economy still faces.
Meanwhile: Google calls for hike in H-1B visas. H1-B visas allow workers from other countries to come and work here. But they are often paid less.

In Silicon Valley everyone knows that Google WILL NOT hire anyone over 40. Maybe, just maybe companies could look in their own backyards. Maybe, just maybe, the could pay taxes so we could have better schools and lower college tuition.

Click for larger:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:07 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 5, 2008

Iran Wins

OK I'm just back from Puerto Rico, and will be writing a lot more about labor and the SEIU. But tonite, through Atrios, this: Did Iranian agents dupe Pentagon officials?

Defense Department counterintelligence investigators suspected that Iranian exiles who provided dubious intelligence on Iraq and Iran to a small group of Pentagon officials might have "been used as agents of a foreign intelligence service ... to reach into and influence the highest levels of the U.S. government," a Senate Intelligence Committee report said Thursday.

A top aide to then-secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, however, shut down the 2003 investigation into the Pentagon officials' activities after only a month, and the Defense Department's top brass never followed up on the investigators' recommendation for a more thorough investigation, the Senate report said.

The revelation raises questions about whether Iran may have used a small cabal of officials in the Pentagon and in Vice President Dick Cheney's office to feed bogus intelligence on Iraq and Iran to senior policymakers in the Bush administration who were eager to oust the Iraqi dictator.

Iran, which was a mortal enemy of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and fought a bloody eight-year war with Iraq during his reign, has been the primary beneficiary of U.S. policy in Iraq, where Iranian-backed groups now run much of the government and the security forces.

A top aide shut down the investigation? How many other investigations of Republican wrongdoing have also been shut down?

Go read it, it is fascinating. The whole Bush crowd of dumb clucks, getting used by Iranian intelligence who understood just how to play them.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:56 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 4, 2008

On The TV

So will we start seeing more than one or two black people on TV now? How about Hispanics? Once in a while maybe?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:32 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Obama To Speak To SEIU Today (via Video)

Barack Obama will be speaking via video to the SEIU convention today at 10:50am Eastern -- 7:50am Pacific. You can watch it by clicking here.

Webcast powered by Ustream.TV

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:05 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

June 3, 2008

Donna Edwards Says You Should Run For Office

I had the opportunity to talk with Donna Edwards for a while today, at the SEIU 2008 convention. She says that you should run for office, and a lot more than that.

This year Donna Edwards challenged incumbent "corporate Democrat" Al Wynn for Maryland's 4th Congressional District in the primary election and won, with help from the Netroots, multiple progressive organizations and labor, including a great deal of help from the SEIU. Her win is "reverberating - wide and deep" among members of Congress. It shows that accountability has arrived. It also shows that "Democrats can do this without begging and relying on corporate interests." She goes on to say,

"There is a huge lesson in this. A lot of elected officials start out in the grassroots community - and then the money happens. One step after another they are following the corporate agenda."
She says that help from the netroots will "enable candidates like us to be as independent inside as we were on the pathway getting there."

In 2006 Donna ran against Wynn and lost by 2731 votes. Many progressive organizations and labor groups were reluctant to challenge any Democratic incumbent. After that defeat she went from labor organization to labor organization saying that she was just one union hall away from winning. So in 2008 a coalition of labor and progressives joined up, and she ended up winning the primary by 20 points. Incumbent Wynn resigned from office and immediately joined a lobbying firm for big bucks.

She says the wind of change is out there, a demand for change is building. She says regular people have to run for office to start building a farm team for change. Regular people have a story to tell, and the more we run regular folks, the more opportunity there is to tell the public where we have to go. The power of the moneyed interests that want to keep us where we are is incredible so we have to empower regular people to tell their stories.

She said she talked to a number of people, telling them they should run, and finally decided to run herself. "But why didn't I say that first?" She wants all of us to say that first. (Not that Donna should run, but that YOU should run.) Progressives need to create a farm team to run for office.



From Left: Todd Beeton (MyDD), Donna Edwards, Watertiger (Firedoglake) and me.

Disclaimer: Blogger hotel and airfare paid for by the SEIU

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You Git What You Git

They're having an "open mike" session at the SEIU convention in favor and against a motion, and a woman from one of the locals just said something great about joining a union and fighting for your rights:

If you don’t step up you git what you git and you can’t throw a fit.

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June 2, 2008

SEIU's Accountability Project - Making Politicians Do The Right Thing

I am at the SEIU 2008 convention in Puerto Rico. Todd Beeton posted earlier today over at MyDD about the SEIU’s Accountability Project and I’d like to add to this discussion. This is a big, big deal for progressives! As Andy Stern said in his address to the convention today we are tired of, "Politicians who want your vote but after the election are at your throat."

In his post Todd explained,

. . . In a nutshell, after November, the SEIU intends to hold our Democratic representatives to their promises and let them know that there is the money, the organization and the will not only to fund primary challenges but to recruit and even train qualified candidates around the country if they don't do what they said they'd do.

What makes this threat real, of course, is that SEIU was instrumental in the defeat of Al Wynn by Donna Edwards in Maryland's February 12th primary. The SEIU spent $1 million on that race alone. Next year and all during the ensuing cycle, they're prepared to spend $10 million to target Democrats who don't follow through on their promises. Think about what the SEIU got for their money in MD-04: Congresswoman Donna Edwards who will champion progressive legislation on issue after issue affecting not only those in her district but impacting people's lives for the better all over the country, as every new and better Democrat added to congress by definition does.

The primary race between Al Wynn and Donna Edwards was a very big victory for progressives. Prior to this race Democrats in Congress only saw one effective power bloc on the playing field which meant going against those big corporate interests could cost them their jobs. Whatever they might want to do, politics is about what you make them do. Wherever their hearts might have been, elected Democrats could see that only one side was able to rally the only real support or punishment that counted: enough votes. Yes, Ned Lamont caused some problems for Joe Lieberman but it's still Senator Lieberman.

So I don't actually blame Democratic elected officials for the "spineless" way they have been acting. I blame all the rest of us for not getting the public behind our ideas. Politicians are not leaders -- that is not their job in a representative democracy. Their job is to be followers and do what the people want them to do. I think it was LBJ who said about civil rights, "I'm completely with you on this, now go out and make me do it." That's how it has to work -- you have to make them do it or else why should they? Votes is how you measure that. If you like what they're doing you keep them in office and if you don't you boot them.

In my view it takes long-term movements to change the public's thinking and create the demand that politicians respond to. Movements persuade and educate the people and then they look for politicians who say they will do what the people want. The conservative movement has been engaged in traditional marketing demand creation activities for 30 years and our side has not. And so it got to the point where all a conservative politician had to do was point and shout "liberal!" to win an election.

As I see it American history is a series of movements working to persuade people that they have the best plan for the future. Over time, after the public absorbs and comes to agree with ideas, then they elect candidates who promise to follow through on those ideas. Lincoln came out of a long period of public wrangling over ideas, including slavery. FDR didn't just show up and tell people how it was going to be, his New Deal was the result of the earlier progressive movement that followed the Guilded Age.

My view here of movements creating demand says that a lot of the work of getting things done has to be outside of the election cycle and long-term year-round, because it is about building broad, popular support for ideas, not just for candidates. But here we are with the very progressive organizations needed to accomplish that dying on the vine for lack of funding. George Lakoff's Rockridge Institute just closed. The Center for Policy Alternatives just closed. These were two movement-building organizations. I know that many others are desperately struggling to keep their doors open, at a time when Obama and Clinton are raising hundreds of millions of dollars for short-term election activity. And, of course, progressive bloggers remain largely unfunded even though they are the primary channel for spreading progressive ideas and information.

So to sum that up, it takes a movement to change minds and create demand and make politicians do the right thing. SEIU is in a position to help all progressives make this happen. They are in a position to get some real things done here. They have people, funding and commitment. And they are working very hard to make this a bottom-up, diverse grassroots effort. As Todd wrote about the Accountability project,

The details of the program include:
  • $10 million fund to take on elected officials who fail to live up to their promises.
  • Calls for SEIU members to make at least 10 million phone calls to members of Congress after the election to hold them accountable.
  • At least 50 percent of the union's organizing budget and 50 percent of its non-organizing staff at the national and local levels will be devoted to the effort
  • A commitment to jump start a much broader, permanent grassroots movement of working people by actively involving at least one million SEIU members in the "justice for all" effort by 2012, and creating leadership roles for at least 200,000 (or about 10 percent of the union's membership).
So SEIU will step up to the plate with serious resources that does two things. First, it finally gives politicians whose hearts are with us a reason to vote with us. Second, it tells politicians who don't agree with a progressive agenda (of reducing corporate power over our lives and restoring democracy to the people) that their time is past, that we will run candidates against them in the primaries and these candidates will have strong support.

While this is election activity, it begins to put an enforcement component onto our progressive movement's policy agenda. But SEIU is also beginning to engage in broader movement-building activite with the upcoming Justice For All campaign, Tim Tagaris writes about at Open Left, and which I will expand on in another post. As Todd writes, SEIU will focus on an agenda broader than the direct needs of only SEIU members:

The issues the SEIU is particularly interested in pursuing accountability on are
  • Affordable, quality health care for all.
  • The freedom for all workers to form a union without employer interference.
  • Quality services in our communities with fair, reliable funding.
  • An economy that rewards all workers, not just a few at the top.
  • Citizenship for hard-working, taxpaying immigrants.
I will write about the Justice For All campaign in a later post.

Disclaimer: Blogger hotel and airfare paid for by the SEIU

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SEIU Convention -- These Are PROGRESSIVE People

I am at the SEIU convention in Puerto Rico. There are 3500 representatives here, each representing a number of workers. SEIU now has 2 million members and growth is accelerating.

I'm in a darkened convention hall, listening and absorbing, with things coming at me from all directions. I'm talking to members and leaders. So I am not yet writing a lot. I'm just posting short posts until the larger stories appear and then I'll be writing a lot about this event and ongoing.

This is a great thing happening here. THESE people are going to really make changes happen -- with health care the first priority. This is janitors, health care workers, and others, a real bottom-up movement of people who work hard. This is one of the most diverse crowds I have been in and these are dedicated people. And these are PROGRESSIVE people!

The focus here is beyond the SEIU in particular and labor movement in general. The focus here is on the inequities in our current imbalanced economic system. We all know that it is working for a very few people at the top and not for the rest of us. And SEIU recognizes that they can't make the lives of just their workers better -- even if they could it wouldn't stick if other workers are still at starving wages with no benefits because employers can just use them as a wedge to pressure SEIU workers away from asking for a fair share. So they recognize that they have to work to make the economy start working for everyone.

More to come.

[Disclaimer: Blogger hotel and airfare paid for by the SEIU]

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:57 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

SEIU Convention / Andy Stern Speech Live Webcast

You can see the SEIU convention proceedings and President Andy Stern addressing the 2008 SEIU convention by going to this website: SEIU 2008 Convention, Ustream.TV: Streaming live from SEIU's 2008 Convention in Puerto Rico.

Here is an embed:
Online Video provided by Ustream

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

June 1, 2008

Hillary's Victory Speech in Puerto Rico

Because of various circumstances I ended up about 15-20 feet from Hillary Clinton as she gave her victory speech after winning the Puerto Rico primary. I am here for the SEIU convention, and learned that her event was across a bridge from the hotel I was at for a meeting with SEIU officials. (More on that in another post.) So I took a walk (man, it is humid here) and was able to enter as a member of the press.

As a member of the press I was able to enter the ballroom before the event. This was not a victory party where supporters are celebrating and then the candidate shows up to speak. This was more like a TV set where the candidate gives a speech to cameras. There were bleachers behind the podium, and room for a few people in front of the candidate. But this was entirely about setting up the speech for national TV. I am not saying this is good or bad, it just was what it was.

That said, it was secondarily an event for campaign workers to see the candidate and be part of the speech. First they filled the bleachers behind the podium. I can testify that this was not a carefully selected crowd, with demographics set up to look good -- because someone asked ME if I wanted to be up there! So this was not about photogenic, or looking like a special demographic. It might have been about making babies cry and serious viewers vow never to watch TV again.

I'm out of time now, will write more later. Hillary doesn't appear to be leaving the race by ANY means. Lots of energy and enthusiasm at this event. A very good speech making good points.

Here is the podium with the bleachers:


This shows what I mean this being a TV event, not a ballroom full of people celebrating:


I loved this Clinton As Evita poster that I have been seeing here:


Here is Hillary making a point:



Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

At Hillary Event In Puerto Rico

I'm in San Juan to cover the SEIU convention, but I learned that Hillary's victory speech will be nearby at the Condado Plaza Hotel, so I walked over. Now I am in the press area, waiting for it to start in a few minutes. Hey, there's free food and a free bar, so don't yell at me.

The trouble is I left my computer power cord in my room and only have about 18% power right now. So I'll take pics and write about it later.

I'll be writing about some great things that the SEIU has planned as well.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:52 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack