August 31, 2008
John McCain says, "No, We Can't"
FDL 11 There have been mass arrests, but many have been released almost immediately. Some of the Uptake video people have been arrested.
UPDATE: (5:20 CDT) Apparently there will mass arrests now, and a large part of St. Paul has been closed off to traffic.
UPDATE: (5:00 CDT)
FDL 10. Video of "violence breaking out". Someone has speculated that the police raids before Monday frightened off most of the peaceful demonstrators, producing a smaller but more militant demonstration.
Ellen Goodman of Democracy Now! has been arrested.
(4:00 CDT): FDL 9. One group of protestors is blocking traffic and doing vandalism, and tear gas gas definitely been used. The Jail and hospital where protesters have been taken are locked down -- no one can have any contact with them. I haven't even seen a ball park estimate of how many arrests, but it seems to be in the dozens [over a hundred now I would guess, but I haven't seen an informed estimate].
UPDATE: (3:30 CDT) It looks as though the National Guard has come in. In any case the Uptake video shows camo rather than police uniforms. (3:54 CDT): It seems that there has been considerable disruption of traffic, and also that the police / Guard are preparing some sort of assault. Pepper spray has been used and reportedly tear gas also.
UPDATE (2:24 CDT): Quite a number of people have been pepper sprayed and/or arrested, including at least two reporters/ photographers from the mainstream media.
The police at the Republican Convention have been beefed up with federal money, and they've already made preemptive arrests of protest leaders. I have no special sources or independent information, but I've gathered some links so I can keep on top of what's happening, and I thought I'd share them.
Ramsey County Sheriff Fletcher seems to be the local heavy. Fletcher is under investigation himself for corruption, and it's quite possible that he's now cooperating with Federal law enforcement in order to set up a plea bargain. Federal law enforcement is definitely involved. (Ramsey county includes St. Paul, but city police would normally handle this kind of thing and if I am correct, Fletcher was not called in by the city. In many American cities the police are almost autonomous, and not really under the control of civilian officials, and that may be the case at the moment).
I don't have a link, but I read somewhere that informants are only paid if there are actual arrests, so the potential for provocation is very high.
UPDATE (Mon. a.m.): There's still almost no national coverage, either of the demonstrations or of the raids. I'd post something if I could find it. Send me links if you see them.
So far intimidation and harassment seems to be the police strategy, with relatively few actual arrests.( In one case a houseful of unarmed college-age potential protesters was raided by about 25 heavily-armed, armored police. The Police have infiltrated the groups and their intelligence is very good, and they knew that they had nothing to fear.) The goal seems to be to cripple the groups by confiscating cell phones, cameras, video equipment, computers, and various other things. It may be that media and lawyers are especially being targeted.
Firedoglake 6. The police presence in the Twin Cities has been federalized and is being orchestrated by Homeland Security, the FBI, et al (with the help of $50,000,000 authorized by a Democratic Congress). This has been a real cash cow for the various police departments. As I understand, jurisdictional boundaries are being completely ignored -- Ramsey County police have made arrests in Hennepin County.
Latest from Firedoglake (Lindsay Beyerstein): 2 a.m. raid (Update: apparently the house was not entered, but a car was impounded. This is consistent with the harassment and intimidation theory).
One of the strategies behind choosing Palin for VP is to set up a "grievance trap." Much of the Republican appeal is grievance. "Those snobbish elites are picking on me again." "Those millionaire East Coast New York San Francisco Democrats give special privileges to everyone but me."
So anyone who criticizes will be cast as picking on strong women, etc.
But we have the perfect surrogate to lead the attack on Palin: Hillary Clinton. SHE can charge that this is an inexperienced "token" pick, a misdirection intended to fool people. SHE can charge that this is an anti-choice impostor, fronting for the old white male power structure.
So bring out Hillary, and sic her on Palin.
August 30, 2008
Here are two videos of the spotlights playing over the huge crowd that was at Mile High Stadium for Barack Obama's acceptance speech:
This is a bit of the fireworks following Obama's acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic convention.
This is what the worst possible seats at a convention look like:
Actually no one was seated there and we snuck in because we couldn't find any real seats. (I didn't know there were special seats available for bloggers...)
Howard Dean threw a Blogger BBQ. Here is a short snippet of his talk:
Howard's looking thin.
Here is a slideshow of my photos from the 2008 Democratic Convention. I will organize and post videos as soon as I can.
The button in the lower right of this slideshow frame lets you see these full-screen. The "Info On" button at the top lets you see captions.
I think it looks better with a higher resolution if you go to Flickr to see them. AND you can see and download much higher-resolution versions of each pic if you want.
Why is the McCain campaign running an ad in which the word "hang" appears with a picture of Obama?
Is it just a mistake? Maybe, but the McCain campaign has a track record of running very carefully prepared ads that include code words designed to trigger a particular reaction from targeted segments of the Republican base. Recently the McCain campaign ran an ad about Obama being "The One" -- meaning the antichrist. The McCain campaign denied it but the authors of the "Left Behind" series understand this to be the meaning of the ad.
So what segment of the Republican base is the McCain campaign reaching out to with this ad? And what exactly are they hoping to trigger?
P.S. read this about that Denver assassination plot I linked to in the previous paragraph.
I admit to being stunned by McCain's VP choice of Sarah Palin. She is a stunning beauty queen who has served a stunning two years as Governor of Alaska after serving a stunning two terms on the Wasilla, Alaska city council and two terms as mayor. (As of the 2000 census, Wasilla's population was 5,470.)
I'm stunned that McCain picked a politician who is currently under investigation for abusing power by firing the state's Public Safety Commissioner for refusing to fire a state trooper involved in a child custody battle with Palin's sister.
I'm stunned (and insulted as a citizen) that McCain feels he can place a heartbeat away from the Presidency a hard-core creationist with NO foreign policy experience or even positions. She is not just a creationist but has so little respect for our Constitution that she advocates teaching "Biblical principles" and creationism in our public schools -- in other words, forcing the teaching of one branch of one particular religion.
So yes, this is a stunning choice for Vice President.
*P.S. This is filed in STF's "Party Over Country" category.
Go see the pic: Jesus' General: A Heartbeat Away
August 29, 2008
Here is a video of Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Mile High Stadium in Denver Thursday evening:
Here are the first couple of photos from last night:
Click this one for a larger image:
There was no internet access at Mile High Stadium, and I arrived rather early. I have tons of pictures and a lot to say, but a plane to catch. So it's all coming Soon.
August 28, 2008
Click through to Swiftboating 2.0. There is an incredible chart that outlines the right's attack strategy on Obama.
As the means of communication have evolved, presidential campaigns have grown increasingly multifaceted, with each election featuring layers of complexity that were not present four years before. The most striking feature of the 2008 election may be the sheer volume and variation of the attacks being directed at Sen. Barack Obama. Though they come from many sources, arrive through a variety of media, and cover a wide range of subjects, a close examination reveals a unified thematic structure to these attacks.
Ah, I have internet access at last! Did you catch Obama saying "Mile High Stadium" last night instead of "Generic Corporate Name" Stadium? Good for him!
August 27, 2008
I went for a walk. A fast-moving motorcade passed, Obama in back seat of a big Suburban, heading toward Pepsi Center.
Kerry is speaking. This seems like a good time to point out that he has a primary challenger: Ed O'Reilly: http://www.edoreilly.com/
Almost four years ago I wrote,
I would like to coin a term for the Washington "centrist," "DLC" Democrats that we have all become so sick of: "Concession Democrats." These are the Democrats who refuse to recognize the right-wing takeover of the country and its consequences. They have conceded at every turn, allowing the Right to advance, step by step, and finally take over.
Kerry conceded. He rolled over. He conceded in my name. HE conceded MY vote. I didn't want him to do that, but he did. And by conceding Kerry paved the way for Bush to claim a "mandate." Had he held out, even for a few more days, Bush and the Right would not have been able to come out and seize the initiative and frame the message, "The people have spoken" and begin the process of getting rid of Social Security, getting rid of progressive taxation, getting rid of separation of church and state, getting rid of public education, getting rid of unions, getting rid of consumer protections, getting rid of what remains of a free America, and continuing to make war on the world. Kerry allowed Bush to say, "I will reach out to those who share my goals." But Kerry either did not understand that was what would happen, or did not care.
Sorry I have not posted today. I have been in events and meetings all day. And then the long, long, hot walks covering vast distances between events - with no transportation.
There is just too much going on during a convention. This only happens every four years, a huge gathering of Democrats from all across the country. This is people who have been working hard for years to help elect the people who can restore our country. It is like a super Netroots Nation but with maybe 30-40,000 people here. The thing about it is, everyone here is ON OUR SIDE. So it is all brothers and sisters, everyone you talk to. Even the cab drivers are all for Obama. (Today's driver was for Hillary but is for Obama now...) Progressive values: community. Everyone in it together, watching out for each other.
Question: was there a focus group that spat out the words, "I'd like to see the words, 'Made In America' again." How many convention speeches have had those exact words in them?
Tell me -- how does someone lose a computer battery? But I did! I'm OK: I have the huge, bulky extended battery in the computer. But where did the normal battery go? I'll be buying a new one I guess.
In my email is the usual Costco Deals email. It just seems so strange to get an email like that on day three of this frantic whirlwind, hundreds of convention emails, TVs all around me here at the Big Tent blasting the convention. Costco Deals?
Anyway, I WILL be writing later, even if it is after I get back. I have a lot of things from this that I want to put into words.
Here are two new videos about the Employee Free Choice Act. I'm helping SEIU get these videos about they're doing at the convention out on the blogs. They just did these two on EFCA, have a look
Question: If you are a progressive, should it be a responsibility to donate $20 a week to progressive organizations? Not candidates, organizations.
If McCain doesn't choose Huckabee for VP, he is insulting all the evangelicals in the Republican Party.
August 26, 2008
OK, I am avoiding talking about what people are saying at the convention. Part of that is because when I look at a TV screen I see people talking about what people are saying at the convention but not showing you what people are saying at the convention.
But another part of it is that I am "inside the bubble" here and things are flying at me too fast to let me gather up an informed opinion. I know a lot less about what is happening on the stage at the convention than YOU do.
I picked up my credential this morning, and this evening made my way to the security perimeter, and then got in the line to go through the "security tent." Here is a photo of the line:
The convention hall is a big sports arena. It's crowded:
All the seats are already full. Really full. But I found a seat. Here is the view:
Yes, this is BEHIND the stage. But it is a seat and it is IN the hall itself!
So after enough of this I found the Blogger Press Room:
And put up this post. Like I said before, I'll put up videos later when I can.
Update I just learned that there are good blogger seats if you get there early and claim one.
I saw Carl Bernstein on CNN or something either last night or this morning, and he said that media should spend more time covering the convention instead of talking about it. Yep.
I'd like to spend more time covering OR talking about it and less time on half-hour or forty-five-minute walks between events. It is HOT out!
I went to a Blogger BBQ with Howard Dean. It was noce that they threw this for us. But it was on the other side of the convention center, another half-hour walk, and afterwards the Secret Service wouldn't let any of us back in through that entrance so we all had to walk around the entire perimeter... As I have mentioned, the distances here are vast, making it near-impossible to get from one thing to another.
I'm pretty sure that they noticed that some of the bloggers have been gaining weight, and arranged this convention in a way that requires us to work a lot of it off. They want to keep us healthy so we can keep blogging promoting their candidates -- for free of course.
I am uploading a video from this to YouTube as well and will post it here when ready.
This morning in Denver I attended a Seachange Forum panel on messaging titled "Winning Words on the Toughest Issues: National Security, Taxes, Healthcare and Immigration"
This was an excellent panel on how to talk about progressive values and issues in ways that the public "hears." To really, really simplify the issue, in a 1988 campaign debate between Michael Dukakis and George HW Bush Dukakis was asked, "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis [his wife] were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" Dukakis replied coolly, "No, I don't, and I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life," and calmly went on to explain his position.
He was calm and reasoned, but the public needed to see emotion. Emotion, not reason is how people decide what they think about issues and people. It's just the way it is -- it is how our brains work. This is what neuroscientists, psychologists, marketers and others who study how people make up their minds are concluding. You have to connect viscerally or people just won't "get it."
So one thing this panel was talking about was how Democratic politicians can reach people through emotions instead of just listing issues. And, fortunately, many Democratic politicians are starting to learn how to say what they say in ways that people hear.
Is this enough?
I used to complain that progressives put all of their efforts into election cycles, hoping for a "messiah candidate" to come along. In Messiah Candidate Thinking I wrote,
I don't think that one person or one election is going to lead us out of the wilderness. I think there is a lot of work required before progressives can win again and turn America in a progressive direction.So we have moved a long way, from looking for the "right" candidate who "knows" how to reach the public to come along and save us, to helping many candidates understand how to reach the public.
. . . This right-wing assault has eroded the public's understanding of (and belief in) democracy and community. It has even eroded understanding of - and faith in - science and reason! So I think there is a lot of work that has to be done to bring things back. We have to spend the money and do the work and take the time to build the think tanks and communications organizations (like Commonweal Institute) that will reach the public and explain and promote the benefits of progressive values and a progressive approach to issues. Over time this effort will restore public demand for progressive candidates.
Messiah-Candidate Thinking is a way to avoid facing the changes that have occurred in America. It is a way to put off the work that needs to be done.
OK, so progress. But I left the panel feeling like this understanding how to talk to people is still a very reactive approach. It is still catching up to the right, and trying to come up with magic slogans that will suddenly turn the public in our favor. It is good, it is important, it is a start. But it's still a search for a quick fix.
I think the answer is long term. We ust have to go through the hard slog of building a movement. We need to build and fund an infrastructure of organizations that reach out to the public, explaining the benefits to them of a progressive approach to issues, and of voting for progressive candidates. It is going to take years and decades to help people understand why one-person-one-vote democratic solutions work better for everyone than conservative one-dollar-one-vote approaches. It is going to take a long time for people to remember why we're-all-in-this-together is better than -everyone-on-their-own, in it for ourselves approach. They're way sounds great but it is a food chain with a very few at the top, and the rest of us end up as the food. We need to spend the time and effort to help the public understand that again.
It requires a movement and a lot of work, not a quick fix.
Note -- on the panel were: John Neffinger (Truman Security Project Communications, Formerly Director of Communications & Outreach at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Public Speaking and Body Language Consultant), Dr. Drew Westen (Author of the "The Political Brain"), Richard Kirsch (Campaign Manager of Healthcare for America Now and Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York) and Stan Greenberg (Political Pollster and CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research). This was one of the Seachange Forum's panels going on at the Starz Green Room.
(I'm helping Seachange by leting people know about these events at the convention.)
One problem that many people attending this convention are forced to deal with is the sheer distance between events. First, getting from the airport into town is a very expensive cab ride with few other choices.
I was immediately struck that there is no light rail system out to the airport! I don't understand how a major airport near a major city could have been planned and built without incorporating light rail from the start. Of course, this was all done in the unfortunate oil/car-dominated era that we are all working to end...
In town convention events are vast distances apart. Even inside the security perimeter itself things are far apart. It is a long walk in the sun to get from the Pepsi Center to the Tivoli, where the Starz Green Room is. It is a very long walk from the Big Tent to the Starz Green Room. Etc.
Getting my official convention credentials this morning meant taking a cab for miles, to a hotel in another part of town. (Long lines, waiting, waiting...) And then there were no cabs available to take me back. Miles and miles... There was a free city "16th street mall" shuttle that helped part of the way.
So this is a problem with this convention. Having things far apart might be OK if there was some way to get from one place to another. You can't have a car here but everything seems to require that you do.
And of course in the larger picture this is the problem with the way America has built up its housing/mall/freeway infrastructure. You have to have a car, period, or you cannot participate in the modern America except in a few larger cities that have well-thought-out transportation. This requirement that you have a car imposes a certain cost on people. But there are plenty of people who can't meet those costs and are forced to drop out of participation. So look what happened in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Many people simply could not evacuate because they did not have their own cars, and there was no real transportation available otherwise.
America has created distances between people, classes, and even physical distance requirements that work against us in the long run. This kind of approach, where you can't participate if you can't afford your own car is anti-democracy. In the case of this convention, it was just dumb.
August 25, 2008
It is about 6:45pm Denver time in The Big Tent -- the "blogger central" of the convention. Finally some time to blog. Senator Ted Kennedy just spoke. That was quite a moment, reminding us that America was once able to send people to the moon, and that maybe one day we can get back to that kind of vision. Later Michelle Obama speaks and I will post an update.
They have a live audio feed from the hall itself, and big-screen TVs around the tent with network coverage, so you don't always see on the TV what you are hearing. That is probably a very good thing because I don't care what Wolf Blitzer says and I can safely say that none of the bloggers here do either.
There are supposed to be about 400 people here in the blogger Big Tent. That seemed about right today. This is a steel-frame temporary building that was just finished Saturday, I think. The name comes from the Republican Party's focus-group certified slogan, which means that everyone is welcome to vote for Republicans -- and no matter what you end up giving tax cuts to the rich and losing your health insurance, savings, pension, home and job.
Around Pepsi Center
There is a very big perimeter around the Pepsi center itself. I walked several blocks around that over to the other side of the perimeter. As you walk you pass so many people heading to or from the convention, many of them recognizable. "Isn't that ...?" Paul Begalia riding in a bicycle taxi. Journalists you've seen on TV, etc...
The convention has a different crowd that the big tent -- people are dressed better. Bloggers tend to wear shorts and t-shorts. In the convention hall (I learned four years ago the hard way) a guy would tend to dress up much more and you might feel out of place without a sportcoat. (I don't know how to describe the same thing for a woman.)
Starz Green Room
After walking (and walking) I checked in at the Starz Green Room. It is well air conditioned. You see, that matters a lot when there are hundreds or more people everywhere you go, after walking on a hot day with the sun at this altitude burning you. And everyone here does a lot of walking because of that several-block security perimeter.
The Starz green Room has a film festival going on, and the Seachange Forum panel series. Click through and scroll down for the schedule.) I wasn't able to stay long, but it is a great, welcoming environment, professionally run with great content. If you have a credential into the convention itself you should look at the schedule and reserve a place for one of their events.
More Big Tent
So this evening many people have gone over to the convention hall so it has cleared out and is somewhat less of a zoo (there is free beer). You can actually find a seat now, but not that many I was an idiot who didn't get his credentials in time so I get to stay here. Tomorrow I will be in the hall.
Here is what I look like blogging on a couch here:
(Taken with Flip Video supplied by the Voter Genome Project)
Click here to see today's earlier convention post with pic and video.
Let me know what you want me to cover here at the convention.
- shortest Democratic convention - Baltimore in 1872. It lasted just SIX hours.
- longest Democratic convention - New York in 1924 ... SEVENTEEN DAYS.
Details should remain in the archives.
I have arrived at the Big Tent! (I shared a cab with a Fox employee who works for Karl Rove. She's very nice but they've got her staying out at the Motel 6 ten miles away (with no transportation between...)
I screwed up on my convention credentials for tonite. You have to go to a hotel somewhere by 1, my computer clock said noon, and I forgot about the time difference... So I guess I'll just have to be at the Big Tent (I needed the excuse.)
Here is a shot of the Big Tent:
I know many of the people here, from Netroots Nation and other events. The place is great, and I want to add that the pre-planning -- emails, conference calls, other orientation materials -- was some of the best I have ever come across.
This place is a zoo, laptops everywhere, people everywhere, conversation, noise, film crews reporters interviewing people...
I'll post a YouTube in a few minutes, and update this when it.
Update Here is a short video of the big tent. I have a Flip Video supplied by the Voter Genome Project so I'll be posting much more.
On the ground in Denver, amid 4,000 delegates, roughly 15,000 media and countless bloggers, fundraisers, lobbyists and citizens (even!), two questions are highly anticipated:
- how well will Barack Obama (re-)introduce himself - along with the parallel narrative now of his running mate Joe Biden, as a leader who can transcend partisanship and move forward, at home and abroad; and
- will the Clintons - both Clintons - navigate the waters of full-throated endorsement, without a gaffe, intended or implied.
On the first, the MSM consensus seems split between hackneyed 'where's the meat?'
(a question which never seemed to trouble Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, incidentally) and can he escape the efforts of the Rove disciples of McCain to portray Barack Obama as a scary alien (the Other).
On the latter, I was fortunate to open a copy of Farhad Manjoo's fascinating book True Enough on the eve of the convention. A sort of a neo-Lakoff, proto-Westen analysis, True Enough tackles the innuendo campaigns of the Swiftboaters, etc., chronicling their decision to forgo the 'fact-based' unhappiness of some veterans with John Kerry's anti-war testimony in Congress about the Vietnam War - and take their ultimately successful tact of contriving mostly fictional challenges to his wartime record of bravery in battle.
A good read, and a factor we must all address. More on this soon.
On the latter, the Clintons' behavior, your guess is as good as [or batter than] mine. To date, the odds point in one direction, however!
A former Journalist [Reuters] and one-time boy-on-the-bus , I've been blogging, fundraising, community organizing, etc., for years, and am currently communications director for California's Silicon Valley For Obama www.sv4obama.com and a convener of ObamaScribes http://www.sv4obama.com/scribes, a loosely knit group of writers actively submitting letters to the editor to local and regional newspapers, broadcasters and bloggers in support of Barack Obama for President.
If you know what Twitter is, I'm http://twitter.com/dcjohnson
If you don't know what Twitter is, never mind.
August 24, 2008
The Congressional Budget Office, the agency charged with providing Congress with objective analyses of federal programs, released a new report today that shows the Social Security program is in good financial shape and will be for decades to come.Don't believe the lies. Social Security is fine. They borrowed all the money from the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for tax cuts for the rich -- so why is that Social Security's problem?
The money for those tax cuts was borrowed from the Social Security Trust Tund, and America's rich people have had quite a party with that money. That means that America's rich people owe the money to the elderly. It was borrowed from the elderly and it has to be paid back to the elderly. It is wrong to ask elderly retirees to accept less because we gave the money away to rich people to have a big party with.
August 23, 2008
That Big Tent thing in the left column is an aggregator of everything posted by bloggers participating in The Big Tent in Denver. The Big Tent is a blogger/progressive movement facility that will host 400 bloggers and progressive leaders for convention week.
And I'll be in the convention hall as well, writing about events there.
Please help pay for this trip. It isn't too expensive -- plane ticket and room for several nights mostly, but I could use some help paying for it all.
You can sign up for seeing the Forest on Facebook by clicking the "badge" in the right column, or the one here:
While we're at it, you can email any post out to others by clicking where it says "Email this" at the end of that post.
While we're at it, if you like any post, click where it says Digg at the end of the post. Also where it says Reddit. The Thumb This Up is for StumbleUpon. And you can Bookmark on Delicious.
Where we're at it, take a look at that Buzz It button. This is a great one to use because it places the post on BuzzFlash.net. Go take a look at BuzzFlash.net! This is a place for progressives to get news and interesting article links. It's part of the BuzzFlash progressive news site.
While we're at it, that Spotlight link takes you to the Spotlight project.
The Spotlight Project enables the progressive blogging community (bloggers, commenters, and lurkers) to quickly and easily forward blog posts, along with their own comments, to nearly anyone in the media.And, finally, there is that TIP JAR. The TIP JAR lets you donate to Seeing the Forest, to help keep the site going.
And always, always, always visit Seeing the Forest's advertisers. Also visit advertisers at other blogs. This helps all of the bloggers develop an ecosystem that will bring jobs, news, contributions to candidates and a progressive future to the contry.
Next week I am heading to Denver to cover the Democratic Convention! I will be taking my camera, and just as I did four years ago I will be writing and posting pics for you all day, every day from the convention hall as well as the "Big Tent" that progressive bloggers are setting up.
Of course this involves expenses. I have to cover plane fare, lodging, meals, local transportation and my ticket into the Big Tent.
So I am asking for help to cover these expenses.
Please consider donating to help me cover the costs of this trip. I use PayPal to take donations, and they take credit cards. If you already have a PayPal account, just click. Otherwise after you click there is a simple signup procedure.
The PayPal button is down a ways in the left column and I am including it here for your convenience:
This is a secure online payment method which accepts major credit cards. Please help me meet expenses.
REPUBLICAN OFFENDERS tracks Republicans convicted of or indicted for felonies in the last ten years.
It is a verrrry long list.
I think we have to beat McCain. His performance last week concerning Russia and Georgia shows that he is dangerous, trigger happy and is willing to encourage fear and hostility and risk nuclear war for little reason.
I think any continuation of Bush policies would be ruinous for an already-ruined country.
I think ANY choices of our leaders by anyone other than the people is an insult to democracy so I am not big on the way America chooses vice-presidents. In my lifetime we have had LBJ and Ford as Presidents who were in no way chosen by the people. (And then Bush was imposed on us by the Republican majority of the Supreme court.)
I think all the hoo-ha over who will be "picked" for us just shows what we're willing to tolerate and how far we have to go before we really understand what democracy means.
August 21, 2008
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Not content with blocking the budget, the right is going after the Republican Governor for trying to govern. See Schwarzenegger engages in talk-show tussle,
Schwarzenegger tried to defend new taxes as necessary because the state was still paying off debts incurred by predecessor Gov. Gray Davis. But the hosts pressed further and suggested that Schwarzenegger abandoned his original mission of fixing the state's fiscal situation in order to pursue environmental goals.In fact the state is paying off debts incurred by Governor Schwarzenegger, but at least he is trying to move the far-right Republicans off of their "no taxes under any circumstances" ideology. The Governor is trying to govern and should get credit for that, even if it is governing from the right. The far-right that is the rest of the state's Republican Party apparently doesn't want government at all, especially not government-by-the-people. There are lots of people. They want a one-dollar-one-vote approach favored by corporations and the rich who have lots of dollars.
That seemed to upset the governor, who maintained that his environmental policies had nothing to do with the state budget.
"This is absolutely absurd what you're saying right now," Schwarzenegger said. "....You're living in the Stone Age if you think that the environmental issue has anything to do with the budget or the declining economy worldwide."
"Don't lie to the people," Schwarzenegger added. "That's all I can tell you, don't lie to the people. Don't pull wool over their eyes. It's nonsense Republican right-wing talk."
That prompted the "anesthesia" joke. Schwarzenegger underwent anesthesia Saturday when he had arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee.
Please click through to Speak Out California
August 19, 2008
If you are going to be in Denver next week for the Democratic Convention check out the Starz Green Room. Their description:
The Starz Green Room at the Starz FilmCenter offers major movies, newsmakers of all stripes and a place for delegates, media and notable guests to gather. Just a respite from the 2008 Democratic National Convention, it is mere steps from the Pepsi Center. The Starz Green Room includes topical panels, politically themed films and a VIP Lounge.
There are a ton of movies they will be showing -- contemporary as well as classic films with topical themes. The Impact Film Festival is presenting such films as Flow, I.O.U.S.A., Battle in Seattle, Trouble the Water, The Black List, The Accidental Advocate, and others. Most of the contemporary films will be followed by conversations with the filmmakers and others associated with the projects.
Events and Book Signings include:
Arianna Huffington and her book "Right is Wrong," 8/25 12:30pm–1:30pm Book signing
Drew Westen and "The Political Brain" 8/25 3:30pm–5:00pm both a book signing and a presentation. I've seen Drew talk and you shouldn't miss this.
David Sirota and his new book "The Uprising" 8/26 12:00pm–1:00pm -- both a book signing and a presentation.
There are dozens of book signings and presentations by authors.
Digby Digby: There is a SeaChange Communications Ideas Forum panel called, "Who’s Driving Whom? The Blogosphere vs. Mainstream Media," 8/25 11:00am–12:30pm.
Moderator: Arianna Huffington (Founder of the Huffington Post), Jonathan Alter (Senior Editor and Political Columnist for Newsweek Politics)Digby (Founding Blogger of Hullabaloo) Chris Cillizza (Washington Post’s politics blog, “The Fix”)
A panel I will not miss: SeaChange Communications Ideas Forum: Democracy Alliance: Colorado as a Model–Donor Cooperation for Social Change, 8/27 10:00am–11:30am
Panelists: Rob Stein (Founder, Democracy Alliance) Rob McKay (Executive Director, The McKay Foundation) Laurie Hirschfeld Zeller (Executive Director, Colorado Democracy Alliance) Kelly Craighead (Executive Director, Democracy Alliance)
There are tons of panels. Check the schedule for more.
You need credentials to get into the convention to attend. Tix are at the seachangecom.com site by each individual event.
I'm helping out with this effort so I'll be writing about it in advance as well as writing about some of the events.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
One more attempt to get a state budget in place collapsed -- blocked by the Republicans because it included tax increases. Republicans insist that the budget be balanced with billions and billions of dollars in cuts in our schools and fire protection and the other things most of us want our state to do.
I would bet that most of California's public doesn't know what is going on with our budget. They only know that there isn't one, and that this is causing problems. It makes people angry, and causes them to lose faith in government.
People know that government employees are being forced to take pay cuts, and many are being laid off. But they really do not know why.
Yesterday's budget vote was 45-30. The public doesn't understand that this means that there were forty-five votes FOR the budget and only thirty votes against, and this is why it failed. They don't understand that because it does not make sense. But because of a trick that the Republicans were able to play on the public the rules are that it takes a two-thirds vote to pass a budget. So an overwhelming vote of 45-30 FOR the budget means that the budget does NOT pass!
Every Republican in the state has taken a vow not to raise taxes on wealthy corporations or massively wealthy individuals. They won't vote to require people who buy yachts or private jets to pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay when we buy cars. They refuse to ask oil companies to pay fees when they take our oil out of the ground and sell it to us. (Maybe they understand that such a vote will dry up their campaign funding...)
News stories about the latest budget collapse:
Although the $105.2 billion budget blueprint garnered a majority vote, 45-30, it fell short of the two-thirds supermajority that California's constitution requires to pass a budget.
. . . The vote "shows clearly that we're not going to vote for taxes," said Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines, R-Fresno.
Wall Street Journal:
"We're fundamentally saying 'no tax increases,'" said Mike Villines, the Assembly Republican leader.
They will require workers to take pay cuts and layoffs. They will cut our school budgets. They will cut transportation, the DMV, road repair, law enforcement, prisons, fire protection. But they will not ask wealthy corporations or extremely wealthy individuals to pitch in.
And here is why: by and large California's public doesn't know this. They are not being informed that this is entirely because a small minority of Republicans refuse to represent the public's interests, choosing to represent the wealthy corporations and wealthiest few people.
In fact, the public likely believes that it is the Democrats who are keeping the budget from being passed. If you Google the word Democrat with the word obstruction and you get about 600,000 results. This is a national result, but it reflects the same strategy in use in California. Republicans spent years accusing Democrats of being "obstructionist" when they were not, as a strategy to pressure them to pass Republican-/corporate-oriented bills. Now, after blocking almost everything that the nation's Congress is doing, the Republicans are campaigning saying that the Democrats in Congress aren't passing anything! Meanwhile a new Drum Major Institute polls shows that 72% of middle-class Americans can't name a single bill passed by Congress in the last two years that benefited them or their families! (Minimum wage increase, stimulus package, college more affordable, SCHIP...)
Less than two in five (38%) middle-class respondents to the Drum Major Institute's new poll say they live comfortably. One-third (34%) say they meet their basic expenses each month with just a little left over for extras, while one-quarter (26%) of middle-class adults would say they just meet their basic expenses (17%) or have trouble meeting their basic expenses each month (9%). And, economy and jobs tops their concerns. They are pessimistic about the direction of the economy. They think it's more likely that Brangelina will celebrate their 25th anniversary than gas prices returning to $3 a gallon.
But they do not understand WHY. They don't make the connection between the corporate-controlled Republican party and what is happening to the country.
How do Republicans get away with this? How are they able to get the public to think so many things that are not true? The Republicans have a vast "noise machine" that tells the public things that are not true. (Remember how they were able to convince so many people that Iraq had attacked us on 9/11?) It costs a lot of money to have a noise machine like this, but they get the money from the very corporations and wealthy individuals whose interests they are representing. So it works for them.
Plain and simple, they are bale to reach the public and tell them stuff, and get the public to believe it. The use of overwhelming repetition is the tactic. I use the word “stuff” here with meaning: it’s just stuff they want the public to believe, with no grounding in reality. They do it, and here we are. Nationally the debt is approaching TEN TRILLION DOLLARS and they are still able to get the public to think taxes are bad. In California they are able to force layoffs and school cuts while refusing to make the ultra-rich pay even the same taxes the rest of us pay.
Please click through to Speak Out California an leave a comment with suggestions on how to fight this.
Here are three questions for John McCain. They will not be asked.
1) IF your military commanders tell you that The Surge needs to be continued, and that more troops are needed in Afghanistan, will you implement the draft to keep the country protected?
2) IF your statement that lowering taxes brings more revenue to the government turn out not to work, and the deficit continues to grow, what will you do?
3) AT the Saddleback Forum you were asked, "At what point does a baby receive human rights?" You answered "At conception."
So I have two questions for you. One: There is a fire at a fertility clinic. In one room there is a 3-month-old baby. In another is a thermos with 3,000 fertilized eggs. You have time to save the baby or the thermos. Which do you save?
Two: If a woman has intercourse and an egg is fertilized, but the woman stands up before three days pass, the egg might not implant properly. Is it murder if a woman stands up within three days of intercourse?
Remember how impeaching Bush was "off the table" so the Congress could get important work done? For a refresher, here is one conversation with Speaker Pelosi on this:
Dave Johnson (of Seeing the Forest):We seem to be at a historic time right now with an administration that is starting to frankly assert that they are above the rule of law, and I’m wondering if you as Speaker can give us a short statement on this issue and what Congress is prepared to do to re-assert the rule of law of the people of the country.
(Follow [this link and scroll down] to read her response.) Then Mike Stark asked about impeachment. Her reply,I made a decision a few years ago, or at least one year ago, that impeachment was something that we could not be successful with and that would take up the time we needed to do some positive things to establish a record of our priorities and their short-comings, and the President is... ya know what I say? The President isn’t worth it... he’s not worth impeaching. We’ve got important work to do... If he were at the beginning of his term, people may think of it differently, but he’s at the end of his terms. The first two years of his term, if we came in as the majority, there might be time to do it all...
Mike, of course, responded,Mike Stark: Respectfully, that’s not the question. Respectfully, the question is whether or not the Constitution is worth it.
Many argue that impeachment will distract the Congress from passing a progressive agenda. That is a pipe dream. The Republicans in the Senate are blocking everything. The President will veto anything that passes. And if something somehow manages to become law the Republicans and the President will just ignore it anyway.
The following from today's Wall Street Journal is right-wing propaganda so of course doesn't explain that the reason nothing got done is that Republicans blocked everything. But this was the point we in the Netroots were trying to make -- the Republicans are going to block everything anyway... Here is the right today: As U.S. Economic Problems Loom, House, Senate Sweat the Small Stuff,
Barring a burst of legislative activity after Labor Day, this group of 535 men and women will have accomplished a rare feat. In two decades of record keeping, no sitting Congress has passed fewer public laws at this point in the session -- 294 so far -- than this one. That's not to say they've been idle. On the flip side, no Congress in the same 20 years has been so prolific when it comes to proposing resolutions -- more than 1,900, according to a tally by the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense.
In November 2007 I made some predictions for what we would see happen in time for this year's Presidential election. One of my predictions for the w008 election was:
3) Accusations that we have a Do-Nothing Ineffective Congress -- Republicans are filibustering everything, and Bush is vetoing the rest. Every single bill. The media is already running with a "Dems won't compromise' and "Dems can't get anything done" narrative and Congress is at a record low approval. You bet we'll be hearing this - they are hard at work developing it. Unless the Democrats start making a lot of noise about this and sustain it -and get the media to report the facts - the Republicans will get away with it.Guess what, the Republicans blocked everything, and now say the Democratic Congress is not getting anything done. Duh!
But who could have seen that coming?
This Darwin Awards candidate actually tried to kite surf in a tropical storm. See the results.
Kevin was on Fort Lauderdale beach when Fay's winds took the 26-year-old for a ride. Kearney, who was harnessed into his kite sail, couldn't break free when he was lifted into the air.
August 18, 2008
Speaking to the VFW today, John McCain reverted to using rhetoric from the 1950's, talking about "the free world". He apparently wants to launch a new "Cold War" which was very, very good for the military contracting industry.
. . . We have seen such things before, as in the Balkans and in earlier periods of European history, and now we must ensure that events in Georgia do not unfold into a tragedy of greater scale. When young democracies are threatened or attacked, and innocent civilians are targeted, they should be able to count on the free world for support and solidarity.The FREE WORLD? Man, I haven't heard that one in a long time, except the other day when Bush used it. The corporate right sure is good at sticking to their talking points.
If I am elected president, they will have that support. And in cooperation with our friends and allies in Europe, we will make it clear to Russia's rulers that acts of violence and intimidation come at a heavy cost.
August 17, 2008
Barack Obama gave an interview to CBN, the Christian Broadcasting Network. Asking about the "antichrist" smears and McCain's use of them in his ads the interviewer says to Obama, "Let's face it, let's call a spade a spade."
I figure he didn't mean it that way. But he might have been more careful about it.
Transcript: Let me ask you a little about some of these ads that John McCain has been running not just on television, but on the web. Let's face it, let's call a spade a spade, there has been some Messianic references, there's been some antichrist stuff going on, the celebrity, they're trying to pigeonhole you a certain way. Do you believe this is being done on purpose?The entire interview is very good, click to go see it.
Obama: Well of course it's being done on purpose. They're not spending a whole bunch of money to make me out as a good guy. They're engaging in the kind of politics that I think we've become accustomed to which is you try to tear your opponents down and you engage in sort of slash and burn tactics. And very personal sort of personal character attacks. And one of the challenges for us in this campaign is how do you make sure those attacks are answered quickly and forcefully, but also truthfully and that we don't fall into that same kind of tactic. And look, I think ultimately the American people are going to understand by the time they go into the polling place in November that this is not an election about me. This an election about them - ordinary people, their lives, their hopes their dreams, the fact that their incomes have gone down over the last eight years, the fact that their jobs are less secure, that they have less retirement security, that their kids can't afford college, that jobs are being shipped overseas that the tax code isn't fair and that special interests have come to dominate Washington. And as long as we're communicating an active plan to fix those problems then I think we're going to do well.
Hey, I just noticed that Seeing the Forest had its two millionth reader.
In a book, at campaign stops and in an ad John McCain tells a story about a North Vietnamese prison guard drawing a cross in the dirt:
In his 1999 memoir, Faith of My FathersWell guess what, a Kos diarist has come up with something interesting: Cross in the Dirt" story stolen from Solzhenitsyn,"We both stood wordlessly looking at the cross until, after a minute or two, he rubbed it out and walked away. I saw my good Samaritan often after the Christmas when we venerated the cross together."In his campaign ad in December, he adds mention of "the true light of Christmas":"We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas. I will never forget that no matter where you are, no matter how difficult the circumstances, there will always be someone who will pick you up."At the Saddleback Civil Forum:"For a minute there, it was just two Christians worshipping together."
A story about Alexander Solzhenitsyn from his times in the Soviet Gulags.The source of that story about Solzhenitsyn is The Sign of the Cross, Fr. Luke Veronis, In Communion, issue 8, Pascha 1997 but clearly the story was known before 1997 for Fr. Veronis to cite it here. Update - the source is Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, published in the West in 1973.Slowly he looked up and saw a skinny old prisoner squat down beside him. The man said nothing. Instead, he used a stick to trace in the dirt the sign of the Cross. The man then got back up and returned to his work.
As Solzhenitsyn stared at the Cross drawn in the dirt his entire perspective changed. He knew he was only one man against the all-powerful Soviet empire. Yet he knew there was something greater than the evil he saw in the prison camp, something greater than the Soviet Union. He knew that hope for all people was represented by that simple Cross. Through the power of the Cross, anything was possible.
In the winter of 1974, unbound and mimeographed samizdat copies of The Gulag Archipelago began being surreptitiously passed between Soviet citizens. These initial readers were normally given 24 hours to finish the work before passing it on to the next person, requiring the reader to spend an uninterrupted day and night to get through the work. Years later, this initial generation of Soviet readers could still recall who had given them their copy, to whom they had passed it on, and who they had trusted enough to discuss their thoughts about the book.
Here is McCain in his ad:
Here is McCain, being "reluctant" to tell this "powerful story" about his "faith":
John McCain is more reluctant to talk about his own faith. And he has had rocky relations with religious conservatives. But McCain is a believer, and he has a powerful story about the time his own faith was tested — when he was being tortured as a prisoner of war.
One Christmas morning, he was allowed out of his cell for a few moments. As he stood alone in the prison courtyard, one of the Vietnamese guards — who had shown some small kindness to McCain in the past — walked up to him.
"Then with his sandal, the guard drew a cross in the dirt," McCain said. "We stood wordlessly there for a minute or two, venerating the cross, until the guard rubbed it out and walked away. To me, that was faith: a faith that unites and never divides, a faith that bridges unbridgeable gaps in humanity. It is the faith that we are all equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is the faith I would die to defend."
... That story is often about all the Arizona senator will say about his faith, much to the chagrin of his evangelical supporters.
Here is the Dallas Morning News, writing about last night's event:
It is a well-worn story for veterans of the McCain campaign, but it was concrete and direct, without a whiff of Christian apologetics, and it produced one of the evening’s many bursts of sustained applause.
So, is this story just more carefully-crafted Republican propaganda, one more "powerful story" intended to trick the Christians into voting for them, so they can give ever-greater tax cuts to the rich and subsidies (and drilling leases) to oil companies?
Update - Andew Sullivan points out that McCain's early accounts of captivity do not include this story, and asks when McCain first told it.
Shortly after John McCain came back from Vietname in 1973, he wrote a detailed 12,000 word report of his experiences that was published in US News and World Report.And in 2000 McCain told the story - saying it was a different prisoner.
Even though McCain goes into a lot of detail in that story and mentions religion a few times, there is no mention of the cross in the sand story, even though it would have fitted in well with the whole narrative. There are numerous mentions of Vietnamese guards in the reports, mostly bad ones but also good ones, but there is no indication at all that any of them would have been Christian, although "[a] lot of them were homosexual".
Looks like McCain really WAS telling a whopper to get votes. And he's been caught red-state-handed.
August 15, 2008
Republicans are insisting that our government give oil companies leases to drill off our shores. We are witnessing an unprecedented joint, coordinated campaign, involving oil companies and a political party, to trick the public into
1) supporting giving billions of dollars (more) worth of government leases to oil companies, for their profit, even while these companies are sitting on other millions of acres of leases and not using them and
2) supporting a political party with the same advertising message. This is what is called an "integrated" marketing campaign -- combining TV, radio, astroturf, industry-front "think tanks," "earned" news media, paid speakers and the unusual addition of a political campaign.
This at a time when the planet's climate is threatened by the CO2 going into the air from the coal and oil we are already burning.
With this coordinated campaign we see oil company advertisements on TV, hear them on the radio, read reports of "studies" from these industry front-group "think tanks," read op-ed pieces written by industry-paid "experts," and then to top it off elected officials and candidates reinforce the message (while the industry message reinforces their candidacy).
It is this addition of the political campaign in coordination with a paid industry campaign that is especially dangerous. This is elected officials and candidates working in conjunction with an industry to sell a product in exchange for political contributions and coordinated advertisements that support the message of the political party. The product is government oil leases to oil companies. The oil companies advertise about our country's need to drill offshore, which reinforces the political campaign of the Republican Party. This is not direct candidate advertisement so it is sort of legal, but any way you look at it it is big corporations spending tens or possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in obvious coordination with the political campaign, in a stealth manner that disguises that it is campaign advertising, while pretending it is an issue of national importance.
The other day I wrote a post, Republican / Oil Company Joint Campaign On Drilling,
I'm watching CNN and there is a report about the Republicans in Washington pulling a big stunt about drilling for oil. When the report ends, there is a commercial from the oil industry about why the country needs to drill for more oil.This drilling campaign's level integration of a political party with corporate money may be unprecedented. We need new kinds of controls over the ability of corporations to influence our politics.
It doesn't get much clearer than that. This is a political party involving itself in a corporate product marketing campaign, for money, which the corporations are involving themselves in the political campaign, for favors. This "drill now" campaign is funded by oil companies, is about giving them even more special government favors, and is about keeping the corporate political party in power.
I had a conversation with one of the people who helped Bill Clinton choose his VP running mate in 1992. He says that no one -- no one -- knew who was under consideration. They had a lot of fun reading all the speculation in the press, and reading about all of the people who "knew" who the choice would be.
The moral of the story: ANYone who SAYS they know who is under consideration doesn't know.
August 14, 2008
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Take a look at the California Climate Change Portal.
This website contains information on the impacts of climate change on California and the state's policies relating to global warming. It is also the home for the the California Climate Change Center, a "virtual" research and information website operated by the California Energy Commission through its Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program.
California Attorney General Brown recently announced the state will sue to block a huge Nestle bottled-water plant unless its effects on global warming are evaluated. Why bottled water? A recent Huffington Post piece by Diane Frances, Bottled Water: The Height of Stupidity talks about the bottled-water scam,
Bottled water is a joke, one of the biggest consumer and taxpayer ripoffs ever. I applaud California's Attorney General Jerry Brown who said recently that he will sue to block a proposed water-bottling operation in Northern California by Nestle.
. . . Not only do society and the environment pay an unfair price for this consumer hoax, but consumers are being hoodwinked. They are paying from 300 to 3,000 times more than the cost of tap water without any benefit.
. . . The water is usually not superior to "city" water or tap water, and is merely a big branding hoax by soda makers. In some cases, this "designer" water is drawn from tap water and labeled for suckers to buy as though it is a superior product.
. . . One expert estimated that the amount of petroleum -- used to make the bottles, transport, refrigerate, collect and bury them -- would fill one-third of each bottle.
These plastic bottles are creating landfill problems worldwide, and are washing up on beautiful beaches around the planet.
The state is also suing the Bush Environmental Lobbyist Protection Agency over its refusal to allow California to regular greenhouse gas emissions.
California will sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for "wantonly" ignoring its duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from ships, aircraft, and construction and agricultural equipment...The state's legislature and courts are also leading in land use decisions. California Court Rules Land-Use Decisions Must Address Global Warming,
The lawsuit follows two similar ones this year by California in conjunction with other states on car and truck emissions and ozone pollution.
"Ships, aircraft and industrial equipment burn huge quantities of fossil fuel, causing greenhouse gas pollution, yet President (George W.) Bush stalls with one bureaucratic dodge after another," said Brown...
...a California court has rejected a proposal to build a controversial luxury resort and golf course, because the project's environmental study failed to analyze the project's greenhouse gas emissions.Our labor unions are also supporting these efforts. California Labor Unions Support Global Warming Solutions: Green Jobs Seen as Future,
. . . "The court affirmed what the California legislature made clear: that global warming must be addressed in land-use decisions,"...
In 2007 California passed Senate Bill 97, which affirms the requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land-use decisions. In June 2008 California also provided technical guidance on how to properly calculate and reduce greenhouse gases. The California Environmental Quality Act requirements are in addition to the requirements of the California Global Warming Solutions Act and the governor's June 2005 Executive Order, which aims to reduce emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
In California, building and construction trades unions have long promoted energy efficiency measures like retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency for their promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions AND create high quality jobs.
. . . A recent op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle articulates California labor unions’ general principles when it comes to global warming legislation. In the op-ed, Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation, and Ken Jacobs, Chair of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, call for the California Air Resources Board to pay more attention to the key role California’s workers will play in restructuring the state’s economy to reduce its carbon footprint, and the impact this change will have on them.
Even our buildings are going green: California adopts nation’s first statewide green building code,
On July 17, the California Building Standards Commission announced the unanimous adoption of the nation’s first statewide "green" building code. The code is a direct result of the Governor's direction to the Commission and will lead to improved energy efficiency and reduced water consumption in all new construction throughout the state, while also reducing the carbon footprint of every new structure in California.California remains a leader on protecting our environment. Well ... most of us, anyway. But some of us just can't get along...
"Once again California is leading the nation and the world in emissions reductions and finding new ways to expand our climate change efforts," said Commission Chair Rosario Marin.
. . . These new statewide standards will result in significant improvements in water usage for both commercial and residential plumbing fixtures and target a 50 percent landscape water conservation reduction. They also push builders to reduce energy use of their structures by 15 percent more than today’s current standards. They also push builders to reduce energy use of their structures by 15 percent more than today’s current standards.
In fact, while Assembly and Senate Democrats averaged a commendable 94% and 89% respectively, Assembly and Senate Republicans averaged an embarrassingly low 5% and 9% respectively.
From May: Protecting Our Air and Atmosphere Against Republican Rollbacks in California,
Remember last year’s budget debacle?From June: California Republicans Leveraging to Delay Emissions Caps,
California’s legislative Republicans held up the budget for more than a month as they tried to roll back environmental protections – and as everyday Californians rolled their eyes at the lack of leadership they showed.
Now, they’re at it again. They’ve already said they plan to postpone implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, roll back diesel pollution reductions and undermine the 8-hour work day.
A minority of Republican state legislators in California are trying to use their leverage in approving a past-due state budget to force a roll-back of the state's greenhouse gas emissions caps, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.July: California Republican Party: Drilling Now Can Lower Oil Prices Today
Oh well. If you want a clean environment for your kids, you know what you have to do.
Click through to Speak Out California
Go visit one of the great blogs out there.
The story is here.
I wonder how to get this on TV? MoveOn?
One more Repubican front-group weighs in. NRA to Montana: Obama a threat to gun owners,
The National Rifle Association said Wednesday that Barack Obama's campaign is trying to mislead voters about his past support of gun control, calling the Democratic candidate "a poster child of the extremist, elitist gun control movement."Update I wasn't clear enough. I believe the NRA is the kind of "issue" organization that is not allowed under the tax and election codes to support or work against individual candidates. Like Vets for freedom, Freedom's Watch and the other Republican Party front groups that are out there working against Obama.
. . . The NRA plans to spend $40 million nationally this campaign season, and has yet to determine how much will be spent in individual states.
August 13, 2008
The recent big runup in gas prices, then prices starting to fall for labor day reminded me of something.
August 30, 2006: Gas Prices Dropping for Election
On this trip, she [Sec. State Rice] will continue our efforts to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia.The "free world"? WTF? This guy is living in the 1950s?
Earlier this year we borrowed $152 billion and sent checks to everyone, calling it a "stimulus package." The interest on that borrowing alone will add another $6.8 billion per year to our budget -- forever -- assuming rates don't rise. Great idea.
Borrowing another $152 billion bought us a little bit of time. But last month retail sales dropped, and the economic downturn is back on track just as bad as before. And because of that borrowing the interest that we all have to pay will make it just that much harder to get out of this.
That "stimulus package" didn't create a single job. It didn't fix a single bridge. It didn't increase the country's productivity. It didn't build light rail anywhere. It didn't make us more energy efficient. It wasn't investment. It was more consumption. Borrowing to consume.
What if we put $152 billion into hiring people to retrofit buildings to be more energy efficient? What if we put $152 billion into hiring people to install solar onto the roofs of government buildings? What if we put $152 billion into hiring people to hold summer classes so people would qualify for better jobs? That would be investment. It would lower our future costs or increase our future ability to earn. What has happened to us that this wasn't even considered -- by the Democratic majority in the House and Senate?
Update - Thinking some more about this. In 2001 Bush said that news of the dramatic change from budget surplus to budget deficit after his tax cuts started taking effect was "incredibly positive news."
President Bush said today that there was a benefit to the government's fast-dwindling surplus, declaring that it will create "a fiscal straitjacket for Congress." He said that was "incredibly positive news" because it would halt the growth of the federal government.(He said this in August, 2001. Later, when people were upset about it the weasel tried to blame 9/11 for the deficits.)
Now we pay almost $500 billion at year for interest on the debt and this amount is rising rapidly. That $152 billion "stimulus package" was supposed to fix the economy. Think about the terrible effect on the economy of paying $500 billion each year just on debt interest.
August 12, 2008
Too often, "choice" means that we are "free to choose"--in fact forced to choose--what we can afford. When it comes to health-care "menu" is code for a tiered system If you are middle-class, even if you are upper-middle-class, you may find that reformers who promise "universal coverage" are, in fact, offering an array of "choices to fit every pocketbook." And unless you happen to be perched on the top step of a five-step economic ladder, you may well discover that the only insurance policy that fits your purse really shouldn't be called "insurance." Either the co-pays and deductibles are so high that you can't afford to use it--or when you do use it, you'll be told that the treatment you most need isn't "covered." So-called "Swiss cheese" policies are filled wiht holes that open, like trap doors, when you most need protection.Go read.
One of the comments following the post:
We "free Americans", as market participants, do in fact have a choice, as is constantly noted by Conservatives: we can choose to sell our souls and buy everything we're sold, buy into all the BS we're told, and live like we're "supposed to", like everybody else who believes that the keys to a good life are a fancy car, an obedient spouse, a few kids, credit card debt for useless items, and a wide-screen tv with 80+ sports channels, hoping all the while no one in the family ever gets sick.
Or we can choose to fight this massive lie of the "American Dream", and grow steadily alone, bankrupt and insane - but they're correct, it IS OUR CHOICE.
The court ruled Cheney and the others were acting within their official capacity when they revealed Plame's identity to reporters.Oh, and by the way,
Chief Judge David B. Sentelle wrote the opinion and was joined by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson. Sentelle was appointed by President Reagan and Henderson by the first President Bush.Sentelle ...
In 1992, for reasons that have never been explained, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist replaced MacKinnon with one of the most right-wing judges in the federal judiciary, U.S. Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle.
By naming Sentelle, Rehnquist altered the political climate surrouding the selection of special prosecutors, effectively injecting conservative ideology into the process in a way that had been avoided during the previous 14 years.
. . . A North Carolina Republican, Sentelle was seen as a hard-line conservative, a protege of Sen. Jesse Helms and a close ally of Sen. Lauch Faircloth, two of the Senate's most conservative members.
Before donning black robes, Sentelle also had been a Republican Party activist.
. . . Even after his appointment to the federal bench, Sentelle engaged in public writings harshly critical of liberals. In one article, Sentelle accused "leftist heretics" of wishing to turn the United States into "a collectivist, egalitarian, materialistic, race-conscious, hyper-secular, and socially permissive state."
. . . Since his appointment, Sentelle has steered nearly all sensitive investigations into the hands of partisan Republicans.
In late 1992, when the Bush administration was caught searching Clinton's passport files looking for derogatory information, Sentelle's three-judge panel handed off the investigation to GOP stalwart Joseph diGenova, who found no wrongdoing by his Republican associates.
After Clinton's inauguration, Sentelle's panel kept picking Republicans for high-profile cases. David Barrett, head of Lawyers for Reagan in 1980, was named to pursue allegations that Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros had understated how much money he had paid a mistress.
. . . But Sentelle's most controversial special prosecutor was Kenneth Starr.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
A new briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute titled The China Trade Toll [PDF document] says that since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001 our China trade policy "has had a devastating effect on U.S. workers and the domestic economy."
The report shows that since 2001 California has lost 325,800 jobs (55,400 of these just in the last year) to China due to these policies. And since 2001 2.3 million jobs were lost nationally. According to the report even those workers able to find new jobs saw their wages drop an average of $8,146 per year. (These figures are only for jobs and income lost to China and do not include jobs and income lost to other countries.)
And, of course, this effect is not limited to the workers who lost their job. This also has an effect on works' ability to ask for raises and imporvements in working conditions. From the report,
It is also critical to recognize that the indirect impact of trade on other workers is significant as well. Trade with less-developed countries has reduced the bargaining power of all workers in the U.S. economy who resemble the import-displaced in terms of education, credentials, and skills. Annual earnings for all workers without a four year college degree are roughly $1,400 lower today because of this competition…Specific industries were affected more than others by our massive trade deficit with China. Computer and electronic product manufacturers were hit hardest, losing an eliminated 561,000 jobs in this period. Jobs lost to the deficit tended to be better-paying ones,
More than two-thirds of the jobs displaced by China trade deficits were in manufacturing, which tends to employ a higher-than-average share of workers with a high school degree or less (43.7% of workers displaced) and to provide those workers with good wages and benefits. More than half (55.6%) of the jobs displaced came from the top half of the U.S. wage distribution, and among this group a disproportionate share came from the top 10th of all U.S. wage earners. African Americans (230,000 jobs lost), Hispanics (339,000), and other ethnic groups (219,000) all suffered from the loss of jobs such as these that pay substantially more and offer better benefits than jobs in other industries.
Here is what is going on. First, China "pegs" its currency to the dollar instead of letting it follow market rates as the dollar does. So the dollar's decline does not make it cost less to manufacture here, which would bring manufacturing jobs to the U.S. Next, China doesn't allow workers to organize labor unions. So their workers are not really benefiting from all of this. Wages there are kept low, and prices grow ever higher due to the currency manipulation of "pegging" to the dollar. And finally, China imposes barriers on imported goods. So while they manufacture and sell to the rest of the world, they keep their own people from buying things made elsewhere.
As a result China exported $323 billion in goods to the U.S. in 2007, and purchased only $61 billion in goods from the U.S.
The report concludes,
The growing U.S. trade deficit with China has displaced huge numbers of jobs in the United States and has been a prime contributor to the crisis in manufacturing employment over the past six years. Moreover, the United States is piling up foreign debt, losing export capacity, and facing a more fragile macroeconomic environment.And, the report points out that this isn't particularly in the long-term interests of the Chinese people, either,
Is America’s loss China’s gain? The answer is most certainly no. China has become dependent on the U.S. consumer market for employment generation, has suppressed the purchasing power of its own middle class with a weak currency, and, most importantly, has held hundreds of billions of hard currency reserves in low-yielding, risky assets instead of investing them in public goods that could benefit Chinese households. Its vast purchases of foreign exchange reserves have stimulated the overheating of its domestic economy, and inflation in China has accelerated rapidly in the past year. Its repression of labor rights has suppressed wages, thereby artificially subsidizing exports.Of course trade is good, when it is a two way street. If trade is fair, it benefits everyone involved. But this report shows that what the people who run American corporations call "free" trade is hurting our economy more than it is helping. Now that several years of these policies have passed we can measure the results, and the results have not been good for the American people.
Because of our country's trade policies with China 325,800 jobs have been lost in California. Meanwhile China is allowed to manipulate their currency, prevent unions, and set up barriers that keep their people from buying goods we make here.
What this has meant is big corporations can get out of paying American workers a fair wage because they can get away with paying Chinese workers hardly anything, while a very few people at the top of the American and Chinese food chains pocket the difference entirely for themselves. If you consider the huge amounts that some of these individuals are pocking from this scheme -- some receiving hundreds of millions of dollars each year -- aren't we at least benefiting from the taxes they pay? Unfortunately no, because of the tax policies of California and national Republican: low taxes for the rich, higher taxes for the rest of us, and borrowing to cover the resulting deficits. Here in California the Republicans are even blocking an effort to ask the super-rich to pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us pay on everything we buy when they buy yachts and private planes. But no, they don't even have to pay that tax.
The result of these tax policies is that while we lose jobs,and the remaining workers get pay cuts, we also lose out on government services like schools, fire protection, police, roads, mass transit and everything else our government does for us. And that's not all. Because of these tax policies the state and national governments are borrowing huge amounts, and we have to pay that back with interest.
All of this -- the China trade policies, the tax policies, the massive borrowing -- come from the influence that money buys in our political system. The minute someone is able to use some money to gain an advantage, of course they use that to get even more money, which lets them buy an even bigger advantage, and the cycle continues.
You can easily see the effects of the money with the massive ad campaigns around California's elections and ballot initiatives -- and the resulting budget gridlock as a few corporate-connected Republicans block every effort to ask the rich and connected to pay their share.
We are in a stranglehold situation. A very few wealthy people are exporting our jobs and pocketing the money they would have paid as wages and benefits. They are not even paying taxes on the ill-gotten gains, which forces our state and national governments to borrow. And they are getting away with it because they are able to use some of that money to further influence our political system.
Here's the thing. They're not even using their own money to purchase this influence. Since they have control of the resources of large corporations, they are using the money from those corporations to fund the system of influence, which directs much larger amounts of cash back to themselves.
I think the way to stop this is to prevent any use of corporate money for anything other than operating the corporation. I'll share some ideas on that in later posts.
Click through to Speak Out California -- Please leave a comment with your thoughts.
Go see the Exxon McCain site but watch this first:
August 11, 2008
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
The religious right is at it again, with another ballot measure intended to divide Californians and prevent women from making their own choices about their own bodies and lives. This time it is Proposition 4 -- "Sarah's Law" -- the old "parental notification" initiative that bans the termination of a pregnancy in a minor unless their parents are notified 48 hours ahead of time.
The same initiative has been rejected by California voters twice for good reason. Yes, this is the third time in three years. So the state -- We, the People, the taxpayers -- runs the expense of another ballot initiative.
So this time they have named the parental notification initiative "Sarah's Law" after Sarah of the Bible -- a fictitious name being used for a real woman who died in Texas in 1994 from an infection caused by a torn cervix. Prop 4 proponents claim that "Sarah" would have been saved if Prop 4 had been in effect there. Now it turns out that Prop 4 would not have applied. So this new rationale for the previously-rejected law -- that Prop 4 would save the lives of minors, entirely based on one 1994 case -- is false. Obviously helping young women is not the point of this law. Below I will talk about how this will actually endanger their health and lives.
First, though, an Aug. 2 LA Times story explains: 'Sarah's Law' would not have applied to 'Sarah,' acknowledge backers of the abortion-notification measure,
Backers of a ballot measure that would require parents to be notified before an abortion is performed on a minor acknowledged Friday that the 15-year-old on which "Sarah's Law" is based had a child and was in a common-law marriage before she died of complications from an abortion in 1994.At first glance it might seem like a good idea to require minors to notify parents before they can terminate a pregnancy. Unfortunately the reality of people's lives does not always match up with the ideal families of 1960s TV shows. There are very serious reasons that a young woman might not want to tell parents about a pregnancy. These can involve abuse, incest and fear. In these cases requiring parental notification can bring about serious consequences. It can also cause the young woman to turn to unsafe alternatives.
[. . .] Proposition 4 would amend the California constitution to prohibit abortion for unemancipated minors until 48 hours after a physician notifies the minor's parent or legal guardian. State voters have twice rejected similar measures.
There can even be very bad reasons where the young woman really should tell the parents. But a law like this also endangers a foolish, unwise young woman's health because it can cause her to to to an illegal, unlicensed, unsafe practitioner, or even try something herself. People do not always do the best and wisest thing. Foolish and unwise young people even more so.
History and experience have taught society that having a safe and legal place to turn for help is the best way to protect our young women. When a young woman is pregnant and does not want to be and there are no safe procedures available she might out of desperation turn to unsafe alternatives. When pregnancy termination was illegal it didn't mean women did not terminate pregnancies, it meant they did so at very high risk to their health. Terrible consequences were not uncommon. This is why the right's justification for Sarah's Law, and the false story behind it, is such an abomination. They are trying to take away these safe procedures with false stories that this will protect young women. It is safe and legal procedures that protect women who decide to choose to terminate a pregnancy.
Click through to Speak Out California
August 9, 2008
I received an email that tricked me into giving up my Facebook account and password. I figured it out and changed it immediately, but not I have to also change the password everywhere else I used that combination... I get an email that someone has written on my wall. I go to see what is written about me, and it is exactly like the Facebook login page...
Here is the email:
Janis wrote on your Wall:Note - I have changed my password everywhere since this happened.
"Somebody wrote something really funny in their blog about you. everybody see it here http://evangelinafofipap.blogspot.com" [THIS TAKES YOU TO THE SCAM LOGIN PAGE. DON'T ENTER ANYTHING HERE]
To see your Wall or to write on Janis's Wall, follow the link below:
The Facebook Team
A new group called Accountable America is warning conservative donors about staying within election laws. The New York Times wrote about this the other day with the misleading headline, Group Plans Campaign Against G.O.P. Donors.
Of course it isn't a "campaign against GOP donors" it is a campaign warning against unlawful and unethical activity. But stopping unlawful activity just might dry up a lot of the Republican Party's -- and the right's supporting infrastructure's -- cash flow. This includes 501c3 tax-free "charity" think tanks and 501c4 "issue" organizations that are really illegally engaged in candidate activity, or otherwise acting as conduits for corporate money or for those who have "maxed out" (reached the legal limit) for political donations.
The other day I wrote about,
... companies intimidating workers to vote a certain way, churches, think tanks, front groups incorporated as c4s but doing candidate work, campaigns violating election laws, etc.So I guess great minds think alike. Heh.
... Suppose [we could create] some concern among the Wal-Marts and the Sheldon Adelsons that they had better think about following the law?
What would this do to the funding sources of the right's machine?
There is plenty of need for an effort to get conservative and corporate donors to follow the law. Just for example -- last week's news about "curious" bundled political contributions made by employees of oil companies receiving billion-dollar contracts from the government to McCain and Republicans. Some of these donations came from people clearly unable to make such a donation on their own. This makes it appear that the companies may have illegally given these people money to give to McCain and the Republican Party and groups are demanding an investigation (that will never happen).
[Public interest groups] want the Justice Department to investigate whether bundlers for John McCain's presidential campaign are using "straw" donations -- those made in the name of someone else to evade contribution limits.A story at TPM elaborates,
"An executive from a company that has a billion dollar contract to deliver oil to U.S. bases in Iraq possibly violated election law to funnel contributions to McCain. We think that warrants an investigation."Now that Accountable America is on the scene maybe corporations and big donors who are thinking about engaging in illegal activities will think twice.
And on the Hess matter ... : "An office manager for an oil company that stands to gain millions in profits from offshore drilling makes donations for the first time this cycle to McCain, and did it at the same time nine other Hess donors do. That's worth an investigation."
If you want to help this effort you can donate by clicking here.
* The new group will offer a $100,000 reward to those providing information that leads to the conviction or judgment against a conservative or business-related organization that violates the law.
* Accountable America will provide information to the public through television ads, mailings, phone calls and its Web site.
* Next week the organization plans to send a mailing warning nearly 10,000 Republican donors of the consequences of funding organizations that break or skirt the law.
August 8, 2008
I have had the "StrangeBedfellows" August 8 Money Bomb ad up in the left column for a while. Well today is the day. Go donate!
August 8, 2008—this is the date for our Strangebedfellows MONEYBOMB on behalf of constitutional rights and civil liberties in America. Let's remove from power the key enablers of the tyrannical and lawless FISA 'compromise;' we can end the Patriot Act—and so much more. Join with us by pledging now—right here at AccountabilityNowPAC.com. Become a part of our transpartisan alliance of freedom lovers! Be a Strangebedfellow!Richard Blair at All Spin Zone has a great writeup on this project:
A few weeks back, the Democratic Party leadership, in both the House and the Senate, capitulated to the petulant demands of George W. Bush, and passed the revised FISA bill. The bill not only codified warrentless wiretapping, but retroactively provided telecommunications companies with immunity from civil lawsuits on the behalf of U.S. citizens who have had their privacy violated at the behest of the Bush administration.Please go read Richard's whole post and PLEASE go throw a few bucks to this great project.
Accountability Now was formed by online activists from across the political spectrum in order to create public education campaigns (TV, print, and internet advertising), and to hold politicians accountable for their actions that run counter to constitutional principles. More information on the organization is available here.
Progressives, conservatives, and libertarians are being asked to contribute today to the effort. Whether it’s $5, $10, $20, $5000, or simply a show of support by whatever means available, today’s “money bomb” (similar to the fundraising efforts that drove Ron Paul’s presidential campaign earlier this year) is key to the success in holding our political leaders accountable to we, the people.
Now the right is promoting the quotes of KKK leaders against Obama. And it's only August.
A headline at Drudge Report: Ex-KKK Leader: Obama Shows Whites 'Have Lost Control' Of America...
James Boyce has a piece over at Huffington Post that I'm sending readers over to see: Creative Capitalism, (RED) And A Time To Try, And Believe In, A New Way.
August 7, 2008
This headline actually made me a little sick to my stomach. And this is only August. Can Black Journalists Be Trusted to Cover Obama?
Will word "coon" be in common use in September?
August 5, 2008
Paris Hilton responds to the McCain "Celebrity" ad. No, really, it really is Paris Hilton.
She has more actual energy policy than McCain!
I was thinking about how Obama squandered the enthusiasm and good faith of the activist "base" when he decided to "move to the right" to "appeal to the center." I am not quoting the Obama campaign, I am describing what happened to so many Democrats over the years who have helped move the goalposts ever rightward. In the face of an ongoing corporate propaganda campaign the "realists" and "pragmatists" have concluded they need to "go where the votes are" rather than fight back and work to counter that right-wing messaging and explain to the public why progressive values are better for them.
(NOTE - I think this is really more the fault of the funding base than the politicians. They just don't get it about building organizations capable of countering the messaging. And I am including everyone who is not giving all they can, even if that is only $20 a week, to progressive infrastructure organizations like Commonweal Institute and Speak Out California.)
All of this made me think of one of the great blog posts, from just after the 2002 elections. RENDEZVOUS WITH LUNACY
It begins with this picture:
From the post,
Why would voters choose a phony right wing Republican over the real thing? What made McAuliffe and Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt believe that rural conservative whites would choose warmongering Democratic slaves to Corporate America over warmongering Republican slaves to Corporate America? When I want to vote for a warmongering corporate slave, I always vote Republican.It includes the classic wisdom,
[. . .] I am not an astute observer of the political scene – I am merely an embittered observer. Yet despite being a rank political amateur, I am able to understand that the path to power does not consist of alienating people who are willing to vote for you in order to ingratiate yourself to people who are unwilling to vote for you. The current Democratic leadership just can't seem to comprehend this most important concept.
[. . .] Abandonment of stated principles and unilateral surrender have now officially been discredited as tactics for regaining Democratic control of Congress. It is time for new party leaders to try a different approach, like treating their voters with respect. Bush and the Republican base have a symbiotic relationship – he attends to their concerns, and they respond by faithfully supporting the G.O.P. This intriguing arrangement might well serve as a useful model for the Democratic Party.
When your supporters don’t vote for
you, then you
Oh please go read the whole post. Classic blogging.
And we bloggers out here in the non-beltway wilderness keep trying to explain this message over and over.
In a post a couple of years ago, Who Is The Crazy Person In The Room? I wrote about trying to describe what Republicans have been up to, to someone who doesn't read the blogs:
I've said before that when I try to talk about the stuff that the Republicans are up to, to people who don't really follow the news, they think I'M the crazy person!For example, today Republicans Presidential candidate McCain volunteered his wife to compete in a topless biker "beauty pageant."
By the way, the rest of that older post,
My wife and I share a house with a roommate who doesn't really follow the news. Today I told him that last week the Vice President of the United States shot a man in the face with a shotgun, and blamed the guy he shot, and then when he got out of the hospital the guy apologized for the pain he had caused the VP -- and then this week the President of the United States allowed our ports to be sold to a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates.
You should have seen how he looked at me.
Obama's campaign began to falter when he announced he support the new FISA bill that gave away immunity to telecom companies that had assisted the Republican Party in spying on their opposition. (Until I know different I will call it this. And without warrants there is no way to know different.) He previously had said that giving immunity to these companies was wrong.
Now the chickens are home to roost. McCain is tied or a bit ahead in almost every new tracking poll. And it started when Obama popped the bubble of enthusiasm -- people thinking this was a different candidate, one who stuck by principles. Of course it continued with things like attacking General Clark for defending him, and similar strategery. It set the ground for the Republican smear campaign to take hold.
-Among voters aged 18-29, Obama lost 16 percent and McCain gained 20. Obama still leads, 49-38;Alex Castellanos words it well,
-Among women, McCain gained 10 percentage points. Obama now leads 43-38;
With a commercial Mike Huckabee could have run in a Republican primary, Obama now emphasizes his commitment to strong families and heartland values, "Accountability and self-reliance. Love of country. Working hard without making excuses." In this yet unwritten chapter of his next autobiography, Obama tells us he is the candidate of "welfare to work" who supports our troops and "cut taxes for working families." The shift in his political personae has been startling. Obama has moved right so far and so fast, he could end up McCain's Vice-Presidential pick.As the saying goes, when you have a Republican running agaist a Republican, the voters figure they might as well vote for the Republican.
General-election Obama now billboards his doubts about affirmative action. He has embraced the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption saying, "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon...everything." He tells his party "Democrats are not for a bigger government." Oil drilling is a consideration. His FISA vote and abandonment of public campaign finance introduce us to an Obama of recent invention. And as he abandons his old identity for the new, breeding disenchantment among his formerly passionate left-of-center supporters and, equally, doubts among the center he courts, he risks becoming nothing at all, a candidate who is everything and nothing in the same moment.
Hey people - The Daou Report is back, with a different format. Go see - and bookmark it.
August 4, 2008
Look what the Republicans have done to our economy by following their core "trickle down" economic ideology, which really means borrow and spend. They have run up a massive debt which combined with no oversight, a near total removal of regulations on corporate conduct, and watched and let Neil Bush run a savings and loan (oh, sorry, that was that other Bush presidency -- when S&L owners and Republican campaign contributors robbed us blind and bribed Senators like John McCain and then got a massive government bailout.)
We have all been hearing a lot about housing prices falling, and about the effect housing prices have on the economy. The impact to date, while real, is actually overstated. Why? Well, housing markets and their impact are the turtle of economics, they happen very very slowly. Prices have to fall and people have to sell, when they sell they, if they get less than they expected, may not spend as much as they would have if they had reaped a huge profit.
Of course, the lack of higher equity is hurting those home equity lines people were tapping like McCain at an open bar. But ask yourself, honestly, how many people do you actually know who have either been forced to sell or have sold and not made a profit? Not that many -- yet. People are still holding out.
Unquestionably the economy is slowing. Consumer debt is massive, companies are cutting jobs, inflation is rising, unemployment is a full percentage point ABOVE where it was a year ago, and with a work force of 200 million plus, that's 2,000,000 newly unemployed Americans.
Just this morning, we saw that planned July Job Cuts skyrocketed to over 100,000 meaning that unemployment will continue to climb, the economic impact of those layoffs won't be felt till mid-fall at the earliest when severance packages run out and the reality becomes apparent, new jobs are hard to come by.
But now the time is arriving when we will start to see and feel the real impact of the slowing economy -- layoffs will pick up over the next year and the forecast is for increasing and increasing unemployment, it almost surely will be another point or more higher next year than it is now.
Slowing economies manifest themselves in many ways. But the most prominent is in the corresponding fall in housing prices. In every modern recession, the fall in housing prices follows the economy slowing down. What we have yet to see is the falling economy's effect on housing prices. So if you think prices have already dropped, and might even be reaching a bottom, we think it's the other way around: prices are about to start dropping.
Even Alan Greenspan agrees with us. Greenspan Says Housing Prices Not Yet Near Bottom
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said falling U.S. home prices are "nowhere near the bottom'' and the resulting market turmoil isn't showing signs of abating.
How can this be?
How can prices that have fallen 25% in Los Angeles year over year be about to start falling? Well, because unlike every other real estate boom of the past century, this past boom was, in fact, a boom and a bubble. This numbers below, from the Case-Schiller Housing Index showcase that and how the first bubble may have popped, the excess speculation bubble, but the underlying bubble remains, and now will begin to deflate.
Prices in San Francisco were set to an index of 100.00 in January of 2000.
By January 2004 prices had jumped to 155.93, a massive jump by historical standards. This alone is a real estate bubble.
By January 2007, they had already softened a bit but still were at 211.78. This is the second bubble.
Now the index stands at 162.70. Still up 60% since January 2000.
The prices have lost some of the home equity / no money down madness bubble, but have let to be impacted by the slowing economy. And they will be
How far will they go down? Well, economics is ruled by larger trends and post bubble, prices eventually revert to the historical mean.
For example in the ten years from January 1987 to January 1997, prices increased 22%. And, fyi, that's after inflation, meaning a house purchased for $400,000 in January 1987 was actually worth less, in real dollar terms, in 1997, ten years later.
That's not a rant, that's a fact, all of these prices don't include inflation.
In real dollar terms, house prices really don't escalate much. Some studies of ONE HUNDRED YEAR time frames of the US Market show, in real dollar terms, that house prices remain flat.
How can that possibly be?
Well, we've been inundated with ten years of powerful powerful advertising messages that tell us, "housing prices always go up."
We borrowed money and spent it like good Republicans, because housing prices always go up.
We just know we can buy more and more because housing prices always go up.
But they don't.
So how can you estimate what the actual value of a house in San Francisco really is? How far can they fall? Another 40% to historical norms of growth? More? Well, Dave recently calculated how far prices in the San Francisco Bay Area could fall using three different methods.
The first was the rent to price ratio. With this method you take the average rent and calculate the amount of money you need to put into a decent investment to make the same amount. For example, if you are clearing about $833.33 per month ($10K oer year) from a rental property unit (remember to account for maintenance and property taxes and something for your time...) then the price of the property would be around $100,000 for a 10% return ($10K is 10% of $100K) and $200,000 for a 5% return (sufficiently higher than a CD pays right now).
So if houses in your area are renting for about $1400-1500 per month this is a rough way to tell that similar houses might be worth around $150K at best. If you double that and they rent for $2800-3000 then house prices would be $300K. And those prices assume that rental prices are not dropping.
James lives in a rental house in Boston which at market peak might have sold for $800,000 or $900,000 but now rents for $2,400. What does the landlord clear? Not $28,000 because he pays the taxes so more like $20,000. If you had $400,000 in the bank would you be happy with 5% return? Perhaps. But that's the highest amount you can estimate the house is worth in the market. And guess what? 10 years ago, the house was worth about $350,000. So it actually is about the right value.
The next method involved the average person in the area's income affording an average priced property. Look around at prices in your area, and average wages. At what price can the average person (or husband-wife) (or husband-husband/wife-wife in Dave's California and James' Massachusetts) buy a house? Right: uh-oh.
The third method is to look at the historic mean plus inflation. When prices triple in a few years, then when they correct they have to fall to 1/3 of the peak (plus inflation). It's just the way it is.
When Dave calculated these for the Bay Area all three methods came out the same and showed that prices can still fall as much as 30-40%. We say "can" but an economist might say "should."
If it falls 30% from that index where it is now, it only drops to 112. Can't happen? Well, remember that 1987 - 1997 DECADE, it was up 22%. Now, after 8 years, it would be up 12% on that index. That's pretty normal growth to be honest.
And what is cumulative inflation of the past 8 years? Let's make it easy on ourselves, and we'll say an average of 3%. The 100 Index goes from 100 to 126 with the combined effect of eight years of Inflation at 3%.
You see, housing is not the perfect "always goes up" investment. And it is clear that the housing prices in San Francisco and many more places could have 30% - 40% to go down from where they are today.
But, you guessed it, the news is actually worse than this. First, there is a huge amount of excess housing inventory on the market. So this needs to be factored into your thinking about where prices can go. On top of the need for prices to revert to the mean, these extra houses have to find buyers before prices can stabilize. This is supply and demand, nothing more, nothing less.
Next is the effect of gas prices. Many, many housing developments have gone up in areas that are far from city centers and far from non-automobile transportation like light rail or even buses, and buyers are going to be factoring the price of gas now. Along with this, the price to heat and cool the monster homes that developers tended to build will become a consideration and will reduce demand for these houses.
Another factor is that the "boomers" are starting to retire, and will be selling the larger homes in which they raised their families or ended their careers, looking for apartments, condos and even senior facilities. This will also reduce demand.
And, just as the price of energy was not considered when these houses were designed and built but has lately become a factor, one day the implications of global warming will start to sink in. In particular, is the house sufficiently above sea level? Is it located near an area that is experiencing increased fire danger? LOTS of Californians are starting to think about these issues.
But if you think we're wrong, and the above factors are non factors. Consider the recent decline in the stock market, General Motors and their 15.5 billion dollar quarterly loss, that's the recession that's here.
This is the big one: A falling economy always forces housing prices to fall. Even when housing prices are not in a bubble to start with a recession forces prices down. And this hasn't even started acting on housing prices yet -- the falling prices we have seen are not because the economy is slowing, they are causing the economy to slow. The slowing economy will make this worse as people are laid off around the country. The foreclosures we are seeing today are not the result of people losing their jobs, but they are causing people to lose their jobs. THEN the foreclosures that come FROM people losing their jobs will start.
There are no, none, nada, zilch factors that we see driving any hope for a "bottom" in housing prices any time soon.
Thanks Republicans for ignoring the country's problems for so long, refusing to regulate the financial companies, refusing to address the need to find alternative energy sources, refusing to fund mass transit alternatives and refusing to provide oversight and enforcement of our laws. Thanks for bringing us to where we are today.
They borrowed and spent. We borrowed and spent and drove the housing prices up through a double bubble. One bubble may have popped. The next one will soon.
Post-Script: We worked on this post last week and over the weekend. This morning, The New York Times has this article: Housing Lenders Fear Bigger Wave Of Defaults. It echoes many of our arguments in this piece.
Here is a video from the California Labor Federation: California Labor- We Did, We Can and We WILL:
August 3, 2008
From Scholars & Rogues:
The other day I sent people to read about how people are reacting to McCain's ad "The One." I decided to look around the web and see what is circulating about Obama. Well, these people are serious. I posted several links below so you can just go see for yourself. SOME parts of the religious right are serious about this idea that Obama is the "anti-Christ."
In my opinion, the McCain people simply have to know about the stuff that is circulating. If you read some of the stuff you realize that McCain's ad parallels it very closely. It says some of the very same things that the nuts are circulating. So if you are one of the nuts who believes this, you have received validation from the McCain campaign. There is no way around it that the ad is saying to the people receiving the anti-Christ rumors, "Hey, we're with you, we see it, too." It makes you wonder if McCain is trying to provoke the crazies into doing something to Obama.
So here is some of the stuff that is out there. Hold your nose, and be sure to read some of the comments at some of these sites.
Barack Obama, Anti-Christ? (be sure to read through some of the 850+ comments)
Obama is the Anti-Christ. This is the evidence:
1.- He will come as a man of Peace (Obama promises peace in Iraq, defeat for the US)
2.- He will come mounted on a white Female horse(Obama mother is white who had 6 African husbands)
3.- He will come to deceive( Obama says he's a Christian but in fact he was born a Muslim, practices the Islamic religion, prays Friday’s facing Mecca)
4.- He will make himself the most powerful man on earth, if elected
5.- He will try to destroy the Jewish People and Israel( Obama has said he loves the Arabs specially the Palestinians, hates Israel and Jews. Admires Hitler, Osama etc)
6.- He will present himself as good and righteous but in fact he's Satan himself. Violence is in his heart
7.- Obama will help Al Qaida in its evil projects.
8.- Barack Hussein Obama is the “King of the South” predicted in the Bible.(Daniel .11, Kenya is south of Jerusalem)
9.- Obama comes to implant muslim Sharia Law upon America.
Obama is the Anti-Christ, beware of him.
Watch him and don't let you be deceived by Him.
Supporters of Obama: 1.5 billion Muslims, Oprah, Louis Farrakanh, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and all American Muslims.
OBAMA’S GAME IS DECEPTION AND VIOLENCE
A VOTE FOR OBAMA IS A VOTE FOR OSAMA AND KILLER ISLAM!!
I’m not the first one to say it, but after recently reading the beginning of the Left Behind series and the entire Christ Clone trilogy, it’s not totally wacky to compare Obama’s rise and public adulation to that of the predicted Anti-Christ’s (at least as described in those books).Hal Lindsey at WorldNetDaily (right-wing religious types take him seriously): How Obama prepped world for the Antichrist
According to The Book of Revelations, the anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal…. the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destroy everything ….Glenn Beck: 'Is Obama the Antichrist?'
Is it OBAMA?? I STRONGLY URGE each one of you to repost this as many times as you can! Each opportunity that you have to send it to a friend or media outlet…do it!
Other progressive bloggers are writing about this:
DailyKos: Obama as Forerunner to the Anti-Christ
DailyKos: McCain's Left Behind Attack
Discourse.net: New Low For McCain Campaign: Obama == The Anti-Christ
BeliefNet: New McCain Ad Implies Obama is the Anti-Christ?
Here are some of the videos circulating:
Question: Is there such a thing as a good or bad company? CAN a company be good or bad? (Is a company sentient?)
Is there any definition of a good or bad company beyond following the law and distributing profits to shareholders?
If a company is acting in ways that we do not like whose jobs is it to change the way the company is acting?
In my morning paper: Chinese making a great leap forward,
It's one of the epic stories of modern times - China's great leap in a single generation from an impoverished and backward nation to a world-class economic power.How did China achieve this? Classic protectionism. They restrict imports to protect jobs in China and bring in more. They manipulate their currency to keep it low. Etc. Etc.
The United States and other trading partners have a long list of complaints about China's economic policies. Chief among them is the accusation that China keeps its currency, the yuan, artificially low to keep out imports and make its exports cheap in foreign markets.Meanwhile we have a massive trade deficit with China, and since 2001 we have lost 2.3 million jobs. Thar's what they call "free" trade. We give our jobs away for free.
The Washington Post has an article making fun of the idea of global warming, that coincidentally manages to coincide with the oil industry/Republican Party "Drill Now" advertising campaign. Global Warming Did It! Well, Maybe Not.. It begins by mocking people concerned about the planet,
Somewhere along the line, global warming became the explanation for everything. Right-thinking people are not supposed to discuss any meteorological or geophysical event -- a hurricane, a wildfire, a heat wave, a drought, a flood, a blizzard, a tornado, a lightning strike, an unfamiliar breeze, a strange tingling on the neck -- without immediately invoking the climate crisis. It causes earthquakes, plagues and backyard gardening disappointments. Weird fungus on your tomato plants? Classic sign of global warming.Here is an example of the logic of this piece,
Last week, we saw reports of more wildfires in California. Sure as night follows day, people will lay some of the blame on climate change. But there's also the minor matter of people building homes in wildfire-susceptible forests, overgrown with vegetation due to decades of fire suppression. That's like pitching a tent on the railroad tracks.Right, building homes in forests causes the fire season to start several weeks early, the snow pack to be half normal, vegetation to be drier, and a vast increase in the number of fires.
Did Exxon pay for this article? SOMEone pays this guy's salary, for this awful, cynical, insulting stuff. Or has the writer just attended too many cocktail parties with industry lobbyists?
The Republican Party's hiring itself out to the oil industry for this coordinated "Drill Now" campaign reminds me of an old joke. (I'll shorten it.)
Kentucky Fried Chicken comes to the Pope and says, "We'll give you $500,000 a year to change the Lord's Prayer to 'give us this day our daily fried chicken'." The Pope says, "No way." Then they offer $1 million. The Pope gives a long spiel about this is a sacred prayer, from God, etc. They give their final offer: $10 million a year.
The next day the Pope meets with his Cardinals and says, "The good news is I have brought us $10 million a year."
"The bad news is I lost the Wonder Bread account."
The other day I wrote,
This is a political party involving itself in a corporate product marketing campaign, for money. This "drill now" campaign is funded by oil companies, and is about giving them even more special government favors. It isn't a lot different from changing a stadium's name to "Enron Stadium" or Pac Bell park" etc.Your modern Republicans -- A political party reduced to hiring itself out to sell product!
This political campaign is in conjunction with an oil industry PR campaign to try to get the government to hand them even more drilling leases than the millions of acres they already have (and sit on without drilling). It came just as oil prices peaked and suggests that oil prices peaked in order to prime the public for this campaign.
August 2, 2008
Why does the public flock to conservative / corporate policies that generally run against their own interests? Take tax cuts for the rich, or the current offshore-drilling campaign as examples.
Here is my opinion of the reason: Conservatives have a huge outside-the-party infrastructure devoted to persuading the public to support their policies and progressives do not.
Conservatives recognize the value of movement-building and work steadily to create popular demand, which then gets their candidates elected. This is why so many terrible Republicans are able to get elected just by pointing their finger at their opponent and shouting, "Liberal, Liberal!"
Progressives instead for decades have believed that a candidate will come along who will be so popular that he or she will lead them out of the wilderness, and convince the publi of the rightness of all of their ideas. Therefore almost all of their money and effort goes into short-term election efforts, candidates and the party instead of to ongoing outside-the-party organizations that work over the long term to build lasting demand for their ideas.
Interesting ... as you look at this small-sample test of reaction to an Obama ad, watch the Republican reaction (red line) plunge as Obama says "What I did was reach out to Senator Dick Lugar, a Republican..." at this site: New Obama Terrorism Ad has Little Effect on Voter Support
August 1, 2008
Just read it: Daily Kos: Obama as Forerunner to the Anti-Christ
Have you heard about Wal-Mart's campaign to intimidate its workers into voting against Democrats?
Suppose Obama were to say something along the lines of "When I am elected we are going to enforce the law." Nothing more. This is not a statement that people can find fault with.
Suppose that some of us started hinting that he means that after he takes office his Justice Dept and other agencies are going to look over who has been complying with various election laws, labor laws, etc. during this election. Suppose we hint that he means companies intimidating workers to vote a certain way, churches, think tanks, front groups incorporated as c4s but doing candidate work, campaigns violating election laws, etc.
Suppose this became a big story with Obama refusing to comment on what he plans to do beyond enforcing the laws of our country.
Suppose this created some concern among the Wal-Marts and the Sheldon Adelsons that they had better think about following the law?
What would this do to the funding sources of the right's machine?
I'm watching CNN and there is a report about the Republicans in Washington pulling a big stunt about drilling for oil. When the report ends, there is a commercial from the oil industry about why the country needs to drill for more oil.
It doesn't get much clearer than that. This is a political party involving itself in a corporate product marketing campaign, for money. This "drill now" campaign is funded by oil companies, and is about giving them even more special government favors. It isn't a lot different from changing a stadium's name to "Enron Stadium" or Pac Bell park" etc.
This political campaign is in conjunction with an oil industry PR campaign to try to get the government to hand them even more drilling leases than the millions of acres they already have (and sit on without drilling). It came just as oil prices peaked and suggests that oil prices peaked in order to prime the public for this campaign.
We have seen this before, involving Republican coordination with tobacco companies... It is very much like a consumer product launch marketing campaign.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
Yesterday Governor Schwarzenegger ordered 10,000 state government employees laid off and ordered the wages of 200,000 more cut down to the bare minimum allowed by law.
This is 210,000 people who will not be keeping up with their mortgages or car payments or attending "back-to-school" sales. This is thousands of local retailers that will see a sales decrease. This is how many foreclosures and car repossessions. What will this do to our own jobs and housing prices?
This is 210,000 families disrupted.
Why is this happening? Because the Republicans refuse to make wealthy yacht and private plane buyers pay the same sales taxes the rest of us pay. This is happening because the Republicans refuse to make the oil companies pay us for our oil as they take it out of the ground. (Yes, even as oil companies post the largest ever profits of any companies in the history of the world.) The citizens of Alaska not only don't pay state taxes, they receive a check every year, because their state government asked the oil companies to pay to take their oil. In California the Republicans in state government apparently think they were elected to represent the interests of oil companies, not the public.
Republicans like to say that taxes "take money out of the economy" but the Governor's actions yesterday show exactly the opposite: laying off workers and cutting their wages takes money out of the economy. In fact taxes drive the state's economy by building the infrastructure that enable economic growth. The California state government is police and fire protection and schools and roads and courts and all of those are the engines of economic growth. Taxes fund the services that people want like shorter lines at the DMV and libraries and did I mention schools? These layoffs and wage cuts just illustrate what I wrote a while back about how tax cuts make us poor.
This is the Republican choice -- giving the very wealthiest even more money at the expense of regular working people.
Click through to Speak Out California.
We learned this week that the McCain campaign had two ads ready to roll after Obama's European trip. There was the one they ran, accusing Obama of playing basketball instead of visiting injured troops -- and the one they didn't run accusing Obama of visiting injured troops for political purposes.
This indicates the extent to which the McCain campaign is planning ahead, intending to play both sides of everything. And it reveals something important about yesterday's accusation by McCain that Obama is "playing the race card." It suggests that the recent racist "celebrity" ads linking Obama and white women were intended to trigger a response from Obama, so they could make this "race card" accusation.
Enabling this "race card" accusation was the real intent of the ads. This "race card" accusation lets McCain appear to be the victim while he runs racist ads. It's a twofer.
Think about the meaning of "playing the race card." The accusation that blacks "play the race card" taps into and amplifies working-class white resentment. It says that black people receive special treatment, have it easy, don't have to work, get government handouts from liberals, while the politically-correct crowd jumps all over you just for trying to point out their true nature.
Accusing Obama of "playing the race card" goes back to the old racist line that black people are always complaining, nothing is good enough for them, and if white pepole try to get what's theirs blacks will play the race card" and say you are taking from them because of their race.
This is only August and McCain's campaign is working hard to divide us and inspire hatred. It is going to get a lot worse.
A week after 9/11 anthrax was mailed to several news outlets and two Democratic Senators, accompanied by notes designed to make people think it was sent by Muslim terrorists. Immediately ABC News starting running stories quoting multiple anonymous sources claiming the government had proof that the anthrax came from Iraq.
Then, in his January, 2002 State of the Union speech President Bush amplified the charge, saying,
The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.Coming as it did right after the anthrax attacks and ABC News' report that the anthrax came from Iraq, this was obviously meant to solidify in the public's mind that Iraq had attacked us. Remember The Fear? Remember how the rest of that year was full of fear stories about how Iraq also had smallpox stockpiled, with lurid descriptions of what smallpox would do to us if Iraq used it. The fear increased and increased through tthe summer. And then the Republicans insisted that the Congress vote on war with Iraq before the elections! Do you remember that? Do you remember the ads against Senator Max Cleland, who gave three limbs to this country in VietNam, accusing him of being unpatriotic?
ABC News knows who fed them these stories, and they are protecting them. Why? Greenwald writes,
They know who concocted the false bentonite story and who passed it on to them with the specific intent of having them broadcast those false claims to the world, in order to link Saddam to the anthrax attacks and -- as importantly -- to conceal the real culprit(s) (apparently within the U.S. government) who were behind the attacks. And yet, unbelievably, they are keeping the story to themselves, refusing to disclose who did all of this. They're allegedly a news organization, in possession of one of the most significant news stories of the last decade, and they are concealing it from the public, even years later.ABC News needs to reveal who set us up with this story that Iraq attacked us with anthrax. Beyond this, this is a story about a country being manipulated into attacking another country, and a voting public manipulated into electing people who then looted our treasury. It will take time to come to grips with what has happened to us. We ultimately will need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
They're not protecting "sources." The people who fed them the bentonite story aren't "sources." They're fabricators and liars who purposely used ABC News to disseminate to the American public an extremely consequential and damaging falsehood. But by protecting the wrongdoers, ABC News has made itself complicit in this fraud perpetrated on the public, rather than a news organization uncovering such frauds. That is why this is one of the most extreme journalistic scandals that exists, and it deserves a lot more debate and attention than it has received thus far.
Update - Richard at All SPin Zone thinks the suicide is mighty conveeeeenient.
"Rich people create jobs" and "Did you ever get a job from a poor person?" It's a popular line on the right-wing talk-radio circuit. They use it to argue that rich people should pay less in taxes... At right-wing Townhall.com,
The amount of money you make in your lifetime is basically up to you. . . . Who creates these new jobs? Rich people create jobs. There ought to be a national day of recognition for rich people for all they have done for the country. Liberals think if someone makes the right life choices, works hard, and becomes financially independent from the government, they have to be punished with higher taxes to pay for all of the 45 year old minimum wage workers who never learned how to do anything.Discuss.