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January 31, 2009

Bank Bailouts - Ultimate Supply-Side Thinking

Dean Baker: Do "Officials" Have Names? Post Conceals Obama Administration Effort to Hand Tax Dollars to Bankrupt Banks,

If their toxic assets have really frozen lending, although not actually jeopardized their solvency, then the shareholders would have a great lawsuit against any bank executive who refused to act in the interest of the shareholders in order to preserve their own high pay. Such instances would presumably be rare, but could nonetheless provide a great source of free entertainment to a nation suffering through a severe downturn.

In short, there is good reason to believe that the Obama administration is trying to slip hundreds of billions of dollars to bank shareholders and their top management.

My comment on the bank bailouts: The bailouts seem to be the ultimate result of supply-side thinking. The thinking seems to be that since people and businesses are tapped out from so much borrowing and no longer credit-worthy enough to risk loaning money to we should give literally all the rest of the country's money to those at the top of the finance food chain, and maybe they'll make loans again anyway, and get the bad-loan-making system rolling again.

They say that people who want to buy cars can't get loans. Well a credit-worthy buyer CAN get a loan. -I'LL- give a credit-worthy buyer a loan because then I can get a much higher return than I can get anywhere else. As long as I am sure I'll be paid back.

They say people can't buy houses. Well in the SF Bay Area the lowest-priced two-bedroom, one bath house (bad meighborhood, bars on the windows) requires an income of $10K/month to get a mortgage, now that they're again requiring no more than 28% of income be spent on housing. Is the government's idea that giving bad banks literally all the rest of our money will get them to give loans to people to take on mortgages at 50% of their income again?

And what about the GOOD banks, the ones that carefully managed their loan portfolios and didn't get into trouble? Why doesn't the government give cash to them, to help them give more good loans?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:41 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Key To Happiness

Worth a read: The Key to Happiness That No One -- Not Even the Happiness Gurus -- Are Discussing,

There's just one pathway to happiness in which this deep, human need for power is given pride of place: democracy. By this I mean democracy as a living practice that enables us to have a real say in every dimension of our public lives, from school to workplace and beyond.

[. . .] Including power in our definition of happiness changes everything.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:18 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

January 30, 2009

Huh?

Why was I invited to a breeding diversity conference?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:07 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

January 29, 2009

Why Obama Will Fail

Obama's economic team does not see themselves as working for the PEOPLE of the country, they see themselves as defenders of the Wall Street Elite. In the words of the new Treasury Secretary, "we’d like to do our best to preserve that system."

This is the justification for the new plan to just use government money to buy up all the bad loans made by the big Wall Street firms. They screwed up the economy. WE pay for it. They stay rich. We get ever poorer.

From the referenced post,

Consider this statement from Geithner, who said that Treasury is considering a “range of options” for its financial rescue plan, with the goal of preserving the private banking system. “We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we’d like to do our best to preserve that system.”
They are trying to avoid "nationallizing" the banks. But what that means is that the government takes them over, reorganizes them, and then privatizes them again -- in the process wiping out the current shareholders and selling the good parts to new shareholders.

This is what we have always done with bad banks. This is what the FDIC does. This is what we did in the S&L crisis. But they don't want to do that this time.

What they are doing instead is using taxpayer dollars to prop up the current shareholders. The ones who currently own insolvent banks will receive an infusion of taxpayer dollars.

But not the people who are losing their homes, jobs, health care. God forbid THEY should get something. All they did was pay their taxes. Unlike the current Treasury Secretary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:33 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Our Businesses Thrive On The Infrastructure We Built

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

The key to California's successful business environment are education and infrastructure. It is not an accident that our semiconductor and computer and Internet industries, and biotechnology and pharmaceutical and genetic engineering and our other world-class competitive industries developed in California instead of in "low tax" states like Mississippi and Alabama. These industries thrived here because of our well-educated people and our modern, well-maintained infrastructure.

There has been a dramatic wealth-building return on our investment in education and infrastructure. Investors could count on California as a good place to start and grow a business, and it has paid off.

But how much would it cost if businesses had to pay fair market value for use of the infrastructure that We, the People built? What would it cost if companies had to pay the full education cost every time they hire someone who was educated at a California public school or state college or university?

What would it cost if companies had to pay to be provided with police and fire protection? Should companies pay a fee to have the police investigate, catch the perpetrators, and then put them through the criminal justice system?

What would it cost if companies had to pay fair value to use our roads and air- and seaports.

What would it cost if companies had to pay for access to the legal system that We, the People set up. We passed the laws and paid for the courts. We set up the entire legal structure.

We, the People pay to regulate (and apparently bail out) the banking and financial system. What would it cost if businesses had to pay us for setting up this system that (used to) keeps our money sound?

This is what government and taxes are for. We, the People built up California's comprehensive physical, legal, cultural, education and societal infrastructure. Businesses rely on that infrastructure, and we want them to thrive. This benefits us all. Many, many people became wealthy by betting on California as a great place to do business, and we are proud of that. Now it is tome to give something back.

Building and maintaining that infrastructure does cost money, and that is where taxes come in. For several years California has been cutting taxes and cutting back on our investment in education and infrastructure. Businesses cannot continue to thrive as they have if we continue along this path. We have reached a point where the tax-cutting has brought our state's education spending to the second-lowest per-pupil of all the states! We have been and are deferring maintenance on roads and other infrastructure. We are cutting back on all essential services and we still have a $40 billion budget shortfall!

Our companies are getting a good deal. If we charged fees that were based on the actual value of the service that the infrastructure provides businesses would have to pay much, much more than any level of increased taxes companies and wealthy individuals might be asked to pay to help California meet the budget shortfall. The businesses and individuals who thrived because of the infrastructure we built need to contribute to the future by agreeing to pay taxes to help invest in rebuilding that infrastructure.

The payoff is clear. As I wrote above, there is a reason that Silicon Valley and genetic engineering and other wealth-creating industries developed in states like California and Massachusetts instead of "low tax" states like Mississippi and Alabama.

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 28, 2009

Not One Republican Voted For Stimulus

The stimulus bill passed the House but not one Republican voted for it.

Repeat: every single Republican voted against the stimulus bill.

The Democrats pre-compromised on the bill, added business tax cuts that won't stimulate the economy, threw out lots of infrastructure projects, mass transit and others, threw birth control for poor women out, got rid of health efforts to fight STDs, and lots of other nonsense, trading all of that for NOTHING.

They threw good stuff out of the bill without first securing one single Republican vote. Shame on them.

Update - I'm angry and I am going to rant. (It's what I do best.) So who were they were negotiating WITH when they threw out infrastructure, mass transit, birth control for poor women and other important things? It's like someone was just reacting to Drudge Report headlines. When I have been in negotiations I would say, "OK, I can give you that, but if I do, then what do I get in return?" You start with a bill that has in it more than you want or expect to get. Then you throw things out in exchange for a promise to vote for it. Otherwise what is the point of making the bill worse?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Progressive Ideas Book

I would like to tell you about a new book, Thinking Big: Progressive Ideas for a New Era

From the publisher's description:

At this critical juncture progressives have a unique opportunity to reassert themselves as agents of bold ideas and catalysts of political and social transformation. This volume presents new and innovative solutions to some of the most difficult problems we're facing: the financial crisis, healthcare reform, greening the economy, expanding the middle class, improving America's standing in the world, and many more.

This book comes from the Progressive Ideas Network - an alliance of progressive think tanks. The job of these organizations is to think through today's problems and propose solutions according to our progressive values.

For example, the first essay in this book is titled, "Building Shared Prosperity." This is about building an economy that works for all of us rather than just making us all work to death to make a few already-wealthy people richer.

Progressive values: Do we want to live in a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is in it for themselves and only themselves? This is the conservative vision. OR do we want to live in a world where we take care of each other, watch out for each other, and lift each other up? This is the progressive vision.

The website for the book is here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Shorten Workweek To Reduce Unemployment

Pass the stimulus - then help shorten the work week,

One innovative policy that would provide a quick boost to the economy and jobs - and lasting gains in reduced unemployment - is a tax incentive for shorter workweeks or work years.
Who is our economy FOR? Why should high unemployment mean those still working have to work harder with longer hours?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Tax Cuts

Tax cuts only cut taxes for those already making money. A tax cut doesn't provide a dime of help to a struggling business.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

It Wasn't The Republicans

Quick thought: It wasn't the Republicans who didn't put restrictions and controls into the $700 billion TARP Wall Street/bank bailout bill. Democrats wrote and passed that bill.

Now the money is being used for union busting, lobbying, bonuses, dividends...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:23 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 27, 2009

TARP Money Used Against Labor

Bailout Recipients Hosted Call To Defeat Key Labor Bill,

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.
HOW much of OUR money was used for lobbying against our interests, funding conservative causes, etc?

We may never know. THANKS to all the Democratic members of the House and Senate who voted to hand this money over to Bush with few restrictions or requirements or transparency written into the legislation. The TARP bill should have banned all lobbying of any kind by any corporation receiving TARP funds. Good job!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:19 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Stimulus Bill - Giving To Republicans

I'm curious to know which Republicans, specifically, said they will vote for the bill with more tax cuts added -- like the ones they took out mass transit money for. I'd also like to know which Republicans, specifically, are now promising to vote for the bill with family planning funds removed.

The Republicans say they are being left out of the negotiations -- yet more and more real stimulus is disappearing, and more and more useless Republican-style gimmicks are being added.

Who are they negotiating with, that they are giving more and more away to? If it is buying votes they need, that's OK I guess. If it isn't, I'd like to know more about this interesting strategy.

Or, on the other hand, if Republicans say they aren't going to vote for the bill, will they put mass transit and family planning back in?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:16 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Double Bubble. Double Trouble.

Last August, we wrote about the double bubble in the housing market: a more traditional bubble, then over-inflated by a massive asset bubble that drove prices up and up and up. The bigger the bubble, the bigger the pop.

In that post we wrote,

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.
And so here we are. Yesterday's news of a mind-boggling 50,000+ jobs lost in a single day brings us now to the start of this second bubble popping. Because for all of economic talk about housing markets and prices and fancy new mortgages that were created, at its economic base, housing prices are just about the simplest thing in the world.

When people make more money, or more people move into a market, housing prices slowly go up. When people make less money, or people move out of a market, housing prices slowly go down.

The housing bubble popped, leading to recession, and the recession is now going to lead to a further decline in housing prices. Where will that lead?

The problem at the root of the housing asset bubble is that over the last few decades -- since Reagan and the Republican free-market supply-side, trickle-down policies took over -- Americans have not been earning more, they've just been able to buy more thanks to a litany of mortgage and other debt-raising products that compensate for the lack of earnings.

People used to be required to put 20% down before they could buy a house. How many people do you know, honestly, that have 20% to put down on a house now? How many do you know that actually have 20% equity accrued in the house they already own? We're betting not many.

That 20% down payment requirement kept housing prices in check. But that became a 15% requirement, then 10%, then 5% then a negative 10% requirement, where you could actually get a mortgage for 110% of the value of your house. Well, they helped inflate the bubble.

On top of that, loan standards used to require that people spend no more than 25-28% of their income on housing expenses. This also kept prices in check. This was also set aside, and "liar loans" further inflated the bubble. Now that all has to be undone.

Last August, real estate experts were claiming that 2009 was to be the bottom of the market, and housing prices were going to head back up. Just like they claimed that 2008 was going to be the bottom and that 2007 was when the market would turn.

Sadly, the chances of real estate prices turning back up, in real dollar terms, has vanished for the next decade at least. There are two coherent facts behind this.

First, the size of the bubble means that someone who bought a house for $500,000 in 2005 is already 20-25% down in the price of the house. Factor in inflation, and it's closer to 35 - 40% down right now, four years later. Of the millions of Americans who will lose their jobs this year, many will be unable to cover their mortgages. And foreclosures, short sales, sales right before the short sales, these will continue to increase, driving prices down even further. This all means there is little demand for high-priced houses.

Second, the bubble caused a building boom, and along with all the foreclosures there is now a huge supply of houses and condos waiting to be sold. And only then will the "shadow" market of people waiting on the sidelines for a better market in which to sell their houses kick in.

Only after all of these factors are cleared will market conditions even start to return to normal.

By 2010, perhaps 2011, perhaps we will see signs of a bottom of the real estate market, with prices having returned to their historical norms at a level that many suggest is 30-35% below where they are today.

For many, this will be personal financially troubling, even disastrous. From an economic point of view, it is the fundamental principal of supply, demand, and income proving to be true again, and a return to economic reality.

What can be done about it? The root cause of this and many other problems in our economy is the stagnation of incomes that began when Reagan was elected. Republican policies brought a massive concentration of wealth at the top with a select few reaping all of the benefits of our economic system. But this double-bubble collapsing-economy problem is costing their wealth as well. Trickle-down doesn't, and when the rest of us are tapped out by misguided policies like these it spells disaster for everyone.

Posted by Dave and James at 11:55 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

The media owners get the journalists they want

UPDATE: For the record, I've made the point below dozens or hundreds of times. Hardly anyone ever agrees, and often no one disagrees either. Apparently the idea is just unthinkable, probably because of the Chomsky cooties. (Have I ever mentioned that I hate liberals?)
At the moment we're having another episode of the same old grumbling about the media, and as always, I think people are missing the point. Below is an edited and enlarged version of a comment I made to the post linked above:

I'm really becoming a nag on this question, but "journalistic incompetence, laziness, and the knowing distribution of unadulterated bullshit" are management problems. The journalists whose names and faces we see are doing exactly the jobs they were hired to do. When Jonah Goldberg or William Kristol gets hired by a major newspaper, it's not because the person who hired him has made a mistake.

The reason why there's a journalism groupthink problem is that there's a management groupthink problem. For a long time now, up-and-coming people in the business have been seeing dishonest, frivolous journalists hired and promoted while better journalists are deadended or fired, and they have learned to conform their work to what their bosses want.

The interests and ideologies of the owners and publishers of the various media have overwhelmed whatever journalistic standards they ever had, and their primary interest is low taxes.

The Republicans' extraordinary emphasis on the inheritance tax, which affects onlt 0.5% of the population can be explained in large part by the fact that the owners of the old privately-owned newspapers (the Washington Post, the New York Times,the Seattle Times, and others) are among that 0.5%

.

The publicly owned media are controlled by enormous financial organizations whose primary political interests are, again, low taxes (and favorable regulations). And like all media, they have to be responsive to advertisers, whose interests are similar. (Many institutional advertisers aren't selling an actual product, but just getting their company's name out there. If an oil company buys an ad, it's not selling gasoline, it's buying favorable coverage and trying to flimflam the electorate.)

The media need subscribers, viewers and readers, but they don't get their money from them -- they get their money from advertisers. Readers and viewers are not the customer, but their product: advertisers pay good money for access to your mind. (When a TV talking head says "The American people think such and such", they're not telling you what the American people think. They're telling you what you should think.)

I've been seeing this kind of media criticism for five years now, and while it's valuable and good, I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone except maybe Billmon try to understand why the media are so bad. I've tried to tell people dozens or hundreds of times (DeLong, Somerby, everybody), but no one picks up on it. It must be pure Chomskyphobia, because this isn't a new or a difficult idea.

The media we have now like themselves the way they are. They'll accommodate themselves to Obama and the Democrats as much as they have to, but they'll also do what they can to bend him and break him. What we need is new media. The internet and Air American help, but they're not nearly enough. Maybe Soros will cough up a half a billion, or maybe a couple million people will buy hundred dollar subscriptions. Without something like that, things will be as bad ten years from now as they are today.

Neither I nor anyone reading these words will be able to get new media started, but it's not something that's impossible. Neuharth did it with USA Today, and Murdoch did it with Fox -- and it wouldn't even have to be a for-profit company. But I've never heard anyone but me even speculate about doing this.

Anyway, don't sit around waiting for the media to get better. Not going to happen.

Posted by John Emerson at 9:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 26, 2009

Investigating Bush Crimes

Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute says Prosecute George W. Bush for Illegal Acts. The piece begins,

The Obama administration is reluctant to turn over too many rocks in the Bush administration’s conduct in the War on Terror. Obama has pledged to reach a post-partisan nirvana, and Republicans could condemn any investigation of Bush administration abuse of the republic as a partisan witch-hunt. Also, the Obama administration has a conflict of interest in pursuing investigations and prosecutions against Bush administration officials because now that Obama is president, he may not want to entirely discredit Bush’s precedents, which significantly expanded executive powers.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Citibank Uses TARP Money To Buy New Jet

Remember when the Bushies came to the Congress, demanding $700 billion in 48 hours? And remember how the Congress gave in and took out many of the taxpayer protections?

Citibank is using some of the money to buy a new jet for executives. It's not even American-made. Why would you expect anything different?

The French-made luxury jet seats up to 12 in a plush interior with leather seats, sofas and a customizable entertainment center, according to Dassault's sales literature. It can cruise 5,950 miles before refueling and has a top speed of 559 mph.

There are just nine of these top-of-the-line models in the United States, with Dassault's European factory churning out three to four 7Xs a month.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Today's Layoff News

Just today:
Caterpillar to slash 20,000 jobs as profit falls

GM to lay off 2,000 workers, cut production

Sprint to eliminate 8,000 jobs

Home Depot cutting 7,000 jobs

Allbritton Communication Announces Massive Job Cuts

Deere to lay off nearly 700 workers

Harley-Davidson plans 425 local job cuts

Thermadyne laying off 110
Pfizer-Wyeth merger to mean job cuts: "...announced a cost-cutting initiative that will include the elimination of more than 8,000 jobs. "

That was TODAY. Actually, it's early yet.

And just the other day: Microsoft plans 5,000 job cuts

Starbucks to Lay Off 1,000


Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:12 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 25, 2009

Tax Cuts - Already Tried and Failed

At Economists View, The 2003 "Jobs and Growth" Plan (Tax Cuts) Didn't Work, Mark Thoma looks at Tax cut approach has already been tried and failed as stimulus by Lawrence Mishel at the Economic Policy Institute,

[. . .] Even worse were the Bush tax cuts of 2003, which the administration claimed would generate 1.4 million jobs on top of the 4.1 million jobs that were expected to be generated over the eighteen months following June 2003.
See: http://www.jobwatch.org/creating/bkg/cea_on_bush_tax_cuts_20030204_macro_effects.pdf

EPI tracked the initiative’s effectiveness through a website, www.jobwatch.org, and found that it fell far short of its goals. Not only did the promised 1.4 million additional jobs not appear, but the 4.1 million jobs expected with no action also failed to materialize. In all, only 2.4 million jobs were created—1.7 million short of the administration’s projection without their new policy. Thus, by the Bush administration’s own metrics the tax cut program fell short by a total of 3.1 million jobs (149,000 pr month).

Thoma writes,
They already screwed this up once, the initial tax cut stimulus package put into place last spring was too small and poorly targeted, it had all sorts of problems all in the name of appeasing this same group - and here they are trying to muck up the process once again, to hold jobs hostage while they try to get tax cuts in place, even though something like 40% of the package is already devoted to tax cuts. Camel, tent, nose.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 23, 2009

One Of The Ways FDR Saved Us

Republicans are trying to tell people that FDR's policies made the economy worse.

So think about this: Where would we be today if FDR hadn't implemented federal bank deposit insurance? Would there be a single bank left in the country today?

That is JUST ONE of the ways that FDR's policies and regulations helped us this time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:18 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Times Change, Some Industries Don’t Want To

I wrote a post yesterday, MPAA vs RealDVD -- Why You Care, about the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)’s lawsuit to keep the product RealDVD off the market. This post is a continuation of that story.

The movie industry has had a good thing going. They put movies onto DVDs, and people have to have the actual DVD in order to watch the movie. There has even been a law passed called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that makes it illegal to sell hardware or software that lets people make copies of DVDs. This grants a monopoly on a revenue stream. As far as this works to promote creativity and innovation, and makes sure that people are paid for their work, this is a good and necessary use of government power. But keep in mind that this is a use of government power to direct a revenue stream to certain people, and therefore must be closely monitored because this creates an interest to prevent innovation as well as to promote it. It’s a good thing that MPAA naturally wants to keep going – a legal monopoly that forces people and companies to pay and pay and pay. Them.

Now a company has a product, RealDVD, that lets you copy your DVD onto your computer. Not to burn it and make copies for others, just for YOU to see it yourself. With products like this, if you get a scratch or lose your DVD, you can still watch it on your computer without having to buy the DVD again.

The MPAA has sued to keep the RealDVD technology from the public. They say RealDVD violates copyright law because it lets you see a movie that you purchased or rented even after it is transferred off of the DVD. This lawsuit denies the reality that today a movie is digitized. This is what a DVD really is, a place where the digitized file is kept. It can be on a USB drive or other device that can be copied, and the DMCA outlaws this. This digitization can bring tremendous flexibility to the user in how they can choose to see the movie. And it is the foundation for innovation that brings benefits to consumers. The MPAA lawsuit fights this innovation.Engadget says, “it's sadly clear to us that Hollywood's fight here is against consumers having flexibility with their media”.

If this is about stopping people from watching their movies on their computer without having to have the actual DVD present, then MPAA is trying to fit customers into their business model, not the other way around. This blocks innovation and is not filling the needs or solving the problems for customers -- this is making customers sacrifice to solve MPAA's problems. They are saying that because there might be a way that a product could be used to make illegitimate copies, customers should be assumed to be criminals and the innovation should be blocked.

But this suit may be be about the MPAA keeping control over innovation -- in other words it may be about MPAA abusing this law to press for license fees. This is not the purpose of copyright as spelled out in our Constitution. By holding up RealDVD MPAA may be trying to get the company to decide to just pay them a license fee to get them off their back. If that is the case this isn't an argument over the definition of piracy at all, it is an abuse of the law and court system. The purpose of copyright law is to promote innovation by making sure revenue flows to the innovator.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 22, 2009

POWER TO TRUTH

c/p ItinerantActivist

“Beauty is truth,

truth, beauty,
that is all Ye know on Earth,
And all ye need to know.”

-Keats

By: Robin L. Bergman, an artist and political activist blogging under the name Itinerant Activist currently working on Progressive Media Reform Issues and thrilled to be a guest blogger here!


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I’m looking forward to a new reign of truth, a renewed age of transparency,
reason and reasonableness in Political Affairs, and most importantly, restoration of our full civil liberties. So perhaps it is fitting that while I was an on location radio correspondant for WWZN 1510 AM Boston Tuesday morning, at the Inauguration, the young and vivacious 23 year old college student from Dallas I randomly chose to be interviewed out on the Mall in the shadow of the Washington Monument in the bitter cold an hour or so before the Inauguration was named Truth. Truth had supported Obama since the beginning of his campaign. Truth couldn’t help but feel ecstatic and hopeful about the future under Obama’s leadership. She was in Washington along with her Mom, older Sister and Mom’s dear friend.

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Sunday morning had begun with breakfast at the hotel with a lovely woman I met in the elevator who traveled here from Alaska to celebrate, and I enjoyed her stories about Alaska politics over scrambled eggs and fruit. Out on the Mall Sunday afternoon at the star- packed “We Are One” concert, I was moved when, after Obama spoke, in a symbolic gesture that to me signals some of the intentions of the new president, Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen led the crowd in singing the original pro-labor version of “This Land Is Your Land.” [ BTW- a must see - is the uplifting documentary “The Power of Song” about Pete Seeger’s life and work. There’s a petition online to nominate Seeger for a Nobel Peace Prize, and as I was leaving for Washington, I received an email that Rep. Barbara Lee - 9th District, CA, has agreed to carry Seeger’s nomination and is soliciting specific examples of his work on Peace, Justice, & Environmental Issues by February First. ( Send to: 1301 Clay St. Suite 1000-N Oakland, CA 94612 510-763-0370 ext. 16/ fax 520-763-6538)]

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On my way out of the hotel early on Inauguration Day, a family with two little boys rode down on the elevator with me. The five year old suddenly piped up “Aren’t we going to be near the cameras for MSNBC?” Wow! We’re finally bringing up a brand new generation of liberals! It was great to be in crowds of several million people cheering as the new president was sworn in, ending the nightmare that has been the last 8 years. This country has had a collective case of PTSD. Washington has been positively bubbling over with emotion, pride and euphoria since I arrived late Saturday night. The streets, restaurants and hotels have been one big roving party. Complete strangers have been walking up to each other, checking in, sharing these incredible moments, no matter what age, background, race. As someone who lived through the Boston busing crisis while in college, I am so proud of my country and how far it has come in regard to race (I had a first inkling about our progress when Deval Patrick was elected as our Governor. People think of Massachusetts as a progressive bastion, but it has always had a tug of war between “town and gown,” provincialism vs. urbanity, and despite it’s historical part in the underground railroad and it’s institutions such as the W.E.B DuBois Institute, continued racial polarization and separation.)

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I realize there are still too many pockets of overt racism in this country, but hope that Obama’s presidency will help to further transcend these issues as it has been experienced in Washington this week. The entire Mall area was packed with millions of people, respectfully peaceful, side by side. I had a Press Pass - graciously thanks to Dave from Seeing the Forest blog but was unable to get anywhere close to a press area as the Mall & environs were already so crowded well before 8 in the morning. I had been invited to stop in at the combined Senators’ Kerry and Kennedy offices Inaugural viewing party at the Dirksen Senate Office Building and another party up Connecticut Avenue above Dupont Circle, but getting around Washington was taking hours by Metro and on foot with many metro stations and roads closed off for security reasons as well as by the Parade, so I never made it to either place. Instead, I sat for a long while over a large cup of coffee warming up after 7 hours outside in the cold. (Thank god for “little hotties” hand and foot warmers that kept us all from freezing out there!) A little bit of sadness interrupted my afternoon when a friend called to tell me that Senator Kennedy had collapsed at the Inaugural luncheon and was taken out to an ambulance on a stretcher having had a seizure. We’re all hoping for our Senator’s health to improve as it is difficult to imagine the Senate without him and know how much he is looking forward to crafting new Universal Health Care Legislation. Later, I celebrated the day again, over dinner and wine with old friends from Cambridge.

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It’s been an amazing and emotional experience to be here, to personally witness change to what I hope will be some sort of equilibrium instead of the Orwellian upside-down world we’ve been forced to endure. I realize how enormous the challenges are that we face, particularly the economic meltdown, and I don’t expect overnight miracles, but I am hopeful about Obama’s ability to handle the complexity. I’m so thrilled to have a brilliant president who is worthy of the 21st century (and he has just been allowed to keep his beloved blackberry!)


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More highlights of my DC experience:

Sunday afternoon “We Are One” Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial was all wonderful but was particularly moved by Tom Hank’s recitation of Copeland’s “Lincoln Portrait” and Pete Seeger & Bruce Sprinsteen’s ‘This Land is Your Land.”

Monday afternoon volunteered during the “Day of Service” to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., across town at the RFK Stadium, packing care packages and writing letters to our soldiers overseas, where we just missed seeing Governor Patrick and other members of the MA delegation.

Monday evening we enjoyed the Netroots Nation Party over sushi, grape leaves and Martinis at the Clarendon Ballroom in Arlington keynoted by a rousing speech by Howard Dean about the successful role of the Netroots toward the outcome of the election, and stressing the importance of continued engagement in the process of democracy.


HowardDean.jpg


"...the time has come to set aside childish things."

"...As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice
between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely
imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the
rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up
for expedience's sake."

- Obama Inaugural Address

Tuesday Inaugural, Obama’s address bravely included Muslims and non-believers for the first time in an Inaugural speech. A nice start toward including everyone. There was a bit too much Christian religion in the entire event for my taste, (separation of church and state, anyone?) but I make an exception for the closing benediction by Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, one of the original Civil Rights leaders - he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Mobile, Alabama and founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1950s. I can only begin to imagine how unbelievable this experience has been for him. He opened with lines from what is considered “The Black National Anthem” (“Lift Every Voice and Sing” - first performed in celebration of Lincoln’s birthday in 1900, so the symbolism is doubly great) and he closed his blessing quoting from an old traditional roots blues song:

“…we ask you to help us work for that day when
brown can stick around,
when yellow will be mellow,
when the red man can get ahead, man,
and when white will embrace what is right.
Let all those who do justice and love mercy
say Amen.
Say Amen.
And Amen.”

Obamaoath.jpg

Wednesday afternoon, I went to a Roundtable Panel Discussion sponsored by Netroots Nation & Think Progress at the Center For American Progress on “Internet Advocacy” (the role of the Netroots and technology in governance over the next four years) with a booksigning by Mike Lux, one of the five panelists, for his new book, The Progressive Revolution: How the Best In America Came To Be.

netrootspanel.jpg

L to R: Michael Lux,Cheryl Contee, Amanda Terkel, Sam Graham-Felsen, Ari Melber.


That evening I met some friends from Pittsburgh, for dinner at a Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown. I am still savoring the week, both teary and bleary eyed while I get ready to drive back to Massachusetts today. What a fantastic week it has been!

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Posted by Robin at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Your TARP Dollars At Work

Merrill Lynch used TARP funds to give out $4 billion in bonuses.

According to the Financial Times

Last week, BofA said it would be receiving $20bn in Tarp money, in addition to the $25bn that had been earmarked for it and Merrill last year. It was then revealed that Merrill had suffered a $21.5bn operating loss in the fourth quarter.

Despite the magnitude of the losses, Merrill had set aside $15bn for 2008 compensation, a sum that was only 6 per cent lower than the total in 2007, when the investment bank’s losses were smaller.

The bulk of $15bn in compensation was paid out as salary and benefits throughout the course of the year. A person familiar with the matter estimated that about $3bn to $4bn was paid out in bonuses in December.

Nancy Bush, an analyst with NAB Research, described the size of the 2008 Merrill bonus payments as “ridiculous”.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:03 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

MPAA vs RealDVD -- Why You Care

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is suing to stop RealPlayer's RealDVD from being sold to computer owners. RealDVD lets you make backup copies of your movie DVDs onto your computer. It doesn’t let you make new DVDs or share the files from your computer with others -- it just lets you keep for yourself a backup. MPAA says this means computer users “steal” movies.

Why do you care? This affects you because it is another case of big corporations using their ability to influence our government to gain financial advantages that cost us money and convenience.

The MPAA sues people and companies that they say are “stealing” their movies. Of course within reason this is necessary and proper. But in their efforts to protect movie company profits, MPAA has been going too far, acting similarly to the infamous Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the recording industry group that sues anyone they suspect may have downloaded a tune, in order to make an example of them. (See MPAA Sues Grandfather for $600,000. His 12-year-old son had downloaded a movie.)

But fear that people are “stealing” may not be the real reason behind this lawsuit. In Why Hollywood Hates RealDVD, Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann writes that this is about a strategy to force Real and others to pay license fees to MPAA when they come up with new technologies. He writes that MPAA’s position,

“. . . forces technology companies to enter into license agreements before they build products that can play movies. . . . Those license agreements, in turn, define what the devices can and can't do, thereby protecting Hollywood business models from disruptive innovation.”
This fight traces back to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA limits how technology can be used, even limiting researchers from studying various kinds of computer encryption and other algorithms. Basically, it says that companies can’t make products that enable people to distribute their own copies of copyrighted material. Copyrighted music and movies contain code that tells the computer that this file can’t be copied, and computers and programs have to contain code that recognizes this.

Copyright, according to our constitution, is intended to "promot[ing] the progress of science and useful arts". The idea was to grant a legal monopoly on profiting from this kind of work for a few years to provide an incentive and reward for scientific research and creativity. This means the government uses its power to stop competition. As it applies to the arts this is how authors, musicians, filmmakers and others are able to make a living at all and that is why it is in the Constitution. But like so many corporate-inspired distortions of our laws and values in the last several years, the DMCA is primarily about benefiting big, established corporations and blocking rather than promoting innovation. In fact, when used like this it stifles innovation.

Something we have seen in recent years is businesses misusing legal tactics to increase profits. In other words, using their money-bought influence over our government to get special favors such as tax breaks, subsidies, grants of monopolies, “no-bid” contracts, etc.

Lawrence Lessig is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and founder of the school's Center for Internet and Society. He teaches and writes in the areas of constitutional law, contracts, and the law of cyberspace. In 1999 he said, “This is law and code conspiring to tilt market forces quite decidedly in one direction rather than another.”

More recently Lessig has written

“. . . when the D.M.C.A. protects technology that in turn protects copyrighted material, it often protects much more broadly than copyright law does. It makes criminal what copyright law would forgive.”
So here we have MPAA suing to block people from being able to get the RealDVD program, which lets people keep a backup on their own computer in case their DVD gets scratched or lost. (Unless they pay MPAA licensing fees – wink wink, nod nod.) MPAA also wants to make people buy new DVDs. But people want to make backups in case they scratch or lose their DVDs.

This case comes to court soon, keep an eye on it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:06 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

NEVER Enough For The Wingnuts

Yesterday in Wingnuts Can Relax I wrote,

The right-wing clownosphere was trying to claim that Obama is not really President because the Chief Justice screwed up the Oath of Office. So, to shut them up, Obama takes presidential oath again after stumble

Not so fast. SCREAMING HEADLINE at Drudge Report:
NO BIBLE USED AT OBAMA RE-SWEAR

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:17 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 21, 2009

Wingnuts Can Relax

The right-wing clownosphere was trying to claim that Obama is not really President because the Chief Justice screwed up the Oath of Office. So, to shut them up, Obama takes presidential oath again after stumble.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Fired up (and no place to go)!

(The other day I hinted that I had something coming from the inauguration. Here it is, with lots of photos on the extended entry page -- Dave J.)

I'm Nancy Weinberg. I blog at Nancy's News Network (except lately have been working hard on the election and post-election...). I worked on the Election Protection Wiki project with Dave, and when Dave learned I would be in DC for the inauguration he asked me to get some pictures and post here.

I’m politically active at home, involved in fund-raising campaigns with my Democratic Town Committee; I volunteered in Denver during the convention and in Ohio for the Obama Election Protection Team. For the moment, I’m just a girl with a great camera who came to Washington to witness history and celebrate the end of the Bush regime.

Here is part one of my report:

I had a silver ticket from my congressman that guaranteed me a place to stand in the section behind the reflecting pool on the Mall. It would possibly be close enough to distinguish one person from another on the podium through my binoculars; at the least, it would offer me a view of the proceedings on one of the Jumbotrons, and allow those of us lucky enough to be in that section to bear witness to history being made.

I left my hotel at 7 a.m. to walk the 3 miles to the “silver” gate. (And, yes, the word “pearly” came to mind.) The route took me under the National Mall, through the closed-to-traffic 3rd Street tunnel.

Entering the tunnel:
Entering%20the%20tunnel.jpg

Inside the tunnel:
In%20the%20tunnel.jpg

Emerging:
emerging.jpg

As I neared the gate I saw the line snaking east and I followed it, past one corner, then west to the next, block after block to the end. When I first saw it, it was moving along, but it stopped to a crawl soon after I joined it, midway down a block lined with tour buses, most with engines running, empty save a driver. The fumes were horrible, although one could forgive the smell and feel grateful for a moment or two of heat as the line inched by a running engine. For over an hour, I watched people stream passed me to the end of the line, now stretched out of sight, around many corners. Around 10, the line started to move and as we rounded the last block, it seemed as though people were joining the line from different directions. Rumors that the gate was closed shot through the crowd, which had changed from an orderly 11 block-long (at least) line into a sea of anxious, freezing, weary wanna-bes crushed into a block-long and wide space. Someone started shouting, “Let us in!” and it became a chant with the crowd punching the air with their embossed silver-edged invitations on each word. LET! US! IN! These people—all of them—privileged to be honored by their congressmen and women with what they thought was a guaranteed place at the party, had been shut out by an anonymous ogre at the gate. I recalled Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing the words of Woody Guthrie on Sunday:

A great high wall there tried to stop me
A great big sign there said private property
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing
That side was made for you and me.

Yeah, right.

I got a text message from a friend who had a purple ticket. She, too, was reporting gates were closed in front of her, and was headed to the Dirksen Senate Office Building where Senators Kerry and Kennedy had promised a place to watch the proceedings and stay warm to those who couldn’t attend outdoors. It was 10:40. I fought the crowd, which was beginning to feel like the crush on New Year’s Eve in Times Square—something I experienced once long ago and vowed never to do again—for a block and escaped, heading to Capital Hill. I had to go behind the Capitol and down the other side, which took about half an hour (someday I’ll walk it at a normal pace to see how long it really takes) and get through security at the entrance. I couldn’t remember where I was supposed to go and asked if anyone knew where there was a TV. I was directed to a small cafeteria in the basement corridor between the Dirksen and Rayburn Buildings.

Gathered there were about 20 people who, for one reason or another, had happened upon the place. All eyes on a small TV that the owner proudly announced she had installed the day before so her customers would be able to watch the ceremony.

Cups and Company:
watching.jpg


'Tis a Gift:
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Proprietors:
Proprietors.jpg

Watching:
almost.jpg

Swearing-in:
swearing-in.jpg

Done!
Done%21.jpg

Everyone, including me, was happy to be there. We instantly became a community, devoted to sharing this moment in history. We cheered, clapped, prayed, amen’d, and shared smiles and tears. We stood when Obama took the oath of office. When I said, “Bye-bye Bush!” as his helicopter took him away, someone said Alleluiah! I'd have driven to Washington from Boston just to be with those people at that time, and I can’t think of anywhere I’d have rather been. It was worth a ticket edged in gold to be among the people in that room.

New friends:
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VICTORY!
victory%21.jpg

Posted by Nancy at 4:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

A Sneak Attack On Unions

I received a press release today. It has a secret attack on the freedom of people to join unions in it. There is really big money behind the attack on unions, and they are using trickery and deception. The press release I received is part of that effort. This press release appears to be from an organization concerned about democracy, but it is really from a lobbying organization funded by big business.

The trickery is in a few words of the last paragraph of the ballot initiative below, where they say "or authorizations of employee representation." Read it carefully, and then you will see that this is what it is really all about. It is all about efforts to turn people against the Employee Free Choice Act by claiming it "eliminates the secret ballot." It doesn't do that, but this is a step in the battle.

So these lobbyists are going to launch well-funded drives to amend the constitutions of several states to require secret ballots in "or authorizations of employee representation." Of course, the upcoming Employee Free Choice Act allows workers to decide whether to form unions using secret ballots or just by having more then 50% of the workers join a union. The fight over these initiatives will stir up the pot, and make it appear that there is something sinister about this effort to let people join unions.

Here is the press release, see for yourself:

National Movement to Protect Secret Ballots in State Constitutions: Save Our Secret Ballot Launches in GA, OK, SC, SD and ND

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With Congress poised to act to end the secret ballot rights of employees choosing representation, a national movement to protect the secret ballot in state constitutions launched today in Washington DC and in five states. Entitled SOS Ballot - Save Our Secret Ballot - the new group announced its efforts to place before voters a secret ballot constitutional amendment in Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and North Dakota, with the expectation that additional states will be announced in the coming weeks.

SOS Ballot National Advisory Board Chairman and former Congressman Ernest Istook said, "Most of us assume voting by secret ballot in America is a constitutional right that has always existed and always will. But neither is the case. With America's right to a secret ballot under serious threat, I'm proud to be part of a citizens' movement to give voters the opportunity to vote by secret ballot, to amend state constitutions to guarantee the right of a secret ballot. We know some in Congress and some from big labor will fight this effort or even arrogantly say the people do not have a right to vote to protect their secret ballot. But rather than deter us, we take this as the proof that we must work diligently in every state to protect and re-affirm our secret ballot rights. The more vocal the opposition, the more every voter will see why we must act immediately, lest we lose the secret ballot and return to the time when voter intimidation and even physical harm were common place."

The initiative language was written by noted attorney and constitutional scholar Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute's Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. The Goldwater Institute has pledged its efforts for legal defense of the language if challenged. The 47-word amendment says:

"The right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental. Where state or federal law requires elections for public office or public votes on initiatives or referenda, or designations or authorizations of employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed."

[...]

Secret Ballot History

The secret ballot was used locally as an act of post-Civil war southern reconstruction, first as a way to impose a literacy requirement on newly freed slaves. But the secret ballot also protected mostly black voters who faced physical intimidation, even lynching depending on how their vote was cast. Secret ballots were first used statewide in the Massachusetts governor's race 1888 and nationally in 1892 to elect President Grover Cleveland.

Source: SOS Ballot

Web Site: http://www.sosballot.org/

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Obama Kills 50-State Strategy?

I am hearing that the post-Dean DNC under Obama has killed off the 50-state strategy and that 200 organizers have been fired. The word is they are going to go back to the old 50%-plus-one strategy that sacrificed the idea of making gains in areas that have voted Republican.

See Daily Kos: RIP 50-state strategy.

If this is true it is time to stop giving money or otherwise helping the DNC, and start thinking about ways to build progressive infrastructure.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 20, 2009

The Right Wishes Obama NOT Well

Limbaugh: ‘I Hope Obama Fails’

WorldNetDaily: Pray Obama fails

Riehl World View: The Speech

Having read Obama's speech, it seems to me that if you are at all Right-leaning, you must be crazy if you want this guy to "succeed."
Human Events: A Dangerous Presidency Begins

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:49 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

Born Again American

This is interesting:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:29 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

The New President

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

At 12:01pm EST, as Barack Obama took the oath of office to become President of the United States of America, the White House website, whitehouse.gov, switched over to its new format.  The list of menu items on that website includes "Our Government."  It is OUR government, the People of the United States joining together to manage our affairs.

One feature of the new website is a blog.  The first post at the blogs promises Communication, Transparency and Patricipation.  For example,

"One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it."
It is OUR government, and a new era has begun. 

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Barack Obama Is President

We have shown the world that this can happen. But we also need to understand how the last eight years happened, and assure the world that our system is strong enough to keep it from happening again. We must strengthen democracy and law.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:05 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Watching from Home ... BUT

I am watching the inauguration from home, BUT there are two people in DC who will be posting and uploading lots of pictures for us.

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

WhiteHouse.gov

I'm told that at exactly 12:01EST the White House website changes over to the new Obama site.

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

January 19, 2009

A Metric For Right-Wing Opinion Influence

This poll measures people's understanding of global warming. I think it effectively measures the power and reach of the right's media machine -- on an issue campaign funded by Exxon. This is worth understanding as we go into fights for health care, etc. The insurance companies will learn from this and match Exxon's effort and poison the health care debate.

44% Say Global Warming Due To Planetary Trends, Not People,

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democrats blame global warming on human activity, compared to 21% percent of Republicans. Two-thirds of GOP voters (67%) see long-term planetary trends as the cause versus 23% of Democrats. Voters not affiliated with either party by eight points put the blame on planetary trends.

. . . While 64% of Democrats say global warming is a Very Serious problem, just 18% of Republicans and 33% of unaffiliated voters agree. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of GOP voters say it’s no problem at all, a view shared by 19% of unaffiliateds and only four percent (4%) of Democrats.

Forty-three percent (43%) of female voters also rate global warming a Very Serious problem, compared to 38% of men. Twenty-three percent (23%) of male voters say it is not at all a problem, but only nine percent (9%) of women agree.

Exxon wins.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:32 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos

Sirota Goes There

David Sirota yesterday U.S. moving toward czarism, away from democracy,

In sum, it explains why the age-old struggle between capitalism and democracy is once again defining our politics - and why capitalism is now winning.
Capitalism is the idea that a few people -- instead of the public -- should "own" the commons. So what do you think, is this the age-old struggle that is once again defining our politics? (And our economy I might add.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:12 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

"This video has been removed by the user"

HBO owns Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen's inauguration performance of Woodie Guthrie's song.

This land is their land. They don't even bother to pretend.

Posted by John Emerson at 1:52 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Are People Afraid To Spend -- Or Just Can't Spend Any More?

Earlier I wrote that there is a problem lending to people who are not "credit-worthy." Banks are looking for people to give loans to, as long as they can be pretty sure they will be paid back.

Today Warren Buffett said,

“We have fear which leads to people not wanting to spend, and not wanting to make investments. And that leads to more fear.”
OK, I can see how one of the richest people in the world thinks that people are just afraid to spend, and that's the only problem. But from where I live it looks a lot more like people are tapped out -- savings depleted, income stagnant or lost, debt up to the ceiling. And that is why they aren't spending anymore, because they can't spend anymore.

We have to come to terms with what happened. All the money went to the few at the top, wiping everyone else out. And so the economy finally stopped.

Trickle-down economics just doesn't work. THAT is why we are having a financial crisis. The few people who make a lot of money just can't see that. Until they do, their solutions and predictions will continue to be just wrong.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:17 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Credit Crunch Or Just Not Credit-Worthy?

Is there a credit crunch? Are banks just refusing to lend and "sitting on the money?"

I don't see it. I think lenders are actually looking for people they can loan to -- that's how they make their money. I think that any "credit-worthy" borrower can get a loan.

The problem is there are too few credit-worthy borrowers. This means businesses and people with collateral, cash flow and good credit ratings.

The problem is that everyone took on so much debt that they are over their heads now, and are very risky loan prospects. Would YOU loan money to someone who isn't all that likely to pay you back?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:24 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 18, 2009

The Inauguration Cost

Media Matters - The media myth about the cost of Obama's inauguration.

Summary: Bush's inauguration cost $42 million. Obama's will cost $45 million. Everything else you are hearing is just more of the same old right-wing propaganda.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:31 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

January 17, 2009

Laid Off

The Johnson's are very with-it and stylish. We are keeping up with the rest of the country, following all the trends. We are right on top of current events.

My wife was laid off from her job Thursday.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:02 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Economy Chart

Here is a chart I made. I was looking at all the numbers and charts in the paper and thought I might make a chart too.

EconChart.gif

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:26 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Keith Olbermann - 8 years in 8 minutes

A good summary of the Bush years.

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

January 16, 2009

Digging America Out of Republican Debt... Again

Watch this video about how Republicans just dig us deeper into debt. Every time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:20 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Holding Those At The Top Accountable

Today's column by Paul Krugman, Forgive and Forget? is a must-read.

Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.

Law is not just for the people underneath. Accountability is necessary or the entire society is corrupted.

But an investigation into the corruption of the Bush administration isn't just about holding wrongdoers accountable. We also owe it to the rest of the world to reflect on how this happened, and to take steps to assure them that it won't happen again.

Speaking of happening again, just why would an Obama administration resist holding those at the top accountable?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:28 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

January 15, 2009

California - The State Of The State Is Ungovernable

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

"People are asking if California is governable." Governor Schwarzenegger said in the State of the State address today that California faces insolvency within weeks. He said there is more gridlock in Sacramento than on our roads, if that is possible.

The governor gave a very short speech, saying there is no sense talking about education or infrastructure or water or anything else as long as we have this huge $42 billion deficit.

But the fact remains that the state's requirement that 2/3 budget-approval requirement means that the state is, in effect, ungovernable. A few anti-government extremists are able to continue to block the budget, refusing to compromise or even negotiate, demanding that the state lay off tens of thousands of workers, slash medical help for the elderly, slash police protection and firefighting capability, slash funding for courts, raise class sizes to 40 or 50 students, stop repairing roads and levees and everything else the state government does.

David Greenwald writes at California Progress Report wrote, in State of the People is Grim: More Budget Cuts Are Exactly the Wrong Prescription,

"Budget cuts totaling $16 billion over the last three years have already had severe consequences for the people of California. And the Governor's proposed 09-10 budget would further harm California families and our economy with an additional $17 billion in cuts to schools, health care, homecare, and state services."

Leading up to the speech, David Dayen at Calitics wrote, in The State Of The State Is, Well, You Know, "Typically he has done this speech to coincide with the evening news. This year he's trying to hide it."

We at Speak Out California want to invite readers to come up with some solutions for the budget mess. We are working on some ideas for a prize for the best ideas.

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:47 AM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos

January 14, 2009

How To Get Out Of Debt

Once again: The sure-fire way to get out of debt.

A simple solution -- stop borrowing money. Don't buy stuff you cannot afford. Imagine life with no payments to make.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

We Haven't Been Attacked

We were attacked on 9/11 after the Bush administration ignored a memo titled, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In US," and went on vacation. Never forget that.

But the Republicans are spouting the "We haven't been attacked since 9/11" as an accomplishment!

We were attacked on 9/11 because they screwed up, and then they used that to divide the country and push a right-wing agenda, Dept of Homeland Security getting unions out of the government, tax cuts, invading Iraq, etc.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:57 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

January 13, 2009

The "Tax Freedom Day" Trick

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

It takes a 2/3 vote to pass a budget in California. As we have seen this means any budget that does not completely meet the hard-core anti-tax, must-cut-government position of the Republicans in the legislature is voted down. Even though there is enormous public support for government - schools, roads, firefighters, etc. - they will not compromise at all. They demand that we gut the government, lay off tens of thousands of workers, or nothing. So California races toward economic ruin.

What do your taxes buy you? The average person benefits greatly from strong government. By gathering together into a community that is jointly managed (i.e. government) people can pool their resources and accomplish great things that cannot be accomplished by people who are on their own. Roads and bridges are examples of things that people cannot accomplish individually. Police, firefighters, public schools are other examples. Law and courts and a monetary system are still more. And then there are benefits like Social Security and the "safety net" of programs for people who lose jobs to food programs for those of us without enough to eat.

The reason we have almost everything that we value as a society, our education and (until recently anyway) jobs, the internet, buildings that don't easily burn down or blow away, drinkable water coming to our houses and sewage systems leaving them and (until fairly recently, anyway) a health care system that stops epidemics is our government. All of the businesses we see around us exist because of our government -- a corporation cannot even exist without the government that establishes it and the legal system that maintains it.

But there are some who would personally benefit more in the absence of government than in its presence. History has taught that there are some who would organize themselves to take what others have worked to build rather than do that work themselves. One need only look at the walls built around cities in the past to understand this. There have also been organized gangs and other criminal enterprises that take rather than build, and more recently we have seen that organized predatory enterprises also find ways to victimize and prey on people. Fraud, confidence and ponzi schemes, consumer scams and all manner of trickery prey on people who are left unprotected by their community. Government is what has always protected regular people from such predators.

Government -- the people banding together to guard and accomplish their interests -- serves to protect people from those who would just take rather than work with the rest of us to build.

So why did Ronald Reagan famously say "government is the problem" in his first inaugural address and he loudly and repeatedly attack the idea of taxes? The foundation and strength of government is the taxes it collect. Taxes are what provide government with its strength to do all of the good things described above. This is why anti-government ideologues reason that the way to cut government (and thereby bring in its alternative) is to cut taxes. They say that if they can just cut out the foundation of government, it will fall. Or, more famously, that they can "drown it in a bathtub."

One way that anti-government ideologues have worked to accomplish this is to turn people against their own government, tricking people into misunderstanding how taxes work and what government does for them. last week, in What Are Tax Brackets, I explained how one of these tricks works -- that you only pay bracket rates taxes on income that falls in that bracket, not on all income earned up to that bracket.

Another way they turn people against taxation and government is to misrepresent how much is collected and how it is used. Exaggerated statements like, "We pay half our income in taxes" are commonly heard, along with under-representation and misrepresentation of the benefits we receive from government.

"Tax Freedom Day" is one example of this technique. Tax Freedom Day is a product of The Tax Foundation, which is funded by the very same collection of right-wing donors that fund the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and so many other components of the anti-government "conservative movement."

Tax Freedom Day is widely publicized by corporate media, and usually described as being when "the average American" has earned enough income to pay their taxes. Tax Freedom Day for 2008 is April 23. To calculate Tax Freedom Day the The Tax Foundation adds up all the taxes paid to the government from all sources, but it only includes certain forms of income. It doesn't include capital gains income, for example, yet includes capital gains taxes on the tax side of the calculation. These misleading calculations of course result in a much higher tax amount than "the average America" really pays. So while they say that 30.8% of "our" income went to pay taxes in 2008, anyone reading this who looks at their own tax bill can see that their taxes are substantially lower than this figure.

So the next time you hear about Tax Freedom Day, keep in mind who is making this claim, and why.

Click through and join the discussion at Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:26 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

January 12, 2009

The 401K Experiment Failed

I have been writing for a few years about the 401K scam (2006),

In the Reagan days, they sold people on the idea that 401Ks were somehow a good thing, and started moving everyone off of pensions. But a pension means your company puts the money away for you, on top of your pay. A 401K means it is entirely on the worker to fund retirement out of a shrinking paycheck. And people just can't do that - take home pay goes almost entirely to the bills.

Meanwhile corporate profits are WAY up since pensions were replaced by 401Ks. Part of that if from the money that had been used for worker retirements and gave it out as profits instead.

(2002),
. . . The primary "advantage" to workers is they don't pay income taxes on money they set aside in a 401(k) . . . Another "advantage" is that workers decide for themselves where to invest the money - which is why everyone lost so much in the market crash. The benefit to employers is that workers think they have a retirement plan.

[. . .] Meanwhile the money previously going to workers' pensions instead finds its way to the top of the economic ladder.


So, how has the 1981 401K experiment worked out? It's 2009, and no one can afford to retire. Wealth is massively concentrated at the top. So maybe it didn't work out so well - for us. Pretty well for those at the top, though.

But I'm not advocating a return to corporate-funded pensions for their workers. I think we should tax corporate profits and put money into greatly expanding Social Security so everyone - not just people who work for corporations - can afford to live well when they are old. That would be the solution a democracy would choose.

(PS another problem with 401Ks and the "individual" approach is that you don't know how long you are going to live, so you don't know how much to take out each month. When "pooled" as with a pension plan or Social Security actuaries can determine how much on average to pay out. The only plan that can work mathematically is a socialized plan.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:07 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Infrastructure Investment Is The Way Out

Looking at the economy, let me ask the question: What will drive a recovery? What is there in our economy that can get things moving again? Is it manufacturing? When the dollar was falling, prices of goods made in the US were becoming attractive, but with the worldwide crisis the dollar is strong again. And, even if other countries were in a position to buy (and not in recession themselves) we have fallen behind with our manufacturing infrastructure so it would be some time before we could respond to demand.

Since Reagan's tax cuts the country has been living on borrowed money (deficits) and calling it prosperity. We have been putting off maintaining our infrastructure -- never mind investment in new infrastructure. We have been cutting education budgets. We have been cutting health care. we have been cutting everything except military budgets and now it is catching up to us.

The road out of this is public investment. We need a long effort to build a 21st-century infrastructure. We need a national wind and solar energy grid, so we are not exporting dollars in exchange for oil. We need to build energy-efficient transportation. We need building codes across-the-board that require energy efficiency in housing and commercial buildings and we need to retrofit existing buildings. We need fiber-optic internet into every home and business. We need a massive investment in public education up to the university level. We need national health care.

How do we pay for this? By restoring democracy. We return the top tax rate to 90+%. High taxes at the top drive our economy -- look up the numbers, it is just a fact. This also reduces the massive concentration of wealth we have today. Then restore the inheritance tax, and raise it, so people start life on a more equal footing. Cut the military budget to just above the amount spent by the next-highest budgeted competitor. (That would be a massive cut because we now spend more than all other countries combined.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 11, 2009

Relevant Again

Do you remember Odd Todd from the dot com crash, when everyone got laid off? He is relevant again. So go see:

Episode 1. From 2001, Laid-Off: A Day in the Life

Episode 2. Laid off Help Wanted

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Somebody Always Pays

A very interesting Nightline from 2007, before the housing bubble burst. But who could have known/


Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:01 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 10, 2009

President-Elect Obama's Weekly Radio Address, January 10, 2008


In this week's address, President-elect Barack Obama highlights the challenges facing our struggling economy and introduces a report being drafted by Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein.
Transcript:
We start this new year in the midst of an economic crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime. We learned yesterday that in the past month alone, we lost more than half a million jobs – a total of nearly 2.6 million in the year 2008. Another 3.4 million Americans who want and need full-time work have had to settle for part-time jobs. And families across America are feeling the pinch as they watch debts mount, bills pile up and savings disappear.

These numbers are a stark reminder that we simply cannot continue on our current path. If nothing is done, economists from across the spectrum tell us that this recession could linger for years and the unemployment rate could reach double digits – and they warn that our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and standing in the world.

It’s not too late to change course – but only if we take immediate and dramatic action. Our first job is to put people back to work and get our economy working again. This is an extraordinary challenge, which is why I’ve taken the extraordinary step of working – even before I take office – with my economic team and leaders of both parties on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that will call for major investments to revive our economy, create jobs, and lay a solid foundation for future growth.

I asked my nominee for Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Dr. Christina Romer, and the Vice President-Elect’s Chief Economic Adviser, Dr. Jared Bernstein, to conduct a rigorous analysis of this plan and come up with projections of how many jobs it will create – and what kind of jobs they will be. Today, I am releasing a report of their findings so that the American people can see exactly what this plan will mean for their families, their communities, and our economy.

The report confirms that our plan will likely save or create three to four million jobs. 90 percent of these jobs will be created in the private sector – the remaining 10 percent are mainly public sector jobs we save, like the teachers, police officers, firefighters and others who provide vital services in our communities.

The jobs we create will be in businesses large and small across a wide range of industries. And they’ll be the kind of jobs that don’t just put people to work in the short term, but position our economy to lead the world in the long-term.

We’ll create nearly half a million jobs by investing in clean energy – by committing to double the production of alternative energy in the next three years, and by modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings and improving the energy efficiency of two million American homes. These made-in-America jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, developing fuel-efficient cars and new energy technologies pay well, and they can’t be outsourced.

We’ll create hundreds of thousands of jobs by improving health care – transitioning to a nationwide system of computerized medical records that won’t just save money, but save lives by preventing deadly medical errors. And we’ll create hundreds of thousands more jobs in education, equipping tens of thousands of schools with 21st century classrooms, labs and computers to help our kids compete with any worker in the world for any job.

We’ll put nearly 400,000 people to work by repairing our infrastructure – our crumbling roads, bridges and schools. And we’ll build the new infrastructure we need to succeed in this new century, investing in science and technology, and laying down miles of new broadband l
ines so that businesses across our nation can compete with their counterparts around the world.

Finally, we won’t just create jobs, we’ll also provide help for those who’ve lost theirs, and for states and families who’ve been hardest-hit by this recession. That means bi-partisan extensions of unemployment insurance and health care coverage; a $1,000 tax cut for 95 percent of working families; and assistance to help states avoid harmful budget cuts in essential services like police, fire, education and health care.

Now, given the magnitude of the challenges we face, none of this will come easy. Recovery won’t happen overnight, and it’s likely that things will get worse before they get better.

But we have come through moments like this before. We are the nation that has faced down war, depression and fear itself – each time, refusing to yield; each time, refusing to accept a lesser fate. That is the spirit that has always sustained us – that belief that our destiny is not written for us, but by us; that our success is not a matter of chance, but of our own courage and determination. Our resources may be finite, but our will is infinite. And I am confident that if we come together and summon that great American spirit once again, we will meet the challenges of our time and write the next great chapter in our American story.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:53 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

So Unfair

But somehow I am pretty sure he's not giving the money back.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 9, 2009

Technology Taking Over Jobs

How much of the unemployment is really coming because of technology taking over jobs? How many jobs replaced by the efficiency of computers? How many by machines? How many by robots? We have known for a long time this is a developing problem with our economic system, and instead of addressing it have been reacting by pushing the reckoning out into the future for decades.

So maybe this is about that - one more fundamental problem of our economic system. All the attempts to delay the reckoning collapse... all the psychological manipulation of "demand creation" that tricks people into using credit cards to buy cheap junk that they don't need... all the smoke and mirrors moves aside and we see that there really are not that many "jobs."

What is this thing, a "job?" I was on the phone with a tech support guy for Brother printers, and his "job" was to read this script to me, and I have to do everything on the script, and then the next thing on the script, and he isn't allowed to vary from the script. That is called a "job." He had a lifeless voice, and rent to pay, so he comes in in the morning and reads the script over and over.

How many "jobs" are trained-monkey jobs,shuffling paper, doing some meaningless task someone tells us to do, making someone else rich, just to keep us occupied and paid until a machine gets sophisticated enough to do it instead, and then the worker is discarded and left with nothing and no prospects (because machines do that now).

And what are our lives, in these "jobs"? How many of us even know what our own choices might be?

Who is our economy FOR? Is this really an "economic system" that is doing anyone any good? When demand creation works, and the economy is "stimulated," that just means we'll start strip-mining or clear-cutting faster, and then building more mountains of landfill.

Another perspective, if the economy was for us:

Shouldn't a machine taking over a job be a time of rejoicing? Shouldn't a new machine or process mean one less hour of work is needed from everyone?

But under our economic system, in which we pretend that a few people "own" what we really all own, a new machine or process means just a few people become immensely wealthy while the rest of us are discarded, or have to work even longer hours and for less pay, because the competition for the remaining jobs is even greater.

Imagine a life where you could actually decide what you want to do with your time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:40 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

The "Cook the Books" Financial Collapse

Every book is cooked these days. This is a lot of what has led to the financial collapse. The banks lied about the assets they were holding. The ratings agencies lied about the assets they were rating. Appraisers lied about the value of houses they were appraising. Everybody lies these days...

And the unemployment rate? Great Depression jobs parallel may not be far flung | U.S. | Reuters

"... if unemployment were still tallied the way it was in the 1930s, today's jobless rate would be closer to 16.5 percent -- more than double the stated rate."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:37 PM | Comments (9) | Link Cosmos

Max's New Song

New song from Max. He doesn't like people being appointed to the Senate because they come from certain families.

Max and the Marginalized: Date With Dynasty and scroll down to click the player button.

Lyrics:

Date With Dynasty

So the chattering classes said it's said and done, and this time they're probably right
Opportunity knocks and then it's ring and run, and disappear into the night
And I don't have a finger to point right out but I think it would be a mistake
To march in the order of the monarchy to the top of the Empire State

Honoring a legacy, long before I came to be
When birthright meets opportunity
You've got a date with dynasty
You've got a date with dynasty

And they said consecration was dead and gone, it's safe to say they were wrong
And they sang out a sun-soaked symphony but someone stopped singing along
So don't get me wrong, I think it all goes down with the best of intentions at hand
Oh what a concept, the purpose of process has turned up in desperate demand

Tell me just what happened to, hearing out two points of view
I know that isn't the life for you, but who's got the time with so much else to do
And that's why saints and royalty are better left to history
Be them, kings and queens or Kennedys
You've got a date with dynasty
You've got a date with dynasty

What good is entitlement, absent some accomplishment
Or maybe some shred of evidence, of some kind of semblance of interest
I guess we'll never take a leave of silly old ideas like these
In this land of opportunity
You've got a date with dynasty
You've got a date with dynasty
There's nothing quite like a legacy
You've got a date with dynasty

Posted by Sudeep at 9:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Error Found in Prop 8 Wording

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

An error was found in Proposition 8 that may have broad implications for many Californians. It is hoped that the error is corrected before this weekend's full moon.

Read the story here: Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between 'One Man And One Wolfman',

Activists on both sides of the gay marriage debate were shocked this November, when a typographical error in California's Proposition 8 changed the state constitution to restrict marriage to a union between "one man and one wolfman," instantly nullifying every marriage except those comprised of an adult male and his lycanthrope partner. "The people of California made their voices heard today, and reaffirmed our age-old belief that the only union sanctioned in God's eyes is the union between a man and another man possessed by an ungodly lupine curse," state Sen. Tim McClintock said at a hastily organized rally celebrating passage of the new law.


This is from The Onion, but it makes about as much sense as what Proposition 8 really says. Prop 8 wasn't a typo, it was one group of people deciding how another group of people they don't even know should live.


Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:46 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Real Unemployment

Today the official unemployment rate jumped to 7.2%. But the real story is likely worse than this number. There are other ways to measure unemployment, including looking at the number of people who are working part-time but want to be working full-time. There are 8 million of these. The official number is about people who are "looking" for work but there are also the "discouraged" workers, people who have largely given up looking. they are not included. And to top it off the official unemployment rate has been changed over the years, always in ways that make this 7.2% number lower than the official number would be if measured in ways it was measured decades ago.

Another number that can be used is "U-6" which measures total unemployed. The official description is:

Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.
U-6 is currently 13.5%

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:23 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Local Food

We grow some of our own food in a small garden. Our garbage largely goes into a compost pile. This is in a regular neighborhood. So I thought I would pass this along: How You Can Start a Farm in Heart of the City,

Once you taste lettuce that actually has a distinct flavor, or eat a sweet tomato still warm from the sun, or an orange-yolked egg from your own hen, you will never be satisfied with the pre-packaged and the factory-farmed again.

. . . When you grow some of your own food, you start to care more about all of your food. "Just where did this come from?" we'd find ourselves asking when we went shopping. What's in it?

It's not just about flavor and health and quality. It's also about local control and about putting carbon into the air. Food that is shipped means carbon going into the air. Food from a giant supermarket is more money going to the corporate system and away from local farmers.

I stopped buying imported olive oil when I realized that this is something that is very heavy that is being shipped across the planet. What's the point of that?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:02 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Jobs Lost

Jobless rate at 16-year high as payrolls plunge

In December, U.S. employers cut payrolls by 524,000, somewhat less than analysts' prediction for a 550,000 reduction in jobs. Total job losses for 2008 were 2.6 million, the largest decline since a 2.75 million drop in 1945.

But it's even worse that what you thought, because,
November's job losses were revised to show a cut of 584,000, previously reported as a 533,000 loss, while October's losses were revised to 423,000 from a decline of 320,000.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:58 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

January 8, 2009

Second-Hand Smoke and Heart Attacks

Doctors did a study in Peublo, Colorado after the city banned smoking in workplaces and indoor public areas. They compared hospital admissions for heart attacks for a year before and three years after the ban, and compared the results with two nearby areas that did not have similar bans.

The study found a 41 percent drop in hospital admissions for heart attacks resulting from the public smoking ban.

It turns out that tobacco companies started studying this in 1971 and knew about these results. But instead of doing something about it "Philip Morris masterminded a massive global effort to confuse and deceive the public about the health hazards of secondhand smoke and to delay laws restricting smoking in indoor public places."

Read about the techniques they used to prevent smoking bans at: Deadly Deception: The Tobacco Industry's Secondhand Smoke Cover Up | Center for Media and Democracy

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:35 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Public Supports Issues In Employee Free Choice

A new poll released today shows that the public strongly supports the Employee Free Choice Act if it is explained honestly. This is the reason that corporate groups are spreading disinformation about the act.

As I wrote the other day, the Employee Free Choice Act does not "eliminate the secret ballot." That is a lie that is used to trick people about this bill.

AFL-CIO NOW BLOG | Survey: Public Strongly Supports Employee Free Choice,

A new survey released today shows 78 percent of those polled want to see legislation that protects workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life—great news and a strong signal to Congress and President-elect Barack Obama that we need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

The survey of 1,007 adults across the country, conducted Dec. 4-10 for the AFL-CIO by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, shows a striking level of support for the provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act and the freedom to form unions. This support crosses party and state lines, with 74 percent of those who identify as moderate or liberal Republicans in favor; conservative Republicans were the only group not expressing majority support. Support remains steady, even when those surveyed heard messages from both supporters and opponents of the bill.

Here are some key findings:

* 75 percent of those surveyed support recognizing a union when a majority of workers have signed up in support.
* 64 percent support strengthening penalties against companies who illegally intimidate or fire workers who are trying to form a union.
* 61 percent favor binding arbitration if a company will not agree to a first contract. (This provision had the highest number of respondents who weren’t sure how they felt about it.)

There is more at the link.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:25 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

January 7, 2009

When I Ran A Business I Didn't Want Tax Cuts

When I ran a business I didn't want tax cuts, I wanted to pay taxes. Paying taxes meant I had made a profit, and a portion of it went to taxes.

Given a choice between tax cuts and more revenue I would take more revenue every single time, even though it meant even more taxes to pay later. SEND ME CUSTOMERS instead of tax cuts.

So take the money you might use to give a tax cut and instead use it on targeted programs that redistribute money to people. Instead of just giving it all back, USE IT to invest to good purpose.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:09 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

A Book To Look At

Visit this site: The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity by Matt Miller.

Our leaders have failed to prepare us for what lies ahead because they are in the grip of a set of "dead ideas" about how a modern economy should work.
I will definitely read it.

Click here to buy the book with a commission going to me: The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity


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

January 6, 2009

Wage Collapse Caused Crisis

Go look at the chart in this post: Daily Kos: Conspiracy of Silence: Wage Collapse Caused Crisis

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Things Would Be Very Different

Things would be very different if government employees, regulators and legislators were banned (for at least five years) from taking any job with or accepting anything of value (including campaign donations) from any company, organization, person or other entity that they did any business with in government.

No more lucrative positions after leaving the job. No more bribes of any kind. That would remove an incentive for doing anything other than serving the interests of the public.

(For book contracts I would ban all advances and any compensation that is different from what most publishers give as a standard contract. Also, there should be an oversight mechanism that tracks bulk purchases... Remember when FOX's Murdoch tried to give Newt Gingrich a "book contract" advance of $4 million, and when the book came out no one bought it?)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Bush, Harken, the SEC and Fraud

A component of the current financial collapse is loss of confidence due to fraud resulting from inadequate regulation. In an op-ed in Sunday's New York Times, The End of the Financial World as We Know It, Michael Lewis and David Einhorn wrote,

Created to protect investors from financial predators, the commission has somehow evolved into a mechanism for protecting financial predators with political clout from investors. (The task it has performed most diligently during this crisis has been to question, intimidate and impose rules on short-sellers — the only market players who have a financial incentive to expose fraud and abuse.)
To repeat: Instead of protecting investors from fraud the Bush/Republican SEC protects predators from investors. How did it get to be that way?

This might be a good time to remind people of a scandal that was developing before the 9/11 attacks removed everything else from the news.

Summary of the Bush/Harken scandal: George W. Bush was on the Board of Directors of Harken Energy Company and owned stock that had been purchased with a loan from Harken. In 1989 Harken used an Enron-like scheme to conceal losses by selling most of a subsidiary to an off-the-books entity that was controlled by company insiders. This caught up to them and in June, 1990, the Directors were warned that the company was about to report a big loss. The Directors were also warned that it would be illegal for them to sell any stock because they had insider information. Bush promised he would hold the stock and then sold his stock for more than $800,000. (It has not been disclosed who the buyer was.) Soon after Bush's sale the company announced the loss and the stock price dropped. Bush also did not file required forms with the SEC. When this came to light Bush was quietly investigated by the SEC - with his father as President of the United States. The SEC never interviewed Bush, and of course they did not file any charges even after finding significant wrongdoing. It also appears that Bush may not have paid any taxes on the stock sale or on loans he received from Harken and never repaid.

Boston Globe: Board Was Told of Risks Before Bush Stock Sale

Salon: Memos: Bush knew of Harken's problems.

Democrats.com: Did George W. Bush Evade Income Taxes on His Harken Loans?

Here is the BuzzFlash Bush/Harken Insider Trading Collection.

UK Guardian: Bush and Harken Energy

Time: The Rap on Bush and Cheney

And, about that SEC, June, 2005: Bush S.E.C. Pick Is Seen as Friend to Corporations

Oh, and about that Harken: June, 2008: Indicted Saudi investor in Harken Energy gets $80 million Pentagon contract

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Tom Geoghegan for Congress

Go learn about Geoghegan for Congress | Democrat for Illinois’ fifth district

He posted this at DailyKos: I'm running for Congress in IL-5. (Progressive candidacy announcement for Rahm's seat.)

I’m running for Congress in the Fifth District of Illinois.

As a Chicago lawyer for thirty years, I have fought for working people in the Fifth District and throughout the city. I have represented unions as well as people with no unions to protect them. In plant closings I have helped them recover health and pension benefits. I obtained health care for the uninsured. I've been pressing the State of Illinois to crack down on payday lenders.

In my life as a lawyer I have lived out a commitment to one cause above all – to bring economic security to working Americans, in our District, in our country. That’s the same commitment I will bring to Congress.

We’re deep in an economic crisis unlike any other we’ve known. It may last years. We need new and creative ways to protect working Americans, especially our older working people who have no real pensions to live on.

For years we’ve heard the doomsayers: "We can’t afford Social Security." "We can’t afford ‘single-payer’ national health." One thing we all learned from the $700 billion bail out: We’ve got the money to do all of this and more.


Give money here:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:18 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

What Are Tax Brackets?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

In 2009 California is going to have to confront and settle a number of budget issues that we have been putting off for decades. We have been putting off so many necessary decisions -- deferring maintenance of our infrastructure, pushing pain into the future by borrowing, setting aside the needs of our people by cutting school, police, fire and other budgets, and practicing almost every form of avoidance of reality that we could find.

Well, the karma is coming back on us, all the chickens have come home to roost, we are getting what we gave and we are going to pay for our sins. (Please leave more cliches in the comments.)

The number one budget issues that has to be confronted is taxation.

So, let's talk taxes, beginning with the basics. I have found that many people don't really understand how taxes work so I want to write a bit about that here. One reason for the lack of understanding of taxes is that there has been quite a bit of deliberate misinformation. By confusing people, the very wealthy and corporate interests have been able to trick people into letting them avoid paying their fair share. Instead we either take on ourselves the bulk of the burden of paying for democracy, or just borrow and put that burden on our children.

One thing that I have found many people do not quite understand is the concept of tax brackets.

Tax brackets

A "progressive" tax is one where the tax rate increases as income increases. A progressive tax structure consists of brackets. You pay a certain tax rate on income up to the next bracket. After that bracket is reached, a higher tax rate applies to income that is earned that is above that amount. Let's say that you pay 5% on income below $10,000 and 7% on income above $10,000. So if you make exactly $10,000 of income the tax is $500. At $10,100 the tax is still that $500 on the amount below $10,000 and $7 on the additional $100, for a total of $507. The key point is that only the amount in the new bracket is taxed at the higher rate.

Many people believe that once you reach a higher bracket you pay the higher tax rate on all the income that falls below that bracket amount as well. I have actually talked to people who think they need to "get their income into a lower bracket" to avoid paying a higher tax rate, because they think that a higher tax rate would apply to all of the income they earned.

Using the example of the earlier paragraph, many people believe that you would pay $707, not $507, on income of $10,100, assuming that the entire $10,100 is taxed at a 7% rate because the total income is above $10,000. This incorrect belief is one result of anti-tax arguments. It is also the basis of many tax-avoidance schemes.

So, to repeat: If you enter a higher tax bracket, you only pay the higher tax rate on the amount of income you earn that is in the new tax bracket, not on all of your income.

Come join the discussion at Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:27 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

"Franken Stole the Election!!!"

Now that he's lost, Norm Coleman plans to stink up the place. In his statement he revives some old claims that were knocked down weeks ago. The WSJ is on board. The odious Dick Morris is hard at work; presumably he's being paid. The national attack is being coordinated by the Swiftboater Benjamin Ginsberg.

Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, Lott, and the WSJ have been flogging the "stolen election" idea for a month already, and now we can expect it to explode. They won't be able to keep Franken from being seated, but they can raise suspicions. This will be just one more small obstacle in Obama's path -- keeping a Democratic Senator out of office for awhile, sucking up the media oxygen, and diverting attention from Obama's attempts to prevent a depression, deal with the Israel Palestine dispute, etc. They want to cripple this American President the way they crippled Clinton.

The truth of the matter is that Franken honestly won a very close election after an honest, carefully done recount. The wingers will be pushing a lie: "Franken stole the election". They don't really need people to believe that -- they just want to put Franken (and indirectly Obama) under a cloud. If the conventional wisdom becomes "Franken won in court after a controversial and flawed recount -- some say he stole it", then the wingers will have won. And something like that's about what we should expect from the zombie media.

The battle against the lies has just begun. My guess is that some of the Republican scum kept their horns pulled in while it still seemed that Coleman might win, but we can now expect to see them crawling out from under their rocks. (And sorry for the mixed metaphor).

Posted by John Emerson at 8:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 5, 2009

Employee Free Choice Act

The Employee Free Choice Act revises labor law to make it easier for working people to organize unions. Currently it is extremely difficult to start a union. Organizers are fired and workers are threatened and intimidated. The Employee Free choice Act changes some rules, so that workers themselves can make decisions about unionizing.

Something you should know about the Employee Free Choice Act: The main talking point from the corporations is that it "eliminates the secret ballot." This is a flat-out lie and people need to know the facts. The Employee Free Choice Act allows workers to choose whether to a have secret-ballot vote or a "card check." A card check is when a majority of the workers have signed cards saying that they want a union.

The Employee Free choice Act adds the ability to start a union using "card check." It does not "eliminate the secret ballot." Period.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Why 40 Hours Per Week?

Question. With rising unemployment, why are we all still supposed to work 40 hours a week to be considered "full time?"

Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

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

January 4, 2009

It Was A Joke

My post the other day -- about the show Dallas, where they declared the entire previous season was a dream, and this causing the ruination of America -- that was a JOKE. Admittedly very dry humor but some people didn't get it and decided I wasn't funny, I was crazy.

It was a joke, OK? So can I get out of this facility now? Hello?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:33 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Big Companies Are Public Resources

Deep Thought: When companies reach a certain size, they are public resources. They are large because they do something that is important to many of us. They have a great impact on all of our lives. We all depend on their success and are hurt by their failure.

They are public resources. Do we usually leave public resources in the hands of a few people?

Think of startup companies as auditioning for a job. The ones who reach a certain size are then rewarded by getting the "contract" to, say, develop oil resources or make cars...

Update - You say this sounds radical? I never proposed that the government borrow $700 billion dollars and hand it over to giant companies. It was the "private property free market conservatives" who did that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:00 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Uncle Jay Sings 2008

For more go to Uncle Jay Explains

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Next Debt Bomb?

The next bomb to go off might be US Government debt -- timed perfectly to ruin Obama's entrance. The government has been able to finance Bush's massive bailouts-of-the-rich because people everywhere are scared enough to put their money in what is perceived to be the safest place. In fact the return on short-term US T-bills is actually negative right now. People are paying the US government to hold their money! And the government has been obliging them.

But all of this short-term debt is due very soon and the government will need to find new people to lend to it. And other debt is also coming due, compounding the problem. And on top of that the Obama stimulus plan will require borrowing another $700 billion or more.

I am not predicting this will happen. I'm saying this is another bubble and at some point it has to pop.

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

January 3, 2009

Report Potential Terrorists

I think we should all report anyone who looks like Timothy McVeigh when they try to get on airplanes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Ruining America

I think the two things that ruined America were:

1) Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon. This told the country that the elite are above the law, no matter how serious the crimes. It separated people from their government.

2) When Bobby died on Dallas, and then a whole season went by, and then they brought him back and said the whole previous year had been a dream. This told the country that double-duty suspension of disbelief can work. This led to the massive budget deficits, the stock bubble, housing bubble, increased fossil fuel use, obesity crisis, not banning tobacco products, deforestation, trade deficits and debt.

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

January 2, 2009

Big Box Mart

Where your job went.

Big Box Mart | Funny Jokes at JibJab

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 1, 2009

This Is Not The 'Business Cycle'

A quick comment: The financial crisis we are experiencing is not business as usual, it is not the business cycle. This is not like anything that has happened before. We are not going to solve this by acting as if it was just a typical downturn in the business cycle and tweaking the way things are done. A bit of stimulus and a few regulatory changes are not going to solve this.

This is a fundamental paradigm shift -- what we had before did not work, period. It was hurting all of us by forcing us into jobs we all hate and doing meaningless things, taking on debt, unhealthy habits, and is chewing up the very planet we live on! A new model for understanding how economies work is needed.

We have to rethink the relationship between people and work and who gets to share in the proceeds. Until now most people work to make someone else rich, because it has been the only way we can "make a living" -- be allowed money to eat, etc. But as machines and computers and other technologies do more and more of the work for us the result is that more and more people are laid off or paid less or otherwise discarded and fewer and fewer of us are able to get by. This is because our current economic system forces us all to pretend that a few people "own" the right to benefit from our economy, and the rest of us do not.

But doesn't this idea that a few people can "own" the right to the benefits of our economy fundamentally conflict with the idea of democracy, where we all have an equal share of America, an equal voice and equal rights?

In Alaska, for example, the people of the state benefit from their common ownership of the oil there. Companies bid for the job of extracting the oil and pay the state a lot of money to do that. Everyone in Alaska benefits, AND a trust fund is set up to guarantee that they continue to benefit forever after the oil is all gone.

Our entire economy should work that way. We should recognize that we own in common all of the resources, and these companies should have to apply for the job -- bid for the right to do things we want done -- with the understanding that they are common resources from which we all benefit.

We also have to reengineer the economy to be sustainable. We have to stop this game of "demand creation" -- making people think they need things that they do not need, in order to "keep the economy going." The economy only needs to go far enough to feed and house and clothe us and take care of our health, and then we should be deciding in common what else we want to do, up to the point where it interferes with our real lives. There is a limit to what we need, and can then get on with the other things that life is about, like thinking, art, music, reading, studying... When there is less to be done, we should work fewer hours, leaving us free for the other pursuits. More on this later.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:08 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos