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April 29, 2009

Not My Priorities

Please take a look at Not My Priorities. This is a great idea, clear, simple, understandable.

From the site,

NotMyPriorities.org is an effort to enable every person in America to see a pie chart that our representatives in congress approved. I have shown the Not My Priorities pie chart to thousands of people and can count on one hand how many have disagreed. Even Republicans say that the pie chart does not represent their priorities!

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

April 28, 2009

A Dialog On California State Spending

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

Over at Calitics there is an interesting diary from 'zeroh8' asking "Why Are We Spending So Much More?"  zeroh8 looked at the changes over the last ten years in how the state spends money.  The result, according to the diary, is a per-capita increase of $1088 as follows:

California Government Department
2007-08 less 1997-98 Per Capita Spending

Criminal Justice $185
General Government $14
Health $265
Higher Education $109
K-12 Education $399
Resources & Environmental Protection $27
Social Services $59
Transportation $30
Total $1,088 

Robert Cruikshank commented that the appearance of an education spending increase is an illusion, (sadly California still ranks 47th in education spending-per-pupil)

Much of the "increase" in K-12 funds is illusory. When Arnold cut the VLF in 2003 that money had to be backfilled by the state. That backfilling is listed on the books as "spending" and so it appears as a huge "spending increase" when in fact it is no such thing. Schools didn't actually get more money. It's an accounting trick.

Robert is pointing out that this appearance of a large increase in education spending is actually just replacing spending that was already there, but that was cut from local budgets when Governor Schwarzenegger cut the Vehicle License Fee, so the state had to make up (backfill) the loss.  The state is spending more because local governments are spending less, but the total hasn't increased.  Lesson: you have to look at the whole picture including local budgets to see the whole story because the state has to step in when local governments lose their funding sources.

Health care spending increases are certainly not isolated to California state government.  This is the health care crisis that is eating up government, business and family budgets around the country.  So far We, the People, in our wisdom, had avoided the kind of "socialized medicine" that the rest of the world has, which means we spend vastly more for health care with vastly worse results.  There is little California can do about it, except to further deny health care to people.  Is that the kind of people we will decide to be? 

Then there is that huge increase in criminal justice (prison) spending.  Was that necessary?  Well, we decided to pass laws that put people in prison for life for stealing a pizza or for years for smoking a joint.  And in the last few decades we have cut education spending, which to some extent has necessitated the increases in prison spending, because we know where that inevitably leads,

"18-to-24-year-old male high school dropouts have an incarceration rate 31 times that of males who graduated from a four-year college"      
We're seeing the health care crisis eating the state budget, and the problem of the prison costs.  Part of our problems today are because yesterday we were "penny wise and pound foolish," saving some money by cutting education only to spend it on prisons (and who knows how many other ways) later.  Along with foolish tax cuts like cutting the VLF, and cutting property taxes for big corporations, and instead borrowing which has led to huge interest payments, those are the spending problems that brought about the budget crisis and that keep our government from being able to spend more on things We, the People need.

About those choices:  zeroh8 did a ton of research because no California citizen would know any of this from sources available to most of us.  The corporate media is not explaining the state budget and the functions of government to the public.  The example of the state making up local revenue losses in order to save our schools is a great example -- instead it is just presented to people that the state is "spending even more".

So what is the point of this exercise? To give the people the facts, not the phony sound-bites designed to further anger people against government and rail even further about having to pay taxes to fund the programs and services. The goal of the conservatives is to simply unfund government, thus making "We the People" powerless against the big moneyed interests -- the people who brought you the sub-prime fiasco, the Wall Street boondogles, the Haliburton no-bid contracts and the Blackwater mercenaries.  As long as the bucks are flowing, what do they care if government can't do its job.... what do they care about long lines at the DMV, wildfires that burn down communities, gangs that take over our streets and oh, yes......swine flu epidemics that kill millions?  They can just fly away in their private jets or sail away on their yachts -- that California won't tax.

Click through to Speak Out California and leave a comment.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

A Sick Society

Markets matter more than people.

Headline: "Swine flu cases increase, hurting markets, airlines"

This was not a financial news site. It is currently the top story at Reuters Health news.

As I said the other day, movies are rated according to "how much they bring in" not whether they are any good.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 27, 2009

Do We Still Have A Two-Tiered Justice System?

Earlier I commented on the case of Rep. Harman. Anyone else caught with this appearance of a crime would be investigated by the Justice Department, and maybe prosecuted if the investigation showed reason to do so. I can understand that the Bush admin, the way they operated, may have discovered an opportunity to exchange letting her off the hook for getting her help (also known as blackmail) but is the Obama Justice Dept. investigating these allegations against Harman? (As well as the allegation that the Bush Justice Dept didn't?) If not, why not?

The other day the story in the press was that President decided not to let the Justice Dept. investigate and maybe prosecute people in the CIA. I hope this is not the case, because this would be inappropriate political interference with the Justice Dept. If a crime is committed it must be investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted - no matter who is involved and no matter whether the President likes it or not. That is how rule of law works.

It is my hope that we are returning to rule of law, and the Justice Dept is back to properly doing its job without political interference, and is investigating the allegations that the Bush admin tortured people, and is investigating whether to prosecute Rep. Harman.

If not, we have just swapped one politicized Justice Dept. for another. And we continue to have a country where some people are above the law and the rest of us are beneath it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

On The Swine Flu

The "swine flu" H1N1 virus is a potential pandemic flu that started in Mexico and is spreading. Pandemics, meaning influenza epidemics in multiple countries, happen every 20 years or so, and we are overdue. Flu pandemics are very serious. The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 had an estimated mortality rate of 2.5% and killed between 20 and 40 million people. The Hong Kong flu of 1968 had a lower death rate, killing 33,800 in the United States and 1 million worldwide.

The reason flu pandemics happen is that the influenza virus constantly mutates. Every year the new flu viruses are usually only a little bit different from the prior year, so even though we may get sick, some of us have some immunity and the existing antibodies (from earlier times we had flu or a flu vaccine) provide some protection. Public health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) track the emergence of new viruses and usually have time to prepare the yearly vaccines. So usually the new flu strains don't hit as many people, and therefore fewer sick people are spreading it, and most people aren't getting sick to the point where death is a possibility.

But sometimes there is a major genetic shift, in which a flu virus appears that contains pieces from bird and/or swine influenza viruses as well a human virus. Humans have no immunity to this new virus. So the flu sweeps through the population, and those who get it get much sicker. The new Mexican swine flu virus contains a mixture of genetic material from swine, bird, and human influenza viruses.

These influenza epidemics can sometimes be very, very serious, like that 1918 Spanish flu. The recent "Bird Flu" human fatalities appeared to be over 60% , but it appears that the "bird flu" (avian influenza) was not easily transmitted from one human to another. However, if there is another small modification in the bird flu virus such that it acquired the ability to be easily spread between people, the result could be beyond catostrophic -- like the plague years. That is why bird flu was so much in the news. SARS (the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which was caused by a non-influenza type virus, killed 17% of humans it infected, but the epidemic was stopped before it spread widely. This new Mexican swine flu seems to be killing about 10% of the people it has sickened in Mexico, if the numbers are correct, but there is no way to know accurately yet.

Usually, influenza is more serious in the elderly and the very young, whose immune systems are weakers. However, pandemic flus, which are caused by novel new flu virus strains, are more deadly in stronger people (like young adults) than in the very old or very young, because it causes their stronger immune systems to overreact, called a "cytokine storm" -- a major release of infection-fighting substances in the body that can, in large quantities, cause serious damage. This extreme immune reaction is what makes pandemic flu so serious, and is the reason it strikes so much harder in healthy young people. It appears that this new Mexican flu is killing young adults--people of the right age--which is another sign it could be dangerous. On the other hand, there have been no fatalities yet in the United States, which is a promising sign. It may mean there is some factor involved in the cases in Mexico that aggravated the disease, that wasn't present in the US cases. Or it may mean that the flu spreading in the US is somehow different.

Note, when I search for "swine flu" on Google News I get lots of stories about how "the scare" is "affecting the markets." It's like how they cover movies, not according to whether they are any good, but how much money they make each weekend. So the major media mindset is still more concerned with money than people.

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

Interactive Swine Flu Map


View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map


H1N1 Swine flu in 2009
Pink markers are suspect
Purple markers are confirmed
Deaths lack a dot in marker
Yellow markers are negative

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:58 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

In Congress Instead Of In Jail?

A member of Congress was caught working with (suspected) foreign espionage agents,

According to three former national security officials, Harman was heard promising the suspected Israeli agent that she would intervene with the Bush administration to try to get the espionage charges against the AIPAC officials reduced to lesser felonies.

The suspected Israeli agent in exchange promised to lobby Pelosi to give Harman the chairmanship of the Intelligence committee if the Democrats took control of Congress after the 2006 elections.


Why hasn't this member of Congress been prosecuted? She was caught in a quid-pro-quo with foreign agents, who were attempting to plant a compromised person into a high position where she could pass intelligence to them.

Yes, I know. The story came out that the Bush administration blackmailed her into supporting their policies or they would reveal what she was caught doing. Fine, but that was then.

Now that we know the story, should she be prosecuted? Obviously she needs to resign her seat, but my question is why isn't she being prosecuted?

We seem to have a two-tiered system of laws now, where some crimes are prosecuted, some are not, some countries are allowed to spy on us and get away with it when caught and others are not, and the President gets to decide which laws will be enforced and which will not.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

A Market For Selling Organs

I've been noticing that the usual suspects on the right have been pushing to remove regulations on organ donations, and allow "the market" to rule. So we can be more like the slums of India, I guess.

Here is an example of this,

The establishment of a transparent, public market to permit the sale of organs from live donors will transform organ procurement from a lengthy, stressful, medically damaging waiting game into a safer, more efficient, routine, life-saving process. Such a market would have both economic and moral merit; it would deliver more and better organs at less cost than alternative options, and will result in more lives saved.
The right has largely become a pay-to-play operation, so this might mean that some really, really rich person somewhere is on a waiting list for a kidney...

Expect to see more of this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Banks of America is using bailout money -- your money -- to fire US workers and hire workers in India.

They're also using your bailout money to "lobby" (pay people in) the government to let them continue to do anything they want with ... your money.

Why do we let corporations use money to influence government policies and public opinion? Does that really make any sense? OF COURSE they will use that ability to change policies and opinion to benefit a wealthy few at the expense of the rest of us. What else would a corporation do? A democracy should never allow this camel's nose into the tent. It inevitably leads to the camel sleeping in the tent with the rest of us outside.

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

Which Dems Caved On Flu Preparedness?

Yesterday I noted (in the update) that Republicans got pandemic flu preparedness funds stripped from the stimulus package. (But they were able to get rid of the alternative minumum tax, which kept the very rich from avoiding paying any taxes.)

My question: Which Dems caved to Republican demands to strip flu pandemic preparedness from stimulus? Can they learn from that?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:58 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 26, 2009

Swine Flu - Republicans STILL Creating Catastrophe

We face a potential swine flu pandemic, and we do not have the people in place in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that we need. Why not? The Republicans are blocking confirmation of Obama's nominee, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Why are they blocking this nomination? Because Gov. Sebelius won't approve Kansas Republican bills to block abortion even if the abortion will save the mother's life. They say she is "an enemy of the unborn," because she thinks doctors should be able to save the mother's life.

So as you worry about this possible flu pandemic, think about why your governement is not yet fully up and running to do its part and protect us. As we saw when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, government-hating Republicans destroyed our ability to respond to emergencies, and instead set up a system where contracts were awarded to cronies who collected the cash but never delivered the services. And now they continue to block our government's ability to protect us, because they think that a mother's life is not as important as a fetus.

The Senate should vote to confirm Sebelius tomorrow, no excuses.

Update - The Republicans fought hard and got all of the money for pandemic flu preparedness taken out of the stimulus package. Quick, before it is taken down, here is Republican Senator Collins' website bragging that she led the fight to remove "$780 million for pandemic-flu preparedness" from the stimulus package! And here is Karl Rove, with talking points attacking the stimulus package spending on "$462 million for the Centers for Disease Control, and $900 million for pandemic flu preparations."

More here.

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

On Jerry Brown’s Campaign For California Governor

He was called “Moonbeam” and mocked, but he was right, and we were right, and the country needs to come to terms with this this so we can move on and finally DO right.

Jerry Brown was Governor of California from 1975 to 1983. He was a symbol of “the 60’s” even though it was the 70's, because he came from the times, cared about the issues of the times, spoke the language of the times and governed for the people, from the times. He opposed the Vietnam war. He talked about protecting the environment and conserving energy and providing education and "Buddhist economics." He fought corporate power and sued large corporations, particularly in the area of campaign finance. He was right.

For taking these positions Jerry was called "Moonbeam" and mocked for advocating things that we now all understand were correct and necessary. It is 30 years later and the country needs to get past that mocking of the people who were right. But the mocking and obstruction by entrenched interests are still in the way of letting us move on and do the things we need to do for the economy, the country, and the planet.

Now Jerry is again running for Governor of California and I think this is important to our current national conversation at a time when we must come to terms with the reasons that we have waited 30 years to start doing something about major problems. Jerry’s campaign will force a conversation that will clarify for the country that the "dirty hippies" were right, that we need to learn to ignore the mocking that is a primary weapon of the corporate right, that we need to take care of the planet, that we need to take care of each other, that we need to be in charge of the corporations, not the other way around.

In his speech to the California Democratic Convention he talked about how 30 years ago he changed California's energy policies, and how the result has been that California has barely increased its energy use since while the rest of the country has. He talk about a number of things like this, but what most resonated with me was when he talked about how we educate kids. The current emphasis on testing is stifling the creativity of kids. He says we need to bring back education that stimulates creativity. Wow -- how long since I have heard "60's" talk that's so right?! Talk that recognizes our humanity and says that we are not just cogs in a corporate machine. Who talks about these things today?

A few years ago, when Jerry was running for Attorney General, I wrote,

I've loved Jerry Brown since his 1992 campaign for President. During that campaign he proposed boosting the economy and helping the energy/pollution/Middle East problem with a national program to hire unemployed people to retrofit buildings to be energy efficient. Imagine if we had done that! So now 13 years later we have the Apollo Alliance but Jerry doesn't seem to get much credit for being so far ahead on this.

A few years before that I wrote,

In the 1992 campaign Jerry Brown made a suggestion that I haven't forgotten. He suggested putting the unemployed to work retrofitting buildings and homes to be energy efficient. It requires an up-front investment but it returns a more efficient economy (everyone paying less for energy) and national energy independence as a foreign policy bonus. Meanwhile all those unemployed people are getting and spending paychecks, boosting the economy. It helps everyone but the oil companies. Oh. I guess not, then.
I don’t know right now if Brown can or should win and this is not an endorsement. But I think this is a conversation that we all need to have and learn from.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:03 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

It's What The Money Is Used FOR

Investment is not "spending." It's what the money is used FOR that makes the difference. Repubican spending wasted money and drove up debt. Obama's investments will eventually help us pay off debt.

I am in a motel room and got up too early, so I'm watching the dreadful morning news shows, which means hearing the Republican talking points over and over and over. ... So they say Obama is spending a lot of money, and driving up the debt. Let's look at that:

1) Yes, we have to spend money on things made necessary by Republican policies, like unemployment checks, deferred infrastructure maintanance, interest on debt cause by tax cuts for the rich, etc.

2) Republicans spent money on things that caused problems: tax cuts for the rich, military, subsidies for crony corporations, etc. This just runs up debt without leading to any way to pay it off.

3) The Obama spending is on fixing problems, and investment. Spending on investment leads to ways to pay off the debt. Eisenhower spent to build the interstate highway system. But now look back at how that helped all of us and grew the economy in ways that allowed us to pay back that costs many times over. The Obama spending is on high-speed rail, alternative energy and energy efficiency, education and other investments that will enable us to eventually pay off even the Reagan/Bush debt.

4) Remember that Clinton brought us well along toward paying off debt until the Republicans got in and stopped that.

Sure it is spending. Spending is a good thing if it is spent on US and on investment. Bush did neither. Obama is doing both.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 25, 2009

Senator Boxer Taking Questions

Senator Boxer held a press conference at the California Democratic Convention today. Originally it was going to be a "roundtable" with bloggers, but because of time problems it instead became a press conference at which bloggers were allowed to ask questions too. I don't fault Sen. Boxer for this but it led immediately to the old-style Important Person at a podium giving careful answers to self-serving questions instead of a back-and forth conversation where there is an equal discussion between the people and their representative-who-works-for-them. The format change forced her into that role, which is the standard in today's politics. In my humble opinion.

That said, if we had a senate with 100 Barbara Boxers, this would be a very different and much better country.

Boxer on torture (typing notes as she answered and these are a collection on the subject, while answering several questions):

In our country we have to face all the issues that confront us. ... I support the truth coming out. The people deserve to know the truth and they have to handle it.

I support a truth commission.

We signed at least three international treaties that deal with outlawing torture. We have been very clear in our nation that torture is not acceptable and the definition includes the waterboarding technique.

I believe in this country and that means I believe in openness and transparency and getting the truth in front of the people.

We executed Japanese who did it to our people. Either we are a nation that believes in the rule of law or we are not.

If I lose my Senate seat because people think it’s good to torture, so be it.


On banks, mortgage "cramdowns" (judge changing the terms of a mortgage so the person can afford to keep the house) and lobbying,

Dick Durbin is doing a heroic job trying to keep people in their homes. Right now if you declare bankruptcy as an individual, let’s say you have two homes and a lot of assets, the only one that judge can’t touch is the first home, because bankers have a lot of influence.

These are different times and it really is better to keep people in their homes and renegotiate
The banks are still a major lobbying force, still operating that way.

If a company comes to taxpayers, until you pay us back your executives shouldn’t earn more than the President of the US.


I asked about the rule of law and the appearance that the country has a two-tiered system, and how the people should feel about what they are seeing,
The people should feel something is wrong if there is no investigation, if a law is broken it should be prosecuted.

On banks, we have a court system, if a law is broken it should be prosecuted.

If we don’t like a law we repeal it, we don’t ignore it.

If anyone feels the law is not followed and are concerned about it that is a problem.

If I break it, you break it, should apply to anyone.

Everyone has the right to present their case.

I don't think I asked my question well because the answer didn't go to what I was asking. The "press" format requires a pre-formed question that doesn't have the opportunity to be a conversation. I even re-asked at one point during the answer to try to get to the way people are seeing a two-tiered system where the rich are let off...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

CA Dem Convention

I'm at the California Democratic Convention and the great Barbara Boxer is speaking. (She received more votes than any other candidate for the U.S. Senate in history.) She talked about how MANY filibusters the Republicans have held this year to block bills. Of course, if you read the corporate press you woldn't know there had been even one. An informed citizenry is essential to democracy and we tossed that out a few decades ago.

This just came across on Twitter: @sfbriancl Jack O'Connell on stage. Great policies. has the famed Gray Davis charisma.

Ouch.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

MUST Prosecute

There is a great diary over at Daily Kos: They Are Telling Us They Will Torture Again. Go read.

This is the deal: We HAVE TO investigate and prosecute, or they will just keep doing it. Senators can write strongly-worded statements and lock them in a safe, as Sen. Rockefeller did to protest illegal wiretapping, and it won't stop anything. Investigate and prosecute. Lay down the law. Make the statement that we do not tolerate this, and will punish those who do it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 24, 2009

The Rules Of DC Journalists

Go read: Three key rules of media behavior shape their discussions of "the 'torture' debate" - Glenn Greenwald,

[. . .]
(1) Any policy that Beltway elites dislike is demonized as coming from "the Left" or -- in this case (following Karl Rove) -- the "hard Left."
[. . .]
(2) Nobody is more opposed to transparency and disclosure of government secrets than establishment "journalists."
[. . .]
(3) The single most sacred Beltway belief is that elites are exempt from the rule of law.

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

Prosecuting Wrongdoing

Do they just get away with it, thereby setting the baseline for future conduct?

Will we investigate and prosecute government officials who, for money, delayed the effort to fight global warming?

Will we investigate and prosecute government officials who, for money, stopped enforcement of the country's labor laws?

How many hundreds of examples can we think of from the last few years, where lobbyists were put in charge of agencies, or where officials did a corporation's bidding and then left to take a very-high-paying job in that corporation?

And, of course, launching illegal wars and ordering people tortured.

How else do we prevent things like that from happening again, the next time a paid-off political party gains power?

Or do they just get away with it, providing the incentive to do it again?

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

April 23, 2009

Public Still Trusts Corporations More Than Self-Government

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

Marketing works.  But we already knew that.  Big business has been marketing the idea that corporations making decisions for us is better than having government run by the people.  And a lot of people have bought into that idea.

But is it really better to be government by corporations?  In February I wrote,

After decades of anti-government speeches claiming that government holds back business, government takes money out of the economy and government is less efficient than corporations, people came to believe that, as Ronald Reagan famously said, "Government is the problem, not the solution."  This led to deregulation and budget cutbacks in all areas including education and infrastructure. 

If you think about it, government really is what We, the People want it to be.  In a democracy we jointly make decisions about the best way to manage our affairs.  So saying that corporations do things better is really an anti-democracy message.  What they are saying is that organizations run by a few wealthy elites telling everyone else what to do, with the benefits of everyone's work mostly going to those few at the top, is a better way to manage society than to have everyone making the decisions and sharing in the results.

Just for fun, here is the video from that post again:


Here is more proof that marketing works:  A recent Gallup Poll of public trust of government vs corporations found that the public still would rather be governed by big corporations than by themselves.

Gallup's recent update of its long-standing trend question on whether big business, big labor, or big government will be the biggest threat to the country in the future finds Americans still viewing big government as the most serious threat. However, compared to Gallup's last pre-financial-crisis measurement in December 2006, more now see big business and fewer see big government as the greater threat.
Gallup's results, graphically:

GallupGovtBusResults.gif

Marketing works.  Especially when it is repeated over and over for decades, unopposed.  This blog reaches a moderate audience, but the message that government by the people is a good thing needs to reach people who don't hear it very often, and only hear the marketed anti-government, anti-democracy message that is spread by the corporations.  Did you know that Speak Out California also provides speakers to talk to local groups across California and do radio and TV interviews discussing the benefits of government and democracy? Please contact us at info@speakoutca.org to schedule a speaker for your event.

Click through to Speak Out California and leave a comment.

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

Speaking Of Violent Right Wingers

While we're on the subject of violent right wingers, I think "Take The Skinheads Bowling" is a candidate for the worst song for getting stuck in the head. Can't get rid of it.

And since it's in mine, here's a gift for you:


This cover is good, too:

And this:

And, to calm you back down:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:12 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Repubilcans Say Timothy McVeigh Was "Opponent" of Dems

The Department of Homeland Security came out with a report warning about right-wing extremism and the potential for more terrorist attacks like the one from right-wing extremist (Oklahoma City bomber) Timothy McVeigh.

As you read the linked article, remember that the report being discussed warns against extremist right-wing terrorists, bombers, etc. Republicans defend them as "speaking against the regime." And never forget the Republican reaction to the Waco standoff. Republicans defended the Branch Davidians for shooting law enforcement officers who showed up to serve a warrant, defended the people who then held all those children hostage after the shootout, and then claimed that the government started fires to kill them -- even after it was proven the Davidians started the fires themselves. The Republican majority in Congress then held hearings that took the side of the Davidians against the government, even after Democrats brought witnesses to the hearings to talk about the repeated child molestation they had endured from Davidians.

So with that in mind, look at how the Republicans are reacting to these new warnings of rising right-wing violent extremism. Conservative reps. want Napolitano out,

“Singling out political opponents for working against the ruling party is precisely the tactic of every tyrannical government from Red China to Venezuela," said Texas Rep. John Carter, a member of the party's elected leadership who has organized an hour of floor speeches Wednesday night to call for Napolitano's ouster. “The first step in the process is creating unfounded public suspicion of political opponents, followed by arresting and jailing any who continue speaking against the regime.”

. . . The Department of Homeland Security issued a report earlier this month warning federal, state and local law enforcement officials that the slumping economy "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past."

Extremist bombers and terrorists are "critics on the right."

Watch your backs, these people are nuts, they are dangerous, and the Republican machine is promoting them.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 22, 2009

13 Breathtaking Effects of Cutting Back on Meat

Please read 13 Breathtaking Effects of Cutting Back on Meat

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Chris Bowers Says Make Them Actually Filibuster

Chris outlines how to actually make the Repubicans stand and tal for days when they filibuster things. This way the public will clearly see who is and who is not bloakcing important bills.

Open Left:: Make The Filibuster An Actual Filibuster

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Why They Used Torture

One argument against the "ticking bomb" rationale for torture is that it doesn't "work." It is useless for extracting real information, but it is a great tool for making people say what you want them to say.

Yet the Republicans tortured prisoners, and defended the practice, saying that it yielded important information. So what is "important" to Republican? Protecting people? Of course not. But getting people to say what you want them to say to justify launching an aggressive war against a country in order to take over its oil fields -- now that is important.

Paul Krugman Blog summarizes what is being learned:

Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

Repeat: they tortured poeople to get them to say things that could be used as propaganda to justify invading Iraq to steal the oil. It was never about protecting anyone.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Fraught With Meaning

Headline at Drudge Report: "Why does Obama smile at dictators?"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Why We Have Low-Information Voters

We have low-information voters because they receive low information.

I was reading this story, Credit card bill tests Democrats' political will, and came across this:

Her [Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY] proposed legislation would halt credit cards from imposing arbitrary rate increases and penalties and certain billing practices on balances with different rates. It is expected to win approval by the committee, and later by the full House.

But it remains unclear whether Democrats in the Senate can muster the 60 votes needed in that chamber to advance controversial legislation amid stiff opposition from the banking industry. The Senate's version of a credit card reform bill includes tougher language. [emphasis added]

The REASON that 60 votes are needed in the Senate is because the Republican party is obstructive every single bill. It isn't that "the Democrats" don't need to muster a few votes, it is that the Republicans are acting in ways never before seen in history. The name for it is "filibuster" and it was used on a few occasions in the past, when the concerns of the minority were sufficient to have them stay up all night talking.

Now we have a corporate-purchased party that blocks consumer legislation so they can get more lobbying money from the banking industry.

My complaint: No one reading a story like this would know any of this. So they would not have the information needed to make an informed decision in the voting booth, and certainly not know who to call to ask them to vote the right way.

The corporate news media is not serving our democracy. They serve a different master.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 21, 2009

It Is Improper For The President To Interfere With The Justice Department

Atrios makes a very important point: The President is not supposed to say that someone should or should not be prosecuted.

We have a system of justice that is supposed to be independent of politics and individuals. It is improper for a President to say that someone will or will not be prosecuted. No one is supposed to be above the law.

I hope Atrios doesn't mind if I pay him the complement of repeating his post in full:

I'm so old I can remember those ancient days when it was accepted that the Justice Department was independent from the president, that the Attorney General and others should make decisions absent political considerations, and that when it seemed as if independence might not be possible, the AG should recuse him/herself and appoint a special prosecutor.

I'm not the first person to bring this up recently, but the point is that it shouldn't be Obama's and Rahm Emmanuel's decision whether to prosecute anybody. If there's suspicion and clear evidence that people broke laws, an inquiry should begin. If the AG feels undue pressure from President Change and his gang then he should appoint a special prosecutor to try to wall off the investigation from political pressure.

This is an example of just how badly Bush and the Republicans distorted our system, when everyone later takes it for granted that this is how things are done. It is also an example of why we need to investigate and prosecute lawbreaking. If you don't lay down the law the things that are allowed to slide become the norm.

Update - I see that Glenn Greenwald wrote about this at Salon,

Whether to commence criminal investigations and prosecutions of specific acts of alleged criminality is not Obama's decision to make. It is the duty of the Justice Department, and ultimately the Attorney General, to make those decisions based strictly on legal considerations, and independent of the political interests of the White House. Whether or not Obama favors prosecutions is really irrelevant, and one could almost reasonably argue that the increasingly aggressive pressure he and his aides, such as Rahm Emanuel, have been exerting to impede prosecutions was becoming improper.
BUT adds that, to Obama's credit,
Clearly, Obama today -- in the face of rising rapidly pressure to investigate -- seems to have re-considered that approach. Obama just plainly contradicted what Rahm Emanuel said over the weekend and what Robert Gibbs said yesterday when he announced this afternoon -- appropriately so -- that the decision of whether to prosecute Bush lawyers who authorized torture ("those who formulated those legal decisions") was one for the Attorney General, and not Obama, to make, and that Obama did not want to "prejudge" that question.

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

Don't Blame Me, I Didn't Vote For Anything

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

The Republicans in Sacramento refused to vote for any budget, saying each budget didn't cut spending enough, while also refusing to specify what items they wanted to cut and by how much.  The result was that the Democrats in the legislature had to vote to dramatically cut the school budget -- along with everything else the state does.  And then after the legislature came up with those cuts, the Republicans voted against them, too

Now citizens are weighing in expressing their anger over these massive budget cuts, and the same Republicans are sending letters saying "don't blame me, I didn't vote for the cuts."  A recent letter to constituents from State Senator Tony Strickland is most likely a standardized "boilerplate" budget statement that has been provided to Republicans to send out.  Let's see if we can translate it into English:
As your Senator, I voted against the budget and the education cuts included in the proposal.  To answer your questions, I would like to share my reasons for opposing the budget and education cuts as well as why the Legislature decreased spending on K-14 education. 
Translation: don't blame me for budget cuts, I voted against them.  I voted against everything you don't like, and will claim to support everything you did like.  Whatever it was.  I can do that because I didn't vote for anything.
In order to ease the impact of the funding decreases, the budget has granted local educational agencies unprecedented funding flexibility, which is the authority to move state funding for most categorical (special-purpose, such as principal training, English learner programs, and the arts) programs to supporting the highest locally-determined priorities through 2010-2011.  The spending flexibility should provide local agencies significant relief during this economic downturn.  However, if the agencies abuse the funding, then they have missed the opportunity to demonstrate that local communities are superior to managing their education funds than the bureaucrats in Sacramento. 

Sorry, I can't figure out what this means.  Leave a comment if you can figure out what it says.
I will continue to support protecting education and providing local communities the flexibility to determine how to invest in their children.  Please be assured I will continue to oppose cuts to education because the state's greatest asset - our children - will be the future workforce essential in reviving our economy.  Thank you, again, for contacting my office and sharing your concerns.  It is citizens like you who make the difference.
Translation: While voting against every budget, and being against any form of revenues -- especially if they would be collected from the large corporations that funded my campaign -- I now claim to support not cutting the education budget. 

This is an interesting strategy: Just vote against everything, and leave it to the responsible people to come up with ways to get around this obstruction.  And then, when citizens are angry about the huge mess this creates, send them letters saying you supported whatever spending they wanted, and that's why you voted against everything.  Meanwhile, you collect your state paycheck, and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate "contributions."  Nice work, if you can get it.

This is a dilemma for responsible legislators.  When you face an extremist group with just enough votes to block everything, how can you keep the kids in schools, provide oxygen tanks and other necessities to the elderly, provide police and fire protection and continue other essential government services?  When the state's major media just won't inform the public of the facts and makes this budget standoff seem as though government is little more than children squabbling over some cookies, with "both sides" refusing to compromise, the state slides toward becoming ungovernable.

What you you do about this?  There will be a ballot initiative tp roll back the rule that any revenue increases require a 2/3 majority to pass.  This initiative is currently named Restore Majority Rule, and you can visit the early website at ca.restoremajorityrule.com. Please sign up to help pass this initiative, and tell your legislators, friends and family that you support this change.

Visit Speak Out California and leave a comment.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 20, 2009

Summary Of Rep. Jane Harman Scandal

Juan Cole has the best summary of the Rep. Jane Harman scandal that I have seen:

The US is spied on, and a classified Pentagon document is passed to the Israeli embassy by AIPAC officials. They are caught because the FBI had them under surveillance. Apparently the FBI is one of the few US government institutions that is not corrupt on the issue of foreign influence on US institutions and policy. Then when the two AIPAC spies are indicted, a Mossad agent attempts to derail the prosecution by suborning a member of Congress and promising her the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee.
Go read the whole post for the details.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 19, 2009

America Was Created To Fight Corporate Power

Americans should all understand the reasons behind the formation of this country. We formed this country because a wealthy elite, called royalty, controlled the economy and set up legal monopoly operations for the benefit of their cronies, called corporations, and then set up the laws and tax structure to benefit those corporations and their owners at the expense of the rest of us.

We fought a revolution to change this. We set up a governement and economy that is supposed to be controlled by We, the People. Think about the meaning of that the next time you hear corporate-funded voices complain about "big government." They are complaining that the people make the decisions instead of the corporate elite -- once known as royalty.

PLEASE read The Real Boston Tea Party was Against the Wal-Mart of the 1770s

The real Boston Tea Party was a protest against huge corporate tax cuts for the British East India Company, the largest trans-national corporation then in existence. This corporate tax cut threatened to decimate small Colonial businesses by helping the BEIC pull a Wal-Mart against small entrepreneurial tea shops, and individuals began a revolt that kicked-off a series of events that ended in the creation of The United States of America.

They covered their faces, massed in the streets, and destroyed the property of a giant global corporation. Declaring an end to global trade run by the East India Company that was destroying local economies, this small, masked minority started a revolution with an act of rebellion later called the Boston Tea Party.

Later in the piece,
The citizens of the colonies were preparing to throw off one of the corporations that for almost 200 years had determined nearly every aspect of their lives through its economic and political power. They were planning to destroy the goods of the world’s largest multinational corporation, intimidate its employees, and face down the guns of the government that supported it.

A link to this was posted at Atrios' blog, by Avedon of The sideshow.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:51 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

April 18, 2009

Where Is Anger Over AIG Tax Scam?

Does everyone have bailout fatigue? Are we burned out from being angry about our tax dollars being used to help a few "too big to fail" operations?

How else can we explain that almost nothing is being said about revelations that AIG -- one of the biggest recipients of tax dollars in history -- was helping big corporations and the wealthy avoid paying their taxes?

WE - the ones who did pay our taxes - are bailing out a huge operation that got rich partly from helping the rich and big corporations avoid paying their taxes.

A few days back I wrote about AIG's Tax Dodge Business,

AIG FP was one of the biggest players in the business of engineering offshore tax shelters for corporate and private clients that resembled a multibillion dollar tax evasion scheme called Son of Boss (we don't have time to figure out why) that thousands of corporations and wealthy individuals used to book phony capital gains losses and evade most or all of their income taxes in the late nineties and early 00s.

When are we going to start talking about getting the money back? When are we going to start talking about accountability for the people responsible for all of this?

Why is Obama surrounding himself with people who come from Wall Street - Goldman Sachs in particular - whose solution is to pump all of our money into the Wall Street they come from and not even tell us how it is being used? When are we going to start demanding that Obama bring in people who will hold people accountable? (That applies to holding torturers accountable, as well.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:30 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos

April 17, 2009

Today's Housing Bubble Post -- A New Wave Of Foreclosures and Price Drops Coming

This is my prediction: there is a new wave of housing price drops and foreclosures coming as holdouts stop holding out. Only when reality intrudes on people's belief that owning a home is supposed to be an "investment" will things be able to start to stabilize. You are supposed to buy a house to live in.

The current "green shoots" euphoria will subside, and then people who have been holding out because "real estate always goes up" will stop holding out. Only then will expectations and behavior start to change in ways that begin to make a difference for the long term.

1) Unemployment is still rising, and rising fast. Unemployed people can't pay mortgages forever.

2) Houses still cost more to buy than to rent in most areas so it is still a bubble. House prices have not fallen to the level they were before the bubble, so it is still a bubble. And the average house price in most areas is still higher than the average-wage person can buy so this is still a bubble. Meanwhile there has been an increase in the number of houses (supply is up), while the boomers are starting to retire and want to sell their large house (demand is down). And unemployment is also reducing the demand side. The increase sales and price drops we are seeing is from people who are being forced to sell, not from people realizing house prices are too high.

3) Distressed people have been holding out since the recession started, but can't hold on forever and savings are running out. This includes renters so rents will have to start dropping as they run out of money for rent (feedback to #2 above) and some of the houses that aren't selling become rentals. Compare California to Michigan, and you'll understand what I am saying. Michigan stopped holding out a while back and rents and house prices have adjusted accordingly and are affordable. California still thinks things are temporary and will get back to "normal" and people are "snapping up" houses that are as "low" as $400,000 for a 3br/2ba.

4) I'm including everyone whose house is "under water" in #2, and this is an increasing number of people. Everyone thinks "housing will go back up" so they aren't walking away yet. But if it turns out that housing doesn't "always go up" they will stop holding out and go buy something based on what they can afford with no expectation that it will go up.

5) There is a HUGE inventory of houses being held off the market. Banks are holding houses off the market. People who would have sold are waiting to sell (holding out), and there are still just a record number of houses on the market now that haven't sold yet. This inventory is going to overwhelm any current increase in sales that is based on people believing we are "at a bottom." There just are many many more houses for sale or waiting to be sold than there are buyers. This is not a "crisis of confidence" where people just aren't buying because they are scared, it is a crisis of too many people not having money, just debt.

6) People buying now (those who aren't yet broke from buying real estate) will lose their shirts, too, because they are expecting that "this is a bottom" and it isn't.

What it comes down to is that expectations and behavior haven't changed yet. Real estate doesn't "always go up." Real estate is not the path to wealth, except as a bubble is developing. Real estate is not a sure thing otherwise. You would think that so many people being wiped out by thinking these things right in front of everyone's eyes would be a clue, but not yet. This is because the bubble developed over a long period, and people got used to real estate "always" going up. When people start to come down to earth and see reality and realize that owning a house can be a costly burden, then things will get to the point where stabilization is possible. As long as owning a house is seen as a path to riches things cannot stabilize.

A story:
In 1999/2000 I had a bunch of stock in a dot com. It made its way up to $35 a share. When it fell to $30 then $25 then $20 I held on because it had just been $35. When it hit $12 I thought it was really cheap but when it hit $.50 I thought that was too high. It landed at $.05 but then the company went out of business.

Think about the psychology of this. When it fell to $12 I thought it was cheap because of how high it had been but when it hit 50 cents a share I thought it was too expensive because I had left the past behind and I could finally see where it was GOING. And that is where it went.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 16, 2009

In The Real World

Have you heard this one? Powerful.

My daddy taught me that in this country everyone’s the same
You work hard for your dollar and you never pass the blame
When it don’t go your way
Now I see all these big shots whinin’ on my evening news
About how they’re losin’ billions and how it’s up to me and you
To come running to the rescue
Well pardon me if I don’t shed a tear ‘cause they’re selling make believe
And we don’t buy that here

Cause in the real world there shutting Detroit down
While the boss man takes his bonus pay and jets out of town/

And DC’s bailing out the bankers as the farmers auction ground,
Yeah while they’re living it up on Wall Street in that New York City town,
Here in the real world there shuttin’ Detroit down.
They’re shuttin’ Detroit down.”


Well that old man’s been workin’ in that plant most all of his life
Now his pension plan’s been cut in half and he can’t afford to die
And it’s a crying shame, ‘cause he ain’t the one to blame
When I look down and see his caloused hands,
Let me tell you friend it gets me fightin’ mad


Cause in the real world there shutting Detroit down
While the boss man takes his bonus pay and jets out of town/
And DC’s bailing out the bankers as the farmers auction ground,
Yeah while they’re living it up on Wall Street in that New York City town,
Here in the real world there shuttin’ Detroit down.
They’re shuttin’ Detroit down.”

Instrumental solo

Yeah while there’ living it up on Wall Street in that New York City town
Here in the real world there shuttin’ Detroit down
Here in the real world there shuttin’ Detroit down

In the real world they’re shuttin Detroit down, they’re shuttin’ Detroit down.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

And That's How We Did It - Updated

From the crew of the ship that fought off the pitates:

"We’re American seamen. We’re union members. We stuck together and we did our jobs. And that’s how we did it."

This is a better clip than was originally posted:

AND the SEIU has set up a page about this. Go visit.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Tea Party Contradictions

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Let's take a look at yesterday's tea parties.   I am hearing from people who attended tea parties around the country that the people who showed up were by and large good, honest Americans who are upset about the bailouts, deficits and general direction that things have been going for some time.  I say good for them for getting involved, speaking up and showing up.  We need more of that in this country, after so many decades of apathy.

There is a problem with the tea party events as presented, however, in that the sentiments and concerns of these regular people were largely hijacked by professional manipulators, who wanted to make it appear that the the people at the rallies support an anti-democracy, anti-government, pro-corporate and right wing agenda.  These were the FOX News and Rush Limbaugh audience, and the people from militias with racist signs, and paranoid people convinced that President Obama is a "fascist," etc. and who claim that the economic distress we are experiencing is somehow the fault of Obama's and the Democrats' policies even though he only took office less than three months ago

There are distressing photos of these event-hijackers, and there was troubling and violent rhetoric at many of the rallies. The Governor of Texas actually talked about his state seceding from the union -- the very definition of hating America and the kind of talk once that led to a savage civil war. (FOX News called such talk "patriotic." One has to ask, "patriotic to what country?")

An obviously focus-group-tested phrase was repeated at the rallies: "Obama is going to raise taxes on our kids by borrowing for unnecessary government spending now." But what did the people at these rallies think us "liberals" have been saying all this time about the effect of all the Republican borrowing to pay for these huge tax cuts they gave to the rich and corporations, and to pay for the Iraq war and other military spending increases? This is the reason we have these huge deficits!

And, of course, no one ever says which spending is "unnecessary."  Do they mean unemployment checks? Bush made those necessary.  How about money to rebuild roads and bridges and schools? Bush made that necessary.  How about money to reduce our oil use? Bush and Cheney, both former oil company executives, made that necessary. How about money to continue funding the Iraq war? Bush made that necessary. The bailout money? To the extent that it was necessary (I don't agree that it was) it certainly was not Obama who wrecked the economy.

Which spending in the stimulus plan, specifically, is "unnecessary," and which was made necessary by the Republicans who messed things up so badly?

Some contradictions from the rallies: 

  • The people at the rallies were presented as protesting tax increases, yet in the current Obama budget only tax cuts have been proposed. (There are hints that there will be a request for a small tax increase on the very wealthy after a few years.)
  • Many at the rallies were protesting against "government spending," but did not seem to understand where the government actually spends a huge portion of our budget, such as on military and huge subsidies for big oil, agriculture and other corporations (like Wall Street bailouts) -- but instead were protesting against imagined spending like "welfare" and foreign aid, which add up to only a tiny fraction of the budget. 
  • Reagan's and Bush's tax cuts for the rich have created so much debt that we currently pay out over $500 billion to interest each year -- paid to people who can afford to loan us trillions.  Now that is some serious government spending. 
  • Many rallies were rebranded by their corporate-funded organizers as "Fair Tax" rallies. But the so-called "Fair Tax" is really about cutting taxes on the rich and making up for it by raising taxes on everyone else. This is an example of corporate astroturf convincing people to support raising their own taxes or cutting their own benefits so that taxes on the wealthy and big corporations can be further reduced.  (You can't cut taxes for that group without making up for it somewhere.)

This all brings to mind something that I have said about marketing: with good enough marketing you can convince people to kill themselves.  Think about cigarettes and the comet-suicide cult and you'll understand what I mean.

Click through to Speak Out California and leave a comment.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:44 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Secession Talk -- Not In The News?

I have to say, it is striking that the day after the Governor of Texas talked about his state seceding from the United States, I have seen no reports or discussion in the news! This should be a huge, huge story. The historical precedent for the impact of such statements could not be more alarming. Yet, nothing.

What is the reason for this? Why are the editors of the corporate media, who decide what will eb on the nation's agenda, hushing this up?

This reminds me of the silence last year after when it came out that the Republican Vice Presidential candidate was associated with a group calling for Alaska's secession from the United States. There was also little discussion of the implications of such a position.

I thought the media loved to cover controversy and hypocrisy? What could be more controversial than a Governor calling for his/her state to leave the United States? What could be more hypocritical than supposed "patriotic" conservatives hating the country so much they want to disband it?

Update - Alaska, texas, now Georgia, too. Nothing on the TV yet. (h/t Americablog.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 15, 2009

Texas Republican Governor Talks Of Seceding From The Union!

The South shall rise again!

Texas Gov. Rick Perry today talked of his state seceding from the United States. From the story,

Perry told reporters following his speech that Texans might get so frustrated with the government they would want to succeed from the union.

. . . Perry has criticized federal bailouts and has refused $555 million in unemployment money because of strings attached. He has in recent days asserted states' rights under the 10th Amendment and denounced Washington for overstepping authority.

. . . And conservative radio commentator Rick Green declared, "We are firing the first shots of the 2nd American revolution right here in Texas."

Some in the crowd, which included libertarians and other third-party advocates, said even Perry was not conservative enough.

This is pretty serious stuff here, advocating treason, another civil war and possibly encouraging another Timothy McVeigh.

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

Thousands Protest Obama Tax Cuts

I guess the tax cuts in the Obama budget are not popular...

Thousands turn out for tax day protest.

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

April 14, 2009

A Warning About The Tea Parties

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

A number of people I have spoken with are planning to attend a "tea party" tomorrow, so I thought it might be a good idea to write about this. They are not what they claim to be. They are not "spontaneous" or "grassroots." They are another corporate-funded campaign to trick people into supporting more cut taxes for the rich.

The idea is supposed to have started on February 19, when Rick Santelli of CNBC "spontaneously" complained about plans (click link for video) to help people avoid foreclosure, saying this is the government "subsidizing the loser's mortgages." Santelli called for organizing a "Chicago tea party" against helping people pay their mortgages. But investigators starting finding clues that the on-air rant was not spontaneous, and signs that the campaign was organized by the right-wing, corporate-funded Freedomworks . According to a March 2 New York Times story,

"Mr. Santelli's televised commentary appeared spontaneous to viewers. However, the Internet domain name ChicagoTeaParty.com was registered in August 2008 -- well before his commentary -- but not used until afterwards."

The events have been widely promoted by corporate-funded conservative PR professionals who specialize in "astroturf." This is a term for the use of money to create an appearance of widespread "grassroots" support. Currently the corporate-funded conservative lobbying groups Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity, are organizing the events and conservative media including talk radio and FOX News are widely promoting them. Support appears to be coming from Koch Industries, the largest privately-owned company in the country. According to the Think Progress blog post, Spontaneous Uprising? Corporate Lobbyists Helping To Orchestrate Radical Anti-Obama Tea Party Protests,

"This type of corporate 'astroturfing' is nothing new to either organization. While working to promote Social Security privatization, Freedom Works was caught planting one of its operatives as a "single mom" to ask questions to President Bush in a town hall on the subject. Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed Freedom Works for similarly building "amateur-looking" websites to promote the lobbying interests of Dick Armey ...

Americans for Prosperity is run by Tim Phillips, [a] former partner in the lobbying firm Century Strategies. The group is funded by Koch family foundations -- a family whose wealth is derived from the oil industry. Indeed Americans for Prosperity has coordinated pro-drilling 'grassroots' events around the country."

The "tea parties" are promoted as a "grassroots uprising" against "high taxes." Tea stands for "Taxes Enough Already." However, 95% of Americans will received a tax cut in the next year if the upcoming Obama budget passes. Only Americans with incomes above $250,000 will receive a small tax increase -- and even then their taxes will be much lower than almost any time in the last 80 or so years. This increase on the top incomes will help pay for some of the Republican-caused economic damage as well as reduce the budget deficits that the country has faced ever since the same income group received tax cuts after George W. Bush was elected. (This is similar to the tax increase in first Clinton budget that led to the great economy of the 1990s and large budget surpluses.)

The other complaint from tea party organizers is that President Obama is "spending too much." The increased spending in the stimulus package and upcoming budget funds education, unemployment checks, efforts to ward off foreclosures and other programs designed to help bring us out of the recession and provide jobs. These are programs that benefit regular people instead of big corporations and the rich.

So regular people who go to these corporate-organized tea parties are asking the government to undo their own tax cuts and reduce their own government services in order to keep taxes low for the very rich. I wonder if people have really thought this through?

Visit Speak Out California and leave a comment.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:34 PM | Comments (11) | Link Cosmos

April 13, 2009

The truth about the Fox News Tea Parties

Save the Rich | The truth about the Fox News Tea Parties

Open Letter to Media: This is What Astroturf Looks Like 04/13/2009 - 21:04

"Astroturf." Fake grassroots. It's what you get when big business and rich zealots hire pricey consultants to manufacture public outrage.

With big budgets, limitless manpower, sophisticated targeting, and a sympathetic media channel, it's not difficult to generate anger.

Please go read the whole thing, and FORWARD the site to others!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:15 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos

Teabagger Parties - Remember The Seeing the Forest Rule

The Seeing the Forest Rule: When right-wingers are accusing others of something it is usually a cover for something THEY are doing. Today's variation is when they claim they are doing the honest, innocent thing it usually means they doing are the dishonest, conniving thing. The promoters of the upcoming anti-Obama "tea parties" claim that they are "grassroots" but really they are one more corporate-funded, lobbyist-organized Republican bait-and-switch operation, tricking their supporters into supporting even more corporate tax cuts and tax cuts for the rich.

Here is what I am talking about. The NY Post is owned by the same company as FOX News. SO take a look at this: TEA PARTIES: REAL GRASSROOTS - New York Post,

...these Tea Party protests aren't the same old rituals with the same old marchers.

These aren't the usual semiprofessional protesters who attend antiwar and pro-union marches. These are people with real jobs; most have never attended a protest march before. They represent a kind of energy that our politics hasn't seen lately, and an influx of new activists.
[. . .] Instead of the "astroturf" that has marked the ACORN-organized AIG protests, this movement is real grassroots. So if you've had enough, consider visiting a Tea Party protest in your area -- there's bound to be one.

It's your chance to be part of an authentic popular protest movement, one that just might save America from the greed and ineptitude of the folks who have been running it into the ground.

There are numerous posts and articles like this one, all claiming this is a "spontaneous" and "grassroots" event. In fact, as Jane at Firedoglake points out, the tea parties are organized, funded and promoted by a big lobbyist organization. Think Progress also writes about this and Media Matters writes about how these anti-Obama events are receiving exhaustive on-the-air promotion from FOX News, to the point of calling them "FNC Tea Parties." (So does Think Progress.)

Also be sure to read Oliver Willis, The Seminal, Crooks & Liars, Washington Monthly, Newshounds and DownWithTyranny writes about the calls to violence associated with the tea parties.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:48 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Stop The Corrupting Corporate Money At The Source

The way to stop corporate corruption of our political system is to stop the corporate money from leaking out of the corporation.

We can pass laws to prevent corporations from using money for anything other than the operation of the company. We can impose a regulatory structure that works, and stops them from using funds for lobbying, funding front-group "think tanks" and anything else that WE decide is corrupting our system. We can track the money, and punish executives who allow it to leak out of the corporation.

We can stop it at the source. Much easier than trying to patch hundreds of little loopholes that pop up to capture the flow of money after it has left the corporation. It is so much easier to spot money as it leaves the company, and plug that leak, than it is to try to control it after it is out. One law, one set of accounting rules, and it all stops.

We, the People grant corporations a charter to operate, within certain rules. We allow them to amass significant resources because it enables large-scale projects. But these resources are supposed to be used to run the company, not to corrupt our political system. This money is supposed to be the property of the shareholders and is supposed to be used ONLY to run the company. It is theft for executives to use it to fund anything that influences public opinion or policy to enrich themselves...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:32 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Take The Right Seriously, Please

We're all laughing at the right's nuttiness, especially the teabagging campaign. They say Obama isn't an American, that he is a communist, that in ten weeks he is responsible for the bush deficit, that he is planning to put everyone in concentration camps, that he is going to replace the dollar with a world currency, that he is gutting the military... And he has only been in office ten weeks.

In fact they're back to being as crazy and paranoid as they were when Clinton was President. Remember the accusations that Clinton and Hillary were murderers, that Hillary personally killed Vince Foster, that Clinton ran a drug-smuggling operation out of an airstrip, that he was looking through FBI files, that he fired the travel office to put a cousin in, that he "sold" plots in Arlington cemetery, that he held up runway traffic to get a $500 haircut, that he used cocaine in the White House, that he hung obscene ornaments on the White House Christmas tree and the other fabrications that came daily?

We laughed then, too, and how did that work out? They took over the Presidency, the House and the Senate. Then they started wars. They tortured people. They appointed corporate lobbyists to run every agency. They filled the courts with Federalist Society judges that rule for the corporations and religious right every time. They stole billions -- in one documented case actually having the Fed ship truckloads of pallets of hundred dollar bills directly to Iraq to be distributed to Bush cronies. They destroyed the economy of the world. And they worked hard to destroy the world itself -- the arctic is melting, the fisheries are depleted, the resources are plundered... And they get away with it -- who is being held accountable for any of that?

When Joe McCarthy was spreading his poison we dismissed him as a nutcase. We laughed at the John Birch Society's paranoia, when they called Eisenhower a communist, and they ended up getting Bolton appointed to the UN. We thought the "Impeach Earl Warren" campaign was a joke and now they have the Supreme Court majority. We laughed at Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Pat Robertson's campaign and the religious right ended up staffing the administration with their followers. ... And now we mock them for being insane over Obama.

So I want to say, please take the right seriously. They may appear to be crazy - and they are - but this doesn't mean it isn't going to work. Let me explain.

In another life I was involved in direct mail. I learned a lot.

Direct mail lets you measure the effect of every smallest thing. You can change the color of the paper the letter is written on and then measure the effect this has -- and by the way, the color actually makes a measurable difference. Changing the price from $9.99 to $9.95 can have a significant effect on the number of people who choose to buy what you are selling.

So what I am getting at is that the most important lesson I learned was there is a reason that direct mail is worded the way it is, and looks the way it looks. That reason is that it works. "Buy now" is a call to action, and if you put "buy now" at the right place in your offer, people ... buy now. Every single word, the color, the font, the thickness of the ink, the headline, even the placement of periods and commas have all been tested and they are there because putting them there that way increases the number of people who make the decision to buy.

Repeat: they do it because it works.

What the right did in the Clinton years worked. They know how to do this stuff. That is why people across the country are reporting that a mass robo-call effort is underway to invite people to these tea parties. This is a funded strategic operation. They are reaching out to the general public with their message that Obama and "liberals" are to blame for the economy. They are setting the stage to own the issue when the economy gets worse.

Going out and talking to the general public with their message is effective, and that is what they are doing. Everything with them is about shaping public opinion. Everything is propaganda, saying whatever they need to say and refining what they say until it is having an effect, and then repeating and repeating that message. It's just standard marketing and advertising. And they get away with it because they are the only ones doing that. They have an entire TV channel dedicated to telling the public that conservatives and their ideology are good, and that everything that is bad in their lives is the fault of the liberals. They still have dozens - hundreds - of radio shows repeating that message 24 hours a day across the country. They still have hundreds of paid operatives writing op-eds, books, speaking to groups, appearing on their TV and radio shows, always always always repeating a coordinated strategic message.

It works. They're doing it and they are funded and strategic. We aren't. We're right and they are wrong, progressive policies and candidates are better for people than conservatives ones, but we aren't telling the public. We have no coordinated marketing effort to explain to the general public how and why progressives and progressive ideas and policies are better for them than the conservative approach. Until we do the right remains just as dangerous as ever.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:02 AM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos

April 12, 2009

Obama's Deficits

1) The current massive budget deficit is Obama's fault, not the Republicans', because Obama has been president for ten weeks.

2) The massive spending on unemployment compensation and food stamps is Obama's responsibility, not the Republicans', because Obama has been president for ten weeks.

3) By the same token, the massive spending on bailing out and backing up the financial system is Obama's responsibility, not the Republicans', because Obama has been president for ten weeks.

Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:01 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Bark Was Better

Obama girls name their new puppy 'Bo'

I thought "Bark" was a better choice. "Bark Obama."

Bo.jpg

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:42 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos

April 11, 2009

Robo-Calling for Tea Parties

People around the country are reporting receiving robocalls inviting them to anti-Obama "tea parties," so it would appear that the tea-parties are a major funded operation.

Leave a comment if you have been called.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:54 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

President's Weekly Address

This is the weekly address from the President of the United States.

It can't hurt to send this to friends and family, and ask them to forward it around. People should know about these addresses, and see them.

Watching this my thought is, as the President talks about overcoming the divisions and getting past race and other divisions, why are the Republicans doing everything they can to undercut the credibility and legitimacy of the leader of the United States?

Go visit Drudge Report or FOX or any other conservative outlet and there is nothing but hate and fear and smears. The criticism isn't based on valid criticism, just on hate. They talk about "socialism" because even though most of us received a tax cut there will be a small tax increase - only on the wealthy. They are very close to advocating violence with their vehement attacks. What are we going to do about this?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:36 PM | Comments (8) | Link Cosmos

AIG's Tax Dodge Business

AIG was running a scam that enabled companies to dodge paying taxes. Yes, the same AIG that is now sucking up our tax dollars - and paying out million-dollar-bonuses - was in the business of helping companies not pay their taxes.

At what point do we feel completely harvested, bled, scammed, and done with this? Why aren't we raising taxes on high incomes -- the beneficiaries of all these scams that brought down the economy -- to pay for all of this?

WSJ: AIG's Tax Shelter Business Was 'Even Bigger' Than Their CDOs; IRS Calls At Least One Of Them A 'Sham' | Crooks and Liars

An attorney and tax shelter expert we spoke with today says AIG FP was one of the biggest players in the business of engineering offshore tax shelters for corporate and private clients that resembled a multibillion dollar tax evasion scheme called Son of Boss (we don't have time to figure out why) that thousands of corporations and wealthy individuals used to book phony capital gains losses and evade most or all of their income taxes in the late nineties and early 00s.
Go read.

So I found this from 2005: Court Papers Say A.I.G. Played Role in Tax Shelter,

New court papers indicate that the American International Group helped dozens of wealthy individuals make use of questionable tax shelters intended to shield hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from federal taxes.

A.I.G. is under scrutiny by federal and New York investigators looking into questionable insurance transactions that the company used to dress up its financial strength.

How much of this economic mess is because We, the People didn't demand that this company be broken up when this news came out?

Why haven't We, the People taken control and broken these "companies" up into little bite-sized chunks yet?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 10, 2009

FOX News -- PROMOTING, Not Covering Tea Parties

FOX News has become nothing more than an advertisement for anti-government activities like the "tea parties." Watch this compilation of FOX "coverage" of the anti-Obama tea parties and see for yourself. This is not a "news" network, this is an advocacy network, advocating for anti-government, anti-democracy, pro-corporate policies that benefit a wealthy few.

Go read Fox News Signs On To Tea Party Agenda, Aggressively Promoting Anti-Obama Protests,

Fox News isn’t the only right-wing organization involved in building up these so-called “grassroots” events. The tea parties have been heavily backed by corporate lobbyists. The principle organizers of many of the local events are actually the lobbyist-run think tanks Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works, and Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions. The groups are heavily staffed and well funded, and are providing all the logistical and public relations work necessary for planning coast-to-coast protests.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:39 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Answer Is...

Over at Talking Points Memo: If Government Never Created a Job ...

... then why are anti-stimulus Republicans suddenly clamoring about the stimulative effect of military spending?
The answer is because military contractors are paying them a lot of money to say that. Because the military contractors GET a lot of money FROM that. It's called graft, corruption, bribery, "lobbying" or whatever name you want to put on our system in the United States where corporate money determines what government does, and who taxpayers pay.

Next question?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Innovative Movie Industry

I have been writing about the MPAA vs RealDVD case.

MPAA vs RealDVD goes to court April 24. This is the movie industry trying to keep a program off the market because it lets you copy your own DVDs onto your own computer. It doesn’t let you distribute copies, just put them on your computer. The MPAA is suing under the terms of the DCMA copyright law –one of those laws that was lobbied (money changed hands) through Congress giving certain kinds of already-big corporations all kinds of rights that prevented new inventions and businesses from coming along and disrupting their sweet cash flows.

At ContentAgenda they're writing about a panel put on by the Electronic Frontier Foundation,

"That happens a lot in Congress," Barr added. “You have an industry, where they basically draft the statute--which is what happened with the DMCA--and then they start using it for all kinds of things that weren’t part of the original deal. And I wish sometimes that Congress wasn’t such a patsy for it."
Meanwhile the MPAA weighs in about the poll the other day, which found that people actually want to be able to copy their DVDs onto their computers. First, "The studios' claim: The poll was bought and paid for by download advocates, calling into question the survey's findings." Right. People don't want to be able to copy their DVDs onto their computers. We're dealing with responsive, innovative companies here. (Sort of like how at exactly 25 minutes and 32 seconds into a movie we get a car chase scene with the special effects raised to exactly 102 decibels, and then at 82 minutes and 48 seconds we get an emotional reconciliation between the 58-year-old male star and the 22-year-old former model playing the female love interest. Right.)

ANYway,

Said Angela Belden Martinez, MPAA's vice president for corporate communications, "We didn't need RealNetworks—who is in the fight of its life to defend its illegal RealDVD product in federal court—to sponsor a poll telling us that consumers of entertainment want to enjoy content when, where, and how they want it. The creators of film and television shows are energized by the opportunities that new technologies offer to consumers and have been tirelessly working in collaboration with innovators to deliver them. This includes the streaming of entire popular programs on successful sites like Hulu, one-click downloadable movies on iTunes, and capabilities that enable customers to keep a free and legal digital copy of their DVDs. We will work with anyone who can continue to help creators use new technologies that exceed consumer expectations and ensure a sustainable model that supports even greater creativity in the future."
Now, there is your hint. They aren't trying to stop RealDVD, they're trying to extort license fees from the company in exchange for dropping this expensive lawsuit.

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

Democracy - Where The People Are In Control

Not.

Calculated Risk: Fed Orders Banks Not to Release Stress Test Results

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:45 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 9, 2009

Public Schools Are Socialism

Many conservatives say that public schools are socialism.

Are they right?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Wall Street Way Of Doing Business


Take Action: Don't let them get away with it

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Forbes List Of Highest-Taxed States Lists California

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

Forbes List Of Highest-Taxed States Lists California -- Not.

The Forbes list of states that tax their citizens the most is out!  And California ranks ... well, California isn't even on the list.

Forbes: Where Americans Are Taxed Most:
10. Pennsylvania (not California)
9. Wyoming (not California)
8. Washington (not California)
7. Massachusetts (not California)
6. New York (not California)
5. New Jersey (not California)
4. Minnesota (not California)
3. Connecticut (not California)
2. Hawaii (not California)

Drum roll ....

... keep scrolling ...

--- And the winner is ...

1. Vermont (NOT CALIFORNIA!)

So yesterday I'm driving and KGO radio has a show about the "tax revolt" that is "taking place all over California," with people rising up and having "tea parties" to protest the "incredibly high taxes" in California.  Here is KGO's program listing:
 

2 PM - Growing Anti-Tax Revolt in California? And What About Prop 13?

Taking inspiration from a landmark 1970s tax revolt, a determined group of activists say the moment is right for another voter uprising in California, where recession-battered residents have been hit with the highest income and sales tax rates in the nation. And like Proposition 13, the 1978 ballot measure that transformed the state's political landscape and ignited tax-reform movements nationwide, they see the next backlash coming not from either major political party, but from the people. How real is the latest anti-tax sentiment and has Prop 13 run it's course?
Guest: John Coupal, president Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Mr. Coupal was on the show to say that California is the highest-taxing state, and state taxes should be lower, and the government wastes all the money it takes in, and can't be trusted, and is too big.  He talked about how other states get by with lower taxes while providing better services than California. He said, for example, that there is no income tax at all in Texas -- without mentioning that Texas taxes oil taken out of the ground while California doesn't.  He said that California spends more on schools than any other state, and called for "school choice" -- which is getting rid of public schools and only having education for those who can afford it.

He said a lot of things that turn out not to be factual if you look into them.  But you can't bother be factual and argue for lower taxes and spending.  As Dave Dayen points out at Calitics,

"Right now we're at the bottom of per capita spending in almost every major category - 44th in health care, 47th in per-pupil education spending, dead last in highway spending and 46th in capital investment among all states."   
But here's the thing.  HE was on the radio, telling Californians that we are the highest-taxing and spending more on schools, etc. than any other state.  And the other side was not on the radio telling Californians the truth.  So he wins. 

Californians don't really have much choice except to believe the anti-tax, anti-government, pro-corporate arguments because they are not hearing anything else

This was just one radio show of the hundreds of radio shows every month that repeat this message.  And the newspapers repeat it.  And the TV shows repeat it.  And there are even public speakers, funded to go from civic group to civic group around the state to repeat this message!

Why is it that he was on the radio and the other side was not?  Because there are so few "other side" organizations for radio stations to call on, funded, with people trained and ready to talk on the radio and TV, write columns, speak to public groups, and generally make the case that government serves a purpose, roads and schools and public safety and are beneficial and that democracy is better than rule by corporations.  Corporations are enabled by our laws to amass incredible sums of money with little oversight, and are using some of that money to influence the state's policies, always to further reduce oversight and amass ever greater power.  That money leaks out of the corporations and into the political system, while pro-democracy organizations have few sources of funding.  

The result is that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is very well funded and is widely quoted in the media. Organization that makes the case for government and democracy are not.  And democracy in California is the loser.  So if we think we're going to be able to persuade Californians to overturn the 2/3 vote requirement for a budget or to increase taxes, we're going to have to come out swinging... At the moment, we don't even have a batter at the plate.

Please leave a comment at Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Conservative Leaders and Media Whipping Up Trouble

The wingnuts are being whipped into an ever-increasing frenzy by the conservative leadership and media. And, of course, all, all, all of it is about attempts to reign in corporatism and concentration of wealth at the top. Taxes on the rich are "socialism" (even though the top rate was 90% and even more for a lot of the last century.) Obama's 4% increase in the military budget is "gutting" the military. Adding a public option to health insurance is "taking over" the health care system. etc...

Here is an example of the kind of nuttiness and militancy that the conservative leadership and media is encouraging. Citizen grand jury indicts Obama>,"If the government does not amend the error within 40 days after being shown the error, then the four members shall refer the matter to the remainder of the grand jury," it says. "The grand jury may distrain and oppress the government in every way in their power, namely, by taking the homes, lands, possessions, and any way else they can until amends shall have been made according to the sole judgment of the grand jury."

Swensson said the indictments were delivered to the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, state officials and leaders of the Georgia Senate and House.

He told WND that since the action in Georgia, he's been contacted by groups in at least 20 other states who want to pursue a similar action.Try to read the entire article. It is not a "report" it is an incitement.

The conservative leadership is intentionally whipping "the base" up to an extreme level. They are encouraging eventual violence.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 8, 2009

Taxes Are Socialism

Taking money someone has is socialism.

Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 7, 2009

Stocks vs Economy

All the stock market types are looking for signs and yelling "Yes! Yes!" and saying that we have "hit bottom" and this is a "buying opportunity." The same thing is happening with real estate types.

They still live in a world where the economy goes on in cycles, same as it ever was, and prices always go up. Actually that started for both stocks and real estate in the early 80s -- when the economy decoupled from the people. That's when things changed and everyone started running up debt -- people running up debt just to get by because wages had stopped rising, companies running up debt because "leverage" was the path to riches.

Meanwhile the economists are seeing the signs and running around yelling "OH MY GOD!" because they ahve never seen anything like this before, and it just keeps getting worse, and they don't see how we're going to get out.

How many times and how badly do people need to be burned before they learn a lesson?

It reminds me of something I saw some years ago. I used to commute "over the hill" from Santa Cruz to Silicon Valley. This was a winding highway over a mountain, with very steep curves. In the winter it would get very slippery and there were lots of bad accidents because people would go just too fast. I eventually learned to just drive the speed limit and relax, but others just wouldn't.

One day I was in the inevitable crawl due to an accident for maybe half an hour. Eventually coming to the accident there was a body just lying there, covered with a yellow plastic tarp. Two cars were completely smashed, obviously from driving too fast and losing control. There was only one lane open with police flagging us through, but it was moving slowly as everyone took a long look.

Within a quarter mile people were passing me at 80mph, swerving from the slipperyness, cutting people off. It's like the lesson right in front of them just had not been seen.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:15 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

April 6, 2009

Corporate Corruption: So Obvious - How To End It

A company (or industry) makes a tremendous amount of money by scamming us, screwing us, stealing from us, killing us, poisoning us, destroying our environment or some other thing that one way or another a working democracy would stop immediately. But the company uses a portion of the money they are accumulating to pay off legislators, regulators, inspectors -- someone in the government -- to keep them from stopping the company from what they are doing. And they pay off others in the government to stop the rest of the government from doing anything about that. Meanwhile they spend a bit more of that money on marketing/propaganda/PR/trickery to make us look the other way.

So it continues. And we all get poorer while they get richer. And each year this continues they have even more money and power to use to keep us from stopping them.

We see it over and over again. It is becoming the primary path to wealth here. Companies and industries getting rich from corruption, bribery, buying elections, buying legislators, purchasing government subsidies or tax breaks or handouts or bailouts... It is so much more cost-effective than actually making something worthwhile and slowly building an industry based on quality and good service to customers that it is replacing the old, more honest business model.

How many examples can you think of just off the top of your head?

Of course we start with the tobacco industry, killing what, 400,000 Americans each year? But if I start writing about all the ways the tobacco industry has paid off legislators and others to ward off accountability I won't get anything else written for weeks...

And then there are the health insurance companies, reaping their fortunes off of keeping us from health care and from having a health care system like the rest of the modern countries of the world.

The pharmaceutical industry actually got the Republican Party to pass a law prohibiting the government from negotiating better prices for the drugs Medicare buys!

The military armament industry, grabbing one of the largest chunks of the US budget, continues the taxpayer gravy train by marketing fear and marginalization... Look what happens to anyone who suggests we shouldn't continue handing them more money than every other country in the world combined spends on their own military. Suggesting we cut this brings down the hammer.

The oil industry, what can I say? An industry that exists to take a resource out of the ground and sell it back to us -- as if the resources of the planet are not the property of the people of the planet -- paying off legislators to keep us from taxing them, all the while poisoning the planet, preventing alternatives...

Wall Street, hedge funds and the banking industry -- what do I need to say? They paid to get a law passed prohibiting the government from regulating credit default swaps. And now they pay to get the government to bail them out from the inevitable consequences!

How about the food industry -- paying to get the government to stop food inspections? Paying to be allowed to continue to sell food proven to makes people obese and give us diabetes - even children?

How about industries that market anorexia and self-hatred to women in order to sell clothes and makeup?

How long could I go on with this list? Leave a comment with an example of your own.

What do we do about it? It really is a simple answer. All we really have to do is remember that the first three words of our Constitution are "We, the People." WE are in charge here, not them. We are the boss of them. We own the country (and its resources), not them. We make the laws, not them. We are a one-person-one-vote not a one-dollar-one-vote country.

So it's very simple, really: We change the laws. We stop them from corrupting us with the money that our laws allow corporations to accumulate. We prevent companies from spending even one cent on anything other than what that company does. It is not their business to tell us what to do, it is our obligation as citizens in a democracy to tell them what to do. We need to say: not one cent can leak out of a company to influence the rules we set for how companies operate. No lobbying whatsoever. No propaganda. No funding "think tanks" that are just front groups for corporate PR. No astroturf, no PR, no influencing public opinion in any way whatsoever. Not one cent used for anything that even hints at telling us how to run our country. Not one cent for anything other than the operation of the company, and while we're at it that includes predatory marketing of their own products, marketing that influences our culture, marketing that makes us feel bad about ourselves, marketing that makes us feel bad about others, marketing that insults us and marketing that makes us think we should want things that we shouldn't!

And jail for anyone who breaks these rules. Because we are the boss in this country and they have abused that idea and in so doing have ruined our economy and harmed our planet.

We are the people, we are in charge. All we have to do to get this done is do it. Once you believe that you have the power, you do.

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

Elephant In Room Ignored

David Waldman at DailyKos is more than a little bit surprised that the media is ignoring a great big Republican elephant in the room.

Background: In Pittsburgh Saturday Richard Poplawsk shot and killed three police officers. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest.

Richard Poplawski, 23, met officers at the doorway and shot two of them in the head immediately, Harper said. An officer who tried to help the two also was killed.

Poplawski, armed with an assault rifle and two other guns, then held police at bay for four hours as the fallen officers were left bleeding nearby, their colleagues unable to reach them, according to police and witnesses. More than 100 rounds were fired by the SWAT teams and Poplawski, Harper said.

So what is this Republican elephant in the room?

Waldman: TradMed terrified of right wing role in P-burgh story and earlier: Daily Kos: Story punches reporters in face; goes unnoticed.

The guy had been convinced that Obama was going to take away everyone's guns, that Obama was going to impose military rule on the country and that "Zionists" control the government.

So, do you think this might have anything to do with Republicans telling that public that Obama is going to take away everyone's guns, put people in "camps" and impose "socialism" on the country? Do you think it has anything to do with the emails I am getting from Republicans saying that people need to arm themselves, "be armed and dangerous," form "an underground," gather into "cells" and that southern states should "secede from the union?"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:38 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

Newspaper Business Model

People used to subscribe to newspapers because they contained news. And then, because so many people were reading newspapers, advertisers would place ads to get in front of all of those readers.

The business model was that doing a good job of providing a good product would pay off. The product was the news. The customer was the reader.

This changed. There was money to be made, and the money became the goal, not the news. This meant that the product became the reader, who was sold to the advertiser. This is a very different business model. When the business model is no longer selling news to the reader, news gathering becomes a secondary consideration -- a cost, a distracting irritation. When the business model is attracting readers instead of gathering reliable news sensationalism and titillation takes priority over accuracy and responsibility.

The result was inevitable -- readers who wanted news turned elsewhere when they stopped finding news in the newspapers. And readers who were there for entertainment moved away from that medium to newer, more entertaining mediums.

This is part of a larger trend in America -- where the business model became short-term exploitation of the consumer rather then long-term service to the consumer.

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

Update on RealDVD vs MPAA

I’ve been following on my blog the story of the movie industry (MPAA) lawsuit to keep RealDVD off the market and why you care. I wrote about business models,

“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.

[. . .] By holding up RealDVD MPAA may be trying to get the company to decide to just dcqapay 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.”


A survey commissioned by the National Consumers League was released today and it found that an overwhelming number of DVD owners watch their DVDs on their computers (69%) and want to be able to save them on their computers (90%). Not only that but “more than a third said they’ve had to rebuy lost or damaged DVDs,” And for those with children that rose to 45%.

This is called a business opportunity. An overwhelming number of people want something and RealDVD has developed a product satisfies what those customers want. So you would think MPAA would be happy that a product is out there that promotes the idea of people buying DVDs and then using them the way they want to use them.

Where is the business case for the MIAA to object to this? The product doesn’t let people give copies of the DVDs to others to the harm to MPAA isn’t clear. Maybe the MPAA has a different kind of business model in mind: Instead of making a product that people want, they’re trying that other kind of business model – the one where you get the government to force someone to hand you money (or hand you money themselves.) Maybe they see RealDVD as a money-making opportunity in which Real reaches a “settlement” of giving MPAA a fee per unit sold?
It was recently announced that the case goes to court on April 24. So keep an eye out for that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 4, 2009

Who Do You Think Paid For This? - Episode XXII

Down With Tyranny has the story: The End Of Tax Havens? Not Until The Far Right Is Wiped Off The Face Of The Earth

OK, this video is from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation featuring Dan Mitchell from Cato Institute who it also turns out is Chariman of the CFPF, and Down With Tyranny swears it isn't a spoof:

Billionaires and the shills who make a living by scraping and bowing before them and faithfully serving their interests-- like the Republican Party and GOP front groups like the American Heritage Institute, Fox News and the Cato Institute-- are hardly giving up and will fight a battle to persuade gullible Americans that tax cheats are true patriots. This video by Republican Party astroturf group, the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation explains, with a straight face, how absolutely fabulous tax havens are. This isn't a spoof; it's real (I swear):

The guy actually keeps a straight face while he says this stuff about why rich people and companies should be able to avoid taxes using tax-scam secret offshore accounts. (I'll bet they also complain that Obama's budget increases the deficit.)

So where do you think this "institute" gets the money to put out stuff about how really, really rich people (who got rich off of the infrastructure that We, the People built) shouldn't pay taxes?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:00 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Accountability Means Investigate and Prosecute!

Watch this.

"What would happen if after a plane crashes we said, "Oh, we don't want to look in the past, we want to be forward looking." No, we have a non-partisan skilled inquiry. We spend lots of money on, get really really bright people and we find out to the best of our ability what caused every single plane crash in America and because of that aviation has an extraordinarily good safety record. We have to do the same thing in the financial industry. We have to learn what went wrong so it doesn't happen again."

I know that President Obama has only been in office a little over two months, but I am getting impatient for some accountability.

One of the reasons things went so wrong during the Bush years was that there was no accountability. Almost no one was fired for doing wrong. Prosecutons were blocked by a corrupt Justice Department. Regulators were muzzled. Legislators were paid off.

To get our system working again we need accountability. We need to hold people accountable for doing the wrong thing, or a signal will be sent that the sheriff is still on vacation and people will continue to do wrong things. But if you send people to jail for corruption, people will have an incentive to stop.

So where are the investigations of the corruption of the Bush years? Not prosecuting sends a signal that it was OK, and that it can continue. Torture? Corruption? Bribery? No investigation. No one prosecuted.

If I had a company and offered a bribe to an Obama administration official, what would happen? Would they investigate and prosecute? The signal to the public is that they won't because they are not investigating and prosecuting the corruption and other crimes of the Bush years. And if they did prosecute me, why are the bribers of the Bush years allowed to get away with torturing people, destroying the economy, corrupting our government? It would show a double-standard, so people would know that the next Repubican adminsitration can start where the last one left off! That is what happened after Reagan, which led directly to Bush being able to destroy the country and the economy. They wouldn't investigate and prosecute after Reagan, so it just started up all over again under Bush.

The financial system needs accountability from top to bottom as well! Where are the investigations of mortgage fraud and of all the mortgage brokers who helped people get "liars loans" and "ninja" loans? Why are the appraisers who said houses were worth hundreds of thousands more than they really were worth getting off scott free? What about the ratings agencies that gave AAA ratings to CDOs? What about AIG setting up insurance schemes called credit default swaps, while not setting aside the reserves to cover those bets? What about all the others?

What about the regulators at the SEC and other agencies who didn't do their jobs? What happens to them? What about the lobbyists who wrote big checks to get bills passed, and the members of Congress who took the money and did the favors?

So was it wrong and illegal to pay government officials to help individual companies or not? If it was then prosecute. Otherwise, without going back and punishing the offenders who committed crimes I have to assume that this is still going on.

And what about the people who did the right thing and didn't get rich? What signal is being sent to them? That they (we) were all just suckers?

Is Obama signaling that these things are OK, wink, nod? By not investigating and prosecuting this administration is signaling that maybe the party is not over. We either have accountability or we do not. And that includes prior acts -- we must insist that the Obama investigate and prosecute wrongdoing of the Bush years.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 3, 2009

Is The Economy Starting To Get Better?

All the financial types are saying that the recession is bottoming. They expect housing, car sales, consumption to pick up soon. So they're buying stocks, "snapping up" houses to rent out later...

All I can say is based on what? Someone tell me what is going to drive a recovery of the economy. The stimulus is going to help a lot for a little while, but there is nothing I can see for a very long time that is a reason to think real jobs will be created in this world. People can't put any more on their credit cards, they can't borrow any more on their houses of they still have one, and they certainly aren't going to be getitng a raise.

I think this current fit of economic optimism is just one more instance -- of so many -- of a lot of entitled people living in insulated, well-to-do bubbles (NY, DC), looking to each other for signs of what is going on because they don't have any contact with the people who are the economy. It's hard to understand what it is like trying to get by in America when you and everyone around you gets million-dollar bonuses.

This is how they missed the housing bubble. This is how they missed the debt bomb.

Eventually, if it really happens, massive investment in a green economy and a national health care system will start to pick things up again. But that is a loooong way off, and the powerholders of today are going to fight tooth and nail to block it. Exxon has a lot of money and influence. So do the big insurance companies. Maybe not as much as Wall Street but they're waiting their turn.

So, anyway, I'm not holding my breath that recovery is just around the corner. I don't see what will drive it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:38 PM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos

The HR 875 Food Safety Modernization Act Scare

(Cross-posted at Growing the Garden)

You may have heard the scare stories about the bill before Congress: HR 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act. I came across a good post at the Secret Farm blog, Secret Farm: A garden blog: HR 875 the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009

As many of you out there are aware by now, there is a bill that has been introduced to Congress called HR 875 Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 . I have seen a number of twitters and blog posts about it, as well as articles and discussions. I was all set to write a very different post about this issue until I came across this post at Crooks and Liars.com in my search:

http://crooksandliars.com/nonny-mouse/monsanto-and-hr-875-take-two

Read the post at Secret Farm.

So I followed the link to Crooks & Liars for more information. From the post there:

To set the record straight:

There is no language in HR 875 that would regulate, penalize, or shut down backyard gardens or ‘criminalize’ gardeners; the bill focuses on ensuring the safety of food in interstate commerce.

Farmer’s markets would not be regulated, fined, or shut down, and would, in fact, benefit from strict safety standards applied to imported food to ensure that unsafe imported food doesn’t compete with locally grown produce.

The bill would not prohibit or interfere with organic farming, or mandate the use of any chemicals or types of seeds. The National Organic Program (NOP) is under the jurisdiction of the USDA. HR 875 addresses food safety issues and falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA.

Monsanto and any other large agribusiness company had no part whatsoever in drafting this bill, and Rep. DeLauro’s husband and his company do no lobbying on this issue.

HR 875 has nothing to do with any national animal ID system, which would fall under the jurisdiction of the USDA, and not the FDA.

So I looked around the web and found some other sources, explaining that the hysteria is unwarranted.

Food and Water Watch, Background on H.R. 875

Here are a few things that H.R. 875 does NOT do:

* It does not cover foods regulated by the USDA (beef, pork, poultry, lamb, catfish.)
* It does not establish a mandatory animal identification system.
* It does not regulate backyard gardens.
* It does not regulate seed.
* It does not call for new regulations for farmers markets or direct marketing arrangements.
* It does not apply to food that does not enter interstate commerce (food that is sold across state lines).
* It does not mandate any specific type of traceability for FDA-regulated foods (the bill does instruct a new food safety agency to improve traceability of foods, but specifically says that recordkeeping can be done electronically or on paper).

The Slow Food USA Blog, in H.R. 875 links to a few trusted sources saying this bill does not do the scary things that the emails and blogs claim.

So don't be afraid. Don't be very afraid.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Republicans Destroyed The World's Economy

Republicans destroyed the economy of the entire world. But getting there, their tax cuts for the rich and their corrupt spending on cronies ran up the budget deficit to massive, massive levels. Interest payments alone on the Reagan/Bush debt is approaching $500 billion a year!

So Obama came into office a little over two months ago with no choice but to spend a lot on unemployment, food stamps, and programs that try to put the economy back together.

So then the Republicans complain that he is borrowing and spending.

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

Wonder Who Paid For This?

The far-right Heritage Foundation has an ussie piece out, Single Payer: Why Government-Run Health Care Will Harm Both Patients and Doctors.

I haven't read it yet, but I can already tell you who probably PAID for it!

--

OK I read it. The argument is like the Republican Katrina argument - "Look how poorly the government handled Katrina, therefore you should hate government and elect Republicans." This time the argument is that because Republicans have done everything they can to destroy Medicare, therefore extending Medicare to everyone will put people into into a partially-destroyed system.

And it pretends that patients and doctors are happy with the current system in which insurance companies do what they can to stiff patients and doctors from promised payments, instead handing the money out as bonuses for their CEOs and executives.

* but it's academic and scholarly because it has footnotes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Stuff You Learn On Wikipedia


"Both General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin and U.S. President Barack Obama's economic and social plans and policies meet the first definition of Statism. In this regard, both Joseph Stalin and Barack Obama can be defined as a Statist."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

The Startling Effects of Going Vegetarian for Just One Day

The Startling Effects of Going Vegetarian for Just One Day

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:

● 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;

● 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;

● 70 million gallons of gas -- enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;

● 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;

● 33 tons of antibiotics.

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:

● Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;

● 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;

● 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;

● Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.

There is much more there - go read!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 2, 2009

This Could Turn Me Into A Republican

Bailed-out banks eye toxic asset buys: report

So they are using TARP money to buy up each others' toxic assets. They get the TARP money because they HAVE toxic assets, so they use it to buy MORE toxic assets, swapping their toxic assets with the ones they buy from.

Question, what if THESE toxic assets - the new ones they are trading theirs for - are ... well ... toxic assets? Does this then justify a whole new round of bailout money?

And why could this turn me into a Republican?

Spencer Bachus, the top Republican on the House financial services committee, told the paper that he would introduce legislation to stop financial institutions "gaming the system to reap taxpayer-subsidized windfalls."

Bachus added it would mark "a new level of absurdity" if financial institutions were "colluding to swap assets at inflated prices using taxpayers' dollars," according to the paper.


Actually, no it couldn't turn me into a Republican, but still.... if this is allowed to happen it really is pitchforks time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

We Need To Tell The Public, Too

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Here is something that you and I know to be true: progressive values and policies are better for people than conservative values and policies.

Progressives believe that we're all in this together and the community taking care of each other ends up working out better for everyone. History also shows that this is how it turns out, every time. Conservatives believe people should be on their own, in constant dog-eat-dog competition, with everyone looking out for themselves and only themselves. History shows that this approach leads to disaster, every time.

You and I know this. But the pubic-at-large doesn't know our side of this argument, because we aren't telling them. While conservatives market their philosophy through every conceivable information channel there is very little outreach explaining the progressive side. When you turn on the radio or the TV or read the newspapers you just don't see or hear about the benefits of a progressive approach. So the public-at-large is only hearing one side of the story -- the conservative side -- and they are hearing that side loudly and often.

It so happens that marketing works, and polls show that the conservative marketing campaign brings results. A 2007 Rasmussen poll, for example found that "41% of the voters think of themselves as conservative when it comes to the issues of taxes, government spending and the regulation of private business while 41% consider themselves to be moderates and 12% say they are liberal." A 2008 Battleground poll found that 59% of Americans consider themselves to be somewhat or very conservative and 36% say they are somewhat or very liberal.

So how do we reach the public? We have to identify target audiences, build the channels that reach them, and talking the cultural language of each target group. Yes, this is marketing talk. And to accomplish this we need to build organizations that do this work. Marketing works, and marketing science has evolved to become very effective. Companies understand this and do it. Conservatives understand this and do it. Progressives need to understand this and do it.

Here is a key, key point and I want to stress it: This is not about election-oriented organizations. This is about a long-term effort to change underlying public understanding and appreciation of progressive values. This requires a different kind of approach and a different kind of organizational structure than winning each next election. Election outcomes will certainly result from such an effort. In fact, with a public that is pre-disposed to be want progressive candidates and policies instead of conservative ones, elections will be dramatically and lastingly affected. This is why conservatives have built up a network of think tanks and advocacy organizations -- hundreds of them -- designed to change underlying public attitudes. And this is why those polls I cites show they have had such great success.

At my personal blog I wrote a July, 2007 post titled, While Progressives Talk To Each Other, Conservatives Talk To The Public. That post ended with,

Progressives need to start reaching the general public with the truth as well as each other. We need to start working together to fund and build the organizational infrastructure to develop and test messaging, then coordinate the use of messaging, train speakers, employ pundits, develop media channels, etc.

Now, two years later we're still largely talking to each other, especially here in California. But there are some improvements nationally. An organizational "progressive infrastructure" is growing up a bit, with the Center for American Progress, Media Matters and other organizations starting to show some strength.

But in California very little is getting done along these lines. The Courage Campaign (go sign up) is one great organization and is gaining strength, boasting an email list of 400-700,000. But even this is only about 2% of our population, and their netroots audience is predisposed to support progressive policies. What they are doing is hugely important and a huge start. But it is one organization when we need dozens, all funded and operating as different components of a cohesive progressive infrastructure. We need think tanks employing scores of experts to conduct the necessary research and come up with and test and refine the policies, wording and strategies to take the progressive message to the rest of the state. We need to develop communication channels that reach into every single geographic and cultural community. We need to train hundreds of public speakers that talk to every single group. We need to develop relationships with interest organizations including hunting, sporting, creative arts, technology, and other kinds of clubs. We need to get the writers reaching out of the blogs and into the newspapers and magazines and on television and radio.

California Progress Report is a site that rounds up California political news, from a progressive perspective. Frank Russo left to take a staff position in the Assembly, and the site is now operated by the Consumer Federation of California Foundation. This is an important component of infrastructure, but CFC is looking for funding to maintain and expand it.

Calitics is California's premier progressive community blog -- and you should get an account there, join the community and add your two cents. And you should take note of that "Donate" button in its right column.

And, speaking of donating, please sign up for Speak Out California's e-mail list. And click here to donate and help us stay online. It is your donations that keep us and all of these organizations in operation to help reach out and work to bring progressive policies to California!

Leave a comment and let me know which organizations, etc. I missed.

California is a big, big state and changing public attitudes is a big, big job. Conservatives launched their persuasion effort almost 40 years ago. Isn't it time we got started?

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:00 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

April 1, 2009

This Is How To Do It

This is a great ad. They make it clear who did what, and leads voters to draw the correct long-term conclusions.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:12 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos