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June 30, 2009

California Suspicion

Here is what I suspect. It's obvious that Republicans are shutting the state down on purpose. I suspect they have a plan ready, and will launch a full-scale "shock doctrine" "solution" to the problem, along with a full-on PR campaign blaming Democrats, "spending" (meaning benefits and services to citizens who are not rich) and government in general (democracy) for the problem.

The "solution" will likely include a flat tax (giving a huge tax cut to millionaires while raising them for the rest of us), probable cutting or even eliminating corporate taxes, maybe school vouchers or just eliminating public schools to some degree, etc.

So let's see. This is not an accident it is a plan.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:57 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Does the Public Think Politicians Are Crying Wolf (Again)?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

A recent large headline in the San Jose Mercury News got me thinking.  The headline was, "A dire warning from the Governor". (Online headline is different from the morning's print headline.)   From the story, "Schwarzenegger said ... his threat ... is necessary to prod lawmakers into swift action."

I have to admit that even I rolled my eyes when I saw that -- even though I understand how serious the problem is. And this led me to think that maybe there is a "crying wolf" factor at work here.  This has been going on now or a long time. 

A few months ago the crisis was reaching a breaking point, dire warnings were issued, and most importantly the public was starting to pay attention.  This triggered the leadership in Sacramento to do what I think was the worst possible thing: they came up with the fluffy budget compromise that "solved" the crisis and resulted in the failed May 19 Special Election.  I believe the compromise was a mistake that broke the tension and led people to believe that the "crisis" was over, so they tuned back out. 

I think the "chicken little" aspect of the whole affair kept people away from the polls in droves.

I am not faulting the Governor and other state leaders for headlines like thos and other warnings because the crisis is real.  Our leaders all need to do whatever it takes to get people to pay attention, to realize this budget crisis is real and that everything that can be cut has been cut, that they really are going to have to let people out of prisons and close parks and still will run out of money anyway.  Bankruptcy and all of its consequences looms.  For real.  The public has to get involved and do their job in this democracy.

But I can understand why most Californians have tuned out.  I think part of this budget problem is that it has become the norm to use drama and fear to prod others into action.  And not just with the budget.  There are so many terrible problems hitting us from so many directions.  The economy really did collapse, and we may be on the edge of another Great Depression.  For real.  This has been a headline swarm for months.  Swine flu is real, but is not as lethal as it first appeared it could be.  This was the headline swarm a few weeks ago.  And of course Global Warming is real, and serious.  It has been a headline swarm for years.  

Those are real and serious problems.  But at the same time there are so many manipulative, well-funded and sophisticated PR campaigns, usually from corporate interests, that use fear and/or other manipulation.  Remember the headlines warning aobut possible terrorist smallpox attacks?  Remember being told that Iraq was on the verge of hitting us with nuclear weapons?   Remember duct tape

So people just do not know who to trust and necessarily are becoming immune to drama.

California's big media outlets could do a better job of explaining the real problems facing the state, beginning by dispelling the idea that the state is just wasting taxpayer money and everything can be solved with a few painless budget cuts.  They need to do this in a serious, respectful way, with comprehensive investigative reporting.  If print media won't do that, they should close their doors -- they aren't doing their jobs and aren't helping anyone anymore so they should let their advertisers support a medium that helps democracy rather than hinders it.  If broadcast media can't do that, they should relinquish their broadcast licenses to others who will.

The poor, elderly and disabled have already suffered the cuts.  They understand that this is for real.  So maybe we need the crisis to hit home so (middle class) people can also understand that it is for real - this time.  

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:38 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Who Is Our Economy FOR, Anyway?

The Seeing the Forest question: Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

If the government provides good, low-cost health care to citizens it reduces the profits of the big insurance and drug companies. This health care battle lays down a clear choice of who benefits: citizens or a wealthy few?

Republican Senator Snowe of Maine announces her choice. See Open Left:: The Problem With The Public Option Is That It Lowers The Cost Of Health Insurance,

In an Associated Press interview in Portland, Snowe said it would be unfair to include a government-run health insurance option that would take effect immediately.

"If you establish a public option at the forefront that goes head-to-head and competes with the private health insurance market ... the public option will have significant price advantages," she said.

Well, duh. That is the whole point. You can't lower the price of health insurance unless you start offering lower-priced health insurance. It's a tautology.

So, naturally, during the fight to lower the price of health insurance, so-called moderate Senators think that the problem with the public option is that it would... lower the price of health insurance. While it may be news to so-called moderate Senators, protecting the crappy products of large corporations is not their job description.

Yes, this health care battle is stripping some of the camouflage from the real fight: do the people benefit from our government, or do a wealthy few benefit?

Who is our economy for, anyway? I first asked that question here just about seven years ago, and it became the blog's tag line. I think the financial crisis and now this health care battle allow people to clearly see and understand which choice their Washington representatives make. And I think the way these twin crises are unfolding helps people to understanding the choice their own elected representatives make. I think will make a big difference come election time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 29, 2009

Too Many People

Krugman: Betraying the Planet,

Temperature increases on the scale predicted by the M.I.T. researchers and others would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy.

. . . In other words, we’re facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself. How can anyone justify failing to act?

It doesn't affect people who are not here. If we see famine, mass migration and other mass-scale disruptions coming there is something we can do roght now to ease the suffering and that is conceive fewer people!

1) Conceiving fewer people means fewer people will be here to need food, hospitable climate, etc. If they aren't here they can't starve.
2) Conceiving fewer people means the use of carbon-releasing energy will be lower. So lower carbon emmissions, lessening the problem.
3) Conceiving fewer people means the people who are here have more resources available to them.
4) Duh!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:05 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

What Should Progressives Do Now?

Scholars and Rogues is starting a discussion of what progressives should do to get the national Democrats to start serving the people. Go read Democrats to Progressives: we're just not that into you,

It has been observed that the Republicans seem to be more effective with a minority than the Dems are when they have the entire country by the balls. GOPpers derail the train by threatening a filibuster, but the Democrats can’t seem to head off a bad idea with a damned-near buster-proof majority. How the hell is this possible?

[. . .] Longer-term, though, it seems like the progressives can make an argument - and one that is supported by some actual evidence - that they represent the will of a goodly slice of the American public. Even better, given how the youth vote seems to be trending, they can also argue that their hand is going to strengthen over time. Are these premises accurate? Hard to say. But they are testable hypotheses, and the posit is certainly plausible enough to be worth examining.

My thinking, this is a war between a few who control the resources of large corporations and the rest of us. Breaking up the Democratic Party helps the other side. But the threat of breaking up the party does gain leverage over the careerists - those who are in the party for a career and contracts and potential high-paying corporate jobs after they do a few favors. So maybe it is useful to discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:19 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 27, 2009

Markos' Letter From Republican Congressman

Markos of DailyKos got a letter, apparently from a Republican Congressman. Go have a read.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 26, 2009


Michael Jackson's autopsy starts in a few minutes. Will it be televised?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 24, 2009

Health Care Results Will Judge Value Of Democratic Party

A thought. If the Democratic Party is unable to bring the people health care reform this year -- and that means with a very strong "public option" and subsidies so we can afford the coverage -- then I think it is time to ask whether the Democratic Party as presently constituted is capable of serving the people, or should be scrapped and a new party built from the grassroots up? There is nothing more basic to the idea of democracy than that the people should realize the basic benefits of modern society, and the most basic of these is a right to health care.

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

George Will Gets It Right About Government

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

Sunday's San Jose Mercury News contains an anti-government op-ed by George Will, "Democrats want nation dependent on government". (The online headline is different.)

This sounds scary, sinister, even somehow slightly evil. But if you look into the meaning of the words, the effect changes.

Here is what I mean. In America government is us. Our Constitution is the defining document of our government and it couldn't be clearer, declaring that We, the People formed this country "to promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves"... In other words, watch out for and take care of each other; "We, the People" have banded together to watch out for each other, take care of each other and build institutions to protect and empower each other.

So with them real meaning of the words in mind Will's headline becomes "Democrats want nation to take care of each other." Will is exactly right, and good for them.

Will's column is about the national healthcare reform battle and proposals for a "public option," which offers a Medicare-like health insurance plan to all of our citizens. Will opposes this, because,

"Competition from the public option must be unfair because government does not need to make a profit and has enormous pricing and negotiating powers."

In other words, he is complaining that a public option health insurance plan will provide more benefits to more citizens at a lower cost. Will casts this as a bad thing, because it threatens the ability of a few wealthy business owners to profit from people's need for health care.

Profits for a few instead of benefits to the public appears to be his idea of the purpose of government. But to the rest of us the point of health care reform is to take better care of each other while lowering the costs. This is why the "public option" is necessary -- private, profit-driven companies are not designed to accomplish delivery of essential services to everyone. Profit-driven companies are designed to deliver only to those who are willing to pay the most, which when applied to essential human needs violates fundamental tenets of democracy. We are supposed to be a one-person-one-vote country, not a one-dollar-one-vote country.

Again, Will and other conservatives use lots of scary words. But if you look at the meanings of the words, their complaint is with Americans who want to enjoy the fruits of democracy and equality, and take care of each other.

And this is supposed to be a bad thing?

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:48 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

June 22, 2009

Bush's Massive Deficits

A commenter points to this article in the neo-con Washington Post pointing out that deficit projections for the next decade add up to $9 trillion. The article says this is because of "Obama's spending plans."

So let's add this up. Bush left office with a $1.2 trillion deficit for a single year. Projections for $9 trillion in deficits over ten years is a reduction in borrowing from Bush levels. How is this because of "Obama's spending plans?"

And furthermore, Bush spent money on tax cuts for the rich, corrutp government contracts to cronies, and wars. Obama is talking about spending for the people. Unfortunately much of that is for things like unemployment - more legacy from the Republican years...

I see no grounds for complaint, only improvement.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:28 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Recession Result Of Low Taxes

A thought: The country and states lowered taxes in the 80s, and now we are seeing the results. Low taxes let people get rich in a hurry so sound and sustainable business practices were abandoned as foolish. Wealth concentrated straight to the top, and now average people are strapped to pay for anything. Meanwhile get-rich-quick schemes stripped the forests, oceans and mountaintops.

Put the top tax rate back to 90% and watch the changes as people have to build real wealth slowly over time. This means they have to use sustainable business and environmental practices. And watch the economy as regular people start to benefit again and national and governments have funds to actually engage in helping regular people again.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:34 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

June 21, 2009

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Hey, suckers, take a look at where your money is going: Goldman to make record bonus payout,

Staff at Goldman Sachs staff can look forward to the biggest bonus payouts in the firm's 140-year history after a spectacular first half of the year...

The bailouts were a wonderful corporate feast. They thank you.

See this chart showing how the bailouts cost more than all the wars, the New Deal, etc. combined. in our history

Up next on the corporate agenda: a law requiring you to buy health insurance from the big insurance corporations. Yes, the same ones who then don't even cover you when you get sick.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:42 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

June 20, 2009

Corp Media Wont Report On Health Insurers

Do read this by dday and then watch the video below. Health insurers refuse to stop denying coverage to people after they get sick. Testifying to Congress they said, "No" they will not stop this. Watch the video.

If you know about this at all it is because you read blogs. The corporate media outlets refuse to let the public know about this. You can come up with a number of reasons, but the fact is that they are not reporting on this story.

So go read Daily Kos: Paul Begala calls out the media: expose the insurance industry!

Since the media will not report on this, you have to. Send the video to people and explain to them what it means. Health insurance companies refuse to stop "rescission" which is denying insured people the coverage they have paid for -- after they get sick. This is why we need at the very least a "public option" in health care coverage. Demand this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Lobbyists Laughing At Dems

Here's a story about lobbyists getting Democrats to weaken the climate change legislation, and laughing about it.

THE INFLUENCE GAME: Excuse me! Lobby wins on burps

The message circulating in Internet chat rooms, the halls of Congress and farm co-ops had America's farms facing financial ruin if the EPA required them to purchase air-pollution permits like power plants and factories do. The cost of those permits amounted to a cow tax, farm groups argued.

"It really has taken on a life of its own," said Rick Krause, a lobbyist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which coined the term cow tax and spread it to farmers across the country. "This is something that people understand. All that we have to say is that (cows) are the next step with these proposed permit fees. And people are still talking about it."

Administration officials and House Democratic leaders have tried to assure farm groups that they have no intention of regulating cows. That effort, however, has done little to ease the concern of farmers and their advocates in Congress about the toll that regulating greenhouse gases will have on agriculture.

[. . .] The climate bill specifically excludes enteric fermentation — the fancy term for the gas created by digestion and expelled largely by burping — from the limit it would place on greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation directs the EPA not to include it among the various sources that could be subject to new performance standards.

Read the whole article, how it mocks Democrats and praises lobbyists for how effective they are at blocking important legislation.

But it's not like climate change is serious or anything...

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

Events in Iran

I am watching events unfolds in Iran. I suspect that a lot of what is circulating about events is engineered. For example at exactly the right time just after the election a rumor circulated claiming that people inside Iran's Interior Ministry were confirming that the election was stolen, they were upset so they were leaking this. I suspect this was a planted story from an intelligence service working (rightly) to bring down the Iranian government. And good for them for this. A more moderate regime in Iran would be good for the world and for the people of Iran.

I wonder if the story of Mousavi saying he is "ready for martyrdom" is such a plant. If so it is exactly the right thing at the right time. And the story that he is asking supporters to go on strike if he is arrested - same thing.

I find CNN is just unwatchable! They give a minute of what is happening in Iran, and then turn to covering how people in the US are following it or reacting to it. It's all about the US, demonstrations in support of Iran in the US, etc, and very little about what is actually happening. I don't have time for that, so I just turn to a channel that is actually covering news right now and that is Fox. Ouch. And then Fox puts some right-wiong nut on to talk about it and I turn back to CNN. Bad choices all around.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 19, 2009

On Passing Health Care

Robert Reich has it exactly right: Memo to the President: What You Must Do To Save Universal Health Care | Robert Reich's Blog

This is where we learn if Obama has what it takes.

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

June 18, 2009

The 40 Under 40 Awards - Barry Kendall

Congratulations to Commonweal Institute's Executive Director Barry Kendall for receiving a "40 Under 40" awards from the New Leaders Council. This is a national big deal, go look at the list. Good for him!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Unemployment Number Dropped Because Benefits Ran Out

The "good" news in today's unemployment report was that the number of "continuing claims" dropped. The bad news is that the reason this number dropped because so many people's unemployment benefits are running out.

In the coming months you will hear more and more "good" news like this - and it will be sold as good news. But this number really means more and more people are getting into ever worse conditions because the economy is not providing jobs and the government is no longer helping. After all, regular people are not "too big to fail."

Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis: Continuing Claims Drop First Time In 21 Weeks. Is This Worth Getting Excited Over?

. . . Government figures, in fact, show the proportion of recipients who used up their jobless benefits in May topped 49 percent, a monthly record.
[. . .] The drop in continuing claims means more home foreclosures and credit card defaults are coming because 49% of those who were receiving benefits now have no money coming in at all.
Yes,more people using up their unemployment benefits means more people who can't pay their mortgages, rent, car payments, credit card bills, or go shopping, etc. On top of this several states are running out of money and will start laying people off.

But the "recession" is over, right? I don't think so. I think we have to go through some hard times to break the "stock market always goes up" kind of thinking that is keeping people from finding real solutions to real problems.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:56 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

So Hard For Republicans

Oh the poor Republicans and their victimization fetish. Here's the latest: a Republican Twittered that the struggle of the Iranian people is just like the heroic struggle of the Republicans against the Democrats.

People are responding in sympathy. Some examples:

My neighbor stopped me to talk today. Now I know what it is like to be questioned by the Basij!

I got a splinter in my hand today. Felt just like Jesus getting nailed to the cross.

Walked out onto Constitution Ave in D.C. and was almost hit by a taxi. Reminded me of Tienanmen Square.

ran through the sprinklers this morning, claimed solidarity with victims of Hurricane Katrina

Had to move all my stuff to a new office w/o a corner view. Now i know what the Trail of Tears was like.

It gets better. Go see: Pete Hoekstra Is A Meme

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

ACTION: Put an End to Backroom Health Care Deals

If you want the health care reform to have a "public option" instead of just orgering you to hand your money over to private insurance companies, you need to go read and DO this: Open Left:: ACTION: Put an End to Backroom Health Care Deals

Today, along with Health Care for America Now, Democracy for America and numerous blogs, a campaign is being launched to put an end to the backroom deals on health care. We made and delivered on a commitment to bring about wide Democratic majorities in Congress. Now, instead of negotiating in secret, this Congress needs to make a public commitment to us on where it stands on health care.

. . . Email--don't call, but email--these four questions to your Senators now. Make it clear that you want a written response to all four questions. There needs to be as little room for interpretation as possible. The Senate is going to be the biggest hurdle on health care, as it has proven to the biggest hurdle on all legislation in 2009. That is where we must focus our pressure.

OK, so the big corporations have the power to keep us from getting a national health care plan, but we can at least fight for an option to buy into a Medicare-like plan.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 17, 2009

Without A Public Option

Congress is getting ready to pass a law requiring all of us to cough up big money to buy health insurance from the big insurance companies.

Never mind that most people want a real national health care system, instead we get a requirement that we give even more money to big corporations who give little back. The idea of a "public option" that lets us at least buy into Medicare was proposed to help offset this. But that wouldn't have us all ordered by law to cough up big money to the insurance companies, so it looks like that option is going away.

This reminds me of a few years ago when Congress made it illegal to sue fast food companies that harm their customers.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:46 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Schwarzenegger's Talk Was Cheap

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Governor Schwarzenegger has talked about the need to act responsibly and pass a budget.

So the legislature is trying to do just that.  According to the Sacramento Bee,

"... the Legislature's joint budget conference committee, on a party-line vote, adopted a plan that included about $2 billion in new oil production and cigarette taxes to help bridge a $24 billion budget gap."
So what is the Governor's response to a balanced approach to fixing the budget?

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he wouldn't sign a plan that was balanced with tax increases."
He will shut down the state, close the schools, lay off thousands of workers, because the legislature balances the cuts with small tax increases on tobacco and oil companies.

This is known as "dancing with the ones who brung ya."  The Republicans get elected with millions of dollars from big corporations, and that is who they answer to.  They will close schools, lay off police and firefighters, and keep elderly people from getting needed medical care or oxygen tanks delivered, just to protect the cash that is flowing to a few very large corporations.  From the referenced post,

If you look at the independent expenditure reports for the 2008 California election you'll see a massive amount of last-minute money. ...you learn that this money came from corporations like Arkansas' Wal-Mart, Blue Cross of Ohio (Ohio?), Reliant Energy, major real estate companies, and from other PACs.

... huge amounts of money coming from large corporations like Philip Morris, ATT, Chevron, Safeway, Sempra Energy, Verizon, big insurance companies, big pharmaceutical companies, big real estate companies ... and other conduits like the Chamber of Commerce.

But think about this: it isn't "corporations" who are doing this.  Corporations are just abstract concepts, really nothing more than a bundle of legal contracts and enabling laws. It is people -- a few specific people.  When you hear that a corporations did something, it wasn't Bob in Sales or Alice in Accounts Receivable who made decisions that affect your life like this, it was really a few people at the top who have control of the resources of that corporation.  The things they do are intended to benefit them personally, not to benefit the company.  This is why so many companies are destroyed while the executives get rich and then leave a mess behind.  Corporations are not the problem, it is the use of corporate resources to influence government that is the problem.

And this time, while we try to solve a budget problem that looks like it could shut down the state, it is a really big problem.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

No Info On Stimulus Effect - Why Not?

Why has the Obama admin been silent on the effects of the stimulus? The public thinks that a trillion dollars has been spent with no effect. HAS there been an effect?

The Obama administration should be showing where jobs are being saved by stimulus money showing up. They should be hiliting where construction is beginning. They should be taking credit for any good news that shows up. So far, if they have been doing this I certainly haven't heard it, and I know the general public hasn't either.

This is bound to be hurting public perception of government and of Obama.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:44 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Why A Public Option In Health Care Plan Is Necessary

In the discussion over health care reform the big debate is over whether to have a "public option" that lets people buy health care from the government instead of private companies.

Read about one reason this is necessary: Healthcare CEOs Shoot Themselves in the Foot | Mother Jones,

A Texas nurse said she lost her coverage, after she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, for failing to disclose a visit to a dermatologist for acne.

Of course a Medicare-For-All national health care plan is the best approach, and the only one that will work. But due to the power of large corporations over our democracy that is "off the table" and not even allowed to be discussed. So we are instead debating whether to let people buy a reasonable policy or just force them to give money to big companies.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 16, 2009

Donate For The Health Care Fight


I just made a donation to help ensure that real health care reform becomes a reality this year.

Today, spiraling health care costs are pushing our families and businesses to the brink of ruin, while millions of Americans go without the care they desperately need. Fixing this broken system will be enormously difficult.

To prevail, we must once more build a coast-to-coast operation ready to knock on doors, deploy volunteers, get out the facts and defy expectations with what ordinary people can do.

Will you make a donation to keep this grassroots movement going strong?


Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:05 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Short Media memories

Remember a couple of years ago when the media echoed the Repubican accusation that any vote against war funding was a vote against "supporting the troops," and against america?

But It's OK If You Are Republican (IOKIYAR): TheHill.com - In reversal, GOP balks at war funding

House Republicans are preparing to vote en bloc against the $106 billion war-spending bill, a position once unthinkable for the party that characterized the money as support for the troops.

For years, Republicans portrayed the bills funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as matters of national security and accused Democrats who voted against them of voting against the troops.

In 2005, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) went so far as to say sending troops into battle and not paying for it would be an “immoral thing to do.” And just last year, more House Republicans voted for the war supplemental bill than did Democrats, who opposed the legislation because it did little to wind down the military effort in Iraq.

But Republicans say this year is different. Democrats have included a $5 billion increase for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help aid nations affected by the global financial crisis.

So, will there be a media firestorm?

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


In support of the people of Iran.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:41 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 14, 2009

Wear Green Tomorrow In Support Of Freedom In Iran

The word going around is to wear green on Monday to show support for Iranians who have had the election stolen from them #weargreen

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:28 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Perspective On Tax Increases

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

People get hysterical when talking about tax increases.  They say wealthy people will pack up and leave (parking their yachts in the Nevada desert?)  They say companies will relocate.

For perspective, if there is a 2% tax increase on incomes over $500,000 a person with $600,000 taxable income will pay $38.42 more in taxes per week.

If you think people who make $600,000 a year can't afford $38.42 per week, and will leave behind their beautiful house and connections and friends, I suggest you should think again.

Notes:  Taxable income is income after all deductions.  Tax rates only apply to the income in that bracket, so a person with $600,000 in taxable income will pay the increased taxes on $100,000 if the taxes apply at $500,000.  This means a 2% tax increase applies to that $100,000 only, which is $2,000 per year, or $38.42 per week.

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:00 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

June 12, 2009

Go Ahead And Die!

Health care crisis as depicted by pirates - music by Austin Lounge Lizards

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:35 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

June 11, 2009

Too Big To Fail

I went and saw the Austin Lounge Lizards tonite. If you EVER get the chance to go see them...

They have an actual music video out now, Too Big To Fail:

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

Naming Dems Who Are In It For The Money

Common Cause released a study of the recent vote on the legislation to allow bankruptcy judges to change the terms of mortgages (known as :cram-down") so people don't have to lose their houses. As you already guessed the Democrats who kept this from passing received money - a lot of money, an average of $58,894 in the 2008 election cycle - from the banking and finance special interests, while the rest of the Democrats did not. This vote was a strictly pay-for-play bribe and we need to do something about Democrats who take money from big corporations and then vote against the public interest. (All the Republicans voted with the big corporations, by the way.)

An article about the study t r u t h o u t | Study Follows the Money on Cram-Down Vote names the names:

[the] 39 Republicans needed Democratic help to kill the bill. And they got it.

The 12 Democratic senators who crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans were Max Baucus (Montana), Michael Bennet (Colorado), Robert Byrd (West Virginia), Thomas Carper (Delaware), Byron Dorgan (North Dakota), Tim Johnson (South Dakota), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania) and Jon Tester (Montana).

If you live in a state with one of these Senators, call their office and let them know how you feel about them taking money to vote for big corporate interests. This money-taking is nothing less than bribery, corruption and is an affront to democracy.

Also, more votes backing financial industry rip-offfs of the public:

Many of the Democrats who sided with the financial industry in the "cram-down" vote were instrumental in blocking a proposed 15 percent cap on interest rates that credit card companies can charge. Senators Baucus, Byrd, Carper, Johnson, Landrieu, Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Specter and Tester joined with Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Evan Bayh (D- Indiana), Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina), Ted Kaufman (D-Delaware), Patty Murray (D-Washington), Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia), in opposition to the anti-usury bill sponsored by Vermont's Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Torture and Corruption Prosecutions

So did the idea of prosecuting Bush administration officials for torture and corruption just suddenly go away?

Not here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Holocaust Museum Shooting Demostrates Need for Employee Free Choice

Security guards at the Holocaust Museum, members of the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, had tried to get protective vests from the company that employs them. The company didn't want to bother with this "cost" and wouldn't provide vests. Now one guard is dead.

Employees need to be able to have a say in their workplace. The "security" company was concerned with profits. The employees were the ones concerned with security. The company won out.

This is one more reason why we need the Employee Free Choice Act.

From page 2 of Grief, Shock After 'Outstanding' Guard Loses His Life in the Line of Duty - washingtonpost.com,

Faye said that during contract negotiations with Wackenhut two years ago, the union pressed for company-issued protective vests. Although Wackenhut seemed open to the idea, vests have not been issued, Faye said.

"I hammered this in our negotiations two years ago because of how sensitive that museum is," he said. "Our guards needed more protection." He said that one of the guards at the museum was "verbally assaulted by one guy walking by, saying anti-Semitic remarks. For that reason, I made that the center of the negotiation."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:41 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

June 10, 2009

CA Budget - Where Is The Public?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

As the state's budget woes grow it is increasingly difficult to gauge what the public wants (or even understands.)  The information channels are stuffed with corporate/conservative propaganda and astroturf like the "tea parties" but there is little comprehensive, accurate and truly objective information available to help the public understand what is happening.  For example, few stories about the budget explain that a minority of only 1/3 of the legislature is blocking the passage of a budget, or that a budget was passed by the legislature in January and was vetoed by the Governor.  Few stories explain the extent of budget cuts the state has already made.

The uninformed public isn't helping solve this.  Turnout for the special election was only about 28 percent of our 17.1 million registered voters, which is about 20% of the 23,385,819 eligible voters.  So the election didn't tell us what about 80% of our citizens want to do.  It did show that a solid majority of 20% of us didn't want those particular ballot initiatives. But what does this mean?  While 31% of Los Angeles County voters were for proposition 1a, just this last November 68% voted for the Measure R sales tax increase. This corresponds with other gauges of the meaning of the special election.  So the special election provides little guidance for policymakers.

An April Field Poll of Californians showed that Californians are against raising taxes and against cutting school budgets, health care and higher education.  Should we conclude from this that they are just in favor of bankruptcy?  Before we conclude bankruptcy is what people really want, we need some polling to see if people understand what it would mean to their own lives.  For example, do pepole understand the economic effect from laying off all of the state employees, teachers, etc., closing down the schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons, and stopping all the firefighting and police services that people expect.  Are they really in favor of this, or do they just not understand what they are asking for?

Meanwhile, the poll found that 74% approve of increasing taxes on millionaires, and 56% favor legalizing and taxing millionaires marijuana.  So maybe there is some guidance from that.

These figures on taxes are supported by an April 15 Gallup poll finding that 48% of Americans think they are
paying the proper amount of taxes, but 60% believe the wealthy are
under-taxed (and "23 percent think they pay their fair share, and 13
percent feel that they are overburdened").

The SEIU has just released a TV ad which they will be spending $1 million to run, along with a new website, CommonSenseForCA.org. They are asking for a balanced approach to fixing the budget, not just through cuts but also with new revenue.  Here is the ad, and please visit the website

Let us know what you think.

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:14 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Health Care Reform Mistake

Don't the Democrats see what is going to happen?

An outline of health-care legislation drafted by House Democrats would require employers to provide insurance to workers and would require individuals to carry insurance.

Requiring people and businesses to pay out of pocket to big corporations (or even for a public option) is the exact opposite of the health care solutions that have worked in other countries. It is government abandoning people instead of protecting and empowering. This IS the worst of "big government" and will discredit the Democratic brand, as well as discredit government itself in people's minds.

Please read about what happened after the Congress passed the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988, requiring elderly people to pay for their coverage: House Panel Leader Jeered by Elderly in Chicago,

"Representative Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois, one of the most powerful members of Congress, was booed and followed down the street by a group of screaming elderly people Thursday as he left a meeting with community leaders opposed to his stance on a program intended to protect the elderly from the high costs of extended illnesses.

. . . The group briefly blocked his car, hitting it with picket signs and pounding on the windows. Mr. Rostenkowski got out of the car and walked briskly down the street for about a block, with the protesters in pursuit. The driver then drove the car to a gasoline station, the Congressman got back in and the car sped away.

. . . The law expanded Medicare, the Federal health insurance program for the elderly, by providing coverage for the high costs of extended illness. But the law has come under attack from many elderly people because the expanded coverage is financed in part through a surtax, paid by about 40 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, of $22.50 for every $150 of income tax liability up to a maximum of $800 this year. Opponents say many middle-income retired people will pay some of the highest tax rates in the nation."

That was then. This requires MORE people and businesses to pay out MUCH MORE. If they require uninsured people and the businesses that currently do not provide health insurance to pay for health insurance there will be a rebellion like none we have ever witnessed. It really IS the worst of "big government" and Republicans are just itching to unleash their attacks.

1) The reason people don't have health insurance is they can't or don't want to pay for it.
2) The reason GM moved plants to Canada is so they don't have to pay health insurance.
3) The reason businesses don't provide health insurance is it costs money.
4) Businesses will be forced to outsource even more if they are mandated to pay for health insurance.

I know it is too late to say this but please, please don't do this. If you can't fight the insurance companies and provide "Medicare for all" then say so, but don't get so caught up in the "need a health care bill, any health care bill" approach that you kill off the party and respect for government.

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

June 9, 2009

Health Care "Reform" -- Wait A Minute!

Democrats Nearing Consensus on Health Plan,

... Democratic leaders in both houses said they would require individuals to carry insurance and employers to help pay for it.

. . . The House bill, as outlined on Tuesday, would allow people to enroll in a government-run health insurance plan similar to Medicare.

By contrast, some Senate Democrats are trying to limit the scope of any new government plan, in the hope they can persuade some Republicans to vote for their legislation.

They are planning to REQUIRE BY LAW that everyone who is currently uninsured and every business that currently doesn't provide insurance pay huge sums of money to big insurance corporations? For me and my wife health insurance costs somewhere around $1400 a month! With or without a public option people will riot in the streets. This will bankrupt every person and business in the country that doesn't already have insurance.

THIS is what they come up with, while refusing to even discuss Medicare-for-all? Do they somehow imagine that anyone in the country would ever, ever vote for a Democrat again, ever, whether this passes or not? This isn't "fixing" health care, this is "fixing it" for insurance companies!

I knew they were out of touch, but I never imagined that they could be THIS out of touch!

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

More Republican Hatred Of America

Last month a Republican governor talked about his state leaving the United States. Now we learn that a Republican Congressman met privately with Chinese Government officials and told them they should not believe the Obama administration's budget numbers. He was asking them to stop lending to the U.S. and dump US dollars, which would result in economic panic and otherwise great harm to our country.

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

June 8, 2009

The Health Care Reform Question

I think the health care "reform" debate boils down to a simple question: Is this about delivering for the people, or about delivering for the big corporations? Or really I should say for the few wealthy people who benefit when big corporations get their way.

Really, as always it just boils down to a raw, naked fight between these competing interests. We, the People, or the wealthy few.

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

Health Care Reform Lost At Start

The current health care "reform" plan is that we will all be required by law to give our money to big insurance corporations who might or might not provide or deny some amount of good or not-so-good health care.

The only debate is whether to include a "public option" to let us pay to buy into a Medicare-type plan. But this isn't about taxing g corporations and the rich so we can have the health care that every other country provides. No, this is about making us pay instead of our receiving the fruits of our economy.

The original hopes for a system like what every other country in the world has, where our government - We, the People - provides some form of health care for us disappeared even before any debate began. Government-paid health care for all, the same as Medicare for those over 65 (sometimes confusingly called "single-payer"), is not even allowed to be discussed in the Congress. From this we can clearly see that the power of a few wealthy people who have access to corporate resources currently is greater than the power of all of the rest of the people of the country.

What we should learn from this is that we have reached a point where the only players in the national legislative process are big corporations and the wealthy. The interests of the public are no longer even a consideration. Right now it has reached the point where we have no voice at all.

The answer is to organize. If we organize we can fight this. Get connected, respond to calls to action, give money, and learn that you have to get off your butt and make noise or nothing will happen.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 6, 2009

Name The Enemy

I've been thinking lately, are conservatives the enemy, or are they just a front for the enemy? Please read Naming the Enemy

I've believed for some time that the big money interests just use the conservatives as a tool to enact their agenda (sort of like how Iran got them to invade Iraq...) and their money is what provided the conservatives with their power. It's not personal - just business. But now that support for the conservative movement might be waning, and the conservatives' ability to get things done for the money agenda is diminished, where will that money and power go to work next?

Read Chris Hayes' article, which has some ideas on that.

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

Health Care: Public Option Is A Must

I just want to go on the record here that any health care reform must include a "public option." This is an option for insurance that comes from the government, not from for-profit companies. Without it there really is no "reform."

This is a deal-breaker: no public option, then no anything, and we keep trying to get health care that works for the public instead of just taking our money to benefit a few.

Conservatives like to say that government is inefficient, incompetent, cumbersome, wasteful and can't compete with "the private sector." But NOW they're suddenly all worried that private businesses can't compete with government. The ONLY reason there is consideration of continuing the failed, greedy, destructive corporate insurance system is because the few who get rich off of it are paying off politicians to keep things they way they are.

This is about providing what is best for the people, not about watching out for corporate interests and the profits that get funneled up to a few people at the top. If business can serve the people better than the people (government) can, let them prove it by including a public insurance option in the health care reform.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:30 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

Break Up The Big Banks!

A New Way Forward

The bailouts are widening the gap between the rich and poor. Our government has spent trillions of our dollars to prop up a banking system that has failed the country. Wall St. needs to be stopped. We demand that our government break up the insolvent banks and never again let them get so big that they distort our politics and corrupt the economy.

During the week of June 8th, Americans will host national video screenings and town hall forums to learn about the crisis and begin working on restoring our economy and democracy.
Obama's election proved that the American people are "too big to fail". Now, we need to work for the structural change that we can truly believe in - DOWNLOAD THE ANWF-EXCLUSIVE EDUCATIONAL VIDEO on the economic crisis and get your event started.


To get us on the right track, we advocate for structural change to the financial sector so that it serves the public and enhances our democracy. Sign up to a New Way Forward to get updates and share your ideas.

GO THERE to see links, sign up, and see WHERE people are gathering.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:30 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 4, 2009

Think Tanking For Bucks II

There's big bucks out there for those willing to claim global warming isn't real.

I wonder who is putting up all that money?

Here's another: The Cato Institute's Generous Funding of Patrick Michaels | Center for Media and Democracy,

Patrick Michaels, a senior fellow with the the Cato Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, is one of the leading global warming skeptics. Back in 1994, when his media profile as Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virgina and a global warming skeptic was taking off, Michaels founded New Hope Environmental Services.

The firm, which he wholly owns, describes itself as "an advocacy science consulting firm." These days, New Hope's main activities are publishing the firm's blog, World Climate Report, and helping anonymous clients to publicize "findings on climate change and scientific and social perspectives that may not otherwise appear in the popular literature or media."

While both Michaels and New Hope Environmental Services are secretive about who their clients are, a little piece of their funding jigsaw is tucked away in the backblocks of the 2006 and 2007 (pdf's - see page 10) annual returns of the Cato Institute. In its returns, Cato reports that since April 2006 they have paid $242,900 for the "environmental policy" services of Michaels' firm. (In preceding years, New Hope Environmental Services was not listed amongst the five highest paid independent contractors supplying professional services to Cato.)

Go read the rest.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:17 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Think Tanking For Bucks

The Heartland Institute's Quest for "Real Science" on Global Warming | Center for Media and Democracy,

The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-headquartered think tank that has taken on the role of trying to coordinate the disparate global warming skeptics, has organized yet another conference to be held in Washington this week disputing the reality of global warming. "The real science and economics of climate change support the view that global warming is not a crisis and that immediate action to reduce emissions is not necessary," they claim.

But when the Heartland Institute talks about "real science," it is hard to ignore the fact that for years they have defended the policy agenda of the tobacco industry without disclosing that they were funded by Phillip Morris. Indeed, Heartland still claims to defend the rights of smokers, a ploy long used by the tobacco industry to keep themselves out of the spotlight.

Go read the rest.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Your Credit Card Company Is Here To Help

I just saw an ad on TV that explained to me that my credit card company is here to help.

That's nice. I guess that makes everything all right.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Tea Party Telemarketing Still Happening

Wow, someone is throwing a LOT of money into this "tea party" thing. Maybe this is how the big banks are using their TARP money. I just got a robo-telemarketing call from 402-982-0883 and all it was was a short mesage saying something along the lines of "pay attention to the tea party movement." And that was ALL, no pitch to give money or call a number of go to a website!

Online, people are reporting tones of calls from this phone number. What's interesting is before this the number was involved in all kinds of telemarketing scams.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:23 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 2, 2009

American Manufacturing

I am at the America's Future Now conference in DC (formerly Take Back America). I had a conversation today with people from the Alliance for American Manufacturing. This is an alliance of companies that make things in America, and the United steelworkers union. They have an interest in making things in America, and I'll likely be writing about this more and more.

The owner of a company that makes wind turbines for generating electricity talked about a wind farm his company is helping build. They need a special transformer -- and we don't make them in America anymore. So they have to go on a 52-week waiting list to get the transformer. This is just one example of the cost to us of giving away our manufacturing capabilities.

This loss of manufacturing capabilities comes from the increasing dominance of our economy by financial firms. They buy companies, strip things that have "costs," like pensions, and outsource what they can, then sell the company to the next financial firm.

More coming.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:20 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 1, 2009

DC Vigil For Dr. Tiller

am in DC for the America's Future Now! conference. Last night there was a spontaneous vigil in Dupont Circle for Dr. Tiller, killed by a right-wing terrorist. About 100 people showed up on very short notice from a Facebook, Twitter and emailed announcement a few hours earlier. Here is a picture, (taken in the dark with a cell phone):


Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos