November 29, 2012

WILL "Job Creators" Really Not Hire If They Have To Pay Taxes?

House Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority leader each claimed this week that higher taxes on the wealthy will cause the "job creators" to cut jobs and "hurt growth." The Heritage Foundation makes specific claims about how this will happen. Let's take a look.

The Heritage Claim

The Heritage Foundation purchased a Twitter promotion that shows up if you look for the hashtag #my2k, which President Obama has asked people to use when tweeting about the $2,000 he claims the average middle-class person will pay in additional taxes if the portion of the Bush tax cuts that was for people below $250K expire. (Note - almost all of that will be paid by people approaching that $250K top end. Regular middle-class people won't pay anywhere near $2k in additional taxes.)

Heritage's Twitter promotion sends people to a Heritage post, 4 Reasons Warren Buffett Is Wrong on Tax Hikes. Heritage trots out the old "job creators" myth, saying wealthy people are the people who "create jobs" with their money, and won't hire people if they have to pay taxes. Here is one of Heritage's 4 claims:

According to Treasury figures, 1.2 million Americans who employ people are paying their taxes through the individual income tax, and they would be hit head-on. The amount that their taxes would go up could be roughly equivalent to one employee’s salary, meaning that’s one person they can’t hire in the new year.

I heard about Heritage's claims from several major sources including Marketplace and the Newshour (repeated to their audiences without examining whether it made sense.) So I think it is worth examining.

Let's Dig Into This Claim

Let's take a closer look at this claim that the average "small businessperson" will not hire one person because of the additional tax.

Let's say the potential employee's salary is $25,000. If the Bush tax cuts expire the top rate goes up by 4.6% on income above $250K (after all deductions.) $25,000 is 4.6% of about $544,000. So the Heritage claim is that a businessperson who has an income from their business -- after all personal deductions -- of about $794,000 ($250,000 plus the 544,000 on which the additional tax would apply) "can't" hire a needed person.

(If the potential employee would have made more, this employer's taxable income rises if the tax means the employer won't hire someone. If the employee that can't be hired makes $30,000 the employer has to have an income of $902,000 to pay that much additional tax.)

The Problems With The Claim

This claim relies on the reader not understanding how these taxes are calculated, why business hire and fire and how businesses make profits. Heritage bases the claim on the idea that a business-owner cold not hire someone they needed to make them around $800-900,000 after all deductions.

Businesses want to keep costs down and that means they don't hire people unless they really, really need to. They hire people when doing so will make them more money, they lay people off when it will save them money. Employees are only hired or kept on the payroll if they are needed, and not hiring one necessary person would therefore hurt the business that was successful enough for the owner to make at least $794,000 after all deductions.

So assuming the business owner knew what he or she was doing, and only had the number of employees that were needed, the following year the business would do worse without that needed employee, and the owner would make less. Would an employer really do this? Of course not.

Let me ask another question. How come every time I closely examine a conservative economic claim it falls apart, and was really about fooling people into giving more money to rich people, not making things better for all of us?

---

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 26, 2012

Saying “Fiscal Cliff” Is Taking Sides

The term "fiscal cliff" is a one-sided propaganda phrase that misinforms and triggers public fear and anxiety. The fiscal cliff is not a "cliff" and the country isn't going to fall off anything at the end of the year. Journalists: don't help the misinformers -- don't say or write "fiscal cliff." Congress: when people are scared and misinformed our Congress should pause, step back and help inform us instead of rushing to take advantage of the fear.

What The Fiscal Cliff Is

At the end of the year the Bush tax cuts expire and several budget cuts start to phase in (including military spending cuts.) This reduces the deficit, and some of those cuts will slow the economy if nothing is done to restore them in the next several months. That is the "fiscal cliff" that you are hearing so much about. Except it isn't a cliff, it kicks in gradually, Congress has a lot of time to work it out and can fix anything that is a problem.

That's right, if nothing is done in the next several months -- there is no "cliff" at the end of the year -- some of those cuts will slow the economy. All the screaming and hysteria are about putting pressure on the "lame duck" Congress to do something in a big hurry, outside of the accountability of democracy and before the President and progressives have more leverage.

What The Fiscal Cliff Is NOT

Most people I talked to over Thanksgiving apparently think the "fiscal cliff" is the government runs out of money on December 31 because the deficit is so big and all kinds of terrible things happen on January 1. This is sort of the opposite of what is going on. Even the few who didn't think it was about the country running out of money were misinformed in one way or another, with most thinking something terrible happens January 1.

The "fiscal cliff" is about taxes going up and budget cuts, which reduce the deficit. And absolutely nothing in anyone's life will change on January 1, or for some time (weeks, months) after.

That's right, all the people who were hysterically screaming about the deficit are hysterically screaming now because of deficit cuts. Go figure. But the reason is that they have an agenda.

Journalists Should Not Help Misinform And Scare People

The very term "fiscal cliff" misinforms and scares people. Some media outlets, like FOX News, exist to misinform and scare people. But responsible media outlets should try to help the public understand complicated issues, not help scare and misinform.

Any journalist using the propaganda phrase "fiscal cliff" is taking the side of misinforming and scaring.

Settle Down, Beavis

Everyone should settle down. There is no "cliff." No one is going to fall off of anything. And after the first of the year the President and progressives have much more leverage in this fight than they do now -- hence all the pressure to act before then.

When people are this misinformed and scared the Congress owes it to the public to stop, take a break, work to inform the public and not act in a panic. Journalists, especially, owe it to the public to inform, not misinform and scare.

Update - I wrote this and went to bed. I wake up, and there is a perfect example in the Monday NY Times titled, Debt Reckoning, The Fiscal Deadline In Washington. The write-up in the morning NYTimes email is "The New York Times is beginning a new online feature that will chronicle the talks on the fiscal cliff between President Obama and Congressional leaders."

The clear message of this headline and summary is that the country is in crisis because of debt. The public cannot help but get the impression that the country goes broke in a few weeks. As I explained above (and as Paul Krugman explains today's in Fighting Fiscal Phantoms) this is really the opposite of what is happening.

---

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 14, 2012

What The Public Hears

In my local paper today

Above-fold front-page headline, story about how public employees are draining the state. They are not tasking vacations, and then getting all their vacation and sick pay when they retire... Getting their vacation pay is draining the state. "No vacations for taxpayers." "They're cashing in by retiring with whopping final paychecks worth, in some cases, more than $500,000 in unused time off."

Page 2, The Kochs' quest - a story about how the Koch brothers are fighting to save America from bankruptcy.

"The country was headed toward bankruptcy, they agreed. Fink told them bluntly that Obama's administration represented the worst of what Charles and David fear most: a bloated, regulation-heavy, free-spending government that could plunge the country into another deep recession. That day, Fink advised two of the richest men in the nation that it would be the fight of their lives to stop the government spending spree and to change the course of the country, starting with the 2012 election."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 5, 2012

So DO Tax Cuts Create Jobs?

In Wednesday's debate Mitt Romney repeated his claim that cutting individual and corporate income taxes creates jobs. But when you look at what actually happened, the periods when we had the highest tax rates were the periods we had the greatest job and economic growth. And the periods with lower taxes had lower job and economic growth. (And we all know what happened in the Bush years...)

Here is Romney at Wednesday's debate,

"54 percent of America's workers work in businesses that are taxed not at the corporate tax rate, but at the individual tax rate. And if we lower that rate, they will be able to hire more people. For me, this is about jobs. This is about getting jobs for the American people."

and,

"The problem with raising taxes is that it slows down the rate of growth. And you could never quite get the job done. I want to lower spending and encourage economic growth at the same time."

So DO tax cuts for rich people and already-profitable businesses create jobs? DO businesses hire people when they have extra money? When few customers are coming through the door will tax cuts cause businesses to hire people to sit around reading newspapers or checking Twitter?

I think that people with jobs have money to spend and then the businesses that get their business will hire people, and will make money and be happy they have profits to pay taxes on. And I think that the numbers -- and charts that help us visualize those numbers -- back me up. Here are some of those numbers.

Michael Linden at Center for American Progress took a look at tax rates and job creation, in Rich People’s Taxes Have Little to Do with Job Creation, Conservative Arguments that Higher Income Taxes for the Wealthy Hurt Employment Don’t Hold Up to Scrutiny,

... in years when the top marginal rate was more than 90 percent, the average annual growth in total payroll employment was 2 percent. In years when the top marginal rate was 35 percent or less—which it is now—employment grew by an average of just 0.4 percent.

And there’s no cherry-picking here. Pick any threshold. When the marginal tax rate was 50 percent or above, annual employment growth averaged 2.3 percent, and when the rate was under 50, growth was half that.

In fact, if you ranked each year since 1950 by overall job growth, the top five years would all boast marginal tax rates at 70 percent or higher. The top 10 years would share marginal tax rates at 50 percent or higher. The two worst years, on the other hand, were 2008 and 2009, when the top marginal tax rate was 35 percent. In the 13 years that the top marginal tax rate has been at its current level or lower, only one year even cracks the top 20 in overall job creation.

OK, got that? The periods of highest job growth correspond to the periods of highest tax rates on the wealthy. 70% top tax rates. 90% top tax rates. Maybe this is because that money gets used to build roads and bridges and buildings and ports and dams and the things that make our economy more efficient and competitive. And maybe because the years of low tax rates are the years of government cutbacks because there isn't enough revenue coming in -- infrastructure not maintained, education budgets cut, etc.

What do tax rates do to economic growth? Romney says raising taxes hurts the economy. Is that what happens?

Michael Linden looked at what happens with taxes and GDP growth, in The Myth of the Lower Marginal Tax Rates, Conservatives’ Go-To Growth Solution Doesn’t Hold Up (I'll spare you the blow-up photo of Speaker Boehner's face),

The top marginal income tax rate has ranged all the way from 92 percent down to 28 percent over the last 60 years. With such a large range, it should be easy to see the enormous impact of lower rates on overall economic growth, as conservatives routinely claim. Years with lower marginal rates should boast higher growth, right?

That’s definitely not what happened. In fact, growth was actually fastest in years with relatively high top marginal tax rates. Back in the 1950s, when the top marginal tax rate was more than 90 percent, real annual growth averaged more than 4 percent. During the last eight years, when the top marginal rate was just 35 percent, real growth was less than half that.

Altogether, in years when the top marginal rate was lower than 39.6 percent—the top rate during the 1990s—annual real growth averaged 2.1 percent. In years when the rate was 39.6 percent or higher, real growth averaged 3.8 percent. The pattern is the same regardless of threshold. Take 50 percent, for example. Growth in years when the tax rate was less than 50 percent averaged 2.7 percent. In years with tax rates at or more than 50 percent, growth was 3.7 percent.

These numbers do not mean that higher rates necessarily lead to higher growth. But the central tenet of modern conservative economics is that a lower top marginal tax rate will result in more growth, and these numbers do show conclusively that history has not been kind to that theory.

Zaid Jilani at CAP's Think Progress also takes a look, in Top Reagan Economic Advisor: Return To Clinton-Era Tax Rates Would Not Hurt Economic Growth,

Historically, the United States has actually had some of its strongest periods of economic growth while taxes were high. As this graph from Slate shows, some of our strongest periods of growth in gross domestic product actually occured while taxes were very high:

In the 1950s, which had one of the sharpest periods of economic growth in all of American economic history, the top marginal tax rates for the richest Americans stretched above 90 percent. Likewise, economic growth in the relatively higher-taxed 1990s was much stronger than in the 2000s. This isn’t to say that higher taxes necessarily cause greater economic growth, but it does seem to show that higher taxes do not appear necessarily to be impeding job growth, nor are lower taxes especially helpful.

OK, did you see those charts? Not only do high taxes on the rich not impede growth, but growth looks to be higher when taxes are higher. Maybe this is because higher taxes on the rich means that the government -- We, the People -- has more to spend on the things that make our economy more efficient and competitive like schools, roads, bridges, transit systems, courthouses, judges, etc...

And, again, the periods of low taxes are the periods of government cutbacks ...

David Leonhardt at the NY Times looks at recent numbers, in Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth?

President George W. Bush and Congress, including Mr. Ryan, passed a large tax cut in 2001, sped up its implementation in 2003 and predicted that prosperity would follow.

The economic growth that actually followed — indeed, the whole history of the last 20 years — offers one of the most serious challenges to modern conservatism. Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush both raised taxes in the early 1990s, and conservatives predicted disaster. Instead, the economy boomed, and incomes grew at their fastest pace since the 1960s. Then came the younger Mr. Bush, the tax cuts, the disappointing expansion and the worst downturn since the Depression.

(Click that graphic for larger)

Whoa, did you see what happened after Bush cut taxes for the rich? Do you remember what happened after Bill Clinton got taxes increased on the rich?

My own 2010 post, Did The Rich Cause The Deficit? included this chart, (The red line is the tax rates, the blue is growth and the red arrow shows the trend.

Top Tax Rate vs GDP

But, from that post, one thing that cutting taxes on the rich obviously does cause is deficits:

TopRates_vs_Debt_Chart

And deficits cause government to cut back, cut infrastructure projects, cut the things government -- We, the People - does for We, the People. And the economy slows...

The real job creators are working people with money in their wallets.

Tax the rich, use the money to modernize our infrastructure and help regular working people. Build roads, schools, bridges, ports, airports, dams, courthouses, wind farms, water systems, high-speed rail, municipal transit systems, all the things that make our economy efficient and competitive...

(PS I also came across a chart showing that lowering capital gains rates correlates with lower, not higher, economic growth. But somehow we knew that would be the case...)

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:07 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 4, 2012

Obamacare Ignorance

How many misconceptions can you spot in this letter to the editor from July 2 Readers' letters - San Jose Mercury News?

Roberts shouldn't have imposed another tax

Thank you, Chief Justice John Roberts, for imposing another tax on the American populace. I have health insurance -- it costs me the princely sum of over $1,300 a month. I have no choice (due to pre-existing conditions); but to pay the piper every month and am unable to qualify for any other health coverage.

I have to wonder what we, the taxpayers (and believe me, my husband and I pay taxes -- in proportions that are sickening) are indirectly billed for your guaranteed and unfettered health care coverage. Please allow me to add, that neither my husband or I are employed. We have been "involuntarily" retired.

You crossed the line and you know it. Shame on you. And here I thought you were a solid and steady captain in the rocky Supreme Court waters.

This is what Republicans depend on. Everything this person has been led to believe is wrong. And the news media of course does nothing to help, they just report who is "winning" and "both sides are to blame."

The cost of this person't health insurance is about to go WAY down, possibly to zero since they are unemployed. She can't get any other insurance because of a pre-existing condition, and that restriction is about to go away.

But she thinks that on top of what they pay now they are going to have to pay a huge tax.

The newspaper of course does nothing to provide readers with the correct information, they just publish the letter.

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

June 28, 2012

Pension Gimmicks Blamed On Workers

The student loan deal is badly needed. It should have just been extended - duh! But the 1 percenters took it hostage and demanded their pound of flesh before We, the People can preserve even this little bit of what we do for ourselves. So as part of the "sweetener" for those 1 percenters there is a corporate pension giveaway in the deal that has nothing to do with student loans. It appears they are going to let companies underfund pensions -- money that should be set aside for worker pensions tomorrow will instead go into 1 percenter pockets today -- and are setting up for a taxpayer bailout (or just stiffing retirees) later.

Pension Calculations Are Tricky But Regulated

This is kind of tricky, so bear with me. When companies (and governments) put money into pension funds they have to calculate how much will be needed to pay the promised pensions. This involves estimating things like how long (and how many) people will live, and how much "return" (interest, stock price increases,dividends...) to expect as the money is set aside. Key point: If you expect a too-high rate of return you can set less aside now (and put it in your pocket,) but when the time comes to pay the pensions you won't have enough.

This is supervised by government standards and regulations. They say how much of a rate of return is allowed to be used in these calculations. A higher expected-rate-of-return allowance means less has to be set aside, so more money can go into 1 percenter pockets. So there is a lot of pressure from corporations to let them get away with overestimating, and therefore putting more in their pockets today. Since this is complex, it is easier to get away with diverting promised-worker-retirement money into 1 percenter pockets.

This student loan deal apparently lets corporations claim a higher expected rate of return, thereby diverting more money today into 1 percenter pockets.

Money Into Worker Pensions Or 1 Percenter Pockets?

For a long time the government has been allowing pension funds to use a too-high estimated rate of return, with the result that many pensions are now underfunded. Money that should have gone into savings to pay worker pensions was diverted into 1 percenter pockets, either through improved corporate bottom lines in the case of companies, or through lower taxes in the case of state & local governments. (Of course, many companies shifted worker-pension promises into 1 percenter pockets using the 401K scam -- you fund your own retirement, on your own, with little help, and have to know how long you'll live, and it turns out badly every time -- but that's for another post.)

In fact, this worker-set-asides-for-later vs 1 percenter-pockets-today issue is similar to what happened with the Social Security Trust Fund. Money from workers was set aside into the fund but was used to pay for tax cuts (and massive military increases). Now 1 percenters are demanding austerity -- cutbacks in the things We, the People do for each other -- instead of workers getting the money back from where the money went, namely the 1 percenters.

And since this is about money for worker retirees, and retired workers don't have big, influential PR firms while 1 percenters do, it is convenient and easy to blame workers when the promised money isn't there for their retirement.

The Much-Hyped Public-Employee Pension Crisis

The supposed public-employee pensions crisis is partly the result of state and local governments not setting aside enough money to pay up on pension promises (because of tax cuts). It is also partly caused by Wall Street scamming on those same governments as they got into riskier investments trying to get a high enough rate of return to make good on their pension promises. But the blame is being placed on the workers themselves.

The post Discover The Network Out To Crush Our Public Workers traced just a few of the corporate-conservative think tanks (really just PR firms) promoting the idea that public-employee unions are responsible for pension shortfalls. Almost all of these organizations traced back to Wall Street firms and individuals for their governance or funding. They are engaged in a campaign to divert attention and blame the workers themselves for pension shortfalls,

These corporate/conservative organizations are very good at manipulating the media and public opinion -- it is their purpose. Their "experts" are well paid and always available to talk to reporters, appear on TV and radio shows and write articles and opinion pieces for newspapers, blogs and for their network of similar organizations. Their "reports' and "studies" reach the conclusions that fit the strategy, and are crafted to sound just right. And there are so many of them! The result is development of "conventional wisdom" about what is going on in our society. This is why that conventional wisdom more and more reflects the corporate/conservative line. And right now the corporate conservative line is that we should think that public employees and their unions are responsible for state and local budget shortfalls.

See also Understanding The Attacks On Public Employees, Ten Holiday Attacks On Public Employees and Are Public Employee Unions Strangling Us? Also, Rick Smith And Dave Johnson Counter The Attack On Public Employees.

Others See It, Too

NY Times Editorial, The Deal on Student Loans,

The pension provision is not ideal. It could mean that more companies will underfinance their pension liabilities, shortchanging employees down the road. Lawmakers have tried to address that potential shortfall by strengthening the agency that insures private pensions with more money from higher premiums.

Thus from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, usually a most unreliable source. (The check from the big corps who want to underfund pensions must have been late.) In this case it is the same gimmick but added the the highway bill...: Threat of Pension Fund Bailouts Lurks in Senate Highway Bill, "Pension Smoothing" a License to Make Up Numbers,

The bill ... would amend the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to allow for an accounting gimmick known as “pension smoothing,” whereby pension managers spread losses out over several years, while overestimating projected investment returns.

Specifically, this provision would expand the range of allowable projection figures, starting this year at a 20 percentage point range, to 60 percentage points after 2015. This is essentially a license to make up numbers for income projections four years out from now. ...

"This accounting trick will likely expose taxpayers to potential pension fund bailouts in the future. " ...

"It would further remove pension investment return projections even further from reality, by expanding the range of allowable projections so broadly as to render them meaningless."


Making Things Worse

To get a deal that keeps student-loan interest rates low enough for more people to afford to go to college, we had to pay off the 1 percenters with this "pension-smoothing" deal. Such is the way of Washington since we shifted from a democracy (rule by the people, for the people) to a plutocracy (rule by the rich, for the rich). Or, in this case a 1 percenter kleptocracy (rule by the rich, stealing from everyone).

But make no mistake, this deal makes the country's future pension problems even worse. It diverts even more money from promised pensions into 1 percenter pockets. The result will be clear in 10, 20 or 30 years when people are retiring and the money isn't there. Taxpayers will be asked for ever more "austerity" to cover money that was diverted to the 1%.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 28, 2012

ALWAYS With The Anti-Govt Propaganda

Headline at Drudge: REPORT: GOV'T 'BIGGEST DRAG' ON ECONOMY following RW line that government harms the economy.

The story, though, is about how government isn't spending enough, putting a damper on GDP growth.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 26, 2012

Why Does It Seem Everything Republicans Say And Do Is A Trick Or Lie?

In today's Progressive Breakfast: Republicans say student-loan interest rates are high because of "Obamacare." House Republicans are trying to block the Violence Against Women act, using a ruse. They oppose the Dream Act and offer a false compromise to make it look like they support the concept. And that's just from today's news.

Why is there so much deception, propaganda, misdirection, distraction and general subterfuge coming from Republicans? Maybe its because they understand what We, the People would do if we understood their real agenda.

Some Of The Most Repeated Deceptions

Here are a few of the most-repeated deceptions that corporate conservatives and Republicans indoctrinate,m saturate and bombard us with:

Tax cuts increase revenue? This one has been around for a long time, and is completely false. Republican tax cuts have always caused deficits. This is the point, the plan, to force the government into debt and then claim we need to cut the things democracy does for citizens. This is why Bush said that it was "incredibly positive news" when his first budget took the country from a huge surplus to a huge deficit. (Yes, that is in quotation marks because it is a quote)

Obama tripled the deficit? (Bush's last budget had a whopping $1.4 trillion deficit - Republicans -- Fox, etc. -- tell people this was Obama's.) (Please click through.)

Obama made the recession worse? Mitt Romney has been repeating this one. These Three Charts To Email To Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law show clearly how Obama's policies stopped the downward spiral where we were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month and and brought us back to (not nearly enough) job-creation.

A Long, Long List

How long would this list be? How many lies and deceptions can you think of, even just off the top of your head? Actually you'd go crazy trying to gather examples of all the deceptive propaganda we are subjected to on a daily, hourly, even minute-by-minute basis.

They are very good at it. They can afford to pay professionals to come up with stuff that really twists people's thinking. They can afford the best pollsters and focus groups to help come up with the best-sounding phrases that resonate with people's core understandings of things. And they can afford the constant repetition that actually forms people's core understanding of things to begin with.

What's a few hundred million spent on creating and disseminating deceptive propaganda, when you get back billions upon billions through tax breaks, wage cuts, offshoring jobs, gutting pension funds, privatizing public assets, killing efforts to get us off of oil and coal, and the rest of the plutocrat 1% agenda?

Why The Lies?

Why are they using deception, distraction, misdirection instead of honest, open, transparent, fact-based ? Why are we constantly bombarded with this nonsense? There is a simple answer: Republican policies are designed to help the 1% at the expense of the 99%. It takes a lot of effort to talk a blue-collar worker into accepting wage cuts and giving up a pension so the 1%'ers can buy a yacht and a private jet.

Please click through the links in this post.

PS: you can sign up to get Progressive Breakfast every morning by clicking here.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:23 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 10, 2012

The Problem Is Not JUST Money In Politics

We also need to get the corporate propaganda out of our national discussion.

Corporate money doesn't just dominate politics, it manipulates and dominates our national discourse. The propaganda is everywhere, and everything.

Imagine what would happen if we got the money out of politics, and the propaganda out of our thinking! It would take a couple of years of recovery before we could even begin to have rational thinking and discussion again, not to mention start actually addressing our problems.

Imagine being able to address climate change and other energy-related issues without oil company money polluting, manipulating, bullying, distorting, misdirecting and dominating everything!

Imagine being able to actually address health care issues, and having actual, honest rational discussions trying to determine the best approaches!

It's difficult to even imagine at this point. It's like we are all in a trance.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 4, 2012

The Most Important Thing The President Said About The Republican Budget

The most important thing the President said about the Republican Budget in his big speech Tuesday was when he described just some of the damage it does, and said, "This is not an exaggeration. Check it out yourself." Seriously, do that, and see if you can get your friends, relatives and especially your right-wing bother-in-law to do it, too. Seriously.

Republicans Counting On "Low-Information" Voters

The secret of the Republican technique is that they count on lots of people being tuned out, apathetic and largely uninformed. They put up a lot of misinformation and smoke and mirrors and diversion and distraction, often claiming that what they are doing is the opposite of what they are doing, to trick people into accepting what they are doing, or at least not getting involved and working to stop them. And then they go ahead with their hidden agenda, usually involving handing over tax cuts, public money or property, favors, contracts, deregulation, get-out-of-jail cards, etc., to the highest-bidding contributor, or the company/lobbyist/etc. promising the most lucrative "jobs" or "speaking fees" etc., after government service is completed...

Another technique is accusing the other side of doing what they themselves are doing, as "cover." (It's called inoculation.) They won the majority in the House by running ads telling seniors that Democrats had cut $500 billion from Medicare, and a majority of seniors voted Republican for the first time. It was enough to swing control of the House. Now in office they are not just cutting Medicare, they are privatizing Medicare, phasing it out for those now under 55.

(Update: See: Romney Accuses Obama Of Taking ‘A Series Of Steps That End Medicare As We Know It’)

They are using another inoculation tactic to mask what they are doing, confusing people by portraying Obama as extreme and divisive for saying the Republican budget is extreme. Really, if you try to explain to regular people what is in this Republican budget, they will think you are an insane extremist for saying such things! (See Who Is The Crazy Person In The Room?)

Don't Trust Me - Find Out For Yourself

The antidote is to get informed. Do not just trust what I write here, go find out for yourself what the Republicans have voted to do. Go visit several news sources and learn about this Republican budget. I'm not going to tell you where to go (except that FOX is not a news source.) Make an effort. Use the Google. And this is what you will learn:

They really are privatizing Medicare.

They really are claiming to "cut deficits" but extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich, costing $4.6 trillion.

They really are cutting taxes on the rich by another $4.6 trillion!

They really are giving millionaires an average $187,000 tax cut.

They really are dramatically cutting corporate taxes.

They really are denying health insurance to up to 17 million children with pre-existing conditions.

They really are dramatically cutting Medicaid by as much as 75%, with as many as 27 million people losing coverage.

They really are cutting 1,311 federal agents immediately from the Dept of Justice and another 4,587 agents each year over the next decade.

The cuts really do cost 4.1 million jobs.

They really are cutting 700,000 pregnant or postpartum women, infants, and children off the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (WIC) program and another 1.8 million women, infants, and children off each year for the next 10 years.

They really are cutting 60,000 children out of Head Start immediately, and another 200,000 a year out each year for a decade.

And those are just some of the cuts. Food inspectors, work safety inspectors, education, infrastructure, police, courts, environmental protection ...

They really are counting on most of the the public to stay distracted, apathetic and largely uninformed. YOU can help do something about that. Learn the facts and spread the word.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 2, 2012

Deficit Trouble - Right Here In River City!

River City faces a terrible deficit, and if we don't cut spending on the things We, the People do for each other right now, there will be trouble. We gotta do some austerity! We gotta eat that seed corn. We gotta stop taxing the 1% and stop paying for things the 99% need!

It's a con as old as the hills. Whip up the people with fear, and then offer them the ready-made "solution." In his post, Ya Got Trouble — A fresh look at an old con, Tom Sullivan nails it with a scene from The Music Man. For those not familiar with The Music Man, here is the lead-up: "River City ain't in any trouble." "Well, we're going to have to create some." Then the Republican Congressman Music Man goes out and whips the town into a state. He does it to sell them. (The following is from a local production, which YouTube allowed to be embedded here. To see the clip from the movie click here.)

.

From Sullivan's post:

Trouble with a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P”
and that stands for pool!

In one, short speech — building intensity as he goes — Professor Harold Hill gathers a crowd of onlookers and rattles off a litany of big city sins “the right kinda parents” worry about corrupting their children and their small town: sloth, drinking, gambling, being “stuck-up,” smoking, loose morals, and indecent pop culture. In a fevered crescendo, Hill warns parents of “shameless music • That’ll grab your son, your daughter • With the arms of a jungle animal instink!”

Sullivan explains the con:

Hill presses every button the people of River City, Iowa have to press, plus appeals to patriotism and God to create a city-wide moral crisis that four minutes earlier the townspeople didn’t know they had. Sound familiar?

Now strike pool. Insert contraception, voter fraud, death panels, or a half dozen other right-wing bogey men and the grifter’s pitch works the same. Today, Harold Hill would be working for Fox News or Americans for Prosperity. He’d be running American Crossroads, and making a lot more money.

This con has been perfected in recent years as The Shock Doctrine, forcing entire countries into debt or other crisis, then stepping in to plunder and privatize their resources, like what is happening to Greece right now.

Whipping Up Deficit Hysteria

This "con game" is what is happening to our own country as well, with the whipped-up terrification over deficits. The Reagan plan was cut taxes and increase military spending to force the country into debt, and then use the debt to force privatization of public resources into the hands of a few. George 'W' Bush said after cutting taxes on the rich and raising military spending that the resulting transformation of Clinton's budget surplus into huge budget deficits was "incredibly positive news" because it would force us into near-bankruptcy. Yes, he said that.

But the solution offered -- the current Republican budget that phases out Medicare and guts our government -- doesn't even cut the deficit! The Republican "austerity" budget starts with $10 trillion in tax cuts for the 1%! Then it guts most of what We, the People do for each other.

Don't be fooled, it is just one more conservative con game.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 27, 2012

The FOX Effect

The WSJ, part-owned by a Saudi oil price, tells me:

CO2 is not a pollutant. Life on earth flourished for hundreds of millions of years at much higher CO2 levels than we see today. Increasing CO2 levels will be a net benefit because cultivated plants grow better and are more resistant to drought at higher CO2 levels, and because warming and other supposedly harmful effects of CO2 have been greatly exaggerated. Nations with affordable energy from fossil fuels are more prosperous and healthy than those without.

What do real scientists say? Reuters: Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible,

The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.

Scientific estimates differ but the world's temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably.

As emissions grow, scientists say the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible, such as the melting of polar ice sheets and loss of rainforests.

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

March 16, 2012

Always Propaganda

Giant headline at Drudge Report: COST OF LIVING SOARS

Go to the article, "The so-called core measure, which excludes more volatile food and energy costs, climbed 0.1 percent, less than projected."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:45 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

October 15, 2011

Deficit Propaganda

You'd never be able to guess that the 2009 budget deficit was Bush's last budget. But that's how right-wing propaganda works.

Headlines:

Another Obama Record, Third Straight Year With Trillion Dollar Deficit

Obama Surges to Another New Record – Third Straight Year With Trillion Dollar Deficit. (And look at the colors on the chart.)

Under Obama 2009 and 2011 Deficits Highest In History

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:20 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

August 28, 2011

Three Charts To Email To Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about "Obama spending" and "Obama deficits" and how the "Stimulus" just made things worse. Solution: Here are three "reality-based" charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.

Spending

Bush-Obama Spending Chart

Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.

Deficits

Bush-Obama Deficit Chart

Notes, this chart includes Clinton's last budget year for comparison.

The numbers in these two charts come from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2012. They are just the amounts that the government spent and borrowed, period, Anyone can go look then up. People who claim that Obama "tripled the deficit" are either misled or are trying to mislead.

The Stimulus and Jobs

Bush-Obama-Jobs-Chart

In this chart, the RED lines on the left side -- the ones that keep doing DOWN -- show what happened to jobs under the policies of Bush and the Republicans. We were losing lots and lots of jobs every month, and it was getting worse and worse. The BLUE lines -- the ones that just go UP -- show what happened to jobs when the stimulus was in effect. We stopped losing jobs and started gaining jobs, and it was getting better and better. The leveling off on the right side of the chart shows what happened as the stimulus started to wind down: job creation leveled off at too low a level.

It looks a lot like the stimulus reversed what was going on before the stimulus.

Conclusion: THE STIMULUS WORKED BUT WAS NOT ENOUGH!

More False Things

These are just three of the false things that everyone "knows." Some others are (click through): Obama bailed out the banks, businesses will hire if they get tax cuts, health care reform cost $1 trillion, Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme or is "going broke", government spending "takes money out of the economy."

Why This Matters

These things really matter. We all want to fix the terrible problems the country has. But it is so important to know just what the problems are before you decide how to fix them. Otherwise the things you do to try to solve those problems might just make them worse. If you get tricked into thinking that Obama has made things worse and that we should go back to what we were doing before Obama -- tax cuts for the rich, giving giant corporations and Wall Street everything they want -- when those are the things that caused the problems in the first place, then we will be in real trouble.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:56 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 9, 2011

False Conventional Wisdom In The UK, Too

In England people "know" many of the same false things that people here "know." Except in England the false things work against English working people instead of against American working people.

I am in England this week and next and am enjoying some pub conversations while here. (Several pubs, actually. Heh.) Here are some of the things that at least some British working people "know." I think you will find them to be familiar:


  • The reason so many people are unemployed is because the government spends too much money.

  • Public employees get lavish pensions, which is part of why working people are falling behind.

  • The government spends a lot of its money helping countries in Africa and other places.

  • People are living much longer than they used to, so the retirement age should be raised.

  • The government gives a lot of money to people who come here from other countries and then get handouts that the rest of us (British) pay for.

  • Also, there are too many lawsuits.

Sound Familiar?

Does this sound familiar? It looks like the same false propaganda is being served up here in the UK -- but with a UK twist. For example, the retirement system here isn't "going broke," it just isn't affordable. (How come no one says our military is "going broke" or unaffordable?) People are coming here from Eastern Europe, not Mexico. The differences stand out for the similarities of the rest of it. Things that work to create anti-government tension and panic get reformatted and used elsewhere. Hey, if it works, why reinvent the wheel?

I did not hear that the problems come from companies not paying taxes, from bailing out the big banks, from the cost of wars, etc. I haven't probed or argued, just asked what people think to see what is on people's minds.

I have to emphasize this is just from some conversations and not with all that many people at all. I'm only writing because of the similarities of the justifications for cutting back on things working people get from their government. Again, this is just a few people. It's like the old newspaper-pundit cab-driver test of conventional wisdom. But I heard echoes of the same stuff that is being dished out in the US.

Things We Know

Everyone reading this has read or is familiar with the premise of The Shock Doctrine (I hope) and maybe Winner-Take-All-Politics and The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy and some of the other key books. Anyway, we all see clearly what is going on behind these things that people "know." We understand how it works, what the public is hearing and why, who they are hearing this from, and how people are being set against each other and distracted from what is really happening. Working people are being tricked into giving up their share of the common wealth, etc. We get it.

What To Do

But what do we do about it? I think our task, as always, is to get more info out to the public. As more people understand how shock-doctrine attacks work they are more able to resist them. But how do we get more info out to the public? And how do we do that without it sounding like WE are the nutcases? I mean, if you try to tell regular people the crazy things the right is planning for them you sound like an extremist for even saying such things. People are really tuned out these days and don't see what is happening.

I think sites like OurFuture.org, AlterNet, Daily Kos, FDL, Crooks and Liars, etc. have developed a progressive information ecosystem where things are being explained a dozen ways, and understood, and reinforced, over and over, and a lot of people spend time there they are getting it. So how do we drive more people to those sites? How do we loop more people into the information ecosystem we have going on?

ONE thing I think we can do is ask our labor friends to start bringing their membership in to this loop. I think we have gotten the blogosphere tuned into labor issues, and it's time for the labor community to start joining back with us now. Join the conversation, help us understand your viewpoint, while we all help; each other understand what is happening to us.

Maybe we can make the blogs and site more accessible to new people who show up to check it out, and explain more about how the comments work, about how to write a diary, etc... Maybe we all need "what this site is about" videos... I think this is a good next step.

What do you think? I think we have to start reaching more and more of the public. We owe it to them. How can we accomplish this?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

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

May 31, 2011

The Politics of 2012 and Maybe 2016

Will Sarah Palin, Congressman Paul Ryan or Newt go under the bus? This is quite a polemic for our Republican brethren that have always made hay on their brilliant use of language while we Dems contemplated our sleepy intellectualism. Perhaps finally in the aftermath of the failed assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the President's irrefutable victories, and the Arab spring -- maybe the forces have finally aligned for the Democrats together with social media to counter balance the megaphone of the Right wing propaganda.

Given that language and propaganda are not working, who will be the first to be thrown under the bus for the greater good of the Republican Party? Will it be Sarah our old pal from the McCain campaign that has built a $25M industry around her 2008 candidacy to the chagrin of the Party elders? Or will it be the "real" Palin appropriately coined as such by the supporters of Michelle Bachman on national television? Or have the women folk run their course in Republican Land? And if so has the time come to "man-up" with a few good, old white conservative male Governors from Conservativeville - like Tim Pawlenty or Jon Huntsman? Or better yet will it be Newt who inappropriately danced on the head of Congressman Paul Ryan and his budget plan -- only to refute it later? Sadly, for the Republicans all of this is off putting for guys like Mitt, or even Governor Chris Christie that appeal to the moderates of both parties.

Admittedly, any candidate, male or female, needs the proverbial brass cajoles, or other such accoutrements to challenge this sitting President after the take down of Osama bin Laden. This factoid together with Obama's recent tough stance on the Middle East clearly levels the playing field. The scare tactics of the past cannot work at this rodeo particularly when bundled with the wholesale lunacy of the Republican leadership on the debt ceiling, Medicare and the budget. Vice President Biden in an LA Times piece summarizes well when referring to the Osama take-down as a "defining moment" for the Obama presidency. Certainly, this together with the broken Republican message machine is having an impact. Terms like "Mediscare" are not getting the same kind of traction as "ObamaCare" did just last year, or the coinage of the term "entitlement" used to pollute a whole generations' thinking on Medicare and Social Security. Of course, Newt and his merry gang of language shapers keep trying to spin, but it is not sticking. Maybe in Newt's case, folks have had enough of those that behave badly, pander family values, but live on the edge of exorbitant wealth. For him it appears that there is just no way to explain away things like the Tiffany's account to the Middle Class. Further is there now cause to wonder if the day has come for Sarah, sweet Sarah, who walks the walk on reality television, but lives shall we say in Palin vernacular, high off the hog.

Indeed, the President and the Party are on the right side of the budget, Medicare, Social Security, national security, jobs and climate change. But can he and the Dems maintain this momentum when the banks, remember those pesky money men, continue to behave poorly. The reality is that folks are as fed up with these fat cats as they are with the empty threats of Right wing rhetoric and the bad behavior of men of a certain age and power whether they represent Hollywood, government or international politics.

Note to the Democratic Party: clean up the banks, the bankers and all of the bad behavior of their ilk and 2012 is a shoe-in, and maybe even 2016. Let's think like Republicans and chart the waters for the next eight years.

Posted by Michelle at 11:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 19, 2011

"Drizzled"

Lee Camp say stop the manipulation for a few minutes:

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

November 17, 2010

Tea Party Delivers Their Messaging on Reality TV. Is this How Propaganda Starts?

The Bristol Palin story is like that of a modern day Cinderella as she debuts before millions of viewers on prime time television. Her mother, former Governor Sarah Palin and her advisors are completely brilliant. Thank you very much Frank and Company. This is a media doctor's wet dream. Using Bristol as Cinderella, they have successfully reached into the hearts and minds of everyday folks across the country. Think about it. Is there a better way to seep into the mainstream than reality television? This move is one of the most brilliant tactics of twentieth century political messaging. Sarah Palin becomes the archetype of everyone's mom, and paradoxically her daughter is the modern day rags to riches and success story. Here was a chubby, single mom lifted out of the obscurity of her receptionist job in a strip mall in godforsaken Alaska. It does not get better!

Consider that after the debacle of former Republican leader Tom Delay on the same show, these spin masters were smart. They knew it probably would not have worked out to use Sarah herself. But who could resist her kid? She's likeable, and works very hard for herself and her adorable child. Bristol is the single mom personified. They even show the footage of the storefront from which she was plucked. Oh my, this is every girl's cherished dream sans the out-of-wedlock pregnancy. And momma Palin can just stand back, and watch it unfold. Who could accuse her of manipulation? She was just the proud momma. What better image could there be? Not much and it is working. No wonder her daughter has been voted back each and every week by viewer support - not the judges until one of the final evenings when she showed real talent.

There is something going on here, and we didn't even see it coming. Oh woe is me; I think we have been duped yet again. Somehow, the American public perceives that the Democrats are unfeeling, out of touch with Middle America, and arrogant. How did this happen? We are Middle America! Yet somehow, Sister Palin has her thumb on the pulse. We need to look carefully at the subliminal messaging that is going on, and wonder how and why we could have missed it. Call it what you may, but Sarah Palin and her movement - the Tea Party and their advisors are running circles around us. We are losing the game of public opinion. So it is not proposed that we put the Vice President's son, Beau Biden on Survivor; but rather that we look hard and long at the messaging and how it is being delivered. Further, we need to embrace what it will take for us to reach back out and connect. This is the teachable moment. May we reach out and own it.

Note, this article appeared earlier in the Huffington Post, "Bristol Goes Dancing and Has a Tea Party."

Posted by Michelle at 1:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 9, 2010

The Big Lie

The Big Lie.

It seems to me that the last year or so in America's political culture has represented the triumph of untruth. And the untruth was propagated by a deliberate, simple and systemic campaign to kill Obama's presidency in its crib.

How Obama Enables Rush,

President Obama lowered taxes. Why doesn't the country know that? Rick Perlstein on how Rush Limbaugh helped mislead a nation—and why the Democrats let him get away with it.

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

October 22, 2010

Eight False Things The Public “Knows” Prior To Election Day

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture I am a Fellow with CAF.

There are a number things the public "knows" as we head into the election that are just false. If people elect leaders based on false information, the things those leaders do in office will not be what the public expects or needs.

Here are eight of the biggest myths that are out there:

1) President Obama tripled the deficit.
Reality: Bush's last budget had a $1.416 trillion deficit. Obama's first budget reduced that to $1.29 trillion.

2) President Obama raised taxes, which hurt the economy.
Reality: Obama cut taxes. 40% of the "stimulus" was wasted on tax cuts which only create debt, which is why it was so much less effective than it could have been.

3) President Obama bailed out the banks.
Reality: While many people conflate the "stimulus" with the bank bailouts, the bank bailouts were requested by President Bush and his Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson. (Paulson also wanted the bailouts to be "non-reviewable by any court or any agency.") The bailouts passed and began before the 2008 election of President Obama.

4) The stimulus didn't work.
Reality: The stimulus worked, but was not enough. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus raised employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.

5) Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.
Reality: A business hires the right number of employees to meet demand. Having extra cash does not cause a business to hire, but a business that has a demand for what it does will find the money to hire. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.

6) Health care reform costs $1 trillion.
Reality: The health care reform reduces government deficits by $138 billion.

7) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, is "going broke," people live longer, fewer workers per retiree, etc.
Reality: Social Security has run a surplus since it began, has a trust fund in the trillions, is completely sound for at least 25 more years and cannot legally borrow so cannot contribute to the deficit (compare that to the military budget!) Life expectancy is only longer because fewer babies die; people who reach 65 live about the same number of years as they used to.

8) Government spending takes money out of the economy.
Reality: Government is We, the People and the money it spends is on We, the People. Many people do not know that it is government that builds the roads, airports, ports, courts, schools and other things that are the soil in which business thrives. Many people think that all government spending is on "welfare" and "foreign aid" when that is only a small part of the government's budget.

This stuff really matters.

If the public votes in a new Congress because a majority of voters think this one tripled the deficit, and as a result the new people follow the policies that actually tripled the deficit, the country could go broke.

If the public votes in a new Congress that rejects the idea of helping to create demand in the economy because they think it didn't work, then the new Congress could do things that cause a depression.

If the public votes in a new Congress because they think the health care reform will increase the deficit when it is actually projected to reduce the deficit, then the new Congress could repeal health care reform and thereby make the deficit worse. And on it goes.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

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

September 4, 2010

Zombie Lies Never Die

Andrew Breitbart: The man behind the Sherrod affair - latimes.com,

Last fall, Breitbart made his first big splash. He posted an undercover video in which a pair of conservative activists posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend asked employees of the community group ACORN for help with a brothel that would house underage Salvadorans. ACORN was embarrassed when some of its workers seemed too helpful; Congress responded by defunding the organization.

1) They were not dressed as a prostitute and pimp. The guy wore a dress shirt and khaki pants, and said he was hoping to run for Congress.

2) The videos were doctored to make it look like the ACORN employees did something wrong, when they did not. Several independent investigations have reached this conclusion.

Several ACORN offices threw them right out the door.

3) ACORN employees who were represented in the videos as assisting a prostitution ring actually called the police on Brietbart's employees. One is even suing because of the false representation.

But none of this matters because Congress defunded ACORN in response to the Brietbart / FOX News / Drudge Report smear.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:22 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

August 23, 2010

Five Things People "Know"

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

The things that people "know" are very different from the "reality-based" things those of us reading a blog like this know, and those things seem to always, always serve the corporate right.

I have been away on vacation. While away I have been talking to "regular" people who are outside of the circles many of us who follow progressive blogs and news closely live in. The particular group I spent time with might not fairly represent "regular" people but whenever I spend time talking to people who are outside of our highly-informed circles, whether it is talking to relatives, doing call-in radio shows or just talking to people I meet I come away very discouraged by the things that most people "know." The corporate right has been very effective at spreading an anti-government, anti-democracy narrative that, when believed, puts their interests on top.

Some of the things that people "know" that I heard in one form or another on my trip include:

1) Government caused the financial crisis. A lot of people know this, and a lot more have heard it repeated over and over. Government forced banks to give mortgages to poor people and minorities. Taxes and government spending "take money away" from and generally harm the economy.

2) Obama bailed out the banks. The most a lot of people know about the stimulus is that it was a lot of money and it went to bailing out the banks. Obama's massive spending increase (Democrats "tax and spend") is the cause of the deficit and the government is at risk of going bankrupt.

3) Corporations (plutocracy) are always more effective and efficient than government (democracy). Government messes up everything that it touches.

4) "Entitlements" are welfare and are destroying people's independence and work ethic. People think the government will solve their problems so they don't turn to themselves. Illegal immigrants immediately get welfare and have lots of babies on welfare and this is why states are going bankrupt.

5) Social Security is going broke and won't be there for younger people.

Of course all of these are just wrong, and of course acting on these beliefs leads the country to results that are terribly destructive to the economy and people's lives while a few at the top make out very very well for themselves. I'm not going to spend any time here getting into how much is wrong with each of these. I do want to get into why people believe these things.

So many of us -- by "us" I mean people likely to be reading this -- spend our time in somewhat insular information environments, where the blogs and other information sources we read and the people we talk to tend to follow news closely, and to be very highly informed with "reality-based" information. But "regular" people do not follow the news closely, and the "news" they get does not come from the same places as the news sources you and I carefully seek out.

Why The Right Controls The Narrative

It's simple. The corporate right controls the narrative because they make an effort to do so, and the forces of We, the People democracy, community and caring humanity do not. (Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness.)

Corporations and conservatives have invested a ton of money in a huge ideological message machine because they understand marketing. There is FOX News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of talk radio, Drudge Report, a vast, vast Astroturf operation and all the rest of the right's propaganda operation. It is very, very well funded. They have constructed an effective narrative and they repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it -- and then they repeat it.

But there is also the corporate-owned "mainstream" media that largely echoes and often directly transmits the right's narrative. First, they echo these anti-government themes. Then, as with the current anti-Muslim "ground-zero mosque" frenzy they carry the things that distract from the real issues. Why? Because it serves their interests, too. If people are focused on distractions instead of looking at the real causes of their economic woes it is all the better for the real causes of their economic woes: namely the big, monopolist corporations.

(Does the mainstream media reflect corporate interests against those of the rest of us? Without going into detail here is a simple test: When was the last time you saw, heard or read someone on TV, radio or in a newspaper explain the benefits of joining a union?)

Meanwhile progressives and the forces of democracy are barely reaching out to regular people at all. We seem to focus our efforts mostly on elections, and do very little between elections to persuade the public that there are benefits to them of a progressive approach to issues. (And never mind our political leaders who repeat and reinforce the right's frames and narratives.)

A big part of this is that it takes a lot of money to reach out past our circles. But we sure do seem able to come up with money for elections. In fact the return on investment of reaching people outside of the election cycle should be obvious. We wouldn't have to raise and spend so much money in the election cycle if we were making the case that progressives bring more benefits to regular people, because then regular people would be more inclined to vote that way in general.

I plan to write more about this.

I think I did an OK job going into more detail on the things people "know" and why in this video from the Netroots Nation panel, The 2010 Elections: Channeling the Power of Jobs, Populism and the Angry Voter. Use the bar to slide this to the 40:00 minute mark, and watch for about 5 minutes.

And, while I'm showing videos, here is Love, Peace & Happiness by the Chambers Brothers. (I can't get it out of my head since writing "Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness" above...)

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 10, 2010

Lies and the Lying Liars... At Stanford University, No Less!

A video series by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution, with Michael Boskin and Edward Lazear of the Hoover Institution and Stanford University begins by stating:

"By January President Obama will have increased the federal deficit more in two years than President George W. Bush did in eight."
And stuff like that. It says Obama "tripled the deficit."

So how much more should anyone listen to?

Obama's first budget year will end in September. Bush's last budget year had a deficit of $1.4 trillion, only a fraction of which was from the "stimulus." Even the conservative Cato Institute is pointing out this lie being spread.

These are not economists they are propagandists and Stanford should not allow its good name to be ruined by employing them.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:39 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 6, 2010

If You Feed Them They Breed -- And Other Dehumanizing Conservative Idiocy We Should Ignore

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

The country is in an economic emergency. Unemployment -- especially long-term unemployment -- is at extremely high levels and the recovery is faltering. Conservatives are obstructing efforts to solve this because they believe it helps them in the November election. To this end conservatives are throwing out every possible argument against helping the economy to see if any of them stick, and to provide cover for opposing taking any action that might help matters.

The latest nonsense they are spreading is that helping the unemployed keeps them from finding jobs. Good Lord! This is basically the old "if you feed them they just breed" storyline. They say "it makes them dependent" as if hard-working people laid off because of Wall Street's scams are squirrels. Or, to hear the nasty way conservatives talk about these human beings, they are like rats. "Hobos," one Congressman called the unemployed! And the DC elite listen, chuckle and repeat.

But while they say unemployment assistance keeps these lazy parasites from finding jobs, they also obstruct bills that create jobs by maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure. This tells you it's just something they say, to cover for what they do. And what they do is obstruct any effort to fix the problem because they believe they will benefit if it is not fixed.

For example, the big DC drumbeat right now is against "spending." They claim that government spending caused the crisis, ignoring and passing the buck on everything that actually caused it, especially their deregulation and their lack of oversight. They blame government for everything, so why should this be different.

Along these lines they claim that the stimulus didn't work, or even that spending made the problem worse, because there are still people out of work. But look at the following chart. The right side of the chart shows the effect of the stimulus. (Source, Jed Lewison and Karina Newton)

monthly_private_sector_job_creationloss

A conservative, anti-government myth that is everywhere now is that "Government forced banks to give loans to people who couldn't pay them back, and this caused the financial collapse" -- and its variant that it was about forcing banks to "help minorities. This is an example of the tactic of repeating a lie over and over until enough people believe it. To deflect people from understanding what really caused the crisis and from seeing that they are obstructing the effort to reform the financial system they made this one up" Unfortunately this has become what bloggers call a "zombie lie" -- no matter how many times you prove it is just a lie, it comes back from the dead.

The Zombie Lie Problem

The "zombie lie" problem shows that it is a mistake to think that just arguing facts is a way to shoot this stuff down. Spending your time arguing facts with people who are trying to mislead misses the point. The lie is not about the facts, it is cover for the obstruction. When you try to argue a fact they will make up something else to throw you off track. Facts are not what this is about, feeding a narrative of no action is what this is about, because they understand that a bad economy helps them in the Fall.

Listening to this stuff at all, and trying to argue facts just contributes to the lack of action. There comes a point when you have to stop llsteneing and getting bogged down by intentional distractions and get something done for the economy and the public.

It Is Time To Stop Listening To This Stuff And ACT

Enough with these stupid, heartless, dehumanizing right wing "if you feed them they breed" arguments that are preventing action. People are out of work and the recovery is faltering. It is time to push aside the nay-sayers, and get something done. The government simply has to step in and act. First, do the minimal, obvious things:

1) Pass the unemployment extension, because people can't find jobs.

2) Continue COBRA subsidies, because so many of the long-term unemployed are older people who cannot get or afford insurance any other way. This is simple humanity, people! And, by the way, COBRA itself is running out for many people, never mind subsidies.

3) Send aid to the states. 900,000 jobs in the states are riding on this help.

At a minimum do this. Don't get lost in the weeds of what bill to attach it to. Just do it. Bring it out by itself for an up or down vote so the public can clearly see who is helping and who is voting against jobs and help for the unemployed.

But what Congress really ought to be doing is passing the George Miller "Local Jobs for America Act." .

As economists like Paul Krugman keep saying we risk going into a serious depression. At the least we are entering a pattern of slight recovery, slight decline for a decade. Look at what happened to Ireland when they tried "austerity."

Here is an undeniable fact about government spending. Government spending on infrastructure creates the conditions that enable businesses to prosper. Tax cuts leave nothing behind, but the roads, transit systems, ports, electric grid, Internet, courts, schools, universities, research, and all the rest that government spending creates make us competitive and are needed by businesses

Do it. Ignore the obstructors who are trying to set the stage for November. Put people to work. Help the long-term unemployed. Pass jobs bills.. And spend on modernizing our infrastructure so American can be competitive again.


Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:47 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

June 30, 2010

Republican Lies

The deficit-cutting craze has a simple origin: Republicans are driving a narrative that Democrats "spend" and that this "spending" jeopardizes the health of the country.

Never mind any facts here, this is about persuading the public.

Facts do not matter at all: Yes, the huge $1.4 deficit was Bush's last budget. Yes the massive debt is the direct result of Reagan/Bush tax cuts and military spending increases. Yes job creation programs reduce future deficits. Yes, infrastructure investment reduces future deficits.

None of the facts matter at all. Republicans have been able to convince a segment of the public that "Democrats spend" and that "government is bad" and that's what they're going to run with. And they will portray themselves as heroes for blocking everything.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:21 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

May 9, 2010

Meet Sarah Palin: The Next President?

If you get a Sunday newspaper, you probably saw today's USA Weekend insert with Sarah Palin on the cover. "Helping USA WEEKEND Magazine mark Mother's Day." The magazine is included in 700 newspapers.

palin_cover_sm

The super puff-piece pushes Palin like nothing you have ever seen before. This is waaaayyy beyond how Reagan and Bush were sold. Not even a little bit subtle. (And her husband, too, "a man’s man who can cradle a baby bottle as well as a hunting rifle.") (I just read that to my wife, who said, "Don't talk to me about Sarah Palin anymore. I'm sick of it.")

"One minute Palin, 46, is making a baby bottle, checking the latest stream of e-mails on her BlackBerry and asking Piper, 9, if she wants a playdate; the next she’s dashing out the back door, taking off her dangle earrings and doing a live TV shot on, yes, health care reform for Fox News. And this is all during our interview.

Except for the fact that the entire brood is here, this is a typical Friday afternoon: half-clothed toddlers running around; Willow, 15, hanging out with her pink iPhone; a camera crew in the backyard; dinner getting cold; and Palin ever-ready for prime time in her curly updo, TV makeup, bell-bottom cords and clunky platform heels."


Sarah Palin is sooooo ... regular. She's just like us. “We do the cooking. We do the cleaning. We all do the laundry.” But she is also a super mother!
For Palin, the juggling act is evidence of presidential bona fides. “I think this country would be served very well by a woman president, someone who has raised a family,” she says, stopping short of saying she wants to run in 2012. “We just want to get from point A to point B and get the job done. I don’t waste time; I’m too busy.”

George Lakoff, in Moral Politics, writes that people understand politics using a metaphor of a family. So seeing how a politician relates to his or her family is a metaphor for how they will act in office, and the policies they will favor. To help us with this, the article has bullet-pointed "THE PALIN PRINCIPLES." For example, "On not giving the kids any allowance: They are “expected to work if they don’t have a sport.” Take that, welfare bums! Get a job, unemployment loafers!

Along these lines, how should the American People think about ourselves, adn all we've been through?

Palin makes no apologies for the impact her frenetic lifestyle and fame has had on her children. “They’re quite independent, and they’re thick-skinned,” she says proudly. “Those are some attributes that any parent would want for their kids.

“We can see the blessings in every step that we’ve taken and in everything that has happened to us. There’s a been a tradeoff [but] Todd and I are strong believers at the end of the day things do work out for good.”


This is the corporate marketing campaign for the Sarah Palin Presidency. Get used to it - it's coming your way.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:29 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

May 5, 2010

Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

The conservative argument of the last 30-40 years boils down to this: "Hey look at this big pile of seed corn. Let's eat it!" Almost 30 years after the "Reagan Revolution" our infrastructure is crumbling around us. Since the Reagan-era tax cuts we have been deferring maintenance of (and never mind modernizing) our infrastructure, and as a result have become less competitive in the world economy.

Meanwhile our economic competitors, countries like China and India, have been building infrastructure like crazy. Other countries are investing, educating, improving public services because they know these things make the economy explode later. A major component of China's stimulus was infrastructure and public services - including public welfare - because of the economic benefits that come later.

Now for those countries it is later, while for us it's just becoming too late. Their investment is paying off while we're having trouble paying off the accumulated Reagan/Bush tax-cut debt.

How did we get here?

Public infrastructure is the roads, courts, education, etc. that enable an economy to prosper. We got ourselves out of the Great Depression with a big investment in public infrastructure. The government taxed the wealthy and built or improved modern roads, bridges, post offices, courthouses, shipyards, schools and other public structures that enabled business to take off.

And then business took off. The idea was, of course, that business would give back some of the returns to keep that process going. But instead the big companies and wealthy families funded a conservative propaganda machine that convinced people to let them just keep it. Look at this chart from 14 Ways A 90 Percent Top Tax Rate Fixes Our Economy And Our Country:

krugman_chart

You can clearly see that the money that should have been invested in maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure instead has gone to a few wealthy people at the top of the food chain. (We're the food.) And of course, we all can clearly see the results of this in today's economy. They ate the seed corn, America is crumbling.

Now, here we are later and we are seeing the result of the Reagan Revolution. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card estimates that we are $2.2 trillion behind just on maintaining the existing infrastructure, never mind modernizing. Please click through and explore what ASCE is saying there. (Conservatives -- there are lots of pictures!)

What do we do?

The answer is obvious. It is called public investment. Ask the big companies, the banks and the wealthy to pay back some of the incredible amounts of money they have been piling up as a result of the past investment that We, the People made in building that infrastructure that enabled the economy to boom. Use that money to invest in maintaining and modernizing the infrastructure so that the economy can again thrive for all of us.

We can employ the unemployed and bring our infrastructure up to par at the same time. There is a lot of work that needs doing and we have a lot of people out of work.

The payback will be enormous. The economy will explode. And we can build sustainability into the process this time.

What is in the way?

The problem now is that the corporate/conservative propaganda machine has gone way past talking people into cutting taxes for the rich and cutting back on public spending for infrastructure and our people. Now they have become very extreme, convincing a number of people that government spending - We, the People spending on the common good - and government itself - We, the People making the decisions for ourselves - is the wrong approach. They believe that any government at all is "socialism" -- run for the benefit of all of us -- and that all public services must be "privatized" -- meaning run for the benefit of a few. They believe it is wrong, even immoral to have public schools, public transit, public health care, regulations that restrict what companies can do to consumers or the environment, etc.

They have the megaphone because they have the money. We have to confront this head on.

More to come!

This is another story of a wealthy few selling off the country's people and future. This is another story of gains for a few at the expense of the rest of us. These stories are becoming all too common. This is the Reagan Revolution coming home to roost, and I will continue to write about the terrible price we are paying and will be paying for a long time for the failed experiment in conservative ideology.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

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

April 17, 2010

Tax Tricks - Do Corporations Pass Taxes On To Customers?

Here is a tax trick you hear all the time: we shouldn't tax corporations because they just "pass the taxes along to customers." Go to any of the usual anti-tax, anti-government sites and you'll see them trying to trick people with this.

First of all, if companies really did "pass taxes along to consumers," so what? Is that a reason not to pay for the roads, bridges, schools, courts etc., that enable the company to be profitable enough to pay taxes? But actually they don't -- because they can't.

This tax trick is based on a popular assumption that businesses can just raise prices whenever they want to. But a well-run business is already charging what they should charge for their product or service. If they have room to raise prices they should already have done so. But of course doing so this will cause them to lose sales to competitors.

Taxes are on profits, and profits are calculated at the end of a tax year by adding up all the revenue and subtracting all the costs. When a product or service is sold the company doesn't really know yet how much profit, if any, it will have at the end of the year, so it doesn't know what the tax will be, so how can it adjust prices? But if a company was able to just raise prices based on anticipation of profits, then the result would be that profits would be higher because of the higher price charged, which means taxes would be even higher, so the company should have raised prices even more, but that means the profit would be even higher, so they have to go back and charge more, but then ... I think you are starting to see how silly this idea of raising prices to cover taxes can get.

About those competitors - if one company is doing well and therefore making a profit, and another company is not doing so well, and therefore not making as much profit, and the first company raises prices to cover the taxes on the profit, then the second company has a price advantage so the first company loses sales and isn't going to have a profit after all so they really should put the prices back down, but then the other company's price advantage goes away and they are making a profit again so they should raise prices but ... Hey, this just gets silly, too!

Companies do not pass on taxes to their customers. So don't fall for this tax trick, it's just silly.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

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

No Matter What They Propose

Matthew Yglesias - The Battle Lines

Back in January, Frank Luntz wrote a memo saying that the best way to defend Wall Street from any new regulation was to spuriously characterize efforts at regulatory reform as leading to “endless bailouts.”

[. . .] [now] They claim that the bill “allows for endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street and establishes new and unlimited regulatory powers that will stifle small businesses and community banks.”


This doesn't quite capture the sense of that is happening.

Luntz said the way to kill financial reform was to characterize it as "endless bailouts" no matter what they propose.

This is how it works. You do a series of focus groups. You ask "if I told you so-and-so would that make you be against it?" If they say that if they were told that Democrats were stealing green cheese from the moon and forcing ducks to swim in it they would be against it - whatever "it" it - then you would start hearing from everywhere that Democrats were stealing green cheese from the moon and forcing ducks to swim in it. No. Matter. What. The. Truth. Was.

So yes, Republicans are going to say that the financial reform bill will lead to endless bailouts. It is what they were going to say -- all of them -- no matter what the bill has in it.

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

April 11, 2010

How Republicans Win

If you want to know why Republicans are so nasty - and why it is so effective... I meant to point this out the other day, How Republicans Win,

... the Republicans believe they can reclaim the lucrative levers of national authority by making the country as ungovernable as possible while a Democrat is in the White House, essentially holding governance hostage until they are restored to power. Then, the Democrats are expected to behave as a docile opposition "for the good of the country" (and usually do).

The "destroy Obama" game plan tracks most closely with Newt Gingrich's strategy for undermining Bill Clinton 16 years ago. ...

[. . .] Having covered CIA destabilization campaigns in Third World countries, particularly Nicaragua, I was struck by the similarities. In the 1980s, the Reagan-Bush-41 administrations destroyed Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista revolution by systematically making the country ungovernable via a combination of economic dislocations, political/media propaganda, and paramilitary activities.

. . . By the second year of the Clinton administration, it seemed something similar was occurring in the United States, in part, because the Reagan-Bush-41 administrations had left behind not only a capacity for "information warfare" in the Third World but a domestic version of that propaganda infrastructure.


There is much more - it is an absolute must-read!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:21 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 3, 2010

But Watch

Today's edition of "I used to be a Democrat, but..." nonsense:

Disgruntled Democrats join the Tea Party,

"I was a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and I probably did inhale in college," Ducket said. Ducket, who is now an independent and did not vote for Obama, said the president has "carried things to an extreme."
Uh huh. Right. Obama the socialist extremist. And this is a "Democrat." Right.

Follow the link to see why I am skeptical.

Taylor Marsh explains.

By the way -- Did you know that the Coffee Party has more members and more events across the country than the Tea Party people? The corporate media sure doesn't seem to know this.

Update - Ms. Ducket called me up to assure me she had been a Democrat, even marched for pro-choice, but was upset by new government regulations in the health reform bill. And that her name had been mispelled.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

How Do We Counter Republican Propaganda?

The speech below by Rep. Paul Ryan lays out how the Republicans will campaign this fall. It is well-crafted propaganda, designed to get people to vote for what is really a corporate-run, privatized society replacing our democracy and distributing the benefits of everything that We, the People built over to a select few wealthy elites.

Lots and lots of people are buying it. There are a few reasons for this. I think the most important reason is that most people are not hearing anything else. There is nothing in any of the places where most people get information to counter this stuff.

Another reason people are buying it is that it draws on a few decades of trial-and-error narrative-building that has become a conventional wisdom. Many, many people actually believe now that cutting taxes increases revenue, taxes hurt and "take money out of" the economy, businesses always do things more efficiently and effectively than government, and the rest of the pro-corporate litany. Even our own Democratic leaders like President Obama frequently repeat this right-wing stuff, thereby destroying the credibility of progressive arguments.

The propaganda is backed by a rewriting of history that is taking place. Many people now think that Roosevelt's policies made the depression worse, etc. This is because the right is out there saying it over and over and no one is reaching the general public with anything to counter the lies. Today you can barely turn on a radio, open a newspaper, turn on the TV, go to most churches or go to many kinds of organized group activities like hunting groups, veterans groups, etc. without being blasted with this stuff.

Oh, and one more thing, you can't listen to any Republican, anywhere, talk without hearing the same points as you hear on the talk radio shows or read in the ubiquitous op-eds repeated almost word-for-word, driving the point home to people over and over from every direction. Imagine Democrats trying to drive a coherent, coordinated and repeated narrative. HA!

Those of us who believe in democracy need to come up with a public campaign to counter this stuff before it is too late. This requires a change in the way we think. Each of us must understand that our efforts have to start reaching out to the broad, general public, not just blog-readers, and make the case. The public out there beyond the blogosphere needs to hear reasons why one-person-one-vote democracy is better for them than one-dollar-one-vote "free market" corporatocracy or else they are naturally going to choose the latter. You can't blame people for making this choice if the only thing they are hearing out there in Kansas and Texas and Alabama is one side of the argument, and the other side isn't even engaging.

I'm saying we should start thinking about things like DailyKos and Firedoglake ads on the sides of buses. We should be thinking about putting up billboards that say "Government is We, the People making the decisions instead of big corporations making the decisions." We should be thinking about hosting public speaking engagements and getting our Fox-watching relatives to come.

So please read the following with the idea of how to counter it in mind. Instead of arguing with all the lies and distortions you are about to read, think about how to talk to regular people in ways that help them understand why democracy, taking care of each other, and our all-of-us-in-it-together progressive values benefit them.

For example, counter-arguments include informing people of the fact that government is "We, the People" making decisions for ourselves -- so "big government" really just means more control by the people over how our resources are used, and over our own lives. The tax burden rests on fewer people at the top because wealth is so greatly concentrated that a few people now get most of the income and control almost all of the wealth. And of course, much of what is complained about in the following was actually forced on us by Republicans, like the massive debt!

So here it is: Should America Bid Farewell to Exceptional Freedom? By Rep. Paul Ryan

Last week, on March 21st, Congress enacted a new Intolerable Act. Congress passed the Health Care bill - or I should say, one political party passed it - over a swelling revolt by the American people. The reform is an atrocity. It mandates that every American must buy health insurance, under IRS scrutiny. It sets up an army of federal bureaucrats who ultimately decide for you how you should receive Health Care, what kind, and how much...or whether you don't qualify at all. Never has our government claimed the power to decide when each of us has lived well enough or long enough to be refused life-saving medical assistance.

This presumptuous reform has put this nation ... once dedicated to the life and freedom of every person ... on a long decline toward the same mediocrity that the social welfare states of Europe have become.


Americans are preparing to fight another American Revolution, this time, a peaceful one with election ballots...but the "causes" of both are the same:

Should unchecked centralized government be allowed to grow and grow in power ... or should its powers be limited and returned to the people?

Should irresponsible leaders in a distant capital be encouraged to run up scandalous debts without limit that crush jobs and stall prosperity ... or should the reckless be turned out of office and a new government elected to live within its means?

Should America bid farewell to exceptional freedom and follow the retreat to European social welfare paternalism ... or should we make a new start, in the faith that boundless opportunities belong to the workers, the builders, the industrious, and the free?

We are at the beginning of an election campaign like you've never seen before!

We are challenged to answer again the momentous questions our Founders raised when they launched mankind's noblest experiment in human freedom. They made a fundamental choice and changed history for the better. Now it's our high calling to make that choice: between managed scarcity, or solid growth ... between living in dependency on government handouts, or taking responsibility for our lives ... between confiscating the earnings of some and spreading them around, or securing everyone's right to the rewards of their work ... between bureaucratic central government, or self-government ... between the European social welfare state or the American idea of free market democracy.

What kind of nation do we wish to be? What kind of society will we hand down to our children and future generations? In the coming watershed election, the nature of this unique and exceptional land is at stake. We will choose one of two different paths. And once we make that choice, there's no going back.

This is not the kind of election I would prefer. But it was forced on us by the leaders of our government.

These leaders are walking America down a new path ... creating entitlements and promising benefits that model the United States after the European Union: a welfare state society where most people pay little or no taxes but become dependent on government benefits ... where tax reduction is impossible because more people have a stake in the welfare state than in free enterprise ... where high unemployment is accepted as a way of life, and the spirit of risk-taking is smothered by a tangle of red tape from an all-providing centralized government.

True, the United States has been moving slowly toward this path a long time. And Democrats and Republicans share the blame. Now we are approaching a "tipping point." Once we pass it, we will become a different people. Before the "tipping point," Americans remain independent and take responsibility for their own well-being. Once we have gone beyond the "tipping point," that self-sufficient outlook will be gradually transformed into a soft despotism a lot like Europe's social welfare states. Soft despotism isn't cruel or mean, it's kindly and sympathetic. It doesn't help anyone take charge of life, but it does keep everyone in a happy state of childhood. A growing centralized bureaucracy will provide for everyone's needs, care for everyone's heath, direct everyone's career, arrange everyone's important private affairs, and work for everyone's pleasure.

The only hitch is, government must be the sole supplier of everyone's happiness ... the shepherd over this flock of sheep.

Am I exaggerating? Are we really reaching this "tipping point"? Exact and precise measures cannot be made, but an eye-opening study by the Tax Foundation, a reliable and non-partisan research group, tells us that in 2004, 20 percent of US households were getting about 75 percent of their income from the federal government. In other words, one out of five families in America is already government dependent. Another 20 percent were receiving almost 40 percent of their income from federal programs, so another one in five has become government reliant for their livelihood.

All told, 60 percent - three out of five households in America - were receiving more government benefits and services (in dollar value) than they were paying back in taxes. The Tax Foundation estimates that President Obama's budget last year will raise this "net government inflow" from 60 to 70 percent. Look at it this way: three out of ten American families are supporting themselves plus - through government - supplying or supplementing the incomes of seven other households. As a permanent arrangement, this is individually unfair, politically inequitable, and economically dangerous.

It raises a subtle but real threat to self-government when the few are paying more and more of the bill for government services and subsidies to the majority: "He who pays the piper calls the tune." The next chapter is the rule of "crony capitalism," where those who pay most taxes get the privileges, and government by and for the people is replaced by government by and for the few. The end of this story is soft despotism.

We already see enough of "crony capitalism." When government sends bailout money to Wall Street firms they label "too big to fail," that's "crony capitalism." When government buys shares in General Motors, names their management, and dictates their salaries, that's "crony capitalism." When big health insurance companies, instead of competing for market, team up with Congressional Health Care writers to order every individual to buy their products, that's "crony capitalism." When thousands of small businesses have to meet bottom lines with no government bailout, well, you're too small to succeed...good luck!

The Democratic leaders of Congress and in the White House hold a view they call "Progressivism." Progressivism began in Wisconsin, where I come from. It came into our schools from European universities under the spell of intellectuals such as Hegel and Weber, and the German leader Bismarck. The best known Wisconsin Progressive was actually a Republican, Robert LaFollette.

Progressivism was a powerful strain in both political parties for many years. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, and Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, both brought the Progressive movement to Washington.

Early Progressives wanted to empower and engage the people. They fought for populist reforms like initiative and referendum, recalls, judicial elections, the breakup of monopoly corporations, and the elimination of vote buying and urban patronage. But Progressivism turned away from popular control toward central government planning. It lost most Americans and consumed itself in paternalism, arrogance, and snobbish condescension. "Fighting Bob" LaFollette, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson would have scorned the self-proclaimed "Progressives" of our day for handing out bailout checks to giant corporations, corrupting the Congress to purchase votes for government controlled health care, and funneling billions in Jobs Stimulus money to local politicians to pay for make-work patronage. That's not "Progressivism," that's what real Progressives fought against!

Since America began, the timid have feared the Founding Fathers' ideas of individual freedom, so they yearn for Old World class models. Our Progressivists are the latest iteration of that same fear of the people. In unprecedented numbers, Americans are speaking out against the intolerable Health Care bill and irresponsible debt-ridden spending.

Does anyone recall Norman Rockwell's famous "Freedom of Speech" painting of an average working Joe standing and speaking his mind at a town hall meeting? Today's Progressivists ridicule average Americans speaking out at tea parties across the nation and denounce their criticisms as "un-American." Millions of average Americans reject their big government solutions, and that scares them.

Last January President Obama said: "There are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, have been taking place for over two hundred years."

He was right. So let's examine these "philosophical differences" of government. Progressivists say there are no enduring ideas of right or wrong. Everything is "relative" to history, so our ideas need to change. Progressivists say the Founders' Constitution including its amendments, with its principles of equal natural rights, limited government, and popular consent is outdated. We should have a "living constitution" that keeps up with the times. Progressivists invent new rights and enforce them with a more powerful central government and more federal agencies to direct society through the changes of history. And don't worry, they say. Bureaucrats can be controlled by Congressional oversight.

Would you like an example of how successful Congressional oversight is? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (or GSEs), underwrote trillions of dollars in junk mortgages. Year after year their officials and others from HUD, Treasury, and other agencies who supervise them marched up to Congress for hearings. Red flags were raised. The oversight committees had other priorities and dismissed them out of hand. With the housing market already tanking, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said: "This ability to provide stability to the market is what, in my mind, makes the GSEs a congressional success story." Less than 18 months later, the ‘market-stabilizing' GSEs went belly-up due to their shoddy business practices, collapsing the mortgage credit industry and sparking the worldwide financial meltdown. No one knows the ultimate cost to the taxpayers but it will be gigantic.

If Congress can't control what a few mortgage finance bureaucrats do with your dollars, why would anyone trust Congress to control what tens of thousands of bureaucrats will do with your health?

The Progressivist ideology embraced by today's leaders is very different from everything rank-and-file Democrats, independents, and Republicans stand for. America stands for nothing if not for the fixed truth that unalienable rights were granted to every human being not by government but by "nature and nature's God." The truths of the American founding can't become obsolete because they are not timebound. They are eternal. The practical consequence of these truths is free market democracy, the American idea of free labor and free enterprise under government by popular consent. The deepest case for free market democracy is moral, rooted in human equality and the natural right to be free.

A government that expands beyond its high but limited mission of securing our natural rights is not progressive, it's regressive. It privileges the powerful at the expense of the people. It establishes the rule of class over class. The American Revolution and the Constitution replaced class rule with a better idea: equal opportunity for all. The promise of keeping the earnings of your work is central to justice, freedom, and the hope to improve your life.

In their hearts Americans know this, but people were alarmed in 2008 by rising unemployment, falling home values, a credit crunch, and a financial meltdown.

They voted for a change of parties in the White House, and elected the largest Democratic Congressional majority in more than three decades. So overwhelming was their majority that the opposition is unable to do anything to stop them from running roughshod over our foundations. Harry Reid had a supermajority in the Senate that could not be filibustered. Still, the people's mandate for Congress and the new President was clear, simple, and unmistakable: get employment back on track ... get our economy growing again.

Americans have lost jobs nearly every month since these leaders took over the federal government in January 2009, more than 4 million at last count. The official unemployment rate hovers near 10 percent, but if we add in folks who have stopped looking for work due to lack of job prospects, the rate is a lot higher.

They began by passing the first Stimulus, a taxpayer giveaway to their favorite special interests. The price tag was $862 billion. They pushed through a second stimulus bill that cost you another $18 billion. Let's see: since 4 million Americans have been unemployed since they passed these "stimuli," that averages $220,000 per job lost. Think about that. Democrats can't even put people out of work without spending near a trillion dollars!

Just to return to where we were at the end of 2007, 8.4 million jobs have to be created. To reduce unemployment to its pre-crisis level of 5 per cent by the end of President Obama's term, our economy needs to create 247,000 new jobs per month. But we are headed in the wrong direction ... except in one field: the government is growing at breakneck pace in expanding federal payrolls.

Although millions of private sector jobs have been lost since the recession began, Washington is on track to add about 275,000 more people to the public payrolls - a whopping 15 percent increase. And we aren't talking minimum wages here. More federal workers make over $100,000 than those earning $40,000 or less. The average government worker's salary in 2009 was 21 percent higher than private sector salaries. The average federal worker's compensation package, including benefits, was nearly $120,000 in 2008, twice the private sector at $60,000. One study shows the private sector benefit package averages $9,900 while the federal package averages almost $41,000. Now the Administration wants Congress to privilege federal workers by writing off their unpaid student loans after ten years. People in productive private sector jobs would keep paying for twenty years. Progressivists would really like everyone to work for the government.

Has any Congress in history enacted, or tried to enact, so many foolish, squalid, and counterproductive programs?

It isn't good news when anyone losses his job. But I'll make an exception when the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader lose theirs in November!

As their first major item of business last year, these leaders pushed through a budget so bloated that it will double the federal debt in five years, and triple it in ten.

Now the Administration has sent Congress a budget that's far worse. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office [CBO] reports that 10 years from now, this budget will drive the federal debt burden up to 90 percent of the nation's entire economic production. It propels spending to a new record of $3.8 trillion next year [FY 2011]. It widens the annual deficit to a new record of $1.5 trillion this year [FY 2010], and raises $1.8 trillion in new taxes through 2020.

Two and a half years after this recession started, and no new private jobs? Think what these mind-boggling tax increases and mountain of debt are signaling to people who want to open or expand job-creating businesses. Congress keeps raising the barriers against work and production - that's your answer.

At a time when economic and job expansion should be Washington's highest priority ... and as if the multi-trillion dollar Health Care debacle were not enough, the Progressivist leadership in Congress are adding insult to injury by promoting their energy and climate agenda through their Cap and Trade plan. Put aside the fact that there is growing disagreement among scientists about climate change and its causes. This bill is a big mistake for other reasons.

CBO estimates that Cap and Trade's total cost is another near-trillion dollars. By one CBO estimate, the tax and energy cost bills for the average American household may grow by $1,600 a year. Other studies put this cost a lot higher.

If you don't believe me, let me quote a key Democratic Senator:

Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Coal-powered plants...natural gas...whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was...would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers...So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted.

That was Senator Barack Obama in January 2008, talking about what he would do as President. Don't say the man doesn't work to keep his promises!

Economists across the spectrum tell us that Cap and Trade would make our long-term national economic production fall below potential, causing higher unemployment. Federal spending is on an unsustainable path that can only get worse if this happens. There is general agreement that the environmental improvements from Cap and Trade are either nonexistent or too small to measure.

Congressional leaders are also pushing an unprecedented expansion of the Federal Reserve Board's regulatory powers over financial institutions under the belief that government must protect the people from themselves. This measure will direct federal agents to inspect, and at their pleasure object to, the wages and compensation which businesses on Main Street as well as Wall Street wish to pay employees. It puts bureaucracies in charge of deciding the type and line of credit which consumers and businesses will have access to when they shop for cars, homes, education, and expansion of facilities. The Fed has already failed the twofold assignment it has - keeping the economy and jobs growing, and keeping prices stable. It should return to its original mission of guaranteeing the long-term value of our dollar. Instead the same leaders who never knew the government mortgage giants were supplying credit for worthless mortgages now want Fed bureaucrats to regulate the businesses that supply personal and commercial credit? If that happens, economic recovery will be a longer time coming.

And now I want to return to the Health Care Frankenstein. Most Americans understand that government-run Health Care is not free, not cheap, and not compassionate. I think most Americans believe Congress has no idea of what the public demand will be for subsidized Health Care. They are correct. When Medicare was enacted, Congress guessed it would cost about 10 percent of what it turned out to be after 25 years. Heck, Congress couldn't even figure the cost of the 3-month long Cash for Clunkers subsidy last year, underestimating it on the order of 1 to 9. Most Americans know the Congressional majority are clueless about what their government-run Health Care system is going to cost.

The drama that brought this creature to life was unedifying ... part tragedy and part farce. Ethical categories went out the window. Never in history have the deliberations of Congress been subverted on this scale. The secrecy, the lack of transparency, the half-truths were stunning. The votes called at midnight ... the 2 and 3 thousand page bills members of Congress had no time to read before the votes ... the sordid backroom deals, the Cornhusker Kickback that shamed Nebraska, the Louisiana Purchase, the "Gator Aid" Medicare privilege for Florida, the additional Medicare dollars for states whose wavering representatives only yesterday were ferociously denouncing earmarks ... the federal judgeship dangled for one lawmaker's brother ... the raid on the Medicare piggy bank ... the lie that $250 billion for "doc fix" shouldn't count as a Health Care cost ... the double-counted deficit estimate scam that would land any accountant in jail ... the proposed Slaughter rule that Congressmen not record a vote on a bill their constituents hate, just "deem" it passed and vote on the amendments...and to complete the farce, the phony Executive Order pretending not to fund abortions when the Health Care bill, as "the supreme law of the land," does fund abortions. The level of political corruption to buy the votes for this debacle makes all past examples look penny ante by comparison.

Self-government stands or falls on integrity, not only in those who represent you but in the enactment of law. This indecency soiled our freedom and embarrassed the democracy we promote in other nations. And this may not be the last of it. To enact its transformative agenda, this leadership employs the Machiavellian saying that the end justifies the means. America was born in a revolution against that whole idea. Soon it will be the norm.

The Constitution and the consent of the people are all that stand between limited and unlimited government power. Zealous ideologues with the best of intentions brush aside the limits on power in order to get whatever they believe is good for the people ... no matter what the people believe. Our system of freedom can survive an assault, but it won't survive if the people are frightened, or angry, or asleep at the switch. A great Democrat, President Andrew Jackson, once said: "eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty." We can thank our current leaders at least for this: they have awakened the nation to the danger of taking self-government for granted.

Congress is not only enacting a social welfare state agenda over the objections of the people. It is failing to address the problems that threaten to engulf our country, principally economic decline and entitlement-driven debt crisis. The coming election will be a referendum on the agenda of our current leadership. Either it will give them a mandate that says "more of the same," or it will end the abuse of power and put America back on the path of growth and freedom.

Supposing the American people use their referendum in November to elect a new majority, what would the next Congress do?

The first order of business will be "repeal and replace." We will work to repeal federalized Health Care and replace it with a robust, competitive open market in health care that puts patients and their doctors at the center - not employers, not insurers, and not government agents. This takes at least two elections, and we must show our perseverance.

A new Congress will then turn to the great problem of our stagnant economy and the debt tsunami bearing down on us. The days of pretending not to notice are over. The next Congress will understand this threat and act after transparent deliberation and real debate.

I have put forward my specific solution, called "A Roadmap for America's Future," to meet this challenge. The CBO confirms that this plan achieves the goal of paying off government debt in the long run - while securing the social safety net and starting up future economic growth.

The problem in a nutshell is this: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, three giant entitlements, are out of control. Exploding costs will drive our federal government and national economy to collapse. And the recession plus this Congress' spending spree have accelerated the day of reckoning.

Today, Medicare is $38 trillion short of its promised benefits. In five years, the hole will grow to $52 trillion. Your family's share of this gap is $458,000. Medicaid will add trillions more in state and federal debt.

Social Security's surplus is already gone, and its debt is mounting. Unless its finances are strengthened, the government will be forced to cut benefits nearly 25 percent or raise payroll taxes more than 30 percent.

Both Republicans and Democrats have failed to be candid about this. And we have only postponed the crisis by shaking a tin cup at China and Japan.

A new Congress could start by making you the owner of your health plan. Under my Roadmap reform, a tax break that now benefits only those with job-based health insurance will be replaced by tax credits that benefit every American. And it secures universal access to quality, affordable health coverage with incentives that hold down health-care cost increases.

Everyone 55 and over will remain in the current Medicare program. For those now under 55, Medicare will be like the health-care program we in Congress enjoy.

Future seniors will receive a payment and pick an insurance plan from a diverse list of Medicare-certified plans - with more support for those with low incomes and higher health costs. To reform Medicaid, low income people will receive the means to buy private health insurance like everyone else.

Under the Roadmap's Social Security proposal, everyone 55 and older will remain in the existing program with no change. Those under 55 will choose either to stay with traditional Social Security, or to join a retirement system like Congress's own plan. They will be able to invest more than a third of their payroll taxes in their own savings account, guaranteed and managed by the federal government. For both Social Security and Medicare, eligibility ages will gradually increase, and the wealthy will receive smaller benefit increases.

And we need to get this economy moving again, so the Roadmap offers taxpayers an option: either use the tax code we have today, or use a simple, low-rate, two-tier personal income tax that gets rid of loopholes and the double taxation of savings and investment. And let's replace corporate income taxes with a simple, competitive 8.5 percent business consumption tax. These low-rate and simple tax reforms would provide the certainty and the incentives for investors to open new enterprises and for workers to find a marketplace expanding in new jobs.

The Roadmap plan shifts power to individuals at the expense of government control. It rejects cradle-to-grave welfare state ideas because they drain individuals of their self-reliance. And it still honors our historic commitment to strengthening the social safety net for those who need it most.

I would welcome honest debate in the next Congress on how to tackle our fiscal crisis - and the larger debate on the proper role of government. It's time politicians in Washington stopped patronizing the American people as if they were children - deferring tough decisions and promising fiscal fantasies. Tell Americans the truth, offer them a choice, and count on them to do what's right.

A political realignment is on the way. Democratic leaders are staking their party's future on their ideological agenda. Financial Services Committee Chairman Frank candidly admits that his party "are trying on every front to increase the role of government." Former President Clinton told a Netroots convention last year that "We have entered a new era of progressive politics, which if we do it right could last 30 or 40 years."

The question is, do we realign with the vision of a European-style social welfare state, or do we realign with the American idea?

My party challenges the whole basis of the Progressivist vision of this country's future. We challenge their attack on American exceptionalism. We challenge their claim that bureaucratic centralization is the only way the US can meet the economic and social challenges of our time.

Those leaders have underestimated the good sense of the American people. They broke faith with independents, Republicans, and their own rank-and-file. They walked away from the foundational truths that made America the wonder and the envy of the world. The price of their infidelity will be high.

I hope you won't mind an aside. I absolutely love Oklahoma! As you may know, I married Janna Little, daughter of Dan and Prudence Little, from Madill. Well, Janna and I are planning on spending half of our year here in retirement. And I can tell you it won't be Summer...it's just gets too hot here for a Wisconsinite. We will be spending the Fall and Winter here. You see, I love to hunt and fish. Each year we come for deer, duck, and turkey season. Janna refers to these times as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. There's something about Oklahoma that is truly captivating. It's a beautiful, big, unconstrained country with great-hearted people who know what it is to live like free men and women.

Some of my friends in Marshall County have on occasion called me "yankee," which I find particularly disturbing. I have always thought a yankee is someone from the Northeast, not the upper Midwest. Needless to say, I am told this can be fixed if I include among my life's achievements the high and noble accomplishment of noodling a giant catfish from the banks of Lake Texoma. And so, I will be returning in early June, otherwise known as noodling season, to gain this rite of passage so that I may never be called yankee again, and also hoping I keep my ten fingers intact.

Knowing America, and Oklahoma as I have come to know it, I am confident that the American character is up to every challenge. America is not over. This exceptional nation will not go down the way of mediocrity. Ronald Reagan used to say: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction ... It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for [our children] to do the same." We are that generation. The fight is our fight, and it begins now! The time is at hand to reclaim America for freedom.

Thank you very much.

Note: Congressman Paul Ryan delivered this speech to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs in Oklahoma City on March 31, 2010.

Paul Ryan represents Wisconsin's First Congressional District. He serves as ranking member of the House Budget Committee and senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:37 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

March 6, 2010

Conservatives Caused Huge Deficits, Blame Obama

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Headline at Drudge Report: Obama policies projected to add $9.7 trillion to debt by 2020... points to this story, National debt to be higher than White House forecast, CBO says,

President Obama's proposed budget would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday. Proposed tax cuts for the middle class account for nearly a third of that shortfall.

So here is the deal. This Drudge headline, saying Obama's spending "adds to the deficit" is a trick. Here is how it works. Suppose you take over a company that is losing $100 million a year, and your jobs is to turn it around. So perhaps the second year the company only loses $70 million, $30 million the third year, and breaks even in year four. You saved the company. But in those years the company "lost" another $100 million. Should you be fired?

President Obama took office as President of a country with a $1.4 trillion deficit - thanks to the failure of conservative policies. Their tax cuts, wars, military buildups, corruption and incompetence drove the borrowing WAY up, and then their deregulation, corruption and incompetence destroyed the economy, driving the borrowing up into the stratosphere.

If the borrowing just stayed the same at the $1.4 trillion level Obama inherited each year -- never mind that interest on all that borrowing gets higher and higher each year -- that would mean $14 trillion would be added to the deficit by 2020. That's a LOT more than the $9.7 trillion that Drudge and the conservatives are making so much noise about. Obama is dramatically reducing the borrowing, but they use trickery to make it look like he is causing it.

What about that $1.4 trillion deficit? That was the deficit for the 2009 budget year. Conservatives say -- over and over -- that Obama "tripled the deficit" in 2009. This isn't even a trick, it is just a lie. The final Bush budget year ended with a deficit of $1.4 trillion. Conservatives have been telling the public this was an "Obama Deficit" and use graphics and charts that label this last Bush budget as Obama's. Look at that chart, and then look at this. The first chart is nothing more than a lie, of course repeated endlessly.


But what else should you expect? Like the scorpion that stings the frog as the frog ferries it across the river, it's what they do. They screw things up, and then point the finger of blame at everyone else.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:57 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

February 17, 2010

Huge 2009 Budget Deficit -- Just One More Conservative Failure

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF). I am a Fellow with CAF.

Conservatives claim that President Obama "tripled the deficit" and point to the huge 2009 budget deficit as proof. The fiscal-year 2009 deficit, as reported in October was, indeed, about triple the prior year's borrowing. But the 2009 budget was the last budget year of the prior, conservative administration. It is just one more demonstration of the failure of conservative policies.

Basic math: A budget year that ends 8 months into a President's first year wasn't that President's budget.

Yet we hear, over and over, that "Obama tripled the deficit." Recently, when President Obama spoke at the Republican caucus retreat, Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said that Obama had "tripled the deficit." A CNN fact check addresses this,

Obama was essentially correct when he said he inherited a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion. Though the budget deficit for 2008 was a then-record $458.6 billion, the CBO issued a projection in January 2009, just days before Obama took office that the budget deficit would reach $1.2 trillion that year, before the cost of any new stimulus plan or other legislation was taken into account.

Don't believe me? See the conservative Cato Institute on this: Don’t Blame Obama for Bush’s 2009 Deficit | Cato @ Liberty,

Listening to a talk radio program yesterday, the host asserted that Obama tripled the budget deficit in his first year. This assertion is understandable, since the deficit jumped from about $450 billion in 2008 to $1.4 trillion in 2009. As this chart illustrates, with the Bush years in green, it appears as if Obama’s policies have led to an explosion of debt.

[chart]

. . . But there is one rather important detail that makes a big difference. The chart is based on the assumption that the current administration should be blamed for the 2009 fiscal year. While this makes sense to a casual observer, it is largely untrue. The 2009 fiscal year began October 1, 2008, nearly four months before Obama took office. The budget for the entire fiscal year was largely set in place while Bush was in the White House.

[corrected chart]

Please click through to see the charts. And then look at Cato: Who's To Blame for the Massive Deficit? for an even better explanation,
What about the so-called stimulus, they will ask, with its $787 billion price tag? Or the omnibus fiscal-year 2009 appropriations bill? And how about Cash for Clunkers and Obama's expansion of the children's health insurance program? Didn't these all boost spending in 2009?

The answer is yes. But these boondoggles amounted to just a tiny percentage of FY2009 spending — about $140 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget — as the pie chart nearby illustrates.

Here are some examples of how this propaganda is applied. Keep in mind as you read these and look at the charts that the 2009 budget was Bush's last budget, and began before Obama even took office.

Heritage Foundation: Bush Deficit vs. Obama Deficit in Pictures. Look at how the colors on the chart trick you into thinking that 2009 is an Obama budget year. This is just outright deceit.

Here is Heritage directly labeling the 2009 budget as Obama's in a chart.

Here is a similar use of deception in charts, by right-wing blogs.

More examples: Federal budget triples under Obama – yes TRIPLES, and After Tripling The Deficit, Obama To Try And Create Jobs With More Government Spending, and Obamanomics: Deficit Tripled in One Year

Fox News: Obama Triples Budget Deficit to $1.4 Trillion (they have since changed the headline but here is it as it appeared:) fox nation clip

Here's a good one, using a Heritage propaganda chart: Obama’s Tripling of the National Debt in Pictures

The right's noise maching is good, though, there are 27,000 websites listed if you search for "obama tripled the deficit" in quotes.

Conservative policies since Reagan have led to massive debt. Don't let them trick you by changing the colors on a chart.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 14, 2010

What Would You Think About Without Marketing?

It's Valentines Day. Did you buy a card, candy or flowers?

It's just marketing.

Have you ever wondered what you would think about if your whole life had unfolded with only normal human influences acting on your psyche, and not any modern corporate or political persuasions subtly planted into the process?

How subtle? How pervasive and powerful is marketing? In 1934 Edward Bernays, the father of modern marketing, was tasked by Lucky Strike to come up with a new package design to replace the current green design. "Green was out" and women were wearing other colors; they didn't want to have a green package that didn't match their dresses, so sales were down.

How did he fix this?

When surveys showed that women objected to Luckies because the green package with its red bull's-eye clashed with the colors of their clothes, he swung into action to make green fashionable.

Instead of redesigning the package Bernays organized a "green fashions ball," and
worked with manufacturers of accessories, dresses and textiles, and sent 6,500 letters and kits to department stores, fashion editors and interior decorators, telling them of the green "trend." At his urging, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue featured green on covers on the date of the Green Ball. He also sent press releases with psychologist stories suggesting benefits of the color green, as "color of spring, an emblem of hop, victory (over depression) and plenty." According to the New York Times, "sales figures" proved that the "campaign was a brilliant success."

Lesson: It was cheaper and easier to change the fashion culture of the country than to redesign and reprint a cigarette package.

And that was only 1934. Marketing has gotten much more sophisticated since then.

So do you think your thoughts are your own, uninfluenced? Not a chance. But have you ever wondered what it would be like if they were? If not -- if you don't even know to wonder -- then your thoughts really, really aren't your own.

Happy Valentines Day. By the way, Starbucks will be changing all the interior store colors from pink to St. Patricks Day green overnight.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:46 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 11, 2010

"But" Watch

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.


"But" Watch is when you see Republican junior propagandists write letters to the editor, call radio stations, etc. and begin them with, "I'm a Democrat, but..."

Today we have this comment to the post: Senator Reid: Why Should We Help You Win Re-election? | California Progress Report,

I'm a Democrat, but I appreciate that we have an opponent party. It's too bad that both parties cannot work more harmoniously together. Bi-partisan is a funny word the way it's usually interpreted...when one party is in the majority, it says that bi-partisanship is for the other to roll over dead.   

If it were not for the Republicans, we would be in a worse financial mess than we are with "pork" gong hog wild.Of course, they did not to a very good job of balancing the budget when they were in power under Bush.

More and more "pork" comes to the surface everyday. E.g., BART wants billions to build a not-needed train to the Oakland airport. Or, Fremont wants $385,000 federal dollars to study how to use the about-to-be empty NUMMI plant. If the city fathers and city staff are not capable of doing that, then they should be voted out of office or fired.

It's interesting the liberal media don't use the word "pork" anymore; they use the cleaner word: "earmarks;" or , more recently "stimulus." In any case, it's all "pork."

This is from a "Democrat"? Seriously, how many Democrats talk about "the liberal media?"  

And considering that Republican deregulation caused the financial crisis this line is astonishing: "If it were not for the Republicans, we would be in a worse financial mess than we are."

Nice try.  Didn't work.

Click through to Speak Out California.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:06 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 9, 2010

NYTimes "Stands By" False Reporting

Last month I posted NYT Propels Anti-ACORN Propaganda,

The NY Times ran a story today about the "high jinks" of the right-wing smear artist O'Keefe, repeating the smears on ACORN, without mentioning the investigations that concluded his ACORN videotapes were doctored and that ACORN employees did nothing wrong.

The Times reported as fact that O'Keefe was "dressed as a pimp" - he was not, he was representing himself as a candidate for Congress - and that ACORN employees gave advice on setting up a brothel - when an investigation concluded that the videos were "heavily edited" and had "substitute voicovers" inserted to make it sound like ACORN employees said things they did not.

Brad Friedman pressed the Times on this. The Times said it "stands by" the story and cites FOX News as their source.

Go read the whole thing - it's really quite stunning.

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

January 31, 2010

Today's Propaganda Word: Miranda

You can't turn on Fox news without hearing about Obama giving "Miranda rights to terrorists."

There are hundreds of references to this just at the Fox News website alone. And of course the right's echo chamber propels the propaganda. There are 163,000 websites that contain these words. Click the link and scroll down to see how this works.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:23 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 26, 2010

Republican Operatives Caught Bugging Dem Senator's Phones

A Republican operative has been arrested along with others, for attempting to bug the office of Democratic senator Mary Landrieu. From the Shreveport Times,

An FBI affidavit says the incident happened Monday. At least two of the suspects were dressed in work clothes and construction hats and claimed they were technicians for a telphone company.

The four were identified by the U.S. Attorney's Office on Tuesday as James O'Keefe, 25; Stan Dai, 24; Robert Flanagan 24; and Joseph Basel, 24.


Before this, O'Keefe was known for filming ACORN employees and editing the tapes to make it appear the employees were engaged in improper behavior. An investigation by the Congressional Research Service found that O'Keefe and the videotapers were the only party to the affair that had violated any laws.

Another investigation by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger found that,

The videos that have been released appear to have been edited, in some cases substantially, including the insertion of a substitute voiceover for significant portions of Mr. O'Keefe's and Ms. Giles's comments, which makes it difficult to determine the questions to which ACORN employees are responding. A comparison of the publicly available transcripts to the released videos confirms that large portions of the original video have been omitted from the released versions.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 6, 2010

Washington Post Joins Wall Street Sneak-Attack On Social Security

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

At the end of the year the Washington Post published as "news" a story, "Support grows for tackling nation's debt" that pushed the idea of "a special commission to make the tough decisions that will be required to dig the nation out of debt" and "rein in skyrocketing spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security" before the "unsustainable entitlement spending" before it can "undermine the nation's economy."

The Post called that "news." No alarm bells went off in their editorial department.

Where did this "news" story come from? The Washington Post has a deal with an outfit called “Fiscal Times” to provide “news” articles like this one. But Fiscal Times doesn’t really provide news, it is in reality a “front” – one of many – for an organization called the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Peter G. Peterson, a Wall Street billionaire, set up this foundation many years ago ostensibly to advocate that the government reduce its deficit spending and debt, but in reality the foundation advocates reductions in government benefits to citizens, forcing the citizens who can afford it to purchase private services instead. (Those citizens who can't afford it? Well, too bad but "the market" isn't about them.) The foundation says little about the larger government spending on military (cut "waste") and tax cuts for the rich (ending them "wouldn’t come close to addressing our fiscal gap").

The Peterson "news" story quotes people from other Peterson front groups like the Concord Coalition. So in essence the Peterson story quotes the people that Peterson pays to put out quotes. But it creates the impression that lots of "experts" agree this is what is needed.

This strategy goes back to a larger Wall Street effort to get rid of Social Security. A 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, "Achieving a Leninist Strategy" by Stuart Butler of Cato and Peter Germanis of Heritage lays it out for us. The document is still available at Cato, and select quotes are available at Plotting Privatization? from Z Magazine. It is worth reading the entire document (in particular the section "Weakening the Opposition") to understand completely the strategy that has been unfolding in the years since, but the following quotes give you an idea:

"Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent upon ... its success in isolating and weakening its opponents. ... we would do well to draw a few lessons from the Leninist strategy."

" construct ... a coalition that will ... reap benefits from the IRA-based private system ... but also the banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that will gain from providing such plans to the public."

"The first element consists of a campaign to achieve small legislative changes that embellish the present IRA system, making it in practice a small-scale private Social Security system.

"The second main element ... involves what one might crudely call guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it."

"The banking industry and other business groups that can benefit from expanded IRAs ..." "... the strategy must be to propose moving to a private Social Security system in such a way as to ... neutralize ... the coalition that supports the existing system."

"The next Social Security crisis may be further away than many people believe. ... it could be many years before the conditions are such that a radical reform of Social Security is possible. But then, as Lenin well knew, to be a successful revolutionary, one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform."


So there you have it. Every time you hear that "Social Security is going broke" you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point. Every time you hear that "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme" you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point. Every time you hear that "Social Security won't be there for me anyway" " you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point.

Don't fall for it. If they can gut Social Security they stand to make a lot of money but you stand to lose your retirement. Ask the government to look into better ways to cut spending and mostly to go back to taxing the wealthy like they did back when there were no deficits and the economy worked for every one, not just a few wealthy people sat the top of the pyramid.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 4, 2010

37,313 Killed In Traffic In 2008

Tobacco companies killed approx. 443,000 people in the United States in 2008.

37,313 people were killed and countless more injured in traffic accidents in 2008 in the United States.

There were 14,180 people murdered in the United States in 2008.

565,650 Americans died of cancer in 2008.

Compare that to the threat of terror attacks. The terror threat is the only thing on the news.

Why is that?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 9, 2009

Is There A Huge Deficit Because Of Obama?

Watch this:

But most of the public probably thinks the deficit is because of Obama... Propaganda works, that's why they do it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:45 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

November 23, 2009

Under The Government's Control

Apparently having any laws or regulations at all means that things are "under the control of the government."

P.S. Oh, and this is supposed to be a bad thing.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 13, 2009

Bush's Last Budget - Blame Shifted To Obama

Bush's last budget year wrapped up last month, leaving us a deficit of over $1.4 trillion. But everyone blames Obama because the right's noise machine has repeated over and over that Obama is "spending" -- and no one shows up to explain the truth.

A New York times analysis of this deficit reported,

Mr. Obama’s main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. Such policies — together with the Wall Street bailout, which was signed by Mr. Bush and supported by Mr. Obama — account for 20 percent of the swing.

About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.


Only 7 percent of the deficit comes from Obama's stimulus, which was made necessary by conservative policies.

Even so, conservative outlets like Drudge Report Politico repeat the propaganda. Politico, for example writes this today, After spending binge, White House says it will focus on deficits,

On the practical side, Obama has spent more money on new programs in nine months than Bill Clinton did in eight years, pushing the annual deficit to $1.4 trillion. This leaves little room for big spending initiatives.
Thsi is just a lie, and these are smart people who know this is just a lie. But they also know it doesn't matter. What they can get the public to believe is what matters.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:20 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 28, 2009

Did President Obama Order Fox Not To Air Anti-Olympics Segment?

HUGE headline at the Drudge Report: FOX-TV CHICAGO ORDERED NOT TO RUN ANTI-OLYMPICS STORY.

Sounds REALLY bad. The Obama administration ordering Fox not to put things on the air!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But when you click through you find out that the News Director of a Fox affiliate ordered the staff not to air for a second time an anti-Olympics segment -- after they aired it once. That's it. That's the whole story! A News Director ordered the staff not to run it again.

P.S. The segment is about a website that pushes for the Olympics to be held in Rio, with no information about who put up the website. D'ya think it might have been paid for by the committee trying to get the Olympics in Rio? Duh???

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

September 20, 2009

The Right's Strategic Propaganda Effort

Always worth reading again: Tentacles of Rage: The Republican propaganda mill, a brief history

This is a 2004 story looking at the history of how the right became so prominent in American politics in recent decades, roughtly from Gioldwater to George W. Bush. They had enormous funding - in the hundreds of millions per year - in those decades. Huge checks went to anyone who would promote right-wing corporate values. For example, mid-1970s:

... the terms of the offer an annual salary of $200,000, to be paid for life even in the event of my resignation or early retirement—spoke to the seriousness of the rightist intent to corner and control the national market in ideas.

In the 1970s $200K a year promised for life wasn't bad at all. And supplemented with speaking fees, book advances, the occasional $10K check for an article denying global warming, etc...

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

September 2, 2009

A Gem From The Past

I just came across this: End Government Science Funding | Cato Institute: Daily Commentary.

"Scientists may love government money, and politicians may love the power its expenditure confers upon them, but society is impoverished by the transaction."

Yikes! This is what Bush came along and did, actually, based on nonsense like this. How did that work out?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:48 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos

August 10, 2009

Why Health Care Reform Is Losing

I haven't heard very many voices, prominently featured, explaining to the general public what the bill really does. President Obama is out there laying out general principles, and then there are a million conservative voices saying all kinds of stuff. Maybe because there isn't a bill yet.

So you can't really blame some people for coming to some of these conclusions. You and I say it sounds ridiculous to say these things but to a lot of people who don't really understand a lot about how things really work, when all they hear is one side of the story they're going to go with the only thing they hear.

The only thing that really matters - gets through to millions and millions - is what is on TV and radio. Sure, in a democracy it is the job if the news media to inform the voters. But in the 1980s our broadcast news media was released from the obligation to serve the public interest and they immediately stopped serving the public interest. Pro-government legislators seem to have just given up on fixing that. Go figure.

When the opposition is able to define you before you do, then you have lost the battle. The pubic is going to figure that the truth lies somewhere between the extremes they hear. And those are that on the one side the government is going to set up death panels to decide who gets to live, and on the other side the government is going to take over the entire system and ration care. So it must be somewhere between those.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:52 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

August 9, 2009

An Email I Received: Grandmas and Unborn Babies Face Extermination by Obama

This is how stupid they think people are:


Grandmas and Unborn Babies Face Extermination by Obama's "Health" Care Plan

Investors Business Daily has just exposed the Achilles' heel of Obamacare, that hostile, socialist government takeover of your hospital, doctors, children, and grandparents. In an editorial entitled, "How House Bill Runs Over Grandma," the editors report how President Obama was personally confronted by a North Carolina woman asking if "everyone that's Medicare age will be visited and told they have to decide how they wish to die."

In response Obama joked that he hadn't yet hired enough bureaucrats to conduct such an operation, yet he could not deny the New York Post's discovery the House bill "compels seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years (and more often if they become sick or go into a nursing home) about alternatives for end-of-life care" (pages 425-430). In other words, your grandmother will be told, when insufficient resources are rationed to young people, that her duty to die begins with mandatory "end-of-life counseling," or as Obama explained, "encourage the use of living wills" that terminate otherwise salvageable lives prematurely through signed "do not resuscitate" (DNR) legal releases.

1) EUTHANASIA is the first result of Obama's socialist government "health" care plan.

Bankrupt state can't afford to pay for grandma's hip replacement? Obama's plan sends her a lawyer to make her sign a DNR, explaining her hastened duty to die, and obtaining her signature legally absolving him of all guilt. Euthanasia begins where capitalism ends.

... Widely respected Minister Rick Joyner wrote this week, after reviewing Mat Staver's analysis of H.R. 3200 "Health" care bill, voicing his strong opinion that this bill "is about euthanasia, the power to determine who lives or dies in America. Hitler and Stalin would have loved to have had a means such as this for dispatching the millions they killed-it would have made their job much easier, and probably given them the ability to kill many more than they did. THIS BILL IS THAT SINISTER. This is not a joke."

. . . 3) Obama will REMOVE Christian prayers and symbols from Government-run hospitals

The hostile socialist government takeover of Catholic or Christian hospitals will eventually result in atheistic silencing of religious expression (and removing all Christian symbols) from the very place where faith in God is critical to sick and dying patients. For example, look at the Veterans Hospitals, already government-run, who are busy removing crosses and Christian symbols from their chapels (like in Iowa), because easily-offended atheist complainers have successfully intimidated hospital administrators with threats of lawsuit, by demanding separation of church and state. Just imagine more atheist lawsuits, when all Catholic and Christian hospitals are seized in the same way Obama took control of General Motors, inviting easily-offended atheist complainers to demand we change the name of the hospital from "St. Luke's Memorial" to the "Obama Government" hospital, falsely claiming tax-dollars cannot subsidize religion. But if St. Luke's refuses government subsidies, they will be drummed out of business, and Christian doctors' licenses revoked.

Etc...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:51 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

August 3, 2009

Conservative Hating On Cash For Clunkers

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Government can work, and the “Cash for Clunkers” program proved it. So, naturally, conservatives have to hate on it.

The “Cash for Clunkers” turned out to be one of the most successful government programs in some time. It was so successful that a program that was meant to take until November achieved its goals in something like a week or two! Thousands of cars were sold, helping dealerships and car companies to move toward recovery. Thousands of gas guzzlers were scrapped, helping the country move toward improved energy efficiency.

Dealers reported that their showrooms were full and their sales way up. Ford reports that the program is helping them have a strong July.

Ford Motor Co has seen a sharp increase in sales over the past week since its dealers began accepting trade-ins under the U.S. government's "cash for clunkers" incentive program, the automaker's U.S. sales chief said on Thursday.

The only problem with the program was that so many people are taking advantage of it that the computer system got slowed down!

Yes, the program achieved its goals in record time. So the House has approved an additional $2 billion and the Senate should take it up this week. This means even more help to dealerships and manufacturers and even more fuel economy for the country!

What could be wrong with that?

Well if you are a conservative, plenty is wrong with that. First of all it makes government look good -- and conservatives just hate government. Government is those people who get in the way and tell companies they can't pour toxins into our rivers. Government is those people who show up and ask big companies to share what they make -- after building the roads and courts and schools that enabled them to do so well. That goes against everything conservatives stand for: dirty rivers, big corporations doing and taking anything they want for free, etc.

Mostly, though, a big success like this comes at exactly the wrong time for conservatives. Right now conservatives are fighting tooth and nail to keep We, the People from passing health care reform in a way that chooses better care and lower costs for the people over higher profits and CEO pay for insurance companies. So right now it is vitally important to discredit the idea that government can do things right.

So just as it starts to become clear that the government has a winner on its hands, we start to see reports in the conservative media -- Drudge Report, right-wing blogs, talk radio, FOX News, etc. -- that call the program a failure. In fact, many of these stories coincidentally seem to use almost the same wording! The lesson they all teach is this failure shows what will happen if we pass health care reform.

So draw your own lessons. Was a program that wildly overachieved its goals, stimulated the economy, improved the country's fuel efficiency and brought a great price for a new car to tens of thousands of Americas a success or not? I say it was, and I say it shows why we want a public option choice in the health care reform!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:25 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos

July 31, 2009

Why Does 'Centrist' Always Mean The DC Corporate Lobbyist Position?

How come whenever I hear something described as the 'centrist' position on a policy, it is always, always the exact position that the big DC corporate lobbyists are pushing?

Is the definition of the word 'centrist' "the postion favored by DC lobbyists for big corporations"?

How come the positions favored by huge majorities of the public are "fringe" while the positions that take from the public and give to a wealthy few are always 'centrist?"

I'm just sayin'...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:14 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

Free-Market Conservatives Are Just Wrong

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

There are things you can see in front of your face, and then there are things that conservative “free market” ideologues tell you.

One example is when they talk about the minimum wage. (An increase in the national minimum wage goes into effect today.) Conservative “free market” ideologues tell you that raising the minimum wage “costs jobs.” They say that if employers have to pay a few cents more per hour they won’t employ as many people.

But then there is something you can see in front of your face: whenever the minimum wage is raised, things get better. Things obviously get a little better for the people who work at the minimum wage, and for their families. As this works its way up the food chain things get a little better for the people and stores these workers rent and buy from. But also, studies looking into the effect of what actually happens after the minimum wage is raised show that the net effect is no loss of jobs.

Here is why. Employers hire the number of people they need to get done what needs to get done, according to demand. Ideally they employ the correct number of people to fill orders, run checkouts, stock shelves, etc. They don’t just have extra people sitting around for the heck of it. Of course there are some tasks where a calculation of a few cents in wages can make someone “not worth it,” but in the aggregate any jobs lost from this are offset by the new people hired to meet the increased demand created by people spending the higher wages. More people with more money to spend increases demand, which is good for business. Profits for some employers may be reduced a bit by the increase in labor cost, but these are also offset by increased profits for others due to increased demand.

Even so, conservative free-market conservative ideologues continue to make the claim that increasing the minimum wage “costs jobs” anyway. It’s what they do. They make a bad thing out of paying American workers good wages and benefits. They complain about workers getting pensions and health care. They just don’t seem to like it when regular people are better off. But here is a warning: never, ever dare suggest to a free-market conservative that a CEO or a trust fund child should pay some taxes – you’ll get an earful about how this would just ruin the economy.

The free-market conservatives are just wrong.

A second thing a free-market conservative ideologue wills tell you is that it is good for more and more of the things that used to be made here to be made in other countries instead. They say that by moving factories to other countries we all benefit because “we pay lower prices.” They say we benefit because “foreign competition encourages greater productivity” (even though we are talking about moving our factories from here to there.) They say that moving factories to other countries, “unites people in peaceful cooperation and mutual prosperity.”*

They say that moving factories to other countries, to make the same things that the factories were making here, should be called “trade.”

But we can all see right in front of our faces that none of this is so. Moving jobs out of the country to make the same things that were made here is not "trade" and it certainly hasn't brought us prosperity. It is just moving our jobs out of the country to make the same things that were made here, so a few people can pocket what was being paid to the American workers, while they stick the taxpayers with their unemployment pay and the costs of trying to keep their devastated communities alive.

Free-market conservative ideologues seem to believe that society works better when a few people get paid a lot, while the rest of us have very little, and advocate policies that bring that about. They have been the dominant force in our country's policymaking for many years, and we can see in front of our faces that the result is that a few people are getting paid more and more and the rest of us less and less. (Bailed-out Citigroup is paying one person a $100 million bonus, 738 others bonuses of $1 million or more, and Merril Lynch paid 696 people bonuses of $1 million or more.) They have put in place policies that stick the taxpayers with the costs and the wealthy few with the benefits.

We can all see that moving factories out of the country has destroyed lives, torn apart communities, created massive debt, created a very few massively rich people at the expense of the rest of us ... oh, and ruined the economy. That, too.

It is time for us to realize that these free-market conservatives are just wrong. They get paid to say that stuff, but it is just wrong. Moving a factory out of the country to make the same things it made here is not “trade.” It does not benefit anyone except a few, and when the purchasing power inevitably dries up it doesn’t even benefit those few either. They made a short-term profit and now we all suffer a long-term loss.

it is time for us to come up with new policies, new plans, new strategies and new rules of the game.

*Actual claims at Cato Institute’s Center for Trade Policy Studies

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:22 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

July 22, 2009

When They Say Government They Mean You

This post originally appeared at Open Left.

I'd like to talk about government. The conservative/corporate propaganda machine has turned "government" into a bad word. Conservatives portray our government as some kind of enemy of the public. We have all heard the scare stories about the harm done by meddlesome regulations from intrusive big government programs run by government bureaucrats.

Let's step back from reacting to the word as we hear it today and think about what the word really means.

In America government is us. It is, by definition, "We, The People." 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.

With this in mind let’s try an experiment. Try substituting some variation of the words, "We, the People," "us" or “the people making decisions for ourselves” every time you read or use the word "government." Or use the word "our" instead of "the" when you say "the government." Our government, us, we, the people, working together to take care of and empower each other.

My favorite use of this experiment is to apply it to Reagan’s keynote statement, “Government is the problem, not the solution.” Reagan is making a profoundly anti-democratic statement here. He is saying that “The people making our decisions for ourselves and watching out for each other is the problem.”

With statements like these, Reagan and the conservatives are advocating a different system of government than democracy. They are saying that we should hand those decisions and responsibilities over to the "private sector" - the corporations - and let others decide how things are going to be done and how our money and common resources will be used.

Another example is when conservatives repeat, “Don’t let the government tell us what to do.” That becomes, “Don’t let us tell us what to do,” or a little more broadly, “Don’t let us decide the rules that we will live by.” If WE aren’t the deciders, then who is? What about the conservative pejorative, “big government?” They are complaining about “big We, the People.” They want “limited government.” So they have a beef with US having more power over ourselves! Of course, if WE don’t have this power, who do you think will?

Conservatives complain about government as a meddlesome, intrusive problem. But just who is government a problem for? If you are a top executive in a large chemical corporation and your bonus depends on lowering the cost of discarding toxic wastes, government stands between you and the river into which you want to dump the wastes. It costs the company less to dump the waste into the river, you will get your bonus, but We, the People don't want that stuff in our water. So for you, government is the problem. And that is a good thing. But our government is us. Our government protects us.

How about the refrain that people shouldn’t rely on government, but instead should rely on themselves? That sounds good, somehow. But try it with “each other” and a small adjustment to “themselves,” and what they are saying becomes, “People shouldn’t rely on each other they should be on their own.” This is a variation on their “personal responsibility” mantra. They want us alone and defenseless. (This is also why they hate unions.) Is alone and defenseless really such a good way to live, especially in a world dominated by big corporations always trying to trick us and get our money? Wouldn’t it be better if we were working to protect each other from the big corporations?

Spending: When conservatives complain about government spending they mean empowering and taking care of each other. They don’t like us doing that. We as a species learned from the beginning to band together, take care of each other. And now they want us separated and on our own.

Government taxing and spending is what empowers us. In the 1950s President Eisenhower proposed building the interstate highway system. That was an example of government spending, and as I wrote the other day, the top tax rate was over 90% on income above a certain amount. So after executives and owners of big companies made several hundred thousand dollars additional income was taxed at a very high rate. They could still become very, very wealthy, but more slowly. This taxation meant that the major beneficiaries of our government helped us pay for our government.

It paid off. The interstate highway system triggered a surge of economic growth, new industries, new products -- and even greater income for the very people who were taxed to help pay for it.

We also spend money protecting each other. Let’s talk about the distortions in military spending another time. What about our spending to regulate corporations and enforce those regulations? Or spending on education or health care or parks? Conservatives just hate that. They have convinced much of the public that government spending - the people taking care of each other - is bad. And the way to disempower us is to cut taxes, the ability to gather the resources we need to fight the battles we fight with the rich and powerful.

Try these experiments, substitute "us" and "We, The People" when you hear conservatives complain about government. Substitute "the resources we need to empower each other and fight the powerful" when you see the word "taxing" and substitute "taking care of each other" when you see the word "spending." This can be very powerful and empowering. It helps us see what kind of world the conservatives are really advocating.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 21, 2009

Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Medicare As Socialized Medicine

Hear it for yourself:

Listen to this wingnut talk about how if seniors get health care soon "the government" will control everything we do.

Here is how it ends:

If you don't stop Medicare, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free.

Here is some of the nonsense:

As if we’re not already overextended enough financially, the issue of National Health Care is now on the table once more vote. Here’s some perspective you might find interesting.

Now back in 1927 an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket, said the American people would never vote for socialism. But he said under the name of liberalism the American people will adopt every fragment of the socialist program.

One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.

Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it. We had an example of this. Under the Truman administration it was proposed that we have a compulsory health insurance program for all people in the United States, and, of course, the American people unhesitatingly rejected this.

Let’s take a look at social security itself. Again, very few of us disagree with the original premise that there should be some form of savings that would keep destitution from following unemployment by reason of death, disability or old age. And to this end, social security was adopted, but it was never intended to supplant private savings, private insurance, pension programs of unions and industries.

Now in our country under our free enterprise system we have seen medicine reach the greatest heights that it has in any country in the world. Today, the relationship between patient and doctor in this country is something to be envied any place. The privacy, the care that is given to a person, the right to chose a doctor, the right to go from one doctor to the other.

But let’s also look from the other side, at the freedom the doctor loses. A doctor would be reluctant to say this. Well, like you, I am only a patient, so I can say it in his behalf. The doctor begins to lose freedoms; it’s like telling a lie, and one leads to another. First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then the doctors aren’t equally divided geographically, so a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him you can’t live in that town, they already have enough doctors. You have to go some place else. And from here it is only a short step to dictating where he will go.

This is a freedom that I wonder whether any of us have the right to take from any human being. All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man’s working place and his working methods, determine his employment. From here it is a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay and pretty soon your children won’t decide when they’re in school where they will go or what they will do for a living. They will wait for the government to tell them where they will go to work and what they will do.

What can we do about this? Well, you and I can do a great deal. We can write to our congressmen and our senators. We can say right now that we want no further encroachment on these individual liberties and freedoms. And at the moment, the key issue is, we do not want socialized medicine.

Former Representative Halleck of Indiana has said, “When the American people want something from Congress, regardless of its political complexion, if they make their wants known, Congress does what the people want.”

So write, and if your representative writes back to you and tells you that he or she too is for free enterprise, that we have these great services and so forth, that must be performed by government, don’t let them get away with it. Show that you have not been convinced. Write a letter right back and tell them that you believe in government economy and fiscal responsibility; that you know governments don’t tax to get the money the need; governments will always find a need for the money they get and that you demand the continuation of our free enterprise system. You and I can do this. The only way we can do it is by writing to our congressmen even we believe that he is on our side to begin with. Write to strengthen his hand. Give him the ability to stand before his colleagues in Congress and say “I have heard from my constituents and this is what they want.”

Write those letters now; call your friends and them to write them. If you don’t, this program I promise you, will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow, and behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country. Until, one day, as Normal Thomas said we will awake to find that we have socialism. And if you don’t do this and if I don’t do it, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:04 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

July 16, 2009

Tracking Republican Myth That Business Are Leaving Because Of Taxes

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

I looked around and found that "businesses are leaving the state because of taxes" is one of those drumbeats that the corporate conservatives are using.  (Also, FYI the wealthy are leaving, too, parking their yachts in Salt Lake I guess.)

I wrote about this myth the other day, basically you pay taxes on profits and you certainly don't pack up and leave profits behind.  I wrote,

Oh, one more thing for the slower-thinking Republicans out there: profits are a good thing, not a bad thing.  And when you are making a profit the last thing you do is pack up your business and leave behind the circumstances that enabled making that profit.

So I looked around for "businesses are leaving the state" articles.  Here are a few:

A Republican member of the Assembly writes, Governmental Restrictions, High Taxes Driving Businesses & Jobs Out Of California.

Oops, the example company didn't leave, it started in Nevada, and it wasn't because of taxes it was because they wanted "freedom" to dump toxins into the environment.

Businesses and wealthy individuals flee state because of taxes.

Oops this is another company that started in Nevada.  This time it was an income tax avoidance scheme where Californians set up the company in Nevada - but still live here. So it's a PO box, not employees, etc.
 
This one quotes a Republican Party official,

"The high cost of living that continues to force Californians out of state should serve as a powerful reminder of the effect high taxes are having on our society," said Ron Nehring, the Republican state party chairman.
But doesn't give any examples, and in fact shows how California has very favorable business conditions, credits, and is the only state that doesn't ask oil companies to pay for the oil they take.

California's High Taxes and Burdensome Regulations Drive People and Businesses Away -- scary title, lots of scary words, but no examples of businesses actually leaving the state.

Another Company Leaving California because of High Taxes, Regulations  - Oops, this one is leaving the state because they want to pollute the air, not because of taxes.  Nice title, though. Scary.

We went through a flurry of this a few years ago, too.  Did any leave then? Let's see what we can find.

Companies Can't Leave CA Fast Enough - A title insurer left the state.  The 2003 article doesn't explain why but mentions retail energy rates.  Remember Enron, Bush, all that?

California proves too costly for departing businesses,

Coast Converters is spending $800,000 to move to Las Vegas, but the Los Angeles plastic bag manufacturer will save enough on workers' compensation, electricity and other costs to recover that in less than a year, CEO Mitchell Greif says.

"It's really an unfair business practice to allow companies to move to Nevada and sell into California," Greif says. "But I'm doing it."


Nope, not taxes.  And how do you like living in the desert, Mitchell?  Another 2003 electricity-costs thing.  You want deregulation?  Deregulating energy costs worked out great, no?

Nation's Business.  Oops, the headlines are misleading, they are leaving because of costs.  Yes, it costs more to live here because people are coming here, not leaving.  Also,

... 10 percent of the 90 Southern California companies responding said they
"definitely" plan to move some or all operations from California within a year, and an additional 13 percent said they would "probably" do so.

OOPS, this one is from 1993, before the huge business boom.  Sorry.  I guess all the businesses left California.  Oh, wait...

Wait, here are some more articles:

New York's Taxes Send People and Businesses Out Of State -- Maybe they're coming here.

Are Millionaires Leaving Maryland to Escape Higher Taxes? -- Maybe they are passing California's millionaires going the other way.

Leaving Oregon, and its taxes, behind

Executives say firms may leave state if computer services levy is not repealed (Maryland)

Poll shows many mull leaving state (Buffalo)

NY's High Taxes Drive Small Business Away, Too

I guess all the businesses are leaving ALL the states!

Click through to Speak Out California

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

The Secret CIA Program

It is "leaking" that the secret program was to assassinate Al Queda leaders.

How convenient. We're being told that this was something that no one would object to, that in fact everyone will say "Why would those sissy, terrorist-loving Democrats want to stop THAT? Dick Cheney is a hero for this."

Of course this isn't the secret program. Don't fall for it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:20 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

July 14, 2009

Republican Myth: Businesses Leave California Because Of Taxes

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Republicans like to claim that businesses leave California because of having to pay taxes.

I used to own and run a business, and I have some news for Republicans: Businesses only pay taxes on profits. You don't pay taxes unless you are making a profit. Paying taxes means you are making a profit. Making a profit is a good thing, and California businesses pay a small percentage of the profits to the state to help cover the expenses that enabled you to make that profit.

I'm not sure how many different ways I can say it. You pay taxes after you make a profit. At the end of the year you add up your revenue and you subtract your expenses and other deductions and then you know what your profit is.

Oh, one more thing for the slower-thinking Republicans out there: profits are a good thing, not a bad thing. And when you are making a profit the last thing you do is pack up your business and leave behind the circumstances that enabled making that profit.

I understand that Republicans hate government and are enraged by the idea of actually giving something back to the community to help pay for the roads, bridges, courts, police and fire protection, educated citizenry and the other parts of the state's infrastructure that created the environment that led to the ability to make a profit. Yes, they hate that. I understand.

But the fact is that businesses do not pack up and leave when they are making profits. So if Republicans want to trick people into supporting tax cuts for the big companies that shelled out so much cash put them in office they really do need to come up with better stories than trying to claim that businesses pack up and leave the state because they are making too much profit.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:47 PM | Comments (0) | 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

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 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

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

April 3, 2009

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

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

March 14, 2009

Is President Obama A Socialist?

Is President Obama a "socialist?"

During the campaign this accusation was everywhere. According to Google there are currently 4,700,000 sites on the web with the words "Obama" and "Socialist." A couple of pre-election examples: Obama’s International Socialist Connections "Blogger Steve Bartin, who has been following Obama's career and involvement with the Chicago socialists, has uncovered a fascinating video showing Obama campaigning for openly socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.", Is Obama a socialist? "Obama has declared that he believes every person has a "right" to health care. The Socialist Party USA believes every person has a "right" to health care."

As silly as those pre-election accusations were, now it is Republican leaders making the claim that President Obama is a socialist,

Obama's plans are "one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment," asserts House minority leader John Boehner. He's "the world's best salesman of socialism," says Republican Senator Jim DeMint.
Never mind that Republicans don't even know that "socialism" means public ownership of the means of production, operated for the benefit of society and the people-at-large instead of for the profit of a select few. Of course, no one is talking about that, not even the Republicans making the direct "socialist" accusations. They mean something they call "European-style socialism,"
The five-term Republican said that he has gotten praise from his constituents for opposing the stimulus and warned that the country may succumb to "European-style socialism."

As we all know, when Republicans get on a talking point, they all get on it, almost as if someone were telling them to. Other examples of recent Republican accusations that Obama is taking us to "European-style socialism," here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and I'm only stopping because my fingers are getting tired.

So, let's take a look at whether Obama meets the Republican definition of a "European-style socialist" by comparing what we have in the U.S. to some of the things that "socialist" Europe offers to its citizens: (Note - Europe is not socialist...)

National health care system assuring every citizen has equal access to quality care? NO.

Five-six weeks mandatory vacation for everyone? NO.

Extended maternal leave for new parents? NO.

Day care provided for children? NO.

Fair(er) wages for all workers? NO.

Shorter, less stressful working hours? NO.

More even distribution of the benefits of the economy? NO.

Government services for citizens instead of a select few. NO.

Retirement at a relatively young age? NO.

Retirement with a good pension? NO.

Citizens having a say in how the economy is managed? NO.

Citizens protected from predatory corporations? NO.

So, even though the accusation was absurd on the face of it, even comparing Obama's policies to some of the "socialist" things offered to the people in Europe, Obama is not a socialist.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 23, 2009

Washington Post -- Own Up To It

File this under Why People don't Bother With Newspapers and their Aging Conventional-Wisdom Columnists Anymore

George Will must have a new client: Exxon. He wrote a column denying global warming, filled with stuff that was just wrong. Some of the "sources" he cited have demanded that the Post print corrections, because Will flat-out misrepresented their positions and reports.

The Washington Post and George Will refuse to print a correction to the misinformation.

Go read Think Progress: When will the Washington Post issue a correction for George Will's error-filled global warming denial column? They show that the aging Will is now recycling 1992 columns.

TPM Muckraker: Hiatt, Will, On Global Warming Misinformation: Talk To The Hand

Hilzoy at Washington Monthly, The Washington Post's "Multi-Layer Editing Process",

If Will actually read these two articles, it's hard to see how he's not being deliberately deceptive by citing them as he did. If, as I suspect, he just got them from some set of climate change denialist talking points and didn't bother to actually check them out for himself, he's being irresponsible.
Matthew Yglesias, Washington Post Stands By Climate Change Denialism,
This started as a problem for Will, his direct supervisors, and the Post’s ombudsman. But now that the Post as a paper is standing behind Will’s deceptions, I think it’s a problem for all the other people who work at the Post. Some of those people do bad work, which is too bad. And some of those people do good work. And unfortunately, that’s worse. It means that when good work appears in the Post it bolsters the reputation of the Post as an institution. And the Post, as an institution, has taken a stand that says it’s okay to claim that up is down. It’s okay to claim that day is night. It’s okay to claim that hot is cold. It’s okay to claim that a consensus existed when it didn’t. It’s okay to claim that George Will is a better source of authority on interpreting the ACRC’s scientific research than is the ACRC. Everyone who works at the Post, has, I think, a serious problem.
Ezra Klein at American Prospect: GEORGE WILL EMBRACES PALIN-ISM and WHERE DOES GEORGE WILL GET HIS GLOBAL WARMING FACTS?

And just out from Think Progress' Wonk Room: George Will’s ‘Global Cooling’ Column Is Almost Old Enough To Vote with Matter of Fact -- a PDF fact sheet from Think Progress

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:18 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

February 8, 2009

Let's Challenge Radio Station Licenses

Should we be organizing challenges to the licenses of radio stations that do not serve their communities in a balanced way?

Earlier I pointed to Bill Press' op-ed on how corporate radio shuts our progressive voices, Seeing the Forest: Corporate Radio Not Balanced. Press reminds us that companies are given radio licenses by We, the People and,

... according to the terms of their FCC license, "to operate in the public interest and to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of issues of public importance."
Obviously many radio stations are violating the terms of their licenses, using OUR airwaves to spew anti-democracy corporatist right-wing crap all day every day.

Shouldn't we be organizing challenges to the licenses of these stations?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 19, 2009

A Metric For Right-Wing Opinion Influence

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

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

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

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

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

Exxon wins.

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

January 14, 2009

We Haven't Been Attacked

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

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

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

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

January 13, 2009

The "Tax Freedom Day" Trick

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click through and join the discussion at Speak Out California

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

November 26, 2008

Right-Wing Myths

In Worried About Thanksgiving Fights with Right-Wing Family Members? Sara Robinson explains the top ten right-wing myths and how to answer them.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:22 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 25, 2008

How Much Do Auto Workers Make?

Go read The media myth: Detroit's $70-an-hour autoworker.

Auto workers make $28 an hour on average. No auto assembly-line worker makes $70 an hour, even if the media repeats that figure over and over. The $70 figure includes the "labor costs" of health care and pensions for retired and injured workers and the cost of management for that worker/hour, as if it was added to the number of labor hours that goes into a car today.

Yes, GM and the others have a high cost to cover the benefits to their workers. That was the point of our laws that set up corporations -- to benefit US. Japanese and German and other car companies have many of these costs paid by the government. They did it with taxes and had the government provide the benefits, we tried to do it throught the corporations themselves, and our model hasn't worked.

The point is that we need health care reform and decent pensions for all Americans, through We, the People -- the government. It certainly doesn't mean that we should just get rid of the last major manufacturers we have. Sheesh.

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

October 29, 2008

One Of The Worst?

This is one -- just one -- of the sleaziest Republican smear/deceit ads this year. Sen. Dole in North Carolina hires a voice impersonator to sound like her opponent, to say "There is no God" in an ad, saying her opponent "took godless money."

Wow. That's really creepy. And Sen. Dole apparently thinks North Carolina voters are really, really stupid. Is she right?

One thing that comes out of this election: I think it has become pretty obvious what the Republican Party is about. They say nasty and things to trick people who don't follow the news into voting for them, and then they hand over public money to a few wealthy corporation owners who fund all of this.

I think people are starting to become well-enough aware of this game to start doing something about it. ONE thing would be to stop allowing a few people to use corporate resources to influence our politics. It isn't corporations that are the problem, it is this abiloity of a few people to access corporate resources and use them to subvert democracy.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 17, 2008

Republican Persecution Lust

Republicans want everyone to feel sorry for them all the time. They lust to feel persecuted. Here's an example. Some 7th-graders call another 7th-grader a racist. This brings headlines across the Republican universe. Featured at Fox and Drudge, echoed within minutes across the right-wing whine machine:

Girl called racist for wearing Palin t-shirt,

She's only 12 years old but Ashleigh Jones is feeling the heat of this election year.

That’s because the seventh grader at New Smyrna Beach Middle School was called a racist by classmates for wearing a pro-Sarah Palin t-shirt.

Oh poor, poor, picked-on Republicans. I weep for their sacrifice.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:39 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 14, 2008

McCain Campaign Lie Strategy - Will It Work?

The McCain campaign is being called out on some of the lies they have been telling. The campaign spokesman says that they are in this to win and don't care what the "media filter" says.

I think we will get a test of their theory that the "media filter" doesn't matter anymore. This is to a large degree about who controls the information channels now. The conservative movement has been building to this with their well-funded "liberal media" campaign. They have they're mouthpieces like Rush constantly telling his audience not to ever believe the media. The right has a very large following. The result is that most of the public believes that the major news media is a propaganda machine for liberals and should not be trusted.

And they have the advantage that repetition of messages does work. They are running ads that say Obama will raise your taxes, force sex talk on your kindergartners and all that stuff -- even one that says Obama is the anti-Christ. They have the money to run those ads over and over on shows that lots of people watch. And they have the wealthy and corporate-backed front groups running ads and robo-calls and smear campaigns, etc. against Obama. People don't necessarily watch or believe mainstream news, but they will see these ads again and again.

So do the authoritarian conservatives have the power to override facts and "create their own reality" as they did in the lead-up to the Iraq war? I really don't know the answer and wouldn't bet my house on it either way.

Remember, tobacco company marketing is able to get people to kill themselves, but to hand over much of their money in the process. Modern marketing methods can convince almost anyone to do or believe almost anything.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin == Iraq War

A whirlwind of lies, a massive PR campaign from all directions to create the impression of public support and inevitability -- along with intimidation of anyone who questions what is going on.

Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like how we ended up in the Iraq war? Or does this sound like the current selling of Sarah Palin?

Or are they the same thing, from the same crowd? And will it have the same bloody result?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:35 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 5, 2008

What Is Obama's Story?

Note to Reddit users: This is a GREAT post, but Reddit screwed up and the post titled "Palin Is Not Even On Fox or Rush" is at http://www.seeingtheforest.com/archives/2008/09/palin_not_even.htm

We now continue with our What Is Obama's Story? post:

Almost every single thing Palin said in her speech the other night turns out to be just a lie -- and it doesn't matter. She now has 58% favorability among the public. And she has a story. Within a day of the Palin announcement a well-informed, liberal, Democratic, pro-choice friend told me that Palin is "a reformer" -- "just like McCain."

Here is what the Republicans understand: facts don't matter, stories do. So knowing this, they just lie and say anything they want as long as it reinforces the story. How do you fight this? Getting bogged down refuting the lies can never work because they'll just make up a ton more lies for you to refute and you can't keep up. Meanwhile, they keep reinforcing the story while you're mired in the refutation. This is why almost every single thing Palin said in her speech turns out to be just a lie. But look how her STORY has taken hold! The story overcomes all the lies, even though the entire story is based on the lies.

The Obama campaign was the beneficiary of just such a story during the primaries. Obama became the great progressive transformation that we all want, while Hillary came to represent the past. She became NAFTA and DLC and lobbyists. Once these stories took hold there was nothing at all Hillary could do about it. Everything started to reinforce it. "Experience" came to mean "Bill" which meant the past.

THAT is how a story works. Facts just get in the way. (NOTE I am not saying that Obama's story was based on lies, I am saying the power of a STORY took over and swamped Hillary.)

This is the power of - and the reason for - the "elite" storyline they are trying so hard to establish. If it can take hold there is nothing that can be done about it. So far it is just a little bit too unbelievable. But we have seen how they have tried to tell one story after another, to see if one sticks.

So what IS Obama's STORY today?
The FISA swing and a few things like that got rid of the "great progressive transformation" story that won the primaries. What does he represent and how do we drive the new story? How do we establish a negative story about McCain that sticks?

Remember how at the end of the Kerry campaign people still were saying that they didn't understand what Kerry and the Democrats were about, were for, etc? They were saying that there was no story.

What is the Obama story, in a sentence? McCain is the maverick who will change Washington, and so is Palin-the-reformer. That is a story. It is a story because they said it is.

What is the Obama story?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:22 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos

August 28, 2008

Please Go See Media Matters Swiftboating 2.0 Page

Click through to Swiftboating 2.0. There is an incredible chart that outlines the right's attack strategy on Obama.

As the means of communication have evolved, presidential campaigns have grown increasingly multifaceted, with each election featuring layers of complexity that were not present four years before. The most striking feature of the 2008 election may be the sheer volume and variation of the attacks being directed at Sen. Barack Obama. Though they come from many sources, arrive through a variety of media, and cover a wide range of subjects, a close examination reveals a unified thematic structure to these attacks.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 17, 2008

McCain's "Cross In Dirt" Story Questioned

In a book, at campaign stops and in an ad John McCain tells a story about a North Vietnamese prison guard drawing a cross in the dirt:

In his 1999 memoir, Faith of My Fathers
"We both stood wordlessly looking at the cross until, after a minute or two, he rubbed it out and walked away. I saw my good Samaritan often after the Christmas when we venerated the cross together."
In his campaign ad in December, he adds mention of "the true light of Christmas":
"We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas. I will never forget that no matter where you are, no matter how difficult the circumstances, there will always be someone who will pick you up."
At the Saddleback Civil Forum:
"For a minute there, it was just two Christians worshipping together."
Well guess what, a Kos diarist has come up with something interesting: Cross in the Dirt" story stolen from Solzhenitsyn,
A story about Alexander Solzhenitsyn from his times in the Soviet Gulags.
Slowly he looked up and saw a skinny old prisoner squat down beside him. The man said nothing. Instead, he used a stick to trace in the dirt the sign of the Cross. The man then got back up and returned to his work.

As Solzhenitsyn stared at the Cross drawn in the dirt his entire perspective changed. He knew he was only one man against the all-powerful Soviet empire. Yet he knew there was something greater than the evil he saw in the prison camp, something greater than the Soviet Union. He knew that hope for all people was represented by that simple Cross. Through the power of the Cross, anything was possible.

The source of that story about Solzhenitsyn is The Sign of the Cross, Fr. Luke Veronis, In Communion, issue 8, Pascha 1997 but clearly the story was known before 1997 for Fr. Veronis to cite it here. Update - the source is Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, published in the West in 1973.
In the winter of 1974, unbound and mimeographed samizdat copies of The Gulag Archipelago began being surreptitiously passed between Soviet citizens. These initial readers were normally given 24 hours to finish the work before passing it on to the next person, requiring the reader to spend an uninterrupted day and night to get through the work. Years later, this initial generation of Soviet readers could still recall who had given them their copy, to whom they had passed it on, and who they had trusted enough to discuss their thoughts about the book.

Here is McCain in his ad:

Here is McCain, being "reluctant" to tell this "powerful story" about his "faith":

John McCain is more reluctant to talk about his own faith. And he has had rocky relations with religious conservatives. But McCain is a believer, and he has a powerful story about the time his own faith was tested — when he was being tortured as a prisoner of war.

One Christmas morning, he was allowed out of his cell for a few moments. As he stood alone in the prison courtyard, one of the Vietnamese guards — who had shown some small kindness to McCain in the past — walked up to him.

"Then with his sandal, the guard drew a cross in the dirt," McCain said. "We stood wordlessly there for a minute or two, venerating the cross, until the guard rubbed it out and walked away. To me, that was faith: a faith that unites and never divides, a faith that bridges unbridgeable gaps in humanity. It is the faith that we are all equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is the faith I would die to defend."

... That story is often about all the Arizona senator will say about his faith, much to the chagrin of his evangelical supporters.

Here is the Dallas Morning News, writing about last night's event:

It is a well-worn story for veterans of the McCain campaign, but it was concrete and direct, without a whiff of Christian apologetics, and it produced one of the evening’s many bursts of sustained applause.

So, is this story just more carefully-crafted Republican propaganda, one more "powerful story" intended to trick the Christians into voting for them, so they can give ever-greater tax cuts to the rich and subsidies (and drilling leases) to oil companies?

Update - Andew Sullivan points out that McCain's early accounts of captivity do not include this story, and asks when McCain first told it.

Update - No "cross in the sand" for McCain in 1973,

Shortly after John McCain came back from Vietname in 1973, he wrote a detailed 12,000 word report of his experiences that was published in US News and World Report.

Even though McCain goes into a lot of detail in that story and mentions religion a few times, there is no mention of the cross in the sand story, even though it would have fitted in well with the whole narrative. There are numerous mentions of Vietnamese guards in the reports, mostly bad ones but also good ones, but there is no indication at all that any of them would have been Christian, although "[a] lot of them were homosexual".

And in 2000 McCain told the story - saying it was a different prisoner.

Looks like McCain really WAS telling a whopper to get votes. And he's been caught red-state-handed.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:26 PM | Comments (6) | Link Cosmos

August 13, 2008

Bush -- "The Free World"

Transcript of Bush remarks on Russia-Georgia,

On this trip, she [Sec. State Rice] will continue our efforts to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia.
The "free world"? WTF? This guy is living in the 1950s?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:13 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 1, 2008

Anthrax And Iraq War Fever

Go read Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News - Glenn Greenwald.

A week after 9/11 anthrax was mailed to several news outlets and two Democratic Senators, accompanied by notes designed to make people think it was sent by Muslim terrorists. Immediately ABC News starting running stories quoting multiple anonymous sources claiming the government had proof that the anthrax came from Iraq.

Then, in his January, 2002 State of the Union speech President Bush amplified the charge, saying,

The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.
Coming as it did right after the anthrax attacks and ABC News' report that the anthrax came from Iraq, this was obviously meant to solidify in the public's mind that Iraq had attacked us. Remember The Fear? Remember how the rest of that year was full of fear stories about how Iraq also had smallpox stockpiled, with lurid descriptions of what smallpox would do to us if Iraq used it. The fear increased and increased through tthe summer. And then the Republicans insisted that the Congress vote on war with Iraq before the elections! Do you remember that? Do you remember the ads against Senator Max Cleland, who gave three limbs to this country in VietNam, accusing him of being unpatriotic?

ABC News knows who fed them these stories, and they are protecting them. Why? Greenwald writes,

They know who concocted the false bentonite story and who passed it on to them with the specific intent of having them broadcast those false claims to the world, in order to link Saddam to the anthrax attacks and -- as importantly -- to conceal the real culprit(s) (apparently within the U.S. government) who were behind the attacks. And yet, unbelievably, they are keeping the story to themselves, refusing to disclose who did all of this. They're allegedly a news organization, in possession of one of the most significant news stories of the last decade, and they are concealing it from the public, even years later.

They're not protecting "sources." The people who fed them the bentonite story aren't "sources." They're fabricators and liars who purposely used ABC News to disseminate to the American public an extremely consequential and damaging falsehood. But by protecting the wrongdoers, ABC News has made itself complicit in this fraud perpetrated on the public, rather than a news organization uncovering such frauds. That is why this is one of the most extreme journalistic scandals that exists, and it deserves a lot more debate and attention than it has received thus far.

ABC News needs to reveal who set us up with this story that Iraq attacked us with anthrax. Beyond this, this is a story about a country being manipulated into attacking another country, and a voting public manipulated into electing people who then looted our treasury. It will take time to come to grips with what has happened to us. We ultimately will need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Update - Richard at All SPin Zone thinks the suicide is mighty conveeeeenient.

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

July 24, 2008

Tools

One of my local newspapers, the San Francisco Chronicle, is running an editorial cartoon today that tells readers not to trust newspapers.

And they wonder why their circulation is dropping.

Tools. Useful idiots.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 12, 2008

Right Develops Blame Narrative

The right is orchestrating a campaign to blame Democrats for the economic collapse. In cases like this it is often a matter of being the first out there with a story. For example, Progressives and Democrats could have been explaining the economic collapse on the cost of the war, or the huge borrowing that resulted from the tax cuts. But now the right is out there with a story, and the ability to get that story to the public. So we'll see which narrative takes over.

Here's the story. A major bank failed yesterday, and a Bush appointee in the government put out a statement directly blaming Democratic Senator Schumer. So the narrative the right is pumping out is that "the government" says Schumer is at fault for the bank failure. (What Schumer did was say that the bank appears to be insolvent because it was. Republicans say this "caused" a run on the bank. The fact is the bank was closed because it was insolvent, not because people were taking their money out. But facts don't matter.) I suspect you'll be hearing a lot more of this from Limbaugh Monday.

here's a sample of the right's messaging on this:

Senator Schumer Causes Bank Failure

Schumer, whose self-serving publicity hounding is legendary, decided to go public with information that he knew or should have known would be detrimental to the process -- and now he arrogantly refuses to accept any blame for his own politically motivated actions that were the proximate cause of the institution's downfall -- and blames the regulatory process that he created in legislation that he largely wrote back in 1999.

BREAKING: Bank Collapses. Feds cite Sen. Chuck Schumer as "immediate cause" of collapse

Now the question is, did Senator Chuck Schumer cause IndyMac's collapse? The Office of Thrift Supervision, that regulates entities like IndyMac, says "the immediate cause" of IndyMac's collapse was Senator Chuck Schumer.

Chuck Schumer, bank killer,

Two weeks ago, Schumer publicly released a letter he had written to regulatory agencies, demanding action to prevent IndyMac’s collapse. Instead of shoring up the bank, the letter induced depositors to make a run on the bank. Within days, over $1.3 billion in deposits disappeared, forcing the FDIC to close the bank and pay off the insured deposits.

That move cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. Don’t forget to thank Uncle Chuck when you have a chance.

$1.3 billion in losses, brought to you by Chuck Schumer

Maybe, just maybe, things like this could be avoided if the Democrats would stop meddling with the free market. The more Democrats try to interfere with our economy, the more it crashes. And the more it crashes, the more government intervention Democrats think is necessary. And somehow, Americans keep voting Chuck Schumer & Co. into office.

How much money can we afford to lose before we wise up?

Schumered,

LA Times: The chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee caused the second-largest bank collapse in USA history.

... Are Democrats so desperate for power that they are willing to cause bank panics that cost people billions?

Or are they just that incompetent?

... Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer cost the public more than a billion.

Where did the money go?

This casts a huge — $1.3 billion worth — cloud of suspicion over the Democratic Party’s point man in the Senate elections this year.

Update - One more comment: The Fed provides liquidity to banks in this situation. If they are SOLVENT the Fed provides all the cash they need to meet demands of depositors. So a "run" can't cause a bank to close. If they are NOT solvent the FDIC shuts them down right away to prevent a run from draining remaining equity.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:43 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 30, 2008

A Good Catch At BuzzFlash

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

Click through and go see.

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

June 18, 2008

Drilling - See The Big Picture, Please

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 22, 2008

Private Greed vs. Public Good

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

As I wrote the other day, the California Chamber of Commerce has come out with their annual list of "job-killer" bills. The list only targets bills by Democrats, and the bills are all acts that would help the people of California by improving the environment, worker wage and safety, public health, etc.

The California Chamber of commerce is a lobbying association. They represent their members: businesses, many of which are large corporations. This is about private greed vs. the public good. The Chamber's job is to convince the legislature to pass laws that enrich the owners of the corporations that fund them. Nothing more, nothing less.

If that involves convincing the public of something, then they do that. Hence the label "job killer."

But the companies represented by the Chamber are the real job killers. They outsource jobs to other countries. They lay people off when they calculate it will maximize their profits. They employ as many people as needed to maximize the income to and wealth of their owners. Nothing more, nothing less.

The very idea that the Chamber of Commerce would care if something is a "job killer" is ludicrous when you understand their function. They are a lobbying association that represents the interests of companies that eliminate as many jobs as they want to, at their discretion, and then use some of the money that would have been paid in salaries to pay the Chamber to convince us to support their interests -- and the rest of it to enrich themselves, which is their primary interest.

That is how corporations work in the modern, "free-market" world that we find ourselves in since the Reagan era. Not for the public benefit, not necessarily even for the company's benefit, but for the financial benefit of the executives and (some of) the owners of the company.

Private greed vs. public good. Nothing more, nothing less.

So there isn't really an argument about whether the "job-killer" bills on this year’s list really do or do not "kill jobs." That is not the point of the label. Instead it is up to us to understand who we are hearing from. If we get caught up in arguing about whether these bills create more jobs than they might cost, we’re missing the point. Their arguments are propaganda with no basis in reality, designed to do nothing more than sway opinion. The point of the "job-killer" label is to make people afraid for their jobs, not to actually argue that these bills will or will not actually "kill" any jobs.

For example, a bill to require energy efficiency in new housing construction obviously creates many new jobs in the new, innovative "green" industries. But such a bill might lower the profits that go into the pockets of the executives and owners of some of the companies that the California Chamber of Commerce represents. (The LA Times on Wednesday said the Chamber’s agenda "seems dominated by development and energy interests".) And, again, it is irrelevant whether the bill might or might not really cost jobs in some of those companies. The Chamber doesn't care. That is not their function.

The use of the label "job killers" is about scaring the public. Nothing more, nothing less. It is about fear. It is about creating a climate in which people who are afraid for their jobs will go along with measures designed to enrich the owners of the companies that the Chamber -- a lobbying association -- represents.

So please don't be fooled. Don't be swayed by propaganda designed to make you afraid. As I wrote above, it is up to us to understand who we are hearing from.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 20, 2008

Job Killers -- Or Just More Fear?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

The California Chamber of Commerce has released its annual list of what it calls "job-killer bills."

Why is it that the Chamber's job-killer bills hit-list seems to only target Democrats? Not a single targeted bill belongs to a Republican. "Bad bills", like those designed to protect public health, climate concerns or consumer rights legislation, are all authored by Democrats. The chamber has always been a lobbying organization, but it has gotten so bad that the Chamber seems to have devolved into little more than just one more fear-mongering Republican Party front group.

The "job killers" on this list are any laws that protect consumers, reduce energy use, require worker protections or anything else that might hinder a very few corporate executives from reeling in another several-hundred-million dollars a year. The jobs that are "killed" are those of lobbyists for the energy industry.

The first group on the "job killer" list is bills that ask for any kind of energy or water conservation or environmental standards for new housing construction. For example, AB 1085. The bill describes itself as undating,

"building design and construction standards and energy conservation standards for new residential and nonresidential buildings to reduce wasteful, uneconomic, inefficient, or unnecessary consumption of energy."
But the Chamber's job-killer list says this
Substantially increases the cost of housing and development in California by implementing significant energy efficiency measures
Now, think about this -- if it costs less to heat and cool your house, this saves you money. If you want to add energy-saving technology like solar electric or water-heating on your house this creates good jobs. Maybe Exxon won't benefit as much from this as the new, upcoming solar industry, but heck, the solar companies aren't coughing up the big bucks and providing the good jobs to the Chamber of Commerce's lobbyists!

The next group of "job killers" is "workplace mandates" like paid sick leave for employees, disability pay for on-the-job injuries or providing California’s citizens with health insurance.

Ah yes, the money businesses pay out to provide sick leave and disability pay for those pesky employees "kills jobs." They could hire so many more people if they didn't have to actually pay them and keep them from getting injured! This is one of the oldest arguments in the books. Slaves are always cheaper. But why do we have an economy if not to provide US with good jobs and other benefits? Do we have an economy so a very few corporate CEOs get all the money and benefits, or do we have an economy so the people can also get good pay and benefits and safe working conditions? The evidence (this, for example) is clear that good wages and benefits do not hurt jobs or the economy.

Then there are “economic development barriers” like asking online retailers to collect the same sales taxes that you local business owner collects, asking the wealthy to help pay for our schools, raising fire standards in high-risk fire areas and protecting our environment. I guess the online retailers must be paying the Chamber more this year than the retailers who have to actually rent storefronts and pay wages in your town. I can't think of any other reason why SOME retailers should collect sales taxes and others should be exempt. Doesn't this change the playing field waaayyy in favor of online retailers and harm the prospects of businesses that actually set up in our local communities? God forbid we ask them to help pay for our schools and police and fire protection!

This “job killer” list is nothing more than the use of fear to scare us into allowing a few rich corporations to have their way. By saying that protecting workers or the environment might "cost jobs" they are trying to make us afraid to ask these big corporations to live up to their responsibilities to our communities. How long will we let these lobbyists make us afraid?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 19, 2008

All You Need To Know about Republican Accusations

When you are deciding whether to listen to a Republican when they talk about Democrats as "appeasers," consider this. Crooks and Liars has the story of Oliver North on Fox News backing up Republican accusations that Democrats are "appeasers."

So who is Oliver North? Oliver North is the guy that Republican President Ronald Reagan sent to provide weapons and missiles to Iran.

Let me repeat that because many people today are either too young or don't remember what happened in the 1980s. Not long after the Iranians stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took several American diplomats hostage for 444 days, Republicans gave them missiles and other weapons. Oliver North, hero of the American Right and Fox News pundit, gave advanced weaponry to Iran.

And now they call Democrats "appeasers."

It's called the Seeing the Forest Rule: When Republicans accuse others of something, it usually means it is something they are doing. (See also.)

Is there anything else you need to know about Republicans?

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

April 29, 2008

Pentagon Pundit Scandal Broke the Law

Please read Pentagon Pundit Scandal Broke the Law | Center for Media and Democracy.

Note that "Pentagon" means the Republican Party appointees in the administration who run the Department of Defense, which resides in the Pentagon.

The Pentagon was conducting "information operations" targeting the American public. This program was blatantly illegal.

Note that almost NO news outlets involved are reporting on this story at all. What does that tell you?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 25, 2008

The Middle Class Squeeze Is A Result Of LOW Taxes

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

It is a popular misconception that taxes add to the squeeze on the middle class. But it isn't tax increases that have squeezed the middle class, it's tax cuts. It may be hard to believe (after so many years of constant anti-tax rhetoric) but here is why.

The middle class IS squeezed these days. There are pressures and long hours at work, long commutes, health insurance costs, housing costs, food and gas prices rising, and wages are not keeping up -- they haven't been for a long time. But it is not a coincidence that the middle-class squeeze began at the same time as the corporate-funded anti-government, tax-cutting fervor. In fact a good case can be made that many of the reasons the middle class feels squeezed are the result of pressures brought about almost entirely FROM the effects of tax CUTS and cutbacks in government services, regulations and enforcement that went along with the tax cuts.

There are direct and indirect relationships. One example of a direct relationship is the dramatic rise in the cost of a college education. Sending kids to college has become extremely expensive. And this places a very hard squeeze on parents who want their children to get a degree. But here in California tuition was very, very low before Proposition 13. Tax cuts directly led to this squeeze on the middle class. (And remember, most of the property taxes that were cut were on business property.)

Indirect results include rising energy prices from cutbacks in government R&D and subsidies for oil alternatives as well as longer commutes as the government cuts back on transit solutions like buses, trains and roadbuilding or improvements. Health care costs continue to rise because of government inaction and deregulation -- the result of the anti-government sentiment encouraged as part of the the anti-tax campaign. And insurance costs rise while coverage is reduced or even denied as the government cuts back on regulation and enforcement. (My wife is the one who brings in the health insurance for our family. Every year she gets a raise, but every year the amount taken out of her check to cover her portion of the health insurance payment goes up by more than her raise, and her take-home pay is lower. So more squeeze.)

Other areas where the anti-government, anti-tax campaign has increased pressure on the average person is at work. Anyone that works for a corporation is feeling the extra pressures there. As government of, by and for the people declines corporate power fills the vacuum.

And there are so many more areas where we are squeezed by this increasing dominance of corporations in our lives. As government -- the power of We, the People -- diminishes, the corporations swoop in to pick us clean. How many examples of corporate power coming to dominate over people power can you think of?

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Pentagon Propaganda Story

Did Anyone see John Stauber of the Center for Media and Democracy on the Newhour yesterday? PBS was the first outlet to even mention the New York Times story about the government waging a huge propaganda campaign to sell the war to the public. All the networks, the Pentagon and everyone else involved refused to take part in the segment.

Here is an article by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Pentagon Propaganda: So Much Worse Than We Thought,

Thanks to the two-year investigation by the New York Times, we today know that Victoria Clarke, then the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, launched the Pentagon military analyst program in early 2002. These supposedly independent military analysts were in fact a coordinated team of pro-war propagandists, personally recruited by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and acting under Clarke's tutelage and development.

[. . .] Since the 1920s there have been laws passed to stop the government from doing what Barstow has exposed. It is actually illegal in the United States for the government to propagandize its own citizens. As Barstow's report demonstrates, these laws have been repeatedly violated, are not enforced and are clearly inadequate. The U.S. Congress therefore needs to investigate this and the rest of the Bush propaganda campaign that sold the war in Iraq. (Emphasis added)


Ari Melber: PBS Breaks Media Blackout of Pentagon Propaganda Bombshell - Media on The Huffington Post,J
ohn Stauber, coauthor of "Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq," contended that the Pentagon's "surrogate" program violated federal law against domestic propaganda and called for a congressional investigation. "This war could have never been sold if it were not for this sophisticated propaganda campaign," he said.
Other news outlets are ignoring this huge story.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Flag Pins And Hypocrisy

I was thinking about the "flag pin" question, and went and looked at the video. Sure enough, the woman accusing Obama of being unpatriotic for not wearing a flag pin ... wait for it ... isn't wearing a flag pin. The smarmy anchorman implying Obama isn't patriotic for not wearing a flag pin ... guess what ... isn't wearing a flag pin.

And, of course, if you go to Google Images and look for pics of John McCain, none of them show him wearing a flag pin. Of course, that means that Google in unpatriotic.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 24, 2008

Moon And The Republicans

Please watch this video about the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and his organization's political influence with the Republicans. This is an important story. Moon, for example, owns the Washington Times. Front groups set up by his organization have been receiving millions of tax dollars from the Bush Administration.


Online Videos by Veoh.com

And definitely get the new book on Moon, Bad Moon Rising, by John Gorenfeld

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 12, 2008

Bush Vows To Keep Airwaves One-Sided

At a convention of religious broadcasters Bush today vowed to keep progressive viewpoints off the nations airwaves. At issue is the Fairness Doctrine, which requires broadcasters using public airwaves to present different sides of issues. The doctrine was originally put in place because of concerns that wealthy corporate interests would buy up all the stations and use the power of mass broadcasting to dominate public discussion. The fear was that the corporations would then push public attitudes in the direction of their own interests.

And, of course, this is exactly what has happened. When was the last time you heard on the radio or TV about the benefits of forming a union?

Bush: ‘Fairness Doctrine’ unfair,

In Nashville today, during a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, President Bush said there’s nothing fair about the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” that once required broadcasters to offer air time for competing ideologies.
We, the People stiff have a few rights, and a bit of power. If you don't speak out about this, we will lose the last little bit of opportunity to present alternative ideas.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 7, 2008

New McCain Ad

So McCain has the nomination and the professionals are starting to shape his image. Here is a new McCain ad that is chock full of manipulative psychological gimmicks, code words, and the beginning of the narrative development for the campaign. How many things can you spot? What is the campaign going to be about? What is the overarching story?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 25, 2008

Because Drudge Says It's True?

All over the progressive blogosphere there is outrage at the Clinton campaign. The Drudge Report had a great big headline "CLINTON STAFFERS CIRCULATE 'DRESSED' OBAMA" and people are outraged.

People, you are being played like a violin.

I posted about this photo yesterday, because several right-wing blogs were carrying it. Not one said anything about it coming from the Clinton campaign. Today the Drudge Report takes the opportunity to inject the photo to the mainstream and gets a twofer bonus, getting all the Obama supporters to blame the Clinton campaign.

Why is it so hard for people to understand that the right wants us divided? Why is it so hard to see that they are working to set us against each other? Come on, people, Hillary Clinton is not your enemy, she is on our side.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 14, 2008

The Stories You Will Be Seeing In The News

Here is how it is going to work between now and November.

1) Think up something that will divide the Democrats and cause a lot
of hurt, hopefully to the point where many voters will decide not to
even vote.

2) Distribute that as a statement through various information channels
- Drudge, Fox, Insight, Washington Times, NewsMax, CNS, blogs, etc.-
with the story attributed to Democratic Party or campaign "insiders."

3) Go back to step 1 and do it all again.

Don't fall for it. Develop an instinct to defend fellow progressives when they are attacked.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 10, 2008

Driving A Wedge

The Drudge Report is a right-wing site that is used to drive right-wing propaganda into the large, corporate media outlets. When a story is featured at the Drudge Report, you always have to ask why, and ask what is the right's intent behind getting this story into circulation.

Today Drudge points us to a story, Wilder Still Sore Over Clinton Comment. This story is obviously an effort to drive a wedge between supporters of Senators Obama and Clinton. It uses out-of-context, incomplete quotes and mischaracterizes the intent and meaning of the quotes to drive up tensions.

The nation's first elected black governor said Saturday he is not ready to excuse comments former President Bill Clinton made about Barack Obama.

In campaigning for his wife last month on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, Clinton called Obama's opposition to the Iraq war "a fairy tale." Clinton suggested Obama had toned down his early anti-war fervor during his 2004 Senate campaign.

. . . Clinton also implied that an Obama victory in South Carolina would amount to a reward based on race, like the Rev. Jesse Jackson's 20 years earlier.

Wilder said the former president's comments stung him and other black voters and diminished their respect for Clinton.

"It's not just me (who) feels that; any number of people feel that," Wilder said. "A time comes and a time goes. The president has had his time."

This is propaganda at its best.

Readers know that I do not favor one candidate over the other. I think they are both great candidates who would make excellent Presidents, but neither offers the transformational, progressive change I believe would most benefit the country and world. I defend BOTH of them from attacks -- and wish they would defend each other and us from attacks.

This is an attack. It is an obvious attempt to split the Democratic Party and its supporters, going into the elections. Duh!

Are you going to let them play you like a fiddle? Keep in mind who the enemy is here. The stakes are high: If we let the primary contest divide us how many hundred thousand Iraqis or Iranians will be killed before the 2012 elections, how much more will corporations take over our democracy, how much more concentration of wealth at the top will we see? Please do not be fooled by this stuff! If it appears at DRUDGE, you KNOW something is going on.

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

January 26, 2008

Today's Anti-Government Propaganda E- mail

This one is also anti-Mexican, rather insulting, and has the obligatory anti-government message at the end as the oral of the story. It arrived on a "humor" e-mail list.

Neighborhood Trash

Wallace Lewis is the president of his homeowners association in the TOPEKA, KANSAS suburbs. They were having a terrible problem with litter near some of his association's homes. The reason according to Wallace is that six very large, luxurious new houses are being built right next to their community.

The trash was coming from the Mexican laborers working at the construction sites and included bags from McDonald's, Burger King and 7-11, plus coffee cups, napkins, cigarette butts, coke cans, empty bottles, etc. He went to see the site supervisor and even the general contractor, politely urging them to get their workers not to litter the neighborhood, to no avail. He called the city, county, and police and got no help there either.

So here's what his community did. They organized about twenty folks, named themselves The 'Inner Neighborhood Services' group, and arranged to go out at lunch time and 'police' the trash themselves. It is what they did while picking up the trash that is so hilarious. They bought navy blue baseball caps and had the initials 'INS' embroidered in gold on the caps. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand what they hoped people might mistakenly think the letters really stand for.

After the Inner Neighborhood Services group's first lunch time pickup detail, with all of them wearing their caps and some carrying cameras, 46 out of the total of 68 construction workers did not show up for work the next morning -- and haven't come back yet.

It has been ten days now.

The General Contractor, I'm told, is very mad, but can't say anything publicly because he could be busted for hiring illegal aliens.

Wallace and his bunch can't be accused of impersonating federal personnel, because they have the official name of the group recorded in their homeowner association minutes along with a notation about the vote to approve formation of the new subcommittee -- and besides, they informed the INS in advance of their plans and according to Wallace, the INS said basically, 'Have at it!'

SO, FOLKS, I THINK YOU COULD SAY THAT KANSAS INGENUITY TRIUMPHS AGAIN!

***************************
Reminder: Don't forget to pay your taxes.......12 million illegal aliens are depending on you

Aside from the profoundly racist tone - Mexicans leave trash, are trash, are too stupid to know that the INS caps aren't from the INS (which no longer exists) etc, it ends by saying your taxes are wasted by the stupid government, which gives the money to "illegal aliens."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 25, 2008

Another Anti-Government Propaganda E-Mail

I received one of those anti-government propaganda e-mails today. Look how they do it. It's a really funny story, until they inject the propaganda point as the last line:

The Firewood Story

It was already late fall & the Indians on a remote reservation in South Dakota asked their new chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was a chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky, he couldn't tell what the winter was going to be like. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he told his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold & that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared. But, being a practical leader, after several days, he got an idea.

He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service & asked, 'Is the coming winter going to be cold?' 'It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold,' the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the chief went back to his people & told them to collect even more firewood in order to be prepared. A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. 'Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?' 'Yes,' the man at National Weather Service again replied, 'it's going to be a very cold winter.'

The chief again went back to his people & ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find. Two weeks later, the chief called the National Weather Service again. 'Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold' 'Absolutely,' the man replied. 'It's looking more & more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters we've ever seen.'

'How can you be so sure?' the chief asked. The weatherman replied, 'The Indians are collecting firewood like crazy.' Always remember this story whenever you get advice from a government official!
As if a corporate weather source would somehow be different. The government is US, and stories like this carry a profoundly anti-democracy message, intended to make people think that somehow privatizing government functions to corporations would be better for us.

But a corporate information source would be about screwing the customers and the employees and the public so the CEO could get a bigger jet. No one except a very few already-wealthy power brokers benefit when we hand over our common interests - even weather reporting - to corporations as they are presently constituted.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 24, 2008

Big Government

Conservatives always say the government is "too big," and that their goal is to balance the budget by "cutting spending."

But have you ever, ever heard a conservative what outline spending they would cut to reach that goal? Of course not. Why is that?

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

January 19, 2008

Trying To Drive A Wedge

Here is a glimpse of the right's operation at work, trying to drive wedges between Democrats. A Drudge Report headline links to Murdoch's Times Online: Women turn on ‘traitor’ Oprah Winfrey for backing Barack Obama

What is the basis for this headline story? Anonymous messages left in blog comments:

It started with a message on her website entitled “Oprah is a traitor” and rapidly expanded to include several discussions that attracted hundreds of comments.

In the original post, a reader called austaz68 said she “cannot believe that women all over this country are not up in arms over Oprah’s backing of Obama. For the first time in history we actually have a shot at putting a woman in the White House and Oprah backs the black MAN. She’s choosing her race over her gender.”

In a subsequent comment, 2nurselady wrote: “I don’t think Oprah is a ‘traitor’, but I do think she may be alienating a lot of her fans.”

Don't fall for it. Stick together.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 9, 2008

Iranian Navy Threat

From this story, comes this photo:

IranUSNavy.jpg

That is the huge threat you're hearing about on the news.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 6, 2007

Republicans Building Narrative Blaming Economy On Democrats

Everything is always the fault of Liberals and Democrats and their policies. And as the election - and economic hard times - approaches Republicans are working to tie the Democrats to the growing economic mess that the Republicans have created.

And what are progressives / Democrats doing today to create a narrative about Republicans and conservative policies?

GOP claims Democrats are waging ‘war’ on economy,

House Republicans released a report Wednesday that claims the policies of congressional Democrats pose a “rising threat” to millions of jobs and families.

“Congressional Democrats are waging an undeclared but aggressive policy war on American jobs and economic prosperity,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Democrats are trying to push through an agenda that is “necessitated by the Democratic Party’s ideological quest for increased spending and bigger government, and its reluctance to finance its ambitions by cutting spending and reducing existing waste, fraud and abuse,” according to the report.

. . .The report accuses Democrats of using “weapons of economic havoc,” such as tax increases, new regulations and a larger bureaucracy, recklessly and to the detriment of the U.S. economy.


. . . According to the GOP document, House Democrats have voted to increase taxes by $200 billion over the next 10 years. In addition, Democrats have tried to open the door to “job-killing lawsuits and litigation.”

As usual it is Republicans out there putting Democrats on the defensive, and Democrats wondering what is happening to them...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 21, 2007

Do Tax Cuts Really Help The Economy?

At the weblog Angry Bear last week, they presented some graphs in a post titled, Tax Rates and Growth Rates, Some Graphs. Go take a look.

The first graphs shows marginal income tax rates over time, and the third shows real GDP per capita, both starting in the 1950s.

As you look at these graphs, it seems that the periods of higher real per-capita growth coincide with the higher tax rates. Both graphs appear to have higher numbers on the left side, and the numbers drop as you move over to the right side. In other words, as the tax rates dropped since the 50's, so did economic growth.

This is the opposite of the "conventional wisdom" that people have come to believe. But it's just plain what happened - no way around it. And, to top it off, remember that FDR raised taxes on the rich, and then we started coming out of the depression. You can look those charts up as well.

For some recent validation of this observation -- that higher taxes coincide with higher economic growth -- remember what happened after the notorious 1993 tax increases on the very rich. After those tax increases we all shared an incredible decade of economic growth and shared prosperity. (Even the rich who paid more taxes.) The national budget was balanced and we reven started paying off the huge debt that had accumulated. Then, following the 2001 tax cuts which primarily went to the very rich growth rates have not been so hot, and regular people actually feel more pinched, not less. And the country has had to borrow an incredible amount of money - which will have serious consequences in the future.

So what could be happening here? Conservatives like to say that taxes hurt the economy. That they "take money out of the economy." But is this really what happens?

If the money is "taken out"of the economy, where does it go? Isn't this a perverse view of what government is, to think it is so separate from the people that it isn't even part of the economy? Perhaps this is wishful thinking on the part of anti-government conservatives, but in reality the government puts the tax money back into the economy by paying teachers, building roads, etc.

Conservatives say that taxes are a "cost" to businesses, forcing them to raise prices. But taxes are on profits, which are calculated after costs. And if a company is doing well enough to be profitable enough to be paying taxes, why would they want to raise prices and discourage customers?

Please click to continue


Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

What Do We Have To Say To Get You To Support Bombing Iran?

Here's a big surprise - focus groups are being conducted on how to get people to support bombing Iran:

You all remember Ari Fleischer’s “Freedom’s Watch” astroturfing outfit? We’ve discussed this before, in the context of Ari’s trying to bolster support for staying in the Iraq quagmire; now (per Mother Jones via PR Watch) we get to see Fleischer’s Flyers and his ideological fellow travelers pimp the marketing concept of war with Iran:
“The basis of the whole thing was, ‘we’re going to go into Iran and what do we have to do to get you guys to go along with it,’” said Laura Sonnenmark, a participant in a recent focus group apparently funded by the Republican-associated lobbying group Freedom’s Watch. Sonnenmark, a “focus group regular,” said the moderator “used lots of catch phrases, like ‘victory’ and ‘failure is not an option.’” She added, “I’ve never seen a moderator who was so persistent in manipulating and leading the participants.” The final questions of the session were: “How would you feel if Hillary [Clinton] bombed Iran? How would you feel if George Bush bombed Iran? And how would you feel if Israel bombed Iran?” Neither the firm involved, Martin Focus Groups, nor Freedom’s Watch would confirm that the organization funded the focus group. But focus group participants were handed a flier with a Freedom’s Watch logo, and the group has advocated for confronting Iran, organizing forums on the “threat” posed by the country, and running ads calling the Iranian president a “terrorist.”
Click through to follow links...

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

November 13, 2007

Good Lord, Democrats, Don't You See What's Coming?

The other day in What I Expect In 2008 I wrote that, with Iraq out of the news, one of the things the Republicans are going to do in 2008 is make the public think that Democrats are big spenders, and are even worse than Republicans on wasting money through earmarks and pork. (click through to read why Iraq will be out of the news)

This cost the Republicans in the last election and they learned from that. What did they learn? That the public votes against politicians who are accused of spending and pork. What are they doing about it? Accusing the Dems of spending and pork, of course!
The public lives in a controlled "information environment." Conservatives begin working well in advance of elections to exert pressure on that environment and prime the public to be receptive later to their issues and candidates. Democrats and progressives, for some reason, do not.

So what is happening in that information environment? Here is just a smattering of what the public was presented with just in the last few days. Never mind the facts, this is what the pubic is hearing. And this is a year before the election. The drumbeat is only going to grow, and grow, and grow, until there is no other story. Good LORD, Democrats, why don't you see what is coming? Why aren't Democrats and progressives out there NOW with a counter-narrative, explaining to the public why conservatives and their ideology are bad for America?

Editorial: Jam-packing the pork, Congress defies Bush on goody-bag of a bill,

... a spending bill so stuffed with pork as to make a Polish sausage look like a Slim Jim ...

Oink, oink,

...U.S. senators, primarily Democrats, once again reveal their ravenous appetite for unadulterated pork.

The Club for Growth's latest "rePORK Card" reveals Senate Democrats on average this year scored a dismal 12 percent out of a possible 100 percent in voting down 15 pork-busting amendments.

Dems Tie Up Fiscal 2008 Appropriations Bill in Pork,

Despite the Democrats' pledge to get control of their addiction to wasteful spending, their mountain of pork-barrel provisions has prevented Congress from passing its appropriations bills for fiscal year 2008.

. . . All told, this spending package contained at least 2,200 earmarks worth more than $1 billion. Among them, a $1 million earmark for the Thomas Daschle Center for Public Service and Representative Democracy at South Dakota State University, named for the former Senate Democratic leader.

Stopping steady flow of pork,

In vetoing the bill, President Bush noted that House and Senate negotiators had ballooned the price tag of the legislation by $9 billion.


Bush: Congress like 'teenager with a credit card'
,

. . . Bush has vetoed another spending bill, a $150-billion health, education and labor bill which the White House faults for $10 billion in excessive spending and too much "pork.''

Bush vetoes labor bill

. . . calling it bloated and filled with special projects. It was about $10 billion more than what Bush requested.

"We call on Congress to take out the pork and reduce the overall spending levels and return it to the president," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino as Bush traveled to Indiana for a budget speech.

Bush Veto Sets Stage for Budget Battle,

"Their majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it is acting like a teenager with a new credit card," Bush plans to say in a speech here, according to excerpts provided by the White House. "This year alone, leaders in Congress are proposing to spend $22 billion more than my budget provides. Some of them claim this is not really much of a difference -- and the scary part is that they seem to mean it."

Pork in the Water,

Bush vetoed the measure because of its Bizarro World price tag, which split the difference between a $14 billion House version and a $15 billion Senate version with a $23 billion consensus bill.

. . . And this latest pork platter approves $4 billion worth of work for the Everglades and coastal Louisiana, so even environmentalists who usually despise the corps joined special-interest porkers in attacking Bush's veto.

Bush Wields Veto Pen _ Again,

The White House said the $606 billion education and health was loaded with 2,000 earmarks — lawmaker-sponsored projects that critics call pork-barrel spending — which Bush wants stripped from the bill.
. . .In excerpts of his remarks released in advance by the White House, Bush hammered Democrats for what he called a tax-and-spend philosophy:

Democrats pile on the pork spending

Etc. Etc. on and on for the next year...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 6, 2007

Things that Everyone Knows

Tim "Pumpkin Head" Russert said this Monday on the Hardball show:

"Everyone knows Social Security as it's constructed is not going to be in the same place it's gonna be for the next generation."
He means that Social Security will have to be somehow restructured. Chris "Tweety" Matthews piped in to say:
"It's a bad Ponzi scheme at this point, yeah."
They went on to talk about politicians needing to make "tough choices." "Tough choices" in this context usually means cutting promised retirement benefits instead of restoring the money that was taken from the Social Security Trust Fund and used for tax cuts. Never mind that Social Security has sufficient funds invested in its Trust Fund to cover almost any projected shortfall -- tax cuts and corporate welfare mean government is going to have trouble finding the money it owes to its citizens. So to head off the idea of getting the money from where the money went, the moneyed interests have launched a campaign to make people think this is somehow Social Security's problem -- the ones owed the money -- instead of the problem of the ones who got the money.

Why does "everyone know" that Social Security will need to be restructured? Because it has been repeated so often that people believe it is true. Something that "everyone knows" is also called "conventional wisdom." Once something becomes "conventional wisdom" it is extraordinarily difficult to shake people from believing it, true or not.

This is done because on Election Day it doesn't matter if something is actually true, it only matters what people think is true. This is the basis of the divide between the "reality-based community" and those who believe "we can create our own reality." (It is instructive to follow the link and learn where those terms originated. )

Such is the power of propaganda.

Click to continue

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 1, 2007

Bush Demands Gas Rationing, Draft, Tax Increases For War!

President Bush today called for gas rationing, a draft and tax increases to fight the greatest threat the country has ever faced.

Bush to Democrats: 'We are at war'

President Bush compared Congress' Democratic leaders Thursday with people who ignored the rise of Lenin and Hitler early in the last century, saying "the world paid a terrible price" then and risks similar consequences for inaction today.

... "Unfortunately, on too many issues, some in Congress are behaving as if America is not at war," Bush said during a speech at the Heritage Foundation.

... Bush said denial that "we are at war" is dangerous. "History teaches us that underestimating the words of evil, ambitious men is a terrible mistake," Bush said. "Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. And the question is, will we listen?"

What? I'm sorry? You're saying he was asking for the right to wiretap without warrants, and nothing else?

Oh ... never mind.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 29, 2007

Obama's New Ad Could Help Kill Social Security

(Obama supporters please read the last paragraph of this post.)

For decades the right has been trying to kill Social Security. They have spread the lie that it is a "ponzi scheme" that depends on workers paying in today to pay for current benefits. Barack Obama is running a new ad that reinforces that lie.

Here is the fact: For decades Social Security has been collecting MUCH MORE $$ than it has been paying out. This money is saved in a "trust fund." This trust fund is large enough to cover any "shortfall" that occurs when the baby boomers retire.

But starting with Reagan, and especially under Bush, this trust fund was used to pay for the Republican tax cuts for the rich. (This is what Gore was talking about when he said this money should go in a "lockbox.")

Now that the baby boomers are starting to retire Social Security will need to tap into this trust fund to pay their retirement. It's their money but the money is not there -- taken by the Republicans to pay for their tax cuts.

So what is fair? Cutting old people's benefits to cover they money that was taken by the Republicans to give to the rich? Taking more from working people's paychecks to ocver what the Republicans took? Or taxing the rich to cover the money that was given to the rich? Which is fair?

And, most of all, how is this Social Security's problem? How is it Social Security's problem that the conservatives owe Social Security all that money?

With that in mind, watch Obama's commercial, in which he is talking about Social Security's problem entirely in right-wing terms:


Obama is running ads reinforcing the right's bamboozlement that Social Security is running out of money! The language in this ad implies that Social Security's retirement payments are responsible for the shortfall, and does not say that the trust fund was taken to pay for Reagan and Bush's tax cuts.

This language in this ad, if seen and heard by millions of people, could make it so much harder to fight back the next time the right tries to kill off the program by claiming it is insolvent.

I know that Senator Obama's heart is in the right place and he has no intention of harming Social Security. But this ad is a mistake that could backfire. Please stop running this ad and please change the language. Instead of reinforcing the right's lie that Social Security has a problem, let people know that the conservatives took their money from Social Security and gave it out as tax cuts to the rich and THAT is the problem!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 27, 2007

Edwards VS Social Security???

At the bottom of this story: (also on Edwards' website)

Democratic hopeful John Edwards ... in remarks at an event last weekend:

"The American people need a president who will be straight with them — who will be honest about the greatest challenges our government faces. And one of the most important of those is the looming Social Security crisis. ...

WTF? Edwards using discredited right-wing language about a "looming Social Security crisis?"

The only, repeat, ONLY problem is that Reagan and now Bush have borrowed trillions from Social Security to give tax cuts to the rich and soon the government will have to find the money to start paying it back. That isn't Social Security's problem and old people shouldn't have to suffer because of huge tax cuts given to the rich.

So what is Edwards talking about? I had been thinking Edwards was closest to me politically, but I think Dodd has moved up to that honored position.

Update - OK, that got me going. Speaking of right-wing language I decided to check on Edwards' use of the term "tax relief." (follow that link.) He uses the term.

Checking further ...

So does Obama.

So does Hillary.

Sadly, so does Dodd. "Tax relief will also be offered for the construction of new buildings and the refurbishment of older buildings upon initial relocation or start-up."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 23, 2007

IS Greed Good?

This piece originally appeared at the Speak Out California blog.

"Greed is good." That line from the 1987 film Wall Street shocked the country with its blatant articulation of the 1980s-era Reagan philosophy of greed. Twenty years ago it was still a shock to civilized people to hear such a vulgar statement promoting self-interest over community. From the movie,

The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that: Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right; greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge - has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words - will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.
Greed used to be considered one of the "seven deadly sins." Religions warn against its harmful effects on people and the greater community. Buddhism warns that greed is one of the three poisons. W.Jay Wood wrote in Christianity Today,
Greed is an inappropriate attitude toward things of value, built on the mistaken judgment that my well-being is tied to the sum of my possessions....Greed alienates us from God, from our neighbor, and from our true self.
But twenty years after being shocked by the promotion of a "Greed is good" philosophy much of the public instead buys into the consumer culture of greed and self-interest over public-interest. How has this change come about?

It had help. For example, John Stossel, co-anchor of ABC's 20/20 and host of ABC's John Stossel Specials reports for ABC radio, and ABCNews.com wrote a 2006 opinion piece titled Greed Is Good, which he posted at the far-right Townhall site (and many other far-right sites), Stossel writes,

If pursuing profit is greed, economist Walter Williams told me, then greed is good, because it drives us to do many good things. "Those areas where people are motivated the most by greed are the areas that we're the most satisfied with: supermarkets, computers, FedEx." By contrast, areas "where people say we're motivated by 'caring'" - public education, public housing etc. - "are the areas of disaster in our country.... How much would get done," Williams wondered, "if it all depended on human love and kindness?"
This Stossel piece is derived from a 1999 20/20 episode of the same name, and for years was widely promoted and distributed as a "Greed" teaching kit for classrooms by the Palmer R. Chitester Fund, Inc.

The accompanying teachers guide (PDF document), included such "educational" tidbits as,

The video argues that "the more government tries to help, the worse things get" and uses the circumstances of the Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota as an example. Would the Lakota Sioux tribe be more prosperous without government support? What evidence would support or refute this argument?
and,
Some say that decreasing tax rates stimulates the economy by enabling workers to keep more of the money they earn. As a result, they have added ability to put money back into the economy by spending, saving and investing. Others accept high tax burdens believing that the cost of government is justified based on all of its programs and agencies. The video shows an example of the typical two earner household- Bill and Mary Thurston of St. Louis, who both work from January until May to pay their share of annual taxes. Do you think American taxpayers are getting their money's worth? Which taxes do you think are/are not justifiable?
and,
Have students research reports of government waste and report the most egregious cases they can find. Have them detail specific examples of what could happen to a private company that operated in the same manner.
Anti-government propaganda like that is "educational?" Of course not. But there it is, with the credibility and celebrity of both ABC and Stossel backing up the pro-greed, ideological message.

A 2000 Salon.com article titled Prime-time propagandist, said,

"Stossel in the Classroom" is a series of study aids that includes Stossel's popular ABC News special reports, accompanied by study guides written by two conservative economics instructors at George Mason University. The study guides are emblazoned with a big blue ABC News logo and Stossel's face. ABC News and Stossel had almost nothing to do with the development of "Stossel in the Classroom," but the product is deceptively packaged to look like an ABC product.
Who is the Palmer R. Chitester Fund that distributed these so-called study materials? Media Transparency describes The Palmer R. Chitester Fund as follows:
The Palmer R. Chitester Fund was created by the combative Bob Chitester, with startup money from the Bradley Foundation, to create right wing "popular" media, and lately has taken to selling educational materials based on the error-prone reporting of ABC TV's arch-conservative correspondent John Stossel. It's Idea Channel distributes "intellectual" videotapes on conversations between mostly members of the right wing movement on topics ranging from political science to economics to history.
The Fund is now part of Chitester Creative Associates. It's President Bob Chitester proudly declares,
"Over 80% of U.S. secondary schools are now using at least one of our teaching units."
The Fund receives grants from numerous sources to help it distribute similar teaching materials. (One source, for example, is the John Templeton Foundation. John Templeton, such a radical anti-government conservative that he renounced his US citizenship in 1968. Yet, in 2007, Templeton was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People (Time 100) under the category of "Power Givers.)

The Salon article mentions some of the other sources and participants,

One contributor to the "Stossel in the Classroom" series is the John M. Olin Foundation, an organization that popped up regularly in stories detailing Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy" during the investigation and impeachment of President Clinton. For three decades, the Olin Foundation has funded many of the most influential institutions and individuals on the right. Board member and conservative columnist Walter Williams' professorship at George Mason University is also underwritten by Olin.

Chitester Fund is a conservative foundation, sporting John Fund of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Williams among others on its boards. Text on the Chitester Fund Web site describes the organization's mission: "We are particularly interested in illuminating the prerequisites of a free society -- (with an) emphasis on projects that examine the role of government and explain the interrelationship of economic, personal and political freedom," code for a closeted conservative group. [emphasis added]

Yes, some of this is old news - to some of us. But it is worth rehashing because it helps tell the story of disturbing changes in our culture. In the time since the statement "greed is good" shocked us our society certainly has become more greedy and self-interested. And in that time society has become much more of an on-your-own, in-it-for-yourself society as contrasted with a "we're-all-in-this-together, take-care-of-each-other" society. Certainly the "free market"-oriented one-dollar-one-vote"value" has clearly come to dominate over the humanitarian and democratic value of one-person-one-vote.

The "economics education" effort described in one example here is just the tip of an iceberg - of a huge effort to push America's public attitudes rightward. Some have estimated that spending on the conservative movement's "message machine" is over $300 million dollars per year.

What can we learn from this? One thing we can learn is that it is possible to move America's public attitudes and change our culture. The so-called conservatives were certainly able to accomplish this. We can even see and learn from how they did it. It wasn't easy and it wasn't inexpensive, but they proved that a systematic effort to educate the public certainly can succeed.

I think it is time that progressive-minded Americans begin to put resources of our own into an effort to educate the public about the benefits to them of values like democracy (one-person-one-vote vs one-dollar-one-vote) and community (taking care of each other rather than everyone on their own and out for themselves). We must do this to restore the country that our Founding Fathers envisioned.

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

October 21, 2007

War Profiteering and Corruption -- Here Is Something You Can Do

Frank Rich's column today, Suicide Is Not Painless, talks about the systematic corruption of defense contracting, especially where Iraq is involved.

Here's the thing. You and I read the blogs, so we already know at least something about what is going on. You and I know about, for example, the truckloads of cash that were shipped to Iraq to be handed out in bricks. We know about the $9 billion that just disappeared. But most people in the country are not exposed to the information that blog readers take for granted, haven't heard about it, and would have a hard time believing that anything like this is going on. I'm serious. But remember, a huge chunk of the population still thinks that Iraq attacked us on 9/11 - or was at least involved - and there's a big chunk that believes that weapons of mass destruction were found.

There is something we can all do to help. Today's column about the corruption should be sent around by e-mail to people who don't usually read blogs.

Please help with this by e-mailing it to people. People need to know about the corruption and fraud that our huge "defense" budget is generating. If more people understood what is going on, there would be less vulnerability to Republican propaganda that says cutting military budgets - or even having hearings looking into the corruption - is unpatriotic. That kind of talk is nothing but a game to keep the corruption going, but it will keep working unless more people learn about what is going on and where their money is going.

The Abramoff corruption machine was modeled after the defense-contractor scheme, but was tiny and amateurish in comparison. (For example, the Abramoff operation didn't actually buy entire media companies as a way to help keep people from learning about the racket, as defense contractors have done.)

Please read Frank Rich's column today, and please, please send it to friends and relatives who might not otherwise see what is going on. And ask them to send it on to others!

Please read it, and e-mail it to others. Then, after you have done that, read Billions over Baghdad, another story about the massive corruption.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 16, 2007

Nine Scientific Errors In Gore's Film?

You may have been hearing that a British court ruled that there are "nine scientific errors in Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth"

Nope. Of course not. Just more of the usual right-wing propaganda.

Deltoid: An 'error' is not the same thing as an error,

A UK High Court judge has rejected a lawsuit by political activist Stuart Dimmock to ban the showing of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth in British schools. Justice Burton agreed that
"Al Gore's presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate."

There were nine points where Burton decided that AIT differed from the IPCC and that this should be addressed in the Guidance Notes for teachers to be sent out with the movie.
GO read the rest.

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

October 5, 2007

A Bad Ad In A Teachable Moment

The AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, MoveOn.org, Americans United for Change, USAction, and True Majority are going to spend millions of dollars running an ad against targeted Republicans urging them to override President Bush's veto of SCHIP, the child health coverage bill. The ad says the candidates are targeted because they support “Billions of Dollars for Iraq War, But Veto for Children’s Health Care”

My problem with the ad is that it does not teach a larger lesson. This is "a teachable moment." People are upset that President Bush is vetoing this bill, but they do not understand the deeper ideological principals behind what is happening to them. This is an opportunity to teach people that conservatives believe in a you-are-on-your-own, dog-eat-dog philosophy and progressives believe we are all in this together for each other.

The ad says "George Bush and his backers would rather send half a trillion to Iraq than spend a fraction of that here to keep our kids healthy." Even by changing "and his backers" to "and the conservatives" they could have let people know that it isn't just Bush and it isn't about particular politicians, it's the conservative ideology that is hurting them. This issue is about differences in philosophy between conservatives and progressives.

But instead of teaching the public a lesson about what is happening to us all, this coalition will spend millions running this ad against individual politicians, and in the end the money will literally just go up in the air(waves) and nothing will remain behind.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:49 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 2, 2007

Victim Limbaugh

Limbaugh Latest Victim in War of Condemnation - New York Times.

LIMBAUGH is the victim of the Democrats! Wow. There is a brilliance to this.

I bow to them. I am shocked AND awed.

And then there is the difference between Republicans and Democrats on this:

More than 40 Democratic senators signed a letter sent Tuesday to the company that syndicates the radio show, asking that Mr. Limbaugh’s remarks be repudiated.

But no Republican senators signed the letter, highlighting a significant difference between the responses to the MoveOn advertisement and the Limbaugh comments. The Republican-backed plan to condemn the Petraeus advertisement drew substantial Democratic backing in the House and Senate, while Democrats have been unable to splinter Republicans on Mr. Limbaugh.

In fact, Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, has prepared a resolution praising Mr. Limbaugh should Democrats proceed with what he said was an unwarranted attack on a private citizen. “He is a talk show host,” Mr. Kingston said. “He has a right to speak out and say what he thinks.”

There is a time to know when you are just outmatched.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 1, 2007

AP Prints Tobacco Company Press Release As News

In today's paper - San Jose Mercury News - Cigarette tax would hurt poor. This is an AP story. It begins,

Congressional Democrats have chosen an unlikely source to pay for the bulk of their proposed $35 billion increase in children's health coverage: people with relatively little money and education.

... The program expansion passed by the House and Senate last week would be financed with a 156 percent increase in the federal cigarette tax, taking it to $1 per pack from the current 39 cents. Low-income people smoke more heavily than wealthier people in the United States, making cigarette taxes a regressive form of revenue.

Democrats, who wrote the legislation and provided most of its votes, generally portray themselves as champions of the poor.

This is what is considered "news" in corporate America.

I'll have more on the idea that taxes "hurt" peoplelater...

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

September 9, 2007

Playing The Victim

One of the right's core propaganda tactics is portraying themselves as victims. Today's example has The Weekly Standard saying MoveOn.org is calling General Pertaeus a "traitor." MoveOn.org Calls Petraeus a Traitor begins,

Tomorrow--as General David Petraeus provides his Iraq assessment to Congress--the antiwar group MoveOn.org is running a full-page advertisement in the New York Times under the headline: "General Petraeus or General Betray us? Cooking the books for the White House."

Let's be clear: MoveOn.org is suggesting that General Petraeus has 'betrayed' his country. This is disgusting. To attack as a traitor an American general commanding forces in war because his 'on the ground' experience does not align with MoveOn.org's political objectives is utterly shameful. It shows contempt for America's military leadership, as well as for the troops who have confidence in him, as our fellow soldiers in Iraq certainly do.

How silly can you get? No one is calling Petraeus a traitor here. But the cult wingnuts will just eat it up, of course.

But the strategic purpose is to marginalize MoveOn.org, and thereby try to make Democratic party leaders afraid to accept their support. The article is written by the Executive Director of the Republican Party front-group Vets for Freedom.

Morning update - The right's echo chamber is picking up the drumbeat, with one site actually calling for an American civil war against the left:

Wake Up America:

WE CAN NOT CONTINUE TO GO ON ALLOWING OUR NATION TO BE RIPPED APART BY THOSE WHO WISH TO DESTROY US NOT ONLY FROM THE OUTSIDE BUT FROM WITHIN AS WELL.

Is it going to take an escalation of things into violence, again, within this nation for us to unite AS a nation? Let me warn you of this, those of you who are BUCKING for a second "Civil War" in the United States: the MINUTE lines are draw and ranks are formed for us to do battle against one another, do you HONESTLY THINK that the rest of the world is going to stand idly by and let us duke it out amongst ourselves may the best side win? HELL NO! Russia and China are watching this with baited breath, mark my words. The Taliban and al-Queda are CHEERING us on to continue to pull apart internally. Our ALLIES are watching us to see what happens. And we have MoveOn.org planning to run this add calling the top general in Iraq a traitor because they don't like the war.

Right Wing News:
It's really shameful that the Left is trying to do this to a decent, talented general, whose only crime is winning a war that the Democrats are heavily politically invested in losing.
Blue Crab Blvd:
If any Democrat thinks they have a shield because MoveOn did it - not them - it is time to disabuse them of that notion. The disgusting, sleazy level of slime that MoveOn has reached here is beyond contempt.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

All You Need To Know About Petraeus' Report

Featured today at the Drudge Report this morning:

Following their testimony to Congress, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will appear exclusively on FOX News Channel on Monday at 9pm EDT for a one hour live interview with Brit Hume... Developing...
That's really all you need to know about Petraeus and his report, don't you think? Drudge Report and Fox. Yup.

Will they also give an exclusive interview to Rush Limbaugh this week?

Update - Now the right is trying to change the narrative, claiming that MoveOn.org is calling Petraeus a traitor.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 1, 2007

How People's Thinking Changed

This is a great post on how people's attitudes were shaped in the last few decades. Daily Kos: My neighbor, John

Read down the comments, as well, they're a good part of understanding the thinking.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 23, 2007

Another Smear/Lie On Bill Clinton Is Circulating

In 1998 President Clinton launched a major attack on al Queda and tried to kill Osama bin Laden:

The United States launched cruise missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan yesterday against centres allegedly linked with the terrorist bombings of two American embassies.
At the time the right mocked him for it, claiming he was"wagging the dog" and "bombing an asprin factory" - a chemical plant that belonged to Osama bin Laden.

And just how many cruise missiles were launched at bin Laden in Afghanistan?

About 75 cruise missiles landed in Afghanistan at Bin Laden's camps around Khost and Jalalabad. The Khost camp, Zawhar Kili, was the scene of a meeting of "senior leaders of Islamic militant and terrorist groups linked to bin Laden," and was regarded by Pakistani intelligence as a "summit" convened by bin Laden.
75 cruise missiles launched directly at al Queda camps in Afghanistan. 75 cruise missiles!

Today Newsweek has a craftily-worded story that the right is using to smear former President Bill Clinton, saying he lied about trying to get bin Laden. The Newsweek story, The Report the CIA Didn't Want You to See, contains the following passages,

... The report also seemed to raise new questions about former President Clinton’s angry claim to Fox News anchor Chris Wallace last year that he had authorized the CIA to “kill” Osama bin Laden—a directive that the report suggested was more ambiguous and limited than Clinton asserted.

[. . .] Clinton appeared to have been referring to a December 1999 Memorandum of Notification (MON) he signed that authorized the CIA to use lethal force to capture, not kill, bin Laden. But the inspector general’s report made it clear that the agency never viewed the order as a license to “kill” bin Laden—one reason it never mounted more effective operations against him. “The restrictions in the authorities given the CIA with respect to bin Laden, while arguably, although ambiguously, relaxed for a period of time in late 1998 and early 1999, limited the range of permissible operations,” the report stated.

So let's look at what the right is spreading today.

Don Surber: Clinton lied, people died,

Michael Isikoff, the reporter who broke the Monica Lewinsky story only to have his editors at Newsweek spike the story, has caught Bill Clinton in another lie: He never authorized the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Surber clearly doesn't understand what a cruise missile is - or what 75 of them can do.

Captain's Quarters, Did Clinton Lie About Targeting Bin Laden?,

It appears that Bill Clinton may have exaggerated his record when it came to strategizing against Osama bin Laden. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball take a look at the Inspector General's report of the pre-9/11 intelligence failures at the CIA and find an interesting nugget. Despite Clinton's angry assertion to Chris Wallace in last year's controversial Fox interview, he never gave the CIA an assassination order regarding bin Laden.
Morrissey apparently also doesn't understand what a cruise missile is capable of.

Macsmind, To Slick Willie it depends on what you mean by “Kill”,

Capt Ed notes that Newsweek (ugh) has apparently caught Slick in another (I’ve lost count) lie.

[. . .] the fact remains that Clinton didn’t do squat because they didn’t see Bin Laden as important as keeping his ass from being removed from office - it’s that simple.

Liberty Pundit, Did Clinton Lie? Is The Pope Catholic?,
How do you know if Bill Clinton is lying? His lips are moving...

[. . .] So Bill Clinton, adamantly saying that he “tried to kill him” was a complete lie. And I’m not surprised one bit that it was.

... He did nothing.

We were attacked at least three times on his watch, and he did nothing (first WTC attack, the African embassies, and the USS Cole…I might be leaving one out).

More examples:

Hang Right Politics, CIA Report Unmasks Another Clinton Lie

Billy Boy Caught In A Lie, Again…


Wake Up America
,

There is plenty of blame to go around for 9/11 and Clinton is going to have to start accepting his fair share of it.

Clinton Caught In Yet Another Lie

The Strate-Sphere
,

The conservative bloggers have had Clinton on tape himself commenting on how he talked himself into impotence on Bin Laden. Clinton was not a lame duck in his second term - he was a hamstrung duck. He could not dare to make any bold moves because of his personal/professional issues. So while he was being serviced by an intern in the Oval Office he let Bin Laden run free to finish his work on 9-11. They ultimate screwing of the American people - and he did not even offer us a drink.

Q and O, Clinton caught in another fabrication,
That he lied about his order concerning bin Laden should come as no surprise.

Gateway Pundit, Newsweek Reporters Catch Slick Willy in Another Lie?

Ace of Spades,

Didn't we already know Clinton had refused to actually give a kill order on bin Ladin? We know this, it's proven by documentation, but the media won't report it. I'd say it's possible the media will be shamed into finally reporting it by this new report, but that's simply absurd.

And it goes on and on. That's a whole lot of so-called "conservatives" who don't even know what a cruise missile is.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 24, 2007

While Progressives Talk To Each Other, Conservatives Talk To The Public

Progressive bloggers talk to each other. Conservatives talk to the public.

For example, Bush and the Republicans recently renewed their claim Iraq attacked us on 9/11 and that is why we invaded that country. Their politicians, pundits, talk-show hosts, bloggers, news anchors, op-ed writers, letter-to-the-editor writers and others all said it, using largely the same "tested" words and phrases, on the radio, in the newspapers, in their blogs and on their TV channels. Progressive bloggers responded with the truth, but who did they reach?

The right talks to the public, and it works. Support for Initial Invasion Has Risen, Poll Shows,

Americans’ support for the initial invasion of Iraq has risen somewhat as the White House has continued to ask the public to reserve judgment about the war until at least the fall.

[. . .] However, the number of people who say the war is going “very badly” has fallen from 45 percent earlier in July to a current reading of 35 percent...

[. . .] The poll’s findings are in line with those of one conducted last week by The New York Times and CBS News.

And other lies continue as well. Just today, for example, from the right-wing Heritage Foundation, The War in Iraq: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions,
While WMD were not found, some may have been moved to Syria in the convoys of hundreds of trucks that crossed the border just before the U.S.-led intervention and during the first few weeks of fighting.

[. . .] If the U.S. pulls out of Iraq before it has a stable government capable of defending itself, the likes of bin Laden will have a safe haven from which to attack the U.S. again.

[. . .] If we stand back and allow al-Qaeda's terrorists to succeed, they will turn Iraq into a base for attacking us, just as they turned Afghanistan into a base for attacking us. The Clinton Administration decided that the U.S. had no stake in the civil war in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Only after the Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to operate from its territory did we discover—too late—that we did have a stake there.

Right, blame Clinton. But it was Clinton who did something about Iraq's WMD, and tried to do something about al Qaeda before 9/11, not Bush. Remember the "aspirin factory?"

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.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 7, 2007

The Fall Lie-Attack Started Today

Yesterday I said the lie-attack would begin this fall, but it only took a day. Yesterday I wrote,

This fall President Bush will veto a number of spending bills, saying that they spend too much money. This will be accompanied by a huge, orchestrated media campaign blasting out the message: "We told you so. Now that Democrats are in charge they have gone wild with spending."

... There will also be an orchestrated campaign to convince the public that Democrats are making their taxes go up - because of the spending.

Today, Bush's radio address, Bush sharpens budget attack on Democrats,

Escalating a budget battle with Democrats who control Congress, President George W. Bush accused them on Saturday of pushing tax-and-spend policies and renewed his veto threat.

"They are working to bring back the failed tax-and-spend policies of the past," he said in his weekly radio address. "Democrats are failing in their responsibility to make tough decisions and spend the people's money wisely."

... Bush accused Democrats of proposing in the next five years the "biggest tax increase in history" though he gave no details how he reached that conclusion. "I have made clear that I will veto any attempt to take America down this road," he said.

Let's hope my other prediction - political prosecutors indicting Democrats - does not come true.

I left out one thing from my prediction: Republicans will block every piece of legislation and then say that the Democrats aren't passing any legislation.

Update - News media plays along, check this headline: Bush rips Democratic lawmakers' failures,

President Bush accused Democratic lawmakers on Saturday of being unable to live up to their duties, citing Congress' inability to pass legislation to fund the federal government.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:21 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 26, 2007

Employee Free Choice Fear and Smear

Bob Geiger has a post up: BobGeiger.com: GOP Gives Employee Free Choice Act Fear-And-Smear Treatment.

The Employee Free Choice Act helps restore some ability for employees to unionize. Under Reagan and then under Bush it has become nearly impossiblefor employees to form a union, and those trying to do so get fired. This is against the law, of course, but who enforces the law when it brushes up against what the big corporations want? And the big corporations do NOT want unions.

So the Republicans are out there with the fear and smear tactics. Read Bob's post for examples.

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

June 16, 2007

What The Public 'Knows' - Congressional Spending

I often write about what the public 'knows.' (For example, the public 'knew' that Iraq attacked us on 9/11 and was about to attack us with weapons of mass destruction before we invaded.)

Right now the public 'knows' that in the last few years Congress went way out of control with the spending. And Republicans understand that the public 'knows' that Democrats tax and spend.

I'm not sure that the public knows - or cares - that it was the Republicans who controlled Congress who were the spenders. I am sure that they won't remember that for very long because it is not being repeated and is not being tied to a larger narrative about Republicans.

What is being repeated is that Democrats tax and spend. And the Republicans are busy reinforcing that: Bush blasts Democrats over budget spending,

"I will use my veto to stop tax increases and runaway spending that threaten the strength of our economy and the prosperity of our people," Bush said in his weekly radio address. He was spending the weekend at his Texas ranch.

"By keeping taxes low and restraining federal spending, we can meet my plan to have a balanced budget by 2012," he said. "The Democrats in Congress are trying to take us in a different direction."

I wonder if the Democratic leadership understands what is happening. Everything that the public is upset about after years of Republican government is being transferred - in the public mind - over to them.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 4, 2007

Messiah-Candidate Thinking

I hear lots of people express the sentiment, "If only Gore would enter the race (or if only Obama took the lead, etc.), everything would be OK and progressives would win again." This is what I call "Messiah-Candidate Thinking." The example that got me thinking about this was a DailyKos diary today: An Inconvenient Truth: Mr. Gore You HAVE to run in 2008,

Mr. Gore, you are the person best suited to rescue us from the assaults on reason, our Constitution, our environment, our security, and our domestic infrastructure perpetrated on us by the Busheviks and their allies.
I am not faulting the sentiment here. I love Gore and he would be a great President. I think most of the candidates would make great Presidents. But I don't think that one person or one election is going to lead us out of the wilderness. I think there is a lot of work required before progressives can win again and turn America in a progressive direction.

Do the conservatives run great candidates? Is that what has worked for them? Was Bush a great candidate? Or was it something else?

Here is what I think. Liberals and progressives used to win elections. They used to be a majority and everyone got used to it. So a lot of people think that all we need to do is find the right candidate who will articulate things well and get "the facts" out for them -- and the public will turn out in droves again. They look for another John F. Kennedy or Bill Clinton, thinking that's all that is needed to turn things back around.

But times have changed. The "conservative movement" has spent more than thirty years bombarding the public with coordinated, professionally-crafted propaganda that has changed the thinking of the public. This propaganda has gone unanswered and we are seeing the effects all around us.

Think about this - most people's political thinking developed since Reagan was elected. Heck, a good portion of the population doesn't remember a time before George W. Bush! So most of them have never been exposed to information that positively explains what progressives stand for, or the benefits of unions -- or even peace. This has had a terrible effect on the politics of this country.

This right-wing assault has eroded the public's understanding of (and belief in) democracy and community. It has even eroded understanding of - and faith in - science and reason! So I think there is a lot of work that has to be done to bring things back. We have to spend the money and do the work and take the time to build the think tanks and communications organizations (like Commonweal Institute) that will reach the public and explain and promote the benefits of progressive values and a progressive approach to issues. Over time this effort will restore public demand for progressive candidates.

Messiah-Candidate Thinking is a way to avoid facing the changes that have occurred in America. It is a way to put off the work that needs to be done.

So yes, I am all for Gore running. But I don't think it is the be-all and end-all. There is a lot of work to do before America turns back to a progressive direction.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 27, 2007

Cheney Lays It Out

Vice President's Remarks at the United States Military Academy Commencement,

As Army officers on duty in the war on terror, you will now face enemies who oppose and despise everything you know to be right, every notion of upright conduct and character, and every belief you consider worth fighting for and living for. Capture one of these killers, and he'll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States. Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away. These are men who glorify murder and suicide. Their cruelty is not rebuked by human suffering, only fed by it. They have given themselves to an ideology that rejects tolerance, denies freedom of conscience, and demands that women be pushed to the margins of society. The terrorists are defined entirely by their hatreds, and they hate nothing more than the country you have volunteered to defend.

The terrorists know what they want and they will stop at nothing to get it. By force and intimidation, they seek to impose a dictatorship of fear, under which every man, woman, and child lives in total obedience to their ideology. Their ultimate goal is to establish a totalitarian empire, a caliphate, with Baghdad as its capital. They view the world as a battlefield and they yearn to hit us again. And now they have chosen to make Iraq the central front in their war against civilization.

But no taxes to pay for the war to save civilization, no draft, no cuts in oil use, no sacrifice of any kind. Go shopping, etc. Right.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 27, 2007

SP ALERT: The Candidates All Flubbed The ONLY Question.

By Dave Johnson and James Boyce.

Will America be safer with a Republican president?

This has been the big "elephant in the room" question: the Republican branding of "strong on defense." Did any of the candidates knock this down?

Senator Clinton Senatorially said it is a "disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality" and then dived into policy details. "We haven't secured our borders, our ports, our mass transit systems ... resources haven't gotten to the front lines where decisions are made in local government..."

Senator Dodd also filibustered with boring policy details. "our first responders are not getting the support they deserve. The administration has been resistant in supporting them ... , not building the kind of international support -- stateless terrorism is a multinational problem ... requires a multinational response ... institutions we need to build to effectively engage and fight back against terrorism ... need to have leadership that knows how to build those relationships, to encourage that kind of participation..."

The other candidates didn't get a chance to respond, and politely did not.

But this is the question. This is, to many, the only question. Why didn't these candidates knock it out of the park?

We would not have been so polite. We would have made Mike Gravel look tame and shy -- shouting and waving our arms. We would have said:

"This is a lie. This is a marketing fraud perpetuated by the Right Wing against the American people. This is a well funded marketing program that is determined to mislead the American people and give them the Right Wing the power to send our sons and daughters to their deaths. It is just false.

This country was attacked on 9/11 and Americans died because this Republican administration was weak, not strong.

New York firefighters died because Rudy Giuliani was incompetent, and far from a hero.

The facts are clear. The Republicans market the myth. The Democrats deal in the reality of serving their country on the battlefield when they're young and keeping this country safer when they serve in Washington."


From the debate transcript:

MR. WILLIAMS: Governor, thank you. We're all out of time.

Senator Clinton, Rudolph Giuliani, a friend of yours from back home, said this past week, quote: "The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us." Another quote: "America will be safer with a Republican president." How do you think, Senator, it happened that that notion of Republicans as protectors in a post-9/11 world has taken on so?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Brian, I think that, as a senator from New York, it is something that I've worked on very hard ever since 9/11 to try to convince the administration to do those things that would actually work to make us safer. And I think there's a big disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality.

You know, we haven't secured our borders, our ports, our mass transit systems. You can go across this country and see so much that has not been done. The resources haven't gotten to the front lines where decisions are made in local government the way that they need to, and I think that this administration has consistently tried to hype the fear without delivering on the promise of making America safer. And its foreign policy around the world, as you've heard from all of my colleagues here, has also made the world less stable, which, of course, has a ripple effect with respect to what we're going to face in the future.

So I hope that we can put that myth to rest. It is certainly something I will try to do during that -- the campaign.
MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Dodd, same question. How has this label been attached to the Democratic Party, that the Republicans will protect America best?

SEN. DODD: Well, that's a great question, Brian, because it's a myth in the sense when you consider what this administration has done over six years, given the attacks we faced on 9/11. Here, our first responders are not getting the support they deserve. The administration has been resistant in supporting them. The war in Iraq -- we haven't been dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan, where our efforts should have been over the last number of years, not building the kind of international support -- stateless terrorism is a multinational problem. It's a tactic. It requires a multinational response. This administration has walked away from that. The very institutions we need to build to effectively engage and fight back against terrorism, this administration seems to take the other track and move in a different direction.

I would have answered your question earlier on what's a serious threat we face. It is stateless terrorism. It isn't states; it's the absence of diplomacy, the absence of engaging nations around the world to build those relationships that allow us to have a far more effective response to these -- this scourge that we face in this century. We need to have leadership that knows how to build those relationships, to encourage that kind of participation. This administration's done just the opposite.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 14, 2007

WHY They Say Such Outrageous Things

Jamison Foser writes in this week's "Media Matters",

In the midst of a torrent of comments about "femi-Nazis" and "bitches" and "hos," these more subtle problems are rarely even noticed, and even more rarely discussed among the media elite and those who appear on their shows.

And that may be the most damaging effect of the kind of commentary that we routinely hear from the likes of Imus and Limbaugh and Coulter: Rhetoric that should be unacceptable becomes merely outrageous; that which should be outrageous becomes merely controversial; and that which should be controversial is barely noticed, if at all.

I gave a talk a few weeks ago to an organization that supports public education. My talk as titled We're All In This Together. I began the talk by playing a video clip of Neil Boortz on Fox, saying that teachers unions are more dangerous to America than terrorists armed with nuclear weapons because a nuke could only wipe out 100,000 people but public schools are "destroying a generation."

I talked about the terrible things right-wingers routinely say. Then I explained the Right's Overton Window strategy of walking people's thinking up a ladder that turns unthinkable ideas into acceptable and even reasonable-sounding.

After explaining the Overton Window I said,

NOW we can understand the role of people like the guy from the video clip. He is out at the extreme – on the right side of the see-saw. Anything LESS extreme sounds almost moderate by comparison – in the window of “thinkable.” THIS is why they say those outrageous things. They’re walking people up the ladder. It’s part of the long-term strategy.
If you're interested, I have the whole thing posted over at the Commonweal Institute blog, along with links to reference materials.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 13, 2007

Anti-Islam Propaganda

The latest propaganda from the right: "The secret plan of the Democratic Party..."

Picture of 9/11 plane flying into WTC tower, scary music, scary photos of brown people...

"At the time America is facing the greatest danger of her history...

...When our freedom is at stake...

...The Democratic Party of America has a plan to defend the country..."

Greatest danger, but no draft, no taxes to pay for the war, no calls to enlist, no sacrifice of any kind, the President tells us to "go shopping." Right. Watch the video.

Dirty fucking hippies in tie-died clothes, gays dressed like clowns, bad pics of Democratic leaders, Marlboro Man soldiers smoking cigarettes, etc...

Headline: "Treason - shameful vote aids our enemies", followed by a picture of Nancy Pelosi ...

Photoshopped picture of John Kerry witha French mustache and beret.

Seal of the Democratic Party around a picture of a baby crying.

Finally ending with a nuclear bomb going off and Democrats holding up white flags of surrender.

All to the tune of "Feel the love"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 1, 2007

Drumming Up The Fear For Summer

Headlined at Drudge, this: IDF intelligence: Iran, Hizbullah preparing for possible US strike - Israel News, Ynetnews.

Sounds bad, no? Iran AND Hizbullah both getting ready to strike at the United Stastes this summer!

But if you do what most people do not do - click through to the story and read it - it does NOT say they are preparing to strike the U.S. It says they fear that the U.S. is going to attack them.

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

March 29, 2007

The New Terrified America

In the New Terrified America, many parents think that pedophile sexual predators lie in wait around every corner, hoping to snatch their kids away. Some parents won't let their kids play outside anymore. Some schools won't allow kids to walk to school without a parent. I think it's idiotic, but it seems to have become the cultural norm now.

Go read FEAR, FEAR, FEAR... (read the comments, too. And an aside - in the comments note how right-wingers feel perfectly free to just make up stuff about "trial lawyers" and expect to be believed.)

A comment. A child is about 10,000 times more likely to be hurt or killed in a car than kidnapped by a sexual predator. (There are about 100 cases of kidnapping by sexual predators in the United States per year. About 1 in 7700 of us die in cars each year, about 1 in 1000 of us are injured each year.) Motor vehicles are the leading cause of death in children in the United States. So what does this fear cause parents to do? They put their kids in cars.

I watch some television, and last year (leading up to the election) almost every show seemed to be about child molesters...

Question for discussion -- this really, really serves the interests of authoritarians who want people to be afraid. So is it intentional? Is America being whipped into a frenzy of fear on purpose?

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

March 23, 2007

How Much Of The Public "Know" Iraq Was Behind 9/11?

Regular readers know that I'm always interested in what the public "knows." This tells you a lot about where the public gets its information.

I'm looking for polling on public beliefs about Iraq being connected to the 9/11 attacks.

Last September, FIVE years after the war, Sept. 2006 Zogby International poll has 46% of the public believing that Iraq was connected to the 9/11 attack - with 65% of Republicans believing this and even 32% of Democrats.

Has anyone seen more recent polling.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 13, 2007

Did Clinton Also Fire Prosecutors? - UPDATED -

You're going to hear a story that "Clinton fired 93 prosecutors" when he took office, while this whole prosecutor scandal is about Bush firing only 11.

The fact is that EVERY President changes the US Attorneys when taking office. Bush also did the same thing when he took office. That is different. This has never happened before. THIS scandal is about Bush using the federal prosecutors to only go after Democrats, and to ignore crimes by Republicans.

And here's the thing. The ones that were fired were let go because they wouldn't "play ball." So the question is, what about the ones who were not fired?

It is one more example of how the entire government has been converted into a Party apparatus - as well as working to further the interests of the K-Street/Abramoff corruption machine. You hear about Interior Department employees ordered not to discuss global warming. You hear about the head of HUD telling underlings not to give contracts to Democrats. You hear over and over about "conected" companies getting huge no-bid contracts with no accountability...

IF Bush gets away with this - if the current prosecutors, Attorney General, Bush, etc. remain in place - come election time 2008 the only news the PUBLIC will be hearing is news about federal indictments of corrupt Democrats. That's what this is about.

Update - CREW calls for a Special Prosecutor because obviously the Bush Justice Department isn't going to investigate. But who appoints the special prosecutor?

CREW wants the immediate appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate potential criminal violations related to the recent dismissals of eight U.S. Attorneys. Recent revelations indicate that a top-ranking Department of Justice official knew that statements made by top Department officials were not true. Clearly, the Department of Justice cannot investigate itself and prosecute the misconduct of DOJ officials. CREW also asked the Department of Justice’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate the situation.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 5, 2007

Right-Wing Narrative Coming: Government To Blame For VA Mess

Have you been following the Walter Reed & VA Hospital mess? Read this. The Republicans privatized care at Walter Reed (corruptly throwing a contract to the SAME PEOPLE - Republican campaign contributors - who screwed up ice delivery after Katrina). They gutted the professional staff and cut everything so the money would flow to a few rich fucks instead of to caring for the troops.

But what are they telling the public? That it's an example of the problem with GOVERNMENT! After firing all the professional staff and outsourcing everything they're telling people that government can't fire people so they don't care about the troops.

Republicans: Gut the government, pocket the funds, then BLAME the government when things stop working.

Example: NPR : Is Bureaucracy to Blame for Walter Reed Shame?

Example

Newsflash: Government-run health care sucks The Washington Post is back today with another story about the pitfalls of the military health care system.:
Example: Government Healthcare and YOU!
If you’ve been watching the news lately you will most likely will have seen a special or two on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The men and women who put their lives on the line for their country are being placed in horrible conditions.

... THIS, is what you will get nation wide if you decide to hand over your health care to the federal government.

Example:
If you had any doubts about universal health care, which is to say, health care furnished and managed by the government, examine the complaints about the health care furnished our veteran's by the government.

If they can't get it together to furnish decent health care to our veteran's, what chance do the rest of us have?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 13, 2007

How the “Pelosi 757” Lie Was Spread

Another day, another right-wing lie spreads through the media and across the country...

The current $mear on Speaker Pelosi is a case study in how the right-wing $mear machine operates. The right has been working to spread a lie that Speaker Pelosi “demanded” a “luxury jet” to fly herself and “supporters” and “contributors” around. The lie is effective because it ties a current event to a deeper, long-term resentment narrative about “limousine liberals” that the right has been pushing for years. It is spreading across the country because it is passed through a prepared pipe to the places where the general public receives their information.

The facts are simple: since 9/11, for obvious security reasons, the Speaker of the House of Representatives (who is next in line behind the Vice President to become President) has flown on government rather than commercial aircraft. Speaker Pelosi is from California, so with the House now back to a five-day workweek the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives requested a jet that can make it to California non-stop. According to the Sergeant-at-Arms,

"The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable."
That is the entire story, period. But the right’s propaganda machine has been working to blow this up into a story that supports their “limousine liberal” resentment narrative, adding various embellishments with each passing day. According to this narrative, liberals are rich “elitists” from the coasts who think they are smarter and generally superior to the “regular people” in “the heartland.” This is meant to create a resentment backlash, bringing votes to conservative candidates so they can get into office … and give tax cuts to rich elitists.

Over several days, the “Pelosi plane” story has been expanded into a fable that has Speaker Pelosi “demanding” a “floating pleasure palace,” a “luxury 757” with two beds, a bar, and 40 first-class seats, so she can “transport her political cronies, favorite Members of Congress, congressional staffers, friends and relatives.”

An interesting point to note about this story is that such government planes do exist. The Bush administration has actually purchased such planes for use by executive branch officials and military brass. But this “use of luxury aircraft at taxpayer's expense” is not objected to in the retelling of this story. The objection is to their use by Speaker of the House Pelosi in particular. So perhaps part of the right’s anger driving this issue can be laid to authoritarian resentment about a member of Congress - “the People’s House” - a female Speaker, no less - being “demanding” enough to possibly gain use of one of “their” luxury planes.

As so many $mears do, this one originated with the Reverend Moon's Washington Times and was quickly spread across the right's echo chamber. Though the Reverend Moon preaches that Christianity must be “torn down” because he is the true Prophet and our “True Parent,” the Christian Coalition again joined forces with him to condemn Pelosi,

Christian Coalition of America condemns the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from San Francisco, for trying to get luxurious travel paid for by the American taxpayers. Is a first class seat on a commercial jet no longer good enough for Speaker Pelosi? Nancy Pelosi is demanding that the Air Force provide her with a large jet on demand - “Pelosi One” - so she can transport her political cronies, favorite Members of Congress, congressional staffers, friends and relatives back and forth to her district in San Francisco every week.
Others joined forces with Moon’s efforts. The New York Post wrote in the story,
AIR-OGANT NANCY, DEMANDS 22G-AN-HOUR JET OF SAME TYPE VEEP GETS,
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is demanding regular use of the military's "Lincoln Bedroom" in the sky - a luxurious aircraft of the same type that carries Vice President Dick Cheney and First Lady Laura Bush on official trips, officials said yesterday.
In a development that has some Republicans and defense officials fuming, Pelosi recently asked the Pentagon to give her access to the Air Force's super-opulent C-32 for flights to her San Francisco home and other official trips.

The floating pleasure palace is a reconfigured Boeing 757 stored at Andrews Air Force Base with Air Force One and the rest of the fleet of executive aircraft.

The aircraft has a game room, stateroom, showers, a communications center and seats 42 to 50 people, according to the Air Force.

It costs taxpayers $22,000 an hour to operate, according to military and congressional sources.
“It will be a flying Lincoln Bedroom,” said House GOP Whip Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
“This shows an unprecedented sense of entitlement. This is a symbol of hypocrisy, this is a symbol of excess and this is a symbol of arrogance,” said a member of the House Republican Conference.

Far-right outlets like NewsMax echoed and amplified the $mear. The Republican Party itself put up a web page titled, “Non-Stop” Nancy Seeks Flight Of Fancy, claiming,
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Wants Non-Stop Military Aircraft For Herself, Staff, Family, And Other Members In California Delegation
And right-wing talk radio has, of course, echoed the $mear all day, every day.

But the right’s “echo chamber” reaches far beyond newspapers, TV and radio. People receive information in lots of ways, and the conservative machine has studied them and puts them to use. Online message boards and e-mail chain-forwarding, for example, can be a useful barometer of right-wing smear-planting operations. The same wording repeated at many boards often indicates that something is going on. The number of examples resulting from a Google search for the phrase “Nancy Pelosi's Gas Guzzling 757 Flying Bedroom”, for example, demonstrates that this may be occurring.

One message board example, posted by “Air Pelosi One” at various discussion groups, (also found here) reads:

Note: The author of this message requested that it not be archived. This message will be removed from Groups in 4 days (Feb 16, 2:21 pm).
The list of things Nancy Pelosi (allegedly) wants with relation to her air travel just gets funnier and funnier every day. Each new day someone comes up with something wilder she allegedly is asking for. So here's the Top Ten List of what Nancy Pelosi wants:
10. Hot male strippers as pilots
9. Young gay nubile boyz as flight attendants
8. Hot lesbian oil wrestlers for inflight entertainment
7. Nonstop supply of recreational drugs
6. Wall-to-wall mattresses for Democratic Party orgies
5. An olympic sized swimming pool
4. Dubya's bronzed balls mounted in a trophy case by the plane door
3. A Boeing 747 - previously the largest commercial plane in the world
2. An Airbus A380 - the current largest commercial plane in the world
1. The Space Shuttle!
Many similar examples can be found across the Internet. A Google search for the terms “Pelosi” with the term “757” already yields over 160,000 results. A quick check shows that a substantial number of the listed results are about this particular story.
“Heartland” newspapers piled on, picking up the “limousine liberal” narrative. The Evansville Courier Press, for example, in and editorial titled Air Pelosi, The Issue: House speaker demands airliner-sized jet, writes,
… She is demanding - and, given her style, “demand” is the correct verb - that the Pentagon supply her with an airliner-size jet, the military version of a Boeing 757, to fly her to and from her San Francisco district.

… One Republican-allied group weighed in, decrying the “42 leather business-class seats, a fully enclosed stateroom for Nancy Pelosi, stewards who serve meals and tend an open bar, and other such luxuries aboard.”

Maybe that's a little overwrought, but Pelosi should know from what happened to the House Republicans last November that voters resent what they saw as the GOP's overweening sense of entitlement and privilege.

Even though no facts supported Reverend Moon’s smear, the $mear quickly migrated to the corporate media, as documented by Media Matters and Think Progress, with CBS News (and here), Nightline, CNN, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, and , as the right's Media Research Center bragged, others. (Media Matters covers this topic in detail here.)


Right-wing weblogs also helped spread the story. The weblog GOP Bloggers, in Democrats Weak on America's Enemies, Tough on America's Armed Forces, wrote,

If these matters weren't so serious, it would be humorous to watch the Democrats wield their power in the clean, non-corrupt and open way they advertised prior to the election.
The weblog Redstate, in the post, Roy Blunt on "Pelosi One", wrote,
In case you have not heard, Nancy Pelosi is trying to take advantage of her position and force the military to provide her with a 50 passenger plane which would be about the size of a Boeing 757.
[. . .] For those of you who still do not believe Pelosi and Democrats are obessed with power I would ask you to think again.
The weblog Right Wing News, in the post Queen Nancy’s Plane, amplifying yet another Washington Times story on the subject, wrote,
At first, it was hard to pay attention to this scrap between the military and Nancy Pelosi over how big of a military plane she'd get, but when it gets to the point where Pelosi wants to inconvenience the troops so she can shuttle her political supporters around the country with her, that's a little much.
[. . .] If it were up to Nancy Pelosi, the troops getting ready to go overseas would sit and wait for a larger plane while she had the military ferry her and her campaign contributors across the country on junkets. The military is not a taxi service.
The "military weblog" Blackfive, in the post BLACKFIVE: Pelosi's Air Force wrote,
Coming from perhaps the least military friendly district in America, it is a little disgusting to watch Nancy Pelosi shamelessly try to use her new power to get as many toys and perks as possible.

She has basically put the Air Force on notice that she and an entourage must be transported at a moments notice in the largest and most luxurious manner possible. She shunned the C-20 that Speaker Hastert used as insufficient for her needs. It's a Gulfstream IV FFS, a luxury jet that billionaires fly on. But Speaker Grandma needs more. She wants her own military 757 and a crew of 14 to handle her and up to 50 guests, family, and hangers on.

Particularly revealing about these weblog posts are the comments they elicit. For example, one commenter writes,
The idea that Speaker Granny is too lofty to stop in Podunkia somewhere and gas up her Gulfstream IV is pathetic.
Another writes,
They'd have to stop somewhere in "flyover country," and exposure to how the real America lives would be too much for HM Queen Nancy to handle.
Note the "heartland resentment" narrative.

Other comments illustrate anti-democratic authoritarian resentment,

She should be happy the Pentagon makes jets available to her in the first place.
And,
They despise the military, unless and until THEY need them.
Another commenter resorts to eliminationist threats, writing,
…Just throw her out in mid-air. Murtha, what a fat, bloated stuffed shirt. He really f'd himself, he needs a grenade stuffed down his throat.
So there you have it. Another day, another right-wing lie told and re-told. This is the pipe. At one end you have the strategic, coordinated $mear pushed out to the public. Coming out the other end you have the street-level reaction: resentment and threats of violence.

A final note - Newsweek today continues the circulation of the lie, complete with conservative narrative reinforcement, writing, (with a big, red down-arrow):

"Sure Hastert had military jet, but seeking bigger one (to go nonstop) makes her sound like a 757 liberal."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 9, 2007

The Media Does Not Act In The Public Interest

Before 1987 the government required that our broadcast frequencies be used in the public interest. Broadcasters were required to present a diversity of information and opinion. This was because it was understood that it was essential to democracy that the public receive diverse ideas and information.

In 1987 the Reagan administration removed the requirement that our broadcast frequencies be used in the public interest. They said that “the market” (a few people with lots of money) rather than the public (the public) should decide the best way to use this public (public) asset.

No longer required to act in the public interest, the media immediately ceased acting in the public interest. Instead they, of course, began to advance the profit interests of the corporatocracy, exactly as was predicted back when the requirements that the broadcast media act in the public interest were imposed. That is what "the market" means. The market serves the market's interests, not the public's.

The results are obvious - we no longer hear the ideas of, for example, labor leaders. (For just one example out of hundreds of examples.) We do not see comprehensive, informative, investigative documentaries on the problems facing society. We do not hear news that harms the interests of advertisers - or media companies and the companies that own them. (When was the last time you heard about the benefits of being a union member on a TV show? What percentage of broadcast time is used for commercial entertainment purposes rather than informative or educational topics?)

People who complain about "the media" and expect them to be impartial, neutral, informative and/or objective and balanced - or otherwise act in the public interest - do not understand the difference between required to act in the public interest and not required to act in the public interest. If you require them to, and enforce that, they will occasionally act in the public interest. If you do not, they will not -- and expecting them to is entirely misunderstanding the conflict between the requirements of "the market" and democracy.

This has been an episode of medium-length answers to simple questions.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:43 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 6, 2007

They Destroy Our Leaders

Most of the Democratic leadership are veterans, and all the veterans who ran for Congress or the Senate in this last election ran as Democrats. I think no Republican leaders except McCain ever served in the military. But that doesn't matter to the so-called "Dean of the Washington Press Corps."

Start with Oliver Willis: David Broder Libels Democrats,

David Broder, the most insider of Washington insiders, perpetuates a lie and smears the Democratic party in "reporting" on this past weekend's meeting of the DNC.
One of the losers in the weekend oratorical marathon was retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who repeatedly invoked the West Point motto of "Duty, Honor, Country," forgetting that few in this particular audience have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military.
That's just a boldfaced lie by Broder, no two ways about it. I happened to be in attendance at the speech in question, just a stone's throw away from General Clark when he gave it. What David Broder is saying here is an absolute lie. The crowd in attendance stood on their feet, clapped their hands loudly and strongly time and time again when speakers - including Gen. Clark - invoked the service and sacrifice of America's fighting men and women.
Then Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report,
I expect these kinds of dishonest smears from Limbaugh, Hannity, and O’Reilly, but Broder is supposed to be credible and serious. Why take such a gratuitous shot at the entire Democratic Party? Why intentionally perpetuate a right-wing lie? Why libel a political party with an observation that’s the opposite of the truth?

There are two angles to Broder’s maliciousness — the facts about Clark’s reception at the meeting, and the broader myth Broder is inexplicably anxious to propagate.

... As for the broader point, how long will Dems have to put up with such transparent nonsense about the party not supporting the troops? How many war heroes — Kerry, Murtha, Webb, Cleland, etc. — have to become Democratic champions before Broder and his brethren give up on such ugly lies?

They destroy our leaders. They $mear us. They $ell the myth of the masculine, all-powerful, all-protecting conservative Saviour.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 3, 2007

Long-Term Strategic Narrative: Liberals Hate Christians

Over at Townhall, the "conservative" Republican website: Why Liberals Hate Christians,

Liberals in America despise Christians of true faith.

They do this because in doing so their own guilt is appeased, their anger is justified, and they can finally lay blame for their own misery at someone else's feet.

It's tied to some current event...

This is a strategic narrative - part of a long-term drumbeat designed to bring identity "Christians" into the Republican Party. The script is always tied to some current event, and then the event is used to teach the lesson. I call it "adding the because." Such-and-such happened because of the thing we keep telling you about those people. They hate you, so you should you should vote for us and pay them back by cutting taxes on the rich, etc...

Another "because":

Yes, Bush appointed cronies. Yes, Bush's administration wasn't ready, etc. But -- and here is the important thing -- people added the word BECAUSE, and tied it all to something more fundamental. And this was effective. Bush wasn't ready to respond to Katrina BECAUSE Republicans don't believe in government. Bush appointed cronies BECAUSE Republicans don't believe in government. People suffered and died after Katrina BECAUSE we need government and that is the primary thing government DOES.

See what I mean? When we are criticizing Republicans on narrow issues we should always tie our criticisms to make a point about how Progressive values are better than conservative values.

(Yes, I used to use bold type a lot more than I do now.)

Progressives should learn from this. (I mean, learn to use "because" - not bold type.) Don't just talk about what the right-wingers did today, make it a lesson. Tie the current-event story to a larger view of conservatism and why it is bad for people, and why liberal and progressive values and ideas are better for people. This happened because conservatives think that people should be left on their own, alone against the powerful interests they represent, while progressives think we should all stick together and take care of one another.

In a previous 'Because' post I wrote,

What I mean is, drive the point home, don't make your listener guess. When you cite something bad that the conservatives do, add the "because" that ties it to core right-wing philosophy, and explain why it's the philosophy that's bad and led to the bad thing that is in the news. Make the deeper point -- not just a complaint about the current event. For example, Republicans screwed up Katrina BECAUSE conservatives don't believe in government, they believe in a "you're on your own, dog-eat-dog, everyone out for themselves" philosophy that is not good for regular people. But progressives believe we're all in this together and in watching out for and sticking up for each other.
Always add the because. Drive the point home. They do it -- you should, too.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 1, 2007

Start Challenging The Conventional Wisdom

Conservatives have spent literally billions of dollars on a propaganda campaign since the 1970s to convince Americans that corporatism and greed are better for them than democracy and community.

So take a look at AlterNet: Note to Progressives: Challenge Market Fundamentalism asks us to,

...challenge Market Fundamentalism, the exaggerated and quite irrational belief in the ability of markets to solve all problems, an economic fundamentalism that has dominated our national political debate for a generation.
How is Market Fundamentalism a "conventional wisdom?"
Market fundamentalism has become like the air we breathe; we hardly notice it. Every time George W. Bush argues for more tax cuts, he relies on the unquestioned assumption that we all embrace Market Fundamentalism. Like religious fundamentalism, it is based more on faith than on reason. Through constant repetition, however, the American public has been bullied into believing that private spending is rational and efficient while public spending is always wasteful and unproductive. (Tell that to people in New Orleans.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 31, 2007

Did Spitting 'Victim' from DC Protest Cry Wolf?

This piece was first published at AlterNet. This post is revised and extended from that piece.

The media interest surrounding Private Joshua Sparling's claim that he was spit at during the Washington, DC protest merits skepticism considering that his previous claims of victimhood have turned out inaccurate, and that he's been a frequent associate of right-wing figures such as Sean Hannity and Oliver North.

There is a conventional wisdom that Vietnam War protesters included fringe elements who did uncivil things, including spitting at soldiers returning from Vietnam. Evidence of this belief in the mainstream media appeared as recently as early this month in Newsweek earlier this month wrote,,

Returning [Vietnam] GIs were sometimes jeered and even spat upon in airports; they learned to change quickly into civilian clothes.
Decades later, little has changed. With the headline "SPITTING MATCH WITH DISABLED VET..." the Drudge Report on Monday linked to New York Times coverage of the weekend marches against President Bush's Iraq "surge" plan to escalate the war. The story, Protest Focuses on Iraq Troop Increase, included the following:
There were a few tense moments, however, including an encounter involving Joshua Sparling, 25, who was on crutches and who said he was a corporal with the 82nd Airborne Division and lost his right leg below the knee in Ramadi, Iraq. Mr. Sparling spoke at a smaller rally held earlier in the day at the United States Navy Memorial, and voiced his support for the administration’s policies in Iraq.

Later, as antiwar protesters passed where he and his group were standing, words were exchanged and one of the antiwar protestors spit at the ground near Mr. Sparling; he spit back.

Wow -- those horrible "antiwar protesters" are still at it! And what unspoken message is sent by this? That "antiwar protesters" are such terrible people, doing such terrible things.

But as it happens, Joshua Sparling has turned up time and time again in the news, in stories claiming he has been spat at by - and even received death threats from - left-wing "antiwar protesters."

At the site The Left Coaster, blogger Mary wrote,

It seems he is the scapegoat for those who hate Bush's war and he is condemned to live in a Twilight Zone world where he experiences all the outrages that were visited on vets during the Vietnam War. Whenever the wacko warhawks need to display a victim of the American people's disdain for the war, he is hauled out to take another one for the team.
Joshua Sparling first appeared in the news in a United States Military Academy Public Affairs reference, in an August 8, 2005 story quoted cited by the West Point "public affairs" (PR) office, Future Plebes Learn Crafts Of War,
Last week, as a machine gun fired blanks in the distance ... dodged from cover-to-cover as they ran the assault course, which teaches the cadets how to use grenades in combat.

82nd Pvt. Joshua Sparling was right behind them, offering advice the whole way.

"Always have two hands on your weapon. That way if you see anybody - boom, boom," he yelled at Byrnes as she ran for cover, her M-16 flailing at her side. ... "You have to keep down below that cover so you don't get popped in the head," Sparling yelled. Lin quickly tucked his head back behind the stump.

In December, 2005, as reported on the Fox News show Fox & Friends Sparling supposedly receives a Christmas card with a death threat,with a death threat Sparling claimed not to have kept the envelope, just the note inside. Sparling appears on Sean Hannity's radio show to talk about this incident.

It turned out the card was sent by a white supremacist.

Sparling also found fame as a featured Republican guest at the 2006 State of the Union address, introduced by the GOP representative from his home district, Candice Miller:

“When I first spoke with Josh he told me how proud he was to provide security for the Iraqi election in October where he saw democracy take root. I thought it was only fitting that he come to see, in person, his Commander-In-Chief give an update on the war and watch our own democracy in action."
Not long after this, Sparling was harassed by an antiwar and anti-military liberal at an airport,
... there was no wheel chair, no one at the SPIRIT counter and no security. ... The security guard said, “You are no different than any other passenger with no boarding pass - no go.”

My son started to cry uncontrollably and told the guard to go to hell. Another lady spoke up and said, “That’s what you get for fighting in a war we have no business in.” Madder and very emotional I asked, “Can’t you remember 9-11?” She responded that was just our excuse to be in Iraq when we should not be there and we deserved whatever we got. That is when my son really lost it. Three WWII vets were coming off flights into DC, gave my son a hug, and stood up to the lady and security guard. They stayed with my son until he flew out.

Sparling has also appeared with Ollie North at "Freedom Alliance" rallies. (There is a picture of Sparling at one of these rallies, standing next to Ann Coulter.)

And, most recently, Sparling also appeared in an AP story about the weekend's anti-war march, this time neglecting to mention the spitting incident,

About 40 people staged a counter-protest, including Army Cpl. Joshua Sparling, 25, who lost his leg to a bomb in Iraq.

He said the anti-war protesters, especially those who are veterans or who are on active duty, "need to remember the sacrifice we have made and what our fallen comrades would say if they were alive."

(A YouTube video from the weekend march shows Sparling standing next to a sign that reads, "If Osama was a piece of ass, Clinton would have nailed him.")

So the New York Times, Washington Post and others did not choose just any random Iraq war vet to interview. A Google search of "Joshua Sparling" yields 64,800 results.

And it is worth noting that the major media chose to cover this from the angle of "antiwar protesters spitting at veterans." There was another story available. The marchers represented the views of, according to current polls, a majority of the American public. Joshua Sparling was part of a group that appeared to be attempting to provoke the crowd. A witness to the activities of Sparling's group is quoted at Hughes for America, saying,

Shortly after the event began, I noticed Sparling and his small group - himself, a woman wearing the same 82nd Airborne sweatshirt and another young man - push their way to the front. ... When everyone would cheer a particular speaker, he first stood out by loudly booing. ... Sparling's Freeper friends across the street had spent the better part of an hour holding up ridiculous signs like "Anti-American peaceniks think sedition is patriotic" and "We gave peace a chance. We got 9/11". Also, they hung an effigy of Jane Fonda. These weren't friendly people. They were people looking to provoke a response.

[...] Before I even noticed Sparling's leg, I thought the kid was a right-wing plant in our group. I thought we were going to be marching, peacefully, and this kid would break a window or otherwise do something to make for an ugly scene, making what was actually a peaceful protest look anything but. It looked to me like he was taking great pains to stand out in what he was doing. ... I can safely say Sparling and his group showed up looking to start something...

Given this account, one wonders why the media chose to write of Sparling as a victim of the crowd?

Finally, a look at larger historical question: were Vietnam Veterans spat at by "protesters?"

Mary's Left Coaster blog post refers us to an article by Jerry Lembcke from 2005, Debunking a Spitting Image,

For a book I wrote in 1998 I looked back to the time when the spit was supposedly flying, the late 1960s and early 1970s. I found nothing. No news reports or even claims that someone was being spat on.

... A 1971 Harris poll conducted for the Veterans Administration found over 90 percent of Vietnam veterans reporting a friendly homecoming. Far from spitting on veterans, the antiwar movement welcomed them into its ranks and thousands of veterans joined the opposition to the war.

... Remembering the war in Vietnam through the images of betrayal is dangerous because it rekindles the hope that wars like it, in countries where we are not welcomed, can be won. It disparages the reputation of those who opposed that war and intimidates a new generation of activists now finding the courage to resist Vietnam-type ventures in the 21st century.

Where does this smear technique come from? What is gained by portraying veterans as victims of liberals spitting at them or harassing them? Perhaps a clue comes from the writings of Republican pundit David Horowitz. Horowitz writes that it is important to portray yourself as a victim, saying
"The stories work for you if you are the victim or if you are helping someone who is perceived to be a victim. Americans like heroes who care, and they identify with underdogs."
Horowitz also advises Republicans,
"to manipulate the public's feelings in support of your agenda, while mobilizing passions of fear and resentment against your opponent."
Horowitz is not just any Republican pundit. John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton wrote about Horowitz' influence in The War at Home,
"During the 2000 presidential and congressional elections, every Republican member of the U.S. Congress received a free pamphlet, compliments of Congressman Tom DeLay, the party's majority whip. Written by conservative activist David Horowitz, the pamphlet was called The Art of Political War: How Republicans Can Fight to Win. It came with an endorsement on the cover by Karl Rove, the senior advisor to then-candidate George W. Bush.
Stories of victimhood such as Sparling's come at a time when the White House is desperate to gain public support in its self-perceived war against those Americans who oppose their war policies.

Sparling's claims might be more convincing if the media hadn't interviewed the same veteran who was first introduced in stories where he was working with military "public affairs" professionals, then as a victim of a death threat in a Christmas card, then as a victim of an anti-war liberal in an airport, then as a favorite of the right-wing crazies who appear with Ollie North at pro-war rallies.


-----

Note - This story benefitted from Digy's posts on the subject. In the blog post Spitting Image, Digby wrote,

So the dirty, long haired hippies spit on wounded veterans yesterday. Isn't it just like them...

... And it turns out that poor PFC Sparling has been treated terribly by these DFH's [* see below] time and time again.

Note - "DFH" used by Digby is short for "Dirty Fucking Hippies," which has become blogger shorthand for the tactic of marginalizing Americans who disagree with conservatives by shaming them as outcasts, "protesters," "fringes," or other terms intended to trigger feelings of "not part of the group" psychological humiliation.

Note - The Washington Post also quoted Sparling in their story about the weekend march, but removed the reference. Was it removed after bloggers started writing about Sparling? Digby mentioned this, and here is the original.

Note - The NY Times reporter who quoted Sparling is the same reporter who wrote a 2002 Village Voice story on military psy-ops.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 27, 2007

Democrats Lost Iraq?

Many people only read the headlines and the first paragraph or two...

The Moonie paper: It's important to 'keep hate alive' - The Washington Times,

Destroying a president is not much of a strategy to win a war, but it's all the Democrats have.

The churls of the left don't seem to care whether their country wins the war, the important thing is to "keep hate alive." If hate worked in '06, maybe it will work again in '08, when the stakes will be considerably higher.

And examples of these Democrats "keeping hate alive?"
Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican, asks whether "the clock has already run out." The very point of her question is the smug assertion that of course it has. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who has all but given up his ambition to be John McCain when he grows up, says the obvious: "We have anarchy in Iraq. It's getting worse." You can hear the glee in his voice. John Warner of Virginia, eager to demonstrate that he's no son of the hard, determined men who wrote the book on standing firm against all odds as a fabled army of northern Virginia, rushes to join partisans across the aisle to forge a resolution of regret, retreat and ruin. "Nonbinding," of course. Senators never bind themselves to anything but their egos and personal interests (which is why we haven't elected a senator as president in nearly half a century).

... The fiercest critics of the commander in chief (the one the critics despise) and his troops (the ones the critics support) concede they don't have a clue about what the president should do in Iraq. "I can't tell you what the path to success is," says Norm Coleman, a Republican of Minnesota.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 22, 2007

NY Times and Right Wing Framing

Just the headline: Fragile Hopes for Bipartisan Rescue of Social Security - New York Times

"Rescue?" The Social Security trust fund is solvent - no problems at all. But the NY Times story talks about "the long-term fiscal problems in Social Security."

This framing of "going broke" and needing "rescue" comes from a long-term strategy to get rid of Social Security by portraying it as a "ponzi scheme," "going broke," "needing to be fixed," etc. This strategy was laid out in a 1983 Cato Institute document. The document even describes the strategy as "Leninist."

Do not be fooled. There is nothing wrong with Social Security, it is not "going broke," there is no need to "fix" it. It is solvent, and will continue to provide retirement, disability and other benefits to Americans without changes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 16, 2007

Marketing Conservatism and Corporatism

"Conservatives and their ideas are good, liberals and their ideas are bad."

You hear the message repeated a thousand different ways, over and over, every day. It is a strategy, an organized marketing campaign to create demand for conservatives, their policies and their candidates. Over time and unanswered, it sinks into the brain.

The fact is, marketing creates demand. So after decades of this, people start to demand conservative policies and candidates and their politicians just ride that wave. In some areas conservative candidates can just point and shout, "liberal, liberal" and win elections. We see the results all around us - trillions of OUR dollars flow to the top. Our resources are "privatized" into the hands of corporations. We work longer hours for lower pay, losing our health insurance and pensions and rights... Our environment is polluted and our resources extracted.

Repeat: this is a strategic marketing campaign to get people to accept being ruled by wealthy corporatists. Marketing creates demand. Repetition drives a point home.

Today's example just came in the morning e-mail. Read this and you'll see that it follows the same tired script: liberals and their ideas are bad, and conservatives and their ideas are good. Marketing creates demand, and this is marketing, promoting conservative values and ideas and candidates.

The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11

"Why do they hate us?" Some conservatives, following President Bush, believe that Muslim anti-Americanism stems from irrational hatred of our freedom and democracy. Others lay the blame on our foreign policy. Now comes bestselling conservative author Dinesh D'Souza to argue that both views, while they contain elements of truth, miss the larger reason. In The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, D'Souza makes the startling claim that the 9/11 attacks and other terrorist acts around the world can be directly traced to the ideas and attitudes perpetrated by America's cultural left.

"In faulting the cultural left, I am not making the absurd accusation that this group blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon," D'Souza explains. "I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the non-profit sector, and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world. The Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks were the product of this visceral rage - some of it based on legitimate concerns, some of it based on wrongful prejudice, but all of it fueled and encouraged by the cultural left."

In The Enemy at Home, D'Souza uncovers the links between the spread of America's decadent pop culture, leftist ideas, and secular values and the rise of virulent Anti-Americanism throughout the world. He shows how liberals are responsible for fostering -- and exporting -- a culture that angers and repulses not just Muslim countries but also traditional and religious societies around the world. He also reveals how liberals' outspoken opposition to American foreign policy -- especially our conduct of the war on terror -- contributes to the growing hostility, encouraging people both at home and abroad to blame America for the problems of the world.

Though we are accustomed to thinking of the war on terror and the culture war as distinct and separate, D'Souza argues, they are really one and the same. Conservatives must recognize that the left is now allied with the Islamic radicals in a combined effort to defeat Bush's war on terror. A whole new strategy is therefore needed to fight both wars. It is only by curtailing the left's attacks on religion, family, and traditional values that we can persuade moderate Muslims and others around the world to cooperate with us and begin to shun the extremists in their own countries. In short, writes D'Souza, "to defeat the Islamic radicals abroad, we must defeat the enemy at home."

This is horrible, lying, smearing propaganda, designed to incite hatred against half of America. And it works. We see this stuff in one form or another every single day. Conservatives bathe in it, but the regular public also is showered with it. The worst thing is, it is largely unanswered. People in some parts of the country never hear an opposing viewpoint.

In Are Progressives Good? Then TELL PEOPLE! I wrote,

So it is time to change the game. It is time to start funding organizations that talk to the public about the benefits that progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates bring to them. $1000 given today toward building public appreciation of progressive values could have greater impact than $100,000 spent in support of a candidate in the days before an election.
And I closed that piece by writing,
Marketing creates demand. Let’s create a demand for progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates.

The Commonweal Institute wants to tell people that progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates are good for them. (Commonweal means "the public good" or "the common good.")

As I wrote the other day, I am an unpaid Commonweal Institute Fellow. Let's change that. Click here to help.

Marketing and repetition work, so Click here to help

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 11, 2007

The Escalation

Thoughts:

Surge is a focus-group word, designed to sell an escalation of the war. The strategy is to deflect the incoming Democrats' argument for winding down the war by offering the opposite. And look what we are all discussing. This places "stay the course" as the reasonable middle ground.

It is ALWAYS about appearances and political strategies not reality or the good of the country with this crowd.

EVERYone said from the start that 250-500,000 troops would be needed to occupy Iraq. Bush didn't do this because sending that many troops would undermine political support for the Republican Party. With enough troops there could have been a peaceful Iraq following our illegal invasion. The Iraqi people have paid the real price for this - not us. Yes, we have lost over 3,000 troops dead and how many injured and how many "contractors" and how much money? But the Iraqi people have suffered the loss of hundreds of thousands and of the possibility of going on with their lives in peace - and are instead entering into a horrible civil war because of Bush's choices.

Bush has not asked for tax increases to pay for the war, either. Because it would undermine political support for the party. Instead he offered candy - tax cuts.

Party over country.

Bush and his surrogates say we are fighting "Islamofascism" and it is the worst threat America has ever faced - and then says "go shopping." Fight the worst threat the nation has ever faced by going shopping? Because any kind of sacrifice would undermine support for the Republican Party. Meanwhile fear changes the way people think, and leads much of the population to more easily accept the authoritarian agenda of the right.

Party over country.

In the face of the worst threat the nation has ever faced, and declining readiness of our military - "stretched too thin" - Bush does not ask for a draft to protect the country. Because that would be politically unpopular and undermine support for the Republican Party.

No draft to protect the country. No taxes to pay for the war. No lowering of oil use to cut finding to terrorists states. Nothing that might undermine support for the Republican Party.

Party over country at every turn.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 4, 2007

Breaking News About Exxon Funding Lies

Reuters - ExxonMobil cultivates global warming doubt -report

Energy giant ExxonMobil borrowed tactics from the tobacco industry to raise doubt about climate change, spending $16 million on groups that question global warming, a science watchdog group said on Wednesday.

"ExxonMobil (XOM.N: Quote, Profile , Research) has manufactured uncertainty about the human causes of global warming just as tobacco companies denied their product caused lung cancer," Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists said at a telephone news conference releasing the report.

An ExxonMobil spokesman did not respond immediately to calls for comment.

... U.S. tobacco companies used these tactics for decades to hide the hazards of smoking, and were found liable in federal court last year for violating racketeering laws. [emphasis added]

See also AP - Group: ExxonMobil paid to mislead public

ExxonMobil Corp. gave $16 million to 43 ideological groups between 1998 and 2005 in an effort to mislead the public by discrediting the science behind global warming, the Union of Concerned Scientists asserted Wednesday.

The report by the advocacy group mirrors similar claims by Britain's leading scientific academy. Last September, The Royal Society wrote the oil company asking it to halt support for groups that "misrepresented the science of climate change."

... ExxonMobil lists on its Web site nearly $133 million in 2005 contributions globally, including $6.8 million for "public information and policy research" distributed to more than 140 think tanks, universities, foundations, associations and other groups. Some of those have publicly disputed any link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists' strategy and policy director, said in a teleconference that ExxonMobil based its tactics on those of tobacco companies, spreading uncertainty by misrepresenting peer-reviewed scientific studies or emphasizing only selected facts.

Dr. James McCarthy, a professor at Harvard University, said the company has sought to "create the illusion of a vigorous debate" about global warming.

Finally, see this from September, The Denial Industry,
For years, a network of fake citizens' groups and bogus scientific bodies has been claiming that science of global warming is inconclusive. They set back action on climate change by a decade. But who funded them? Exxon's involvement is well known, but not the strange role of Big Tobacco. In the first of three extracts from his new book, George Monbiot tells a bizarre and shocking new story.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 20, 2006

America's Two Party System: The Marketing Party and The Product Party

Co-written with James Boyce, first published at Huffington Post.

We do have a two-party system in America: The Product Party and The Marketing Party. We have one party that spends its energy and its resources creating a product that will improve the lives of its supporters, and then we have a second party, one that invests its energy and its resources managing perception.

One party offers substance but without the sizzle, and one is so incredibly adept at selling that it can charm you into supporting an agenda that helps only those who don't need it, and actually hurts you and your family.

By mastering the management of perception and with an utter disregard for facts and reality, the Marketing Party's agenda and vision gets implemented - despite its horrendous consequences for the country, and the world. It has never been worse than it is now. The chasm between their vision, its consequences and the lifestyle and security of the average American is mind-boggling.

Do not underestimate the power of marketing. With enough money, a good campaign and some time, you really can make people think and do almost anything. Exactly why do you think Coke and Pepsi outsell all the other brands - because their sugar water is vastly superior to others? Exactly why do you think one brand of shampoo is "premium" and another is $5 a gallon - is it because they have different ingredients? No, it is because marketing works, especially on a public increasingly trained to respond.

Marketing works so well that some businesses have grown so accustomed to looking for marketing solutions rather than product solutions that they have developed a mindset that it is cheaper to manage perceptions than to fix a product. If people think the product tastes bad - market it as the best-tasting product and make the rubes think THEY're the problem. The result is they can spend millions on the symptoms and nothing on the disease.

Our "CEO President" Bush appears to be cut from this mold. As it became clear that the Iraq occupation wasn't proceeding as intended, Bush didn't change the product - he changed the sell.

The administration spent $20,000,000 on hiring a PR firm to plant positive stories in the press - instead of spending $20 million on body armor to actually reduce the casualties that fostered the public relations disaster. It created "Vets For Freedom" and planted bloggers among the troops in Iraq to send back positive posts. President Bush made major speech after major speech. And top officials made surprise trip to Iraq after surprise trip to Iraq.

But now we are in a time with the marketing no longer is sufficient to solve the problems. Increasingly, the American people have stopped buying the sell. Just as the American automobile manufacturers are forced to increasing amounts of dollars selling a product that increasingly the public does not want to buy, so too did the Administration have to step up the marketing of a war that the public no longer is willing to support.

Sadly, the past two weeks have showcased the collision of perception and reality. Tragically, the administration continues to hold a cult-like belief in the power of perception management, regardless of circumstances and the politically acceptable options that it has provided itself.

The Iraq Study Group recently came forward with a lifeline for the administration, but their recommendations did not sync with the administration's vision for a moment of victory - again, cheaper to change the marketing. So instead of working with the ISG, Baker and other members were - characteristically - smeared in the right-wing's echo chamber to "soften up" public perceptions in advance of the coming Bush rejection of their advice.

Last week, James appeared as a guest on MSNBC's show THE MOST, and was asked how President Bush could improve the "public's impression" of the war. He said,

"The president doesn't have a problem with the perception of the war, the President has a problem with the facts. ... Eventually the product has to speak for itself, and I think the American People are rapidly coming to the conclusion that we have an Edsel on our hands here. They want a solution, they don't need a new slogan."

Between us, we have more than forty years experience in marketing and advertising, and we both know, all too well, that it is exceedingly common for companies to approach product failures as marketing and advertising failures - it allows them to continue to live in denial about the weakness of their product.

With today's Republicans the first instinct is always about the marketing, and not about the country. According to Bob Woodward, Karen Hughes reportedly said, when she first saw the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center, that it was "the perfect backdrop" for a photo opportunity. Even in tragedy, the instinct is toward the marketing instead of the managing.

In the current tragedy the Bush image makers continue to search for the photo-op moment in Iraq. They are looking for the right image - the kiss in Times Square from World War II or the Japanese Admirals on the deck of the aircraft carrier, signing a treaty.

The fact that no such moment exists or ever will exist only increases their desire for it.

Why is their first instinct to market rather than to manage? And how exactly have they gotten away with this total management of perception? How have they been able to sell the American people over the past five years?

The answer may lie in the study of how the "conservative movement" took control of the Republican Party. As Dave wrote last week in Are Progressives Good? Then TELL PEOPLE!,

There are literally hundreds of conservative organizations that primarily exist to persuade the public to support conservative ideas (and, therefore, conservative candidates.) The people you see on TV or hear on the radio or who write op-eds in newspapers are paid by, or at the very least draw upon resources provided by, these organizations.

You might or might not have heard of the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute or Americans for Tax Reform or the This Institute or the That Foundation or the Government-and-Taxes-Are-Bad Association - but there really is a machine or network of well-funded conservative organizations marketing the conservatives-are-good-and-liberals-and-government-are-bad propaganda every hour of every day and they have been doing so for decades.

Yes, marketing. They have been doing this solidly for over three decades and they've been doing it well, and with an incredible amount of money, resources and talent behind it.

The people in power in the Republican Party got there by marketing and perception management, and using a $ell and $mear strategy to demolish and humiliate their opponents, and that is what they know. They come from a culture of saying anything as long as it keeps the rubes buying. Why would a company spend all that money to clean up the product when you can instead spend less and sell the idea that Toxic Sludge is Good For You.

The conservative movement understands this. They understand if they are going to cut student loans, hand over the management of Social Security, arguably the most successful government assistance program in our history, to the private sector, give away valuable public resources and then, on top of everything else, wage a war without reason or basis, the spend must be astronomical.

The American people are a living focus group to the success of their plan. The past thirty years has seen a slow and steady decline in the public's understanding and acceptance of progressive values - like equal rights for all our citizens or the acceptance of all religions.

It's important to point out another old expression: great products sell themselves. And while in practice, it holds that to reach great heights, great marketing combined with great products is actually the key - think Apple and the iPod - the better the product, the less marketing dollars need to be applied to drive sales. YouTube, Facebook, MySpace... If you're selling the best made car in America, the press reviews, customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing greatly enhances your paid advertising. If you're selling a lemon, you better have tens of millions to spend.

This brings us to the other party in our two-party system - the well-meaning Product Party that doesn't understand marketing. The Product Party stands in bewilderment as time and time again, The Marketing Party works its perception management magic to win elections, control the debate and lead the media and public to diss its leaders and policies. As Dave wrote last week,

We can see the results of the conservative marketing campaign all around us: War. Debt. Crumbling infrastructure. Falling wages. Loss of pensions. Loss of health insurance. Declining union membership. Massive trade deficits. Distrust of government, courts, schools and other institutions of community. The list just goes on and on.

But really, after decades of conservatives pounding out their message and progressives keeping their message to themselves, what should we expect?

And to make this problem worse, the Marketing Party is very good at shifting the blame for their bad product. For example: take a moment and look at the reality of the financial mess that is being handed to the new Congress - it is stunning. And yet, if the Democrats don't explain this clearly and succinctly to the American people, the result will be that the mess will land - squarely - in the wrong party's lap.

The Product Party's product is responsible and involved government: a government that can fix the schools and patch up the potholes. A government that would actually practice hurricane rescue not just preach it.

The Katrina debacle laid bare the failure of the right wing's anti-government agenda. The reason they didn't do anything for the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is they don't really care. Government - or product - is just not what they do - marketing is.

However, they cared deeply when they began to lose the public relations battle - like 9/11 and Iraq, the reality is inconsequential - managing the perception of the reality is paramount.

The Product Party is known for fiscal management and international diplomacy and building mass transit and roads and bridges and schools. This is the party that brought us the middle class and the weekend and Social Security and inspections for e-coli.

But the Product Party is a political party full of boring policy "wonks" holding community meetings where hours are spent arguing the best and most democratic ways to provide services and, well, fix those potholes and even working on the finer points of health care finance administration management policies subsection 3, paragraph... ... and who wants to hear about THAT?

So where the people in the Marketing Party got there using marketing pizzaz, the people in the Product Party got there by plugging away and delivering a product. They're not the most adept at marketing. Whereas the people from the Marketing Party don't understand - or care - about the actual product, apparently the people in the Product Party don't understand - or care - about marketing - reaching and persuading the public. Democrats have long had the product but are woefully unskilled in the marketing and the willingness to spend and support the marketing. There is something to the idea of marketing and selling people on something that goes against the nature of the wonky democracy idealists of the Product Party.

Which leads to their problem. Don't people realize that almost all the veteran leaders in America are Democrats? They ask this - thinking of Max Cleland, Wes Clark, John Kerry, Joe Sestak, Chris Carney, Tim Walz, Jim Webb and more. Don't people understand the Democrats want to raise the minimum wage, improve health care, make global warming a priority, enact the recommendations of the 9/11 commission and more? Don't the understand how much better the Democratic product is for their families and the future?

No, the people don't.

Because you can't just be the party that does the boring work of cleaning up the toxic waste left behind by that wrecking crew - the people known for marketing, selling and heading for the county line. If you want the public to understand what you are about you have to be the party that does the work, and communicates the fact in clear simple English to voters who have better things to do with their lives than listen to the nuances of toxic waste policy.

In fact, The Product Party is not only running against the sell and smear tactics of the right, they're running against a coordinated program that says "government itself is bad." The Republicans have spent 40 years running down government. Ronald Reagan famously said that "government is the problem" and then left for the county line leaving us with 4 trillion of debt. George W. Bush, the "CEO President" emulated Enron, and implemented "no-bid" contracts while the Republican Congress got rid of the system of oversight.

So what can be done? The Democrats have to understand that people respond to marketing, and that building a better product doesn't always mean that the people will flock to you if they don't find out about it. They must remain the party of the Product, but they also need to be the party of the Marketing. Only we can be both, the Republicans can not.

Why? Because the last six years has not only demonstrated the Republican mastery of their marketing but it has shown the misery of the product. From not implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to the absolute abandonment of our fellow Americans in the aftermath of Katrina, and the outrageous lies regarding the solvency of Social Security, the product that we are being sold is dangerous and destructive. "You can't fool all the people all the time." And on November 7, 2006, the marketing plan fell apart.

So now the Product Party has the ball and there is no question that the Democrats will deliver the goods. However, the danger lies not in the performance but in the perception of the performance and especially in how we clearly communicate the mess we inherited.

If Democratic leaders believe that all we have to do do is do a better job, and surely the American voters will reward us with the White House in 2008 and continued control of Congress, watch out.

Our moment in the sun, and moment in power, will be very short-lived indeed.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 17, 2006

Eat the Baby to Save the Baby

And watch the TV pundits reaction as they strive to shape America's opinion.

It's modern America -- in The Propaganda Age.

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

November 14, 2006

It's Time For Us All To Grow Up - A Rant

It’s time to grow up. We’ve got big problems -- really big problems. Experts tell us that we have only a few years to do something about global warming before it becomes irreversible. The housing bubble is popping, the debt bomb is ready to go off, the dollar is falling and Iraq is deteriorating into civil war. And those are just a few of the problems we face.

But we're worried about whether we'll look like hippies, or not fit in, or be laughed at, or called names or not be part of the group if we "protest" and make demands.

It’s time for us ALL to grow up and stop playing games, posturing, pretending we’re on some TV show, and start working together to solve our problems and fix our system. I mean the right for playing their games, and the rest of us for falling for them. For several years the right - with money from, for example, tobacco companies and Exxon - has been using psychological manipulation tactics, going after our deepest emotions and fears, using humiliation and derision to split us apart and make us afraid or ashamed, and make us feel like we’re not “in the group” or going to be laughed at if we don’t give them what we want. It has been remarkably effective. And the real-world problems just get worse.

But worrying about how something is going to look or what people will think about us is like getting ready for the high school prom. Look, we have less than ten years to SAVE THE PLANET from global warming and I don’t think we should worry about whether it’s going to look like we are “San Francisco Democrats” or “1960s hippies” if, for example, we propose actually paying our bills or implementing solar and wind energy programs. Reach inside yourselves and find a way to get past that stuff. We are talking about SAVING THE PLANET here, not who is going to laugh at us in homeroom. This is a post-traumatic reaction to the psychological tactic of using mockery and humiliation to manipulate people into supporting oil company positions. We need to grow up and get past that. There is work to do.

The President of the United States insulting half of America by using the phrase “Democrat” Party when the party’s name is “Democratic” Party is just a small example of what I am talking about. That is so childish it shouldn’t be part of serious discourse. But it is what we have been reduced to, and it has been done to us on purpose, as a tactic to distract us from tackling the real, serious issues. Because in almost every case, tackling those issues means confronting entrenched economic interests.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 3, 2006

Why Haven't You Heard About The Plan?

BobGeiger.com: Proof That Bush Lies Every Day About Dems Lack Of Security Plan

It was just two months ago that Democrats rolled out the Real Security Act of 2006, a plan whose legislative description left no doubt that Democrats had a plan, saying that it was designed "to provide real national security, restore United States leadership, and implement tough and smart policies to win the war on terror."

"The Real Security Act of 2006 marks a major change from status quo Bush Republican policies that have left America less safe than it must be," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in introducing the plan. "Unveiled against the backdrop of a new White House media offensive, the legislation spells out the tough and smart path to make America more secure and to deal more effectively with threats that confront America at home and abroad."

These days, you would never know that such a plan exists for two reasons. The first it that it was killed by the Senate GOP leadership on September 13, 2006 on a roll-call vote that went almost straight down party lines. The same Republicans who killed the Democratic plan now walk around saying the Democrats have no plan.

The second reason that the Democratic strategy is so hard to find is that the corporate media continues to let the no-plan nonsense go unchallenged because, I suppose, it would be too much like real work to read the 528-page piece of security legislation that the Democrats tried to pass.

Go read the whole thing!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 29, 2006

Responsibility? None

A right-wing radio host calls for assassinating members of Congress and overthrowing the government. A right-wing "news" site reprints his instructions for how to accomplish it - claiming to disapprove. Right-wing Drudge Report sends its readers to the website.

See WorldNetDaily: Assassinate half of Congress, urges Web-radio hatemonger

How about NOT helping him spread the word?

Note - I don't consider the readers of Seeing the Forest as possible candidates for recriotent into this. But maybe I'm also not being responsible by repeating this here. What do you think?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 13, 2006

FEAR and Elections

I have been hearing ads on the radio talking about what to do to prepare for a possible terrorist attack, and directing peope to this government site: Ready.gov - Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed.

I wonder why the Bush administration chooses now to remind everyone to be prepared...

And on a completely, absolutely unrelated point, check out this GREAT post at DailyKos, The Science Behind Scaring The Bejeebers Out Of Voters

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 4, 2006

What Is Personal Responsibility?

Personal Responsibility is a tobacco (and other) lobbyist PR slogan that tries to persuade us that children - and the rest of us - should be left on their own, against corporations capable of spending billions of dollars on the very latest methods to get people to do things that are not healthy for them, but which bring immense profits to the companies.

Do we want everyone to be left on their own, in a dog-eat-dog, everyone-out-for-themselves world? Or do we want to stick together and watch out for each other?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 3, 2006

Urban Legends As Propaganda

In 2004 one person may have shouted the word "murderer" at a veteran holding a "Veterans for Bush" sign in a parade. A local columnist wrote about it.

A Google search shows that today, maybe 750 websites refer to the incident. A popular conservative website mentioned it today, writing

"Not that liberals really have any respect for those in uniform."
Remember, ONE person MAY HAVE said something ONCE to someone, and it is now used to reinforce a cult-like belief that liberals-in-general victimize veterans. Some of the sites embellish it into the guy being chased, "pelted," accosted by long-haired mobs...

The right-wing vicitim complex is very strong. They really need to feel persecuted.

But how much of this is JUST word-of-mouth?

A website, bainbridgeislandveteranincident2004, came and went. People posted the story to forums, like this "travel forum," posted with the title, Tour de France "French spectators are spitting at American Lance Armstrong " Just like Kerry voters spitting on Iraqi war Vets.

The story circulates because it is reminiscent of what happened during the Vietnam war when returning soldiers were spat on and called "baby killer." Except there may be a problem with that: one researcher found that there is no evidence that this happened to ANY Vietnam vets - not one documented report that can be verified. That story may have had a little help as well.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 22, 2006

Clinton Fights Back

I forget - WHO was it that received a CIA warning titled, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the US" and did NOTHING, leaving on vacation?

Go read this: Think Progress : Clinton Takes On Fox News,

CLINTON: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t…I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke… So you did FOX’s bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me. But what I want to know..

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 17, 2006

If The "Islamofascist" Threat Is Real

If the Bush administration truly believes that “Islamofascism” and Iran are threats to the very survival of the United States, then for the good of the country there are steps they can take to get the public to rally behind the effort.

First, they need to recognize that they have lost credibility because of their “mistake” about Iraq’s WMD. They said the United States needed to invade Iraq because we faced an imminent threat, an they were wrong - with the severest of consequences for the United States and the Middle East. So it is hard for the public to trust that they are right now. If we really do face such a serious threat then for the good of the country Bush and Cheney should declare that Iran is a serious enough emergency to warrant that they leave office and ask the Congress to put in place leadership that the American public and the world can trust.

Second, they should immediately implement the draft, so that there will be sufficient forces available to prevail in what they are saying will be a decades-long “clash of civilizations.”

Third, they should immediately repeal their tax cuts and impose an additional 50% surtax on incomes above $250,000. This is necessary to immediately balance the budget and begin paying down the massive debt they have accumulated. The country will need to be strong financially to purchase the necessary weaponry.

This fourth suggestion is really important. The Republican election strategies are tearing the country apart. If they really do believe that we are in a war for the country’s survival they should stop this stuff right now. Calling people traitors does not motivate them to join arms with you against a common enemy. A divided country is a weakened country. President Bush (before resigning and requesting that the Congress bring in credible leadership) should DEMAND that the Ann Coulters, Rush Limbaughs and John Bohners and his other surogates stop attacking other Americans as unpatriotic, and begin working to bring the country together.

They would do these thing if they really do mean what they say, and all this talk isn’t just another cynical, divisive election tactic.

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

September 14, 2006

Front-Group PFA Echoes Republican "Freedom, Security and Survival" Themes

This piece originally appeared on The Patriot Project

The Republican “527” front-group Progress for America has reemerged, and is running a TV advertisement that echoes and amplifies the “be afraid” election campaign theme launched by President Bush. The ad is currently running in Missouri and nationally on cable TV.

The ad, titled “The War on Terror,” is not even a little bit subtle, marketing pure fear. “There are people who want to KILL … US!” it shouts in a horror-movie-advertisement voice, as dark-skinned, Middle-Eastern faces appear on the screen.

Just as President Bush did all last week (political campaigns traditionally begin on Labor Day), the ad conflates different groups like al Queda, Islamic Jihad, and Hezzbollah together as if they are one group. The ad reinforces the Bush administration and surrogate’s repeated claim that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attack. Referring to “the evil” that happened five years ago while showing a plane hitting the World Trade Center, the ad then says President Clinton “took little action” against al Queda and says that “after 9/11 we destroyed al Queda terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Also, echoing current Party talking points, the ad claims there are those who want to “cut and run” from the war on terror.

Reflecting another campaign point advocating warrantless wiretapping of Americans, the ad goes on to say “we have narrowly escaped another 9/11, using proven surveillance that some would stop” – even though it was British law enforcement that caught those involved, using warrants.

Finally, the ad closes saying “the war on terror is a war for our country’s freedom, security and survival.”

The Progress for America website claims its mission includes:

• Winning the "War on Terror" in Iraq to prevent future terrorist attacks in America;
• Increasing the public’s awareness of the under-reported positive news and advances in Iraq;
• Educating the public about the necessity of winning the war on terror by completing the mission in Iraq;
Of course, in this supposed war for our very survival there is no call for sacrifice or public effort of any kind beyond voting for Republicans – no draft to provide the needed troops who fight for our freedom and security, no taxes to pay for this war for our survival, and certainly no energy conservation or even fuel use standards to reduce the flow of money flowing to the supposed “enemies” from oil purchases. Such appeals to national sacrifice for the war effort might cause the Republicans and Progress For America to sacrifice something they desire much more than defeating terrorists – votes.

Progress for America is a front-group. It is a “527” organization.  As Patriot Project pointed out in Behind the Front: The Creation of Vets for Freedom, Opensecrets.org writes:

"527 groups are tax-exempt organizations that engage in political activities, often through unlimited soft money contributions. Most 527s on this list are advocacy groups trying to influence federal elections through voter mobilization efforts and so-called issue ads that tout or criticize a candidate's record."

And Common Cause writes:

"In the 2004 election, 527 groups influencing federal elections spent an estimated $400 million. About 25 individuals alone gave $146 million to these groups, some of which were staffed by political operatives who had close ties to the national political parties. The fear was that 527 groups would be a backdoor route for parties to once again collect soft money, and to evade Federal laws on the books for more than 50 years that have prohibited labor unions and corporations from using their treasury funds to influence federal elections."

Initially intended as an Astroturf operation to create the appearance of public support for President Bush’s policies such as tax cuts, energy deregulation and judicial appointments, PFA was one of the largest political operations in the 2004 Presidential campaign. According to SourceWatch,

“In the last three weeks leading up to the November 2, 2004, election, PFA-VF outspent the next largest spending Democratic 527 group three-to-one on political ads.”
Following the election, PFA is reported to have spent as much as $20 million – much of that received from investment firms anticipating commission fees – in support of privatizing Social Security. From the Feb., 2005 Washington Post story, Conservatives Join Forces for Bush Plans,
"For corporations wary of publicity over their involvement in [promoting Social Security privatization, tort reform] and other controversial issues, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform, the Club for Growth and Progress for America pointedly offer donors the promise of anonymity."
The next PFA cause was pressing for Bush’s judicial nominations, and later fighting against “Net Neutrality.” And now, like clockwork, PFA has arrived on the scene, with an ad campaign that exactly correlates with the Republican Party and President Bush’s election-season message of extreme fear.

PFA was formed in February 2001 by Tony Feather, who had been political director for the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign. PFA is closely-linked to the Republican firm Feather, Larson & Synhorst DCI Group (DCI). According to the Center for Media and Democracy,

FLS-DCI specializes in creating phony front groups to make it appear as if there's a groundswell of support for its clients' issues.
Tony Feather was also a founding partner of DCI, which does extensive work for the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney campaign ($17 million combined in 2004). <

Tom Synhorst, PFA strategic advisor, also a veteran of Bush/Cheney 2000, was the founder of DCI. Previously Synhorst worked as a tobacco PR specialist, and an associate of Christian/lobbyist Ralph Reed.

Chris LaCivita, former National Republican Senatorial Committee director, later employed at DCI, became Executive Director of PFA before he went over to help the Swift Boat Vets to attack John Kerry’s service record with claims like he lied, or that he shot himself to get his medals.

(Incidentally, DCI, which is still receiving large payments from PFA – over $147,000 just this year, as of June 30. and its Republican ties have been in the news for other reasons as well. DCI employee James Tobin, New England campaign chairman for the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign, was convicted last December for his part in a plot to jam Democrat’s phones on election day.)

So here we have yet another front group, misleading and manipulating the public.  They want us to be afraid.  Perhaps we should be afraid of what they are doing to democracy.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 11, 2006

Limbaugh on CBS News - Word-For-Word Matches New Republican Ads

Media Matters - CBS gave Limbaugh a platform to attack nameless "critics" who are "not interested in victory," offer his definition of "patriotism",

Summary: In a "Free Speech" segment on the CBS Evening News, Rush Limbaugh attacked unnamed critics who are "not interested in victory" over what he termed "Islamofascism" and who do not conform to his definition of "patriotism," specifically those who "are more interested in punishing this country over a few incidents of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay than they are in defeating those who want to kill us."
The new Republican/PFA ad message: "These people want to kill us."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:04 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 10, 2006

Election Prediction Update

OK, we're wrapping up the first week of election campaign season, which traditionally begins on Labor Day. How is my July Election Prediction holding up so far? Here is what I wrote then,

Here is my election prediction.

In November we are all going to be in shock that the Republicans would do that, go that far, do such things, let it get to that point. We simply aren't going to believe that that could have happened in this country, this world, this day and age. All of us.

So far we're right on schedule. And remember, Path to 9/11, in which a major TV network tells the public that Clinton was responsible for terrorism, and Bush was a hero trying to prevent the attacks, is only the very beginning. Watch the first PFA ad that will be saturating the airwaves, and read this article, In a Pivotal Year, GOP Plans to Get Personal; Millions to Go to Digging Up Dirt on Democrats, for just a glimpse at next week.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 9, 2006

The Extent Of ABC Lies

ABC's Path to 9/11 doesn't just fictionalize - it intentionally tells the public the very opposite of what happened. It doesn't just broadcast the right-wing myth that Clinton was responsible for 9/11, it also misleads the public into thinking that the Bush administration was trying to prevent the attacks. But in fact the Clinton administration was "obsessed" with preventing terrorism and the Bush administration ignored terrorism.

According to Joe Conason at Salon, in The Sept. 11 that never was,

The movie shows ... Condoleezza Rice demoting Clarke in January 2001 when she takes over as national security advisor. Clarke tries to warn her that "something spectacular" is going to happen on American soil, and she assures him that "we're on it," which they assuredly were not.

Indeed, the script downplays the neglect of terrorism as a primary threat by the incoming Bush team -- and never mentions the counterterrorism task force, chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney, that never met for nine months before 9/11. The famous Aug. 6 presidential daily briefing, which warned the vacationing Bush that al-Qaida intended to strike here, is given due attention. But the movie then shows Rice telling her associates that "as a result of the Aug. 6 PDB, the president wants to take real action" against al-Qaida. But the 9/11 Commission report's section on the PDB clearly states that the August warning was not followed up on by Rice. [emphasis added]

This is pure right-wing propaganda, following the Republican campaign theme.

Update - Orcinus has more.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 8, 2006

ABC 'Path To 9/11' Connected To Ongoing Effort To Blame Clinton

According to Max Blumenthal at Huffington Post, Republican strategist (and Karl Rove friend) David Horowitz was involved from the start in ABC's Path to 9/11 smear blaming Clinton for 9/11. This is significant because Horowitz has been involved for some time in a strategic PR effort to shift blame for 9/11 from Bush to Clinton. According to a Feb. 26, 2002 story in O'Dwyer's PR Daily, titled "PR CAMPAIGN BLAMES CLINTON FOR SEPT. 11 ATTACKS",

The Center for the Study of Popular Culture, in Los Angeles, has begun a PR campaign to pin the blame of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Clinton Administration.

The Center has mailed copies of David Horowitz's new pamphlet entitled "How the Left Undermined America's Security," to about 1,500 media outlets on Feb. 19. Horowitz is president of the Center.

The 46-page pamphlet charges that the U.S. national security interests were undermined by the left, leading to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.

From Eat The Press | Max Blumenthal: Discover the Secret Right-Wing Network Behind ABC's 9/11 Deception | The Huffington Post,
In fact, "The Path to 9/11" is produced and promoted by a well-honed propaganda operation consisting of a network of little-known right-wingers working from within Hollywood to counter its supposedly liberal bias. This is the network within the ABC network. Its godfather is far right activist David Horowitz, who has worked for more than a decade to establish a right-wing presence in Hollywood and to discredit mainstream film and TV production. On this project, he is working with a secretive evangelical religious right group founded by The Path to 9/11's director David Cunningham that proclaims its goal to "transform Hollywood" in line with its messianic vision.

...With the LFF now under Horowitz's control, his political machine began drumming up support for Cunningham and Nowrasteh's "Untitled" project, which finally was revealed in late summer as "The Path to 9/11." Horowitz's PR blitz began with an August 16 interview with Nowrasteh on his FrontPageMag webzine. In the interview, Nowrasteh foreshadowed the film's assault on Clinton's record on fighting terror. "The 9/11 report details the Clinton's administration's response -- or lack of response -- to Al Qaeda and how this emboldened Bin Laden to keep attacking American interests," Nowrasteh told FrontPageMag's Jamie Glazov. "There simply was no response. Nothing."
So it is becomming clear that ABC's Path To 9/11 is part of a long-term campaign to smear the Clinton administration - and by extension Democrats and others opposed to Bush's takeover. This is an attempt to distract public attention from Bush's own lack of concern about - and efforts to prevent - terrorism before 9/11.

But remember, George Bush was given an August, 2001 document titled, "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside U.S." and left for vacation instead of doing anything about it. In contrast Bill Clinton was accused of having an "unhealthy American obscession" with terrorism while Republicans tried to block his administration's anti-terrorism efforts..

This April 2, 2000 Washington Post article, An Obscure Chief in U.S. War on Terror, discusses the extent of Clinton's anti-terrorism efforts - which were ignored or even stopped after Bush took office. I am quoting extensively because of the contrast to the Horiwitz/Republican efforts to rewrite history.

Four weeks before, Clarke had sketched out a plan on the whiteboard in his office at the National Security Council for neutralizing the latest threat from the Afghanistan-based Saudi exile. Approved by President Clinton and his top foreign policy advisers, Clarke's plan became the basis of administration efforts to prevent bin Laden supporters from ringing in the New Year with what officials believed could be dozens, perhaps hundreds, of American deaths in a series of simultaneous attacks from the Middle East to the West Coast.

Central to Clarke's strategy was a major disruption effort, orchestrated by the CIA and implemented by friendly intelligence agencies around the world, aimed at harassing members of bin Laden's al Qaeda organization and forcing them onto the defensive. Other moves included putting the FBI on a heightened state of alert, dispatching counterterrorism teams to Europe and having the State Department issue an informal ultimatum to Afghanistan to keep bin Laden under control.

... As the national coordinator for infrastructure protection and counterterrorism, Clarke has presided over a huge increase in counterterrorism budgets over the past five years to meet a wide array of new--and some would argue, still hypothetical--challenges, such as cyber warfare or chemical or biological attacks in New York or Washington. Last month, the administration submitted an $11.1 billion request to Congress to strengthen "domestic preparedness" against a terrorist attack.

... Such talk irritates national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, Clarke's direct supervisor, who insists that the threat of large-scale terrorist attacks on U.S. soil is "a reality, not a perception." "We would be irresponsible if we did not take this seriously," he says. "I hope that in 10 years' time, they will say we did too much, not too little."

Clarke's warnings about America's vulnerability to new kinds of terrorist attack have found a receptive ear in Clinton. With little fanfare, the president has begun to articulate a new national security doctrine in which terrorists and other "enemies of the nation-state" are coming to occupy the position once filled by a monolithic communist superpower. In January, he departed from the prepared text of his State of the Union address to predict that terrorists and organized criminals "with increasing access to ever more sophisticated chemical and biological weapons" will pose "the major security threat" to the United States in 10 to 20 years.

... He compares the current threat of global terrorism with the situation faced by Western democracies in the period leading up to World War II, when appeasement carried the day. Imagine what would have happened, he says, had Winston Churchill come to power in Britain five years earlier and "aggressively gone after" Nazi Germany. Hitler would have been stopped, but in all likelihood, Clarke says, Churchill would have gone down in history "as a hawk, as someone who exaggerated the threat, who saber-rattled and did needless things."

Which is precisely what some of Clarke's critics have said about him.

... The latest administration request for $11.1 billion in counterterrorism funds--compared with $5.7 billion in 1996--includes $1.5 billion for defense against weapons of mass destruction and almost $2 billion for protection of computer networks, utility systems and other "critical infrastructure." The figures do not include intelligence spending, which remains classified.

... Clarke's authority derives in large measure from the fact that Clinton shares his area of interest. According to aides, the president is a voracious reader of popular books on terrorism...

... The U.S. budget to fight terrorism has grown by more than 90 percent over the past six years in response to a series of terror attacks at home and abroad. New programs have been launched to counter the threat of terrorists using nuclear, chemical or biological agents. But critics question how dangerous the threat remains. [All emphasis added]

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

New Republican Ad Says Iraq Invasion Was About Destroying al Queda Terrorists

Go see Progress for America's ad, which will saturate the airwaves for the next two months. (Progress for America IS the Republican Party - all the same people, all the same funders, etc.)

Fear.

"THEY WANT TO KILL US." The site says the War on Terror is a war for our country's freedom, security and survival.

But, of course, the Republicans respond to this threat to our very survival without a draft or taxes to pay for it, or even buying less oil from our "enemies."

Right.

Update-Go see this new DNC video, responding.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 7, 2006

43% Believe Saddam Ordered 9/11

Every single day Bush equates the Iraq occupation with the "War on Terror." You and I know that Iraq had NOTHING to do with 9/11. But 43% of the public is still fooled. The Republican messaging will only increase between now and November 7.

From yesterday's CNN poll:

Asked whether former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 52 percent said he was not, but 43 percent said they believe he was. [emphasis added]
Go watch this video clip in which Cenk fro The Young Turks instructs us on the proper attitude to have over this. Cenk writes about this at HuffPo today.
This is a colossal failure on the part of the press. It is the job of the press to get information to the public. They have failed miserably. Five long years after September 11th, 43% of the country still believes Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for 9/11.

Obviously, the mainstream media did a woeful job of communicating the truth to these people. This should be an everlasting mark of shame on the press. And it is not in the past - it is in the present. These people still believe Saddam did it. When is the press ever going to let them in on the truth?

.. Recently Zogby conducted a poll of US troops fighting in Iraq. And in this group, 85% believe Saddam was responsible for 9/11. When in the world are we going to tell these poor kids the truth? Don't they deserve to know that they are fighting and dying for a lie?

Crooks & Liars points out something,

The poll also shows that the lower education someone has, the higher the chances they believe in the Saddam/9-11 connection.
As well as other stuff the Republicans feed them, I bet.

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

August 26, 2006

The Message The Conservatives Are Getting

I have said that the way to understand what Bush and the conservative movement leaders are saying is to listen to what their followers are hearing. And you don't have to go far at all to get the message - the conservatives want war with all of Islam, especially American Muslims.

Over at Townhall - which is a Republican commentary hub, this: Home grown terrorists,

“We are not at war with the Muslim faith.” So say various members of the media and government, either because they actually believe it, or because their blind adherence to political correctness dictates as much.

... Make no mistake, these were your fellow citizens cheering a terrorist organization that has already proudly killed hundreds of Americans. If they would cheer such a despicable group, what else might they do for them or Al Qaida? A logical question that political correctness forbids us to ask.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 25, 2006

Iran And The Price Of Oil

The Republicans are pushing for war with Iran. They say Iran is an enemy, a threat, "evil," behind terrorism, etc.

This may be so. But if this is so, maybe the Republicans should give us some reason to think they believe this themselves before they ask us to believe them.

For example, Iran's income comes mostly from selling oil. As the price of oil rises, Iran has more income to use against us. So if the Republicans are serious when they say that Iran is a threat to the United States, shouldn't they be pursuing policies that result in lowering the price of oil, thereby reducing Iran's oil revenues?

What about raising the fuel economy requirements for cars? What about pushing energy conservation? What about funding serious alternative energy research? What about putting solar panels on all government buildings?

I could go on, but the point is that the Republicans are opposing all of these things. And this is just one more reason - along with the lack of a draft or taxes to pay for the war - to make me think they are not serious when they try to scare us about Iran and terrorism. In the propaganda age you have to learn to look only at what they do rather than what they say, and as far as I can see the terrorism/Iran/"Islamofascism" stuff is all talk, with little action on their part to back it up.

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

August 23, 2006

Reaching Low-Information Voters

The other day I wrote that many people probably don't understand that "GOP" means Republicans. And I often say that those of us who read blogs should keep reminding ourselves that we are hyper-informed, and most people are not. And, of course, we're reminded of this every time we hear that a huge percent of the public thinks WMD were found in Iraq, or that the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis...

Along these lines I recently came across an interesting article, "The Uninformed Bloc, at Democratic Strategist,

So, to put it in provocative terms, how ignorant is the electorate? Bennett found that nearly one-third of adults were unaware that the Republican Party is more conservative than the Democratic Party. And lest the reader think that this is an expression of cynicism rather than a lack of knowledge, Bennett found that whether or not respondents knew there were major differences between the two parties was associated with the amount of knowledge they had of major politicians and the parties but not with their levels of governmental trust.

Only one in ten adults knew who Denny Hastert is. Out of eight similar questions about politicians and the two parties, the average adult got just 4.5 right. One-third of adults said they follow politics “hardly at all” or “only now and then”.
It's so important to understand that we are not the audience we need to reach. We think that others know what we know. And we get so far ahead of regular people in our online discussions that people tuning in for the first time can barely understand what we're talkig about -- or can't understand at all. Once, when pondering this I wrote,
We think facts are important. But in fact most of the public knows very little about politics and the news and the issues and understands even less. Many of the people who bother to vote at all base their decisions on things that would make informed people like us just pass out if we heard them.

The key to winning elections is learning how various groups of voters make their decisions, and being there with the information they need in the form they need it and in the channels where they receive it.

Chris Bowers at MyDD discovered that when a certain percentage of people can identify one party as controlling Congress, that party loses seats in the next Congressional election. It doesn't even matter if they identify the correct party.

On this subject I wrote previously,

Regular people are in a different world than the one we are in, get their information in different ways, and retain information for different reasons. The better we understand and utilize this, the better off we will be at getting regular people to see things our way.

So before we work to pump "facts" out there, we need to cover the basics. Let's start by making sure that the public identifies their troubles with Republicans.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Questions

Why are Israeli soldiers "kidnapped" but Hezbollah soldiers are "terrorists" who are "captured?"

Come to think of it, why are Palestinean legislators and cabinet members "arrested" rather than "kidnapped?"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 22, 2006

Think That the Dems Will Win?

Anyone thinking the Democrats are going to pick up the House or Senate this year had better read this from a year ago. For Democrats, a Troubling Culture Gap,

Democrats Karl Agne and Stan Greenberg, who conducted the focus group, said Democrats need a reform-oriented, anti-Washington agenda to overcome the culture gap. At this point, Democrats are in no position to capitalize if there is a clear backlash against Republicans. "No matter how disaffected they are over Republican failures in Iraq and here at home," they said, "a large chunk of white, non-college voters, particularly in rural areas, will remain unreachable for Democrats at the national level."
I haven't seen a reform-oriented agenda to overcome the cultural gap from the Democrats. Have you? More importantly there still is not any kind of coordinated campaign from non-Party organizations ("progressive infrastructure" (also see skippy part I, part II and video), that reaches out across America to regular voters and promote the benefits of progressive/liberal values and a progressive/liberal approach to issues.

Without reaching out to the public, explaining WHY liberal and progressive values are better for them, nothing is going to be getting better. Why SHOULD the public think our values and ideas are worth considering when we aren't bothering to even TELL THEM what they ARE?? This is what the conservatives are doing -- you can't go anywhere without hearing, over and over, how conservatives are better than progressives or liberals, how their ideas are good and liberal ideas are bad, etc. The public is STILL not hearing anything to counter that.

If you want to help do something about this, send Commonweal Institute a healthy, healthy check.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Can't Tell The Difference Between Bush Propagandist and ABC Reporter

Yesterday while driving I tuned into KGO, a local ABC talk-radio station. The host was talking with a woman guest about Bush, Iraq and the coming election. The nature of the conversation led me to wonder which Bush-administration official he was talking with, as she argued the positive points of every single White House talking point. After a while it got so bad that I figured it had to be Bush propagandist Karen Hughes, back on the circuit.

I shouldn't have been, but I was really surprised to discover that the guest was ABC White House reporter Ann Compton, sounding very much like a Republican Party official. "Apologist" is the word that comes to mind.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

The STF Rule - The Accuser Describes The Accuser

The STF Rule: When Republicans accuse, it means they're probably doing what it is they are accusing others of.

In this fantastic (in the true meaning of the word) piece at right-wing Townhall, Our covert enemies, Michael Barone tries to accuse anyone promoting what he calls "multiculturalism" of being "covert enemies" of the country (i.e. traitors). He follows the narrative's script about "elites" pretty well, so he might get his bonus,

Our covert enemies are harder to identify, for they live in large numbers within our midst. And in terms of intentions, they are not enemies in the sense that they consciously wish to destroy our society. On the contrary, they enjoy our freedoms and often call for their expansion. But they have also been working, over many years, to undermine faith in our society and confidence in its goodness. These covert enemies are those among our elites who have promoted the ideas labeled as multiculturalism, moral relativism and (the term is Professor Samuel Huntington's) transnationalism.
Of course, following the STF Rule, he's describing the conservative movement's own attack on all of the fundamental institutions of our society - government, public schools, the justice system, etc.

But then, OOPS, look how he ends his piece:

We have always had our covert enemies, but their numbers were few until the 1960s. But then the elite young men who declined to serve in the military during the Vietnam War set out to write a narrative in which they, rather than those who obeyed the call to duty, were the heroes. They have propagated their ideas through the universities, the schools and mainstream media to the point that they are the default assumptions of millions.
What is that a description of? "Young men who declined to serve in the military during the Vietnam war?" That's not a description of Gore, Kerry, Murtha, Cleland, etc., it's instead a description of Bush, Cheney, Limbaugh and every single leader of the conservative movement! And this thing about propagating their ideas until they become conventional wisdom -- is a description of the conservative movement itself!

OOPS! Maybe he won't get his bonus after all.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:30 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 14, 2006

You Know things Are Bad When...

You know that our news media situation has gotten pretty bad when foreign news outlets run stories about it. This British news story, America's one-eyed view of war: Stars, stripes, and the Star of David, discusses how America's news coverage of Israel/Lebanon has deteriorated to pure propaganda dissemination.

The media, more generally, has left little doubt in the minds of a majority of American news consumers that the Israelis are the good guys, the aggrieved victims, while Hizbollah is an incarnation of the same evil responsible for bringing down the World Trade Centre, a heartless and faceless organisation whose destruction is so important it can justify all the damage Israel is inflicting on Lebanon and its civilians.

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

HOW Big A Threat?

Many Republicans say that terrorism is the most serious threat ever faced by the United States. President Bush said on Thursday:

...this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation," ...
Cheney, in March,
“They seek to impose a dictatorship of fear, under which every man, woman, and child lives in total obedience to a narrow, hateful ideology. The terrorists have targeted people of every nationality and every religious faith, including Muslims who disagree with them,” said Cheney, adding, “The war on terror is a fight against evil; victory in this war will be a victory for peaceful men and women of every religious faith.”
Sounds pretty serious, no?

I've often said that in The Propaganda Age we need to learn to look only at what they DO, not what they SAY. So, in order to determine just HOW serious a threat the Republicans actually think terrorism is, let's look at what they actually DO about the threat.

So just how serious a threat does the United States face from terrorism? Let's look at the ways they could be asking the citizens to involve themselves.

Taxes to pay for the war? Nope.

Instituting a draft to fight the war? Nope.

Fuel economy standards to reduce our dependence on oil from the Middle East? Nope.

Federal energy conservation requirements like a 55mph speed limit or lowering the thermostats on air conditioners? Nope.

Increasing port security and searching all cargo containers? Nope.

How about the recent news that the Bush administration had CUT the budget for R&D into detecting explosives on airplanes?

Please - add in the comments more things they could be doing that are real, not just propaganda.

If you do believe that terrorism is a serious threat to our safety and security, perhaps you should consider whether the Republicans really are the right people to be handling things. They SAY a lot, but what are they actually DOING that's real? Maybe their attitude of saying instead of doing is sending the wrong signal to the public.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 13, 2006

Just Get Rid Of Government?

Today my local newspaper' subjects me to this right-wing propaganda comic strip (click to enlarge):

Mallard_FillmoreAug12.gif

Today the cartoon's message is: Get rid of public schools, then we don't have to pay property taxes, and everyone can pick out for themselves what education their kids get. At least today we get to see the pure, honest message of the Right without the usual disguises -- today's cartoon is not even offering the usual pretense of vouchers.

The larger exchange offered is clear: just get rid of government and the taxes it requires, and leave everyone to fend for themselves.

This exchange extends beyond just schools -- it's about parks, water systems, sewer systems, roads, bridges, highways, public transportation, public health systems, hospitals, Social Security, Medicare and everything else that we as a people, a community, have decided to gather together and provide for the people of this country. The Right dismisses all of this as "collectivism."

I'll just make a couple of points here. If you get rid of schools only the richest will be able to get any education at all. This is the way things used to be. But in America every town got together to build a school and hire a teacher, and this is how public education grew. Everyone understood (learned the hard way) that more education for everyone ends up being better for everyone. If the kids in poor neighborhoods are provided with an education, the community is a better, safer and more prosperous place.

And, likewise, if you get rid of public health systems, the rich are still just as susceptible to catching diseases as everyone else. If we as a collective group don't work to keep the poorest among us from catching TB, then we ALL are at risk of catching TB.

Democracy is about one-person-one-vote and not about one-dollar-one-vote. History has proven that systems based on the Right's dream of one-dollar-one-vote just do not work. But we don't hear this side - the pro-democracy side - of the argument anymore. The increasing concentration of our sources of information into just a few corporate hands means that we even have to be subjected to this kind of far-right propaganda in our Sunday comics. (And when was the last time you saw someone on TV advocating that workers form unions?)

But the reason we are constantly subjected to far-right propaganda like this without hearing counter-messaging is not just because of this concentration of media. It is also because the counter-messaging just isn't being produced and distributed. The Right has a vast messaging machine pumping out propaganda designed to systematically attack the institutions of democracy. But Progressives -- the forces of democracy and community -- aren't doing much to counter it.

We need to build organizations designed to reach the general public with messages that explain and reinforce the values of democracy and community, to counter the Right's incessant messaging.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 6, 2006

Corporate/Conservative Infiltration of YouTube Videos

A video that mocks Al Gore and people who believe that global warming is real has shown up on YouTube. When reporters tracked down who made the video they discovered that it came from a Republican Party-linked PR firm with ExxonMobil as a client. From ABC News: Al Gore YouTube Spoof Not So Amateurish,

The film actually came from a slick Republican public relations firm called DCI, which just happens to have oil giant Exxon as a client.

... Another question is why would this movie be done in a seemingly unprofessional way, to be shown alongside YouTube's mostly amateur videos, which feature lip-synching, odd performances and funny satires?

"They want it to look like this came from someone who really believes this, who is really critical of Al Gore and global warming," Farsetta said.

Here is the video. See how many forms of propaganda and psychological manipulation you can spot. For example, can you spot an appeal to the actions of similar others, which is when people see others following a behaviour they tend to follow that behavior themselves?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:12 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Why Liberals Love Pedophiles

Because right-wingers say so - that's why.

How often do you hear one or another variation of the message that liberals are bad and conservatives are good? And how often do you hear messages that counter that? Right. That is because one side is marketing a viewpoint, and the other is not.

At the right-wing Townhall.com, Why liberals love pedophiles

"Since modern liberalism's true goal is the actual eradication of God, moral values, and the ideas of absolute right vs. wrong, it should surprise no one that not a single leftist politician in America has denounced [pedohile no one has ever heard of]. Nor did they denounce [pedohile no one has ever heard of]. The truth is liberals seek sexual utopia where no rules apply. Restraint has in fact become a dirty word to them. Self control - a throughly foreign concept.

... For liberals to denounce pedophiles, ultimately they would have to denounce, lesbianism, homsexuality, and their particular favorite - adultery. And that's just no going to happen.

At the end of the day there are such a thing as moral values, and liberals despise them - because as they see it - those moral values limit their sexual freedoms. And if this is "America" - isn't it all about the freedom to get your groove on?

Liberals love pedophiles.

Isn't it shameful?

And don't we all wish - that they loved the well being of children more?"

The guy tells a story about some pedophile no one has ever heard of, and turns it into a lesson about liberals being immoral. So let's learn from this. Let's look at how movement conservatives do it. They "always add the because". They tie every small story to a larger ideological lesson - a strategic narrative.

But here's the thing. They have that strategic narrative in place to tie their stories to, even if they have to fall back on the old basic one - conservatives are good and liberals are bad. So they have a ready-to-go angle to use with any story that comes along. And they understand the basic marketing reasons to do this. Progressives don't. (Is that because progressives are bad and conservatives are good?)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 19, 2006

Government and Party Merge

Your tax dollars used to enforce right-wing ideology: Pregnancy Centers Found to Give False Information on Abortion,

Federally funded "pregnancy resource centers" are incorrectly telling women that abortion results in an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and deep psychological trauma, a minority congressional report charged yesterday.

The report said that 20 of 23 federally funded centers contacted by staff investigators requesting information about an unintended pregnancy were told false or misleading information about the potential risks of an abortion.

Paid by the government to lie to citizens.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 18, 2006

A Key Question About the Middle East Conflict - What Do We Know?

Meteor Blades asks what I think is one of the most important questions about the Middle East conflict: Daily Kos: How Do You Know What You Know? This is the question to ask yourself about everything you think you "know."

We live in what I call The Propaganda Age. We are bombarded from every direction with carefully crafted messaging from people who want to influence us. This goes wayyyy beyond just the marketing of products, significant and effective as that is. (Cigarette marketers convince people to kill themselves, but not before handing over their money. They even know how to make us blame the victims!) This is about the very foundation of what you "know." Because so much of what we "know" is just stuff designed to make us think things...

Think about the people in the Heaven's Gate "Comet Cult" who all killed themselves because they believed they would be transported to a spaceship hidden in the comet's tail. The "knew" that spaceship was there. That is the power of manipulated information, and that is why we must always question how and why we know the things we think we know.

Think about how loaded the word "terrorist" is. Extreme emotional loading is a good tipoff to psychological manipulation. Think about the emotional reaction attached to the idea of a terrorist. Think about the images that come into your mind - and the fear. You are justified in doing anything to a terrorist - setting aside the Geneva Conventions, torture, bombing an entire country into the ground - civilians and all - if there might have been a terrorist there. No one is thinking.

Most Americans think, at this point, that Arabs and Muslims are terrorists. I wonder if they are terrorists because "our oil is under their sand?" I mean, maybe it's about giving the public a justification for going over there and taking the oil, so we propagandize them as "terrorists."

Another example of something we "know": People "know" that President Ahmadinejad of Iran called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." But did he really? Juan Cole says this is an (intentionally?) incorrect translation,

But the actual quote, which comes from an old speech of Khomeini, does not imply military action, or killing anyone at all. The second reason is that it is just an inexact translation. The phrase is almost metaphysical. He quoted Khomeini that "the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time." It is in fact probably a reference to some phrase in a medieval Persian poem. It is not about tanks.

[. . .] The phrase he then used as I read it is "The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] from the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad)."

Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope-- that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah's government.

This does not excuse Ahmadinejad, who hates Jews and denies the Holocaust, for example. But it does show how expertly-placed propaganda can affect people's understanding of the world.

And don't think my writing this is intended to excuse shooting rockets into civilian areas in Israel, or bombing power plants in Gaza or bridges in Lebanon. War is bad and wrong! War is the worst thing! THAT is something we ought to "know" for sure.

What Meteor says:

Our only choice is looking futureward to what a peaceful, secure, prosperous Palestine and Israel would look like in 50 years, and doing what little part we can to make that happen. We can't say that's their problem, not ours.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos