January 4, 2013

Don't Feed The Debt Ceiling Trolls

Bloggers have learned some hard lessons about engaging with right-wing nutcases who leave nasty comments: "Don't feed the trolls." Starve them of the attention they seek. Ignore them and move on. This advice also applies to the right-wing nutcases threatening to bring down our economy by refusing to raise the debt-ceiling limit. They won't get any traction on this unless Democrats engage with them. So ignore them, isolate them and scorn them but do not engage with them. Their billionaire & Wall Street funders will stop them and the pubic will see them for what they are, but only if we all just leave them alone. They aren't really going to hold their breath until we all die.

And if they actually did take down the economy (they won't), the country will be better off in the long run because it means the end of the radical right as a force in our politics.

So let them hold their breath until the country turns blue.

Crisis To Crisis, Destruction As A Tactic

Our country is now governed by crisis. We go from crisis to crisis because causing a crisis and making everyone panic works. But it only works if we let it work.

Look at the obstruction and destruction of the last few years. Obstruction has kept us from hiring millions to modernize our infrastructure, making our buildings and homes more energy efficient, helping people with things like the Dream Act and Medicare-for-All, sufficiently stimulating new industries like wind and solar energy production, and SO MUCH more.

And the accelerating, destructive hostage-taking has cost us so much! Giving in to hostage-taking in the first place has only meant more and more of it, with bigger and bigger costs. We gave in when they held back from authorizing unemployment benefits for millions. We gave in when they threatened to shut down the government, including denying elderly people their Social Security checks. The fiscal cliff "crisis" was just more hostage-taking.

Now they are actually threatening again to take the entire economy hostage, if we don't give in and hurt our people even more.

Crisis to crisis. Hostage to hostage. Destruction to destruction. And always obstruction and destruction of the things We, the People to do make our lives better.

Again and again. They hold their breath and threaten to do damage, and we give in and let them hurt us a little so they don't hurt use a lot. And so they do it more.

Crisis to crisis. As long as we engage, it works for them. Each time a bigger hostage, demanding that we hurt ourselves even more before they will take the gun away from the hostage's head.

Now the biggest hostage, the debt ceiling.

What The Debt Limit Is

The process of raising the debt ceiling is basically a mistake in the law. Raising the debt ceiling authorizes Congress to pay the bills that Congress has already committed to paying. But since the Reagan tax cuts and then the 'W' Bush tax cuts the country has not had sufficient revenue to meet the needs of our people without borrowing, so the debt keeps increasing.

What the Republicans are threatening to do is refuse to honor our debts and pay the bills that the United States has already promised to pay. They would default on our bonds - most of which are held by Americans. This would ruin the credit of the country, dramatically increase all future borrowing costs, and forever end America's status as a "safe haven" place to keep money. It would end our status as the "reserve currency." It would be a vote to tell the world that the US dollar is not worth the paper it is printed on.

This would crash our economy and take the world's economy down with it.

That is what they are threatening to do. They are literally threatening to hold their breath until they die because we are afraid we will die, too.

What Is Their Real Power?

The Republican Party is threatening to take us all down with them unless we hurt ourselves even more. But they only have power on this IF we engage. If we don’t engage on this they have no power. If we don't engage they are just a bunch of crazy people threatening to kill themselves if we don't kill ourselves, and that's crazy.

They can’t be serious, so don’t take them seriously. Ignore them. Don't feed the trolls. They have no power this time if we just ignore them.

And ignore the corporate media that feeds on crisis and feeds panic, and the "Fix the Debt" corporate-funded propaganda that tries to convince us to engage.

The debt ceiling is not a crisis unless we help them make it into a crisis. If we ignore them they have to go away.

Not A Crisis Unless We Make It One

This is not a crisis unless we make it a crisis.

Are we really afraid the 2-year-old will actually hold its breath until it dies? Seriously?

And haven't we learned yet what happens later, after we give them what they want when they hold their breath?

Do we really believe the Republicans would take down the whole economy? Really? Do we really believe Wall Street and their billionaire funders will let them do this?

They only have power if we engage with them on this. Their only power is making us afraid.

What To Do This Time

Ignore them. No negotiations, not even any conversations. Don’t fall for it this time. If someone even says the words "debt ceiling" just tell them to go away, you have things that need doing, that deserve attention. Just let them spout their nonsense and don’t respond. Like the crazy guy who stands up at the city council meeting and talks about how UFOs are shooting energy waves into his brain, when he gets done say “Thank you” and just move on to the next item.

Seriously, they threaten to destroy the economy if they don't get what they want? And what they want is things that make our lives harder and less healthy? Really? Then just let them shout it, and let the voters see it, and hold them accountable.

They won't really do that. And if you think they will actually vote to do that -– and the people who fund the Republican Party won’t stop them at the last minute -– then just let them this time. And let them own the reaction. Because if they do that, our country’s minority-party obstruction/destruction/hostage-taking/extortion/intimidation problem will be over.

If debt-ceiling day comes and they are still threatening to do it, just sit back and watch their Wall Street and billionaire funders panic.

Do not engage. Let them hold their breath until the country turns blue.

--

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 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 11, 2012

Michigan Races To Bottom With Anti-Union Law

Pay attention to what is happening in Michigan, because it will add downward even more pressure to your wages and benefits, wherever you live and work. Republicans in the Michigan legislature have rammed through anti-union "right-to-work" laws making union dues voluntary even as unions a required by law to provide services to members and non-members. They say this will make Michigan more "business-friendly" by driving down wages and benefits, thereby stealing jobs from states where working people have rights. The actual intent is to get rid of the unions altogether, and their ability to fight for the 99% in the ongoing class war with the 1%.

What Are So-Called "Right-To-Work" Laws?

"Right-to-work" means the right to work in a unionized business thqt has a negotiated contract without paying dues to the union.

The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act allows states to prohibit unions from collecting fees from non-members or making union membership mandatory, and states that do this are called "right-to-work" states. So-called "right-to-work" laws prohibit labor contracts from requiring employees who are covered by the contract to pay dues to the union that won the contract. But the unions are still required to represent every worker who is covered by a contract -- even workers who are not members of the union and do not pay union dues. This costs money, so the union is drained of funds and power, thereby weakening their ability and incentive to fight for better wages and benefits.

Stealing From Other States, Lowering Wages And Tax Revenue

The appeal of these so-called "right-to-work" laws is that by weakening the ability of workers to band together and fight for better wages and conditions, they result in lower wages, benefits and safety standards. This is supposed to make these states more attractive to employers, which then brings jobs to the lower-wages states as employers leave states where worker have rights.

This affects wages across the larger economy. Any jobs that do move to these states come from other states. So in the larger economy of the country the effect of these laws is to shift wages, benefits and safety standards downward. This brings pressure that forces all wages for all employees down, which further lowers the country's tax base, reducing the entire country's ability to educate, maintain and modernize infrastructure, etc.

As jobs shift to lower-wage states, pressure to lower all wages increases, and the collection of income tax revenue decreases. The ability of consumers to make purchases decreases as well. Infrastructure investment declines. Education declines. Over time the country falls behind the rest of the world and it become more expensive and more difficult to catch up.

Or, in other words, exactly what we are seeing all around us now.

Studies Of The Effects

A May, 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that "right-to-work" states have lower wages (examples: 9.4% lower for all occupations, 11.4% lower for teachers) than states with union rights.

A January, 2012 study by American Rights at Work, New Research Counters Arguments for “Right-To-Work” Laws, examined a number of studies and found that "recent studies rebut claims of economic growth and instead find that laws suppress wages."

In Nonunion Wage Rates and the Threat of Unionization Henry Farber, Professor of Economics at Princeton University found that after Idaho passed a RTW law in 1985, there was a statistically-significant drop in nonunion wages relative to other states.

Feb, 2011, Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Does ‘right-to-work’ create jobs? Answers from Oklahoma,

Despite ambitious claims by proponents, the evidence is overwhelming that:
• Right-to-work laws have not succeeded in boosting employment growth in the states that have adopted them.
• The case of Oklahoma – closest in time to the conditions facing those states now considering such legislation – is particularly discouraging regarding the law’s ability to spur job growth. Since the law passed in 2001, manufacturing employment and relocations into the state reversed their climb and began to fall, precisely the opposite of what right-to-work advocates promised.
• For those states looking beyond traditional or low wage manufacturing jobs – whether to higher-tech manufacturing, to “knowledge” sector jobs, or to service industries dependent on consumer spending in the local economy – there is reason to believe that right-to-work laws may actually harm a state’s economic prospects.

Sept, 2011, EPI, ‘Right to work,’ The wrong answer for Michigan’s economy, findings included,

• Right-to-work laws lower wages—for both union and nonunion workers alike—by an average of $1,500 per year, after accounting for the cost of living in each state.
• Right-to-work laws also decrease the likelihood that employees get either health insurance or pensions through their jobs—again, for both union and nonunion workers.
• By cutting wages, right-to-work laws threaten to undermine job growth by reducing the discretionary income people have to spend in the local retail, real estate, construction, and service industries. Every $1 million in wage cuts translates into an additional six jobs lost in the economy. With 85 percent of Michigan’s economy concentrated in health care, retail, education, and other non-manufacturing industries, widespread wage and benefit cuts could translate into significant negative spillover effects for the state’s economy.

Labor's Reaction

On CNN this morning UAW President Bob King explained that this bill threatens worker rights. "It demonstrates to workers and really a broad spectrum of the populous that we have to work hard, we have to fight hard to protect our rights." Explaining that workers already have the choice to join a union, King said,

"You don't have to be a union member. But you have to pay your fair share. Just like if you live in a community, you pay for your fair share of the road cleaning, of the police, of the fire," King argued. People who benefit by [the union's] collective bargaining benefit by this procedure. They pay a fair share of the cost of representation."

Steelworkers leader Leo Gerard called on Michigan governor Snyder to veto the law, (click through for the entire statement)

“The USW active and retired members join other unions and allies in Michigan and across the nation to call on Gov. Snyder to support the proposal of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation. We ask the Governor to use his veto power to stop this unnecessary and divisive right-to-work bill.
“If the Governor feels this bill will move Michigan forward, he should delay the final legislative votes and allow an amendment that would put this issue before the public as a state ballot initiative. We urge Governor Snyder to delay his signing of the bill. Let the people of Michigan debate and vote on a consequential matter that will affect all working families.
“We know the newly-elected Michigan state legislature convening early next year has added Democrats that would reject a right-to-work-for-less bill. Right-to-work is only supported by millionaires and billionaires who profit by taking more money out of the workers’ pockets.

Demonstrations and Disruptions

In a sign of things to come, 12-15,000 people demonstrated today at Michigan's capitol building. There were confrontations, including mounted police charging into the crowd. Former Congressman Mark Schauer was pepper-sprayed.

Ned Resnikoff, writing in, Michigan passes ‘Right-to-Work’ but fight isn’t over at the Ed Schultz website,

Shortly after noon on Tuesday, Michigan’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives gave its final approval to the state’s hotly contested “right-to-work” legislation, as thousands of the bill’s opponents rallied outside. But labor activists and their allies say that the fight isn’t over yet, and they’re already plotting their strategy for keeping Michigan a union stronghold.
“This fight is not over by a long shot, regardless of what happens today,” said Zack Pohl, the executive director of Progress Michigan.

See Also

Mary Bottari at PRWat: Michigan Passes "Right to Work" Containing Verbatim Language from ALEC Model Bill

AFL-CIO 'Right to Work' for Less fact sheet.

Economic Policy Institute, Unions and Labor Standards, a collection of articles, posts and studies of the effects labor and anti-labor policies.

Nicole Pasulka at Mother Jones, Right-to-Work Laws, Explained

Josh Eidelson at Salon, Koch brothers, Tea Party cash drives Michigan right-to-work bill

Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post, Big 3 Automakers Reportedly Worried About Michigan Right To Work Legislation

Teamster Nation: RTW passes in #MI as thousands try to enter Capitol

OurFuture post on being "business-friendly, China Is Very “Business-Friendly”,

China is very, very “business-friendly.” Corporate conservatives lecture us that we should be more “business-friendly,” in order to “compete” with China. They say we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay — even lunch breaks. They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes. But America can never be “business-friendly” enough to compete with China, and here is why.

---

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 3:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 23, 2012

Change.org Turns Right

Here is a pretty big story: Change.org Changing: Site To Work With Corporate, Anti-Abortion, GOP Campaigns, Say Internal Documents. Yep, another "progressive" org is selling out to the corporates for money.

And please sign SignOn.org petition: Change.org: Reinstate the person you fired for letting your users know that you're going to work with corporations and the far-right

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 8, 2012

What Is The Calculation Behind Romney's Campaign Of Lies?

The Romney campaign has turned to a strategy of swamping the public with flat-out, blatant lies, one after another, again and again, endlessly and lavishly repeated. They do this because they are making a calculation that it will work! So what is going on? And can democracy survive this assault?

The Growing List Of Lies

This week's lie is the "Obama gutted welfare reform" nonsense. See Bill Scher's must-read response, Romney's Welfare Lie: A Betrayal Of Conservatism. The reporting conveys the Romney message, like this: Romney accuses Obama of dismantling welfare reform. The lie is driven home by a massive $$-driven carpet bombing of ads.

The next-most recent lie was the "Obama is trying to keep military families from voting" lie. This lie, repeated over and over, coordinated with outside groups, reinforces the "Democrats are anti-military" narrative.

Before that was the "You didn't build that" lie, where the Romney campaign doctored audio to make it sound as though President Obama said something he didn't say. (And got away with it.) This lie, repeated over and over, reinforces the "Democrats are anti-business" narrative.

This one on welfare reinforces the "Democrats take your money and give it to black people" narrative. "We will end a culture of dependency and restore a culture of good, hard work," said Romney, promising to make them work good and hard.

Rachel Maddow's blog has been keeping track of the Romney lies, and it is a loooooong list.

How It Is Done

Here is how it works. Each lie is developed in the right's machine, using something currently in the news to reinforce an ongoing narrative about "liberals." The lie percolates up through a well-worn process where the germ of the story is planted in smaller outlets, and variations of it are tried out until one seems to resonate. Next, larger right-wing media operations pick up the developed "story" and drive it further. It gets amplified on the radio, FOX News and the right's newspapers. Finally the corporate media takes it out to more and more people, covering themselves with the claim they are just "reporting" on a "story" that is "already out there."

One way or another the lie is repeated and repeated and repeated (and repeated) in various forms through various channels that reach various target groups, until it becomes a "truth." Once it has become a "truth" the Romney campaign uses this "truth" to claim Democrats and President Obama are harming the country.

The Solyndra story is a good example. The right developed a lie about "cronyism," claiming that a Democratic donor is "tied to" solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra because a foundation with his name on it was an investor in the company. Because a foundation was the investor there was no possibility for the donor to benefit. But that doesn't matter, they used this "tie" to spread a lie the Obama administration was steering money into someone's pocket, and they repeated it and repeated it and repeated it.

After months of repetition of this lie, the Romney campaign understood that the lie has become a "truth," and is using that "truth" themselves in campaign ads and Romney's stump speech! Romney talks about "cronyism" in the Obama administration, understanding that much of the public now believes this is established fact.

The Calculation

The Romney campaign is limiting media access to the candidate and offering little in the way of substantive policy proposals. They are instead using press releases, advertisements, message-trained surrogates, cooperative media like FOX, Drudge, talk radio, allied newspapers and the right's blogosphere, while coordinating with massively-funded outside groups like Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation and others.

This is a key thing to get, the Romney campaign believes that they can win this election using lies and propaganda as "truths" to drive their campaign story. They are making the calculation that the right's media machine has become sufficiently powerful for their version of reality to reach enough of the public, and that it is sticking in their minds as "truths!"

They are also making the calculation -- so far validated by the media response -- that there will be little if any pushback from "mainstream" media. They trust that the media will look the other way, report lies as "one side says X, the other says Y," tell the public "both sides do it," and say this is just par for the course.

But if there is media resistance, they are calculating that the right's own media power can override any pushback that might come. They might also believe they can turn media resistance to their advantage. Decades have been spent convincing their followers to see potentially objective information sources as "the liberal media," enemy of conservatism, and any pushback for lying could just increase support for their campaign.

So the Romney campaign, like the recent Bush administration, are conscious that they do not need to work with facts. Instead they believe they can "create truth" through the manipulation of perception. This is hardly new in Repubican circles. The phrase "reality-based community" came out of the previous Republican administration's calculations of what the public will and won't learn about. This famous quote from Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush by Ron Suskind, explains,

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

What Does The Public "Know?"

If you are reading this you are likely very well-informed. You pay attention to the mainstream news, as well as read various progressive sources. But much of the public is not very well-informed, and faces the problem of not knowing what sources to trust. Subjected to a constant battering of corporate/conservative propaganda and disinformation, they are busy, and not ready or able to do the extensive research needed to make informed decisions.

Progressives and "liberals" try to solve this problem by trying to help people get informed. Conservatives, however, try to use it to their advantage, spreading self-serving misinformation.

The well-funded propagandists study and understand the shorthand methods people use to determine what to believe. This is the reason for the ongoing attacks on the credibility of what would normally be seen as trustworthy sources, like PBS, NPR and what the rest of what has been disparaged for decades as "the liberal media." This is also the reason for the establishment of so many corporate-funded conservative "institutes" and other academic and authoritative-sounding organizations that issue "studies" and "reports" that always echo the corporate-conservative positions.

The "mainstream" corporate media has also undergone a change over recent decades. Many outlets now see themselves as businesses with a product that has to appeal to "the market" to make money. They no longer see their mission to be informing the public so citizens have the information that is needed to function in a democracy, but instead as "maximizing shareholder return," by "driving traffic" and whatever else it takes to sell advertising. And many people working as "journalists" understand that advancing their own careers means not making waves by being perceived as "leftist" or "anti-business."

The Test

Steve Benen calls this a "test for the political world," writing,

How are we to respond to a campaign that deliberately deceives the public without shame? This lie about welfare policy comes on the heels of Romney's lie about voting rights in Ohio, which came on the heels of Romney's lies about the economy; which came on the heels of Romney's lies about health care; which came on the heels of Romney's lies about taxes.

The Republican nominee for president is working under the assumption that he can make transparently false claims, in writing and in campaign advertising, with impunity. Romney is convinced that there are no consequences for breathtaking dishonesty.

The test, then, comes down to a simple question: is he right?

This is a test for the political world, as well as a challenge to the viability of our democratic system. We can expect this to continue and accelerate until election day, driven by hundreds of millions of dollars from billionaires and their huge corporations. The question is, will enough of our misinformed public be tricked by the lies? If this succeeds, what kind of country will we become? What will be left?

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 2:03 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 30, 2012

Another New York Times Columnist Attack On Social Security And Medicare

The New York Times contains another elite-columnist attack on our Social Security and Medicare systems today. This time it's in the form of an op-ed by Bill Keller. Recently and regularly, New York Times columnists David Brooks and Tom Friedman have also gone after the things We, the People do for each other.

First, The Basics Of The Borrowing

Any discussion of our deficit/debt "crisis" must start with a few quick points about the history of the "crisis":

1) January 26, 2000, Clinton to Propose Early Debt Payoff,

President Clinton said Tuesday that the budget he will send Congress on Feb. 7 will propose paying off the entire $3.6-trillion national debt by 2013--two years earlier than had been expected even a few months ago.

2) 2001 Alan Greenspan said we needed to pass the Bush tax cuts because we were paying off the debt too quickly.

3) Bush said it was "incredibly positive news" when the budget turned from surplus to deficit because budget deficits meant there would be pressure to cut entitlements. Bush wanted to continue the "strategic deficits" plan to "starve the beast" that was launched in the Reagan years.

Republicans are following a decades-old shock-doctrine plan:


  • Use tax cuts and military spending increases to create terrible deficits that add up to massive debt,

  • Then use the resulting "debt crisis" to scare people (esp elites like Keller, Brooks and Friedman) into cutting democratic government and our ability to control the billionaires and their corporations.

But cutting government doesn't mean the costs go away, it means that we each have to bear those costs ourselves, on our own, without the help of the rest of us. This is really about cutting democracy so the very rich can be even very-richer.

The Attack

With that out of the way, let us now turn to the latest elite attack on entitlements -- those things We, the People are entitled to: the fruits of the prosperity that democracy brings us.

In a NY Times op-ed, The Entitled Generation, Bill Keller writes about the "bloat" of projected entitlement spending, blaming "baby boomers" for future budget shortfalls, because they will need to retire without living in absolute poverty, and get health care.

He writes that because budget cuts have us spending less than we should on infrastructure investment, therefore we should also spend less on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. "In 1962 ... [a]bout 32 cents of every federal dollar, excluding interest payments, was spent on investments, only 14 percent on entitlements. In the mid-70s the lines crossed. Today we spend less than 15 cents on investment and 46 cents on entitlements. "

Keller writes, "So the question is not whether entitlements have to be brought under control, but how. " (These greedy seniors don't understand that the situation has changed -- we have cut taxes for the very wealthy and increased our military spending to prevent the Soviet Union from invading. Who do they think they are?)

Finally, ignoring the People's Budget, the Budget For All, the Schakowsky Deficit Reduction Plan and all the other sensible budget plans that have been proposed by progressives, Keller writes, "At least the Republicans have a plan. The Democrats generally recoil from the subject of entitlements."

Keller praises "bipartisan authors of the Simpson-Bowles report" -- even though there was no "Simpson-Bowles report." The commission couldn't come to agreement and issued no report. As for the "bipartisan" Simpson and Bowles, he is referring to former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, and member of the Board of Directors of Morgan Stanley Erskine Bowles. (Please click the link.) ("Bipartisan" as used by elites like Keller apparently refers to even and odd numbered addresses on Wall Street -- the crowd that gets the money if our Social Security system is dismantled.)

Social Security

Our Social Security system is critical to human beings and our economy, just like hospitals, highways, schools and power plants. It is a core institution, used by everyone, and is absolutely vital in most people's lives. It is the foundation of our retirement security. It is our most basic protection for our families if we become disabled or die.

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research explains just how crucial our Social Security system is to the lives of so many of us, in Bill Keller Wants to Take Away Your Social Security and Is Either Too Ignorant or Dishonest to Acknowledge that He Is Not a Typical Baby Boomer,

Does Keller know that the typical near retiree has total wealth of $170,000. This includes everything in their 401(k), all their other financial assets and the equity in their homes. Another way to put this is that the typical near retiree (between the ages of 55-64) could take all their wealth and pay off their mortgage. After that they would be entirely dependent on their Social Security to cover all their living costs.

In other words, half of near-retirees have less than that so they depend on Social Security even more than that.

We built and paid for our Social Security system. Each generation has done its part to maintain the system's foundations for over 75 years, and it has only become stronger. If the middle class can’t count on Social Security in their retirement years, what can it count on?

Social Security is a far safer bet than any other retirement savings available. It is vastly safer than a 401K, which is available only to a few anyway, and can disappear overnight. Corporate raiders can take your pension plan. You can't even count on a pension plan if you are a public employee. House prices can go up or down. But Social Security is always there for us. Even the most sophisticated investors can lose everything, but you can't lose your Social Security. Social Security is the one retirement system that really works.

Social Security is the most successful government program, and that is why so many elites hate it!

Medicare And Medicaid

A government budget cut is really like a huge tax increase on regular people because it increases what each of us pays for the things government does -- or forces us to go without. This is because cuts in government spending don’t actually cut the cost of things, they just shift those costs onto each of us on our own.

For example, if you cut the the government's Medicare or Medicaid budget our health problems don’t disappear, but each of us has to find ways to pay the cost of medical care or a nursing home on our own, with no help, often at a time when we are stressed by illness.

In Cost of Medicare Equivalent Insurance Skyrockets under Ryan Plan the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) explains what happens to the cost of health care if Medicare is eliminated. Summary: it shifts the costs to us, except each of us ends up paying seven times as much as the same care costs under Medicare. This is because Medicare covers millions, and that economy-of-scale means the government can negotiate bulk discounts, etc. that we cannot get on our own. From the CEPR explanation:

[The Republican] plan to revamp Medicare has been described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), however, shows that the [Republican] proposal will increase health care costs for seniors by more than seven dollars for every dollar it saves the government, a point missing from much of the debate over the plan.

... In addition to comparing the costs of Medicare to the government under the current system and under the [Republican] plan, the authors also show the effects of raising the age of Medicare eligibility. The paper also demonstrates that while [the Republican plan] shifts $4.9 trillion in health care costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries, this number is dwarfed by a $34 trillion increase in overall costs to beneficiaries that is projected ...

Our health problems won’t disappear just because government cuts out Medicare and Medicaid. But the costs of treating – or not treating – those health problems will now fall on us, individually, on our own, instead of aggregated through the mechanism of democracy. And that is money that would otherwise be spent elsewhere in the economy.

The Money

So where do we get the money to pay our bills, if not from the things We, the People do for each other? Get the money from where the money went.

Start by ending the Bush tax cuts! The Bush tax cuts not only cut marginal tax rates for the wealthy, they cut taxes on capital gains and dividends -- money you get just for having money. And it dramatically cut the tax on income inherited from wealthy parents -- more money that one gets just because one already has money! But ending the Bush tax cuts is just a start.

Reagan dramatically increased the military budget: In 1980, before Reagan, the Defense Department budget was $134 billion, by 1989 it was $303 billion. But that was nothing. In 2000, before 'W' Bush, it was $294 billion. By 2008 it was $616 billion. But that doesn't count military-related items outside of the Defense Department. Depending on how interest debt is applied, total military spending is between $1 and $1.4 trillion. (And, by the way, wars are expensive.) ("Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes." –Tom DeLay)

Fix health care. Today Mitt Romney praised the way that Israel's socialized health care system keeps costs low. WaPo: Romney praises health care in Israel, where ‘strong government influence’ has driven down costs,

He praised Israel for spending just 8 percent of its GDP on health care and still remaining a “pretty healthy nation.”

“Our gap with Israel [on health spending] is 10 points of GDP,” Romney said. “We have to find ways, not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to fund and manage our health care costs.”

... Israel created a national health care system in 1995, largely funded through payroll and general tax revenue. The government provides all citizens with health insurance: They get to pick from one of four competing, nonprofit plans. Those insurance plans have to accept all customers—including people with pre-existing conditions—and provide residents with a broad set of government-mandated benefits.

Get the economy moving again. Jeeze, instead of saying because we stopped investing in infrastructure therefore we need to cut other things, how about investing in infrastructure? We have millions of jobs that need to ing and millions of people looking for jobs. And we can finance it for free. The payoff will be enormous, all those people no longer needing unemployment and food stamps, all those people and construction companies paying taxes again, and the resulting economic growth cutting the debt-to-GDP ratio.

Don't Be Fooled By Elites Hating On Entitlements

Don't be fooled: this is really about shifting from democracy to a system where we are on our own, up against the wealthy and powerful. This is about shifting from a system where we can all be prosperous to a system where a few have all the wealth and power.

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 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

July 25, 2012

Blame Public Employees

Here is the equation: city revenues down because sales taxes down, Wall Street scams, etc. Therefore blame public employees, lay off teachers & firefighters, pay them less, cut pensions, contract out to minimum wage outfits, etc.

They spend less, sales taxes down even more, blame them more, repeat...

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

May 11, 2012

Have You Actually Watched Carter's "Malaise" Speech?

Here it is, well worth watching! STILL profound, important, prescient. And startling in the context of what we know today about the corporate right's assault on democracy.

The first part is about the mistrust of government and each other that had started taking hold, the rest is about energy, conservation, and the effect on our economy.

As you watch it, keep in mind that the right's "noise machine" (partly funded by oil companies) had already been operating behind the scenes for several years, already spending tens of millions a year on the effort. Back then nothing like that had been encountered from inside the country (at least since the lead-up to the civil war) - the smear machine, the propaganda, the mass repetition of carefully crafted anti-government and in-it-for-yourself messaging, etc. - so people were just blindsided by it. But it was clear something was happening, and Carter called it a a "fundamental threat to American democracy".

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 1, 2012

We Can So Easily Create Jobs, Cut The Deficit And Revitalize Our Economy!

The path to creating millions of jobs is so easy and obvious. Hire people to modernize the infrastructure and to retrofit buildings to be energy efficient. Millions would be paying income taxes instead of receiving unemployment or food stamps. The companies that supply the materials and steel would also be hiring and paying taxes, and the companies that supply them ... and the companies that supply them. And when we are finished, the payoff to the economy from a modern infrastructure and energy efficiency will be enormous. Anyone who tells you we can't or shouldn't do this is up to no good.

Millions Of Jobs Need Doing, Millions Unemployed

We have millions of people unemployed at the same time as we have millions of jobs that need to be done. Connect the dots! It is so easy!

Dot: No net job gains since 2000. 8 million jobs lost in the recession. Never mind jobs for the 86,000 new people entering the labor force every month...

Dot: According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)

“congested highways, overflowing sewers, and corroding bridges” were creating a “looming crisis that jeopardizes our nation’s prosperity and our quality of life.”

Dot: From a recent NY Times story on our country's water systems,

Today, a significant water line bursts on average every two minutes somewhere in the country, according to a New York Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data.

. . . State and federal studies indicate that thousands of water and sewer systems may be too old to function properly.

[. . .] “There’s a lot of evidence that people are getting sick,” he added. “But because everything is out of sight, no one really understands how bad things have become.”

Connect the dots.

Ten million jobs needed. Ten million jobs that need doing.

Connect the dots. We need a National Rebuild America Project! It would employ millions, it would get people and businesses back in the economy, paying taxes, buying things, and not receiving the badly-needed help of unemployment, food stamps, etc.

Jobs Fix Deficits

Jobs fix deficits. How hard is that to understand? We have a deficit of jobs. People who are not working are not paying income taxes, and are instead likely receiving unemployment, food stamps or other assistance. In any event they are certainly not contributing to the economy by making things or buying things. Jobs fix deficits.

The Payoff

There wold be an enormous economic payoff from investing in a National Rebuild America Project. I mean an economic payoff beyond getting people back to work, paying taxes, buying things and beyond getting people off of government assistance.

Imagine an economy with a fully modernized infrastructure providing the nourishing soil for new and existing businesses. Imagine our economy with energy efficiency freeing up resources to apply to other areas. Imagine our economy with everyone working. Imagine our economy with companies able to compete in world markets with the very latest and most efficient foundation undergirding their efforts.

Deficit Emergency?

They say we can't invest in modernizing our infrastructure or in energy efficiency because this would be "government spending." They say we can't afford to do this kind of work. They say we instead need to cut back and pay off the deficit instead. As if laying off teachers helps the economy!

Where did all of this "deficit emergency" nonsense come from? We had a huge budget surplus when Bush took office. The debt was projected to be paid off entirely in ten years. So Bush gets elected, Greenspan says we're paying off the debt "too fast" and they gave the rich a huge tax cut, and doubled military spending! It's not hard to see where the deficit came from. (No, seriously, click through and see the charts, it's not hard.)

So we shifted to a huge deficit instead and Bush said this was "incredibly positive news" because it will force the country into a debt crisis that they can propagandize to force cuts in things government does for We, the People.

Hey people, figure it out, we do not have a debt emergency, we have a manufactured crisis that is being used to scare people into giving up the benefits of democracy.

Has To Be Done Anyway

This is work that has to be done anyway! Once again, our infrastructure is falling apart, our companies are not competitive, our energy inefficiency is costing us dearly. This work has been put off for a long time. Every day we wait, it just becomes a more expensive problem. Funny how this is the way conservatives describe the debt, when in reality is the problem with delaying investment in modernization.

So why not do it now, when people really need the work? We have been deferring the maintenance of our infrastructure since the big Reagan tax cuts for the rich. The roads, bridges, dams, airports, rail, energy grid and the rest are in bad shape. This is slowing our economy. This is hurting people and costing money and time. This is costing our businesses in their international competitiveness.

Your Homework Assignment

OK, here is your homework: Big Ideas To Get America Working: Rebuild Our Infrastructure.

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 11:15 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

December 21, 2011

For 2012 Let's Restore Our "Industrial Commons"

David Brancaccio's Marketplace story Tuesday, Decline of Kodak offers lessons for U.S. business traced the decline of Kodak and the loss of Rochester, NY's good, middle-class jobs to Kodak's failure to tend its "industrial commons." This is a national problem. For 2012 let's resolve to restore our industrial commons and bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

Kodak on Marketplace

Listen to Tuesday's Marketplace story, Decline of Kodak offers lessons for U.S. business.

Click to listen.

Story summary: Kodak didn't tend its "industrial commons," the local concentration of expertise in making the things that go into a camera.

You make your money by selling cameras. And you now needed to make components. You needed to make lenses; you needed to make shutters -- all kinds of things that the skills for which no longer existed in Rochester.

This is what we have done in our country, too. We have been dismantling our "industrial commons." By sending manufacturing out of the country we have been taking apart the supply chains and abandoning the expertise and skills and culture that go with it.

Other Warnings

Last year former Intel CEO Andy Grove sounded a warning about this problem. In How to Make an American Job Before It's Too Late. Grove wrote that we are not just losing jobs to China, we are losing the "chain of experience" that enables new companies and industries to form and to create new jobs and argues for a national economic strategy to preserve our manufacturing and technology base. He lays out a plan: "rebuild our industrial commons,"

The first task is to rebuild our industrial commons. We should develop a system of financial incentives: Levy an extra tax on the product of offshored labor. (If the result is a trade war, treat it like other wars—fight to win.) Keep that money separate. Deposit it in the coffers of what we might call the Scaling Bank of the U.S. and make these sums available to companies that will scale their American operations. Such a system would be a daily reminder that while pursuing our company goals, all of us in business have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability—and stability—we may have taken for granted.

We Gave It Away

Many American manufacturers made a deal with China to lower their manufacturing costs. Here is how it worked: Americans (used to) have a say in how this country was run, and said they want good wages, benefits, job safety, clean air, etc. These are the fruits of democracy, but to some they are an impediment to quick profits. So executives at the big multinational companies wanted a way around the borders of democracy and its demands, and pushed for "trade" deals that would let them move manufacturing to places where people had no say, in order to force American unions to make concessions. They got their deals and packed up our factories, moved them to places like China and then brought the manufactured goods back here to sell.

We lost 50,000 factories to China just in the 'W' Bush years, and our trade deficit soared, and now we as a country are paying the price. Making (and growing) things is how a country earns its living. It is how we bring in the income with which to buy things others make and grow. Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers said it clearly,

"You don’t create real wealth by flipping coupons or hamburgers, you create it by taking real things and turning them into things of value. And those things of value are turned into other things of value and all of a sudden you have a wind turbine with thousands of parts made here. You can’t have a clean economy without good jobs and can’t have good jobs without a clean economy."

We just gave it away, and justified the loss by saying that better things will replace it. The result has been ever-increasing trade deficits that brought us a huge debt that makes us poorer. Our debt is not because of government spending, it is because we have given away our ability to make a loving!

An Ideology To Justify

In the process the 1%'ers who did this to us developed an ideology around hating America and democracy. To justify outsourcing our jobs and factories they said Americans had grown lazy and wanted handouts. They said that the huge profits reaped by a few from selling off our manufacturing infrastructure meant they were "producers" and that democracy was "statism" and "collectivism" that enabled the "parasites" to "steal" from them. They declared that "taxes are theft" that "punish" the "successful" and the "job creators." They stopped funding infrastructure and education and law enforcement, denegrating these as "government spending," and declared that the wealthy few have a "right to rise" and saying the rest of us are "imbeciles."

They moved our "industrial commons" out of the country, closing the factories and thereby dismantling the supply chains and the "chain of experience" that enable us to innovate and compete. They let China capture the lead in emerging green manufacturing technologies that will bring millions of jobs and trillions of dollars. They even let China extort proprietary technologies, in exchange for short-term profits.

They rode the tiger and now the tiger is coming back to bite us.

Riding The Tiger

Richard Eskow reminded me of an old Chinese saying, "He who rides the tiger cannot dismount." American manufacturers rode the Chinese tiger to short-term profits, and now they cannot dismount. They "partnered" with China to get around the borders of democracy and the good wages and benefits democracy demands. But now the tiger wants more. The tiger wants to eat them up.

Riding the tiger: Forbes: Currency Manipulation is NOT the Biggest Chinese Threat,

China’s hidden threats are a multi-headed info-tech “Hydra,” the parts of which are interrelated:
  • Intellectual property rights violations (or lack of enforcement in China) allowing open theft of proprietary designs, etc.
  • Theft of private-sector technology (which has been going on for years) accelerating Chinese development cycles
  • Growing number of cyber-attacks, accessing highly confidential US government information, costing the US private sector billions of dollars in IT disruption.
  • Growing military/technology stolen secrets (e.g., stealth fighter plane designs, acquisition of downed stealth-helicopter parts from the bin Laden attack, electronic technology & software from US companies in China, etc.)

Riding the tiger: NYT: Chinese Rules Said to Threaten Proprietary Information,

China is expected to issue regulations on Saturday requiring technology companies to disclose proprietary information like data-encryption keys and underlying software code to sell a range of security-related digital technology products to government agencies, American industry officials said on Friday.

Riding the tiger: Fiscal Times: Stealing America: China’s Busy Cyber-Spies,

Economic and industrial spying by China appears to be more pervasive and egregious than ever, costing America billions of dollars each year, according to a new report by a U.S. government agency. And the report raises an important question: If stolen trade and technology secrets help fuel China’s breakneck growth, then is more espionage required to feed the growing beast?

The Chamber of Commerce rides the tiger: WSJ today: China Hackers Hit U.S. Chamber: Attacks Breached Computer System of Business-Lobbying Group; Emails Stolen,

A group of hackers in China breached the computer defenses of America's top business-lobbying group and gained access to everything stored on its systems, including information about its three million members, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The break-in at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the boldest known infiltrations in what has become a regular confrontation between U.S. companies and Chinese hackers.

They rode the tiger. But now the tiger wants more. The tiger wants to eat them up.

Let's Resolve To Rebuild American Manufacturing

Let's resolve to rebuild American manufacturing, starting in 2012. Manufacturing is the backbone of a prosperous economy. Let's resolve to bring back good jobs that pay good wages and unpin a middle-class lifestyle. Let's resolve to balance trade with the rest of the world so we can fight our debt problems. Let's resolve to start fighting to win the lead in the Green manufacturing revolution.

Don't let the "free traders" exploit workers in countries where they do not have a say to force concessions from Americans in unions. Don't let the oil and coal companies create false "scandals" like Solyndra to block government from investing in green alternatives. Don't let the 1% make democracy a competitive disadvantage -- democracy is the only economics that works!

Last week President Obama appointed Commerce Secretary John Bryson and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling to co-chair a new White House Office of Manufacturing Policy. The new Office of Manufacturing Policy will have cabinet-level status, reflecting the importance of the manufacturing sector to our economy. It will coordinate the efforts of different government agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce and the Transportation Department.

This is a positive step if there ever was one. Let's resolve to develop and execute a national manufacturing strategy. (please click through)

It is time to restore our national "industrial commons."

Frank Sobatka explains:


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 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 15, 2011

Government Shutdowns Get The 1% What They Want

A while back I was writing about the Republican threat of a government-wide shutdown, and the two-week Federal Aviation Administration shutdown (and Delta Airlines' anti-union role in that). The shutdown threat was used to force the government to give even more favors and bucks to the 1% and even less to We, the People.

Guess what? The shutdown threats are back.

Last Time

Earlier this year, and then again in September, the Republicans threatened to block the budget from passing and to just let the government shut down. In exchange for allowing the government to continue to operate they wanted favors for the 1% and their corporations, including gutting environmental regulations, gutting healthcare (especially women's healthcare), and generally gutting the things We, the People do for each other.

They largely got their way. They even shut down the FAA, stopping construction projects in an attempt to gut union organizing. Four thousand FAA workers and about 90,000 construction workers were laid off, and the shutdown cost the government about $30 million a day.

Which Was Which?

The Republican threat of shutting down the government is not to be confused with the debt-ceiling hostage-taking debacle that was engineered by Republicans.

The debt-ceiling hostage-taking involved Republicans threatening to let the government default on its obligations, sending the world's economy into a tailspin, unless We, the People dramatically roll back the things we do for each other. They got their way, resulting in big cuts plus the "super committee" of the 1% that is currently working on cutting things for the 99%. (The secretive committee is actually talking about cutting Medicare and cutting top tax rates, and calling it "pro-growth.")

FAA And Labor

In August Republicans shut down the FAA for two weeks, with Republicans trying to get in an anti-union rule. A temporary FAA reauthorization is currently funded only until the end of January. Last week Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, predicted that the FAA “reauthorization” bill would be done, passed and signed by Christmas.

But the anti-labor provision is still in the bill.

Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said the fights over funding bills like this could "make a grown man cry." According to The Hill, "We're working on the 20th-plus extension" of the FAA bill, Mineta said during an interview with The Hill. "That's something we really have to get resolved, and [with] a long-term bill."

The Game Is Squeeze-The-Rubes

Here is how the squeeze-the-rubes game is played.

First, cut taxes for the rich. To accomplish this, call it "pro-growth," make the claim that these cuts will "boost the economy" for the rubes, "bring them jobs," or basically whatever they need to hear that week to get them to go along. Then borrow a ton of money to make up for the lost revenue, because when the debt comes due you have serious leverage.

Meanwhile, cut government, cut back on education for the rubes, health care for the rubes -- they don't need it, what are they going to do with educations and health, anyway? Cut regulation. Cut enforcement. And, most of all, do what you can to hamstring labor because organized labor is the one remaining force in the country that has some power, and is working to maintain the middle class. because with a strong middle class, government is able to pay down the debt, so there is no cover for all the cuts.

Then, to speed things up, boost the government's spending on the things that increase your wealth and power. The big one is military. Find something to scare the rubes, watch them run and hide and squeal and let you crank up the military budget, give yourselves no-bid contracts, lucrative consulting contracts, even send pallets of cash to be disbursed to you and your friends.

And, by the way, tax subsidies for your oil and finance companies will drain the treasury pretty fast, too.

Then, when the bill comes due, that's when the hammer comes down. That's when you spring the trap. That's when you can have real fun. You've got them where you want them, and you can go to work. Scare the bejeezus out of them with stories of insolvency, poverty, whatever it takes to make them fear the debt. And then crank up the demands.

Congress Plays Along

Members of Congress see this game of squeeze-the-rubes for what it is, and get what they can for themselves, too. Rep. Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led the two-week FAA shutdown over that anti-union rule. (See The Hostage-Taking Just Keeps Coming - This Time The FAA Shuts Down, Think Default Threat Is A Yawn? The FAA Is Still Shut Down and Delta's Greed Helps Shut Down The FAA)

Well, according to the Florida Independent, Mica, just months after being involved in the temporary shutdown over “spending” on the FAA was bragging about an FAA grant awarded to his district. Mica said he worked for a provision in that bill to keep unions from being able to organize “said he had used his vote as a ‘bargaining tool’ to gain the support of Senate Democrats” for the grant to his own district.

P.S. Take a look at where Rep. Mica gets the money to run his campaigns.

How The Game Is Played

Watch Jack Abramoff explain in a 60 Minutes segment how it works Once the member of Congress or staffer thinks they might get a lobbying job from you,

ABRAMOFF: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ‘em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.

Perks, Too

Are airlines giving perks to members of Congress and staffers, as they prepare to vote on more favors for the 1%, possible shutdowns of government for the rest of us, even the FAA reauthorization? From Roll Call, Being in Congress Has Perks,

Most major airlines have phones lines dedicated to customers on Capitol Hill, aides and lobbyists told Roll Call. To accommodate their unpredictable travel schedules, Members are allowed to reserve seats on multiple flights but pay only for the one they board.

A spokesman for Delta confirmed the airline has a Congressional call desk and allows members to double-book flights. United Continental Holdings Inc., US Airways and American Airlines, all of which are rumored to have similar practices, did not return Roll Call’s request for comment.

“We get on every single flight,” said one Capitol Hill aide familiar with process. “Every offices uses it. ... The scheduler uses it for Members and chiefs of staff who fly.”

The perks have long raised the ire of consumer advocates. “They are treated completely differently from the time they book their ticket until the time they land at the airport,” said Kate Hanni, director of Flyers Rights, an airline passenger advocacy organization.

Short Run Good For 1%, Long Run Bad For 99%

In the short run this game yields great riches to a few. In the long run, of course, getting rid of government defunds infrastructure and education so the economy eventually slows to a crawl. Pitting the parts of the citizenry against each other breeds social chaos, maybe even violence.

What do they care, when they can just hop in their own jots and fly to their own private islands?

Government is us: We, the People. Our government of the people, by the people and for the people exists to reign in the1% and act as a counterweight to the power of their wealth and their huge corporations. That is why We, the People formed our government, to counter the corrupt controlling power of the British King and his aristocracy. That is why we enabled organized labor. That is why we have regulations. That is why we have access to courts to sue giant corporations. It is about one-person-one-vote democracy, not one-dollar-one-vote plutocracy.

What You Can Do

Tell Delta: Stop The Union Busting,

Delta Air Lines is holding billions of dollars in funding for crucial FAA projects hostage by insisting that Congress pass new, undemocratic rules for airline workers trying to organize a union. Delta wants union elections to count workers who don't take part as voting "No"--an absurd demand that would undermine the entire system of majority-rule voting.

The rules are under debate now, Delta's powerful allies in Congress are holding up a long-term solution by continuing to insist on the new election rule.

Without a long-term reauthorization bill, job-creating airport infrastructure projects and critical security improvements are on hold. And we run the risk of another FAA shutdown at the end of the year.

Thursday National Day Of Action

Many organizations are calling for a national day of action Thursday Nov. 17, with various events around the country.

Follow the Twitter hashtag #N17 for info.

Occupy Wall Street, on Thursday's Day Of Action

Interfaith Worker Justice: National Days of Action Against Wage Theft

Check out this We Are The 99% event Thursday,

We're starting to get the 1% to pay attention. But this system's still rigged against us: Wall Street is still making billions and taking our homes, and Congress can't pass a jobs bill. To amplify the economic emergency, we're making Thursday, November 17, a massive day of action to show "We Are The 99%.

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 9:01 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 26, 2011

People Distrust Government -- Conservative Mission Accomplished

The corporate/conservative plan for decades has been to turn people against government and democracy. Because when people stop accepting the idea of We, the People making decisions, guess who gets to make the decisions instead? Last month a retiring GOP staffer explained how it works, this month a new poll show how well it works.

Distrust

NY Times today: New Poll Finds a Deep Distrust of Government,

Not only do 89 percent of Americans say they distrust government to do the right thing, but 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track and 84 percent disapprove of Congress — warnings for Democrats and Republicans alike.

... A remarkable sense of pessimism and skepticism was apparent in question after question in the survey, which found that Congressional approval has reached a new low at 9 percent.

The Gameplan

At the beginning of September a Republican Senate staffer retired, and wrote a widely-read "confession" that laid bare the conservative gameplan: turn people against government and democracy. In Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult, retiring Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren wrote,

Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.

[. . .] A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters' confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that "they are all crooks," and that "government is no good," further leading them to think, "a plague on both your houses" and "the parties are like two kids in a school yard." This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s - a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn ("Government is the problem," declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).

Please read the whole piece. This Republican, writing from the inside, explains that they are doing it on purpose. They are making the government dysfunctional on purpose. They are making people hate government on purpose. They are working to turn people against democracy and put themselves and their corporate sponsors in power in its place.

#occupy Brings Signs Of Hope

There are signs of hope in the poll. Even with a dearth of media coverage (compare to the well-funded, billionaire-backed Tea Party!!!) the #occupywallstreet movement has changed the national conversation. From the NYTimes article,

Almost half of the public thinks the sentiment at the root of the Occupy movement generally reflects the views of most Americans.

With nearly all Americans remaining fearful that the economy is stagnating or deteriorating further, two-thirds of the public said that wealth should be distributed more evenly in the country. Seven in 10 Americans think the policies of Congressional Republicans favor the rich. Two-thirds object to tax cuts for corporations and a similar number prefer increasing income taxes on millionaires.

[. . .] With the nation’s unemployment rate at 9.1 percent, income inequality remains a palpable issue for Americans. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats, two-thirds of independents and just over one-third of all Republicans say that the distribution of wealth in the country should be more equitable, even as a majority of Republicans said they think it is fair.

There is hope. The public is not stupid, and can at least sense what is going on.


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 1:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 7, 2011

A Deficit Pitch Without Social Security--The Only Chance of Winning

Josh Rosenblum

This past Friday night in Washington, a New York Mets pitcher threw the type of pitch President Obama must use in his march to stop any new proposals to cut Social Security if he plans to make it through the game of the deficit talks and his reelection. In the recent past the President and his teams have pitched a slew of failed curveballs that would cut our Social Security. The number 43 Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey helped beat the Nationals 7-3 with his slow velocity, highly unpredictable knuckleball. The 44th President and his multitude of committees have taken an approach to cutting the deficit that replicates a tied baseball game, with no end in sight. Could knuckle balls from a President battling to win the game, save the economy, and win reelection save the tied ball game called the deficit debate? Let’s take a look at the tape.

R.A. Dickey has been pitching great this season, and has the best earned run average of the starters on the Mets but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his record of 7-11, which reflects injuries on the Mets but also the poorest run support from hitters out of all the Mets starting pitchers. It’s unclear to Mets fans why Dickey hasn’t gotten the run support he so deserves, just as it’s unclear to the general public why we haven’t gotten the support Social Security deserves from the administration.

If the President throws a Social Security curveball that cuts our benefits to the GOP team trying to beat him, he ought to get ready not to receive any run support, not just from Democrats and the left, but also from the independents and moderate Republicans his advisers are so intent on courting again. By attempting a pitch that doesn’t appeal to his base, independent voters, and moderate Republicans, he may lose the game, the season, and ultimately his Presidency.

But President Obama can still throw an amazing Dickey-like pitch to the GOP’s deficit, defeat the nonsense, not cut Social Security benefits, and win reelection. If Obama fights for Social Security, America’s fans will cheer for him and we’ll give him all the run support he needs to win in 2012.

Social Security has remained one of America’s most successful programs for 76 years. Before it existed and since it’s existed, Wall Street and right-wing conservatives have been telling us how much it stinks, hoping we might one day believe such lies through repetition. Even popular Republican President Dwight Eisenhower recognized how cutting it would be plain “stupid.” But that’s exactly what each of the deficit groups have attempted to do, each throwing their own curveball that would lead to Social Security cuts.

The President started his deficit pitching rotation with the grizzled, often irrelevant old-timers Bowles and Simpson, who proposed to cut Social Security with the indifference of players who knew their time had passed. He then hoped the journeymen Gang of 6 could take on the deficit, but the bipartisan group of men never seemed to materialize on the playing field. Obama’s team, “America,” never got far in the batting order without loading the bases against the “GOP Deficit” team, which lead up to another call to the bullpen. An enthusiastic reliever, Vice President Biden came charging on to the field to lead his bipartisan “gang of dudes” with every intention to save the game, and no ability to corral the Republicans who calmly watched every one of his pitches thrown for balls float by and hit every strike for an intentional foul ball, upping the pitch count until Biden’s arm had vanished.

Then came the President himself, rolling up his sleeves and bringing back the long vanished player-coach, determined to get the save for America, but giving the GOP a few hits and intentional walks in the process so he could get the job done. He’s out on the field and he appears determined to win for America, at any cost to his future as a pitcher and as our President, but the fans are hopeful he’ll win for his future and ours.

The President even told us about his curveball to the GOP, who seem determined to fight against America, 1 minute in to this video, when he acknowledges that he’d offered the Republican Speaker a deal to cut Social Security, which suggests he may throw the same bad curve again if the Supercommittee wants to take it up.

In the next couple of weeks President Obama may let loose with another Social Security curveballl, telling us we need a COLA cut for Social Security. But America isn’t certain whether player-coach Obama would put the important program on the chopping block again for the Supercommittee and the GOP Deficit. This pitch to the GOP Deficit leads to one place—a lost game for the President, and a lost future for Democrats. But a well-placed knuckleball that leaves Social Security out of the ball game and out of the deficit talks would help America and Obama win. If the President throws a slow, hanging knuckleball that’s tough for Republicans to hit but that his own team can cheer for, he’ll win the hearts of Americans including Democrats, independents and reasonable Republicans, whether the Washington Republicans try to screw over America again or not with attempted cuts to Social Security.

Posted by Josh at 7:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 1, 2011

AZ Republicans Raising $$ Raffling Same Gun Used To Shoot Rep. Giffords

Remember when Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot, and everyone was talking about the kind of violent rhetoric Republicans had been using, right down to Sarah Palin using crosshair gunsights on a "target list" that included Giffords? Well here they go again. Tuscon Republicans are raising money by raffling off the kind of gun that was used to shoot Giffords -- in Tuscon.


Pima County Repubs Raffle Glock As Fundraiser; Same Gun Type Used In Tucson Shooting,

An Arizona Republican fundraiser is offering as a prize the same type of gun used in the attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

... Arizona Republicans surely know just how effective this particular brand of gun can be. After all, it was only eight months ago that Jared Lee Loughner used a Glock 19 in Tucson - the seat of Pima County - to shoot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head. Giffords survived, but six other people, including a nine year old girl and a federal judge, were killed in the same shooting.

The raffle gun comes preloaded with adjustable grips, a case, and three 12-round magazines.

Think what the country will be like if this crowd takes over. They already took over the House and we have shutdowns, defaults and generalized corporate-worship.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 24, 2011

Republicans Afraid Of Town Halls, Order Police To Seize People's Cameras

Through Digby's Hullabaloo watch what happens when a citizen tries to document what a Republican Congressman is saying:

Now go read Digby's post.

These people are not fooling around. They do not like accountability, transparency or democracy. Not at all.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:32 PM | Comments (0) | 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

Dems Should Vote For Clean Debt Limit Bill

The House is voting on a “clean” debt ceiling bill today -- a bill to raise the debt ceiling without any "hostage-taking" conditions. This is the right thing to do for the country and every Democrat should vote for this. Voting for a clean bill will draw the contrast for the public between those who are doing the right thing, and those willing to hold the world's economy hostage to a make-the-rich-richer plutocracy agenda. Democrats who do not vote for a clean bill should lose committee assignments, parking places, even bathroom keys.

The Debt Ceiling

The country's "debt ceiling" has been reached. This means that the government's authority to borrow money has reached its limit. The Treasury Department is engaging in gimmicks and schemes to keep the country going but time is running out. The Congress must extend this limit, or the government will default on its bonds.

If our government defaults on its bonds it would initiate a worldwide financial crisis that dwarfs the Wall Street meltdown of a few years ago.

WHY We Have This Debt

In 1981 the Reagan administration dramatically changed the course of the country. They defunded government by passing huge tax cuts for the rich and massively increasing military spending, and began cutting back on the things We, the People (government) do for each other. The country cut back on maintaining -- never mind modernizing -- our infrastructure, our schools, colleges and universities, scientific research and other things that make us competitive in world markets. We began cashing in our factories and moving the jobs out of the country. As a result of Reagan-era changes our trade deficits soared, wages stagnated, pensions disappeared, and a few extremely wealthy started getting much, much richer.

One major result of these changes, of course, was the huge budget deficits that accumulated into today's massive debt. This was the plan from the start, to "starve the beast" by defunding government and forcing the debt to reach a level where there was no choice but to cut back on democratic government's protections for the people, unleashing plutocracy.

Hostage-Taking Enabled: The Tax Cut Extension

This debate over the debt ceiling and hostage-taking follows the recent extension of the Bush tax cuts -- another product of hostage-taking. At the end of the last Congress unemployment benefits for the millions of unemployed were running out. Republicans -- having filibustered much of the legislation of the prior two years -- held the extension of benefits "hostage" saying they would not let it pass unless the deficit-creating Bush tax cuts were extended.

Enough Democrats caved and passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts. This validated hostage-taking as a successful tactic while making the deficit much worse, setting the stage for today's debt-ceiling fight.

The Vote Is A Trick

Today's vote has been scheduled by the Republican leadership as a trap, trying to get some Democrats to vote with Republicans to support their hostage-taking agenda and create the appearance of bipartisan support for plutocracy. If the Republican position gets the support of enough Democratic members, Republicans can then demand deep cuts in Medicare and other programs that help people and hold corporate power in check, in exchange for their votes to allow the world's economy to continue to operate.

From TPM: First Debt Limit Vote Today As GOP Looks To Divide Dems,

The vote is intended to expose fault lines within the Democratic caucus, with Republicans counting on sizable number of Democrats to side with them and bolster their case that Democrats need to agree to deep spending cuts as a condition to raising the debt limit.

Vote For A Clean Debt-Ceiling Bill

Voting for a clean bill stops government-by-hostage-in its tracks. Voting for a clean bill saves the world's economy. Voting for a clean bill fights the plutocracy agenda. Voting for a clean bill saves Medicare, Social Security and the things We, the People do for each other. Voting for a clean bill is the right thing to do and doing the right thing is the right thing politically.

Call your member of Congress NOW and demand a vote for a clean debt-ceiling bill.


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 9:27 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 15, 2011

Republicans Vote For Plan To Privatize Medicare

House passes huge GOP budget cuts, opposing Obama,

n a prelude to a summer showdown with President Barack Obama, Republicans controlling the House pushed to passage on Friday a bold but politically dangerous budget blueprint to slash social safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid and fundamentally restructure Medicare health care for the elderly. The nonbinding plan lays out a fiscal vision cutting $6.2 trillion from yearly federal deficits over the coming decade and calls for transforming Medicare from a program in which the government directly pays medical bills into a voucher-like system that subsidizes purchases of private insurance plans.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 3, 2011

Bipartisanship?

Get this: Now the Republicans say if ANY Democrats vote for a budget, something is wrong with it and they won't let it pass.

Boehner wants to pass spending cuts with GOP alone. SO their strategy is to convince Senate Dems to support things that only House Republicans support, otherwise nothing can pass.

It motivates him to battle for the votes of conservative Republicans who are demanding deeper spending cuts, and greater changes to social issues such as abortion access, than the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama say they can accept.

If Boehner can argue convincingly that it's the only route to House passage, Democrats conceivably could yield on some points they might otherwise win.

And the precedent is a refusal to allow bipartisanship:

Hastert had a "majority of the majority" rule. It meant he would bring no major bill to the House floor unless most Republicans supported it.

It didn't matter if every House Democrat backed the bill, which would allow it to pass with a minority of Republicans. In essence, Democrats' votes were irrelevant to Hastert. Boehner is taking a similar approach, at least publicly.

And, of course Senate Democrats (the House of Lords) go along. We move ever to the right, Democrats in the habit of conceding everything.

Bipartisanship?

"Not very interested," Boehner told reporters last week when asked about forming a coalition with Democrats to pass the legislation to keep the government operating.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:05 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

March 29, 2011

Budget Fight: Why Are Republicans Forcing A Shutdown?

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

Why are Republicans forcing a government shutdown and doing other things aimed at blowing up the economy? The question isn’t “are they,” it is why are they? Their election strategy for 2010 was to obstruct everything and keep the economy from creating jobs, and then blame Democrats. It worked. So now they're doing it even more. But is that the whole plan?

In every instance Republicans are obstructing the very things that can help the economy recover and provide the jobs people need. Everything they do is aimed at making things worse. It is hard to understand their actions except as a systematic attempt to blow up the economy.

  • They are blocking agreement on a budget to keep the government going.
  • They are terrifying the credit markets by threatening to block an increase in the country's debt limit.
  • They are refusing assistance to states, forcing the states to lay off hundreds of thousands of teachers, etc.
  • They are fighting to roll back every regulation that relates to banking and finance.
  • They are killing high-speed rail and solar and wind projects.
  • They are blocking renewable energy standards and other policies that trigger investment and jobs.
  • They are blocking needed stimulus programs that help recovery.
  • They are blocking unemployment benefit extensions.

When confronted they offer ridiculous explanations which are really only cover for the actions, so they can claim to have a reason beyond destruction. But this is only to provide cover and keep the press and public from calling them out for what they are.

Cutting Jobs Creates Jobs?

Speaking of ridiculous explanations, they say they are cutting jobs in order to create jobs. Seriously. Digby today, in Flooding The Market, caught this about the Republican plan,

For example, the [Republican economic report] paper predicts that cutting the number of public employees would send highly skilled workers job hunting in the private sector, which in turn would lead to lower labor costs and increased employment. But “lowering labor costs” is economist-speak for lowering wages — does the GOP want to be in the position of advocating for lower wages for voters who work in the private sector?

Got that? Throw enough people out of work and wages go down, which they say leads to more employment. That's their plan?

One advantage of throwing so many people out of work is that they will work for very little just to eat and feed their families. This is great if you own a business (and don't care about people) -- not so great if you depend on American consumers to purchase what you sell. But that's a problem for later, after you've broken the unions and cut your labor costs. We know this is one part of their strategy because they said so.

A Grander Strategy Than Killing The Economy To Win In 2012?

Are they killing the economy in order to win the next election? Or is this part of an even grander strategy?

So is there a bigger plan at work here? Step back from the day-to-day for a minute, and away from the fog of propaganda and smoke and sand thrown in our eyes to keep us from seeing what is really happening. For decades conservatives have said government is bad, in the way, intrusive holding business back, bureaucratic, inefficient, etc. You have heard the litany, over and over and over.

So What IS Their Plan?

It seems conservatives are always running one strategy or another, always working on a plan. Speaking of grand strategies and plans, watch this from Lee Camp:

They Hate Government

If you read their websites and magazines you know that they hate government and talk about ways to get rid of it. They have said they just want government to go away and have been running strategies to get it small enough that they can drown it in a bathtub. If you are a Republican who doesn't think destroying government is the best approach you are called a RINO and shunned.

They don’t talk about governing, they talk about killing government, and when they get power they don't govern they destroy government. They appoint industry lobbyists to agencies that are supposed to oversee their own industries. They appoint polluters to the agencies that are supposed to protect us from pollution. And they appoint people who have called for getting government out of areas like education, medical care, etc. to head up and dismantle those departments.

They talk about destroying government, not governing. So what makes the DC opinion elite think they want to govern now?

Destroy Government Then Blame Government For The Consequences?

Trickling up from conservative underground lately are more and more arguments that government itself is responsible for the crumbling infrastructure, loss of economic competitiveness. The unspoken answer - so far - is that we need to get rid of government itself to get rid of these problems.

Last Week in Detroit’s Liberal Nightmare, the Heritage Foundation paves the way for what I think we will see coming from conservatives,

Detroit, once known as “the great arsenal of democracy,” has made headlines of late for its notorious fall from grace. ... And while the Motor City suffers unemployment from a decimated automotive industry, it suffers crime, high taxes, poor city services, plummeting home values, and a public education system in shambles with a $327 million budget deficit and a 19 percent dropout rate. Is it any wonder people are leaving in droves?

Just today, in Voting With Their Feet, Thomas Sowell blames government for other areas where the census shows are are losing population,

Both whites and blacks are leaving California, the poster state for the liberal, welfare-state and nanny-state philosophy.

Whites are also fleeing the big northeastern liberal, welfare states like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as the same kinds of states in the midwest, such as Michigan, Ohio and Illinois.

And unspoken in all of their anti-government arguments is just what will replace government, namely the big, powerful corporations and the wealthy few behind them.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:57 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

March 25, 2011

Koch And Native-American Reservation Oil Theft

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

Just what is this Koch Industries? Should it be called a "company?" If so we need to re-think the idea of what a company and a business is supposed to be. Even the brother of Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch called the company an "organized crime" operation.

Koch money is a key driver of the conservative movement. Almost every conservative-movement rock you turn over has Koch money crawling around under it. As the movement becomes more and more of a pay-to-play operation, conservatives of every stripe do more and more to protect and enrich the Koch operation. This has included blocking, disrupting and avoiding official investigations of accusations. It also includes funding front groups to advance the political and financial interests of the company and its owners.

Theft Of Oil From Reservations

Oppose The Future has the story of how Koch Oil was caught stealing oil from an Indian Reservation, reducing or removing the incomes of so many poor residents.

At some point in 1987, Thurmon Parton’s royalty checks for the three oil wells he inherited from his mother suddenly dropped from $3,000 a month to a little over $1,000. He and his sister, Arnita Gonzalez, members of the Caddo tribe, lived near Gracemont, Oklahoma, a town of a few hundred people on a small grid on the prairie.

Those modest royalties were the only source of income each of them had.

. . . What happened to Mr. Parton, Ms. Gonzales and Ms. Limpy had nothing to do with the wells or how they were producing. Their oil was being stolen. And all of the evidence pointed to the same culprit: Koch Oil, a division of Koch Industries.

This is an important story today because it helps us understand the nature of the Koch operation, which has so much influence over our politics and even livelihoods today. It also helps us understand why our government not only appears to be influenced, but often to be outright corrupted. From the story,

In the spring of 1989, a Special Committee on Investigations of the United States Senate’s Select Committee on Indian Affairs was formed to look into concerns that the path to tribal self-rule was impeded by fraud, corruption and mismanagement from all sides.

... Within a span of months, the Special Committee determined that “Koch [Oil] was engaged in systematic theft, stealing millions in Oklahoma alone.” BLM, even with a tip that Koch was behaving improperly, hadn’t done a thing.

Oppose The Future lays out the story and details of the oil theft. There is also story of the years following.

"A Broad Pattern Of Criminal Behavior"

Back in 1996 Business Week looked into the relationship between then-Senator and Presidential Candidate Bob Dole and Koch Industries and an apparent pattern of influence by the company, in BOB DOLE'S OIL-PATCH PALS. Here are some excerpts from their investigation, [emphasis added]

Koch has had a history of run-ins with the Justice Dept. and other federal agencies. In 1989, a special congressional committee looked into charges that Koch had routinely removed more oil from storage tanks on Indian tribal lands ... Dole tried to influence the Senate committee to soft-pedal the probe. Nevertheless, after a yearlong investigation, the committee said in its final report, "Koch Oil, the largest purchaser of Indian oil in the country, is the most dramatic example of an oil company stealing by deliberate mismeasurement and fraudulent reporting." The report triggered a grand jury probe. The inquiry was dropped in March, 1992, which provoked outrage by congressional investigators.

Then in April, 1995, the Justice Dept. filed a $55 million civil suit against Koch for causing more than 300 oil spills over a five-year period. Dole and other Senators, however, sponsored a bill ... that critics charge would help Koch defend itself ... legal sources say the government's ultimate goal is to use evidence in the two actions to establish that Koch has engaged in a broad pattern of criminal behavior.

... From Apr. 19, 1991, through Nov. 2, 1992, David Koch and the Koch Industries political action committee together contributed $7,000 to Nickles' campaign war chest. Around the same time, [Oklahoma Republican Senator Don] Nickles sponsored Timothy D. Leonard, an old friend of Nickles, for the post of U.S. Attorney in Oklahoma City. ... initially, questions were raised in the U.S. attorney's office about whether Leonard should recuse himself because Koch Industries purchased oil from wells in which Leonard and his family had royalty interests ... Then-Deputy Attorney General William P. Barr granted him a waiver to participate in the case ... In March, 1992, after an 18-month investigation, the U.S. Attorney's office terminated the grand jury probe and informed Koch it anticipated no indictments. ... As the grand jury investigation was winding down, Nickles sponsored Leonard for a federal judgeship. He was nominated by President Bush in November, 1991, and confirmed by the Senate the following August.

Business Week lays out the evidence in detail. The timing, with Republican administration/committee/agency/department after administration/committee/agency/department impeding and/or dropping investigations into Koch activities is also clear.

In 2000, CBS' 60 Minutes ran a segment, Blood And Oil And Environmental Negligence looking at the activities of the Koch brothers and their private company Koch Industries,

As we told you when we first reported this story last November, the Koch family of Wichita, Kansas is among the richest in the United States, worth billions of dollars. Their oil company, Koch Industries, is bigger than Intel, Dupont or Prudential Insurance, and they own it lock stock and barrel.

William Koch, brother of company owners David and Charles, called the company an "organized crime" operation:

Koch says that Koch Industries engaged in "(o)rganized crime. And management driven from the top down."

"It was – was my family company. I was out of it," he says. "But that’s what appalled me so much... I did not want my family, my legacy, my father’s legacy to be based upon organized crime."

In March, 2001 the incoming Bush administration repealed the "responsible contractor rule" that barred companies that chronically defraud the government and/or violate federal pollution, wage and other rules from receiving federal contracts.

Then, in 2002 the Bush II administration awarded Koch the contract to supply oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (There were accusations that the government bought oil when prices were high, and sold it when prices were low.) The contract was renewed in 2004. Koch received tens of millions in other government contracts during the Bush years.

The story and timeline of the Koch operation (and its front-groups) go on and on, organizing and funding climate-denial front groups, front-groups run and funded by the Koch Brothers organizing and funding the Tea Party. (Please click the links.)

Think Progress in particular has been following the activities of this "company" and its front groups, and it is certainly worth taking a look. See REPORT: How Koch Industries Makes Billions By Demanding Bailouts And Taxpayer Subsidies (Part 1),

Koch funds both socially conservative groups and socially liberal groups. However, Koch’s financing of front groups and political organizations all have one thing in common: every single Koch group attacks workers’ rights, promotes deregulation, and argues for radical supply side economics.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 23, 2011

What Is The Real Agenda Of The Budget-Cutters?

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

What is the real agenda of the budget-cutters? Are they really trying to bring the country back from the edge of financial ruin? Or did they bring about the appearance of a borrowing crisis to create a public panic that enables them to impose "solutions" that change the very nature of our country -- while doing little about the borrowing?

In the news this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker "ginned up" a budget crisis, then introduced legislation that removes collective bargaining rights from public employees, and over time effectively destroys their unions. Similar measures have been introduced by Republican governors or legislatures in several other states.

This legislative attack on public employees follows more than a year of "preparing the ground" with a coordinated campaign from conservative organizations to convince the public that public employees are overpaid and that their pensions are "bankrupting" state governments -- not the effects of the recession.

In the news soon, the coming strategic "shutdown" of the federal government by Republicans. After decades of forcing through tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, again and again -- most recently just a few weeks ago -- Republicans and corporate conservatives are engaged in a national campaign promoting the belief that there is a "deficit crisis." Their solutions involve gutting the things government does for We, the People like consumer, health, safety, labor and financial, retirement and income protections, while keeping things the government does for corporations and the wealthy "off the table."

We see variations of the same formula over and over. Here is how it works:

1) Cut taxes for the rich and corporations (corporate stock is mostly owned by the top 1%); big deficits result.
2) Claim a deficit emergency and use their domination of corporate-owned media to whip the public into a panic, creating the appearance of demand for corporate-approved "solutions." Manipulate the appearance of consensus.
3) With taxes and military “off the table” push through cuts in the things government does for We, the People.

Repeat as often as needed to create a plutocracy.

Today's "debt crisis" is the culmination of the long-term "starve the beast" strategy from an organized corporate-conservative movement. By cutting taxes for the wealthy they have starved the government, created massive debt (guess where the interest payments go) gutted the infrastructure, and put our country on the road to third-world status. This conservative movement has an agenda, and is not interested in working out "bipartisan" compromised.

In an example in the news this week, a hoax call, purported to be from David Koch, one of the billionaire-industrialists helping fund the conservative movement and major funder of efforts to make it appear that Wisconsin is having a budget crisis. In the hoax call, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker clearly understands that he and Koch are in engaged a joint effort, describing a Democratic Senator who could work with him as "not one of us."

Koch: Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?

Walker: Ah, I—there’s one guy that’s actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he’s worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn’t going to budge.

Koch: Goddamn right!

Walker: …his name is Tim Cullen—

Koch: All right, I’ll have to give that man a call.

Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn’t call him and I’ll tell you why: he’s pretty reasonable but he’s not one of us…

Elsewhere in the call Walker and faux-Koch talk about whether "planting troublemakers" would "work" or not.

In another example of the self-awareness of this strategy: On public radio's Marketplace, February 22 Vincent Vernuccio of the Koch/conservative movement/corporate front-group Competitive Enterprise Institute discusses how the real agenda of the state actions is to destroy unions and their ability to fight corporate power politically, not to solve budget problems. (Note, he was not identified on the show as funded by conservative/corporate interests and Koch.)

VINCENT VERNUCCIO: Union bosses want to inflate these budgets so they can get more members, so they can get more dues. And in turn, they take that dues money they have and give it to politicians who are going to give them more favors in the future.

Several states are considering bills that would allow workers to opt-out of a union. Again, Vincent Vernuccio.

VERNUCCIO: The main focus of this isn't just the budget cuts. It's actually giving workers the right to say no to the union if they so choose.

Professor Bruno also sees broader implications for the debate. Since union money helps support the Democratic party, he argues changes in collective bargaining could shake up the political landscape far beyond the Midwest.

These are just two small examples, in the news on the same day, showing the difference between the public pronouncements of concern for the country and a private agenda to fool the country. It is one thing when responsible leaders disagree on the best way to solve the country's real problems. It is quite another thing when organized wealth pursues a strategy to scare the country into handing over our remaining wealth and power.

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:58 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 19, 2011

Fairness Doctrine

I was listening to an NPR show about the civil rights movement in Mississippi, and how the FCC forced a radio station to put Medgar Evers on the air for 15 minutes to respond to a White Citizen's Council smear. That is what the Fairness Doctrine was about and the civil rights movement is an example of the difference it made.

The Republicans got rid of the Fairness Doctrine under Reagan. And now you will never hear someone from a union talking about the benefits of being a union member. Ever.

And now they are getting rid of NPR, so you won't even be able to hear that it used to be different.

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

December 6, 2010

Tax CUTS???

The deficit commission suggestions added up to $4 trillion. Cutting Social Security, making working people retire later, etc...

It looks like Obama is going to cave on Republican demands for a tax cut for the rich, which COSTS, not saves $4 trillion.

And then they'll need to cut $8 trillion instead.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:42 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 9, 2010

To Fix The Economy Raise Wages

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.

To fix the economy we have to fix wages. Increased wages will restore demand. The changes that will increase wages will help restore democracy.

The social contract used to be that citizens in our democracy share the benefits of our economy through increased wages that come from increases in productivity. This broke down and working people's incomes have been stagnant since the Reagan Revolution. (Yes, I'm telling the same story again. It needs to be told, over and over so people can understand what is happening to us. We are feeling the effects of the Reagan Revolution coming home to roost.)

Reagan and the conservatives weakened the government and broke the unions. Government and organized labor were the forces in our society that had stood up for the interests of regular people against the "moneyed interests" and weakening them fundamentally changed the fairness equation of our economy. After the Reagan Revolution working people's share of the benefits from increased productivity turned down:

All of the benefits of improvements in our economy now flow to a few at the top. This results in intense concentration of wealth:

With more and more of the income and wealth going to a top few, We, the People are thought of less and less as citizens and more and more as "the help." But who is our economy for, anyway? Our economy can operate for the benefit of We, the People, or it can operate for the benefit of a wealthy few at the expense of the rest of us. This is the ongoing battle. And history has shown over and over that when economies operate for the few, they don't work.

This is not just about sharing the economy, it is about sharing the decision-making power. In our form of government We, the People are supposed to make the decisions. When Reagan said, "Government is the problem" he was really saying that decision-making by We, the People is a bad thing. When conservatives complain about "big government" they are complaining about We, the People having a big share in decision-making. When they call for "less government" they are calling for less of a share of the decisions-making by us. This means the wealthy and powerful have more of a share -- of everything.

With the income, wealth and benefits of the economy increasingly flowing to a top few, working families tried to compensate for the loss in various ways. Women entered the workforce. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains, "By the late 1990s, more than 60 percent of mothers with young children worked outside the home (in 1966, only 24 percent did)." (Please read his whole post if you have time.)

Then, still not getting by on stagnant wages with rising prices, people worked more hours or added second jobs. Then they started using up their savings.

Finally they resorted to adding debt.

This all finally broke down, demand slowed, and the economy has slowed to a crawl. The 90s financialization and "dot com" bubbles obscured the way things were headed, and then the housing bubble of the 2000s continued the illusion. But debt just kept rising people kept working longer and harder to get by, while the richest few kept getting richer. Finally it all crashed and current attempts to prop it up by helping the wealthy and big businesses are not succeeding. Bailing out big banks and their executives and shareholders and not holding anyone accountable, while letting predatory corporations continue their economy-draining practices has not only kept the worst parts of the "share of the wealth" problem in place, it has undermined people's faith in government and demcoracy. Changes need to be made.

Most people pay for things with income from jobs. If we want demand to rise, then we need to raise incomes. But things are still going in the wrong direction. As CAF's Robert Borosage writes today,

"Over the last decade, we lost one in three manufacturing jobs. Inequality reached Gilded Age extremes. CEOs and bankers pocketed million dollar bonuses while cooking the books and gambling on exotic securities, inflating the housing bubble until it burst. Health insurance companies kept a strangle hold on a health care system that costs twice as much as those in other industrial countries, leaves millions uninsured and provides worse health care."

Who Gets What For What?

This bad economy situation is going to drag on until we make real changes in the structure of who gets what for what in this country. Every incentive in the economy is to try to reduce wages, cut benefits and eliminate jobs. Think about that. People get bonuses and raises and owners get richer if they eliminate YOUR job or at least cut back your pay and benefits. For example, by replacing a worker with a machine, the owner of the machine gets more money, the worker gets nothing. But in the larger economy each time this happens it means there are fewer people in a position to buy whatever goods or services the same companies that eliminated the jobs are in business to provide. And it means that a few wealthy people become more wealthy and powerful.

This is where government comes in. Government is supposed to be the force that speaks for and protects the interests of the people, empowers people through education and rules, set conditions to keep wages high, lay down the infrastructure in which businesses thrive, and coordinates the international competition for industries and jobs. But the Reagan Revolution broke that. We need to restore it.

There are so many things that government could be doing to get the economy working again for working people, small and medium businesses and big corporations that want to make an honest living. Boost the minimum wage, modernize the infrastructure, provide health care, provide free education through graduate level, increase Social Security, help unions organize, impose a democracy tariff so imports don't get around the protections provided by our democracy, and return to taxing the rich who reap the dividends and payout of all the past investment that We, the People made to make business thrive.

And there are larger structural changes we can make. Just brainstorming but what if workers replaced by machines directly got some of the income generated by the machine. Workers laid off this way several times might then have enough income to get by without working! Or what if we cut the workweek from 40 hours to, say, 35 before overtime kicks in. Maybe that would increase hiring, while giving regular people more leisure time. (And keep cutting the workweek as machines and computers do more of the work.)

And, of course, to have wages at all people have to have jobs. One would think this would go without saying but these days it seems there is a need to point out that people are hurting for jobs, because the DC elite seem to have moved on from that. We badly need government programs to directly hire people to do things that help the people of the country. We would have all of this if the Reagan Revolution hadn't weakened government of, by and for We, the People.

Other posts in the Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series:

Tax Cuts Are Theft
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost -- In Charts
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling
Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

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

June 15, 2010

Obama's Speech - The Carter Context

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

"The moral equivalent of war."

Tonight President Obama will talk about the Gulf oil catastrophe, and, hopefully, overall energy and climate policy. A look back at President Carter's fight over energy brings some context to this situation.

On April 18, 1977, 33 years ago, President Jimmy Carter gave a White House speech on energy and asked the country to change direction.

"Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly."

Carter said solving this energy problem would be "The moral equivalent of war." Please, please read the speech, and its ten principles. It will help set the stage for understanding where we are today.

If we fail to act soon, we will face an economic, social and political crisis that will threaten our free institutions.

But we still have another choice. We can begin to prepare right now. We can decide to act while there is time.

That is the concept of the energy policy we will present on Wednesday. Our national energy plan is based on ten fundamental principles.

The first principle is that we can have an effective and comprehensive energy policy only if the government takes responsibility for it and if the people understand the seriousness of the challenge and are willing to make sacrifices.


We failed to act soon. And we face an economic, social and political crisis that threatens our free institutions.

It turned out to be a very, very hard fight. The right's new network of corporate-funded "think tanks" was setting up shop and beginning to spread their poisonous, divisive, anti-government propaganda. They didn't like the idea of government trying to solve problems. The big oil giants certainly didn't want government researching alternatives to their gravy train. We understand the right's operation today, but people did not yet understand what was going on because the country had never been subjected to a destabilization campaign of this magnitude -- from the inside.

You can really feel the effect of the right's campaign when you read a speech Carter gave two years later. On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter gave what is called the "Crisis of Confidence" speech. It's also known as the "Malaise" speech. I consider it to be one of the great speeches by a President. Carter again talked to the country about energy policy, pleading with people to take this seriously. He said, "The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them."

Well, we didn't face them. Instead the country elected Reagan who immediately took the solar panels off of the White House, killed mass transit and alternative energy programs and steered the country on a path of toward dominance by the wealthy and big corporations - especially oil companies.

Now it is 2010, we have been at war in the Middle East for years, carbon in the air is raising the planet's temperature and melting the Arctic ice cap, and ... the oil in the Gulf. President Obama is giving his first Oval Office speech this evening and all of this is the broader context. Will he take on the entrenched interests that defeated Carter and brought us Reagan and later the two oil-company executives who invaded Iraq, encouraged buying Hummers and left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit?

As Carter said, "It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them."

Energy speech:

Crisis of confidence speech:

Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

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

May 27, 2010

"Government Doesn’t Have The Resources To Stop It"

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

People want the President to exert leadership to turn things around.

The oil leak. Unemployment. Credit card scams. Foreclosures. Predatory corporations. Environmental destruction. Global warming. Roads and bridges crumbling. Incomes stagnant. Schools getting worse. Companies moving overseas. Problem after problem.

People want to know, "Why doesn't the government push BP aside and take over?" The answer is, "Government doesn't have the resources to stop it."

People want to know why the government can't do more to help unemployed people, help with health care, help provide good educations, help with college, maintain the infrastructure, and all the other things that government does.

The answer, these days, is always, "Government doesn't have the resources." And that, in a nutshell, was exactly the plan.

We, the People no longer have the resources to solve our problems. We now must depend on and defer to the corporations and the wealthy few to make the important decisions and get things done instead of being able to decide and do on our own.

This is the legacy of 30 years of conservatism. They called it "starving the beast." Reagan called it “cutting their allowance.” President Bush, told that his policies had turned the country back to massive deficits, said this was, "Incredibly positive news'' because it will create "a fiscal straitjacket for Congress." He came into office with a $236 billion surplus. His last budget left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit. "Incredibly positive news."

They disemboweled the regulatory agencies. They "privatized" government functions and resources, letting a well-connected few profit at the expense of the rest of us.

The Reagan deficit plan was right there for everyone to see:


    Step 1: Cut taxes to "cut the allowance" of government so that it can't function on the side of We, the People. Intentionally force the government into greater and greater debt.

    Step 2: Use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. When the resulting deficits pile up scare people that the government is "going bankrupt" so they'll let you sell off the people's assets and "privatize" the functions of government. Of course, insist that putting taxes back where they were will "harm the economy."

    Step 3: Blame liberals for the disastrous effects of spending cutbacks.

And here we are. Every time you hear someone say that we have to fight the deficit instead of getting things done that We, the People need done you are witnessing The Plan in action.

And now, government doesn't have the resources to stop it.


NOTE: Part of the America's Future Now conference in Washington D.C. from June 7-9 will be devoted to strategy on how the progressive movement can fight the deficit cutters. Speakers such as Van Jones, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, AFL CIO President Richard Trumka, Arianna Huffington will offer a build vision for how the progressive movement can rebuild America's economy and put people back to work. Click here to attend.

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

April 1, 2010

Look Who's Funding Climate Change Denial

Go see. Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine | Greenpeace USA

So when you hear from the Mercastus Center, Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute or a lot of other "think tanks" you're actually hearing from Koch Industries - a giant oil company.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:02 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 22, 2010

2010 Midterm Election Prediction

Here is my 2010 midterm election prediction:

Gasoline prices are about to start climbing, and will continue to climb through the summer, and well into the fall. No one will be able to pin down exactly why.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:46 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 6, 2010

Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?

From Open Left

When you sell the farm, the farm's gone.

Is it already too late for America? I’m starting to think that the anti-tax, anti-government conservative movement that started in the mid-70s, elected Reagan and led to the terrible Bush Presidency may have effectively destroyed the country, leaving it bankrupt, corrupt,ungovernable, ruled by a wealthy elite -- and we're only now just starting to realize it. To cover tax cuts we stopped maintaining the infrastructure and started borrowing. To satisfy their hatred of government we increasingly stripped away rule of law, regulation, and belief in one-person-one-vote. We are seeing the consequences of all of that coming back to roost now.

Reagan left us with massive debt and ever-increasing interest payments. Bush left us with $1.3 trillion deficits and a destroyed economy that would force further increases in the borrowing for years - to be blamed on Obama. The "free marketers" gave away our manufacturing base that will take decades and massive capital investment to recover. Obama can try, but it may just be too late to do anything about the borrowing. We need massive investment in jobs and infrastructure, and a national economic/industrial plan. But, with their own Reagan/Bush debt as ammunition, conservative ideologues continue to block every effort at investment to get out of the mess we are in.

The conservatives destroyed the regulatory structure of the government. They removed the inspectors, administrators, regulators and replaced them with corrupt cronies.

The conservatives killed off, contracted out or sold off - "privatized" - so much of our in-common resources and heritage of public structures. Water systems, oil and mineral leases, government functions, elements of the military, etc.

The conservatives destroyed the rule of law, leaving behind public perception of rule by cronyism, favoritism and mob.

The conservatives destroyed public understanding of democracy, leaving behind a one-dollar-one-vote system that their Supreme Court just formalized, along with a corporate media that works to keep people uninformed. And to make matters worse, now the telecoms can argue before Federalist Society judges that their "speech rights" are violated by rules making them carry labor and progressive websites over the internet lines they control. And forget about the idea of them ever letting anti-corporate-rule candidates raise money on "their" internet.

I hate to reference Friedman but this from last week has been sticking in my mind. He says the world is looking at the mess in the US and is turning away from democracy as a result.

[Foreigners] look at America and see a president elected by a solid majority, coming into office riding a wave of optimism, controlling both the House and the Senate. Yet, a year later, he can’t win passage of his top legislative priority: health care.

“Our two-party political system is broken just when everything needs major repair, not minor repair,” said ... who is attending the forum. “I am talking about health care, infrastructure, education, energy. We are the ones who need a Marshall Plan now.”

Indeed, speaking of phrases I’ve never heard here before, another goes like this: “Is the ‘Beijing Consensus’ replacing the ‘Washington Consensus?’ ” Washington Consensus is a term coined after the cold war for the free-market, pro-trade and globalization policies promoted by America. ... developing countries everywhere are looking “for a recipe for faster growth and greater stability than that offered by the now tattered ‘Washington Consensus’ of open markets, floating currencies and free elections.” And as they do, “there is growing talk about a ‘Beijing Consensus.’ ”

The Beijing Consensus, ... is a “Confucian-Communist-Capitalist” hybrid under the umbrella of a one-party state, with a lot of government guidance, strictly controlled capital markets and an authoritarian decision-making process that is capable of making tough choices and long-term investments, without having to heed daily public polls.


It is too late to recover?

Accountability is a first step. If the current administration would hold the corrupt actors accountable, maybe we could begin to restore governance. And the public would know who to blame for what has happened to us, enabling them to support policies that will get us out of this. But so far they won't. If they won't even investigate torture and illegally invading a country why should we expect any accountability for the financial collapse, corrupt government contracts, bribery, embezzlement, corruption and other crimes of the Bush era?

More equitable distribution of the fruits of our economy is another step. Our system worked so much better back when the top tax rate was 90%. The returns from our investment in infrastructure were more widely shared. And back when it took many years to build a fortune businesses had an interdependence with their communities. Executives needed the schools and roads and other public structures functioning well. They needed long-range business and community planning. But just imagine trying to do something about the concentration of wealth today.

So where do we go from here. Is democracy over? Is rule of law a thing of the past? Is predatory monopoly control by the largest corporations the way things are and will be? Does the world now move to governance by a wealthy elite?

Or is the winter and the rain and the snow just getting to me?

What are your thoughts?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:00 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 31, 2010

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.

High Jinks to Handcuffs for Landrieu Provocateur - NYTimes.com

Mr. O’Keefe made his biggest national splash last year when he dressed up as a pimp and trained his secret camera on counselors with the liberal community group Acorn — eliciting advice on financing a brothel on videos that would threaten to become Acorn’s undoing.

There is a problem with this NY Times report of the ACORN affair: O'Keefe was not dressed as a "pimp" when visiting the ACORN office, instead representing himself as a candidate for Congress trying to save girls from exploitation. He only dressed as a "pimp" when publicizing his videos, using the racist stereotype to amplify his false claims.

Compare the impression left by this NY Times story with : ACORN Report Finds No Illegal Conduct, which describes former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger's investigation of the accusations. Among the investigation's conclusions,

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.

I located this information after using The Google for maybe two minutes. I propose that the New York Times consider offering Google Training to its "reporters."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 1, 2010

Bad Newspaper Business Model: Catering To The Right

My local newspaper runs the Mallard Fillmore comic strip. Today's strip tells readers they shouldn't read newspapers.

This is brilliant thinking on the part of the big corporate owners of the news media. Cater to the right, which wants to destroy the news media. The right tells people not to trust the media. People stop reading newspapers. Brilliant. Business. Model.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 30, 2009

A New Economy from Old Roots?

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.

How do we build a new economy out of the collapse of the old economy? How do we start fresh to begin creating jobs again, while building in economic and environmental sustainability, as well as workplaces that respect human needs and rights? How do we change things so that we all get to share the benefits of the economy rather than just contributing to the increasing wealth of a few vastly wealthy people?

While we look for a vision for a new economy, we should examine what has worked in the past. America had periods in which regular people enjoyed sustained increases in their standard of living. For a long time it was a conventional wisdom that each American generation would do better than the previous generation, more people would receive good educations, medical care would get better, the middle class would grow, leisure time would increase, poverty rates would decrease, retirement would be easier, etc.

But this pattern stopped. Beginning in the late 1970s and especially in the 1980s incomes began to stagnate, wealth increasingly concentrated at the top, working hours and workplace pressures steadily increased, availability of good health care started to decrease, etc. The standard of living of most Americans began to and continues to decline. At the same time corporations became more predatory as consumer protections vanished. Meanwhile outsourcing, deunionization and other anti-worker policies led to increasingly unpleasant, stressful and unrewarding worklives for more and more people.

Many of today's problems are traceable directly to the policy results of anti-government propaganda that was blasted out from well-funded conservative think tanks starting in the 1970s. The anti-government campaign led to defunding of many national, state and local government programs that improved education, helped the poor or enriched people's lives. We suffered deregulation in many areas where the government had protected consumers, workers, investors and the environment. Huge reductions in taxes for the wealthy were either offset by tax increases for the rest of us or government borrowing. And that borrowing has led to increasing problems of paying the interest and threats to funding even basic programs like Social Security and education.

So what worked, before the conservatives trashed the place?

Regulation

One thing we know for sure now, learned the hardest way thanks to the financial crisis: regulation worked. Regulation was necessary, it worked, it kept firms from taking risks that could bring down the economy. And we can also see now how regulations protected consumers from predatory corporate activities, workers from wage theft or unsafe working conditions, and the environment from exploitation and destruction.

Taxes

Before Reagan the tax rates at the top were very high. After you reached - and took home - a certain very high income you paid a high percentage of the rest in taxes. This had many beneficial results – even for the people who paid higher taxes. Government could afford to keep the physical, education and legal infrastructure in good condition without borrowing. Government could afford to invest in programs that improved our standard of living, health, knowledge and technology, which helped businesses grow. Businesses thrived in such well-watered soil.

The high tax rates also kept the bad side of human nature in check. When it took years to build up a fortune businesspeople had to rely on the health of the greater community to nurture their own wealth-building enterprises and keep them thriving over a long period. They had to think and act long-term. The roads needed to be kept in repair, the schools needed to provide excellent education to potential employees, the courts needed to be functional to enforce contracts, and they wanted the communities they were going to have to stay in to be pleasant places to live.

But once taxes were lowered vast windfalls could be realized from a single event and it made more sense to try to fleece the community with quick-buck schemes than to rely on it. We began to see corporate raiders break up solid, ongoing companies, steal pension funds, etc., while encouraging communities to cut spending on schools, roads, etc. It became more profitable sell off or outsource our manufacturing capacity. And then, as things fell apart, the few who benefited could just fly away in their private jets or sail away in their huge yachts. The greater community was no longer any use to them except as crops to be harvested. Vulnerable consumers are the only crop that is coming up in this economy.

Big Government

Government is We, the People making the decisions. "Big government" is simply another way of saying that more of the important decisions are made by the people. Shrinking government means handing the decisions over to big corporations. In the real world this is the choice. And in the real world big corporations make decisions that benefit them, and only them. Before you badmouth government think carefully about what the alternative is.

Old-Fashioned Government Planning

As I said in a post a few months ago,

The phrase “industrial policy” sounds so Walter Mondale, 1970s, smokestacks and brick factory old-fashioned. I suspect the subject turns people off, eyes glaze over, hands reach under the table for iPhones and Blackberries…
But here we are without an industrial policy. How’s that working out for us? Every other country has one. China seriously has one. We instead have huge trade deficits. We don't make things here so we have to borrow money to buy things made elsewhere.

To add insult to injury, recently Deutsche Bank released a research note advising investors that the U.S. was not a good investment because of our lack of a government industrial policy. See Deutsche Bank: Absence of US Clean Energy Policy Will Send Global Capital Elsewhere.

While we envision a new direction for our economy, maybe we should also be looking at returning to a few old-fashioned ways of doing things, too.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:09 PM | 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

Republican Infrastructure

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Why are Republicans so successful, even though they only have a tiny minority representation in our state government?  Read on.

An invitation was sent for the upcoming California Republican Party Convention, which will be September 25-27 at the Rennaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, outside of Palm Springs.

Nestled at the base of the majestic Santa Rosa Mountains in the exclusive community of Indian Wells, the luxurious Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa is the desert's finest oasis. Offering unparalleled service and all the amenities of a world-class resort, Esmeralda invites you to indulge your every whim.

[. . .] Spa Esmeralda is designed to nourish your soul. Marble floors, glass corridors and the sounds of a trickling stone fountain greet you. From that moment on, a transformation begins to take place.

Gaze at the alluring desert landscape from the tranquil Spa Garden and soothe away the day's stress under a therapeutic waterfall spa. This is Spa Esmeralda. This is Paradise.
Featuring,

  • Spa with lush garden
  • Golf Club House
  • Lounge with live entertainment
  • Room Service
  • 36-Holes of Championship Golf
  • 3 swimming pools & Pool Bar
  • Fitness Center
  • Tennis
  • Concierge
  • In-room movies
  • Complimentary in-room coffee
  • Complimentary newspaper
  • Restaurants
Nice!  Where do they park their yachts in the desert, though?

I noted on the web page, "Special Thanks to San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for their generous support of the California Republican Party and the fall convention." Sponsorship is solicited on the following terms:

$100,000 Official Convention Title Sponsorship
For organizations seeking maximum exposure and opportunities to network with Republican candidates for Governor, Congress and State Legislature, this Title Sponsorship opportunity is ideal, providing exclusive benefits. Title sponsorship of the California Republican Party's fall Convention is limited to one partner with a speaking opportunity during the convention and a customized sponsorship marketing plan tailored to your needs which will include ... Private meeting with all top state party leaders during convention.
There are also $50,000, $25,000 and $15,000 opportunities.

I especially was interested in The Workshops At The '09 CRP Fall Convention, which are put on by various people including:
  • David Kralik, Silicon Valley Representative for Newt Gingrich's American Solutions 
  • David Avella, Executive Director of GOPAC
  • Philip R Hinderberger: Senior V-P & Govt. Affairs Counsel, NORCAL Mutual Insurance Company
  • Larry Greenfield, The Reagan Legacy Foundation
  • Mackenzie Eaglen, Research Fellow for National Security Studies, Heritage Foundation
Some background on some of the above:
  • If you don't know, a Senior V-P & Govt. Affairs Counsel is a LOBBYIST.
  • The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project was formed in 1997 as a project of Americans for Tax Reform - Grover Norquist's organization.  According to SourceWatch: "Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) is ostensibly a group that pushes for lower taxes. It has close ties to the Republican Party and has frequently allied itself with the tobacco industry."
  • Heritage Foundation is the premier right-wing, anti-government "think tank" located in Washington, DC.
So this is a luxury event, sponsored by corporations, with workshops from elements of the conservative infrastructure.  These are organizations that are supposed to be non-partisan, are often funded with tax-deductible contributions, exist outside of the party structure, but in this case are closely bound with the party itself.

These third-party groups lay the groundwork for elections by bombarding the public with corporate-funded messaging that is almost always anti-government and anti-tax, advocating the corporations replace government in our national and state decisionmaking.  Grover Norquist is famous for saying he wants to make the government "small enough that it can be drowned in a bathtub" and this is why his organization has demanded that office-seekers sign a pledge to oppose taxes in all forms.  They believe in "defunding" government, so that it cannot effectively regulate corporations. 

After enough of this drumbeat of anti-government propaganda, with no response from people who believe in demcoracy and community, the public doesn't have much choice but to believe the only voices they hear, and turn against government and the taxes that support democracy.  

This third-party infrastructure is why conservatives have been so effective at strangling government in California.  It is funded by corporations and every Republican has take "the pledge."  The corporations pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into our elections to put just enough of them over the top to keep the state from functioning. 

What we need is a progressive infrastructure of organizations that reach the public and explain progressive policies, creating acceptance of progressive values and demand for progressive solutions that help everyone, not just a select, wealthy few.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:31 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 6, 2009

Marriage of Republican Party and Birthers & Teabaggers - Very Dangerous

Sara Robinson says the marriage of the Republican Party with the birthers, teabaggers and town hall disruptors is a very, very dangerous sign for our country.

This is a must-read!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:13 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

June 9, 2009

More Republican Hatred Of America

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

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

April 25, 2009

MUST Prosecute

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

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

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

April 22, 2009

Why They Used Torture

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

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

Paul Krugman Blog summarizes what is being learned:

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

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

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

April 13, 2009

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

April 9, 2009

Conservative Leaders and Media Whipping Up Trouble

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

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

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

He told WND that since the action in Georgia, he's been contacted by groups in at least 20 other states who want to pursue a similar action.

Try to read the entire article. It is not a "report" it is an incitement.

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

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

March 2, 2009

Watch Out For Wikipedia

Try this: start or edit a Wikipedia article that includes information that might be unfavorable to conservative corporate interests, perhaps in the area of tort reform (incl medical malpractice, etc) or trade/protectionism, etc. Try adding citations to studies that show that tort reform is a corporate-funded effort to keep people from being able to sue companies that harm them... I tried it and it was removed in a few minutes.

Or try to edit the entry on Protectionism, perhaps adding something like the words "unfair competition" as in protecting America jobs from unfair competition from countries that exploit workers. Someone did this the other day and the edit lasted a few minutes before it was removed because it changed the "long accepted definition of protectionism." In other words, the idea that our standard of living should be protected from competition using exploited workers is unfair goes against the corporate-interest meaning of the term.

Try editing entries covering other issues around trade, economics or corporate issues. See how long it takes before a pro-corporate viewpoint is returned to the article. Or add an article about a progressive organization. I added an article about the Commonweal Institute, and it was immediately removed, so I put another up and it was immediately flagged for removal. (I am working to save it...) An article about me - put up and edited by others - was also removed twice. The circumstances involved a professional "leading tort-reform advocate" -- while I'm the person who wrote this report about how the tort reform movement is involved with the corporate/conservative movement. Go figure.

This is a problem at Wikipedia. It is quite possible that there are people who are paid to show up and push Wikipedia to reflect a conservative, pro-corporate viewpoint. And why wouldn't this be the case as it is in so many other areas where corporate interests are affected? (I know of one corporate-funded conservative movement insider who spends much of the normal workday and evenings editing Wikipedia.) So it seems the Wikipedia organization may be unable to sufficiently police the site to keep this from happening, and to keep new people from having unpleasant experiences and being shouted down and driven away. There are so many areas of political life where conservatives shout down or intimidate everyone else until they give up and go away. Wikipedia is fast becoming one more.

This has real-world implications. Wikipedia shows up at the top of many if not most Google searches, and people tend to believe this means it is a reliable source. This positioning implies a public-interest responsibility for accuracy and objective presentation of material. On non-controversial topics Wikipedia is a very reliable and possibly the best source for information because over time the "wisdom of crowds" effect brings increased expertise to bear.

But like so many things today, in areas where corporate resources can be focused, the subject matter increasingly reflects the viewpoint that serves the interests of the few at the top. Wikipedia's prominence is the likely reason this conservative information-purging occurs. It is also the reason Wikipedia has a responsibility to do something about it.

(Edited a bit for clarity, focus.)

PS also see this about article deletions.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:59 AM | Comments (1) | 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 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

December 23, 2008

Deep Thought On Rule Of law

Ford pardoned Nixon, which led to the crimes/bribery/theft/fraud/lies/wars of the Reagan/Bush I administration. It also led to a common understanding that in America the big fish operate under different rules and are held to a different standard.

Reagan was let off the hook for Iran/Contra and Bush I pardoned everyone who otherwise might have testified against him. Then under Clinton they let bygones be bygones, bribery remain unpunished and stolen money stay stolen which led to the crimes of Bush II. (It also paved the way for Clinton's impeachment because they knew the Dems would let them get away with anything and the public was ready for a story about people at the top not being let off the hook.)

If you don't prosecute lawbreaking and hold accountable the lawbreakers, it will just happen over and over, worse each time. Throughout the Bush II administration the Dems refused to hold anyone accountable and look what's happening today.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

December 14, 2008

Republican Opposition To Unions

A quick thought about Republican opposition to unions. I keep reading that Republicans are "ideologically" opposed to unions.

Republicans are opposed to unions because they are paid to oppose unions. Is this really "ideology?"

If they oppose unions because they believe America should be ruled by a few wealthy people, and that democracy is a bad thing, that is an ideology. In my opinion, if they oppose unions because those wealthy people pay them to work to destroy people's ability to fight corporate power, that isn't ideology, that's opportunism.

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

November 1, 2008

Palin Movement Urges 'Godly' To 'Plunder' Wealth of 'Godless'

Just go read: Daily Kos: Palin Movement Urges 'Godly' To 'Plunder' Wealth of 'Godless'

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:59 AM | 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 21, 2008

Would A McCain Win Mean A Legitimate Government?

McCain is running an entirely negative, divisive, racist campaign based on lies, intending to trick, manipulate, deceive, divide or otherwise do whatever it takes to get enough people to vote for him.

And we all know it.

So if it works, where are we? Do we accept such a government, elected based on the appeal his campaign is making?

Set aside for a minute all the the voter suppression, problems with voting machines, etc. -- that's not what I want to write about here, go here for what to do about that -- and instead imagine that Nov. 5 we learn that McCain is the "winner of the election" and that it comes from a surge of voters responding to his current campaign.

What would that mean? And what do we do? Do we accept a government that we all know is in power entirely based on lies, division and racist appeal? This is a serious question: is such a government legitimate?

I'm asking for a discussion, not making a declaration.

Update - An email I received:

Unless there is evidence of illegal activity, yes, we must accept such a government, and, yes, it is legitimate. It is not illegal for an individual operating in an unofficial capacity (as a presidential candidate as opposed to a senator) to lie. Citizens have a responsibility to verify the accuracy of the information they receive. If they choose not to verify it and choose to believe a lie and to act on it with their vote, that is their right, and they deserve to be governed by the lying president they've chosen. There's nothing in a democratic political system that requires a candidate to tell the truth. It is we, each individual citizen, who must require it by refusing to accept any information we haven't verified for ourselves. We fail miserably at that, so we generally get the government we deserve.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:28 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

October 18, 2008

Election - Final Stretch

We're about to see the full force power and fury of the right-wing machine unleashed. I'm not so sure Obama will keep his lead through the next phase, or if there will be a country when they're done.

The RNC and the McCain campaign has been accusing Obama and Democrats of being "un-American" or "anti-American" and "dangerous" and "terrorists" and anything they can think of. Today McCain said Obama's tax policies are "Socialist." Across the country the first phase of robo-calls has started, with nasty smears, lies, fear-mongering and you-name-it being pumped into people's homes at all hours.

It is only going to get worse. And then it will get worse. And then it will get really nasty. The next two weeks will go down in history. The corporate right faces the prospect of the people bringing them back under control, and a look at where all the money went. The authoritarian right faces investigations for torture and war crimes. The party operatives face jail time for illegal politicization of the entire government. They will not go without a huge fight.

I really don't know where things will go in the next two weeks, but keep up your spirits, and fight back.

And, of course, watch your backs.

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

October 17, 2008

Obama Campaign Asks Special Prosecutor To Look Into DOJ/McCain Campaign Collusion On ACORN Charges

The Obama campaign today sent a letter to Attorney General Mukasey asking that he expand the scope of the ongoing investigation into Justice Department politicization to "include a review of any involvement by the Justice Department and White House officials in supporting the McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC)'s systematic development and dissemination of unsupported, spurious allegations of vote fraud."

Briefly, the DOJ politicization scandal stems from Republican efforts to conduct partisan vote fraud investigations before the 2006 election. Prosecutors who refused were fired, prosecutors who played along were not fired (and are still there). After an outcry and the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales the new Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, appointed a special prosecutor to look into the politicization. The current vote fraud accusations and accompanying Justice Department, FBI and White House involvement follow the same pattern, and are based on no credible evidence, so the Obama campaign believes that it may be related to the ongoing partisan politicization of the government's law enforcement.

More coming...

Update - Ari Melber at The Washington Independent has more,

Citing an “unholy alliance” between Republican operatives and potentially illegal conduct by law enforcement targeting voter fraud, the Obama campaign demanded Friday that the U.S. special prosecutor looking into the U.S. attorney scandal investigate the matter.

General counsel Bob Bauer sent a letter to Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey charging that coordinated “misconduct” by McCain campaign representatives and GOP officials were relevant to the special prosecutor’s work, because the activities may relate to the dismissal of seven U.S. attorneys in late 2006.

The letter requests that the special prosecutor’s inquiry “include a review of any involvement by Justice Dept. and White House officials in supporting the McCain-Palin campaign [and RNC's] systematic development and dissemination of unsupported, spurious allegations of vote fraud.”

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:19 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 12, 2008

Palin's Accusation That Obama is A Terrorist

Sarah Palin repeatedly accuses Obama of having various "ties" to terrorists, and pretty buch of being a terrorist himself.

Remember the Seeing the Forest Rule: When Republicans Accuse it is a good idea to see if it is what THEY are really doing. The accusation serves as an inoculation. It works like this: Billy steals a cookie from the cookie jar. Billy runs to mommy and tells her Bobby took a cookie. Bobby responds with "No, mommy, Billy did it." This gets Bobby is serious trouble, and Billy gets away scott-free -- plus a cookie.

So of course an investigation into Sarah Palin reveals ... you guessed it. A DailyKos post explains, and David Neiwert has a summary at his blog:
# That Gov. Palin, when a Wasilla city council member, formed an alliance with some of the more radical far-right citizens in Wasilla and vicinity, particularly members of the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party who were allied with local John Birch Society activists. These activists played an important role in her election as Wasilla mayor in 1996.

# Once mayor, one of Mrs. Palin’s first acts was to attempt to appoint one of these extremists (a man named Steve Stoll) to her own seat on the city council. This was a man with a history of disrupting city council meetings with intimidating behavior. She was blocked by a single city council member.

# Afterward, Mrs. Palin fired the city’s museum director at the behest of this faction.

# She fomented an ultimately successful effort to derail a piece of local gun-control legislation which would simply have prohibited the open carry of firearms into schools, liquor stores, libraries, courthouses and the like. The people recruited to shout this ordinance down included these same figures, notably the local AIP representative (who became the AIP’s chairman that same year).

# She remained associated politically with the local AIP/Birch faction throughout her tenure as mayor on other issues, particularly a successful effort to amend the Alaska Constitution to prohibit local governments from issuing any local gun-control ordinances.

But really, what did you expect?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 10, 2008

WHY Are Republicans Accusing ACORN Of Voter Fraud?

The Republican noise machine is going absolutely full-force after ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), accusing them of committing vote fraud on a massive scale. You can't turn on the radio or TV without hearing that millions of illegal votes will be cast for Obama because of ACORN's massive vote fraud. If you Google "Acorn" and "rigging" you get over 50,000 hits.

The Republican National Committee website is headlining the effort. And they are issuing accusation press releases all day, every day, to drive this effort. They have a "fact sheet" listing numerous accusations.

Here's the thing: ACORN is registering voters and is REQUIRED BY LAW to submit voter reg forms as the voter fills them out. Even so, the total "fraudulent" registrations they are accused of submitting nationwide is very low, maybe a few thousand. This is across the entire country when they have registered more than 1.3 million new voters. And this is all about registration forms that are filled out wrong by the voter, not ACORN, or a voter submitting more than one registration. This is what all the noise is about.

This is the key thing to know: None of these faulty registrations are capable of resulting in a single fraudulent vote. The problem is ACORN workers turning in forms that were filled out wrong, in some cases by the workers themselves to make it look like they were working when they weren't. But vote fraud? The most common problems is duplication but if someone fills out 12 registrations, they're still only goign to vote once. It is up to county election officials, not ACORN to worry about election fraud. And on a call today with ACORN they pointed out that while there are bad registration forms submitted, there is not one case of a person commiting actual vote fraud as a result of ACORN's efforts. Not one, ever, anywhere.

So the question is, why? Why the huge hissy fit over ACORN?

Remember the Seeing the Forest Rule: When Republicans accuse, it is because it is what they are doing themselves.

Working on the Election Protection Wiki I am seeing more and more accusations of a massive nationwide effort to throw millions of voters off of the registration lists, and otherwise keep them from voting. One example accusation: states like Florida are purging voters whose names do not exactly match their Social Security or drivers license, so "Bob" on one and "Robert" on another disqualifies them from voting. Another, across the country the Republicans are accused of mailing faulty absentee voter applications to Democrats -- they have incorrect addresses for sending the application, or when they can send them in they are thrown out for various reasons to do with the forms. Another: across the country students are being told they can't vote. These are just a few examples -- you may have heard that some states are even throwing people off voter registration roles if their homes are foreclosed.

Could THIS be why there are so many accusations against ACORN? To provide cover for the REAL voting scam that is going on?

Among the accusations is that they have "employed convicts to register people." That sure SOUNDS bad, but so what? Also among the crimes they are accused of is submitting duplicate registrations for voters. Here is the thing to keep in mind, when a duplicate registration is submitted, the person is registered once and the duplicates are thrown out. Again, so what?

ACORN is an organization that helps poor and minority communities. One thing ACORN does is organize people to vote. They have submitted over 1.3 million new voter registrations this year. From their website,

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities.
This sounds exactly like something Repubicans would hate. A lot.

Among the hundreds and hundreds of stories, these today:

ACORN Investigations Provide Rallying Cry for Republicans

Is Acorn Stealing the Election?

Obama Hired ACORN For GOTV

It’s time to shut down ACORN, work against voter fraud

GOP Renews Complaints Over Voter Registrations

ACORN’s Crimes


RNC: CNN Exposes How ACORN Steals Votes & Ties to Obama


Jive Turkey Rides Again


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

September 19, 2008

Let Bush Manage Bailout?

The Treasury Secretary wants the largest tax expenditure in history to be considered and passed IN A WEEK, just before an election. And then the BUSH ADMINISTRATION will manage how the bailout is handled.

Does this set off any alarm bells, people? The BUSH ADMINISTRATION is going to be in charge of deciding how trillions of our dollars are going to be allocated? The incompetent, "no bid contract," Halliburton, billions in cash disappearing in Iraq, Katrina, CORRUPT BUSH ADMINISTRATION allocating ALL THE REST OF THE MONEY IN THE TREASURY???

Hey, people, this is all of it. This is your retirement money, your hopes for a health care plan, your ability to buy food, all coming up in one massive spending bill IN A WEEK.

Tell me, what do you THINK is about to happen???

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Shock Doctrine Bailout: Taxpayers To Cover Debts Of Wall Street Zillionaires

Treasury Secretary Paulson just used the words, "A significant investment of taxpayer dollars." That's OUR dollars. And where is the money going? The plan is for U.S. taxpayers to bail out Wall Street. Not just a few firms this time, but all of it. The financial markets are, of course, soaring on the new bailout plan.

Where did all this bad debt come from? In the last few years millions were talked into borrowing money from Wall Street using houses as collateral. Sometimes to buy those houses, other times to buy cars and ... stuff. This paid for Wall Street's multi-million-dollar salaries and bonuses for the past several years. The easy borrowing ran up the price of houses, but now the party is over and the bill comes due.

What does this bailout plan mean to regular Americans? First: It means no money for a health care plan.

Second: it means no money for retirement. It means no money to cover what the government borrowed from Social Security to give those tax cuts to the rich. (The corporations long ago quit providing pensions to the people who did the work. THAT scam -- 401Ks instead of pensions; money transferred from workers to shareholders -- is what started the big Wall Street runup.)

In summary, this plan means our standard of living will drop in order to cover the mess Wall Street made while handing out those multi-million dollar bonuses.

The plan will be presented to Congress in these last days of the Bush administration, and a climate of disaster emergency urgency will be used to get it passed before anyone has time to consider the ramifications of what is happening.

Alternative: instead use the money to retrofit the entire country to a green economy. Make every building energy efficient. Replace the oil and coal-based electricity generation with alternatives. Build efficient power lines to the new wind generation system we will build in the Plains states. This would give every unemployed person a job, create an efficient economy, and pay dividends forever. This would probably cost much less than the bailout.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:53 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

September 17, 2008

The Conservative Economic Experiment

The government just took over insurance giant AIG, at a cost of $85 billion to the taxpayers. They just finished bailing out Bear Sterns and Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. How many hundreds of billions of dollars have gone into other financial bailout efforts?

Since Reagan almost all of us are getting poorer, while a very few get vastly richer. Wages have largely stagnated since Reagan's election even as GDP and productivity have gone up. Pensions are a thing of the past. Health insurance is becoming a thing of the past as well.

As a result of the Reagan and now Bush tax cuts for the rich the government's debt is just about $10 TRILLION.

And corporations now rule us instead of democracy.

The conservative economic experiment failed a long time ago. When are we going to admit it and get things back on track? Will we wait until the United States declare bankruptcy? We're almost there now.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:29 AM | Comments (1) | 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 9, 2008

How McCain/Palin Administration Will Operate

Go read: Brandon Friedman: Alaska National Guard General Changes Story; Palin Promotes. Summary: Commander of Alaska Nat. Guard undercuts Palin's "experience" argument. Then the commander changes his story to support her and three days later gets a big promotion.

Another: McCain and Palin once again play 'Barracuda'. Summary: if a teenager downloads a tune, he is prosecuted. But if a Republican Presidential campaign steals tunes, refuses to get permission or pay royalties or stop using the tune when the artist demands -- too bad.

Another: Palin Again Recites Lie About Bridge To Nowhere. Summary: Candidate tells a big lie. Won't stop. Press refuses to make an issue of it.

This is a small sample of what's coming if McCain wins. If you think Bush was an incompetent, warmaking liar you will soon long for the days of Bush. Get ready for that. And watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:55 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

August 30, 2008

HANG?

Why is the McCain campaign running an ad in which the word "hang" appears with a picture of Obama?

Is it just a mistake? Maybe, but the McCain campaign has a track record of running very carefully prepared ads that include code words designed to trigger a particular reaction from targeted segments of the Republican base. Recently the McCain campaign ran an ad about Obama being "The One" -- meaning the antichrist. The McCain campaign denied it but the authors of the "Left Behind" series understand this to be the meaning of the ad.

So what segment of the Republican base is the McCain campaign reaching out to with this ad? And what exactly are they hoping to trigger?

P.S. read this about that Denver assassination plot I linked to in the previous paragraph.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:39 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 9, 2008

If You Can't Do The Time, Don't Do The Crime

A new group called Accountable America is warning conservative donors about staying within election laws. The New York Times wrote about this the other day with the misleading headline, Group Plans Campaign Against G.O.P. Donors.

Of course it isn't a "campaign against GOP donors" it is a campaign warning against unlawful and unethical activity. But stopping unlawful activity just might dry up a lot of the Republican Party's -- and the right's supporting infrastructure's -- cash flow. This includes 501c3 tax-free "charity" think tanks and 501c4 "issue" organizations that are really illegally engaged in candidate activity, or otherwise acting as conduits for corporate money or for those who have "maxed out" (reached the legal limit) for political donations.

The other day I wrote about,

... companies intimidating workers to vote a certain way, churches, think tanks, front groups incorporated as c4s but doing candidate work, campaigns violating election laws, etc.

... Suppose [we could create] some concern among the Wal-Marts and the Sheldon Adelsons that they had better think about following the law?

What would this do to the funding sources of the right's machine?

So I guess great minds think alike. Heh.

There is plenty of need for an effort to get conservative and corporate donors to follow the law. Just for example -- last week's news about "curious" bundled political contributions made by employees of oil companies receiving billion-dollar contracts from the government to McCain and Republicans. Some of these donations came from people clearly unable to make such a donation on their own. This makes it appear that the companies may have illegally given these people money to give to McCain and the Republican Party and groups are demanding an investigation (that will never happen).

[Public interest groups] want the Justice Department to investigate whether bundlers for John McCain's presidential campaign are using "straw" donations -- those made in the name of someone else to evade contribution limits.
A story at TPM elaborates,
"An executive from a company that has a billion dollar contract to deliver oil to U.S. bases in Iraq possibly violated election law to funnel contributions to McCain. We think that warrants an investigation."

And on the Hess matter ... : "An office manager for an oil company that stands to gain millions in profits from offshore drilling makes donations for the first time this cycle to McCain, and did it at the same time nine other Hess donors do. That's worth an investigation."

Now that Accountable America is on the scene maybe corporations and big donors who are thinking about engaging in illegal activities will think twice.

If you want to help this effort you can donate by clicking here.

Update Kathy G writes about Accountable America in her post Liberal fascism strikes again!

* The new group will offer a $100,000 reward to those providing information that leads to the conviction or judgment against a conservative or business-related organization that violates the law.

* Accountable America will provide information to the public through television ads, mailings, phone calls and its Web site.

* Next week the organization plans to send a mailing warning nearly 10,000 Republican donors of the consequences of funding organizations that break or skirt the law.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 30, 2008

Right Infiltrates Orgs at Top Levels

The NRA hired "a self-described 'research consultant,' who for decades has covertly infiltrated citizens groups for private security firms hired by corporations that are targeted by activist campaigns" to infiltrate gun-control and environmental organizations.

See There's Something About Mary: Unmasking a Gun Lobby Mole,

Mary McFate was a prominent gun control activist. Mary Lou Sapone was a freelance spy with an NRA connection. They are the same person. A Mother Jones investigation.
My question: WHO ELSE?

Watch your backs. Really.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 28, 2008

Even That Record Deficit Is Another Lie

Have you heard about the massive budget deficit that the Republicans are gifting us with this year? Even that is a lie. Correntewire caught it: Department of burying the lede,Ho-hum, in the middle of an article about the latest record federal deficit comes this aside:

The administration actually underestimates the deficit, however, since it leaves out about $80 billion in war costs. In a break from tradition — and in violation of new mandates from Congress — the White House did not include its full estimate of war costs.
Go read.

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

July 8, 2008

Press Praises Wealthy America-Hater Templeton

John Templeton Sr. died today. He had moved away and renounced his US citizenship because he hated our country.

But he was extremely wealthy, which makes him a hero to some. The Washington Post, for example: Billionaire Investor John Marks Templeton Dies at 95. Others called him a "philanthropist"

Even though he had renounced his citizenship and our country Templeton was a "conservative sugar daddy" who funded many U.S.-based anti-government organizations (as well as proponents of creationism and "intelligent design.") He funded many far-right-wing causes and includingpoliticians.

His son carries on.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 4, 2008

Jesse Helms Dies

Former Sen. Jesse Helms dies - CNN.com,

Former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, a North Carolina Republican who became an icon to conservatives, died Friday at the age of 86, the Jesse Helms Center announced.

Helms once said his job was to derail the freight train of liberalism.

Conservatives admired him for his opposition to abortion and what he called "indecent art," while liberals accused him of using race as a wedge issue to defeat black opponents.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 26, 2008

Supreme Court Strikes Down "Millionaire's Amendment"

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

Nearly every Supreme Court ruling is 5-4 these days, with the far-right winning over the right. I guess they understand the need to dance with the wealthy corporatists that brung them. And I think they understand that this balance could change next year so they are rushing to establish as many far-right precedents as they can before that happens.

This one today is rich - literally. The Court ruled that allowing candidates to raise extra money if they face a self-financed millionaire violates the self-financed millionaire's freedom to use money to dominate all speech. Do you think I'm joking?

Supreme Court strikes down part of campaign finance law

The Supreme Court struck down on Thursday part of a U.S. campaign finance law that relaxes contribution limits for candidates facing wealthy, self-funded opponents, a ruling that could affect congressional elections in November.

By a 5-4 vote, the high court declared unconstitutional the provision known as the "millionaire's amendment" that Congress adopted out of concern that rich, self-financing candidates would have a competitive advantage.

Alito agreed with the arguments by [the rich candidate] that the law violated the constitutional free-speech rights of self-financed candidates, impermissibly burdening [rich candidate's] rights to spend his own money for campaign speech. [emphasis added]

Enabling the other candidate to raise as much money - from regular people - is "burdening" the rich guy. Wow.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 20, 2008

Teacher Fired For Assigning Malcolm X

A teacher assigns students to read Malcolm X, is fired because her curriculum was too "Afrocentric."

Go read: Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap

Here is a video made by her students:

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

June 19, 2008

War Crimes -- No Question, Says General

Go read: TAGUBA ON TORTURE.

A general saying the White House is guilty of war crimes! Is impeachment still "off the table?"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 13, 2008

Denied Vet Benefits Because VoteVets member

Go read this DailyKos diary: Military Declares War On Obama, VoteVets. A veteran was denied PTSD benefits by the VA because he was a VoteVets member.

I don't know what's more troubling - that the VA KNOWS who shows up to political rallies ..., or that they're willing to use participation in an organization as the reason for denying care to the sick. We send these soldiers off to war to supposedly defend Constitutional freedoms, and then when the soldier upon returning home tries to exercise one, namely the freedom of speech, he is denied treatment.
The first part of the diary is about the military broadcasting anti-Obama smears from right-wing blogs to the troops.

Every branch of our government has been turned into a Republican Party-controlled propaganda-and-party-enforcement vehicle.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 30, 2008

Top 10 Conspiracy Theories of the Religious Right

I LOVE this one: Talk To Action | Top 10 Conspiracy Theories of the Religious Right, including Al Gore's secret global warming plot to destroy capitalism and take over the United States, Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno's secret plot to destroy Christianity and take over the United States and make it a Lesbian country. (Or is it Thespian?)

They left out MY secret plot to use blogging to take over the United States and make everyone drink better coffee.

Go read.

Update - I just got an e-mail from Human Events titled, "Obama U.N. Global Tax Scheme Gaining Steam"

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 28, 2008

Republicans Pretending To Govern

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

A good op-ed appeared Saturday in the Boston Globe, America's faux government. The writer discusses how many parts of our federal government seem to no longer be functioning.

They sent everybody home a long time ago, set timers to make the lights go on, and locked the doors. Government is so much more cost efficient if nobody actually does anything.
We read about drugs harming people while drug companies make huge profits -- where was the Food and Drug Administration? We read about the Federal Aviation Administration asking the airlines to inspect themselves, and the airlines having to cancel so many flights because they didn't,
Whoever is still pretending to work there must have made Employee of the Month.
Why is this happening?
So we're now living in a Libertarian country, where the government doesn't actually provide any services except defense. The problem? We're paying taxes as if we live in a social democracy where the government provides all services except defense. They don't need defense because they have found that if you stop teaching history in schools, people forget that you actually need it sometimes.

How can you tell that we are Libertarians now? Because business is not complaining all the time. When the government is actually showing up for work, business groups say that they are being Crushed By Overregulation. Choked by Bureaucracy. I haven't heard a word of that in a long time, but it used to be the anthem of American business. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was on the news every night - truly, every night. When was the last time you heard of OSHA showing up for a surprise inspection?

Please go read the rest.

The column is written partially as humor, but the reality is there. We elected people who hate government to run our government, and look what has happened. They said regulations are bad, inspectors are intrusive and oversight should be "voluntary." The have stopped the regulators and inspectors and overseers from regulating and inspecting and overseeing.

The last several years saw the libertarian dream realized. Government was largely shut down. And what happened? Did this experiment bring "liberty?" Did the working person prosper in an "ownership society?"

No, what happened was what all the reality-based, experienced, practical people said would happen if we implement a libertarian system: the corporations immediately filled the vacuum and began to enrich themselves at the public's expense. And when Katrina came around, people were left on their own.

So what do we learn from this? I think it is important to remember that "the government" is not some "they" that just showed up from nowhere and "tells us what to do." The government is US, you and me and the rest of us, organized together to help each other. And it is up to US to keep an eye on things, for each other. When we listen to smiling hucksters who offer easy answers using nice-sounding words we ought to be extra careful. Tax cuts have brought us mountains of debt. Government cutbacks have brought us bad roads, bad schools and really, really bad disaster relief. And deregulation has brought us a corporate state.

Taxes, services, regulation and oversight have all become bad words. But now that we have performed the libertarian experiment we can see the consequences of this kind of thinking. It turns out that taxes are an investment in our future. It turns out that government services are us taking care of each other. It turns out that regulations keep the marketplace playing field level, which allows to enjoy the benefits of innovating businesses. It turns out that oversight keeps our government honest. And it turns out that conservative disdain for all of these didn't make government better, it made government worse.


Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 26, 2008

Republicans Say Troops Not Patriotic

Republicans voted down benefits for veterans, saying if there are benefits, current troops will leave the military. Seriously, that's their argument.

See Senate Guru:: Senate Republicans Call Our Troops Unpatriotic,

As most of us know, twenty-two Senate Republicans voted against Senator Jim Webb's new G.I. Bill. The most frequently cited excuse given by these Republicans for trying to shortchange our brave fighting men and women was that Senator Webb's bill would "hurt retention." In other words, these Senate Republicans suggested that our soldiers would bolt the military if the benefits they were given for putting their lives on the line in service to our country were too generous.

Yes, it's both as disgusting and as illogical as it sounds.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:54 PM | 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

May 17, 2008

Doctoring Audio And Video Clips To Fit The Republican Line

Get ready for a new kind of attack in this year's campaign.

More and more I am hearing about doctored audio and video circulating. For example, on May 9 conservative news outlets were pushing a story that was based on an audio clip that "spliced and doctored an NPR interview of Al Gore in order to allege that Gore said something which he did not."

On May 15 ">CNN edited a video clip of Obama communications director Robert Gibbs to remove from the middle of a paragraph his statement about Bush's Defense Secretary calling for talks with Iran the day before Bush said Obama was an "appeaser" for saying exactly the same thing.

The right and corporate media are becoming more comfortable with this tactic, so check and double-check everything you are hearing to be sure it is true before you let it influence your thinking.

And watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 15, 2008

Bush Authoritarianism Opens HUGE Corporate Security Problem

The Bush administration insists on the right to search and download to keep the contents of any memory device or hard drive taken across a border. That means that the government can now make copies of any laptop hard drive or "thumb drive" crossing the U.S. border.

Travel group warns: Corporate data at risk from laptop searches at border,

Companies need to review their policies to see if such searches will cause privacy problems for them or their customers, she said.

"For example, if you are carrying personnel information on your laptop, there are certain privacy violations that can ensue" if that data is accessed and downloaded as part of a border search, Gurley said. Other kinds of sensitive and proprietary information -- including intellectual property -- can sometimes be exposed via such searches, she said.

Many companies, especially in Europe, are having compliance officers look at the broader implications of such searches and have begun curtailing the kind of information their executives can carry on their laptops when traveling to the U.S, she said.

You can just imagine that big Republican corporate donors will see an opportunity here to get competitive info. "YCorp's patent guy is crossing the border at 11. Get us all the data on his hard drive." And if you and I can imagine it, you can be sure that YCorps' people are thinking about it, too.

So as a result of this every single corporate employee in the world is going to have to clean up everything on every device that might cross an American border. And this kind of cleanup is not easy. It is cumbersome, inconvenient, expensive, and might not be enough. I can foresee policies requiring installing fresh hard drives before any travel. (This includes Canada and Mexico.

All of a sudden corporate cronyism isn't looking so good to all those corporate types.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 14, 2008

Do Republicans Believe In Free Markets?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

A news story on Monday, McCain urges free-market principles to reduce global warming. Which"free-market principles" does McCain mean?

McCain's major solution is to implement a cap-and-trade program on carbon-fuel emissions, like a similar program in the Clean Air Act that was used to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions that triggered acid rain.
Summary: the government sets a limit on how much CO2 companies will be allowed to emit. The government sets a fee for any emissions above that level. The government allows companies with emissions below that limit to sell "credits" to companies above the limit.

McCain describes this as a "free market" approach.

Conservatives always come up with nice-sounding ways to describe their ideas. They talk about "free markets." "Free" sounds so good. Has a nice ring to it. But is there really such a thing?

In McCain's example every single component of this market is defined, set up and regulated by government. But conservatives always say that government is the enemy of freedom and of markets. Do they not see the contradiction?

In fact, is there a market that is not defined, set up and regulated by government? Would markets even exist if there were no government? First, there is the money that is exchanged in a market. Unless we revert to a pure barter system where goods are exchanged money is entirely a creation of government. And it is entirely regulated by government. Next are the laws that, excuse the word, "govern" the market system. These laws are entirely a creation of government and it is government that enforces them and government that runs the courts that resolve disputes. And yes, these laws are "regulations."

So when conservatives complain about "government" and "regulation" and advocate "free markets" what is it they are really saying? The best way to understand what they want is to look at what they do, not what they say. If we look closely at the results of those times when conservatives gain power we can see that they really seem to mean they will use the power of government to protect the wealthiest people and biggest corporations.

For example, conservatives in government have always defended the big energy companies against threats to use of their products. They oppose mass transit, alternative energy research, even requiring cars to get better gas mileage.

A closer look reveals that what they really stand for is a protection of the status quo, defending the rich and powerful against the rest of us.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 13, 2008

Buy High, Sell Low

Bush insists on buying oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at very, very, very high prices. Congress is trying to stop this.

Question, has there been a pattern of buying at high prices and selling at low prices? An enterprising investigative report might find a story here.

Is this a manipulation of oil prices, to the benefit of funders of the right and the anti-Gore global warming denial industry?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:47 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 8, 2008

ANOTHER McCain Preacher Problem

See for yourself:

So when do you think the corporate media will start running these scary preacher tapes over and over?

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

May 6, 2008

Teacher Performs Magic Trick, Gets Fired For "Wizardry"

Here we go... A Florida teacher performed a "disappearing toothpick trick" and a parent complained. The teacher was fired for "wizardry."

Substitute Teacher Says Wizardry Accusation Cost Him Job

She told Piculas there had been a complaint about his performance at Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes.

He asked what she meant.

"She said, 'You've been accused of wizardry,' " Piculas said.

He said the statement seemed bizarre to him, like something out of Harry Potter.

Piculas said he replied, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

He said he also told Sinclair, "It's not black magic. It's a toothpick."

Better not have a license plate with '666' on it in Florida!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Elderly Indiana Nuns Can't Vote - Nuns Don't Have ID

Even though there has never been a case of voter fraud in Indiana the Republican Supreme Court upheld an Indiana voter-suppression law forbidding the elderly, poor and minorities from voting because they have trouble obtaining ID. (These groups tend to vote Democratic.)

It was estimated that this law would prevent approx. 43,000 people from voting. Here is an example of the law's effect: Indiana nuns lacking ID denied at poll,

About 12 Indiana nuns were turned away Tuesday from a polling place ... because they didn't have state or federal identification bearing a photograph.

. . . The nuns, all in their 80s or 90s, didn't get one [ID] but came to the precinct anyway.

. . . Some showed up with outdated passports. None of them drives.

They weren't given provisional ballots because it would be impossible to get them to a motor vehicle branch and back in the 10-day time frame allotted by the law, Sister McGuire said. "You have to remember that some of these ladies don't walk well. They're in wheelchairs or on walkers or electric carts."

So these were just 12 of the 43,000 who will not be allowed to vote now.

See Digby, too.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:17 PM | 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

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

April 24, 2008

Strongly-Worded Statement

A Senate committee issued a strongly-worded statement to Sen. Domenici for his involvement in the US Attorney scandal.

With that out of the way, the US Attorneys who didn't get fired (because they were willing to play along with Republican corruption and politicization) will now start indicting Senate Democrats in time for the election. And the Democrats will again issue strongly-worded statement. From prison. Because they just don't seem to know better than to bring strongly-worded statements to a machine-gun fight.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 19, 2008

Found Bound and Gagged In Lake - Declared A Suicide

A Texas man ran a charity for Palestinian children that the FBI was "investigating." So he's found dead in a lake, bound and gagged, and police declare it a "suicide." Go read: Informed Comment: Palestinian Children

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 31, 2008

80-Year-Old Church Deacon Arrested For Anti-War T-Shirt

This is the new America.

Police arrest anti-war protester, 80, at mall,

An 80-year-old church deacon was removed from the Smith Haven Mall yesterday in a wheelchair and arrested by police for refusing to remove a T-shirt protesting the Iraq War.

Police said that Don Zirkel, of Bethpage, was disturbing shoppers at the Lake Grove mall with his T-shirt, which had what they described as "graphic anti-war images." Zirkel, a deacon at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, said his shirt had the death tolls of American military personnel and Iraqis - 4,000 and 1 million - and the words "Dead" and "Enough." The shirt also has three blotches resembling blood splatters.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:44 AM | Comments (1) | 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 11, 2008

Spitzer

People do idiotic things. Not too long ago Republican Senator David Vitter turned up on a list of prostitution customers. How did the Justice Department respond? Well, it didn't. It helped keep his name secret. And good for them for doing that.

But this time it was a Democratic Governor who has been going after securities fraud cases. And the Republican Justice Department responded very differently. First of all, there are questions about how they found out about this at all -- questions that bring the letters FISA to my mind. Next, they organized a major prosecution of the Governor. Then, they gave his name to the press. Then they included details of wiretapped conversations intended to drive a press frenzy.

There is no question that this is another political prosecution. The Justice Department would not have gone full-steam into this if it were a Republican, and if it were not a Democratic Governor. A federal task force because a guy was seeing a prostitute?

Firedoglake has Some Questions About the Spitzer Incident. Please go read.

I have warned that political prosecutions are going to accelerate as election-time approaches. Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 8, 2008

Bush Vetoes Torture Ban

The President of the United States - YOUR United States - today vetoed a bill banning torture.

Bush Announces Veto of Waterboarding Ban,

President Bush said Saturday that he has vetoed legislation meant to ban the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics because it "would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror."
Congress can not override the veto because most of the Republicans voted against the ban, and continue to support torture.

It is time to be in the streets.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:37 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 22, 2008

It Is Important To Understand This

The Bush Justice Department politicization case is about the corruption of our government to work in support of one political party.

They used our government to reward their friends, including financially, and to punish their enemies. And their enemies were Americans like you and me. In one case they were able to put a Governor in jail for being a Democrat. If you don't believe me, 52 former states’ attorneys general from both political parties are making the same case.

Kagro X writes about this over at Daily Kos. Every American should read his post: Daily Kos: If it can happen to a Governor...,

Nobody indicted by the Bush-Cheney DOJ can possibly help but wonder whether they're being targeted by the White House political machine. Not Don Siegelman. Not Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio. Nobody.

And once America realizes this really can happen (it's previously been unimaginable, and therefore all too easy to dismiss as "conspiracy theory"), you can bet your last dollar that any Republican indicted by a Democratic administration will be making that claim, too.

We've already watched in horror and amazement as Bush-Cheney, flouting the law left and right, painted the Congress into the "impeachment is off the table" corner for fear (among other things) of being tarred with the "revenge for Clinton" and "tit for tat" brushes. One hardly need stretch the imagination to foresee precisely this hurdle being thrown up in the path of a Democratic administration elected with a mandate to clean out the Republican Culture of Corruption.

If it could happen to a Governor it could happen to anybody -- including you.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 13, 2008

Further And Further Towards Police State

People take their queues from the top. A torture-accepting mentality trickles down. Over time America becomes more ruthless, less humane and people get used to it. It happens in little ways that add up. But add up they do...

Pam's House Blend:: The police state continues: quadriplegic dumped from wheelchair. Just go see for yourself.

And then go read This is your police state - woman violently strip searched and The Blend TASER brutality files

Pam is sounding a warning, and she's right.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:39 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

February 6, 2008

Republicans Filibuster Stimulus Package - Because It Gives Unemployment, Senior & Disabled Veteran Beneits!

The Republicans blocked the stimulus package from passing because it contained unemployment benefits, a small payment to seniors and some money for disabled veterans.

John McCain didn't show up to vote on this.

Republicans block Senate plan to boost economy,

Senate Republicans on Wednesday narrowly blocked a Democratic-backed economic stimulus plan valued at about $157 billion that would have provided benefits for the long-term unemployed and expanded proposed tax rebates to include retirees and disabled veterans.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 26, 2008

What Does Corporate Control Of Media Mean?

Think about this: When was the last time you heard, read or saw anyone in the major media explain the benefits of joining a union?

Almost all of the outlets for news and information in the United States are now owned by five corporations. From The New Media Monopoly,

When the first edition of The Media Monopoly was published in 1983, critics called Ben Bagdikian's warnings about the chilling effects of corporate ownership and mass advertising on the nation's news "alarmist." Since then, the number of corporations controlling most of America's daily newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, book publishers, and movie companies has dwindled from fifty to ten to five.
Think about that. Five corporations control almost everything that most people in the country "know."

Again, think about this: When was the last time you heard, read or saw anyone in the major media explain the benefits of joining a union?

So, do you think these five corporations are using this near-total control of information for their own benefit, or not?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:10 PM | Comments (2) | 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 23, 2008

Republican Senator Get Navy Veteran Fired For Opposing War

Please read this DKos diary: Daily Kos: Must Read: McConnell Ignores Navy Veteran, Then Gets Her Fired

If they can get away with denying jobs to people who oppose the Iraq war, people will be afraid to speak out.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 6, 2008

Impeach!

Every American should read Why I Believe Bush Must Go byGeorge McGovern in today's Washington Post.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 31, 2007

On Corporate Power

"The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power."
- - Franklin D.Roosevelt

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."
- - Benito Mussolini

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

The Unity Party - Meet In The Middle?

Chris at Open Left talks about the "need" for a "middle" party of Unity"

. . . over the last five years, Democrats in Congress have only blocked the following pieces of legislation:

* Three conservative judges (out of several dozen)
* Privatization of Social Security
* Retroactive immunity for telecom companies in the warrantless spying program.
* Legislation to deport millions of illegal aliens
Given that these are the only conservative pieces of legislation that Democrats in Congress have blocked in the past five years, one must assume that a "government of national unity" means a government that will confirmation 100% of all conservative judges, the destruction of social security, retroactive immunity of telecom companies, and the mass deportation of twelve million people. If this third-party did not favor these things, then there would be absolutely no need to form "a government of national unity." Those four things are the sum total of what Democrats in Congress have prevented Republicans from passing, and thus are the entirety of what Democrats have contributed to "gridlock in Washington." Every other reform has been blocked by Republicans.

Go read.

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

December 29, 2007

Shock Economics - Arm Yourself With Information

After a traumatic event people are in shock. And that is when the capitalists push through a series of radical changes to the system, all in their favor, before citizens get a chance to catch their breath, understand what is happening to them, and fight back. For example, since 9/11 how many things have changed here in favor of the big corporations and against the citizens? (The Department of Homeland Security prohibited unions and outsourced all those government workers. The war in Iraq. The Constitution no longer means anything. Oil company profits are beyond belief, etc...)

Watch this short film about Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism:

This short film concludes that the best defense is to arm yourself with information. To that end I strongly, strongly recommend that you watch the four-part series The Century of the Self.

Here is episode one, but it is so much better to go to the Google Video site and see it in higher resolution.

Go see Episode two
Episode three
Episode four

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 26, 2007

Iowa Political Prosecution?

Bleeding Heartland:: Register columnists question McCoy prosecution

As you recall, a federal jury recently acquitted Matt McCoy after deliberating for less than two hours--an embarrassing outcome for the prosecution.

Marc Hansen, who for my money is the best columnist at the Des Moines Register, wrote a good column about speculation that politics influenced McCoy's prosecution. Key passage:

Most Democrats you talk to around here say politics was behind the prosecution of state Sen. Matt McCoy.

They have their reasons. Some even sound legitimate, especially in light of a recent University of Minnesota study that brings hard numbers to the discussion.

For every elected Republican the Justice Department has investigated during the George W. Bush years, seven elected Democrats have been investigated, the research says.

Can that be right? Are there really that many more bad-apple Democrats?

The jury took about an hour and a half last week to decide that McCoy wasn't guilty of attempted extortion. And that includes lunch.

Go read the rest

I think we are going to see LOTS of news stories about Democratis "investgated" by the Justice Department before the 2008 elections. Those prosecutors are still there - the ones who wouldn't play ball and investigate Democrats are drop investigations of Republicans have been sacked.

And the Senate has issued strongly-worded statements - but done little else.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 19, 2007

Conservative Minority Rules by Filibuster

They aren't "about" governing, they're about getting their way. They're about handing over the people's funds and resources to a few rich corporate paymasters.

Unprecedented. Without precedent. Never before. All records broken. Every.Single. Piece. Of. Legislation. Blocked. Obstructed. No cooperation. Party-line votes. Record-breaking use of the filibuster for every bill.

Go read about it at Campaign for America's Future :: RECORD-BREAKING: SENATE CONSERVATIVES,

The Republican Senate minority today filibustered an omnibus budget bill, setting a modern-day record for blocking the most legislation during a congressional session. A new report released today by the Campaign for America's Future details the 62 times conservatives have used the filibuster to block legislation (or force modification of bills) in the first session of the 110th Congress. In just the first year of this two-year Congress, their use of the filibuster in the Senate topped the previous record, reached during the entire 107th Congress.

The new report outlines every bill filibustered, vetoed or threatened to be vetoed by President Bush. Conservatives filibustered bills to end the occupation of Iraq, provide soldiers in Iraq rest time equal to their deployments, support renewable energy and grant residents of the District of Columbia representation in Congress. Today's record-breaker involved a $516 billion budget package passed by the House to fund the federal government in 2008. The conservative minority demanded $20 billion additional funding for the war and opposed House language to bring troops home, and threatened a filibuster to prevent the bill from getting an up or down vote.

And just WHAT is being obstructed?
What have conservatives obstructed this year? Here's just a partial list:

-- Ending the disastrous occupation of Iraq.

-- Providing health insurance to millions more kids.

-- Empowering Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices.

-- Taking away handouts to Big Oil so we can invest in renewable energy.

-- Repealing the effective ban on embryonic stem cell research.

-- Investing more in health research.

-- Making it easier for workers to join unions.

-- Investing more in fighting poverty and training workers.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 18, 2007

Even MORE Media Concentration Coming!

Do you think the media is corporate-controlled, and offers only one viewpoint? Well, you ain't seen nothing yet.

FCC to vote on media ownership,

Despite intense political pressure, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to approve a proposal Tuesday that will allow broadcasters in the nation's 20 largest media markets to also own a newspaper — overturning a 32-year-old ban.

Republican Chairman Kevin Martin says his plan is a "relatively minor loosening" of the rule, but it has received a considerable amount of opposition.

On Monday, 25 senators, including four Republicans, sent him a letter threatening that if he goes ahead with the vote, they will move legislation to revoke the rule and nullify the commission's action.

Hmm ... this would be in place just in time for the next election. I wonder which party these corporate-controlled news outlets will be pushing? Hmm...

Update - It's done. FCC Votes To Relax Cross-Media Ownership Rule,

The Federal Communications Commission voted on Tuesday to loosen media ownership restrictions in the 20 biggest U.S. cities, despite objections from consumer groups and a threat by some U.S. senators to revoke the action.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 16, 2007

Setting the Agenda

Cobalt6:: Who sets the Agenda?

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

December 6, 2007

Corporate Media Working To Further Conservative Agenda

When are progressives going to stop being all shocked and surprised that the corporate media are working hand-in-hand with conservatives to further the conservative/corporate agenda? Face it, people, it's just the way it is. Times have changed. Stop being so chocked and awed by it.

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

November 23, 2007

The Bush Secrecy List

A list of all the way s the Republicans are keeping the public from knowing what their own government is doing:

TPMmuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Bush Admin: What You Don't Know Can't Hurt Us, 2007 Version,

Last year, we launched the insanely ambitious project of recording every significant instance of this administration stifling government information. As we said then, "they've discontinued annual reports, classified normally public data, de-funded studies, quieted underlings, and generally done whatever was necessary to keep bad information under wraps." To be sure, the list will continue to grow through January, 2008.

My wife likes to say, whenever I point out the things the Republicans are doing - So what? Who is going to do anything about it?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 20, 2007

Dodd Demands New Atty General Investigate White House Cover Up

Dodd Calls on Mukasey to Investigate McClellan Charges of White House Cover Up | Chris Dodd for President,

Chris Dodd today released the following statement in response to the claims of former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan that he "unknowingly passed along false information" to the American public and that "the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in [his] doing so," including the Vice-President and the President:
"Today's revelations by Mr. McClellan are very disturbing and raise several important questions that need to be answered. If in fact the President of the United of States knowingly instructed his chief spokesman to mislead the American people, there can be no more fundamental betrayal of the public trust.

"During his confirmation process, Attorney General Mukasey said he would act independently. Accordingly, today, I call on the Attorney General to live up to his word and launch an immediate investigation to determine the facts of this case, the extent of any cover up and determine what the President knew and when he knew it."


Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 11, 2007

Now Comcast Censoring Stations

Here's another possible reason TV networks won't put progressives on the air - the big media carriers will drop them. In Portland Oregon Comcast Decreases Customers' Access to MSNBC - the week they announce they might start adding progressives, due to the ratings sucess of Olbermann.

Remember, Clear Channel refuses to allow their stations to play Dixie Chicks or Springsteen.

These are not business/profit-based decisions - unless you realize that the huge corporations that are doing this make more money from right-wing government decisions than from the business activities. So the "business" decision here is to work to get right-wing government in office.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:54 AM | 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 30, 2007

Clear Channel Stations WOn't Play Sprinsteen Because Not Conservative

What happens when you let a few big corproations control all the media outlets?

DownWithTyranny! CLEAR CHANNEL, REPUBLICAN PROPAGANDA NETWORK, OUT TO KILL SPRINGSTEEN'S MAGIC?,

Republican radio network Clear Channel, a monopoly in many cities and a dominant player in most of the rest, isn't interested. Is it because Springsteen has been an outspoken campaigner for Democrats and progressives? Clear Channel has taken a political stand with its programming in the past. Just think back to their boycott of the Dixie Chicks. Oh, no... not way back, just back to when they released their most recent album. Despite being one of the top 10 best-selling American albums of the year-- across all genres and demographics-- radio studiously ignored it. There were maybe half a dozen country stations that even played it at all. What Clear Channel did to the Dixie Chicks is a watertight case for the need to break the media companies up into a thousand pieces. (John Sununu disagrees; he's pro-censorship.) I spoke with an old friend who heads a record company and preferred to speak off the record.

"When you have artists like the Dixie Chicks and Bruce Springsteen who have overtly spoken out against this Administration, they are taken to task in spite the clear and undeniable indications from the marketplace that people want to hear their music. What seems to be happening-- if sales are any kind of a barometer of what the marketplace is-- is that these politically-connected radio networks like Clear Channel are not looking to succeed as radio stations as much as pushing forward some political agenda.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:34 PM | 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 14, 2007

The Wiretapping Started BEFORE 9/11

Pre-9/11 wiretap bid is alleged,

Nacchio's account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks.

The implications of this need some time to sink in. Bush started the wiretapping before 9/11. Bush took office on January 20, 2001, and by February 27 the NSA was putting the screws on the phone companies to let them listen in on our calls and e-mails. That means the plan was developed during the transition and immediately upon taking office they started implementing it. It was one of the first things they did - setting up a system to collect information about our calls and e-mails. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.

Like I said, the implications of this need some time to sink in.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 5, 2007

Hillary Letter Of Support For A Moonie Group?

Rick Perlstein in Reporters: man your engines,

Rev. Sun Myung Moon is claiming a "letter of support" from Hillary Clinton. I sure hope he's lying.
Does anyone know more about this?

Go read Rick's piece.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 14, 2007

UC - Criticize Bush, Lose Your Job

Erwin Chemerinsky, a noted legal scholar, was offered a job as dean of the new University of California at Irvine law school. Then he wrote an op-ed criticizing the Bush administration - Alberto Gonzales in particular - so the university withdrew the job offer.

Scholars Decry Law School's About-Face on New Dean,

According to Chemerinsky, the UC-Irvine chancellor told him on Tuesday that he "knew I was liberal but didn't know how controversial I would be." The chancellor also said "some conservative opposition was developing," and the University of California regents would have "a bloody fight" over approving him, Chemerinsky said.
The intimidation continues unabated.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 11, 2007

THIS Week's Rabid-Anti-Gay-Republicans-Exposed-As-Actually-Gay Scandal

No NOT Sen. Craig. That one is so last week...

Pam's House Blend:: Untangling the latest GOP gay scandal

... the convoluted latest, woefully under-reported GOP scandal -- the bizarre murder-suicide in Florida of a Republican consultant and two of his "friends".
* the bodies of Republican political consultant Ralph Gonzalez, 39, president of The Strategum Group, his roommate David Abrami and "a friend," Jason Robert Drake, were found in an Orlando apartment.
... * BradBlog has shown the ties between Gonzalez and Florida's vote-tampering congressman, Tom Feeney.
...* Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry has ties to Gonzalez and Drake, the latter was determined to be the shooter in the murder-suicide.
... * McHenry's apparently a good friend of the former National Young Republican Chairman, Glenn Murphy. Yes, that Glenn Murphy -- the one arrested for sexually assaulting a sleeping man, performing oral sex on him...
... And if you thought that was all that was dogging Patrick McHenry, take a look at the latest bit of business passed on today -- at least $182,000 of McHenry's 2004 campaign funds ($923,975) came from an organization donating under fraudulent circumstances. That's almost 20% of McHenry's campaign war chest. Who is behind that? It just keeps on coming, folks.
Go read, there's much more and you can click through the links.

(Note, the first comment is great:

I've been following politics and political scandals for more than 30 years and never have I witnessed ONE story with so much graft, corruption, sex, and murder. This one truly has it all with the possible exception of loose women, or any women at all. ,,,
And there is more over at Down With Tyranny, WHO'LL BE THE NEXT REPUBLICAN HYPOCRITE TO BE DRAGGED OUT OF THE CLOSET SCREAMING ABOUT MEDIA WITCH HUNTS?,
... The murdered gay Republicans include Ralph Reed's purported ex-lover, Ralph Gonzalez (former head of the rabidly homophobic Georgia Republican Party), David Abrami and McHenry guy-pal Robert Drake, the shooter.

... More sordid GOP details are available. Meanwhile there are jailed Republicans, dead Republicans, outed Republicans... And McHenry's office... well, the press secretary is on vacation so they have no comment.

There is much more there as well so go read.

Sheesh.

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

September 9, 2007

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 31, 2007

A Propagandized Military Is A Danger to Democracy

There is an important story out today, Lawmakers Describe 'Being Slimed in the Green Zone', about how troops in Iraq are provided with propaganda denouncing Democratic lawmakers who visit Iraq.

Talking Points Memo Disgusted but really only gets part of what it means

.It's all par for the course for this administration, how they've politicized every branch of the government and every agency, eroding democratic institutions in American while they pretended to build them in Iraq. In fact, from the start the White House tried to stock the Green Zone and the US occupation authority with GOP operatives.
Here is why this is important. Combine this propaganda effort with past practices like Armed Forces Radio pushing Rush Limbaugh while refusing to offer other points of view (this has changed due to pressure from Democratic lawmakers) and the history of government-paid propaganda promoting the Republican Party viewpoint, and this represents a danger to democracy. It is a very bad idea to have a propagandized military supporting one party.

Demonstrating The Party's politicization-of-troops efforts, Bushist Don Surber writes,

Moran and Tauscher are part of a clique of Democratic politicians who want us to lose in Iraq so they can gain on Republicans.
Is this what the troops are being told? Bushist-blog Wizbang shows what the propaganda is intended to make the troops think,
Do these antiwar Congressmen think the troops don't know who supports them and who does not?
To really get the feel of what the right is advocating, read the comments at these sites.

Update - Think Progress is now censored - troops can not visit their website since they allowed Ret. Maj. Gen. John Batiste to guest-blog in opposition to Bush's policies.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 26, 2007

The War On Terror

The country is at war on terror. Why? Because terrorists can kill us.

Cigarettes kill about 400,000 Americans a year. Cars kill about 44,000 Americans each year. Guns kill about 30,000 Americans each year. And then there are the deaths from diseases related to obesity caused by processed and fat-laden foods, deaths from various causes stemming from lack of health insurance... Do I need to go on? These are all examples of Americans killed while big corporations keep us from bringing them under control.

I think the war on terror might just be about distracting us from the things that really CAN kill us.

Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

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

August 13, 2007

Rove Resigning - Updated

Karl "Party over Country" Rove is resigning "to spend more time with his family."

Karl Rove did more to divide America than anyone since Newt Gingrich. (See Language: A Key Mechanism of Control)

Just one example, after 9/11 Rove engineered the creation of the Homeland Security Department, which was entirely a "wedge" device for use in the 2002 elections. The core of the concept was to get rid of government employee unions. The idea was to force the Democrats to either vote against unions or pound them as "unpatriotic." And then, to pound them as unpatriotic anyway.

Updates:

Simon Rosenberg, How Rove will be remembered,

Karl Rove was the "architect" of one of the worst governments in American history, and the one who engineered the end of modern conservatism, one of the most successful ideological movements of recent times.

Brilliant yes. Bold, without a doubt. A compete and utter failure who left his country and his movement weaker than the found it? Yep.

Eventually, perhaps, disgraced.

Shakesville,
How typical of him to slink off out of the bunker and leave the mess for someone else to clean up.
FDL,
All Karl ever wanted was to be left alone to work in secret to destroy America’s political landscape, and not be held accountable.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 1, 2007

US Attorney Put On Firing List For Refusing To Aid Corruption

Apparently the US Attorney firings were not JUST about political prosecutions. At least one was fired because he wouldn't play ball with the corruption machine.

Talking Points Memo | Rotten to the Core has this from the Washington Post,

The night before the government secured a guilty plea from the manufacturer of the addictive painkiller OxyContin, a senior Justice Department official called the U.S. attorney handling the case and, at the behest of an executive for the drugmaker, urged him to slow down, the prosecutor told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.

John L. Brownlee, the U.S. attorney in Roanoke, testified that he was at home the evening of Oct. 24 when he received the call on his cellphone from Michael J. Elston, then chief of staff to the deputy attorney general and one of the Justice aides involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

Brownlee settled the case anyway. Eight days later, his name appeared on a list compiled by Elston of prosecutors that officials had suggested be fired.

With this in mind, look back at a few other examples of the Justice Department's handling of big-money corporate cases. Remember when the Bush Justice Department let Microsoft off the hook after the Clinton Justice Department had already won the case? And how about when the Bush Justice Department let the tobacco companies off the hook on payment for killing millions?

How many similar cases can you recall? These cases were worth billions of dollars to the companies involved. How much money changed hands? There are some nice, fat Swiss bank accounts out there.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 31, 2007

Justice Dept. Corruption: Stevens Tipped Before Search

You may have heard that the FBI searched Republican Senator Stevens' house yesterday.Senator Stevens. But you may not have heard that the Republican Justice Department gave him a warning and time to clear out any evidence.

Is That Legal?: Justice Department Tips Off Senator Stevens Before Searching His Home!,

Stevens said in a statement that his attorneys were advised of the impending search yesterday morning.

I spent nearly 9 years as a federal prosecutor. I'm not aware of a single instance when any prosecutor or agent told anyone outside the Justice Department that a search warrant was going to be executed later in the day.

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

Impeachment Question

I think on principle impeachment is important. We have never seen lawlessness and defiance of the Constitution like this. It is important to make the statement that leaders cannot do this,

But a question: What happens if the House impeaches and enough Republicans in the Senate block conviction. Wouldn't that mean that Bush is excused and is free to continue on as he pleases? Does it set a very dangerous precedent?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 24, 2007

What The Public 'Knows' - Politicization Of Government

Do you remember that Al Gore was accused of improperly making a fundraising call from a government office, and of improper fundraising when he visited a Buddhist temple? The right's machine was able to turn these insignificant events into major, major scandal stories that are still repeated to this day. A Google search yields more than half a million websites that mention these. They even tried to get another special prosecutor just for this, claiming that the Clinton Justice Department would cover up Gore's crimes. (Remember, lack of evidence of ANY Clinton or Gore wrongdoing was proof of a massive coverup conspiracy.)

The Republicans even made an accusation that Clinton used his Christmas card list for political purposes into a major story, with a Congressional investigation and days of hearings. They even made a huge scandal out of an accusation that the Clinton White Hose "tracked donors."

As a result much of the public to this day thinks that the Clinton White House improperly used the government to help them raise funds.

Compare and contrast - does thie public "know" about the Bush corruption of the entire government for political purposes? Is is getting the same coverage in the media? Political Briefings At Agencies Disclosed,

White House officials conducted 20 private briefings on Republican electoral prospects in the last midterm election for senior officials in at least 15 government agencies covered by federal restrictions on partisan political activity, a White House spokesman and other administration officials said yesterday.

The previously undisclosed briefings were part of what now appears to be a regular effort in which the White House sent senior political officials to brief top appointees in government agencies on which seats Republican candidates might win or lose, and how the election outcomes could affect the success of administration policies, the officials said.

This is not about fundraising, this is about use of the power of the government itself to promote the interests of a political party.

And today, not just the Bush Justice Department and the General Services Administration, also the State Department,

Karl Rove ... instructed his White House deputies to repeatedly brief State Department officials and U.S. ambassadors in key foreign missions about GOP electoral priorities.

[. . .] raises the question of how U.S. foreign policy, and specific binational relationships, is unfolding right now to serve a partisan agenda rather than the national interest.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 16, 2007

The First Problem in Iraq is BUSH

People say we should not impeach Bush because it will divert us from getting out of Iraq. I think that approach has things backwards. I think we can’t deal with the problems of Iraq until we deal with getting Bush out. With Bush in charge we can't have a rational debate about the best options for Iraq.

1) I believe that it’s wrong to just pull our forces out of Iraq. We invaded, we destabilized and we destroyed the existing institutions of order. We created the mess there. We created the civil war. We created the threat of regional conflict. So I think it is America's legal and moral responsibility to provide security for the people of Iraq. And that's also what international law says. Of course, providing security for the people of Iraq is not going to happen with Bush in office.

(Someone told me this idea is like being raped and then getting a ride to the hospital from the rapist. I can understand the sentiment, but the U.S. is not a person and Iraq is not a person. We and they are a bunch of people all with their own differing needs and interests. Countries have to deal with where things are on a given day, before they deal with where things were on a previous day. In other words, Bush did what he did -- but where do we go from here that is best for us and best for them NOW?)

2) It is wrong to blame the Iraqis for what we have done and it would be wrong to abandon them to the mess we made. But the way our forces are being used by Bush just makes things worse. This must change but it will not change with Bush in charge of policy decisions.

3) Suppose we do vote to withdraw with Bush in office? How do you think a Bush administration will execute that withdrawal? Will they do it in a way that makes things better -- or much worse? And will they just refuse, necessitating the impeachment I say has to happen first? In other words, we can't deal with Iraq until we deal with Bush.

4) There is also a national security component. The current situation in Iraq really is making us less safe here. Leaving might only make that worse. This needs to be debated rationally - impossible with Bush in office spouting his focus-group-tested bullshit, designed to put up a smokescreen and distract us from reality.

5) Bush's propaganda is causing us to doubt terror warnings that may be real. What if our intelligence agencies discovered that al Queda really is getting ready to use a nuke on an American city, for example? We simply can not trust our government right now to tell us the truth. The threat of a terrorist attack is too serious to allow this incompetent, lying gang of criminals to remain in office even one day longer than it takes to get them out.

6) Similarly, Bush's lies about Iraq have forced us to doubt the claims about threats presented by Iran. But Iran is not Iraq, and their theocratic rulers are not our friends. We need to be able to trust what is being said to us and we can't with ush in office.

So I think that the right path lies in a different direction from working to get the troops out. Options beyond the simplistic choice of doing what we are doing now or just leaving need to be discussed. But we are not going to be able to do what is right until we change the national leadership here. We are not even going to be able to properly debate the issues.

Finding the answers to the problems of Iraq begins with solving the problem of Bush.

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

July 6, 2007

Court Dismisses NSA Lawsuit

An appeals court dismissed the ACLU lawsuit to stop illegal NSA spying on Americans - writing that even though the spying is illegal they can't sue because:

1) They can't prove they are being spied on personally, and
2) They aren't allowed to find out if they are being spied on.

Court orders dismissal of U.S. wiretapping lawsuit,

The appeals court ruled that the plaintiffs could not sue because they can't prove they were affected by the program, and at the same time, ruled that details about the program, including who was targeted, are state secrets.

But according to a Reuters report,
The ACLU plaintiffs included lawyers who said they could not defend clients accused of terrorism because the government, under the wiretapping program, could listen into attorney-client conversations.

But the two judges in the majority opinion said the plaintiffs had failed to prove they were under surveillance.

And, of course, the ruling is another product of Republican politicization of the judicial system,
The two judges in the majority, Julia Smith Gibbons and Batchelder, are Republican appointees, named by Bush and his father, respectively.

Judge Ronald Lee Gilman, appointed by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, dissented. Gilman said he would uphold the ruling last year on the grounds that the program violated the 1978 law.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 5, 2007

Broder Weighs In Against Democracy

I have been saying here for some time that we are at a turning point for democracy. The corporatist authoritarians, disguised as an ideological movement, have been waging a propaganda war for decades. They want to convince us that "markets" and "market solutions" are superior to self-governance and a common-good, watch-out-for-each-other society. The result is that we are increasingly a one-dollar-one-vote instead of a one-person-one-vote country. Pay-or-die health care is just one example. Stopping government inspection of food-processing plants is another.

Today the "dean" of the Washington pundits weighs in - against democracy. David S. Broder - A Mob-Rule Moment

A particularly virulent strain of populism has made official Washington altogether too responsive to public opinion.
Broder complains about Congress "caving" to public insistence on adding labor and environmental minimum requirements to trade deals, writing, "But the action by the House means that any further deals are unlikely as long as Bush is president." And that's the public's fault, for wanting a living wage and a clean environment, not Bush's for being against those.

Broder ends by writing, "In today's Washington, the "wants" of people count far more heavily than the nation's needs." His prescription to remedy this?

You can win elections by promising people what they want. But you win your place in history by doing what the country needs done.
And by this he means pro-corporate and cheap-labor trade and immigration deals.

Are you for democracy or are you for corporate rule? It is time to choose.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 2, 2007

No Choice But Impeachment

The Democrats in Congress have been trying to avoid having to face what we are dealing with in this country at this time.

We have a President asserting that he is above the law. He is backed by an authoritarian political movement that feels that laws should not apply to them, either. They have been and are working to destroy the agencies of government and fracture each and every one of the institutions of civil society. They have politicized the system of justice in the country to the point where we don't just wonder, we know that people are prosecuted or left alone based on their political affiliations.

They have launched aggressive war.

The pendulum is not swinging back. This is not a normal time. This is not business as usual. We can't think that impeachment will get in the way of "getting things done."

This is about principles and the Constitution. This is about Rule of Law and democracy. This can no longer be avoided.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 30, 2007

Transcript Of My Questions For Speaker Pelosi

Mike Stark has posted a diary at DailyKos that includes a transcript of my "Rule of Law" questions for Speaker Pelosi. Daily Kos: I talked impeachment with Nancy Pelosi (audio),

[. . .] Dave Johnson (of Seeing the Forest): We seem to be at a historic time right now with an administration that is starting to frankly assert that they are above the rule of law, and I’m wondering if you as Speaker can give us a short statement on this issue and what Congress is prepared to do to re-assert the rule of law of the people of the country.
And you have to go there to read the answer. (Remember to click the Recommend button while you are there.)

BONUS - My follow-up question, "Dave: Just a quick follow-up. What are you going to do about it?"

Update - More, with analysis, at BraveNewFilms Blog: Speaker Pelosi on The War, Impeachment and Accountability.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 22, 2007

Talk Radio Study Demonstrates Misuse Of Public Airwaves

Free Press and The Center for American Progress have teamed up to produce a report on tal radio that is very interesting. The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio. Some excerpts from the summary:

...in recent years, Americans listened on average to 19 hours of radio per week in 2006.

Among radio formats, the combined news/talk format (which includes news/talk/information and talk/personality) leads all others in terms of the total number of stations per format and trails only country music in terms of national audience share. Through more than 1,700 stations across the nation, the combined news/talk format is estimated to reach more than 50 million listeners each week.

And what options are presented to the public by these stations?
* Our analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.
* Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.
* A separate analysis of all of the news/talk stations in the top 10 radio markets reveals that 76 percent of the programming in these markets is conservative and 24 percent is progressive, although programming is more balanced in markets such as New York and Chicago.
Yikes! This study demonstrates that consumers are not allowed choices of different opinions and analisys. These stations are licensed to use public airwaves. By limiting choices in this way, are they serving the public interest?

Is it a licensing issue? Again, from the study,

Ownership diversity is perhaps the single most important variable contributing to the structural imbalance based on the data. Quantitative analysis conducted by Free Press of all 10,506 licensed commercial radio stations reveals that stin, from the study,ations owned by women, minorities, or local owners are statistically less likely to air conservative hosts or shows.

In contrast, stations controlled by group owners—those with stations in multiple markets or more than three stations in a single market—were statistically more likely to air conservative talk.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:11 PM | Comments (0) | 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 12, 2007

Getting Rid Of Public Schools - They MEAN It

I've said before that when you try to tell people about the right's agenda, they think YOU are the crazy person.

I've said before that when I try to talk about the stuff that the Republicans are up to, to people who don't really follow the news, they think I'M the crazy person!
I remember a few years ago telling my liberal aunt that the right wants to get rid of public schools. She's STILL mad at me for saying such an extremist, ridiculous thing. I MUST be an exaggerator, making up these things I say about the conservatives...

Today, another example. In the LA Times: Do away with public schools talks about "government-lovers" and "political correctness" and "bureaucrats" and mocks public schools for teaching about the civil rights movement. And there it is in the LA Times.

The right uses a tactic called "The Overton Window". This is the Overton Window at work. In a talk to an education group recently I discussed how this works:

The Overton Window is a sophisticated tactic to help move the Right’s self-described “unthinkable” ideas all the way to becoming policy.

The strategy is to make radical ideas seem acceptable and comfortable.

They describe a “ladder” of steps – degrees of public acceptance. They say they work to walk the public up this ladder step by step.

According to the Overton Window concept, when the public FIRST hears ideas like getting rid of public schools, they consider them unthinkable, but with time and repetition, these ideas begin to be considered only radical, then with familiarity they become acceptable, and eventually sensible and worth putting into policy.

This is another example of the use of this tactic. It is intended to shock us. Then, we get used to it. Watch this video clip I used in my talk to introduce the topic. As I said in my talk,
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.
These people are serious.

A few years ago I worked on a report titled, Responding to the Attack on Public Education and Teacher Unions, describing the organized effort to attack public education, and making some suggestions for countering this effort. Countering this effort requires more than just informing some people about facts and issues. The effort to privatize schools is part of a larger, coordinated attack on community and government itself. They MEAN it. It is past time that we understand what we are up against here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:01 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 9, 2007

Conservative Movement Sleeper Cells

Atrios links to Digby, who writes that the appeals court is likely to reverse Scooter Libby's conviction because the particular judges are Federalist Society activists who have been working behind the scenes for years to reverse convictions of conservative movement operatives like Oliver North, while bending the law as far as possible to enable political investigations of Democrats like Bill Clinton.

And it does go back. Digby quotes from Robery Parry, writing about what Iran/Contra prosecutor Lawrence Walsh found himself up against - facing some of these same judges.

"Walsh recognized that many of the appeals judges held a "continuing political allegiance" to the conservative Federalist Society, an organization dedicated to purging liberalism from the federal courts.

"It reminded me of the communist front groups of the 1940s and 1950s, whose members were committed to the communist cause and subject to communist direction but were not card-carrying members of the Communist Party," Walsh wrote."

Atrios calls it a "conservative protection racket."

And now we know from the Justice Department probe that these operatives are in place throughout the government - "sleeper cells" waiting to jump out and sabotage any attempt at actual positive governance. Digby writes,

Sentelle and Silbermann appointed Ken Starr, whom Robert Bork defended for his high minded, straight devotion to duty.

Sentelle is still on the court. Lawrence Silberman is now a senior judge. Rehnquist's replacement, John Roberts was on that same court. The extremist Janice Rogers Brown is also on that court.

Perhaps the long term friendships, shared legal history and blind partisan loyalties among these people will not be relevant in this case. But let's just say I wouldn't be shocked if we get a surprising appellate decision based upon a novel, intellectually inconsistent theory set forth by a bunch of powerful wingnut legal enforcers. It happens.

A few years back in a post titled The Right Will Fight Dirty I wrote about the same problem (quoting the same Walsh quotes.) I wrote,
With The Party’s Federalist Society judges in place every special prosecutor appointed to investigate Republican wrongdoing was a right-wing Party operative, and those appointed to investigate Democrats was … a right-wing Party operative. Every motion before the Courts went against Clinton and the Democrats.

... And, finally, the 2000 election. The Supreme Court demonstrated the extent and power of Party operatives, positioned within the mechanisms of our government, whose loyalty is to an ideology and a Party rather than the country.

These years of this Bush's hands on the controls mean that our government is now infested with ideological operatives, waiting for their opportunity to prove that their loyalty lies with The Party, not American democracy.

And here we are, sleeper cells planted throughout the government, just waiting to destroy any Democrat elected to the Presidency while blocking any efforts to hold even a single conservative movement operative accountable for anything.

Suppose a Democrat does win the Presidency in 2008. Will that President be able to accomplish anything? Or will these sleeper cells awaken and wreak havoc?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:56 PM | Comments (1) | 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

June 3, 2007

Former Canadian Ambassador Say US Already Theocracy

U.S. a theocratic state, says former Canadian ambassador,

Frank McKenna, Canada’s former ambassador to Washington, referred to the United States on Friday as "a theocratic state" in which Christian evangelicalism plays a big role in the Republican administration.

“Right now the United States is in many ways a theocratic state, not dissimilar to some of the other religious states in the world where religion has a huge part to play in government."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 31, 2007

McCain, O'Reilly: It's About Keeping Jews, Blacks and Women Out Of Power

The Democratic Party,

Near the end of the video, there was this exchange:

Bill O'Reilly: But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you're a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right. So I say you've got to cap with a number.

John McCain: In America today we've got a very strong economy and low unemployment, so we need addition farm workers, including by the way agriculture, but there may come a time where we have an economic downturn, and we don't need so many.

[crosstalk]

O'Reilly: But in this bill, you guys have got to cap it. Because estimation is 12 million, there may be 20 [million]. You don't know, I don't know. We've got to cap it.

McCain: We do, we do. I agree with you.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 29, 2007

Urgent Action On Elections - FEC Nomination

One of the main people behind the Republican scams to keep people from voting has now been nominated by Bush to be ON THE FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION!!!! This is as bad as it gets.

See Keep Yer Vote Thievin' Hans Off the Federal Election Commission: Action Alert!,

... Hans von Spakovsky is up for confirmation June 13 as a member of the Federal Election Commission.

[. . .]
Hans Von Spakovsky will appear before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on June 13, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. for his confirmation hearing. He must be stopped. Confirmation by the Senate would keep this scourge on the American electoral process on the Federal Election Commission until 2011. Please help keep Hans von Spakovsky off the FEC. Here's the membership of the Committee. I have included telephone numbers and hyperlinked to each Senator's contact page, where you can leave comments electronically.

See the extended entry to learn who to call:

Democrats Dianne Feinstein (CA) - (202) 224-3841 Robert Byrd (WV) - (202) 224-3954 Daniel Inouye (HI) - (202) 224-3934 Christopher Dodd (CT) - (202) 224-2823 Charles Schumer (NY) - (202) 224-6542 Richard Durbin (IL) - (202) 224-2152 Ben Nelson (NE) - (202) 224-6551 Harry Reid (NV) - (202) 224-3542 Patty Murray (WA) - (202) 224-2621 Mark Pryor (AR) - (202) 224-2353

Republicans
Robert Bennett (UT) - (202) 224-5444
Mitch McConnell (KY) - (202) 224-2541
Thad Cochran (MS) - (202) 224-5054
Trent Lott (MS) - (202) 224-6253
Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) - (202) 224-5922
Saxby Chambliss (GA) - (202) 224-3521
Chuck Hagel (NE) - (202) 224-4224
Lamar Alexander (TN) - (202) 224-4944

If you are a constituent of one of these Senators, please call or write. If you are not a constituent of any of these Senators, please call or write anyway and also call your own Senator. If von Spakovsky makes it through committee, we will need the help of all Senators on the floor.

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

May 28, 2007

Terrorism From The Right Escalating

Rick Perlstein notes the rise in Right-Wing Terrorism, and the major news media's failure to connect the dots.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:05 PM | Comments (0) | 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

May 23, 2007

Gore on Fire

I saw Al Gore talk at a book signing for his book, The Assault On Reason, in Marin County (north of San Francisco) this evening. He was supposed to talk for a short time, take questions and sign books, but he just got going an gave one of the most inspired, intelligent and I think historically important articulations of the current threat to the American experiment and our democracy that I have heard. He was just on fire.

Gore says our country’s problems go beyond the manipulations and corruptions of Bush and Cheney. He talks about what has happened to this country that we could have ever allow a Bush and Cheney and their lies and evasions and incuriosity to take the reigns of our government – and allowed them to stay there after it became clear what they are about. And he has some very insightful things to say about the historical forces that brought us where we are, and how they might guide us through this.

At times he sounded like a guru, talking about “truthforce,” about how honesty enables us to see clearly without the distortions and distractions that come from constant TV exposure to trivia like gossip about Paris Hilton and Britney and work to push deadly situations like the Iraq war and global warming from our discourse. This is a man who has thought about what is happening to us, and who has the vision and experience to come up with some answers.

He asked how could not just the President, but the Congress, the media and the rest of our system of checks and balances and watchdogs have let Iraq – which he called the worst strategic blunder in our history – happen? How could he public have been fooled into thinking that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11? It’s not just Bush who did that – it’s all of us. Bush is just a symptom. We are ALL responsible for the decisions our country makes. So we all have to get involved and start fixing this broken system. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

I have only had time to read excerpts from Gore’s book, The Assault On Reason, but I predict that the conversation it fuels will be fundamentally and historically important. Buy this book! And listen for news of Gore coming to your area, or appearing on TV, to talk about this subject. The guy is just on fire and I think that fire could catch and spread and help bring about the changes we need.

It’s late or I would write more. I am inspired. (does it show?) I hope that a video of this evening’s talk surfaces soon. I'll post about it if I learn of one.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 18, 2007

American Legion Members Blast Leadership

The American Legion is one more organization whose leadership has been taken over by conservative movement operatives. The leadership blindly supports Bush, no matter what -- even when he is cutting funds for wounded troops and family support. Following is a letter I received from a member:

STATEMENT FROM Hal Donahue, Lt. Col. USAF (retired)

District Deputy Commander and Lifetime member of the American Legion

Legion Cuts and runs from wounded troops, active duty troops and veterans

Thursday the American Legion leadership issued a press release. It contained two key elements which I find reprehensible. First, the American Legion condemns Congress for performing its constitutional duty. Second, and most appalling, the American Legion opposes Congressional funding to meet immediate military and veterans needs. These Congressional bills for Emergency Defense Supplemental Appropriations for FY 2007 support our troops. To paraphrase former Senator Bob Dole when informed of the crisis at Walter Reed Military Medical Center, ‘where was the American Legion?’

Congress knows we must give the troops their equipment, and we must take care of the wounded. These congressional bills add additional money for areas slighted, including funding for military and veteran health care. Walter Reed Army Medical Center is included in these bills. I am a patient at Walter Reed and I see the bravery of our troops off the battlefield both trying to recover and trying to provide the best care. I see the effects of neglect caused by the Bush administration everyday; the administration pays lip service but offers no funding. These Congressional bills support the troops, the wounded and veterans. Why doesn't the Leadership of The American Legion?

I say “American Legion leadership” because I know many members of the American Legion were simply embarrassed by positions taken by the Leadership of the organization, which blindly supports this administration's war in Iraq while just as blindly ignoring wounded military living conditions at Walter Reed.

Embarrassment is no longer the word of choice. By actively urging Congress to remove immediate and urgent funding for wounded troops, military and veterans, the American Legion leadership has crossed the line to repulsion. To actively advocate in Congress against immediate support for our troops in combat and our wounded is simply repugnant. Commander Morin and the American Legion Leadership are cutting and running on our wounded, our troops, and our Veterans.

Hal Donahue, Lt. Col. USAF (retired)

District Deputy Commander and Lifetime member of the American Legion

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 14, 2007

Bush Admin Helping Fund Moon Front-Group

Sun Myung Moon front group gets $80,000 in federal money to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day. The money is used to help Moon infiltrate Black churches and organizations.

And the other side of the deal, Bruce Wilson at AlterNet: Bush Family Gets Millions From Cult's Fake "Nonprofit" and at Talk To Action, More Moon Money Flows to Bush Family

Go read.

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

May 3, 2007

Domestic Terrorism Ignored

The other day I wrote about two domestic terrorism incidents that ere ignored by the media. Orcinus: The other kind of terror has more. Go read.

But remember: The FBI has de-emphasized right-wing extremist crimes and displaced them with an emphasis on "eco terror" as far as its chief domestic-terror concern. This is in no small part because this administration is being run by people who don't consider bombings and arson against abortion clinics to be terrorism.

[. . .] Of course, acknowledging that this is the case would require a major readjustment of the media's constructed narrative about the "war on terror." So it continues to turn a blind eye, and in the process it profoundly misinforms the public.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 20, 2007

Alberto Gonzales Isn't The Point

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales can resign or not - so what? The PROBLEM will remain. The PROBLEM is that we have 93 US Attorneys who have already proven - by not being fired - that they will indict innocent Democrats and ignore Republican corruption and criminality. THAT is the problem we have to do something about!

The Republicans learned in the 2006 election that lots of headlines about corruption influences votes. So the plan is to start investigating and indicting lots of Democrats - guilty or not - to provide plenty of 2008 election-time headlines. And the plan is to block as many investigations and indictments of corrupt Republicans as they can. (That brings other benefits to them as well...)

So Gonzales can resign or not - don't be distracted from thinking about how to stop what is coming.

Watch your backs!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 19, 2007

Unprecedented Security Clearances For A Libyan?

And no one knows who bypassed our national security rules and gave the clearance. And, of course, no one will investigate.

From Wolfowitz's girlfriend problem,

State Department officials familiar with the details of this matter confirmed to me that Shaha Ali Riza was detailed to the State Department and had unescorted access while working for Elizabeth Cheney. Access to the building requires a national security clearance or permanent escort by a person with such a clearance. But the State Department has no record of having issued a national security clearance to Riza.

State Department officials believe that Riza was issued such a clearance by the Defense Department after SAIC was forced by Wolfowitz and Feith to hire her.

... But State Department officials tell me that no such letter can be confirmed as received. And the officials stress that the department would never issue a clearance to a non-U.S. citizen as part of a contractual requisition. Issuing a national security clearance to a foreign national under instructions from a Pentagon official would constitute a violation of the executive orders governing clearances, they say.

Come to think of it, Karl Rove still has a security clearance - even after admitting that he revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent!

Is there NO law?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 18, 2007

Don't Reward Failure

At Firedoglake: Don’t Reward Failure By Giving Money to NARAL,

And what did they do with all that cash? They sat it and didn't do a damn thing, didn't lift a finger to fight Samuel Alito. Worse yet, when the Gang of 14 decided to vote in favor of cloture, they said that they did not consider cloture votes "significant" and would not be considering them in their scorecard. They then went on to add insult to injury by asking their membership to thank Lincoln Chafee and Joe Lieberman for the beatings they delivered with their "aye" cloture vote by pretending that their "nay" floor votes were significant. They then poured salt into the wound by endorsing both "short ride" Lieberman and Chafee over their opponents who made it clear that they would not have voted for cloture for Alito, which gave us the 5-4 decision we have today.
Go read.
Don't reward failure. Tell your friends. Don't give money to NARAL when they come knocking on your door to tell you that choice is going down the crapper unless you give them a lot of money, because what you'll be giving money for is Nancy Keenan's ability to point her little pinky over tea at Washington cocktail parties and tut-tut over the state of choice in this country at the hands of the fundamentalists. She'll take no responsibility for the fact that NARAL will not fight, will not back those that fight, and worse yet, that NARAL sucks up all the pro-choice money so nobody else can mount a meaningful fight, either.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 17, 2007

Smoking Politics Alert: Mitt Romney Loves That Dirty Money

A Smoking Politics post by Dave Johnson and James Boyce

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the company he keeps. And they say you can tell a lot about a politician by the donors he loves. In fairness, any politician can get money from rather unsavory sources, but when patterns emerge you can tell what a politician is like by the donor company he or she keeps.

If this holds true for Mitt Romney it would make him a push-polling, SwiftBoat-lying, racist, immigrant-hating, Hitler-using candidate.

Allow us to explain.

Mitt Romney has a number of great contradictions. For a man who won't swear and doesn't drink, he certainly likes hanging out with some real lowlifes.

Let's start from the top.

Carl Linder is going to be Mitt Romney's Finance Co-Chair in Ohio.

Carl Linder gave over $425,000 to a group called Common Sense Ohio, which ran deceptive ads and push-polling. And by the way, when Mitt Romney was chair of the Republican Governors Association, that organization gave money directly to Common Sense Ohio. What the H-E-double toothpicks Mitt? A direct endorsement of push-polling and deceptive ads? Nice.

Sam Fox gave Mitt Romney's PAC $100,000. (And just think George Bush made Fox an ambassador for a mere $50,000 to the Swift Boat Liars.) Sam Fox may have had amnesia regarding what scum the Swifties were, but Mitt should know. Evidently Mitt doesn't care.

And last but not least, there's Romney National Finance Chair, John Rakolta. You might think that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is a remarkable woman. Mr. Rakolta thinks that she, and some other prominent Democratic presidents, resemble Hitler. (See Romney camp catches flak for Hitler ad)

(The DNC did a great re-cap of these donors and Mitt's dirty money.)

This is cross-posted at Smoking Politics, and we're going to talk about this on our "Smoking Politics Radio Show" at noon Eastern Wednesday. Taylor Marsh, of www.taylormarsh.com will join us with her wonderful and unique perspective.

Listen Live

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

ANOTHER Political Prosecution From A Scandal-Tainted US Attorney?

This looks like it might be yet another political prosecution. This time it isn't a US Attorney engaging in a political prosecution in order to keep the job -- instead it involves one of those NEW, Rove-approved US Attorneys who replaced those US Attorneys fired for failing to engage in political prosecutions. This prosecution shows us what to expect from now on. This one is prosecuting a guy entirely for political and not legal reasons, AFTER the courts threw out the case AND after the judge said they should drop the charges.

This case is about medical marijuana. California voters passed an initiative allowing the use of marijuana for AIDS, cancer and other patients because it helps them to eat and reduces symptoms. The Christian Right doesn't like that so the Bush administration has been prosecuting people for Federal crimes - even though they are legally operating according to state law.

From the article, Prosecutors will retry Ed Rosenthal, known as the `guru of ganja',

Federal prosecutors said today they would retry marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal on cultivation charges, even after a federal judge urged them to drop the case and chastised the government for lodging charges solely to punish the self-proclaimed "guru of ganja."

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer demanded to know who in the Department of Justice made the decision to continue pursuing Rosenthal, who had his original conviction overturned last year.

... Newly appointed U.S. Attorney Scott Schools made the decision, said Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan, but he was not sure if Department of Justice officials in Washington were involved. [all emphasis added]

So here we go, another political prosecution from a Rove-connected prosecutor?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 10, 2007

Bush Orders Congress To "Report" To Him

Bush in full-on authoritarian mode: President Bush Discusses Iraq War Supplemental, War on Terror,

... So I'm inviting congressional leaders from both parties -- both political parties -- to meet with me at the White House next week. At this meeting, the leaders in Congress can report on progress on getting an emergency spending bill to my desk. [emphasis added]
I don't know how many of you took a class called "civics" in school, but that class explained how our government works. Congress does not "report" to the President. In fact, the President is required in our Constitution to report to Congress.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

"Sleeper Cells" Infiltrating Our Government

Yet Another "Sleeper Cell" - "Sleeper Cells" infiltrating the government, waiting for the chance to take over - or to destroy a Democratic Presidency.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 7, 2007

In The Tank For Bush & The Right

Is it just me, or does it seem to you like the media is much more in the tank for Bush and the right since the election?

On another subject, does it seem to you that the US Attorney scandal has faded from the news with nothing being done, leaving in place US Attorneys who let Republicans and corporate criminals off the hook, while investigating or indicting Democrats? My prediction - if these US Attorneys stay in place, the lead-up to the 2008 election will include LOTS of news stories about Democrats being investigated and indicted, and no stories about Republicans being investigated at all.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 4, 2007

Their COVER STORY Was Even Illegal

The Bush administration - again too clever by half.

Clever once: Recently Bush claimed that "executive privilege" prevents staff e-mails from being turned over to Congress. Except in an attempt to keep the e-mails away from legal scrutiny many were illegally routed through the Republican Party, which means they aren't privileged. Too clever by half.

Clever again: When the Bush administration fired US Attorney Iglesias because he didn't indict enough Democrats, they tried to explain it with a cover story claiming he was fired because he took too much time away from the office. Well, you see, Iglesias is a captain in the Navy Reserve. And there is a law that says you can't fire someone because they have to attend Reserve duty.

So Newsweek is reporting that,

Iglesias confirmed to NEWSWEEK that he was recently questioned by lawyers for the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal watchdog agency, to determine if his dismissal was a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a federal law that prohibits job discrimination against members of the U.S. military.

At the encouragement of Office of Special Counsel director Scott Bloch and his deputies, Iglesias said he is this week filing a formal legal complaint with OSC against the Justice Department over his dismissal on this and other grounds.

I learned about this through TPMmuckraker April 4, 2007 04:56 PM

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:35 PM | 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 21, 2007

Presidential Aides Testifying Before Congress

The latest Republican line is that Congress can't require White House aides to testify, that it would "violate precedent," etc. So see Think Progress - FACT CHECK: There Is No Precedent Barring White House Aides From Testifying To Congress,

...under President Clinton, 31 of his top aides testified on 47 different occasions. The aides who testified included some of Clinton’s closest advisors:
Harold Ickes, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff - 7/28/94

George Stephanopoulos, Senior Adviser to the President for Policy and Strategy - 8/4/94

John Podesta, Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary - 8/5/94

Bruce R. Lindsey, Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President - 1/16/96

Samuel Berger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs - 9/11/97

Beth Nolan, Counsel to the President - 5/4/00

In contrast, between 2000 and 2004, Bush allowed only one of his closest advisers, then-Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Tom Ridge, to appear in front of Congress. He has also refused three invitations from Congress for his aides to testify, a first since President Richard Nixon in 1972. Clinton did not refuse any.
Hat tip to Digby who asks,
Meanwhile, virtually all the reporters on NBC seem to not know that numerous very close white house advisors were hauled before congress during the Clinton administration. Can't somebody get them an intern?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:25 AM | Comments (0) | 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 12, 2007

The First US Attorney Firing

The current scandal over political use of US Attorneys is not the first one. In 2002 Bush blocked a corruption investigation into Jack Abramoff by firing the US Attorney just as he was closing in. Bush replaced him with a cousin of one of the targets -- who had been recommended by the local Republican Party.

A 2005 story, Bush removal ended Guam investigation,

A US grand jury in Guam opened an investigation of controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff more than two years ago, but President Bush removed the supervising federal prosecutor, and the probe ended soon after.
Go read about it.

The Republican corruption machine was in full operation by 2002. Here was Bush covering up Abramoff's crimes by firing a prosecutor.

The statute of limitations has not yet run out on this.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 9, 2007

Authoritarians

I've been thinking that the problem we are dealing with in this country is not an ideological left/right battle at all, but rather the rise of the authoritarian personality-type in our politics. Authoritarians have seized the label of "conservative" but this crowd is not at all conservative - not even anything like traditional Republicans. I have always had the sense that the current crop of "conservative movement" wingnuts would attach themselves to any ideology if it helped them achieve power.

Maybe what the country needs is a personality test before someone can run for office - sort of like the Strategic Air Command tests given to people before they're allowed to handle nuclear missile launch keys...

What do you think?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Questions On US Attorney Firings

Talking Points Memo is asking the right questions about the Republicans firing US Attorneys who wouldn't "play ball" by dropping investigations of Republican corruption, and by launching trumped-up investigations of Democrats.

1) We know about the ones who were fired. What about the ones who were not -- WHY not? The REAL stink is on the ones who WEREN'T fired! What did they do to keep their jobs. Did they improperly drop investigations of Republicans and/or launch improper investigations of Demcorats?

2) Why isn't the Justice Department management? Why aren't we hearing statements from the Justice Department,

about how DOJ will not tolerate elected officials attempting to influence its prosecutors, how DOJ has its prosecutors' backs, how DOJ would remind prosecutors to report any such contacts, and would urge anyone who has not previously reported such contacts to come forward now.
The silence is a statement. It is a threat to employees of the Department that if they come forward there will be retaliation.

And, of course, what does this say about the use of OTHER departments of the federal government?

We have been watching as Government and Party merge. Under these authoritarian Republicans the government has morphed into an enforcement arm of The Party. A better question might be whether there is any agency of the government that has not been corrupted?

One day we will all be shocked - even me - at how close we came to totalitarianism. That is, IF we make it through this. We haven't yet. And we won't until people go to jail for this kind of thing.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 22, 2007

Bush Forming Religious Police?

Hoo-boy here's one to worry about. Attorney General launches religious freedom initiative at SBC meeting. (SBC means Southern Baptist Convention.)

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with Southern Baptist leaders Feb. 20 to unveil a new Department of Justice initiative aimed at educating Americans about their religious liberties and to ask for the Southern Baptist Convention’s help in identifying and reporting abuses of those liberties. [emphasis added]
Great. The government working with the Southern Baptists to identify and report abuses of their religious liberties. And of course, the usual right-wing gibberish accompanies this new campaign,
“Why should it be permissible for an employee standing around the water cooler to declare that ‘Tiger Woods is God,’ but a firing offense for him to say ‘Jesus is Lord’?” he said to vocal affirmation from Executive Committee members. “These are the kinds of contradictions we are trying to address.”
Has anyone, anywhere ever been fired for saying "Jesus is Lord?" Of course not.

So it looks like we are about to experience a massive wave of right-wing Christians screaming that they are being victimized every time a Jewish or Muslim person appears on TV or gets a job they wanted. Backed by the full resources of the government. Just great.

With the unveiling of the “First Freedom Project,” the Department of Justice is creating a department-wide Religious Freedom Task Force, the attorney general told Executive Committee members. Another component is the initiation of a program of public education to ensure that people know their rights. Gonzales said the justice department will hold a series of regional training seminars for leaders interested in religious liberty issues, starting in Kansas City, Mo., March 29.

Also, the department has launched a new website, firstfreedom.gov, with information on the laws they enforce and how to file a complaint. Justice officials will be distributing informational literature to religious organizations, civil rights groups and community leaders on how to file a complaint, Gonzales said.

Talk To Action has more,

Imagine if the religious right's beloved "war on Christmas" was a year-round affair. Legions of lawyers ready to pounce on school and civic administrators, the persistent neon buzz of ACLU-paranoia in the air, Pat Robertson and the Bill O'Reilly Persecution Complex (nice band name...) pressuring corporate America to replace every "gezundheit" with a "God bless you." Now, imagine if the leaders of the effort weren't just the Jerry Falwell Admiration Society, but instead the full weight and force of the Department of Justice...
Watch your backs. Here it comes.

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

February 21, 2007

Bush Cutting Medicaid To Pay For ONE FAMILY's Tax Cut

Who is our economy FOR? Bush is cutting Medicaid by $28 billion. Bush is giving the Walton family (Wal-Mart heirs) a $32.7 billion tax cut. You do the math.

Go see who else wins and loses: Maybe We Deserve to Be Ripped Off By Bush's Billionaires,

If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family -- the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune -- would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.

The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.

[. . .] That's not only bad government, it's bad capitalism. It makes legalized bribery and political connections more important factors than performance and competition in the corporate marketplace. Beyond that, it's just plain fucking offensive to ordinary people. It's one thing to complain about paying taxes when those taxes are buying a bag of groceries once a month for some struggling single mom in eastern Kentucky. But when your taxes are buying a yacht for some asshole who hires African eight year-olds to pick cocoa beans for two cents an hour ... I sure don't remember reading an excuse for that anywhere in the Federalist Papers.

More information you will not see in your local newspaper or on the news...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:46 AM | Comments (0) | 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 30, 2007

Bush Further Consolidates Control

Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation ,

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries.
Recently we heard about the purge of US Attorneys, replaced by political hacks. Now every agency of the government has to have a political officer from The Party oversee its activities.

This is the Stalinist Soviet model. What is Bush planning?

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 26, 2007

Republicans Trained To Follow - Now Over A Cliff

The Anonymous Liberal: The GOP's Pied Piper Problem:

For the last decade and a half, the Republican party has pursued an intentional strategy of insulating its base from reality. The goal has been to create a permanent block of loyal Republican voters who will dutifully internalize whatever the party's leaders tell them.

To accomplish this, the Republican political machine has engaged in a relentless and systematic assault on all of the institutions in our society that have traditionally served as arbiters of truth. They have attacked the press, the judiciary, academia, and even science itself. And they've been remarkably successful; we've now reached a point where much of the Republican base simply refuses to believe anything that doesn't come from a trusted partisan outlet.

Any unpleasant news reports can be dismissed as the product of liberal media bias. Any inconvenient studies can be explained away as the work of godless academic elitists. ...

... This strategy has an inherent vulnerability, though. Call it the Pied Piper problem. If you train a bunch of people to follow the Leader reflexively, they're likely to follow him right out of town (or right off a cliff).

Go read.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 18, 2007

Senate Republicans Block Ethics Reform

They're making out too well from the corruption - it is what funds the Republican Party. So new Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is blocking attempts to reform ethics and lobbying.

Republicans Halt Ethics Legislation,

Senate Republicans scuttled broad legislation last night to curtail lobbyists' influence and tighten congressional ethics rules, refusing to let the bill pass without a vote on an unrelated measure that would give President Bush virtual line-item-veto power.
So here we are.

Everyone who thought the fight was over because the Democrats have a majority in the House and Senate now, raise your hands.

Update - From Sen. McConnell's office,

Republicans didn’t derail the ethics reform bill. They’re enthusiastic about voting for it. Republicans just want earmark reform, as well. (and Democrats have already accepted an earmark reform amendment in the ethics bill, so it’s not really unrelated)
Update II - Evening - Senate passes ethics reform bill
After a spirited debate over the year's first order of business, the Senate reached a bipartisan agreement on ethics reform Thursday and approved a package designed to burnish its image in the wake of recent corruption scandals.

The Senate voted 96-2 for a measure that would prohibit lobbyists from paying for gifts for lawmakers and their staffs, including travel. It also would require full disclosure on which lawmakers have requested funding earmarks for specific projects in lawmakers' home states or districts.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:23 AM | Comments (0) | 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 12, 2007

Bush Still President - Corruption, Coverups Continue

Bush is still president, and still has the power to fire prosecutors who go after Republican corruption.

Cunningham Prosecutor Forced Out,

Carole Lam, the San Diego U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the corrupt former lawmaker, is being quietly pushed out by the Bush administration.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:48 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 10, 2007

MySpace Refused Anti-Media Consolidation Ad

MySpace, owned by Fox News, refused to allow Common Cause to run an ad opposing media consolidation.

Update - I originally posted the ad with a link so others could get the ad and post it. Then I visited the Common Cause blog and learned that they are paying some sites to run the ad. Which made me realize they were making fools of all of us who ran it for free - a trick to get free PR from dedicated progressives, while paying the big sites. So I took it out of this post.

MySpace shouldn't have refused the ad and supposed progressive organizations should stop exploiting dedicated progressives.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:58 PM | 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 27, 2006

Ford's Mistake

Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, which prevented a full criminal investigation and trial. He felt it would help to heal the country, which had been through assassinations, riots and the divisive Vietnam war. But the pardon had the unintended consequence of creating an impression that those in the highest office really aren't accountable to the public if their actions violate the law.

Four years later the Reagan administration picked up right where Nixon's had left off, and got caught. Other select insiders made the decision not to pursue Reagan.

As chair of the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, Hamilton chose not to investigate President Ronald Reagan or President George H. W. Bush, stating that he did not think it would be "good for the country" to put the public through another impeachment trial.
At a time when thousands were being sent away for years for smoking a joint or doing a line, the country was learning that things really are different for those at the very top.

Bush1 then pardoned everyone involved, especially those being pressured by Lawrence Walsh to testify against him for his own possibly criminal part in it. The public got the message clearly that time.

So by the time Clinton took office the public was ready to believe that all of the country's leaders are corrupt and pay no price for it. The conservatives had an opening to demand that a President finally be held to account. It's the old Seeing the Forest Rule: Republicans accuse others of what they are in fact doing themselves. They accused Clinton of everything, but the investigations found nothing. They impeached him anyway. Now the public understood just who the rules were for and not for. After what Nixon, Reagan and Bush1 had gotten away with, Clinton didn't even have to break any rules, yet he was impeached.

And so here we are. Bush2 can do anything with impunity - and says so with a smirk. His cronies loot, lie and steal. The public and especially the Washington insider class are conditioned to accept that this is the way things are done. All partly tracable back to Ford's subversion of accountability. A mistake. A big one.

Let's learn from Ford's mistake. HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE! Demand that the actions of those in power in the last six years are investigated and any crimes discovered are punished to the fullest extent of the law. Let's set the country and democracy back on course.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 23, 2006

The Right's March

Paperwight's Fair Shot: Lather, Rinse, Repeat,

It's not that the Republicans view Mein Kampf as an instruction manual, but rather that the march toward religio-corporatist totalitarianism tends to pass through the same towns each time.
My comment: What is "the base" hearing? When has Bush ever condemned a surrogate for promulgating the far-right's messages of hate?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 19, 2006

When News Becomes A Corporate "Product"

In the new corporate-owned America a newspaper owner tells people in the newsroom what to print. They quit - or are fired when they won't do what the owner wants because they consider it unethical. Journalists write about the story and are sued for libel and "product disparagement." See Publisher of Santa Barbara paper sues journalist over AJR story

A local barber puts a sign in his shop window supporting the workers, and is threatened with a lawsuit. See Santa Barbara News-Press Owner Threatens Hair Stylist Over Sign

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 15, 2006

Are Progressives Good? Then TELL PEOPLE!

Every time you turn on the radio or a cable news show you hear one form or another of the same old message, “conservatives and their ideas are good and liberals and their ideas are bad.” Think about how often you hear one or another variation of that theme.

But how often do you hear that liberals and progressives are good? How often do you hear that liberal/progressive ideas are better for people than a conservative approach? And if you are reading this you're looking for progressive ideas. So how often do you think the general public is hearing that progressives and their values and ideas are good?

The public does not hear our side of the story very often – if ever.

Why is that? Maybe it’s because we aren’t telling people our side of the story!

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 network of well-funded conservative organizations marketing the conservatives-are-good-and-liberals-and-government-and-democracy-are-bad propaganda every hour of every day and they have been doing so for decades.

Click this link to visit a collection of links to articles, studies, reports and other resources for learning about the right-wing movement, its history, how it is funded and how it operates.

Now, can you think of any organizations that exist to tell the public that progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates are good? Do you know about any organized effort to persuade people to support progressive values and ideas?

People respond to marketing, and conservatives have been marketing their cause while progressives have not. This has been going on for decades, and as a result of this the public’s understanding and acceptance of progressive values - like democracy and community - has eroded. 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?

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.

Helping the public understand and accept progressive values will help the efforts of "issue organizations" like environmental groups, pro-choice groups, and others. As the public comes to understand and accept the underlying progressive values they will naturally support organizations that promote particular issues that are based on those values. And as the public begins to demand progressive solutions to problems the candidates they support will also naturally support the efforts of these organizations.

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.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 14, 2006

It's Not The Bloggers, It's The Blogs

A quick comment on all the big-name pundits and Washington insiders who criticize "the bloggers" and question their legitimacy: Anyone can start a blog.

(pause)

Here is what I am saying. When you criticize "the bloggers" and question the legitimacy of what they are saying, you are questioning the concept of democracy itself. ANYone can start a blog -- so everyone is a blogger. If it makes you uncomfortable that the rabble is allowed to speak and express their opinions you need to think about your own understanding of and commitment to democracy. The blogs that reach prominence do so through an entirely democratic process - people have chosen to read or echo what is being written on them.

It's not the bloggers you have a beef with, it's the blogs themselves -- the tool that lets the public have a say.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 5, 2006

Kicking An 82 Year Old Man: The Right Attacks Jimmy Carter. Again.

[Co-written with James Boyce, originally at Huffington Post]

Jimmy Carter is not remembered as a great President. Most folks might even consider him a failure, the peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia. But why exactly do we hold one of the two Democratic Presidents of the last 38 years in such low esteem?

Isn't this the man that held the country together in the years after Watergate? Didn't he bring decency and honesty back to The White House?

Yes.

Isn't it a great American success story for a man to come from such humble beginnings, serve in defense of his country and then ascend to the highest office?

Yes.

Isn't it remarkable that back in 1979 he declared "The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them." Isn't that leadership and vision?

Yes. But it was legacy destroying as well. Our memories of Jimmy Carter are memories laced with the poison of a right wing smear campaign because when Jimmy Carter encouraged us to face the facts of the energy crisis, he faced off against the Oil Companies and as the decades passed, it has become sadly clear that the nuclear physicist Naval Officer peanut farmer came out the worse for it. He was portrayed as naive and as a simpleton. He was routinely mocked. A good man's legacy was taken down.

What some would view as terrific achievements, such as reducing America's oil imports by 1.8 million barrels a day or getting the Crude Oil Windfall Profits tax passed to help fund his energy policies (Any spare copies of that bill around by any chance?) others viewed as terrific challenges to their businesses.

According to AmericanPresident.org, a "comprehensive non-partisan resource available on the history and function of the American presidency," Carter accomplished a great deal as President, particularly his energy packages, but:

"Carter gained a reputation for political ineptitude, even though his actual record in dealing with Congress belied that image. His success rate in getting presidential initiatives through Congress was much higher than that of his predecessors Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and successors Reagan and Bush. One might expect a president with a majority in Congress to do better than presidents facing the opposition party majorities. But Carter was also close to Johnson's success rates, and higher than Kennedy's record. Carter did not like to bargain and remained arrogant and aloof, but at the end of the day, he usually wound up with much of what he sought from Congress. His major problem was that the perception of his leadership did not correspond with the reality of his performance."

Let's repeat that: "the perception of his leadership did not correspond with the reality of his performance." Millions of dollars of smears and attacks will do that to a man. We see the same happening to others, over and over again, to this day. Ask Michael Dukakis or Al Gore or John Kerry or any of the multitude of victims of the right's $mear machine.

We know now that companies like ExxonMobil have created what investigative author George Monboit has called The Denial Industry, consisting of PR attack firms, phony grassroots "astroturf" organizations, think tanks, political front groups and others, all well-paid to confuse the public over the facts of global warming. According to Monboit,

"By funding a large number of organisations, Exxon helps to create the impression that doubt about climate change is widespread. For those who do not understand that scientific findings cannot be trusted if they have not appeared in peer-reviewed journals, the names of these institutes help to suggest that serious researchers are challenging the consensus."

We can see all around us the effect of this kind of operation and the tragic consequences of the resulting delay in dealing with problems like global warming. We can see the effect of similar operations on our health care policies, our disappearing pensions, our low minimum wage, our campaign finance system, our reduced job security and so many other areas.

With this in mind the question has to be asked: Does our negative perception of Jimmy Carter come from the same kind of corporate-sponsored manipulative operation? Does it come from the same kind of smear operation as the one that led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the "swiftboating" of John Kerry? Was our preception of Carter formed by an attack campaign from the then-newly-forming web of right-wing "conservative movement" organizations funded by extremely wealthy individuals, corporations and foundations?

Jimmy Carter has spent his years since The White House as admirably as any former President. He's focused on hunger and poverty and promoting democracy around the world. He spent years far from the public view.

But now, Jimmy Carter has again been doing interviews and press. Now, at age eighty-two, he seems to have been moving towards a respected elder statesmen role.

So just this week, an anonymous caller called into a C-SPAN interview and ranted at Jimmy Carter, calling him "a bigot, and a racist and an anti-Semite." The caller continued, accusing Carter of "cozying up with every dictator, thug, Islamic terrorist there is."

The rantings of a lunatic who made it through the pre-call screening somehow right? Time to check the systems and make sure it never happens again? No. This was the result of a coordinated smear where the charges of Jimmy Carter being an "anti-Semite" echoed through the right wing blogs and straight to Drudge Report.

This attack was amplified by numerous current right-wing online attacks on Carter at sites such as www.frontpagemag.com. From the right came a wave of attacks, Carter's been "trying to (expletive) the Jews." He's friends with terrorists. He's this and this and isn't it a little pathetic?

Not to the far right. Not to those who have spent forty years developing a machine that sells us the myth of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush and Rudy Guiliani while giving us the smearing of Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry.

No, even if Jimmy Carter is eighty-two years old, a dedicated public servant and American hero in the twilight of his career, if people are actually listening and liking what they hear, it's time to smear.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:10 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 4, 2006

Letter From Senators To Exxon Mobil: Stop Supporting The Deniers

Senators Rockefeller and Snowe have written a remarkable letter to the Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, (and cc'd the Board of Directors), asking Exxon to stop funding the global warming "denial industry."

From the letter, "It is our hope that under your leadership, ExxonMobil would end its dangerous support of the "deniers."

Here is the text of the letter:

Mr. Rex W. Tillerson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
ExxonMobil Corporation
5959 Las Colinas Boulevard
Irving, TX 75039

Dear Mr. Tillerson:

Allow us to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your first year as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the ExxonMobil Corporation. You will become the public face of an undisputed leader in the world energy industry, and a company that plays a vital role in our national economy. As that public face, you will have the ability and responsibility to lead ExxonMobil toward its rightful place as a good corporate and global citizen.

We are writing to appeal to your sense of stewardship of that corporate citizenship as U.S. Senators concerned about the credibility of the United States in the international community, and as Americans concerned that one of our most prestigious corporations has done much in the past to adversely affect that credibility. We are convinced that ExxonMobil's longstanding support of a small cadre of global climate change skeptics, and those skeptics access to and influence on government policymakers, have made it increasingly difficult for the United States to demonstrate the moral clarity it needs across all facets of its diplomacy.

Obviously, other factors complicate our foreign policy. However, we are persuaded that the climate change denial strategy carried out by and for ExxonMobil has helped foster the perception that the United States is insensitive to a matter of great urgency for all of mankind, and has thus damaged the stature of our nation internationally. It is our hope that under your leadership, ExxonMobil would end its dangerous support of the "deniers." Likewise, we look to you to guide ExxonMobil to capitalize on its significant resources and prominent industry position to assist this country in taking its appropriate leadership role in promoting the technological innovation necessary to address climate change and in fashioning a truly global solution to what is undeniably a global problem.

While ExxonMobil's activity in this area is well-documented, we are somewhat encouraged by developments that have come to light during your brief tenure. We fervently hope that reports that ExxonMobil intends to end its funding of the climate change denial campaign of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) are true. Similarly, we have seen press reports that your British subsidiary has told the Royal Society, Great Britain's foremost scientific academy, that ExxonMobil will stop funding other organizations with similar purposes. However, a casual review of available literature, as performed by personnel for the Royal Society reveals that ExxonMobil is or has been the primary funding source for the "skepticism" of not only CEI, but for dozens of other overlapping and interlocking front groups sharing the same obfuscation agenda. For this reason, we share the goal of the Royal Society that ExxonMobil "come clean" about its past denial activities, and that the corporation take positive steps by a date certain toward a new and more responsible corporate citizenship.

ExxonMobil is not alone in jeopardizing the credibility and stature of the United States. Large corporations in related industries have joined ExxonMobil to provide significant and consistent financial support of this pseudo-scientific, non-peer reviewed echo chamber. The goal has not been to prevail in the scientific debate, but to obscure it. This climate change denial confederacy has exerted an influence out of all proportion to its size or relative scientific credibility. Through relentless pressure on the media to present the issue "objectively," and by challenging the consensus on climate change science by misstating both the nature of what "consensus" means and what this particular consensus is, ExxonMobil and its allies have confused the public and given cover to a few senior elected and appointed government officials whose positions and opinions enable them to damage U.S. credibility abroad.

Climate change denial has been so effective because the "denial community" has mischaracterized the necessarily guarded language of serious scientific dialogue as vagueness and uncertainty. Mainstream media outlets, attacked for being biased, help lend credence to skeptics' views, regardless of their scientific integrity, by giving them relatively equal standing with legitimate scientists. ExxonMobil is responsible for much of this bogus scientific "debate" and the demand for what the deniers cynically refer to as "sound science."

A study to be released in November by an American scientific group will expose ExxonMobil as the primary funder of no fewer than 29 climate change denial front groups in 2004 alone. Besides a shared goal, these groups often featured common staffs and board members. The study will estimate that ExxonMobil has spent more than $19 million since the late 1990s on a strategy of "information laundering," or enabling a small number of professional skeptics working through scientific-sounding organizations to funnel their viewpoints through non-peer-reviewed websites such as Tech Central Station. The Internet has provided ExxonMobil the means to wreak its havoc on U.S. credibility, while avoiding the rigors of refereed journals. While deniers can easily post something calling into question the scientific consensus on climate change, not a single refereed article in more than a decade has sought to refute it.

Indeed, while the group of outliers funded by ExxonMobil has had some success in the court of public opinion, it has failed miserably in confusing, much less convincing, the legitimate scientific community. Rather, what has emerged and continues to withstand the carefully crafted denial strategy is an insurmountable scientific consensus on both the problem and causation of climate change. Instead of the narrow and inward-looking universe of the deniers, the legitimate scientific community has developed its views on climate change through rigorous peer-reviewed research and writing across all climate-related disciplines and in virtually every country on the globe.

Where most scientists dispassionate review of the facts has moved past acknowledgement to mitigation strategies, ExxonMobil's contribution the overall politicization of science has merely bolstered the views of U.S. government officials satisfied to do nothing. Rather than investing in the development of technologies that might see us through this crisis--and which may rival the computer as a wellspring of near-term economic growth around the world--ExxonMobil and its partners in denial have manufactured controversy, sown doubt, and impeded progress with strategies all-too reminiscent of those used by the tobacco industry for so many years. The net result of this unfortunate campaign has been a diminution of this nation's ability to act internationally, and not only in environmental matters.

In light of the adverse impacts still resulting from your corporations activities, we must request that ExxonMobil end any further financial assistance or other support to groups or individuals whose public advocacy has contributed to the small, but unfortunately effective, climate change denial myth. Further, we believe ExxonMobil should take additional steps to improve the public debate, and consequently the reputation of the United States. We would recommend that ExxonMobil publicly acknowledge both the reality of climate change and the role of humans in causing or exacerbating it. Second, ExxonMobil should repudiate its climate change denial campaign and make public its funding history. Finally, we believe that there would be a benefit to the United States if one of the world's largest carbon emitters headquartered here devoted at least some of the money it has invested in climate change denial pseudo-science to global remediation efforts. We believe this would be especially important in the developing world, where the disastrous effects of global climate change are likely to have their most immediate and calamitous impacts.

Each of us is committed to seeing the United States officially reengage and demonstrate leadership on the issue of global climate change. We are ready to work with you and any other past corporate sponsor of the denial campaign on proactive strategies to promote energy efficiency, to expand the use of clean, alternative, and renewable fuels, to accelerate innovation to responsibly extend the useful life of our fossil fuel reserves, and to foster greater understanding of the necessity of action on a truly global scale before it is too late.

Sincerely,

John D. Rockefeller IV
Olympia Snowe

Cc:
J. Stephen Simon
Walter V. Shipley
Samuel J. Palmisano
Marilyn Carlson Nelson
Henry A. McKinnell, Jr.
Philip E. Lippincott
Reatha Clark King
William R. Howell
James R. Houghton
William W. George
Michael J. Boskin

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

December 3, 2006

Is This Legal

In a continuing series, STF asks if it is legal for the Secretary of the navy to decide contracts based on the politics of the locality?

Michelle Malkin: Navy to San Francisco: See ya, haters! references a news story, Navy scuttles plan to commission warship here, citing local politics,

Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter vetoed plans to commission the Makin Island, the Navy's newest and most powerful warship, in San Francisco in 2008 because of a perception that the city is anti-military.
So San Francisco is not Republican enough to get military contracts? Didn't we just have an election in which the public voted AGAINST corruption?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 7, 2006

Organized Crime

Whiskey Bar: The Octopus

The modern GOP -- or, more specifically, the Axis of '70s Campus Republicans running it -- really is just a criminal enterprise disguised as a political party.

Dirty tricks, large and small, are a sorry fact of life in American politics, but what the Republicans have done over the past few weeks -- the surrealist attack ads, the forged endorsements, the midnight robo calls, the arrest threats, the voter misinformation (did you know your polling station has been moved?) -- is sui generis, at least at the national level.

Even Dick Nixon never tried anything like this on such a grand scale -- although, of course, he also didn't have the technology. The only thing we haven't seen yet is a break in at DNC headquarters. And if the Rovians thought they could get anything out of it that would be useful in this election (nobody else has) we'd probably be reading about that, too.

It's always possible to point to Democratic/liberal offenses, but at this point the comparisons look pretty silly: some downed yard signs here, a few crooked and/or stoned ACORN canvassers there. Not even in the same universe, much less the same ball park.

Couple the GOP's rat-fucking campaign with all the other stuff we already know about -- the collectivized bribery of the K Street Project, the Abramoff casino extortion ring, the Defense and CIA appropriation scams, the Iraq War contracting scams, the Pacific Island sex trade protection racket, the church pulpits doubling as ward halls, the illegal wiretapping, the lies, perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame case (I really could go on like this all day) -- and it's clear that what we need most isn't a new Congress but a new RICO prosecution, with lots of defendents and unindicted co-conspirators.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 6, 2006

Wanna Be A Republican Leader?

Then watch this:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 3, 2006

Corruption - A $6 Million Gift To Oil Company

In years past this alone would have been a major story and the corruption involved would not be tolerated. But this year it's just one more thing - a relatively small thing. We all know what is behing it - payments from lobbyists. The people involved will be leaving the government soon to "work" at the oil companies for unusually high pay. Gov't drops demand for Chevron royalty,

The department's Minerals Management Service had maintained that Chevron owed an additional $6 million for gas it took under federal leases in the Gulf between 1996 and 2002 and sold to Dynegy Inc., a company Chevron partially owns.

Essentially, the government argued that Chevron undervalued the gas it sold to Dynegy. Chevron paid royalties based on a price that didn't represent fair market value, the government auditors said.

But last summer, the government quietly rescinded its demand for the additional royalties. That decision was reported Tuesday by the New York Times, based on documents the newspaper obtained through a freedom of information request.

The story comes on the same day as a larger story about the Republican Congress getting rid of the only agency conducting ANY oversight of Iraq spending. This is just two stories about corruption today. There will be two more tomorrow and the day after...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 2, 2006

Go See Olbermann

Anyone who hasn't yet seen Keith Olbermann's special comment yesterday should absolutely, absolutely see it.

Crooks & Liars has it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 31, 2006

Blogger Beat Up By Sen. Allen Staffers

Blogger Mike Stark was assaulted and beaten by staffers of Virginia Senator George Allen today.

Update, now have YouTube video.

Alternet PEEK blog has CNN video.

There is a video of the incident available from a local news station:NBC 29: Count on Us - Incident at Allen Campaign Stop in Charlottesville. The text accompanying the video states:

As Senator Allen was exiting a ballroom, coming to talk to the media, a protestor started yelling and asking, "Why did you spit on your first wife?". He wasn't able to get near the senator as he was tackled by three men wearing Allen stickers, presumed to be staffers. He was pushed and manhandled and ended up on the floor, near windows at the Omni.
I will have more here as the story develops.

UpdateAtrios is on it. Kos is on it too. AmericaBlog now. MyDD has video.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 30, 2006

A Hog Farm Next Door To Your House -- Stealth "Takings" On The Ballot In Four States

There is a law on the ballot in four states that says if I want to open a hog farm or a chemical plant next door to your house and you don't want me to do that, then YOU have to PAY ME not to -- you have to pay me ALL THE MONEY I MIGHT HAVE MADE. I am not kidding. This new law says that if you want to stop a corporation from dumping toxic waste into the river from which you get your drinking water, or stop them from venting dangerous chemicals into the air, then YOU have to PAY that company not to. I am NOT kidding!

The far right says that a government stopping a company from dumping waste into a river is "taking" money from that company. I am not kidding. And you had better take this seriously or YOU will be PAYING companies to not harm you and your families.

Along with EVERYTHING else going on in this election, the far right has managed to get stealth "takings" initiatives on the ballot in four states. In California it is Proposition 90. In Washington it is Initiative 933. In Idaho it is Proposition 2. In Arizona it is Proposition 207.

This is a "private property" and "takings" amendment disguised as a limit to "eminent domain." This means that it is supposed to be about keeping the government from seizing property so it can be used by commercial interests. But what this really does is prevent the states from ANY regulation of property, including ANY environmental regulations, ANY zoning laws, etc.

These ballot initiatives are all funded by one person - a New York real estate tycoon named Howie Rich. And he did this through front groups - organizations disguised as something else. See if you can guess what he plans to do the day after these laws pass? (Hint -- think "hog farm next door to your house.")

See Calitics: Soapblox California :: Prop 90: A Battle we MUST Win and
The Left Coaster: Deceptive Initiatives Designed To Blackmail Your Community
and TomPaine.com Monster Stomping The States and The Nation: Rich's Stealth Campaign.

I am not kidding. I understand that saying the things I am saying here makes ME sound like the extremist, but you'd better go read up on these laws right now and see for yourself.

So here is ONE MORE THING to worry about this election. ONE MORE THING to tell friends and family to watch out for. ONE MORE THING to spread the word about. But it's one more IMPORTANT thing so get the word out.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:02 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 20, 2006

Drinking Kool-Aid

In case you are not familiar with the term "drinking the Kool-Aid" it referes back to the Jim Jones Jonestown cult, who lined up to drink Kool-Aid mixed with cyanide.

And today, another example: Top US general says Rumsfeld is inspired by God,

The top US general defended the leadership of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying it is inspired by God.

"He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country," said Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

While very few in leadership positions in this country have kids in Iraq, outside of the Capital there are families, parents, friends and co-workers of the people serving there. I wonder what they think when they hear this stuff? Are they filled with confidence that the leadership is ... well, sane?

So how is the Right reacting? Predictably, they're lining up to drink more Kool-Aid themselves:

Confederate Yankee is triggered into a fury at "far left liberals" and "the media" - just because AP reported the story,

As is typical of the left-leaning media, they seem amazed that leaders in these modern times pray for guidance from a power higher than themselves, and thought that detail was so newsworthy as to make it this story's lede. Other elements, such as Rumsfeld's controversial leadership style, and an apparent show of support at this ceremony from the military estalishment are far more newsworthy elements of the day's events to most people, but not so to AFP.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:53 PM | Comments (4) | 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 9, 2006

All You Need To Know About The State Of The World

Why is the world the way it is right now? Go read this: Rox Populi: All You Need to Know is Contained in the First 13 Pages

Remember as you read this, George W. Bush is the "Leader of the Free World."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 5, 2006

California's Capital Resource Institute -- Isn't This Illegal?

I became aware of California's Capital Resource Institute because they mailed out a "Christians vote your conscience" e-mail today that was remarkably similar to those sent by Dobson's Focus on the Family and others, encouraging people to vote for Republicans without technically using the word "Republican."

When more Christians apply their biblical values at the ballot box, there will be a significant change in our government - more godly leaders will be elected to office and our laws will once again uphold the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom.

... Just two years ago "Values Voters" made a huge difference in the 2004 election. Together we can make a huge difference in this one too.

Their website states, "Capitol Resource Institute is California's leading pro-family grassroots advocacy group." They are a 501 (c)3 : from their donations page:
Capitol Resource Institute, 1414 K Street, Suite 200, Sacramento, CA 95814. Your donations to CRI are tax-deductible under IRS code section 501(c)3.
The advisory board consists of Republican elected officials and a talk show host. Their Voter Information asks "Is Your State Legislator Family-Friendly?" and links to a Republican Party site: [note - PDF] http://www.californiarepublicanassembly.com/pdfs/CRALegislativeScorecard2005.pdf. Republicans score high, Dems score low. Duh.

501 (c)3 tax-exempt organizations are prohibited from conducting partisan operations, as Capital Resource Institute appears to be doing. This organization appears to be little more than a front group for the Republican Party, set up in a way to give tax breaks to party supporters. The Christian Coalition's tax-exempt status was revoked for exactly this reason.

And look who shares the same offices: Pacific Research Institute. (More info here.) From the PRI website:

Sacramento Office:
1414 K Street, Suite 200

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 29, 2006

Who Voted For Torture?

Go read: Daily Kos: The REAL List Of Congressmen Responsible for Torture,

Keep this in mind. If your neighbor's mean-ass pit bull comes into your yard and bites you, you don't get mad at your own dog for not protecting you. First order of business is to get rid of the god-damned pit bull. After all, he's the one that's really responsible for your wounds. Once that's done, then you can worry about giving your own sorry pooch some watch-dog training.
Go see the whole list, then send EACH of their challengers in this election $1000. EACH ONE!

(And if you really do that, remember my tip jar, too!)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 25, 2006

Authoritarianism and Theocracy -- Bloggers Are Sounding A Warning

Arianna Huffington, in Bill Clinton's Bipartisan Love-In Blows Up in His Face writes,

Hooray! Good for Bill Clinton. He finally called Fox News and the right-wing on their BS, right? Well, sort of.

... I'm glad the Chris Wallace interview is flying all over the internet, but I really hope that one person who will watch it over and over again is Bill Clinton. And that on the fifth or sixth viewing it might occur to him that the more cover he gives Bush and his cronies, the more they're able to increase and entrench their power. Power they use to destroy everything that Clinton purports to stand for.

There is a fundamental point here. I, and many others, think that the Democratic leadership has profoundly misjudged the nature and intentions of the conservative movement. John Dean, in his book Conservatives Without Conscience, warns that we are witnessing the rise of an authoritarian government, and Kevin Phillips, in American Theocracy, warns that the current Republican leadership is intent on bringing about a theocracy. This is not politics-as-usual. THIS is what the bloggers are so shrill about.

In March I wrote,

Maybe, just maybe, they mean the things they are saying. And I think this warning about the extreme things the Right is saying is a big part of what political blogging is about.

... So political bloggers are more likely than others to be visiting websites and forums where right-wingers more openly discuss their ideas, or are more likely to be listening to Limbaugh and others on the radio. And what we are reading and hearing is frightening. The things they are saying to each other are DIFFERENT from what they are saying to the public. The things they are writing and saying are extreme and violent and subversive. It is not like what we as Americans are used to reading and hearing.

The things the Republicans are saying and doing are so extreme that regular people refuse to believe it when you try to warn them about what is happening.

... Bloggers are trying to warn the public that what is going on in America is DIFFERENT from politics-as-usual. The bloggers have been trying to get the Democratic leadership and the media to understand this. We are seeing something new to America forming, something dangerous to democracy. The "pendulum" is not swinging back.

... When will the Democratic leadership begin to realize that the extreme things the Republicans are saying might be what they mean to do?

The signs are all around us -- take it seriously.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:50 AM | Comments (8) | 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

Call It A Coup?

Former Reagan Administration official Paul Craig Roberts, America Has Fallen to a Jacobin Coup,

The most important casualties of September 11 are respect for truth and American liberty. Propaganda has replaced deliberation based on objective assessment of fact. The resurrection of the Star Chamber has made moot the legal protections of liberty.

The US invasion of Iraq was based on the deliberate suppression of fact. The invasion was not the result of mistaken intelligence. It was based on deliberately concocted "intelligence" designed to deceive the US Congress, the American public, and the United Nations.

[. . .] There is an even greater cost of the war – the legal system that protects liberty, a human achievement for which countless numbers of people gave their lives over the centuries. The Bush administration used September 11 to whip up fear and hysteria and to employ these weapons against American liberty. The Orwellian-named Patriot Act has destroyed habeas corpus. The executive branch has gained the unaccountable power to detain American citizens on mere suspicion or accusation, without evidence, and to hold Americans indefinitely without a trial.

Foolishly, many Americans believe this power can only be used against terrorists. Americans don’t realize that the government can declare anyone to be a terrorist suspect. As no evidence is required, it is entirely up to the government to decide who is a terrorist. Thus, the power is unaccountable. Unaccountable power is the source of tyranny.

[. . .] The collapse of the institutions that confine government to law and bind it with the Constitution was sudden. The president previous to Bush was impeached by the House for lying about a sexual affair. If we go back to the 1970s, President Richard Nixon had the decency to resign when it came to light that he had lied about when he first learned of a minor burglary. Bush’s failures are far more serious and numerous; yet, Bush has escaped accountability.

This is just excerpts. Go read it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 16, 2006

New Front-Group Alert: Economic Freedom Fund

This piece originally appeared on The Patriot Project

A new front group has appeared on the scene.  Yesterday in her Patriot Project post Robert J. Perry is Back, Taylor Marsh wrote about Robert J. Perry plunking down $5 million (!) just to fund the Economic Freedom Fund (EFF).  Perry - who has close ties to Karl Rove and Tom DeLay - was a prime funder of the notorious Swift Boat Vets for Freedom - the smear front-group that made claims including that John Kerry shot himself to get his medals - and now this one person is providing $5 million in funding for a national front group that is attempting to have an influence on the control of the Congress in this election.

In government filing documents (here and here) EFF lists its contact as Charles Bell, of the Sacramento, California law firm Bell, Mcandrews & Hiltachk.  Charles Bell is general counsel to the California Republican Party, is Vice Chairman of The Federalist Society's free speech and election law practice group, and is active in the Republican National Lawyers Association.


There is an interesting read at the firm's website, In the Right Place at the Right Time,

"When Charles Bell Jr. got on the bus carrying the California Republican delegation to a party Monday night, he received the kind of introduction political lawyers dream about.


"This guy's Mr. Campaign Law," was how one delegate described Bell to a colleague. "He'll keep you out of jail."

Bell, Mcandrews & Hiltachk's clients include the California Tribal Business Alliance - an "Indian Gaming" organization.  Their mission statement is "to safeguard and enhance the success of the business enterprises of our tribal government members" ....... and "will foster business development and coalition building with like minded government and business leaders in California."


Another Bell, Mcandrews & Hiltachk client was Californians for Paycheck Protection - yet another front group - this one sponsoring a California anti-union ballot initiative. (Their major funders in 2005 (go see how much) included the Chamber of Commerce and the California Republican Party.)


Another client is the notorious anti-environmental Congressman Richard Pombo.


And, of course, always, always showing up with this crowd, big tobacco: BELL, MCANDREWS & HILTACHK Philip Morris Outside Counsel".


A different partner at this firm, Thomas Hiltachk, filed the "Fair Pay Workplace Flexibility Act of 2006" - a stealth attempt to get rid of California's overtime rules.


Stories about this EFF front group running nasty Republican push-polls in districts around the country are popping up in the blogs.  A story about one EFF poll appears at the Iowa Radio Blog,

The call started by asking if I plan to vote in November.  It's a recorded voice asking the questions, and it only accepts "yes" or "no" as responses. ... There were no questions about local races (neither Lamberti nor Nussle), but the questions were designed to cross-check Bush's popularity with the issues Republicans, particularly conservatives, have pushed.
Another blog post appears at Diary of a political madman, clearly about the same Iowa poll but listing a transcription of the questions shows that this is a "push-poll,"
1) Would you like your taxes not raised and if possible cut?


2) Do you believe that frivolous and abusive lawsuits cost us all too much money?

Go read the full list.


EFF push-polling shows up again at the Indiana Democratic Party News page,

INDIANAPOLIS - Voters in Indiana's Ninth District began receiving automated calls yesterday from a group supporting Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel. The call, which attacks Democratic challenger Baron Hill, was paid for by the Economic Freedom Fund, a Virginia-based 527 special interest group.


In response, Indiana Democrats today called on Attorney General Steve Carter to investigate the calls as a violation of Indiana law. Carter issued a letter in August to both major political parties instructing them that automated political calls violate Indiana's Regulation of Automated Dialing Machines Act (IC 24-5-14).

So here we have yet another extremely well-funded, nasty front group, deeply connected to the Republican Party, working to undermine our democracy.


Patriot Project will have more - much more - information on this group and its connections in the next few days.  Stay tuned.



The Patriot Project is working to expose the front groups, their funding, their connections and their tactics.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 14, 2006

Senator Reid on Political Surveillance - "I don't Know What They Would Do"

On a blogger call with Senator Reid today, I asked if there is any indiaction that the administration is using the NSA's powerful surveillance capabilities for political purposes. Senator Reid said that he is so disillusioned with the Bush admnistration, with how Cheney just comes out and lies, and Rice just lies - saying things on the news shows this weekend that they certainly know to be false, intending to mislead the public - that, "I don't know what they would do."

Watch your backs.

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

September 5, 2006

Republicans Gave Lieberman Millions

This story comes from the Moonies, who would know a little something about secretly funneling millions of dollars into campaigns. GOP secretly channeled millions to Lieberman,

The White House funneled millions of dollars through major Republican Party contributors to Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s primary campaign in a failed effort to ensure the support of the former Democrat for the Bush administration.

A senior GOP source said the money was part of Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove's strategy to maintain a Republican majority in the Senate in November. The source said Mr. Rove, together with Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, directed leading pro-Bush contributors to donate millions of dollars to Mr. Lieberman's campaign for re-election in Connecticut in an attempt that he would be a "Republican-leaning" senator.

... The source said that under Mr. Rove's plan, Mr. Lieberman would vote with the GOP on national security issues and help provide the party with a 50-50 split on major legislation. The deciding vote would then be cast by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:00 PM | Comments (7) | 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

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 17, 2006

Judge Orders Immediate Halt To Wiretaps Without Warrants

Judge nixes warrantless surveillance,

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

Keep in mind that all this means is they have to start getting warrants -- follow the law and Constitution just like how we have always done it in this country.

So, how will the right react? Will they have respect for the Constitution and the law? We'll see.

OK, we're seeing. It's the usual -- attack the judge. For example, comments promoted by a post at Ace of Spades HQ,

Not only is she a Carter appointee, she is Black. Want to bet she was admitted to Yale on a Minority set a side? Maybe she's related to Conners, the other Black nut from Mo Town.
...
As said by Abraham Lincoln: The court has made thier decision. Now let's see them enforce it.
...
The judges and lawyers will doom this country.
Similarly at RedState,
The Justice Department should reply to this ruling by announcing that they are really busy monitoring the race and sex of all government employees to comply with "diversity" requrements. This task will render the DOJ unable to comply with this ruling for several....years.
...
Anna Diggs Taylor - appointed May 1979 by President Jimmy Carter
Confirmed by Democratically-controlled Senate in October 1979

One of Carter's last actions to destroy this country before he was booted from office. Ugh.

Remember, we're talking about requiring warrants, that's all.

Strata-Sphere writes, (apparently not knowing that there WERE warrants for all the taps mentioned),

Remember how phone calls and money transfers from Pakistan to the UK helped expose the plot details and the fact we were days away from its implementation. Recall how all the lefties from Lamont on have claimed America cannot be allowed to monitor terrorist communications with their associates here in the US and monitor their financial transfers to detect and stop the next 9-11. Well hold on folks, but another unelected judge has decided Terrorists need protection because we may listen in on their calls to the Holiday Inn reservation line and that risk is more dire than 3,000 + people dying in an attack (more hear at WaPo).
... OK Al Qaeda - it is now open season on Americans. Go to it. We are disarming.
... Lamont supporters at Kosland are all ecstatic that we have been ordered to surrender to Al Qaeda...
Which inspired comments:
You may believe all that nonsense about how we must uphold the constitution! How many times do you suicidal idiots have to be told that the constitution is NOT a suicide pact!
...
However, even if the Supreme Court ruled against the President, he could tell them to go urinate up a rope.
...
Anna Diggs Taylor, Clinton appointee. Campaigned in 1979 for Jimmy Carter. Ruled in favor of the ACLU to have nativity scenes removed from public property in Dearborn (Islamonazi haven) and Birmingham in 1984. Married to S. Martin Taylor who, according to his U of Michigan bio, is a DEMOCRAT.
Any questions?
This wingnut posts a picture of the judge and says,
[judge] rule in favor of the ACLU and its raft of Islamist, America-hating plaintiffs. ... She seems to hate America and fairness almost as much as the Plaintiffs do. She certainly hates a fair, impartial Judiciary. It's not just that she's a shameless liberal who always allows her politics to enter into her decisions. It's that she's so shameless she improperly interferes with cases that are not even hers.
And go read how this one cries and moans on and on about requring warrants.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 16, 2006

Big Republican Get-Out-The-Vote Effort Coming

Group to Rally Evangelical Voters,

Conservative Christian radio host James C. Dobson's national organization, Focus on the Family, said yesterday that it will work with affiliated groups in eight battleground states to mobilize evangelical voters in the November elections.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 14, 2006

ANOTHER Republican Sec. State Purging State Voter Rolls!

One Republican-controlled state after another is purging its voter rolls, just in time for the election.

Now it's Michigan. Michigan Liberal :: 'The voter registration you currently hold...may be cancelled'

Tell everyone you know what's going on and ask them to make sure they are still registered - wherever you live.

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

August 12, 2006

Upcoming Republican Primary in Rhode Island -- Compare and Contrast

In recent weeks we have been treated to a press firestorm over the Connecticut Democratic primary, in which the "netroots" DARED to run a candidate against Senator Joe Lieberman, and beat him. The insider press and political system is in absolute SHOCK that this could happen, with a good dose of anger at the voters for daring to go against their wishes. (Never mind that a far-right candidate beat a moderate candidate in Michigan's Republican primary -- for some reason that is different and remains unreported.)

You might also have noticed that since the primary, the press has paid far more attention to Lieberman - the loser of the primary - than to the winner. This is because the Republicans are promoting a wedge narrative intended to split the Democratic Party. By amplifying the voices of disgruntled Lieberman supporters, the Repubicans hope to keep a segment of the Democratic Party from voting this November.

In illustration of my point, contrast this firestorm to the situation with the upcoming Rhode Island Repubican primary. Lincoln Chafee is an old-style Republican Senator from Rhode Island. By "old-style" I mean he precedes the Christian Right/conservative movement takeover of the Republican Party and remains independent of The Party's corruption machine. And the far right is not happy about that, so they are running a candidate against Chafee in Rhode Island's upcoming Republican primary. You would think the "on the surface" similarities would drive press coverage, but the opposite is the case. (I say "on the surface" because in this case it is actual radicals running a candidate against an incumbent, where in Connecticut the opposition candidate actually had a more centrist voting record than the incumbent.)

Conservative group sets sights on Chafee,

Since its inception in 1999, the group has spent millions to help dozens of conservative Republicans win seats in Congress - often at the expense of more moderate party members. The Club's president, former Rep. Pat Toomey, nearly defeated Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter in 2004.

This year, the group's top priority is defeating Chafee, who angered many Republicans by voting against President Bush's tax cuts and then casting a write-in vote for the president's father in the last election.

... Republicans who support the Club say its refusal to compromise its ideology gives it credibility.

"They're not about getting more Republicans elected, they're about getting real Republicans elected," said Jerry Stacy, spokesman for Sharron Angle, a Club-endorsed House candidate in Nevada.

Learn how the American system operates now. Keep an eye on this one -- compare and contrast the coverage and commentary.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 10, 2006

Real or Not - Republicans Politicizing Terror Alert

Glenn Greenwald writing at Salon (click through the ad...) Politicizing the terrorist plot,

Roughly 12 hours have elapsed since it was disclosed that the British police thwarted an attempt to blow up transcontinental airplanes. Few facts are known about how the plot was uncovered and exactly who was behind it. Nonetheless, supporters of President Bush have wasted no time attempting to exploit this event to make what they evidently perceive are powerful political points in defense of the president and his most controversial policies.

Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds excitedly points to this terrorist plot and then claims that "some people" -- he does not, of course, say who these "some people" are -- "have decided that the war on terror is passe. But although you may not be interested in terrorism, terrorism is still interested in you." Michael Ledeen in National Review attempts to use this incident to argue that we should confront Iran: "But here was a secret plot we found out about, and we acted. Iran announces its intentions openly, however we don't act."

Much more, go read and to click through links.


Update - AmericaBlog has a French press story about White House officials overjoyed that this is happening.

Yes, overjoyed over a story about people wanting to commit mass-murder. THAT is who runs our country.

Snow said Bush first learned in detail about the plot on Friday, and received two detailed briefings on it on Saturday and Sunday, as well as had two conversations about it with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

But a senior White House official said that the British government had not launched its raid until well after Cheney held a highly unusual conference call with reporters to attack the Democrats as weak against terrorism....

... But Bush's Republicans hoped the raid would yield political gains...

"Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big," said another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, adding that some Democratic candidates won't "look as appealing" under the circumstances.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 5, 2006

Bush's Buddies Chant "Death To America"

Iraqis March, Chanting 'Death To Israel, America',

Tens of thousands of Shiites thronged a Baghdad slum Friday to show support for Hezbollah as Arab anger toward Israel mounted on the Muslim holy day. Such protests have even reached Saudi Arabia, where public discontent is rare.

...Demonstrators wearing white shrouds symbolizing willingness to die for Hezbollah waved the guerrillas' banner and chanted slogans in support of their leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

"Allah, Allah, give victory to Hassan Nasrallah," the crowd chanted before burning Israeli and American flags.

Will the Republicans pass a law against going to war to put into power people who burn American flags?

For those of you who, like President Bush, don't know about Shiites and Sunnis, Iran is Shiite. Iraq has a Shiite majority that was controlled by Baathist Party Sunnis until we invaded. Now the Shite majority in Iraq has come to support Hizbullah against Israel. Iran is a major backer of Hizbullah, and is gaining influence with the Shiite Iraqis. Iraq's Shiite Grand Ayatollah Sistani, even though he is independent from Iran and does not want Iraq run by Iran, has sided with Hizbullah over Israel and previously had publicly forbidden America from attacking Iran AND has said that he would consider an Israeli attack to be an attack by America. And of course the more militant pro-Iran Muqtada al Sadr's position is even more hostile to us.

Southern Iraq is Shiite, and from the little I know about these things it seems to me that we face a danger that Iran has the ability to shut off the logistical "tail" of our forces in Iraq if they decide to. You see, almost ALL of the supplies for our forces in Iraq come up from Kuwait, through Southern Iraq, and surrounded by Shiites the whole way. That leaves our entire Iraqi military force vulnerable to the whim of Iran.

So here we are. From the start I have said that America's interest, far from "bringing democracy to Iraq," might really be to prevent democracy there. "Democracy" sounds nice - a really good PR word - but democracy in a country with a Shiite majority necessarily strengthens neighboring Iran, possibly even leading eventually to a merger of Iraq with Iran -- and thereby brings Iraq's oil over to Iran/China/Russia's advantage in the world strategic picture. How is this in America's interest? Sorry, but that is just cold, hard "realpolitik."

I think Bush's father and his circle understood this. They didn't want Iraq/Saddam in control of the region AND they didn't want Iran in control either -- the standoff between the two worked for our interests. When Saddam went into Kuwait, that upset the balance so they pushed him out. But they stopped before Baghdad because removing Saddam and his Baathist Party from power would also upset that balance. So that is why Bush's father abandoned the Shiites when they revolted against Saddam -- to keep that balance in the region, with the Shiites (Iran), Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, etc) and Baathists (Iraq and Syria) all in a kind of balance that reflected our interests.

Now Bush II has handed the whole playing field to Iran. Everything Bush has done has played into Iran's hands there. So let me go a little further. Is it just an accident that everything Bush has done has played into Iran's hands? Were the neo-cons conned -- or paid -- by Iranians? Ahmed Chalabi, for example, was the head of the Iraqi National Congress exile group that was feeding the neo-cons the phony "intelligence" about WMD... Was he working for Iran, feeding the neo-cons what they wanted to hear? What do you think?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

August 3, 2006

Other People's Families

Through AMERICAblog

Since the Vietnam War era, it has been common to say that wars are begun by powerful men whose sons stay home, while the sons of men and women with calluses on their hands and dirt under their nails cross oceans to fight, and perhaps to die.

... A White House aide, who requested anonymity because his information was preliminary, said Wednesday that he knew of no top Bush administration official who had a relative who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 30, 2006

New Programs?

How did I miss this? From February, Bush's Mysterious 'New Programs',

Plus, there was that curious development in January when the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root a $385 million contract to construct detention centers somewhere in the United States, to deal with “an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs,” KBR said. [Market Watch, Jan. 26, 2006]

Later, the New York Times reported that “KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space.” [Feb. 4, 2006]

... Less attention centered on the phrase “rapid development of new programs” and what kind of programs would require a major expansion of detention centers, each capable of holding 5,000 people. Jamie Zuieback, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to elaborate on what these “new programs” might be.

[. . .]Given Bush’s now open assertions that he is using his “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief for the duration of the indefinite War on Terror, Americans can no longer trust that their constitutional rights protect them from government actions.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 28, 2006

We Are Seeing Different News About Lebanon

Americans need to understand that the rest of the world is seeing very different images on their news broadcasts from what we are seeing here. VERY different.

YouTube has lots of short videos from Lebanon.

Also, go watch Mosaic - excerpts from Middle Eastern news shows.

Just go watch a bit, and then try to reconcile what you see with what we are getting here from the news. The consequences to all of us are enormous.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Bush Wants "Protections" From Torture Laws

The Bush administration is asking Congress to pass "protections" from prosecution of people who kill or torture prisoners. The specific law they want changed was passed by a Republican-controlled House, and unanimously by a Republican-controlled Senate in 1996.

WP: Detainee abuse charges feared,

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

... Gonzales told the lawmakers that a shield is needed for actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire, the source said.

... Jones and other advocates intended the law for use against future abusers of captured U.S. troops in countries such as Bosnia, El Salvador and Somalia, but the Pentagon supported making its provisions applicable to U.S. personnel because doing so set a high standard for others to follow.

The Bush administration was predicted in one of the great tunes of all time (there is a sound clip sample at the end of the referenced page):

It's time to taste what you most fear
Right Guard will not help you here
Brace yourself, my dear

It's a holiday in Cambodia
It's tough kid, but it's life
It's a holiday in Cambodia
Don't forget to pack a wife

Your a star-belly sneech you suck like a leech
You want everyone to act like you
Kiss ass while you bitch so you can get rich
But your boss gets richer on you
Well you'll work harder with a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers til you starve
Then your head skewered on a stake
Now you can go where people are one
Now you can go where they get things done
What you need my son:

Is a holiday in Cambodia
Where people dress in black
A holiday in Cambodia
Where you'll kiss ass or crack

Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot

...

The law don't mean shit if you've got the right friends
That's how the country's run
Twinkies are the best friend I've ever had
I fought the law
And I won

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 27, 2006

Republican Says We Need A Dem Congress

The following is a letter from former Republican Congressman and Presidential candidate Pete McCloskey.

THE NEED FOR A DEMOCRAT MAJORITY IN THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IN 2007

I have found it difficult in the past several weeks to reach a conclusion as to what a citizen should do with respect to this fall’s forthcoming congressional elections. I am a Republican, intend to remain a Republican, and am descended from three generations of California Republicans, active in Merced and San Bernardino Counties as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have just engaged in an unsuccessful effort to defeat the Republican Chairman of the House Resources Committee, Richard Pombo, in the 11th Congressional District Republican primary, obtaining just over 32% of the Republican vote against Pombo's 62%.

The observation of Mr. Pombo’s political consultant, Wayne Johnson, that I have been mired in the obsolete values of the 1970s, honesty, good ethics and balanced budgets, all rejected by today’s modern Republicans, is only too accurate.

It has been difficult, nevertheless, to conclude as I have, that the Republican House leadership has been so unalterably corrupted by power and money that reasonable Republicans should support Democrats against DeLay-type Republican incumbents in 2006. Let me try to explain why.

I have decided to endorse Jerry McNerney and every other honorable Democrat now challenging those Republican incumbents who have acted to protect former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who have flatly reneged on their Contract With America promise in 1994 to restore high standards of ethical behavior in the House and who have combined to prevent investigation of the Cunningham and Abramoff/Pombo/DeLay scandals. These Republican incumbents have brought shame on the House, and have created a wide-spread view in the public at large that Republicans are more interested in obtaining campaign contributions from corporate lobbyists than they are in legislating in the public interest.

At the outset, let me say that in four months of campaigning I have learned that Jerry McNerney is an honorable man and that Richard Pombo is not. Mr. Pombo has used his position and power to shamelessly enrich his wife and family from campaign funds, has interfered with the federal investigation of men like Michael Hurwitz, he of the Savings & Loan frauds and ruthless clear-cutting of old growth California redwoods. Mr. Pombo has taken more money from Indian gaming lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his associates and Indian tribes interested in gaming than any other Member of Congress, in excess of $500,000. With his stated intent to gut the Endangered Species and Environmental Protection Acts, to privatize for development millions of acres of public land, including a number of National Parks, to give veto power to the Congress over constitutional decisions of the Supreme Court, his substantial contributions to DeLay’s legal defense fund, and most particularly his refusal to investigate the Abramoff involvement in Indian gaming and the exploitation of women labor in the Marianas, both matters within the jurisdiction of his committee, Mr. Pombo in my view represents all that is wrong with the national government in Washington today.

It is clear that the forthcoming campaign will be a vicious one, with Mr. Pombo willing to stretch the truth as he has in the past with respect to the elderberry beetle, levee breaks, his steadfast opposition to veterans’ health care, including prosthetics research for amputees from Iraq and other wars, the impact on Marine lives of endangered species protection at Camp Pendleton and other issues. That Mr. Pombo lied in testimony to the Senate in 1994 is an accepted fact. He testified that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had designated his farm near Tracy as habitat for the endangered California kit fox. This was untrue, and Pombo admitted to the untruthfulness a few months later when questioned over public television, an agency for which he recently voted to cut federal funds.
Such a man should not be allowed to be in charge of the nation’s public lands and waterways, a position to which he was elevated by the now-departed Tom DeLay.

Some 18 months ago, my former law partner, Lewis Butler, an Assistant Secretary of HEW in the Nixon Administration and subsequently the distinguished Chair of California Tomorrow and the Plowshares Foundation, and I initiated an effort we called The Revolt of the Elders. All of us were retired and in the latter years of Social Security entitlement. Most of us were Republicans who had served in the Congress or in former Republican administrations with men like Gerry Ford, John Rhodes, Bob Michel, Elliot Richardson, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and the president’s father, George H. W. Bush, all men of impeccable integrity and ethics.

We had become appalled at the House Republican leadership’s decision in early 2005 to effectively emasculate the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct by changing the rules to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay. DeLay had been admonished three times by the Committee for abuse of power and unethical conduct. It was our hope to persuade Speaker Hastert and the Republican leadership, of which Northern California Congressman Richard Pombo and John Doolittle were prominent members, to rescind the rules changes and to act in accord with the promise of high ethical standards contained in Speaker Gingrich’s Contract With America which brought the Republicans majority control in 1994. We failed. Letters to the Speaker from an increasing number of former Republican Members were ignored and remained unanswered. Then, only a few weeks ago, the House leadership refused to allow even a vote on what could have become an effective independent ethics monitor. Instead of repudiating the infamous “Pay to Play” program put in place by DeLay to extract maximum corporate campaign contributions to “Retain Our Majority Party” (ROMP), DeLay’s successor as Majority Leader called for a continuance of the free luxury airline trips, mammoth campaign contributions to the so-called “Leadership PACs” and the continuing stalemate on the Ethics Committee. Strangely, even after the guilty pleas of Abramoff, Duke Cunningham and a number of former House staffers who had been sent to work for Abramoff and other lobbyists. The Republican House leaders don’t see this as corruption worthy of investigation or change. That their former staff members and Abramoff were granted preference in access to the legislative process is not seen as a problem if it helps Republicans retain control of the House. It reminds one of the contentions of Haldeman and Ehrlichman long ago that the national security justified wire-tapping and burglary of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office and the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate. Republicans are happy with this new corporate lobby/House complex, which is far more dangerous that the Industry/Defense complex we were long ago warned about by President Eisenhower.

I have therefore reluctantly concluded that party loyalty should be set aside, and that it is in the best interests of the nation, and indeed the future of the Republican Party itself, to return control of the House to temporary Democrat control, if only to return the House for a time to the kind of ethics standards practiced by Republicans in former years. I say reluctantly, having no great illusion that Democrats or any other kind of politician will long resist the allure of campaign funds and benefits offered by the richest and most profitable of the Halliburtons, oil companies, tobacco companies, developers and Indian gaming tribes whose contributions so heavily dominate the contributions to Congressmen Pombo and Doolittle.

As an aside, it seems to me that the Abramoff and Cunningham scandals make it timely for the Congress to consider public matching funds for small contributions to congressional candidates, the same type of system we adopted some time ago for presidential elections. It may be cheaper for the taxpayer to fund congressional elections than to bear the cost of lobbyist-controlled legislation like the recent Medicaid/Medicare drug bill.

There is another strong reason, I believe, for Republicans to work this fall for Democrat challengers against the DeLay-type Republicans like Pombo and Doolittle. That is the clear abdication by the House over the past five years of the Congress’ constitutional power and duty to exercise oversight over abuses of power, cronyism, incompetence and excessive secrecy on the part of the Executive Branch. When does anyone remember House Committee hearings to examine into the patent failures of the Bush Administration to adhere to laws like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, or to the arrogant refusal of the President to accept the congressionally-enacted limits on torture of prisoners? When can anyone remember the House’s use of the subpoena power to compel answers from Administration officials? Why have there been no oversight hearings into the Cunningham bribery affair or Abramoff’s Indian gaming and exploitation of women labor in the Marianas?

When three former congressional staff aides join Abramoff in pleading guilty to attempting to bribe Congressmen, and a fourth takes the 5th Amendment rather than answer Senator McCain’s questions about his relationship with Abramoff and Indian gaming, with all five having given substantial campaign contributions to Mr. Pombo, with Indian tribes alone having given more than $500,000 to Pombo, would it not seem reasonable to ask him to conduct an appropriate oversight committee
Hearing into these matters, as long demanded by members of both parties, notably including his neighbor, George Miller?

For all of these reasons, I believe and hope that the Republicans who voted for me on June 6 will vote for Mr. McNerney and against Mr. Pombo in November.

The checks and balances of our Constitution are an essential part of our system of government, as is the public faith that can be obtained only by good ethical conduct on the part of our elected leaders.

If the Republicans in the House won’t honor these principles, then the Democrats should be challenged to do so. And if they decline to exercise that privilege, we can turn them out too. I appreciate that I had serious deficiencies as a candidate, and that four months of campaigning and the expenditure of $500,000 of the funds contributed by old friends and supporters were unsuccessful in convincing Republicans of the 11th District to end the continuing corruption in Washington. I hope, however, to partially redeem my electoral failure by working, as a simple private citizen, to rekindle a Republican sense of civic duty to participate in the electoral process this fall. The goal of The Revolt of the Elders was and is to educate voters to the need for a return of ethics and honesty in Washington. That goal was right 18 months ago, and seems even more worthwhile today.

Pete McCloskey, Dublin, California. July 26, 2006

[emphasis and link added]

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 23, 2006

Why Destroy Lebanon?

With Iraq, the question is why did we do it? Ask ten people why we invaded Iraq and you will get ten answers, which means there is no real reason which people understand. From Republicans you get a different answer every week...

Now the same question comes up about Lebanon. Why is Israel destroying Lebanon? Destroying the civilian infrastructure, bombing fuel depots and power plants and water pumping stations even in the northern part of the country... and Bush responds by rushing them more bombs. Of course this has nothing to do with the soldiers that were taken or the rockets shot into Israel. But even if it were just because of that, it is collective punishment, which is a war crime. One-third of civilian casualties so far have been children.

I think that maybe what is happening is a "show of force." What I mean is maybe the Republicans and Israel think they are showing the world that even though the US is tied up in Iraq, we can still destroy a country any time we want to, and have no compunctions at all about law or humanity. But the "little people" like you and I aren't going to be let in on the reasons things happen. THAT sort of thing is for old-fashioned democracies and republics. So we just have to speculate.

Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Going Around Congress On Taxes

Congress won't completely kill the "Estate Tax" -- taxes on income from money that is inherited. So what do the Republicans do? They get rid of the tax auditors, giving a green light to just skip paying the tax.

I.R.S. to Cut Tax Auditors,

The federal government is moving to eliminate the jobs of nearly half of the lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit tax returns of some of the wealthiest Americans, specifically those who are subject to gift and estate taxes when they transfer parts of their fortunes to their children and others.

The administration plans to cut the jobs of 157 of the agency’s 345 estate tax lawyers, plus 17 support personnel, in less than 70 days. Kevin Brown, an I.R.S. deputy commissioner, confirmed the cuts after The New York Times was given internal documents by people inside the I.R.S. who oppose them.

Are these auditors necessary?
Over the last five years, officials at both the I.R.S. and the Treasury have told Congress that cheating among the highest-income Americans is a major and growing problem.

The six I.R.S. tax lawyers, some of whom were willing to be named, all said that clear evidence of fraud was pursued vigorously by the agency, but that when audits showed the use of complicated schemes to understate the value of assets, the I.R.S. had become increasingly reluctant to pursue cases.

Taxes - and laws - are for the "little people".

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 22, 2006

A Post Everyone Should Read

Daily Kos: What Did You Expect, America?,

Would you hire a babysitter who hates children and thinks they should be eliminated? Or who declares for years in your hearing that children are irritants who should be starved to be small, unseen and mute?

Would you hire cops who think laws are stupid and useless and should be abolished?

Would you hire a conductor for your orchestra who believes music itself an abomination?

Then why would you hire - and you did hire them, America; they are your employees, after all, not your rulers, despite their grandiose pretensions - members of a political party who think government is useless, ineffective, bloated and untrustworthy?

[. . .] In electing Republicans, America, you put people in charge of institutions they overtly, caustically loathe and proudly proclaim should not exist.

[. . .] Kee-rist on a pogo stick.

If you put people in charge of running a project they are ideologically committed to proving a failure, it will fail.

Oh, go read the whole thing.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 21, 2006

Election Prediction

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.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

The Christian Right

Mary at Pacific Views: What Does the Christian Right Want?

Mary lays out the case, and you should read it.

Although many people know the Religious Right is very influential in the Bush administration, not so many know what their goals are in the long run. Their goals are nothing less than the destruction of our democratic society and the imposition of a society that would harshly punish unruliness, dissent and any disobedience to the rule of the theocrats – those who they believe God put in charge.
It's for real. Don't ignore them. They mean it.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:09 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 11, 2006

Murder Supreme Court Justices?

Here we go.

Prominent right-wing blogger today calls for the murder of Supreme Court Justices - the Right fails to condemn it. Go read.

It's based on the Right's call to murder journalists. This has been around a while.

Seriously, watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 7, 2006

Veteran Arrested for Wearing Veterans For Peace Shirt

Linked through Crooks and Liars, comes this story of a veteran arrested while sitting drinking coffee at a Veterans Administration Medical Center, for wearing a shirt that said "Veterans For Peace".

Watch your backs. And your shirts.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 6, 2006

How the Press Treats Americans Who Disagree With Bush

I tried to watch the video linked from NORAH O'DONNELL GROSSLY CARICATURES ANTIWAR POSITION ON IRAQ.

But I can't. It only lets you watch if you are using Microsoft's Internet Explorer. I use FireFox. Great. Corporate power used to force me to use a product.

So I powered up Internet Explorer, and this is really worth watching, as much to see how the corporate press treats Americans who disagree with Bush, as anything else. "Fringes, extremist" etc...

You hear about concentration of media into a few corporate hands -- watch this video to see what that means. It's similar to what happens when you allow an operating system to become a monopoly.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 5, 2006

More On Jewish Family Forced to Flee

Monday, in Prayer In Schools I echoed a story about a Jewish family forced to flee a Delaware school district.

The blogosphere is starting to pick this up. This Kos diary has a good summary of some of the activity. Crooks and Liars is on it. Jesus' General, Dispatches from Mike thethe Culture Wars, Talk to Action (and here), Bartholomew's notes on religion, Lawyers Guns and Money, The Green Knight, Mike the Mad Biologist, Pharyngula, Angry Astronomer, The Republic of T.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Government and Party Merge, Part XXVII

You may have read the the Defense Department is monitoring blogs, because, "Blog research may provide information analysts and warfighters with invaluable help in fighting the war on terrorism." Sounds to me a lot like domestic political activity by the military. And someone who understands these things agrees with me.

Valdis Krebs is an expert on "Social Network Analysis. He writes about this Defense Department blog project at Network Weaving:

But, do terrorists blog??? Real terrorists with real plans? I doubt it -- especially after the Air Force press release above! However, people with political views and affiliations do blog.

[. . .] In a political war[the upcoming elections of 2006 and 2008?], the battling parties would like to know their opponent's structures -- how are they organized, who are the key nodes in their network, and where are their points of failure. With the no-holds-barred political strategies of today the following questions are being asked: Who do we discredit today? Where do we split the network so that it declines into ineffective fragmentation? Whose switchboard do we tie up? Who do we start rumors about? Who do we turn against each other? In other words, how do we disrupt the others from waging an effective campaign? These are all questions that can be answered beginning with link analysis of public information on the WWW. Link analysis tools and public data are available to all who desire them. Which leads to an interesting possibility... if the government is mapping the blogosphere, will the bloggers map the government?

Read the rest, and read his blog.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 4, 2006

Something Big - Oversight

Something is up. Something really really big is going on. One Republican in one committee of the Congress has, for the first time since Bush's election, actually decided to perform some oversight of something that the Bush administration has done. I know this sounds snarky and sarcastic, but I think this really is the very first time. See The Left Coaster: Rumsfeld Subpoenaed!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 3, 2006

Prayer In Schools

Jewish family flees Delaware school district's aggressive Christianity

A large Delaware school district promoted Christianity so aggressively that a Jewish family felt it necessary to move to Wilmington, two hours away, because they feared retaliation for filing a lawsuit. The religion (if any) of a second family in the lawsuit is not known, because they're suing as Jane and John Doe; they also fear retaliation. Both families are asking relief from "state-sponsored religion."

The behavior of the Indian River School District board suggests the families' fears are hardly groundless.

[. . .] Classmates accused Alex Dobrich of "killing Christ" and he became fearful about wearing his yarmulke, the complaint recounts. He took it off whenever he saw a police officer, fearing that the officer might see it and pull over his mother's car. When the family went grocery shopping, the complaint says, "Alexander would remove the pin holding his yarmulke on his head for fear that someone would grab it and rip out some of his hair."

Read on...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:14 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 27, 2006

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Government and Party continue to merge...

A US Senate Committee - Environment and Public Works - press release with a ".gov" address smears Al Gore, claims global warming is "debunked" and sends citizens to a website named "junk science."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 26, 2006

Bush Sending Signals By Endorsing Coulter

United States Attorney General Gonzales is on the Rush Limbaugh Show as I write this. Coming up soon, Ann Coulter.

I know it's too much to expect of this crowd that they would denounce Coulter for saying Representative Murtha should be murdered for disagreeing with Bush's Iraq policy, or for saying that widows of the 9/11 attack enjoyed their husbands' deaths. But appearing on the Limbaugh show with Coulter is an endorsement.

Previously, the Vice President appeared on a platform with Coulter. This was before these latest remarks, but after she called for the murder of New York Times employees.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:20 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Juan Cole McCarthyism

The other day I wrote about Juan Cole Denied Position At Yale For Criticizing Bush Policies.

Over at History News Network today, Juan Cole: Burning Juan Cole.

A few years ago I had a piece at HNN on a related subject, Who's Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors? That piece is as relevant today as it was three years ago. I see that people are STILL leaving comments there!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 22, 2006

Looting Pensions and Eating Seed Corn

One more thing Bush will be remembered for: getting rid of pensions.

And by the way, where do you think the money went? When Reagan started the process, tricking people into thinking that a 401K - you put your money in - was somehow better than a corporate pension - they put money in FOR you - corporate profits started the big rise. That was the beginning of a huge transfer from future retirements to the very rich. But that wasn't enough, so the corporations also started underfunding their pension plans. Knowing they had a coming obligation they did not put the necessary money into the pension funds, instead sending the money to the top. And now, under Bush - who is still working to get rid of Social Security - corporations like United Airlines are cancelling pensions.

This is about OUR retirement savings, gone into the pockets of the Bush cronies. And what do the people who stole the pensions get? Tax cuts.

But wait, there's more.

It's not JUST our retirement savings that Bush is handing over to his cronies. You know that there is a huge budget deficit, but what do you think the budget deficit IS, anyway? Is it magic money from nowhere to pay for tax cuts for the rich, and the Iraq war? Of course not! Bush is borrowing trillions of dollars, handing it out to cronies (sometimes literally in duffel bags), and borrowed money has to be paid back with interest. Who do you think will have to pay that money back?

But wait, there's more.

Our tax dollars built America's infrastructure. Infrastructure is roads and bridges and water lines and schools and bank account insurance and regulations and all the things that support our economy. Every time a truck makes a delivery (sending profits upward) that truck drove on roads WE built. But are you and I - the public - sharing in the profits that come from the infrastructure we built? Who is our economy FOR, anyway? The corporations and rich are now largely excluded from paying taxes to maintain those roads, and America's infrastructure is crumbling. By not investing in infrastructure, Bush and his cronies are "eating our seed corn." So when we want to start rebuilding the infrastructure, who do you think will be paying?

We've all got a LOT to thank Bush and the Republicans for. And you're going to have some long, impoverished years to think about it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 20, 2006

Now Republicans Are FOR Adultry?

High Infidelity: What if three admitted adulterers run for president and no one cares?,

Sen. John McCain (affair, divorce), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (affair, divorce, affair, divorce), and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (divorce, affair, nasty divorce). Together, they form the most maritally challenged crop of presidential hopefuls in American political history.

Until relatively recently, a self-confessed adulterer had never sought the presidency.

[. . .] Despite the scandalous details, whether the press will air them is still an open question. When it comes to personal morality, liberal commentators have long argued that the press has one standard for Democrats and another for Republicans (and another one entirely for the Clintons). It's possible that the mainstream media will fail to apply the same scrutiny to the known transgressions of Gingrich, Giuliani and McCain as the Times did to rumors about Hillary Clinton's husband.

SO, will the press give Republicans the same treatment they give Democrats? Did Bush get the same treatment Clintodid? HA!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 18, 2006

Bags of Cash -- One Piece of the Conservative Pie

Read this. Read the whole thing. Understand one segment of how the conservative machine works. This is just one piece of the pie.

... admitted to participating in money-laundering schemes by personally smuggling cash from South Korea into the United States. She also said she witnessed other cases in which bags of cash were carried into the United States and delivered ... returned from a trip ... “with $600,000 in cash which he had received from his father. ... Myself along with three or four other members that worked at Manhattan Center saw the cash in bags, shopping bags.” ... made sure that his steady flow of cash found its way into the pockets of key conservative operatives, especially when they were most in need, when they were facing financial crises.
Read the whole thing.

Call and ask YOUR member of Congress why this is not investigated. Call and ask your newspaper, too. Of course, you risk sounding like a crazy person, trying to tell people what's going on with the Repubicans

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 17, 2006

Trolls-For-Hire

As I have suspected, many "conservatives" who leave comments at the blogs actually are paid to show up and spread right-win corporate disinformation.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Signals Sent

Newspaper Clients, and Syndicate, Stick With Coulter,

Ann Coulter hasn't lost any of her 100-plus newspaper clients, or the support of her syndicate, Universal Press Syndicate, despite her nasty remarks in her new book about 9/11 widows and her comment in an online interview implying that, perhaps, U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) should be "fragged."

A Universal spokesman said there were no discussions going on there about dropping the columnist.

[. . .] Editors, she pointed out, have chosen not to run certain "Doonesbury" or "Boondocks" cartoons, which come from the liberal side of the spectrum. Asked if any paper had ever decided not to run a conservative column or cartoon, she said, "If it's happened, we don't know about it."

[. . .] The Universal columnist has also "joked" about killing other people, including Arabs, Muslims, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, and suggested that blowing up The New York Times building might be a good idea, especially if the reporters and editors were still inside.

Even though parts of her recent book were plagiarized. And she continues to appear on network television. The very media people she talks about killing put her in front of a national audeince!

A while back, in the post Juan Cole denied position at Yale for criticizing Bush, Ashleigh Banfield fired from MSNBC for criticizing one-sided media coverage, I wrote,

Suppose you want a career in media, want to rise up, want to buy (or keep) a house and car, have health insurance etc., how does your brain digest this news?
Not just media, but people understand that MANY careers at this point depend on not letting on that you oppose the Republican machine. The signals are sent.

Watch your backs.

Update - I neglected to point out that NBC, the network that fired Ashleigh Banfield for criticizing media one-sidedness, refuses to say they will keep Coulter off the air, even after she called for killing a US Congressman, and members of the media.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 9, 2006

YearlyKos -- Ethics, Corruption and Movement Politics Panel Remarks

Following are my prepared remarks to the Ethics, Corruption and Movement Politics panel:

Joe Trippi, Dave Johnson, David Sirota, Melanie Sloan
Thank you for inviting me to speak on this YearlyKos panel about movement politics and corruption. I’m Dave Johnson. I blog at Seeing the Forest, and I am a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute.

I’ll begin by briefly going over the origins of the modern Conservative Movement, from Goldwater to Heritage Foundation to Reagan to now.

After Goldwater’s 1964 defeat the far right built – or bought, really – a movement based on persuading Americans to think differently about themselves and the world. And I do mean the far right. How many of you remember the base commander in Dr. Strangelove, muttering about “precious bodily fluids”? Well that was the far right I’m talking about, and I remember them. Actually they aren’t really all that different now – they just hide it.

With really big funding they set up the beginnings of a “persuasion engine.” They started setting up dozens, then more dozens of what are called think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation -- built around marketing the (make quote signs with fingers) “ ideas” they generate. But all this effort wasn’t about ideas to solve the country’s or humanity’s problems -- Everything was designed to change the public’s political attitudes and make us more accepting of right-wing ideology.

Using the latest sophisticated marketing research into techniques – things like strategic narrative, the actions of similar others, social network analysis, and social desirability bias – they began endlessly repeating, in a thousand variations, the message that a conservative approach is better, and liberals are bad and stupid and shameful and evil.

Have any of you heard any of that – on the radio, or on TV maybe?

And they thought long term. They understood that the high school student they influenced today could some day be an activist or candidate. They understood that the junior research assistant they paid now would be the noted author or the influential columnist later. And they paid well – no point losing these people to the business world. You could make a LIVING being a conservative.

They also set up a huge media “Echo chamber” with conservative movement authors and commentators citing conservative movement “scholars” and “Institutes,” and so on, until their “reports” and “studies” seemed to be coming from every media outlet.

Eventually people started to think that there was a consensus of “experts” who all agreed that these conservative approaches were the only practical solutions to our problems. In short, they repeat marketing messages through multiple channels, over a sustained period of time, to create CONVENTIONAL WISDOM.

For more about the history of this movement go to commonwealinstitute.org/information.html That’s Commonweal like commonwealth without the th – look for the RESOURCES button on the Commonweal site, that takes you to that information.

The conservative movement didn’t just build UP THEIR ideas in the minds of the public. They also used their communications machine to tear DOWN their opponents -- organizations and political parties and even individuals.

Most people today perceive Jimmy Carter as having been a bad president. But let me suggest something. Knowing what we know now about how the right’s smear machine works, please go find and read President Carter’s so-called “Malaise speech.” Google the words “carter malaise speech”. Read that speech and you’ll see the signs that he was under attack by this right-wing machine that we are more familiar with today. We didn’t understand it back then but you’ll SEE it now. And knowing what we know now about oil and energy … you’ll cry. Especially when you see Al Gore’s new movie An Inconvenient Truth.

The reason this is relevant to this panel is that Carter was up against the machine, funded in part by the big oil companies. Their problem with Carter wasn’t ideological, it was only business -- Carter tried to reduce our use of oil – reductions that are so relevant today as we face Middle East wars, category 5 hurricanes and melting glaciers. Go read that speech.

This machine grew powerful -- they destroyed Carter - and then Mondale, then Dukakis, then Clinton, then Gore. Kerry went up against the machine and got the Swift Boating. Labor unions, environmentalists, teachers, civil and women's rights advocates, advocates for the poor, almost any group with the word "community" in its name, and so many others unfortunately also find themselves on the defense.


So, like I said the conservative persuasion machine and media echo chamber quickly moved past that initial far-right funding to also take in big corporate money. But corporate money is “interested” money – it necessarily has strings or it would not be given. And the strings necessarily go back to the interests of the corporation – not the public or the country – or even the conservative movement.

The movement followed the money and started to change from pure ideology to lobbying for the interests of the corporate backers. The think tanks began making arguments in support of what were little more than paying customers.

And so did their politicians.

For example, some of you have wondered why the logging industry are good Conservatives for cutting the trees, but the fishing industry, which depends on leaving the trees alone, are called environmental whackos. Ask, rather, who pays more?

(Personally, I always wondered why Jesus was in favor of capital gains taxcuts and dividend exclusions? But that’s another story)

Finally with Bush in office the lobbying turned to outright corruption, PURCHASING of legislation, regulation or deregulation, tax breaks, lucrative contracts and policy, by whoever offered the highest bribe.

So I have laid out some of the background that set the stage for the Republican corruption scandals you read about on the blogs. Also on the panel today is David Sirota, who has written a GREAT new book about this Hostile Takeover of our country by big money and corruption. So without further ado, let me pass the microphone to David.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 27, 2006

War on terror? Don't you believe it.

More terrorists loose in the U.S.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 25, 2006

They're Going To Ban BuzzFlash

Update -- WE WON! Go read.


The Republicans are trying to "deregulate" the Internet. They're about to allow the big telecommunications companies to decide which websites their customers (YOU) can and can't see. This is what "Net Neutrality" is about. If you are against letting big companies decide what websites you can see, that means you are in favor of Net Neutrality.

MAKE NO MISTAKE about what this will mean. In the 1980s the Republicans "deregulated" radio and television by getting rid of the Fairness Doctrine and allowing a few big companies to buy up all the stations, and now you can't turn on the radio without hearing that conservatives are good and liberals are bad. And you will not ever see a representative of organized labor on your television telling you about the benefits of joining a union. In the South the ONLY viewpoint you ever hear is the Republican Party viewpoint. MAKE NO MISTAKE about what "deregulating" the Internet will mean. It means they will ban BuzzFlash, and DailyKos, and Digby and any other voice that speaks out against the corporate takeover of your country.

Here is what you can do today. Matt Stoller has a post up at MyDD with a list of members of Congress to call TODAY. Matt says

Urge them to support the bipartisan Sensenbrenner-Conyers Net Neutrality bill (HR 5417) in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday -- and to support it without amendment. Saying without amendment is key.
Here is the list:

Howard Berman (D-Calif. 28th)
Phone: 202-225-4695
Fax: 202-225-3196

William Delahunt (D-Mass. 10th)
Phone: (202) 225-3111
Fax: (202) 225-5658

Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas 18th)
(202) 225-3816 phone
(202) 225-3317 Fax

Marty Meehan (D-Mass. 5th)
Phone: (202) 225-3411
Fax: (202) 226-0771

Bobby Scott (D-Va. 3rd)
Phone: (202) 225-8351
Fax: (202) 225-8354

Chris Van Hollen (D-Md. 8th)
Phone: (202) 225-5341
Fax: (202) 225-0375

Maxine Waters (D-Calif. 35th)
Phone: (202) 225-2201
Fax: (202) 225-7854

Mel Watt (D-N.C. 12th)
Tel. (202) 225-1510
Fax (202) 225-1512

Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y. 9th)
Phone: (202) 225-6616
Fax: (202) 226-7253

Robert Wexler (D-Fla. 19th)
phone: (202) 225-3001
fax: (202) 225-5974

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 19, 2006

Lies About Badges and Incubators

I saw a story on the right-wing blogs and other news sources this morning, that the Iranians had passed a law requiring Jews and Christians to wear identifying "badges." This follows a recent report, repeated everywhere and now conventional wisdom, that the President of Iran had called for "wiping Israel off the map." That report was not correct - knocked down by Juan Cole, who wrote about the (intentional?) mistranslation in his now-famous post about Christopher Hitchens and those in Washington fishing for (or creating) a pretext for war.

And, of course, the "badges" story is also false, circulated to drum up popular support for war against Iran. Yet ANOTHER enemy for us to hate, who is "just like Hitler." Like the "babies thrown from incubators" story that launched the first Gulf war, stories like this are circulated to lay down a smokescreen to confuse the public and create that pretext for war. See: Iran report of Holocaust-style badges questioned,

"It's absolutely factually incorrect," ... "Nowhere in the law is there any talk of Jews and Christians having to wear different colours. I've checked it with sources both inside Iran and outside."
"The Iranian people would never stand for it. The Iranian government wouldn't be stupid enough to do it."
Political commentator and 940 Montreal host Beryl Waysman says the report is true, that the law was passed two years ago.
I'm not defending Iran here - not at all. If the Iranian Ayatollahs have their way the world will be much worse off. I'm just pointing out that in the Propaganda Age, you have to learn to question what you hear - especially when it's designed to hit you in the gut and make you want to kill.

Here are some of the right-wing blogs reflexively repeating today's lie. To their credit, others have added updates to their own reflexive posts, letting readers know that the story may not be true.

Update - Juan Cole talks about this today. (Through Atrios)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:30 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 17, 2006

New Editor at Time

Stengel is named editor of Time magazine,

[Richard] Stengel, who is 51 years old, had worked at Time in several different capacities, including national and culture editor and also editor of Time's web site, Time.com. Most recently he was head of the National Constitution Center, a Philadelphia-based museum and nonpartisan think tank focusing on civic issues.
Media Transparency's research on National Constitution Center funding shows they receive substantial support from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation,
Richard DeVos is co-founder of Amway Corporation and owner of the Orlando Magic (2004), and served as the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Some information about Amway, from Amway's GOPyramid Scheme, by Bill Berkowitz,
According to Scheibeler, some Republicans received as much as $100,000 for appearing at an Amway event. "After accepting speaking fees, [House Speaker Newt] Gingrich arranged a reported last-minute modification in a comprehensive tax bill that allegedly provided a $283 million tax break to just one company -- Amway. One report called the tax break a $283 million payoff," investigative reporter Evelyn J. Pringle pointed out in a piece on Amway.

... Billionaire Richard DeVos, who appears regularly on the Forbes magazine list of richest Americans also owns the National Basketball Association's Orlando Magic and has been a member of the highly secretive Council for National Policy. ... For more than 35 years, the DeVos family has been a major benefactor of both the religious right and the Republican Party.

Oh please take the time to read that whole article! And follow the Council for National Policy link.

Other significant National Constitution Center funding comes from the F.M. Kirby Foundation. If you go to the page titled "The Conservative Movement Starts At Young America's Foundation" and scroll to the bottom, it says "© 1995-2006 Young America's Foundation F.M. Kirby Freedom Center"

I report, you decide. And send a few bucks to Media Transparency for making this research available.

Update - I'm not saying Mr. Stengel is a right-winger. This post reports on some of the funding of the National Constitution Center, where he was CEO. Meanwhile, Eric Alterman writes,

A massive congratulations to my friend Rick Stengel, who, depending on who you talk to, was the best point-guard in the history of Scarsdale High School. He’s done a few things since, here. And Jim Kelly went out with real class, didn’t he? (Now about how about a few liberal columnists?)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Presidential Authorization For Telcos To Lie

Think Progress � New Presidential Memorandum Permits Intelligence Director To Authorize Telcos To Lie Without Violating Securities Law,

...a presidential memorandum signed by the President on May 5 allows the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, to authorize a company to conceal activities related to national security.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 16, 2006

Even If Just Phone Records

So what if the NSA spying really IS just phone records? The answer is that analysis of the data these records offers, combined with other data, is an extremely powerful tool for learning where to apply pressure on social groups in order to influence society in ways you can only dream of. Please, please read Daily Kos: The dangers of Social Network Analysis.

I am familiar with Social Network Analysis, and this could be an extremely powerful political tool both for disrupting opposition and bolstering support. In short, it can tell you who the key connectors are. Once you know who they are, you don't need to spend much time on anyone else. You can take action and it can largely be "under the radar." From the simple,

High value nodes are identified as thought leaders for these social networks and the IRS point count to determine who gets audited is increased for these people. This will reduce the time these thought leaders have to devote to organizing resistance.
To the moderate,

Social network analysis shows which of these groups have the largest number of connections with swing voters and these groups are targeted for highly publicized SEC investigations prior to the announcement of the initiative.
To direct and personal intervention,
Leaks of embarrassing information are making it into blogs. Network analysis indicates that the point of entry can be traced back to TPM Muckraker. An analysis of phone records then identifies that an administration staffer has made phone calls on his cell phone to his brother who has made phone calls to TPM.
Do I need to say what comes next for them?

This is a powerful, powerful tool for controlling people and society in ways that don't have to be noticed.

Those seeking to spin away the NSA database as not a threat to individual liberties could not be more wrong. The NSA database and Social Network Analysis in the wrong hands pose a greater threat to democracy and individual liberties than the misuse of personal information.

Watch your backs. And recommend this Kos diary so it gets the attention is deserves!

Update - Reply to a comment: Social Network Analysis is traffic analysis plus 50 years of advances in knowledge. Combine it with the "Tipping Point" -- connectors, mavens, etc. and other understanding of how groups get organized and ideas spread. Knock out the leaders of the opposition before they become top leaders. Disrupt the meeting before most of them know they are going to have a meeting. Stop the union from forming by getting the likely organizer into another job - or jail...

Sort of sounds like what happened to the Democrats and Progressives, actually.

And NOW there is reason to fear that the government's resources could be used to apply these techniques to maintaining The Party in political power.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 14, 2006

What the NSA Scandal Threatens

Everybody please read The Left Coaster: Secrecy Run Amok and recommend it to others.

Watergate was about the Republicans sending a team in to bug the headquarters of the Democratic Party. Back then they still had to send a team in. The NSA scandal is about installing the equipment that enables those in charge to listen in on any phone conversation or read any e-mail at the push of a button. And we know this is happening without warrants or other checks and balances because the Republicans proudly say they don't need no stinkin' warrants -- "we're at war." We're supposed to trust the people that already got caught bugging the Democratic Headquarters not to ... well ... listen in on the Democrats, among other things.

As Mary points out, Senator Church's investigation of previous intelligence agency abuses warned that this technological capability could be abused to secure and maintain absolute political power. And now word is leaking out that they are purging the intelligence agencies of Democrats, and taking steps to stop whistleblowers from warning the public what they are doing. On top of this we have seen that the Republicans are systematically dismantling all of the checks and balances and oversight of our system of government.

But, hey, give them a break. Perhaps they just think it's really important to do all these things to catch the 19 Saudis who attacked us on September 11. Fine. But what if other people, bad people get their hands on the controls? What do we do then?

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 13, 2006

Why So Many Go Along

Here's another clue to why so many go along with the Bush machine. Qwest turned down the Bush request that Qwest illegally hand over your phone records, even though Qwest was threatened with loss of their defense contracts. So what comes next? The government starts working to smear and ruin Qwest's CEO, Joseph Nacchio. Daily Kos: Bush Retaliates Against Qwest For Saying No To Spying,

The federal government conducted a 3 year probe of Nacchio which involved federal prosecutors, SEC and the FBI investigating securities fraud and insider trading.
There's more, go read.

It's called making an example. You can be sure that anyone ELSE the Bush people talk to understand what can happen to them if they say no.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 10, 2006

US Treasury Becomes Republican Party's Bankroll

A couple of days ago, this story, about a Republican Cabinet Secretary declaring that contracts are awarded according to who gives money to The Party.

Today, this story, in which Republicans kill oversight over Iraqi reconstruction spending, A stunning tolerance for corruption in Iraqi reconstruction aid,

"Republican Appropriations Committee aides say legislators shifted the Iraq money to the foreign operations accounts at the request of the White House," the WSJ reported. The White House says it simply did this for budgetary purposes and to help "streamline accounting." The fact that the move cuts off the most effective auditor in Iraq at the knees, the Bush gang says, is a coincidence.
Now read this. (Through Political Animal)

Previous Seeing the Forest stories about tax dollars used to promote the Republican Party: (Posts with the same title report on different abuses)

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Gov't Now Funding RW Blogs

Military Assisting Republican Party?

Taxpayer AIDS Money Funding the Right

Tax Dollars Fund Pat Robertson

IRS Checking Who You Voted For

Party and State Merging: More Republican Party Propaganda on Government Websites

Today's Government And Party Merge Post

IRS Cracking Down On War Opponents

Bush Admin Allows Only Rush For Military Radio

House Republicans OK Christian-Only Hiring With Our Tax Dollars

Government and Party Merge

How To Fund A Political Party

Government and Party Merge

Here It Comes III

These are only SOME of the posts I have written on this subject, and only since I moved the blog from Blogger a year ago. And these are only the tip of the iceberg that I learned about and wrote about. Do you begin to detect a pattern here?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 23, 2006

Soviet Government

The big picture says the big picture: Remind me who won the cold war

Many of the salient features of Khrushchev's government are readily recognized in our own current administration, including a slavish adherence to party unity (a rubber-stamp Congress), a complete inability to manage effectively during times of crisis (Katrina), ill-considered foreign adventures (Iraq), the subjugation of scientific knowledge to political orthodoxy (global warming, anyone?), ineptitude in fiscal strategy (the dollar risks joining the ruble as a symbol of the combination of great national strength and even greater financial weakness), the replacement of actual technical competence by blind party loyalty as the desired characteristic of all members of the ruling class (heckuvajob, Rummy!), and the abandonment of core national principles in search of selfish grabs for money and power (anyone ever hear of the Constitution?).

And Khrushchev was a boor who pretended to represent the people, but who actually used his position to gain political and financial strength though the gross corruption of the state.

Kinda makes you think, doesn't it?

Read the rest, it's good.

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

Your Tax Dollars At Work

For Earth Day the House Committee on Resources has put up an anti-environmentalist website. Seriously. Go look at your government in action.

The "Links" page points to the Pacific Research Institute, one of the far-right, Scaife, Koch, etc.-funded "conservative movement" propaganda organizations.

Another link is titled "Clinton Report" because it is a Dept. of Energy report dated 1993, just after Clinton took office (Which really means it was prepared by the Bush I admin.). It talks about all the environmental benefits of oil drilling. Heh. But they just call it "Clinton Report" because that's how they think - these are far-right operatives who see government as a tool for propagandizing and manipulating the public.

(Through Raw Story)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 22, 2006

Election Hopes - Quaint

I fear that all this optimism about the coming election shows a lack of understanding of what we're dealing with. This optimism and faith in the electoral process seems to me to be, as our Attorney General said about the Geneva Conventions, "quaint."

History doesn't have very many examples of dishonest, corrupt, authoritarian, cultist regimes willingly handing over to others the power to remove them from office and jail them for their crimes.

Watch your backs!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:40 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 15, 2006

We Have No Right To Know

"Citizens" of the United States don't even seem to have a right to know when our own country is at war. See The Raw Story | Retired colonel claims U.S. military operations are already 'underway' in Iran

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:52 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 12, 2006

Democrats need Not Apply

Our government is not supposed to be a one-party system. But Bob Geiger writes that Senate GOP Majority Killed Most Democratic Bills in New Year. 90% of all legislation brought to the floor by Democrats was killed. And he shows examples. Go read

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

April 7, 2006

Monitoring EVERY Call, E-Mail

OK, it's what I have been saying. Bush has ordered the NSA to monitor EVERY call and e-mail, domestic and international. They digitize the calls and feed that and the e-mails into a computer that looks for keywords. Messages of interest are then sent to a human for analysis. SO if you say certain words, someone from the government IS later listening to a recording of the call. There are no warrants so there is no oversight whatsoever on what they are looking for. There is NO WAY to know if they are using this for political purposes.

With no warrants and no oversight there isn't even any way to know if "rogue" lower-level workers are blackmailing people based on what they are hearing, whether they are guilty of anything or not. No way to know if people who say bad things about Republicans are being put on lists for retribution. But we do know that they do that in other circumstances...

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:49 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 26, 2006

War Crime of Aggressive War Confirmed

This is a turning point. In tomorrow's New York Times, Bush Was Set on Path to War, Memo by British Adviser Says,

In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.

But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.

"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.

"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."

[. . .] The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.

The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.

. . . Two senior British officials confirmed the authenticity of the memo, but declined to talk further about it, citing Britain's Official Secrets Act, which made it illegal to divulge classified information. But one of them said, "In all of this discussion during the run-up to the Iraq war, it is obvious that viewing a snapshot at a certain point in time gives only a partial view of the decision-making process."

[. . .] By late January 2003, United Nations inspectors had spent six weeks in Iraq hunting for weapons under the auspices of Security Council Resolution 1441, which authorized "serious consequences" if Iraq voluntarily failed to disarm. Led by Hans Blix, the inspectors had reported little cooperation from Mr. Hussein, and no success finding any unconventional weapons.

At their meeting, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair candidly expressed their doubts that chemical, biological or nuclear weapons would be found in Iraq in the coming weeks, the memo said. The president spoke as if an invasion was unavoidable. The two leaders discussed a timetable for the war, details of the military campaign and plans for the aftermath of the war.

Go read the whole thing.

So here we are. There is now no doubt that Bush and Blair committed the crime of aggressive war. What will we do about this? There is no masking the need to defend our Constitution and democracy from a criminal takeover. Is there anything we CAN do about this?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 25, 2006

The Blogs' Message: The Nature Of American Government Has Changed

In Administration tells Congress (again) - We won't abide by your "laws", Glenn Greenwald lays it out:

The reality is that the Administration has been making clear for quite some time that they have unlimited power and that nothing -- not even the law -- can restrict it. ... As I have documented more times than I can count, we have a President who has seized unlimited power, including the power to break the law, and the Administration -- somewhat commendably -- is quite candid and straightforward about that fact.
I think this is the key line:

And the media continues to fail in its duty to inform the country about the powers the Administration has seized, likely because they are so extreme that people still do not really believe that the Administration means what they are saying.
This is the key. Maybe, just maybe, they mean the things they are saying. And I think this warning about the extreme things the Right is saying is a big part of what political blogging is about.

Blogs are an Internet phenomenon. So bloggers tend to be people who spend a lot of time online, and political bloggers read a lot about politics. So political bloggers are more likely than others to be visiting websites and forums where right-wingers more openly discuss their ideas, or are more likely to be listening to Limbaugh and others on the radio. And what we are reading and hearing is frightening. The things they are saying to each other are DIFFERENT from what they are saying to the public. The things they are writing and saying are extreme and violent and subversive. It is not like what we as Americans are used to reading and hearing.

The things the Republicans are saying and doing are so extreme that regular people refuse to believe it when you try to warn them about what is happening. For example, several years ago I had been reading the right's newsletters, forums and websites, and I was trying to tell my moderate-centrist aunt that the conservatives were talking about getting rid of public schools. She called ME an extremist for saying something like that. It's a natural reaction. But now, years later, we know that this is what their agenda has been all along, and like the frogs in heating water it no longer seems so extreme. Bringing this back to Glenn's post, if today you try to tell someone that an American President is asserting that laws do not apply to him, they think YOU'RE the crazy person in the room.

Bloggers are trying to warn the public that what is going on in America is DIFFERENT from politics-as-usual. The bloggers have been trying to get the Democratic leadership and the media to understand this. We are seeing something new to America forming, something dangerous to democracy. The "pendulum" is not swinging back. It is right there in front of your eyes if you are willing to see it, but it represents something so radical, so different from what we are used to, that it is difficult to believe this could be happening to us.

Yes, the President of the United States is asserting that he is above the law. The nature of American government has changed. The question is, who among us has the courage to stand up and say that we do not accept this? Who among us is willing to speak out, beyond the blogs? When will the media begin to understand what is happening, and start to warn the public? When will the Democratic leadership begin to realize that the extreme things the Republicans are saying might be what they mean to do?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:40 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 23, 2006

The Al Gore Video

Go here to see the Unseen Al Gore Campaign video from 2000, by Spike Jonze.

Remember that Gore got more votes in 2000, and if the vote-counting in Florida had not been halted 5-4 by the Republicans on the Supreme Court, that Gore would be President. (This isn't even counting the 90,000 votes that Nader took just in Florida.)

Think about how the country would be different today if Gore had become President.

9/11 probably would have been prevented. There would be no war in Iraq even if 9/11 had happened. 100,000+ Iraqi civilians, 2500 Americans, how many Iraqi soldiers? would not have been killed, etc.

We would be actively fighting global warming. We would be MUCH less dependent on Middle East oil.

The country would have continued paying off debt. We might have already payed of the entire national debt by now. Instead we just went to 9 TRILLION in debt. We currently pay well over $250 billion per year just for interest. Think of what that $250 billion could be used for. (See below.)

We would probably have national health insurance for everyone now.

Average incomes would not be declining. Househod debt would not be rising. We wouldn't all be worrying about losing our pensions. Do you think our jobs would be moving overseas?

This list could just go on and on.

Just think of all the consequences to the country of Bush taking office!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:58 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 22, 2006

Gov't Now Funding RW Blogs

TBogg has it. US Navy buying ads on far-far-far right-wing blogs.

This goes along with today's news story about the government funding far-right political groups, Grants Flow To Bush Allies On Social Issues,

...Millions of dollars in taxpayer funds have flowed to groups that support President Bush's agenda on abortion and other social issues.

Under the auspices of its religion-based initiatives and other federal programs, the administration has funneled at least $157 million in grants to organizations run by political and ideological allies, according to federal grant documents and interviews.

[. . .] Among other new beneficiaries of federal funding during the Bush years are groups run by Christian conservatives, including those in the African American and Hispanic communities. Many of the leaders have been active Republicans and influential supporters of Bush's presidential campaigns.

Democracy is SO over.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 10, 2006

Ads for Arnold

It's only March and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running Schwartzenegger campaign ads in California. I'm seeing them all the time. You can watch one here.

What is the legality of the Chamber running campaign ads? Are they just assuming that since Republicans control everything no one will do anything about it?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

March 6, 2006

Christianity "Official" Religion, Birth Control Ban

In case there is any misundertanding about where the Republicans are trying to take us, see Christianity as the Official "Majority Religion" of Missouri

and Access to Birth Control under attack!


Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 23, 2006

Bill Moyers - Saving Democracy - MUST READ!!

Saving Democracy,

It is a Dick Cheney world out there – a world where politicians and lobbyists hunt together, dine together, drink together, play together, pray together and prey together, all the while carving up the world according to their own interests.

... As great wealth has accumulated at the top, the rest of society has not been benefiting proportionally. In 1960 the gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was thirtyfold. Now it is seventy-five fold. Thirty years ago the average annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives in the country was 30 times the pay of the average worker. Today it is 1000 times the pay of the average worker.

... In the words of Louis Brandeis, one of the greatest of our Supreme Court justices: “You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy, but you cannot have both.”

... Since Bush was elected the number of lobbyists registered to do business in Washington has more than doubled. That’s 16,342 lobbyists in 2000 to 34,785 last year. Sixty-five lobbyists for every member of Congress.

The amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by nearly one hundred percent in that same period, according to The Washington Post, going up to anything from $20,000 to $40,000 a month. Starting salaries have risen to nearly $300,000 a year for the best-connected people, those leaving Congress or the administration.

The total spent per month by special interests wining, dining, and seducing federal officials is now nearly $200 million. Per month.

... A recent CBS news/New York Times poll found that 70% of Americans believe lobbyists bribing members of Congress is the way things work. Fifty seven percent thinks at least half of the members of Congress accept bribes or gifts that affect their votes. A Fox News poll reported that sixty five percent believe most elected officials in Washington make policy decisions or take actions on the basis of campaign contributions. Findings like these underscore the fact that ordinary people believe their bonds with democracy are not only stretched but sundered.

... There are, as I said, no victimless crimes in politics. The cost of corruption is passed on to you. When the government of the United States falls under the thumb of the powerful and privileged, regular folks get squashed.
... I have painted a bleak picture of democracy today. I believe it is a true picture. But it is not a hopeless picture. Something can be done about it.

Go read.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 22, 2006

The Prime Question - Will Bush Cancel Elections?

There is a core question lurking under many blog posts I've been reading and conversations I've been having.

In the post Bush Above Law - Bush IS Law I wrote,

Republicans are saying that the Constitution gives Bush UNLIMITED power because we are, as they like to say, "at war." Keep in mind that they also say we will continue to be "at war" for decades.
In the comments, Daniel asks the question:
If the president is above the law, what would stop him from canceling elections until his declared WAR is over?
That's it. That's the central question here. Is it a hypothetical? They assert that Bush is above all laws, that the never-ending "war on terror" gives him the right - the responsibility - to do anything he feels is necessary, and that the only recourse we have is trust in his wisdom.

Suppose he decides that elections would be too disruptive to the war? What if he believes his own nonsense when he says things like Democrats "provide comfort to our adversaries" and decides he has to protect the country from the possibility of traitors taking charge? I mean, he says it, he sends others out to say it -- is it just possible he means it? At what point should we maybe take the hint?

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:06 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 21, 2006

Political Religion

At Orcinus, The Conservative faith

The reality I think we're all seeing is that genuine conservatism has been usurped by a political religion in metastasis that is no longer conservative but simply power-mad. Communicating that to the public is going to be an essential problem for progressives in the coming campaigns, especially given the deep emotional and psychological investment in the movement that so many followers have made.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Bush Above Law - Bush IS Law

Nitpicker: Former Ashcroft counsel says president is above the law.

Republicans are saying that the Constitution gives Bush UNLIMITED power because we are, as they like to say, "at war." Keep in mind that they also say we will continue to be "at war" for decades.

I forget, are we at war with Eurasia or Oceania this year?

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

February 9, 2006

Fired For Saying "Peace"

In Educators face blowback for protesting Iraq war in schools, Raw Story documents teachers around the country fired for opposing Bush's war.

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

Military Assisting Republican Party?

From Robert Novak, Inform Congress?

Raul Damas, associate director of political affairs at the White House, has been on the phone directly to Republican county chairmen to arrange local speeches by active duty military personnel to talk about their experiences in Iraq. To some Republican members, this unusual venture connotes a desire to go directly to the people to sell the president's position without having to deal with members of Congress.
I'm not even going to question the legality of this, since legality doesn't matter anymore. Just bringing it to your attention. Part of what I call the "slow coup" that is occurring.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:41 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 7, 2006

Wiretaps Are For Blackmail?

Thomas brought this to your attention earlier. I just want to make SURE you read it by bringing it up again. Paul Craig Roberts, former Reagan Admin. guy, says the reason things are the way they are is that the Bush people are using info gained from their secret wiretaps to blackmail people.

The years of illegal spying have given the Bush administration power over the media and the opposition. Journalists and Democratic politicians don't want to have their adulterous affairs broadcast over television or to see their favorite online porn sites revealed in headlines in the local press with their names attached. Only people willing to risk such disclosures can stand up for the country.

... How long before members of the opposition party, should there be one, find that they cannot return to Washington for important votes, because they have been placed on the no-fly list? What oversight does Congress or a panel of federal judges exercise over the list to make sure there are valid reasons for placing people on the list?

Go read.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 6, 2006

End Of The Republic

The End of the Republic,

When the president believes he can order someone on US soil killed because he thinks he's a terrorist, when the Senate refuses to censure administration officials who lie under oath to it, when the argument about spying on Americans without a court order is about "you didn't come to us to get permission first" - well, the corpse may be stumbling along, but it's a zombie.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Covert Domestic Propaganda

I'm watching the NSA spying hearings. Senator Feinstein just asked Attorney General Gonzales if the President has authorized the use of covert domestic propaganda intended to influence domestic politics. Gonzales refused to answer. Said he is not comfortable answering that. Then he went on to say that the President has inherent constitutional authority...

"Can the President suspend in secret or otherwise the application of section 503 of the national security act which states that no covert action may be conducted with is intended to influence United State political processes, public opinion, policies or media. In other words can he engage in otherwise illegal propaganda."


Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 3, 2006

End Of Democracy - How Close?

Martin Garbus: How Close Are We to the End of Democracy?,

Bush can start his own wars, preemptive or otherwise, is the ultimate interpreter of foreign treaties, he defines enemy combatants as he wishes, he detains prisoners for as long as he wishes, he continues surveillance on foreign intercepts for as long as he wishes, he tortures as he wishes, he can ignore Congressional directives and statutes such as those creating FISA, as well as essential elements of our Constitution.

This litany has no end. We cannot now anticipate all the ramifications of the "unitary" president and his claim of "inherent powers," except that it clearly allows him to fully take over the government.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:58 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 1, 2006

The MILITARY Threatens Wash. Post

It gets worse every day. At AMERICABlog, Pentagon trying to censor top US political cartoonist. I'm not even going to quote from it, just go read it.

This is THE MILITARY DIRECTLY THREATENING A NEWSPAPER on behalf of the Republican Party. This is WAYYYY beyond unprecedented. This is past "find a safe refuge in Canada" time. This is a serious WATCH YOUR BACKS!!!!

Update - the threats keep-a-coming!

You are an enemy of this country. Your day will come.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:08 PM | Comments (76) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 31, 2006

Alito Sworn In - 5 States Readying Abortion Bans

Same-day service. Alito sworn-in, 5 states readying abortion bans.

Moonie Times, Sweeping anti-abortion laws proposed,

Legislators in at least five states are proposing bold anti-abortion measures as the Bush administration reshapes the U.S. Supreme Court, a report said.

With the goal of challenging the Roe vs. Wade ruling that ensured a woman's right to an abortion, lawmakers in Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee propose banning all abortions except when the woman's life is in danger, Stateline.org reported.

If enacted, legal experts said the laws would be the first absolute abortion bans since the landmark 1973 ruling.

As I said earlier, don't be fooled by Senators who voted 'No' on Alito today but voted to end the filibuster. They put Alito on the court.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 29, 2006

Taxpayer AIDS Money Funding the Right

Religious Groups Get Chunk of AIDS Money,

President Bush's $15 billion effort to fight AIDS has handed out nearly one-quarter of its grants to religious groups, and officials are aggressively pursuing new church partners that often emphasize disease prevention through abstinence and fidelity over condom use.

Award recipients include a Christian relief organization famous for its televised appeals to feed hungry children, a well-known Catholic charity and a group run by the son of evangelist Billy Graham, according to the State Department.

Billy Graham's son is Franklin, known for saying this:
"The God of Islam is not the same God of the Christian or the Judeo-Christian faith. It is a different God, and I believe a very evil and a very wicked religion."
The other day I wrote about Pat Robertson receiving millions in funding from the government. This is just one more example of how The Party is converting the government into a Republican campaign financing system.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 27, 2006

Tax Dollars Fund Pat Robertson

$14 million in federal faith-based money goes to Pat Robertson,

Televangelist's claim that Ariel Sharon's stroke was an act of God may have cost him the friendship of some Israelis, but it hasn't prevented his charity, Operation Blessing, from garnering faith-based grants from the U.S. government

While the Reverend Pat Robertson was flayed recently over his suggestion that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was an act of retribution by God for the transfer of land in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians, the Reverend's charitable organization, Operation Blessing, was raking in wads of faith-based money from the Bush Administration.

Go read the rest. Sheesh!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 11, 2006

Abramoff Bribery Scandal Shines a Light on a Grave Threat to Democracy

Several organizations are calling for "reform" of the campaign-finance and lobbying system. This is a mistake. It is very important to understand that this Abramoff scandal is about breaking laws, not about any need for reform of existing laws. But more than that, it is about an attempt to change America into a one-party state.

This scandal is about the leadership of the Republican Party creating a self-perpetuating system where public money is spent to promote a non-democratic, divisive, destructive ideology and perpetuate one-party control -- THEIR control -- of the country.

The Abramoff scandal shines a light on how the currently-constituted "conservative movement" / Christian Right-controlled Republican Party, not isolated individuals, are systematically using the power of government to finance and extend an illegal, corrupt machine of one-party domination. Their leadership implemented a comprehensive, party-wide system wherein companies paid for legislation and were punished by the government itself if they refused to pay. The committees of the Congress itself were used to intimidate lobbying firms and others to purge all but Republicans and then become tools to increase Republican Party control. The money received was used to strengthen this system and further promote the ideology and candidates. Meanwhile, the agencies of government are systematically and rapidly being purged and replaced with "conservative movement" operatives, and increasingly used to enforce one-party control.

I believe this system is a component of an organized threat to our democracy from a well-financed, self-described "Leninist," subversive, cult-like, conspiratorial movement intent on imposing a corporatist/theocratic authoritarian system on us. I think history teaches us that we are already well down the "slippery slope" of increasingly repressive government, with a president who says laws do not restrict his authority and that Democrats "provide comfort to our adversaries" and I fear the signals such language sends to "the base."

I think this ideologically-driven threat to our freedom is a national emergency as grave as that which we faced from Germany or the Soviet Union. But when we faced those threats we were able to recognize and fight back against the propaganda with the resources of our own government. Today, however, the government's resources themselves are increasingly turned on us.

So when you hear that this scandal is about Democrats as well as Republicans, or "everybody does it" don't buy that crap for a second. This is a very very different situation from simple graft. This is not about an individual member of Congress taking a payoff or otherwise cashing out from the position. This is NOTHING like Former Speaker of the House Jim Wright selling self-published copies of a book for cash or Dan Rostenkowski getting free stamps and trading them for cash. This is systematic abuse by the leadership of a political party in a scheme to take over the country.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:43 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 10, 2006

Bush Accuses Us Of Treason

The same President who insists he has the authority to wiretap "enemies" without warrants, imprison "enemies" without hearings or lawyers or even notifying families, even torture "enemies," said today that YOU are an enemy.

Bush Issues Stark Warning to Democrats on Iraq Debate,

In some of his most combative language yet directed as his critics, Mr. Bush said Americans should insist on a debate "that brings credit to our democracy, not comfort to our adversaries."
"Comfort to our adversaries" is a carefully chosen phrase. As in "aid and comfort."

United States Constitution, Article III, Section 3,

Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.
Treason is a capital offense.

The increasing use of eliminationist language on the Right has worked its way to the very top. Watch your backs.

Other blogs on this: Needlenose, Heretik

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:32 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 7, 2006

IRS Checking Who You Voted For

From TalkLeft I.R.S. Tracked Political Affiliations of Taxpayers.

Watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 4, 2006

Abramoff Indictment Hides Connection to RWNM

In a sign that the Bush Justice Department is working to minimize damage to the "conservative movement" stemming from the Abramoff scandal, the indictment and plea agreement ignore his misuse of the Capital Athletic Foundation. According to philanthropic watchdog National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy the indictment reveals "the debilitated condition of government oversight of nonprofits and foundations."

The indictments and resulting plea agreement acknowledge the dubious if not illegal grantmaking of Abramoff’s Capitol Athletic Foundation (CAF) in more than one instance, but fail to penalize Abramoff on his abuse of the CAF as a personal cash reserve.

... For the past two years, alone among national philanthropic nonprofits, NCRP has detailed and denounced a variety of Abramoff’s misuses of philanthropy and called for IRS investigations, to no avail.

You see, the entire "conservative movement" operation depends on tax-free donations to so-called "charitable" organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and hundreds of other national and state organizations that are supposed to be non-partisan but in reality operate almost entirely to the benefit of the Republican Party. So any kind of crackdown on the misuse of tax-free charitable donations would threaten the continued existence of the right-wing noise machine itself.

Abramoff's connection to and abuse of a "clearly phony" non-profit organization is a lead the Bush Administration's Justice Department doesn't want to follow, because it is this network of organizations that pays - and pays well - for the army of right-wingers who write op-eds, articles and books supporting the Republican agenda, who make appearances on so many radio and TV shows and who offer "informed opinions" for news articles and programs. These are the PR and marketing organizations that send out the repeated pro-conservative messaging and strategic narratives that move American ever more rightward. An honest investigation of their funding and operation would threaten the underpinnings of the conservative movement's "Right Wing Noise Machine." So it ain't gonna happen as long as Bush is in charge of where the Abramoff investigation leads.

NCRP continues,

“We share the frustration of Senators Dorgan and McCain,” added Cohen, “that foundations like Abramoff’s CAF could do so many clearly unwarranted and illicit activities that should have raised red flags at the IRS, but received no oversight or legal action.” Cohen added, “This underscores not only the need for stronger government oversight and enforcement, but stronger laws outlining what foundations should not be allowed to do under the guise of philanthropic grantmaking. Because Abramoff and his tax advisors may have found loopholes to make the CAF’s grantmaking nominally legal, that doesn’t make the grantmaking ethical or right.”

NCRP calls on the IRS to investigate the Capital Athletic Foundation’s grantmaking, and to pursue civil and criminal actions against not only Abramoff, but also against the attorneys and tax advisors who conspired with Abramoff to find ways of using foundations to make grants and expenditures that violate the public’s expectations of philanthropic institutions. “These tax exempt moneys, once they were entrusted to the CAF, were public funds to be used for public benefit purposes, not Abramoff’s private stash to be used for self-enrichment and political advancement,” Cohen charged, “and the American taxpayer shouldn’t have to lose out on millions of dollars of tax exempt funds due to the misspending of the likes of Abramoff, and inadequate oversight and enforcement offered by the federal government and by the leadership of the nonprofit and foundation sector.”

Note - more on Abramoff, phony non-profits, and the operation of the RWNM here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 31, 2005

Firstfruits?

Has anyone besides Digby commented on this? Scroll down to Michael Froomkin Update:

December 30, 2005 -- More on Firstfruits. The organization partly involved in directing the National Security Agency program to collect intelligence on journalists -- Firstfruits -- is the Foreign Denial and Deception Committee (FDDC), a component of the National Intelligence Council. The last reported chairman of the inter-intelligence agency group was Dr. Larry Gershwin, the CIA's adviser on science and technology matters, a former national intelligence officer for strategic programs, and one of the primary promoters of the Iraqi disinformation con man and alcoholic who was code named "Curveball."

Digby provides a link to Firstfruits. The CIA's agency in charge of domestic spying on American journalists was named Firstfruits. So there's a CIA department on a mission from God to spy on journalists? This is skin crawling, send a shiver down your spine creepy.

Posted by Gary Boatwright at 4:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 23, 2005

Back To The Nixon Era - Paranoia Strikes Deep

Police Infiltrate Protests, Videotapes Show. Government agents infiltrating organizations, disrupting events, and starting riots.

The officers hoist protest signs. They hold flowers with mourners. They ride in bicycle events. At the vigil for the cyclist, an officer in biking gear wore a button that said, "I am a shameless agitator." She also carried a camera and videotaped the roughly 15 people present.

Beyond collecting information, some of the undercover officers or their associates are seen on the tape having influence on events. At a demonstration last year during the Republican National Convention, the sham arrest of a man secretly working with the police led to a bruising confrontation between officers in riot gear and bystanders.

This is the NYC police. In California it was the National Guard. It's phone calls and e-mails being monitored. It's students questioned by federal agents for asking for a book at a library. It's citizens searched and questioned for attending a religious conference.

I lived through this shit once. Paranoia is the next step, when you wonder if the person next to you at a meeting is a government agent. You hear a click and wonder if your phone is being tapped -- you nervously "joke" and say stuff about "You in the FBI, take notes." Often enough it was true.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:22 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 21, 2005

Official Religion -- Jews, Watch Your Backs

From your government.

Jews, watch your backs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:25 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 20, 2005

Questions About Bush Spying

1) Is the White House listening in on Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald's calls and e-mails as he investigates White House crimes?

2) Was the Bush campaign listening in on calls and e-mails from the people in charge of the Kerry campaign?

3) Is the Bush Administration using the NSA to determine whether applicants for jobs, travel, etc. are Bush supporters or not?

4) Did the NSA tip off the Bush Administration that the federal prosecutor in Guam was looking into Jack Abramoff?

5) Did Bush use this new spying capability to monitor "groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief"?

One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
6) When Bush says we are only spying on "the enemy" does he mean that same enemy that Senior White House Advisor and Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove means when he says,
liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers
Republicans say they are only monitoring the phone calls and e-mails of "the enemy." But they also say that we - you and I - are "the enemy."

OK, now go read Yellow Dog Blog.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 18, 2005

It's The Warrants

David Sirota: The Most Important Question of All in Bush's Domestic Spying Scandal | The Huffington Post,

Meanwhile, Bush is portrayed as the tough fighter of terrorism, willing to make the tough choices to defend America's national security. In short, his crimes are portrayed as badges of honor.

There's just one problem: this isn't a question of whether America supports domestic surveillance operations against terrorists or not. This is a question of whether America supports those operations without requiring a warrant.

... The question reporters should be asking is "Why did the President order domestic surveillance operations without obtaining constitutionally-required warrants?" That is behavior that most Americans who believe in the Constitution likely do not support at all.

... If the surveillance operations he ordered were so crucial and so important to protecting our country, how come he didn't get a warrant? Surely something so critical to our security would have easily elicited a warrant from a FISA court already inclined to issue warrants in the first place, right?

And that gets us right back to the most important question: why would the President deliberately circumvent a court that was already wholly inclined to grant him domestic surveillance warrants? The answer is obvious, though as yet largely unstated in the mainstream media: because the President was likely ordering surveillance operations that were so outrageous, so unrelated to the War on Terror, and, to put it in Constitutional terms, so "unreasonable" that even a FISA court would not have granted them. [emphasis added]

The lack of warrants shows that they are using this new surveillance system to do things that they couldn't get a warrant to do.

What other reason COULD there be to not get warrants?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:45 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Drunks With Power

A good read - but don't mention it on the phone. Steve at THE NEWS BLOG: Giving drunks power links to Bush's unchecked Executive power v. the Founding principles of the U.S..

If the naked assertion of absolute power by the Bush Administration -- and the use of that power to eavesdrop on American citizens without any judicial review -- does not finally prompt the public regardless of partisan allegiance to take a stand against this undiluted claim to real tyrannical power, then it is impossible to imagine what would ever prompt such a stand.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Graham Was Not Told

Bob Graham, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee when Bush ordered the spoying on Americans, says he was NOT told.

Countering the Republican talking point that Bush told the Congress: Pushing the Limits Of Wartime Powers,

Former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who chaired the Senate intelligence committee and is the only participant thus far to describe the meetings extensively and on the record, said in interviews Friday night and yesterday that he remembers "no discussion about expanding [NSA eavesdropping] to include conversations of U.S. citizens or conversations that originated or ended in the United States" -- and no mention of the president's intent to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 17, 2005

The Chilling Effect

Yesterday we learned that the government is "eavesdropping" on our conversations and e-mails. Meanwhile, in a post titled One Nation Under Surveillance: 'The Little Red Book' can still get you in trouble, Plutonium Page writes about a student who gets questioned by Federal agents, because he asked at the library to see Mao's "Little Red Book."

I want to write about the chilling effect this will have on people.

I have a "Little Red Book" that I've had since the 60's. I thought hard about writing that here.

The first comment in the DailyKos post is "Boy, we all who post here regularly better watch our back..Here comes the Brother." A couple of comments later, "I'm sure there are people monitoring all of the left of center and peace oriented blogs and web sites." Many, many more comments along these lines. These are the first things that come into people's minds, "This means I am being watched."

A comment yesterday at a Slashdot, a post about the news of government spying on our communications. Someone says something bad about Bush, someone replies, "Pray NSA is not monitoring the network between your machine and slashdot :-)"

I'm watching an episode of Special Victims Unit as I write this. On the screen they just this second said, "Since the Patriot Act, they can do anything."

Has it crossed your mind that you'd better be careful because the government will know what you said?

9/11 changed everything. Watch your backs.

Update - After posting this, I see that a friend Instand Messaged me earlier, with a message that said "I'm watching you, signed NSA."

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Spying On All Of Us

Important Update - See end of post

Several bloggers, Atrios, The Washington Note, Back to Iraq, The Agonist, are demanding that the Bush administration release a list of who they are listening to. If my theory on what is happening is right, we already know the list -- it's everyone.

As I wrote yesterday, what Bush probably did was task NSA to intercept domestic as well as the international communications they supposedly already process. What they are said to do is intercept everything, digitize it and run it through computers that look for certain words and phrases. Conversations and emails that are flagged by that process are then checked by people.

If that's what happened it explains why no warrants - you can't get a blanket warrant that covers everyone. And if my theory is correct it would mean that the stuff about only listening in on a certain number of al Queda operatives or suspicious people is just a lie. You'd just get warrants to do that. The way to catch mobile terrorists is to listen to everything and try to figure out which conversations are them. AND that's what NSA supposedly already does internationally. It is flat-out illegal and unconstitutional to do that here.

Where it gets scary is that it requires considerable infrastructure to do this domestically - The means to intercept all phone calls and emails domestically has to be put in place, which means satellites, hooking into all the communication hubs and infrastructure for getting all that data to processing centers -- and buying computers to do the processing. It is expensive and illegal, so it would have to be one of those "9/11 changed everything" moments before it could be done. And there are signs that this is what is going on. Backing up my theory: do you remember reading about phone and internet companies being required to install routing equipment that enables such government intercepts? From EFF:

Congress passed the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) in 1994 to make it easier for law enforcement to wiretap digital telephone networks. CALEA forced telephone companies to redesign their network architectures to make wiretapping easier. It expressly did not regulate data traveling over the Internet.

But now federal law enforcement agencies want to change that. On March 10, 2004, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) filed a joint petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The petition requested that CALEA's reach be expanded to cover communications that travel over the Internet. Thus, Broadband providers would be required to rebuild their networks to make it easier for law enforcement to tap Internet "phone calls" that use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications such as Vonage, as well as online "conversations" using various kinds of instant messaging (IM) programs like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).

But once such an infrastructure IS in place there are almost no obstacles beyond trust preventing bad actors from asking the surveillance computers to look at anyone you want to look at, or look for any words and phrases you want to look for. You could learn almost anything about anyone in the country. Combine this with the Total Information Awareness Program and you have almost unlimited access to private information about people. People with no scruples - and no oversight - could use a system like that to gain and hold absolute power. (Remember Tom DeLay getting Homeland Security to look for the Texas legislators?)

So I actually don't think Bush is criminal in this, just stupid and sloppy and should be impeached. I can see how, in the name of "protecting us," someone like Bush would say to go ahead and OK this, explaining that we have to look for terrorists who are operating in the country and planning more attacks. I don't think in this instance he had a criminal intent, just a stupid and sloppy mind. He probably believes he is just protecting people but what he is really doing is opening the door to repression. There are people around him who must just be salivating at what this tool - the ability to listen in an anyone - could mean politically for them.

Update - I think my theory is being confirmed in tomorrow's Washington Post:

Former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who chaired the Senate intelligence committee and is the only participant thus far to describe the meetings extensively and on the record, said in interviews Friday night and yesterday that he remembers "no discussion about expanding [NSA eavesdropping] to include conversations of U.S. citizens or conversations that originated or ended in the United States" -- and no mention of the president's intent to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

"I came out of the room with the full sense that we were dealing with a change in technology but not policy," Graham said, with new opportunities to intercept overseas calls that passed through U.S. switches.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 16, 2005

The Spying - How It Starts

Here's what I think happened. After 9/11 Bush tasked the NSA with turning its glare on the U.S. What that means is that every single e-mail and phone conversation goes into their computers and is scanned for certain magic words and phrases. Anything that is flagged by the computers gets a closer look.

That is why they're doing it without warrants. You can't get a warrant for every single person in the country, and that is who they are listening to. But they wanted to do it "to protect us" so they just went ahead.

Here's the problem.

To do this you have to set up the means to do it. Billions in equipment to grab the calls and e-mails - satellites and connections into major network router hubs, billions more in computers to scan and analyze all those words... NSA has had that all in place for grabbing everything outside the U.S. but because it is illegal and expensive it wasn't the kind of thing you could get away with setting up here. That much money just wouldn't be available, and word would get out because there would be no reason to be setting up that kind of capability here. Until 9/11.

Here's the other problem: It's in place now. While it is a huge task to set up the technical capability it's not hard at all to tell the computers to scan for ... other words and phrases than the original targets. You're looking for "bomb" but maybe you also want to look for "Democratic Party strategy meeting." You start out looking for terorists but it's not hard to tell it to get everything from ... other people. Like Senators or CEOs or leaders of organzations opposing Republican policies or anyone else The Party wants to get something on.

And the people around Bush are who they are.

Watch your backs. Then, as always, go read Digby.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

Connecting Dots -- It's Back -- Government Political Spying

Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say,

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily requ